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Playing Modern at Baltimore

Written by Michael Mapson on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Magic Culture, Modern, Team Events

Playing Modern at Baltimore

Michael Mapson

Michael Mapson is a competitive Magic Player and L2 Judge from the Philadelphia area. Specializing in Modern and Legacy, he’s got a Brewer’s Heart but plays to win. Find him on twitter @ExpeditionMap

I’ve had people tell me the only thing better succeeding at something is watching those around you succeed. I’ve also heard people say this the other way around. I’ve never known which one was true. I still don’t. This past weekend was great because not only did I get to accomplish a goal of mine by reaching the elimination rounds of an open but I got to do it with two of my best friends. StarCityGames tried something new. They had their first ever Team Constructed Open. Each team consisted of three players, one each on Standard, Modern and Legacy. I battled Modern while my friends Billy and Ian handled Legacy and Standard respectively. The event itself was a really cool idea and I hope this is something they continue with in future. My team and I are already looking forward to trying to run it back next season.

This was my first ever team event unless one counts two headed giant pre-releases. I was really fortunate that finding a team was so easy. I was also very fortunate that I feel like our team had an inherent advantage, at least on day one. A lot of the teams we battled against didn’t appear to be as confident in either themselves or their teammates as we were and I think, oddly enough relying on the team dynamic hurt them a little too much. All of my opponents seemed like wonderful people but some very clearly were uncomfortable with either the Modern format, their deck choice, or both. It seemed as though they were playing in the event mainly so they would have a team. This gave me a huge edge as somebody who is very familiar with and loves the Modern format. Also my opponents spent a lot of time asking their teammates things or discussing sideboard plans. This is a big mental distraction and the communication also makes it harder to bluff any tricks. The exception to this came in round ten where my opponents team did a better job bluffing for him, than he did himself. Other than maybe two or three mulligan decisions (I mulliganed a lot), I think I only got strategic advice from my teammates maybe three times during all of the swiss portion of the event and I liked it that way. My teammates likewise did not need help much unless it was a critical turn. To be honest I’m not sure how much I could have helped even if we wanted more team interaction. I wasn’t able to take the time to learn Ian’s deck well so I’m glad he’s proficient. As far as Legacy is concerned I am far from a stranger to Delver of Secrets so I had no problem helping there the rare times I was needed, but likewise Billy did not need much help.

Leading up to the event I had a surprisingly difficult time picking a deck to play. I typically play Bring to Light Scapeshift. I’ve been on Scapeshift for years, often playing it event when I thought it was bad. I couldn’t pull the trigger for this event though. Aether Revolt in combination with the bannings really shook up the format. Just looking at the metagame percentages, it felt like I should be in a good spot with the deck but when I actually went to test on MTGO, I found myself struggling to craft a list that could deal with all the various strategies I was running into. I found myself regularly ending leagues 2-3 and being below a 50 percent win rate is really just not where I wanted to be. I didn’t know what to do. My other fallback deck was Death’s Shadow Zoo but banning Probe was thought to neuter that deck. I had played against the new Jund style Death’s Shadow deck and got destroyed but I wasn’t sure how much that actually meant with my performance. My friend had told me that he was unimpressed by the new deck so I listened. (It turns out the deck is busted after all but that’s a different story). My other fallback deck would have been GR Titan Shift but I assumed people would be gunning for the big mana decks with that and Tron variants doing so well as of late. Unsure what to do, I decided to see what other people were streaming with on twitch. That’s when I saw Todd Stevens 5-0 with this beautiful GW company deck that he affectionately referred to as value town.

Courser of Kruphix! I love that card. Sign me up! Plus I got to watch Todd Ghost Quarter a Tron player into oblivion and it looked amazing. So I got all the cards to put the deck together online from a friend and started to try it out. My first league went great, I went 4-1, losing the 5-0 to a misclick (a common theme in my life). Deck was great, I was bad. Couldn’t wait to sleeve it up in real life. After playing in a few more leagues it felt like the first one was a fluke. The list felt like it was very close, but just not quite there. I was having a hard time dealing with problem creatures, it really felt like I needed more removal. I also wanted to be a bit more aggressive than Todd was so I made a few changes and ended up with.

It’s funny. The list I ended up with is actually very similar to the Naya Company deck that Todd used to play. The list was great for me throughout the event. I was able to prey on all the grindy decks that people wanted to play now that they have Fatal Push while going over top of the smaller creature decks like Affinity. Our team record was 12-3 and while mine was slightly under that it was still good and not to be that guy but I almost exclusively lost games where I mulliganed. I also lost to my manabase once, that was simultaneously frustrating and hilarious. I was stuck on 2 Ghost Quarters and a Plains for a while. I was able to put a Wilt-Leaf Liege onto an empty board though through a Liliana of the Veil, and I felt great until it got Fatal Pushed. Then I top decked another Ghost Quarter, which I used on another Ghost Quarter so I could get the Forest I needed to cast Collected Company and completely whiffed for the only time during the event. Sometimes you run hot, and sometimes that happens. But it was ok. While sideboarding for game two, Billy asked me for advice on whether to counter something and I realized we could tap his opponent out while also creating a lethal number of elemental tokens, so we won the match before I got to game 2, as Ian had 2-0’d yet another Black-Green opponent.

I really do think my list is in a good spot going forward. Another Naya list top 32d one of the GPs too. That list went at the same time both smaller and bigger than my deck, playing Wild Nacatl and two copies of Stormbreath Dragon. I’m going to stick with something closer to what I played at the open. I think Nacatl is an underwhelming card right now unless you’re on a low to the ground Bushwhacker Zoo and it takes the spot of mana dorks meaning I can’t play my powerful 3 drops on turn 2. Speaking of three drops. In case you were wondering, Renegade Rallier is definitely the real deal. The number of times I would get a mana dork killed on one, a Voice of Resurgence killed on two, and Renegade Rallier that Voice back into play on turn three was gross. Also casting Collected Company and hitting Rallier into Goyf was insane. It’s also a GW creature so it got double pumped by my Liege. Lastly, it can also just be Wood Elves on steroids, which was great because sometimes it would let me have access to 5 mana on turn three meaning I could cast a two drop and another three drop, or cast a Collected Company while leaving up removal. It was just a very useful card. It often made my very fair deck, feel unfair.

While I think the list I played was good I want to suggest a couple changes and metagame calls for anybody who might play it going forward. First, cut a Ghost Quarter. Wow, did drawing these get old. While they can be very good sometimes, four is a bit much. I’ve used them as Strip Mines against Death’s Shadow and Tron, and cut Grixis off black with them but the strain on the mana base is problematic. If Tron is especially high in your area I would move the fourth to the board otherwise just turn it into another Wooded Foothills to make your Ralliers that much better. If there is a lot of UWR control in your area, it can also become a Stirring Wildwood, which is otherwise unnecessary. If your area is full of grindy decks, keep the Gavony Township but if it’s not, replace it with a Kessig Wolf Run. I’ve now played numerous games that would have ended on the spot with Kessig whereas the Gavony is very slow. People have questioned the Coursers quite a bit. They were a holdout from the list being a slower value focused deck. They were also nice because they put an enchantment in the yard for my Tarmogoyf count. Right now, I am trying out Kitchen Finks in that slot which are really good with Wilt-Leaf Liege and are a better on curve play. I don’t think the Coursers are bad but I can see that change being made. I’ll probably be playing Modern again next week and I’ll likely be running the list back though the blue mage in me might convince me to splash for Spell Quellers this time.

Well thanks for reading. I hope some of you also pick up the deck and crush some events.

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