I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be trying to produce more regular content on this site. This will include tournament reports, metagame analysis, tuning, brewing, and really any kind of content I feel like I can produce well. Today, I hope to retell my experience at Regionals. I hope to be a little bit more deliberate with my metagame thoughts next week, as I begin my testing for GP Detroit.
I ducked out of work early on Friday to drive out to Philadelphia. This is a six hour drive for me, but, it was totally worth it to see my favorite magic player, and friend, Ryan. Ryan really pushed me into competitive Magic and has been around ever since to help me along the way. This includes, but, certainly is not limited to, giving me a place to crash before driving me to Baltimore on Saturday. As I had been driving all night and didn’t get in until 9:00, I had no idea how this, now infamous, Eldrazi deck played, short of a couple of tweets and the clamoring of my friends. Ryan was going to play a UR Delver variant that focused on winning games quickly and closing them out with Young Pyromancer and some well-timed burn. His list was in its final stages by the time I made it back and we had been chatting about it all week. I had decided on Kiki-Chord for the weekend. While my RG Scapeshift deck with 4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss felt good against Tron and Eldrazi, I wanted to be playing something with a little more interaction with my opponent. Kiki-Chord is great at using its proactive toolbox to incrementally add to the board, while meeting its opponent’s threats. Additionally, a deck with 6 walls (3 Wall of Omens, 2 Wall of Roots, and 1 Spellskite) maindeck felt well positioned against Burn and Zoo variants, while the Pia and Kirans plus the Pridemages gave you a strong game 1 versus Affinity. To top it all off, Kiki-Chord had the power to just combo kill you with Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki. I had been playing the deck off and on since July and I had the list on MTGO. The hope was that all this practice could be converted into a good event. We made our way to Baltimore picking up two more friends on the way. One of them, Michael, would be judging in the event. We filled out our decklists, picked up our stunning playmats, got ready to battle. I registered 76 cards that day, with Eidolon of Rhetoric as my 61st card. Eidolon is great because it helps improve combo matchups, while also slowing down Burn and Snapcaster decks. The card is solid and helps you chord against control decks, as they can’t add to the board AND counter your plays. I had been playing Eidolon in my sideboard for months, but, Jeff Hoogland had recently added it to his maindeck, and I thought it would make sense to do the same.
My opponent was incredibly quiet to start the match. I began my usual small talk and banter. He, unfortunately, was not very responsive. He won the die roll and led on Darkslick Shores, and suspended Lotus Bloom.
Oh…That explains it.
After a Pentad Prism on Turn 2, and a few scrylands, my opponent comboed me and we were off to sideboarding. I remember thinking that it had been for this exact reason that I had an Eidolon in my maindeck. This was the first of many times that my mind drifted to this thought.
I boarded in my Reclamation Sage and 3 Stony Silences as well as a Spellskite. I boarded out Orzhov Pontiff, 3 Path to Exile (leaving one in on the off chance he sideboarded into Dragonlord Dromoka or Laboratory Maniac) and also boarding out my Reveillark, as the game likely would not go on that long.
My 6 card hand featured a Stony Silence, two walls, two lands, and a Restoration Angel. I scryed a Pia and Kiran to the bottom of my deck. I was really looking for a 3rd land, a hate card, or a Chord of Calling at this point. The disappointing thing about Modern is that many of the cards you play are so poignant at stopping one exact thing, that if the opponent is able to deviate only slightly from that plan, they can usually end up no worse for wear. In this case, my opponent simply cast a few cantrips, played a Phyrexian Unlife and passed with 5 open mana. At the time, my board featured 3 lands, my Wall of Roots and my Wall of Omens along with a Restoration Angel. One mana short to chord for Kiki-Jiki. I could either Chord for Eidolon now and risk my opponent casting Ad Nauseam in response, or wait for the game to go a little longer and beat down with Restoration Angel while holding up a Chord for Eidolon. I think holding the Chord was correct, despite the fact it did restrict my mana. Sadly, my opponent cast Ad Nauseam the following turn with Pact of Negation back-up for my Chord of Calling. Something I’ve recently tried to do after I lose a game is to talk to my opponent about what I did during our match and if there were any mistakes that I made. Oftentimes, the person you’ll be playing against will know the ins and outs to their deck better than you and this is a valuable opportunity to learn how to play against the deck and how to improve for next time. My opponent told me what I had surmised, which was that it is quite difficult to beat Lotus Bloom openers and that Stony Silence, while a good way to stop his Prisms and Blooms, doesn’t do much if he can just play out five lands.
I felt a little disappointed that I had lost the match and that I didn’t think I made any mistakes. But, a bad matchup is a bad matchup. I sat down in front of my next opponent and shuffled up for the next game. My new opponent was much more conversational and was quick to tell me that he planned on playing Twin at this event. When he opened up on a Steam Vents, I wasn’t very surprised. What was surprising, however, was the Tolaria West he played on turn 3. By the time we got to Turn 5, my opponent was trying to resolve a Possibility Storm! I responded by Chording for, you guessed it, Eidolon of Rhetoric. This effectively locked both of us out of casting spells for the rest of the game! With my Eidolon, a Restoration Angel and a Courser of Kruphix, my opponent was dead in two turns.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure how to board against this matchup. I thought that a Reclamation Sage, a Forge Tender (respecting Anger of the Gods), and a Fulminator Mage to slow down his 5 mana enchantment would be a good approach. I didn’t see anything besides cantrips and the Possibility Storm itself, so I was hopeful these cards could do the job. I boarded out the Path to Exiles, assuming that they would be no good against a flying Spaghetti monster. I had mulliganed to 6, but, my hand had an Eidolon of Rhetoric. On my 3rd turn, I played the Eidolon and passed back. My opponent began cantripping like normal and then cast a Vedalken Shackles on his 4th Turn. I played a tap land and passed, holding two Chord of Callings in my hand for an answer to Shackles. My opponent spent his 5th turn playing Batterskull. I thought that I could take this turn to kill the Batterskull with my Chord of Calling, getting a Reclamation Sage, and he wouldn’t have enough mana to return it. The following turn, I could chord for Restoration Angel if my opponent tried to Shackles my Reclamation Sage, or Chord for Qasali Pridemage if he did nothing. Also, I knew my opponent didn’t have a Possibility Storm in hand, because he would have played it. Sadly, my opponent spent his 6th turn playing the freshly drawn Possibility Storm and then used Shackles to steal my Reclamation Sage and then my Eidolon to kill me with my own hate card. Once again, Eidolon was the key card of the matchup. I added 3 Stony Silences for our 3rd game. Our 3rd game included a blustering fast start on my part, playing a bird into a wall into a Restoration Angel on turn 3, poised to Chord for Kiki-Jiki the following turn. My opponent cantripped 3 times leaving a single mana up. I thought that I had the game won, not seeing a counter spell all game, and knowing that most lists go for a more controlling Cryptic, Anger, Remand game plan, I thought I was safe. I went for the kill, my opponent flashed a foil Dispel and untapped into a Desperate Ritual, which cast a Possibility Storm followed by an Endless One into the flying Spaghetti monster himself, Emrakul. In retrospect, it was possible that I could have waited until his turn to cast Chord for Kiki-Jiki in response and make infinite creatures and win the next turn. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that he would play Dispel, much less any Rituals. Starting 0-2 was not how I hoped my Regionals event would go. However, the judge we drove to the event was supposed to stay until the end of the Swiss rounds, so I had to make the best of things.
My opponent looked very excited to battle, despite being at the 0-2 table. There, unfortunately, was not a lot to this match. My opponent led on a Shivan Reef into a Gitaxian Probe, which was a pretty clear indicator, to me, that he was playing UR Storm. This made it clear that my Chord of Calling was going to try and find, once more for the folks in the back, an Eidolon of Rhetoric. In short, an Eidolon was found, the card was read, and the cards were scooped up. I boarded in my Engineered Explosives, my Reclamation Sage, and another Spellskite to protect my Eidolon and Restoration Angel from an Echoing Truth, if he happened to bring them in. I boarded out a Pia and Kiran, a Reveillark and a Fulminator Mage.
My opener featured a Bird of Paradise, a Scavenging Ooze, a Path an Eternal Witness and two lands. This hand slowed down his Past in Flames kill or his Pyromancer Ascension, while having a path for Electromancer. I kept and hoped to beat down. He led on an Electromancer, which was sent into exile at the end of his turn. He then played a second Electromancer AND a Pyromancer Ascension. Unfortunately for my opponent, I played an Engineered Explosives that I had drawn the previous turn and swept up his permanents and my Scavenging Ooze. I played an Eternal Witness to get back the Ooze and used it to eat his entire graveyard before he extended the hand and tapped out.
Despite the fact that we were playing a 10 round tournament featuring 489 people, I was paired up against a friend from my old local game store. He was playing a Jeskai Control variant that was meant to beat the aggressive metagame. They key in this matchup is Voice of Resurgence, ideally paired with notable All-Star and celebrity personality, Eidolon of Rhetoric to shut down their Snapcaster Mages and use your early 2 and 3 drops that get in under counter magic to beat down while they play one spell per turn. Again, this game was quite short as Ryan missed his 3rd land drop and was forced to cast Anticipate on his main phase in order to hit a 3rd land, because of my newly cast Voice of Resurgence. Voice, followed by Eidolon and Courser of Kruphix laid down the beats until my Orzhov Pontiffused its uncommon mode of giving all creatures +1/+1 to deal exactly lethal damage and lead us into game 2.
I boarded out a few Path to Exiles and my Orzhov Pontiff for a Spellskite, a Forge-Tender and a Fulminator Mage.
The 2nd game boiled down to Ryan casting an early Vedalken Shackles to steal a Voice of Resurgence, which kept the ground clear and myself using a Spellskite to protect my Restoration Angel and my Pia and Kiran Nalaar from his burn spells. Ryan cast an Anger of the Gods which was halted by a Chord of Calling for Forge-Tender. With only 2 mana open, Ryan passed the turn back to me. I played my Fire-Lit Thicket and cast a Kiki-Jiki, which I had drawn off of my Wall of Omens the turn before. Ryan tapped 2 mana and showed me two Lightning Bolts, which were redirected to my Spellskite, and he showed me a handshake.
My next opponent was a bearded gentlemen who was shuffling what seemed to be a very shiny deck. I couldn’t make out the cards, but, I could definitely make out the foils. He led on Wanderwine Hub revealing Silvergill Adept into an AEther Vial. I was holding an Orzhov Pontiff, but chose not to cast it, hoping to get more value than a 1 for 1. Sadly, my opponent followed up with lord, lord and then animated a Mutavault and played a 3rd lord to deal exact damage, plus or minus a bunch. That was quick!
I boarded into my Lightning Helixes, my Reclamation Sage (to hit Spreading Seas and AEther Vial, which is much more proactive than trying to attack Vial with something like Stony Silence) and my Engineered Explosives, boarding out my Fulminator Mage, my Reveillark, a Wall of Omens, a Courser of Kruphix, and, for the first time all day, my Eidolon of Rhetoric. The key here is to kill everything, while not leaving yourself open to a Master of Waves after you run out of kill spells. Wall of Omens is a 50/50 card in this matchup. It’s a good wall if your opponent doesn’t have Spreading Seas, but, it does stone nothing if they do. It’s usually smart to shave one of each wall, but, I try and keep Wall of Roots in, so that I don’t stunt my mana development. You’re often trying to play a kill spell and a creature so you don’t get drowned in fish.
My opponent and I both mulliganed to 6 and my initial Lightning Helix and Path to Exile slowed him down enough for me to punch through with a Pia, which had recently been blinked by a Restoration Angel.
Game 3 featured my opponent having a Wanderwine Hub as his only blue source. I sandbagged all of my Path to Exiles, in order to keep him off of double blue for as long as possible. Eventually, he cast Spreading Seas on his own Mutavault and was met with triple Path to Exile within the next two turns. It’s hard to lose a game when you draw that much removal and your opponent is that bottle-necked.
I sat down at the table and my opponent had already finished shuffling with his deck ready to be presented. He talked about how he also used to play Splinter Twin. However, Breeding Pool into Glistener Elf was not the start I expected. I played my Birds of Paradise and quickly died to Groundswell, Groundswell, Mutagenic Growth. Modern is great sometimes.
I boarded into 3 Lightning Helix, my Engineered Explosives, and my Spellskite. I boarded out a Wall of Roots, a Fulminator Mage (Fulminator can kill Inkmoth Nexus and Pendelhaven, but, it also fuels Become Immense), a Reveillark, a Scavenging Ooze and a Voice of Resurgence.
The next two games, sadly, were not much of a contest. I kept a Spellskite, Eternal Witness, Restoration Angel 4 Lands, this hand that got my Spellskite back twice, and it did just that. It’s really difficult for Infect to beat a resolved Spellskite. In the last game, I also drew incredibly well. I had an Engineered Explosives, two Path to Exiles and two Lightning Helixes along with an Eternal Witness and a Ghost Quarter over the course of our game. The Explosives ate up two Noble Hierarchs while the Helixes and Paths took care of all of his creatures. I got to beat down with Eternal Witness and a few of her friends. My opponent threw up his hands and signed the match slip; very ready to go home.
This was my absolute favorite round of the whole tournament. I had the pleasure of playing against a young man named Sam Brake. Sam was peasant from the very start. He met me with a warm greeting and absolute jubilation that he was 4-2 today. In fact, he was playing in his first Modern tournament! Sam had been in the hospital a lot of last year with some complications. He told me as we were starting that he had studied the format a lot while he was in the hospital and that his dad and players from the local game store would hide packs of Magic cards in his hospital room while he was sleeping, instilling in him a love of the game. Even though Sam was playing Burn, I had a great time in all three of our games.
Game 1 Sam led off with 3 Goblin Guides in the first 4 turns and several Atarka’s Commands put the game squarely in his hands, despite my Walls trying their best to block. The second game featured a Voice of Resurgence getting incredibly huge. Sam killed it with a removal spell, and swung with two Wild Nacatls, but, I blocked with a Wall of Roots and let the other Nacatl through, because I had a Pia and Kiran Nalaar to deploy. My draw for the turn was a Bird of Paradise. The bird and the Pia and Kiran made the Voice token a 6/6, which, after casting a Chord of Calling for Restoration Angel to add 3 more creatures to my board the following turn, won me the game.
Game 3 included a Monastery Swiftspear, a Wild Nacatl and a Grim Lavamancer. I was able to Lightning Helix the Swiftspear, and then Eternal Witness it back to hit the Nacatl, which bought me enough time to deploy a Spellskite, a Burrenton Forge-Tender and a Kiki-Jiki. Every turn, I would use Kiki to make another Forge-Tender, which would nullify another burn spell of Sam’s. The game ended when I found a Restoration Angel. Sam was a good sport about it and we bumped into each other a couple more times during the tournament. He even let me sign his playmat! I hope to see him again soon. Sam was a good reminder to me that tournament magic can be fun, even if you aren’t winning.
I played Eldrazi and I lost. Next round. There isn’t much to say here. Game 1 I kept a hand with Birds, Eternal Witness, Restoration Angel, and a Path to Exile. I got run over by double Eldrazi Mimic into Thought-Knot Seer into Reality Smasher. I boarded into Engineered Explosives, Reclamation Sage, and 2 Lightning Helixes. I got rolled over by 3 Endless Ones and another Reality Smasher, despite having an Engineered Explosives and two Path to Exiles. Wizards, please ban this deck. //rant;
At X-3, there was a chance that I was still live for Top 32 prizes, but, it seemed unlikely with so many people. I sat down against my opponent and it appeared he was on Burn. I say it appeared that he was on burn because he played 3 one drop creatures with haste in the first two turns. He followed it up with two Boros Charms and I was very dead.
I boarded just like I boarded for Sam, but, I was met with two sub-optimal hands that forced me to mulligan to 5. I played a Wall of Roots and a Courser of Kruphix, but, I couldn’t find a 3rd land to resolve my Obstinate Baloth or gain any life off of Courser. This was disappointing, because I was going to play a Lone Missionary over an Obstinate Baloth, but, I couldn’t find one in my collection. I don’t think it would have mattered, though. My opponent still had 3 cards in hand when he killed me.
This last round was just for pride and planeswalker points. I sat down at the table, dejected from losing back to back games, but, I wanted to finish strong. My opponent started by playing a Temple Garden into a Wild Nacatl. I played a Birds of Paradise, into a Courser, and played 3 walls in the following turns. Considering that my opponent cast two Collected Company already, the board was quite crowded. In addition to the cards I mentioned above, I had a Restoration Angel, a Reveillark and a Spellskite in play. My opponent had a pile of creatures as well, including a Qasali Pridemage. I cast a Chord for 5 and my opponent activated his Pridemage to kill my Spellskite. I put my Kiki-Jiki into play and targeted my Restoration Angel. In response, he Bolted my Kiki-Jiki. I let the bolt resolve and I used my newly-made Restoration Angel to blink Reveillark, returning a Hasty Kiki-Jiki and a Spellskite in play. Reveillark is a fun magic card.
I boarded in some Helixes and my Explosives. Most aggressive matchups require these cards.
Our final game was interesting. My opponent cast a Collected Company that flipped over an Eternal Witness and a Gaddock Teeg. He also had an Aven Mindcensor in play. Because of Gaddock Teeg, he couldn’t play the Collected Company he returned, but, I couldn’t cast the Chord of Calling in my hand. I was able to resolve a Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which killed an Aven Mindcensor and a Gaddock Teeg. The turn after, a Restoration Angel blinked my Eternal Witness to return Chord of Calling and finish the game.
At 6-4, I was able to lock up exactly 100th place. The tournament wasn’t the success that I wanted, but, two of my friends were live for Top 8 and one of them made it to the semi-finals. Congrats Tim! I wouldn’t make any changes to my maindeck, but, I would change the 2nd Crumble to Dust into a Dismember and I would change the Obstinate Baloth into a Lone Missionary. Kiki-Chord is a fine deck against the rest of the field if it can come up with a way to beat the Eldrazi decks. I’ve considered Fiend Hunter, Intrepid Hero, Dismember, and Jeff Hoogland played an Archangel of Tithes in his list. I’m not sure where I want to go with the deck going forward, but, the new metagame is certainly interesting. In my next article, in the following weeks, I plan on discussing what I’m going to be trying to do in GP Detroit to beat the new Eldrazi menace. Until next time.
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