It’s been a while since I’ve written an article, but I am back with some Modern insight!
This past weekend, the first wave of RPTQs took place all around the world. Though the Pro Tour format has yet to be released, we can safely assume it’s going to be modern, as that is the RPTQ format of choice. For those of you playing at the Invitational/Opens at SCG CON, or in the second wave of modern RPTQs, I have a few suggestions on what you should play this weekend.
First and foremost, I shall give you the easiest route: play what you know best. I’m sure this is no news, but modern is a vast format that isn’t dominated by 5 archetypes, like standard. This makes it impossible to make any meta calls, so playing your deck as perfectly as possible is much more rewarding than picking up a random deck that is supposedly “well positioned”, or “best”. There is no best deck in a field full of combo, aggro, and midrange decks that can attack on different angles; whatever you play may end up folding to a specific deck in one of those archetypes. Because the most played deck hovers between 5%-10% (and changes periodically), I believe you should play something extremely linear whether that is aggressive or combo oriented. Being reactive in this format is too dangerous, as you will often have dead cards in your hand. With a format this powerful, you cannot afford to mulligan every single game (which is what having dead cards is, after all). Of course, you could play against humans and affinity in 5 out of 6 rounds as Jeskai and go undefeated, but why take the chance!?
When I think of resilient combo strategies with quick goldfish potential, KCI (Krark-Clan Ironworks) and Amulet Titan come to mind. I am going to spare you from the deck explanation, as I am sure you know what these decks do if you are playing in the RPTQ/SCG Invitational. If you would like more in-depth analysis/guides, I recommend reading Will Pulliam’s article on Amulet Titan.
Below you can find Will’s most recent list from last week’s RPTQ win (congrats!):
If you have any questions regarding the archetype, feel free to reach out to Will (@weirdlandguy) on Twitter!
Amulet is good at killing out of nowhere and going underneath decks with interaction. Thanks to the fact that Amulet of Vigor and Ancient Stirrings cost 1 mana, and Tolaria Westbeing a land means that hand disruption can be overcome and outraced. Furthermore, the deck can beat a single removal spell through Tolaria West and Pact of Negation. Often, though, opponents won’t even have the time or opportunity to cast a removal spell before dying; the goldfish potential for this deck is very fast! Turn 3 and 4 are very common, while rarely it can end the game as early as turn 2. I believe a deck like Amulet is a good choice as you don’t care what your opponents do game 1 since you’re just doing your thing way faster. Post board you have access to some disruption, which allow you to either slow your opponents down if needed, or power through your combo. Additionally, you can bring in big threats against the fair decks that try to disrupt you. This way, you aren’t reliant on comboing off (just jam Tireless Tracker, Obstinate Baloth or some other big mana monster). What makes the deck even better is the fact that there aren’t many ways to interact with it post board besides removal (almost no decks can board in an answer to Primeval Titan). It attacks at an unusual angle, so the common combo sideboard cards don’t touch it (think Rest in Peace or Stony Silence effects). Due to the increased success of KCI and Hardened Scales, players are including more Stony Silence than anything else in their sideboards, and Amulet of Vigor does a pretty good job at dodging that. Graveyard hate and Leyline also do nothing in the matchup, and the only somewhat common reasonable card is Damping Sphere, along with Nature’s Claim (Ensnaring Bridge is another, not very popular one). With all of that said, I believe this archetype has the opportunity to perform well this weekend. The only thing holding the deck from being played more is the “it’s so difficult to play” excuse. But it’s just that: an excuse.
As I mentioned earlier, KCI is the other deck I consider resilient and fast (while also being very consistent). A lot of your deck is combo pieces that can also just dig for the actual combo when you need it. When you have so much cheap card draw along with Ancient Stirrings and fast mana, you can see how the deck is so good. I have now experienced from playing with and against the deck, how resilient it is. I have lost many games where I kept a slower hand with Stony Silence or Rest in Peace, or Gaddock Teeg, Meddling Mage and Thalia. Post board KCI has 4 Nature’s Claim, and sees more cards than about any other deck in the format, so you can count on the KCI player always finding a Nature’s Claim eventually. Also, thanks to Sai, Master Thopterist, a lot of the cycling pieces can still be sacrificed to draw two cards, so Stony Silence is just a speed bump. Rest in Peace is not great because it gets destroyed by Claim, again, as well as Engineered Explosives and Spine of Ish Sah (if they are playing it). Leyline of the Void falls in the same category as Rest in Peace. The one shot graveyard hate can be defeated by casting Nature’s Claim first, or by simply having enough artifacts in play to simply “reset” with Myr Retriever and Scrap Trawler. A timely Surgical Extraction can be good, but if the KCI player is aware, they can simply have a Myr Retriever sacrifice at the ready (also leaving an untapped Buried Ruin counters Surgical Extraction). Even Extirpate can be stopped because the combo can just use mana abilities without needing to use the stack. With Buried Ruin and Inventor’s Fair, the deck can rebuild/kill out of nowhere. The only reasonable way to beat KCI is having a fast clock while having one of those powerful shutdowns (it’s difficult to have both of those things). For a detailed sideboard guide and combos, I recommend checking out Matt Nass’s most recent article, or Piotr “kanister” Głogowski. You can find Piotr’s list from GP Atlanta (2nd place) below:
Now that I explained why I think KCI and Amulet Titan are good choices this weekend, I will move onto the linear aggressive strategies. If my plan is to curve out and kill my opponent instead of curving out, my choices would come down to 5 Color Humans or Bant Spirits. The problem I find with other aggressive strategies is that they do not interact enough with their opponents, so a goldfish turn of 4 or 5 is just not fast enough. Both spirits and humans can win on turn 4 or turn 5, but can also interact while doing so. When you are attacking with a 3 power Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and a 4 power Champion of the Parish on turn 3 (thank you, Lieutenant), you are going to give your opponent a headache from both the beating they’re taking and the mana tax of Thalia. Similarly, spirits can play a Mausoleum Wanderer into a Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain, threaten lethal next turn with a Phantasmal Image or CoCo, while still being able to counter an instant or sorcery. Linear decks that only attack on one axis are much easier to beat, and unless they can goldfish turn 3, they still risk losing to all four decks I’ve mentioned thus far. While the two aggressive strategies are similar in some ways, they play a bit differently. With spirits, your flyers that can grow out of control, also happen to have some interactive tools or abilities. The gameplan, however, is always the same. Humans, on the other hand, can have some very polarizing outcomes! Champion of the Parish into Thalia’s Lieutenant beats differ greatly from Aether Vial into Kitesail Freebooter, followed by a Meddling Mage. Sometimes humans feels unbeatable because it draws exactly what it needs in the right order for the given matchup. The issue with the deck, however, is that sometimes you just draw the wrong combination and your gameplan execution isn’t as effective as you’d like it to be. Spirits, however, can draw any mix of its cards and the games usually play out the same way. I also think it’s slightly easier to play from ground zero because you aren’t playing with the card “Meddling Mage”. You have to understand your matchups perfectly and how the game will play out for you to name the correct card.
Overall, the decks are fairly similar game 1, with Spirits having a better game 1 vs KCI (in my opinion), but worse Tron game 1. Spirits’ power, however, shines in its sideboard. Due to its manabase, it can play noncreature spells that can shut opposing decks down if unanswered, such as: Rest in Peace, Stony Silence, and Worship. Even matchups that can be tough/unfavorable game 1, can be improved thanks to the powerful white sideboard cards. This is something a deck like humans does not have access to, and why I think Spirits might be the better call this weekend. For reference, you can find a recent Bant Spirits and 5 Color Humans list below.
5C Humans List
Taking into account everything I said, I don’t believe you can go wrong with any of the above decks! Make sure you know how to play it well, how to play against the popular decks (so, all of them..), how they will sideboard against you, and how you should sideboard against them! This article was obviously just meant to explain why I think KCI, Amulet Titan, 5 Color Humans, and Bant Spirits are the best choices right now. There are lots of good resources on the web as far as sideboarding and deck guides go. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, though! If you are playing in the Nashville RPTQ this weekend, I will see you there!
Until next time,
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