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To Affinity and Beyond (PTQ Top 16)

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

I don’t know about you, but the Modern season snuck up on me. Since beating good friend Logan Mize to make it to Pro Tour Barcelona, I rallied through two Magic Online PTQ wins, and in doing so haven’t had to play much of the physical game. However, on January 5th we had our first PTQ of the season in Florida. To prepare for said PTQ, I spent a lot of my time trying out a new archetype and an existing one that I have never played. Let’s see how this shaped my decision on what I played for the PTQ and how I did.

Initial Consideration – Seismic Swans

That’s right; Seismic Swans. This deck was a major player back before Modern, when the format was Extended. Once Seismic Assault was in play with  Swans of Bryn Argoll , the pilot would keep shooting their Swans with the Assault and drawing until they had enough lands to kill their opponent. As backup,  Dakmor Salvage, a land with dredge 2, could be dredged with Swans and discarded with Assault as many times as desired, each time drawing the pilot one additional card. Interestingly enough, this deck hasn’t really transitioned over to Modern yet.

Last year, Bronson Magnan and I introduced aggro loam to the world and took GP Hoth by storm.

A very similar deck in design to this, I introduce Seismic Swans:

I’ve spent about four hours playing the deck and it shows a lot of potential. It needs some work but I thought this was something unique and powerful. With another four or five hours of testing, it could be ready to take down a PTQ. If you have a Modern FNM near you, I suggest giving this a go. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and couldn’t get a “perfect” list together.
Knowing this, I went to my local FNM on Friday the 4th planning on trying out AJ Sacher’s Infect list.

Round 1: Allie Smith playing RDW: For those of you who don’t know, Allie is my girlfriend, so the games were quite casual. She keeps a loose hand, and I punish her for it with a turn 3 kill. Game two was much of the same, and the round ends with a clean 2-0.

Round 2: Parth Joshi playing UW: Game one, I got a good start and killed him with relative ease. Due to my inexperience with the deck, I sideboarded incorrectly game two, and when I didn’t draw a Thoughtseize, his turn two Spellskite went unanswered, which ended the game on its own. Game three started off on the right foot; a Thoughtseize on turn 2 hitting his only removal spell and showing a clear path to the win. However, his next draw step got him the counter for my pump, and the subsequent draw step gave him a kill spell for my Inkmoth Nexus. I couldn’t recover from his series of topdecks and lost 1-2.

Wanting sleep for the PTQ the next day, we opted to drop and head home. Of course, upon getting home I decided not to play Infect, audibling to longtime favorite Affinity. While I considered adding Disciple of the Vault and Atog to push through these Lingering Souls based decks, I’ve since noticed a decrease in Lingering Souls and opted to change my list yet again. If your list isn’t changing from week to week, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Dark Affinity

After contemplating where I wanted to take the deck, I ended up settling on the following:

Taking the deck in a different direction while keeping the core of the deck intact, this list is designed to disrupt your opponent in addition to the blistering speed that affinity has to offer. In addition to the Thoughtseizes, there are two Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. I wanted something against UW as I expected an increase in popularity. Tezzeret is hard for them to kill and serves as a potential game winner by itself.

PTQ Dragon’s Maze

Round 1: David Ward playing 4c Pod: David Ward is a good friend of mine, and someone who I see on a weekly basis. To quote David Ward, “There are almost 200 people here and I have to freaking play you.” An unhappy Ward becomes even worse when he mulligans down to five before keeping. An Inkmoth Nexus wielding a Cranial Plating was too much for him to overcome.

+2 Torpor Orb, +2 Whipflare, +3 Dismember, -4 Memnite, -2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, -1 Mountain

Game two went better for Ward he played a Restoration Angel alongside a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker with me short on answers.

Game three was a tough break. Ward missed his second land drop, but after a turn one Noble Hierarch, he followed it up with an Avacyn’s Pilgrim and a Birds of Paradise. Do I have the Whipflare? Of course. (1-0) (2-1)

Round 2: Mike Jones playing Spirit Jund: Another buddy of mine, he won the die roll but was unable to put substantial pressure on me. An active Steel Overseer was too much to handle.

+2 Whipflare, +1 Inquisition of Kozilek, +3 Blood Moon, +2 Etched Champion, -4 Memnite, -2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, -2 Signal Pest

Game two, I mulligan down to 5, but had a respectable hand regardless. Vault Skirge wielding a Cranial Plating brought Jones down to 2 before he stabilized. Deathrite Shaman brought him out of reach and eventually Tarmogoyf got the best of me.

Game three was perhaps my proudest moment of the tournament as I kept a triple Steel Overseerhand on the play. The issue was that my turn two Overseer met a turn two Stony Silence from Jones. Even worse, he followed that up with a Lingering Souls. Undeterred, I continued playing my vanilla 1/1’s waiting for him to flashback the Lingering Souls. As soon as he did I ran out my Whipflare and started jamming in. Jones drew his second Lingering Souls by the time I got him to eight. My topdecked Etched Champion pushed through the last eight damage. (2-0) (4-2)

Round 3: John Freitas playing Living End: This is a pretty bad matchup for me, but he mulligans down to four in game one and struggles to do much of anything.

+3 Blood Moon, +1 Inquisition of Kozilek, -2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, -1 Etched Champion, -1 Mountain

It was my turn to mulligan down to five. I found a keepable hand and was able to stick a Blood Moon on the unsuspecting Freitas. The following turn I Thoughtseized him, showing that the Blood Moon was preventing him from casting Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread. He drew a Forest the following turn and went off, some people are luckier than others.

Game three I had a turn one Arcbound Ravager. Turn two, I sacrificed all but Arcbound Ravager and a Vault Skirge and hit him for seven. Facing a lethal position on turn 3, he cascaded into a Living End, I sacrificed my two creatures to have them come back in to play via the Living End. I outnumbered him three to two, and no matter how he blocked the Ravager would get in for the last three points of damage. (3-0) (6-3)

Round 4: Ryeland Barnard playing 4c Pod: I was on the play. After a mulligan I got a fast draw with a  Cranial Plating.  Inkmoth Nexus helped me secure a fast start but he was able to combo out before I could finish him off.

+2 Torpor Orb, +2 Whipflare, +3 Dismember, -4 Memnite, -2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, -1 Mountain

Game two brought another mulligan for me. After an awkward series of plays and it came down to my opponent being at 5 and completely tapped out. He sacrificed his one drop to Birthing Pod. I can represent lethal by sacrificing everything to ravager and putting it on my Vault Skirge. If I don’t do this now, he can get  Spellskite and prevent me from using Modular. With a tapped Izzet Staticaster in play, my hand is forced, as I don’t want to lose all my one toughness creatures. His only other relevant two drop is Phantasmal Image. He can use Image to copy my Vault Skirge and give him two more turns to find an answer. I decided that I can’t win otherwise, and I went all in on the Vault Skirge. I asked him, you’re dead right? He agrees after looking through his deck and concedes. It always feels good to get in one Jedi Mind Trick per tournament.

Game three I had to mulligan yet again and keep a hand lacking pressure but it had removal. He had his own removal in the form of Ancient Grudge and eventually he sticks a Birthing Pod to combo me to death. (3-1) (7-5)

Round 5: Justin Bratcher playing R/G Tron: I was on the play and it was still a rough game one. Multiple  Pyroclasms alongside naturally having tron meant  Karn Liberated and  Wurmcoil Engine made an appearance. That being the case, it still couldn’t stop me from getting him with infect via Inkmoth Nexus.

+3 Blood Moon, +1 Inquisition of Kozilek, -4 Ornithopter

Game two is similar but this time I hit him with a full 10 infect in one foul swoop. (4-1) (9-5)

Round 6: John Wyly playing RB Burn: I sweat it out on the draw and he got me to 3 before I kill him with an equipped creature.

+1 Inquisition of Kozilek, +2 Etched Champion, +1 Spellskite, -4 Signal Pest

Game two he kept a risky hand containing three Ash Zealot. When I dropped down my Etched Champion he was short on solutions and was quickly dispatched. (2-0) (9-5)

Round 7: Collin Kaiser playing Storm: This was the most disappointing round of the event. Stuck on the draw I threaten lethal on my turn three! Hitting him with a Thoughtseize he reveals Grapeshot, Pyretic Ritual, 2x Manamorphose and a Past in Flames. He has a Goblin Electromancer in play, so I opt for the Manamorphose. It didn’t matter since he was able to hit me for exactly enough on his turn three. What a difference a die roll makes.

+1 Inquisition of Kozilek, +3 Dismember, -2 Steel Overseer, -2 Ornithopter

Game two I hit him with a turn two Thoughtseize nailing a Grapeshot and leaving him with a bunch of ritual effects. The following turn I drop a Tezzeret and begin an onslaught of 5/5’s. He tried to go off and ran out of juice.

Game three much like the other two I hit him with a Thoughtseize on my turn 3, and took his Shattering Spree. Facing a lethal Inkmoth on turn 5 he had to go off and I see from the crowd behind him the last card he draws is the nail in the coffin as I watch him storm count increase to lethal amounts. (5-2) (10-7)

Round 8: John Arbe playing Infect: Somehow this was my first ever match against modern Infect. Game one he gets a Rancor on a Glistener Elf and I was unable to defend against it.

+2 Whipflare, +3 Dismember, +3 Blood Moon, +1 Spellskite, +1 Inquisition of Kozilek, -4 Signal Pest, -2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, -1 Mountain, -1 Etched Champion, -2 Memnite.

Game two I led off with an Inquisition hitting his only creature. Five turns later he’s still creature less and I’m forcing lethal.

Game Three he started off with another Glistener Elf. My first draw step yields the lone Spellskite and when he spends his Nature’s Claim on my Memnite I gladly follow it up with said Spellskite. Arbe unable to answer the Spellskite watched hopelessly as I run him over with robots. (6-2) (12-8)

Final standings were posted and I got 16th on the nose, which is good for a box of Return to Ravnica. My teammate from GP San Jose Julian De Los Santos made top eight. A lesson to learn from him is that he bought sleeves at the event as he needed new one. His deck in order at the time, sleeved them up and went about his tournament. During deck checks it was discovered the sleeves where miss cut, and even worse because his deck was organized when sleeving that he ended up unintentionally marking his lands with miss cut sleeves. An easy way to avoid this is make sure your deck is randomized before sleeving and always check your sleeves after purchase to make sure they are not miss cut. He ended up getting a game loss, and losing the match to the storm player I lost to in swiss.

Dark Horizons

I really like how the deck performed. The Thoughtseizes felt terrific all tournament long. The Tezzerets felt solid but two is probably too much. I really wanted to fit in Dark Confidant. After I got home from the PTQ the next day I logged onto Magic Online to make some changes to fit Dark Confidant in to my list. I came up with the following and immediately started crushing eight mans:

Adding Dark Confidant and Thoughtseize to the deck really gives it a more powerful feeling. Being able to know your opponents hand and stripping it of what your hand would lose to is a great thing. Dark Confidant generates the card advantage that you sometimes need to push through that last few damage. Also him not being an artifact means he gets around a lot of the sideboard hate and can help you get back in to games that otherwise would be out of reach.

Modern season has just begun and even though the format is becoming more defined there are still lots of improvements to be made on current lists and even brand new ones waiting to be discovered. I’m looking forward to playing in more PTQ’s in the near future. Magic Online has a lot going on the next month or two with PTQ’s nearly every Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully I’ll achieve another win. Either way, you’ll be hearing more from me soon to come.

John Cuvelier
Gosu. On MTGO
@Jcuvelier on Twitter

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