This past 4th of July weekend, I knew I was going to be battling. Initially, since I’d been grinding a lot of Standard recently, and am pretty familiar with the format, I was going to fight my heart out in a Standard format IQ in Kearny, NJ. Since most of my friends have retired (an endearing term used between my friends and I to denote anyone’s departure from the game for an indefinite amount of time, usually due to attracting potential mates), I was ready to battle alone yet again. I had been to this store before, and it’s a really cool place. The people are nice and the store is great.
On Wednesday, I get a phone call from a (non-retired) friend of mine. There is another IQ within driving distance of me, but it’s Modern format. Now, it’s been a minute since I’ve played Modern, as I’ve been focusing on playing in these Standard format IQs recently. I had known about this other IQ, but thought that the turnout would be high because it was also a PPTQ. My goal right now is to qualify for the Invitational in Somerset this year, not to join the Pro Tour, or even the RPTQ circuit right now, so I thought I would be safe going to the Standard event, where, last time, there were about 30 people.
However, the promise of battling with friends and with a deck I enjoy vastly had me going out of my way to put some updating touches on my Modern deck. This is what I put together the night before, and with what I registered at the Modern event:
Changes I’ve made since I last ran the deck:
-I traded a Flame Slash for a Roast, with a second Roast in the board. I at first was a little hesitant about running Roast because of the mana cost, and I couldn’t hit Delver of Secrets or Restoration Angel with the card, but I imagined there would be a bit more Jund/Abzan at this event than those decks, so I wasn’t too worried, and thought I would see Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Anglers as well.
-I cut a bunch of the 2-of cards for some extra 1-ofs. In particular, I cut down on Grim Lavamancer and Spell Snare to make room for an Izzet Charm and a Dispel. I had heard people running Izzet Charm as of late, and it seemed reasonable to me. Same with Dispel. They both felt fine where I wanted them in testing, while having the second Grim Lavamancer was never desirable, and having a Spell Snare at certain points in a given matchup isn’t the best, but I still wanted those cards.
-I added Anger of the Gods and Negate to the sideboard over the second Sower of Temptation, Roast, and second Dispel. I figured that Negate was a less narrow card, and since I would bring it in against most of the same matchups for which I’d bring in Sower of Temptation, it would help me more overall. Anger of the Gods was for the faster decks, and the new breed of Collected Company decks, both Elves and the combo/value versions, and the Roast was the same thought process as Negate, where it’s just good in a bunch of matchups.
So we get to this place in Bethlehem, PA to fight some folks with Modern cards. When we get there, the line is literally out the door to sign up. They had already signed up about 70 people, and were trying to get more room. They had halted sign ups. Boy, am I glad I didn’t go play Standard cards!
Eventually the store staff get everything situated. Their play area wasn’t the biggest, but they packed us in like sardines marinating in our own nerd stank. It even looked like they actually popped over to the nearest retail marketplace and asked for a box of their cheapest foldable stools, and unpacked them just for us! To be honest, the way the store handled it was pretty nice. They upped the prize pool since the event was so large, and even though the event started a lot later than it should have, everything was run smoothly.
I think the grand total was 104 players. Seven rounds of Modern, and it’s my first competitive Modern event in forever. Boy, am I ready to see how far down the whoopin’ hole I can set my booty. Round 1 pairings are posted, the boys and I give our good lucks to each other, and we are set to battle.
Round 1 – Dave on Merfolk.
Dave wins the die roll (story of this event for me, by the by), and since Manaless Dredge isn’t a thing (yet!) in Modern, elects to go first. He leads off with turn 1 Cursecatcher. Neat, I totally forgot this was a deck. My hand of Snapcasters, Remands, and Serum Visions looks pretty meek. His second turn is Cavern of Souls naming Merfolk, into Spellskite. Well guess who’s not winning this game. The guy playing Twin. He curves out pretty well before I remember that his lords give his men Islandwalk, and I can’t even block. So this is how today is going to go, eh? Ugh. To game 2!
On the play, I keep a hand of bolts and Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite. Seems pretty fine. I’m able to handle his threats effectively throughout our 5 turn game, and my thought in this matchup is to just play around Vapor Snag as long as he doesn’t have an Aether Vial on 2 for Spellskite. I’m able to slap a Twin on a Pestermite with Dispel backup, but he had nothing, so the fear was for naught.
For game 3, I had a similar hand as in game 2, but with Ancient Grudge for his Spellskites/Aether Vials. He ends up having to keep his 2 blue sources tapped for lords, which I keep Remanding. On turn six, I have a Deceiver Exarch in play, with Splinter Twin, Snapcaster Mage, and a Polluted Delta in hand, with 5 mana on the field. My plan was to bluff with the Polluted Delta and not play it. I drew an Island, played that instead, and with six mana, I go for Splinter Twin. If he has Vapor Snag, I lose anyway, because I’m facing lethal damage on board from him next turn.
I almost have to clean my shorts, because I thought about not playing a land that turn. I tap the extra 2, and grab the match slip. 1-0.
Round 2 – Michael with Jund.
Mike was a cool dude. Really cordial, we had a neat conversation involving the people to our left and right while shuffling, this is the stuff I love at Magic events, when everyone is just having a good time.
I know in the Jund matchup, Twin has to give up on the combo plan in most games, but the Jund deck still has to play around it as long as I have cards in my hand. And the only way I don’t have cards in my hand, is if they get a Liliana of the Veil to stick, and that usually means they don’t have any cards to deal with my stuff anyway. My deck ran like a top this game. Drawing flash creatures with which to beat up on his Liliana of the Veils (Vendilion Clique, you da real MVP with dat three power) and get around her discard effect, while drawing Roast to deal with his 4 / 5 Tarmogoyf, and then just pecking at his life total with Deceiver Exarch while Tectonic Edge kills his man lands. If ever any Splinter Twin player wonders why certain cards are in this deck, and why it’s so good, this is the matchup you need to play.
Game 2 goes very much the same way, where his sorcery speed discard spells are just really not good against a hand full of instant creatures, and when my 1 mana counters hit his non-Abrupt Decay spells.
I was stunned that I both, just beat Jund in 2 games, and that I was 2-0. Started off really well, I was in the zone, and the deck was just gas.
Round 3 – Kellen on Affinity.
Kellen was an alright guy. Not very…humorous. I try to crack jokes, and when the person I’m cracking them to doesn’t even smirk at them, I feel like an idiot. Well, if you saw the hands I kept against him, you’d think I was an idiot also. He’s on the play (3 in a row! Apparently mine are the only not-loaded dice! Bringing my own next time…), and turn 1 just vomits his entire hand onto the table. Stupid robots. My should-not-have-even-kept-hand of Snapcaster Mage, Remand, Serum Visions, Deceiver Exarch, Lands isn’t having any of this, and the team and I decide to ship to game 2.
Again, I was playing really loose in this matchup, and on the play, keep a hand that is very similar to the first hand. I went from looking at my hands and thinking, “Can I win this tournament if I keep this hand?” to “Oh boy! Spells I can cast with these lands I can play! We’re all in!” I should have aggressively mulliganed for either Lightning Bolts or Ancient Grudges, but kept a mediocre to poor hand, and just get blown out by a Metalcrafted Etched Champion with Cranial Plating and Welding Jar backup. 2-1. With four more rounds? Ugh. Gotta rattle these next rounds off. Actually, I just have to win one more round. Because if I can’t win another round, there are no more rounds to play in.
Round 4 – Shawn on Jund Death’s Shadow.
Shawn is an exuberant guy. You can tell he’s very outgoing, and loves Magic from the amount of Magic themed tattoos he has. He’s on the play, and I don’t even know what’s happening. Again, I keep a hand I have no business keeping chock full of slow blue spells, and he has double Monastery Swiftspears attacking me. I throw a Deceiver Exarch out with hopes to block one, but in response to the trigger (which I use to untap my Island, which I should have used to tap a Swiftspear), he just vomits his hand of Mutagenic Growths and Ferocious Temur Battle Rage, which is enough for lethal.
“I’ve never lost a match to Splinter Twin. That’s not gonna change today!” If you’re one of these people, just stop. You make your opponent feel awful for no good reason, and you look like an idiot when you get beat. By the way, games 2 and 3 end with me triple and double Lightning Bolting him in the dome respectively. It turns out the best strategy against an opponent that just wants to hurt themselves to maximize Death’s Shadow is to make Death’s Shadow bigger for them! 3-1.
At this point, I am the only one of my friends still alive in the event. There are only three more rounds. We can do this!
Round 5 – Tracy on Infect.
Tracy played against one of my friends in the rounds previous, and beat him. I knew he was on infect going into this round, and was able to mulligan accordingly. As my other friend put it, the friend that had lost to Tracy “put me in the lay-up line. Tim doesn’t miss lay-ups.”
Unfortunately for Tracy, he mulliganed to 4 in game 1. With me on six, this matchup is still scary, but with 4 cards in his hand, he’s either putting pressure on me, or fighting the combo. He can’t really do both. So we’re able to combo him.
In game 2, we both kept seven. However, he was on the mana intensive Inkmoth Nexus plan, while I have Ancient Grudge and Lightning Bolt with Remand and a Pestermite. I’m able to just attack him in the head this game with no need to combo, since he kept a slow hand and got flooded.
Call me Pippen, ‘cuz I’m hitting these lay-ups. I know nothing about basketball, but I’m 4-1 going into round 6. I feel really good. I have a feeling that if I can just manage a win in my next round, I mayyyyy be able to draw into top 8 in my last round. But first we have to battle and win the next round.
Round 6 – Dakota on Elves.
I’ve seen Dakota at a bunch of events in the area recently, and I know he plays some form of Megamorph in Standard, and I think I saw him battling with green men earlier in the tournament. I have very little experience against the Collected Company decks in Modern, so I’m not sure what to expect. He wins the die roll (again, what in the heck, Lady Luck!), and starts with a Llanowar Elf. My slow hand of Snapcasters, Remands, and Deceiver Exarchs is just not enough to handle it. This is the only game in the entire event where I wished that I had Flame Slash over Roast, because casting it on turn one on the draw would have been relevant, but he was just able to get an unchecked Elvish Archdruid on the board, and he just steam rolled me from there.
In game 2, Grim Lavamancer really did a lot of work. I was plunking elves to the graveyard left and right, but also my inexperience with the matchup hurt me here. Eventually, I ran out of cards for Grim Lavamancer, and bricked lands off the top for three turns. After thinking about it, I sideboarded incorrectly. In my head, the matchup was kind of like Affinity, where if I can handle their early stuff, the fight is easily in my favor. However, he had alllll of the Chord of Callings and Collected Companies to outvalue me. Like the Affinity matchup, I kept bad hands, and should have aggressively mulliganed to cards that help in the matchup early on.
Quite a disheartening finish. I’m still pretty upset about it, but we can always point to what we need to improve on. In general, I’m very happy with my play, and feel like I did the best I could when I kept good hands. I really think that I’ll qualify for the invitational, or at least top 8 again, if I can just get better at evaluating hands to keep in certain matchups.
I ended up dropping and not playing the final round, as I’m certain I was unable to top 8 even with a win in the last round. I was also pretty upset with myself, and after realizing that my bad hands were the only reason I lost the games I did (along with inexperience in the matchups, but the mulligan piece can be improved easily), I feel not only upset with my decisions, but also happy that I was able to identify my mistakes early, and also happy that I made very few play mistakes during my games.
There’s always another tournament, and my next one is at the end of July, with the new Standard environment. After that is Regionals, so I’m taking a break from playing Standard until then and will be monitoring the Standard environment to see which deck I’ll want to play. I’m really excited to play with the cards in Magic Origins, and I’m hoping there are some really sweet lists to play when it drops. We’ll see what happens, but to everyone, I hope your pre-release and release events are enjoyable, and I hope fortune smiles upon your box openings!
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