An Invitational Epilogue

While Anthony had high hopes for the Season Three Invitational and took some big risks in order to try and capitalize on the state of the Legacy format, there are lessons to be learned even when things don’t quite go your way – and those lessons can thankfully be shared.

The Invitational was a bloodbath.

I took a chance on Legacy. A lot of things lined up in ways where my deck choice was heavily influenced, but it didn’t work out. I wanted to play a deck that was good against Omni-Tell and Miracles, and because Legacy was first I would also expect a lot more Burn and Infect. Those two decks are the easiest ports from Modern, and the number of players that don’t have access to an abundance of Legacy cards are much higher than many players account for in their metagame expectations.

Like I said in my deck tech, it takes a hell of a lot for me to not play a Brainstorm deck… but I felt that this was one of those circumstances.

Dubbed “K-Mart,” MUD was one of the few decks that can boast a good Omni-Tell and Miracles matchup while also being equipped to fight against Temur Delver via the full playset of Cavern of Souls. While I usually don’t make major metagame calls like this, things just seemed worth going for.

For Standard, I was much more torn.

I was high on R/B Dragons. The deck seemed to have the easier time naturally going toe-to-toe against the elephant in the room, Abzan Aggro. The cards just lined up so well, and it was probably the best Goblin Rabblemaster deck in the format. I was incredibly worried about blue control, however. This line of thought led me to a cascading process that made me overthink everything.

If blue control beat R/B Dragons, then Atarka Red beat blue control. If Atarka Red beat blue control, then Abzan Aggro might beat Atarka Red if properly tuned, though that made me weaker in the mirror. I’d rather be stronger in the mirror, so I figured I could eschew the Mono-Red Aggro matchup for a better mirror match.

I would ultimately come to this. Reluctantly, but I could’ve done far worse.

Flailing around on deck choice is never a good thing, and I probably made the worst possible decision going into an event like this:

I audibled.

I thought way too much about it and I got punished, in both formats really. My deck choices were good enough, but I wasn’t up to par. It’s a very disappointing feeling because I know I could’ve done better, and in what will probably be my last Invitational of the year it’s a tough pill to swallow.

However, the weekend wasn’t over yet.

I had seen what Todd Anderson came up with for his Abzan Aggro deck, and I was very intrigued by Managorger Hydra and Gather Courage. The two just seemed to work well enough together that I wanted to port them over to another deck.

All of the other three-drops in this deck weren’t great anymore due to them being enchantments or easily blocked or Magma Sprayed. Goblin Rabblemaster was just incredibly underwhelming, and it’s tough to support it without diluting the rest of your deck.

In the trenches, I had some pretty interesting games with this deck but there are definitely shortcomings that need to be worked on. I liked how the deck was quite a bit better at pulling ahead from parity on the ground. With opposing Deathmist Raptors being at a comparative low and Hangarback Walker being the new hotness, a really large Managorger Hydra can punch through almost anything. Gather Courage is probably the best counterspell in the format against Dromoka’s Command as well as Draconic Roar, Wild Slash and Magma Spray. This does double duty against Languish, which is notoriously good against Dragons. When combined with the Megamorph package, you become very resilient and much sturdier against traditional removal.

While we wound up more fluid and streamlined on the offensive, this particular build had a much harder time playing from behind. Previously we could lean on Crater’s Claws and assorted removal to catch us back up, but we lose a good chunk of actual removal for Gather Courage. Also, Managorger Hydra takes a little bit of time to get going, especially when Gather Courage is out of the equation. It’s very possible that Crater’s Claws isn’t good enough in this build, and bringing it down to one may be worth it if it means I can actually kill things, even if it works well with the Hydra. I also felt that I could get away with either two Den Protectors or three Deathmist Raptors, and probably add a planeswalker or another threat that further presses the issue. Fanatic of Xenagos is kind of mediocre, but it does fit that bill. Heir of the Wilds is also fine, as it makes Dromoka’s Command particularly inefficient and it’s still hard to block, but turning on Ferocious is more difficult since you’re using Deathmist Raptor, plus it also dies to Magma Spray. It also doesn’t really do much but attack, so you don’t get a lot of options with it. That said, it’s still probably worth playing a couple of copies.

Shifting gears, we find ourselves with an Open Series in Cincinnati this weekend and Modern is back! Thankfully not too much has changed, so it’s a great time to do more fine-tuning instead of making any drastic shifts.

Currently, I’m still high on Temur Twin.

The new addition to Temur Twin is Savage Knuckleblade, adopted here (again!) by Todd Anderson. When you’re in the market to present a cheap, versatile, large threat, there are few that can handle a body such as Savage Knuckleblade. Grixis decks in particular aren’t well-equipped to deal with one on turn six, nor are they generally prepared to handle a big attack step on turn four. Switching roles from passive to full-out aggressive, and/or landing a threat early and playing Protect the Queen, is the name of the game. This means that using all of your mana efficiently is key, and figuring out how to do so may help settle your line of play. Outside of that, there isn’t too much that has changed, but the Wild Nactal-based Collected Company decks can be really tough. They have a ton of pressure, a lot of interactive creatures that also add to the pressure, plus Collected Company to keep the engine revving. More spot removal like Forked Bolt and Roast, plus cards like Huntmaster of the Fells, Thragtusk, and Obstinate Baloth, are what it takes to stabilize in that matchup.

The other problem I’ve found with this deck was its ability to play from behind against Thoughtseize decks, especially on the draw. I’m not entirely sure how to remedy this while also staying within the Temur colors, as Grixis Twin doesn’t have anywhere near as difficult of a time. It’s possible that Grim Lavamancer or Hooting Mandrills is a start, but Mandrills is pretty embarrassing against Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler. If we add more Roasts or Dismembers then it’s more justifiable. Maindecking a copy or two of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy can further bolster your tempo game, but it would make the Twin side of things a little worse and not being able to attack sucks.

The Season Three Invitational was one to forget for me, which is unfortunate. I know that I won’t make that mistake again at the next one, but I’m looking forward to jamming some Modern for the time being.

What decks do you expect to see do well in Cincinnati? Is Temur Twin the best Twin deck?