I’m elated to report that I managed to make it to the Top 4 at Grand Prix Minneapolis this weekend, a result made only sweeter by the called-shot nature of giving a rundown of the deck I piloted last week. I did make a couple of last-minute substitutions, so let’s start there.
I was playing sixteen Mountains as the manabase for early builds of the deck, and recently I landed on going up to eighteen total lands by adding two Horizon lands. They provide marginal equity in grindy matchups, and playing them in spell slots allows them to be discarded to Faithless Looting when your life total is to be used as more of a resource. I’m pretty happy with eighteen lands at this time in most matchups, but more on that later.
The major update I made for last weekend was to eschew both cards that I had been waffling on for my last two spell slots for a different card entirely. Going into the weekend, I was weighing whether the spots where Gut Shot or Blistercoil Weird were bad were more common, and ultimately I decided to play neither.
To elaborate, Blistercoil Weird is fundamentally weaker than the other one-mana creatures in the deck when it comes to Wrenn and Six, responding to Collective Brutality with instants, and just combat in general. Gut Shot is weak outside of specific hands or situations where it’s a zero-mana Doom Blade, and in many ways is too heavy on such a marginal effect to have in the deck next to four copies of the superior version of the effect in Lava Dart, which plays better both by working as two spells and by being a good discard to Faithless Looting.
The card that I ended up playing in this slot, Burst Lightning, seldom gets a lot of love in Modern. In the context of the current format, though, a one-mana instant that deals two damage is great against much of the common opposition in the format like Hedron Crab, Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Meddling Mage.
The most significant factor in this decision was the fact that I was previously sideboarding in eight cards against Burn and mirror matches, and just having literal Shock is great for Game 1s there while otherwise being generally palatable in a deck so heavy on burn otherwise. You can come up with spots where something like Forked Bolt is better, but instant speed is huge in the current Modern format.
Having extra maindeck cards against red decks allowed me to trim the second sideboard Flame Slash and add some more varied utility to my sideboard. I don’t consider Valakut decks or Mono-Green Tron to be bad matchups, but having Alpine Moon as an ace in the hole will help you cover the ramp players with heavy sideboard plans against you.
The list played like a dream and I have no immediate plans to make any changes.
For many players, Planeswalker Points made acquiring byes at Grand Prix much easier. As for myself, my Day 1s are nine rounds, and this one got off to a rocky start.
I lost Round 1 to Eldrazi Tron to a combination of missing my second land drop in Game 1 and early Chalice of the Voids from my opponent in both games. This match was extremely deflating for me because I had very little agency in this match and I otherwise felt extremely prepared for the tournament. My aggravation was amplified by the fact that I had played the Friday MCQ as well and lost Round 1 of that tournament to a very similar set of circumstances.
I was commiserating with good friend and fellow Baltimore Team Open champion Liz Lynn, and she helped me greatly in righting the ship. I had come to the tournament with sixteen matching Portal Mountains that I thought were neat, but at this time Liz asked if I was interested in mismatching one for an alter that she had. That Mountain substitution would come to be known as “The Blessed Mountain,” as I proceeded to rattle off eight wins in a row to close out the day.
A Turn 3 win on the draw against The Gaak in Round 2 before picking up that match 2-0 got my blood pumping again, though I honestly couldn’t shake this feeling that I was going to lose in horrible fashion for a few rounds. A 2-1 against Hardened Scales and then regular Affinity. Another win against The Gaak, a 2-1 over Izzet Phoenix and Mono-Green Tron. When I was 6-1 I was most certain that I was about to 0-2 my way out of contention. Then it happened.
— Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive) August 10, 2019
In Round 8, I was paired against Burn. I lost the die roll but after a mulligan my opponent just didn’t have the stuff to kill me from two as I eked out Game 1. This is where the change to my sideboard became relevant.
Before this weekend I was sideboarding in eight cards against Burn. Now I only have seven. I grabbed the seven cards I was sideboarding out, but I sideboarded in a set of cards book-ended by Flame Slash on one side and Dragon’s Claw on the other without really looking in the middle. When I counted my sideboard to verify I was ready for Game 2, I counted fourteen cards. Once again, I made a cursory glance of what I was bringing in but didn’t really look things over closely, and just sideboarded out a Crash Through so I could start playing.
Game 2 opened with an early Kor Firewalker for my opponent and an early Dragon’s Claw for me. The turn after I cast two Soul-Scar Mages, which theoretically would allow me to start chunking in some damage. He just played a land and passed, and I untapped hoping to chain some cantrips or get a Bedlam Reveler chain going. I drew for my turn…
Dismember sure as hell isn’t part of my plan against the Lava Spike deck, and as I looked at the copy in my hand I spent a few seconds piecing together what had just happened. I recalled the counting issue with sideboarding, and then realized that this was the eighth card. I Dismembered the Firewalker and my Dragon’s Claw made winning from there trivial.
Suddenly, I overwhelmingly felt that this was my tournament to lose.
I was gifted a Counters Company pairing in Round 9, and was delighted to have recovered from a mentality of wanting to drop from the tournament at any minute to being 8-1 at the end of Saturday.
Day 2 started with another 2-1 over The Gaak and another win over Burn. My Burn opponent in Round 11 was the last undefeated player in Lucien Longlais, and at 10-1 I was briefly really feeling it.
10-1. Feeling the nerves but I did just dispatch the last undefeated player.
— Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive) August 11, 2019
The dread set in again in Round 12 when I was quickly 2-0’d by Izzet Phoenix, a matchup that I estimate to be among the harder pairings for my deck. At this point I had been contacted by so many people who were rooting for me that it was a bit easier to refocus. This is an obligatory aside about how the best part of Magic is the gathering, and despite feeling some pressure and stress, my friends and fans helped me greatly in recalibrating. Y’all are great and we could stand to tell each other as much more often.
In Round 13 I was paired against Mono-Red Phoenix in an affair that involved me sticking two Dragon’s Claws from four life to battle back in Game 3. Based on standings, it looked like Round 14 would be a win-and-in.
My Round 14 opponent was a local player who had gone 9-0 Day 1 in Michael Bearmon. I knew that Bearmon was on Humans, but even with this information I got run over in Game 1. The post-sideboard games went much more smoothly for me, though, as my Lava Spikes turned into removal spells, and after that win I found myself drawing into Top 8.
I may be a sweaty disoriented mess, but this sweaty disoriented mess is the 7th seed in this GP.
— Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive) August 11, 2019
My Top 8 match found me paired against Lucien again, and at this time I discover that I was his only loss in the Swiss. I keep the trend going despite a loss in our first game and a really tight Game 2.
In the Top 4, I played against my fourth opponent on The Gaak and eventual champion Justin Plocher. He got pretty unlucky for me to steal Game 1, though I had no such luck post-sideboard. I kept a seven in Game 2 that didn’t have hate but could potentially race if not for some early removal, which arguably was incorrect for me to keep. Of course, Plocher opening on seven with a Leyline of the Void didn’t make things easy for me. I did have Surgical Extraction in Game 3, but my hand wasn’t aggressive enough and my draws didn’t cooperate as the game went long. Plocher played great throughout this match and in the finals, and he definitely earned his trophy.
As for myself, I can’t say I’m mad about making the Top 4 of a Grand Prix after losing a round that a significant percentage of the field doesn’t even play. I’m really proud of the work that I put into the deck, and I’ve been happy to see other players start to pick up on playing Bedlam Reveler over Arclight Phoenix in Mono-Red.
I’m not going to pretend a Banned List update isn’t on the horizon, but before we get into that, I just want to update the sideboard plan against Hogaak for anybody playing the Modern seat at SCG Richmond or for GP Las Vegas. My plan before involved trimming on Bedlam Reveler, but the sideboard games are often slowed down by your hate enough to convert on Revelers and you also want additional threats because their plan involves hard removal like Fatal Push that Reveler shakes easily. This is where that note about land count comes up again.
The openers you’re looking for either have hate or a very fast clock. You’re not really spending time cracking Horizon lands, and sideboarding in five high-impact zero-mana spells ultimately relevantly lowers your curve. I’ve also been thinking Crash Through isn’t that relevant in the matchup because you just want to be Lava Darting all their creatures anyway so they can never cast a Hogaak.
Looking further, a banning of exactly Hogaak, which is the update many are predicting, means you get to trim on some of your graveyard hate. I assume there would still be some graveyard stuff going on with that update, so I’d keep two Surgicals in the sideboard and sub out the other two and the Crypt. This is what I assume I’d add to replace them:
Just three redundant copies of existing slots for more consistency where you want these cards. A lot of other red players seem to advocate for three-mana stuff like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer for matchups like Jund, but I just think the card is rancid. Board in the Dismembers to kill their Goyfs and just Reveler them out. Dismember also becomes better if more Death’s Shadow and Gurmag Anglers show up in the field.
Now, if the Banned List update is more far reaching and they finally come for Faithless Looting, well…
That requires significant retooling of the maindeck, so forget about something as simple as a small sideboard patch. Such a change would require a lot more thought, information, and experience with the new format. We’ll burn that bridge when we get there.
One last shout-out to everybody who was in my corner this weekend. Your positivity was overwhelming, and I’m extremely happy right now. Good luck to everybody who picks up the deck. You’re going to love it.