Modern U/W Control

AJ Kerrigan may not have won the Modern 2K tournament that took place in Philadelphia, but he learned a lot about where to go with his latest take on blue-white control for the format.

My friend Tiago Maltez and I had only two things on our agenda for Philadelphia; do well in the Grudge Match, and eat at the Reading Terminal Market. I won’t go into too much detail, but the food there is amazing. It’s only a 30-second walk from the Philadelphia Convention Center, and they have everything from some of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted to the amazing breakfast sandwiches that are almost to die for. With that, let’s get back to the agenda.

I was playing a U/W draw-go list developed by my friend Shang that I switched to a few days before the tournament. I hadn’t done enough testing with Solar Flare anyway, so I figured the switch would be irrelevant. I ended up dropping from the Standard qualifier at 4-3, which was not very impressive. The deck performed well, but I made some key plays that I was unhappy with, and it did need a little fixing up. I quickly began brainstorming what I would play for the Modern 2k the next day, and discovered a few friends from the New York area who were willing to help.

The closest I had to a Modern deck was my friend’s Legacy Affinity deck that would need some sprucing up to make Modern legal. I dug through my backpack for other ideas, and discovered a discarded U/W draw-go deck all the way at the bottom. Out came the notepad from my friend’s backpack, and the brainstorming began. On the note of brainstorming, it seems that there is no real good card selection for U/W in Modern, which is kind of annoying. It almost made me want to play an Idyllic Tutor package just for card selection. Card ideas were thrown around from Elspeth Tirel to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, but they were quickly discarded to either being pretty bad or me not actually owning the cards. After some diving through commons and a quick browse at the Jupiter Games booth, we decided on the following list:

I went on a card hunt, and luckily I have some great friends who were more than happy to lend me whatever I was missing. I quickly discovered that everyone was either looking for Serum Visions or Sleight of Hand. Splinter Twin would be well represented, and I liked the looks of my list’s ability to fight it between the Dismembers and the Ghostly Prisons. I sat down against Kevin Jones for a test game or two which quickly turned into about twelve. Apparently most Splinter Twin lists don’t play a main board answer for Ghostly Prison, and the Pestermite beats aren’t very feasible against my specific list, so I liked the looks of the tournament. Every game in which I landed a Ghostly Prison I easily won, and I won about 50% of the games where I didn’t. My friend Jim pointed out that Path to Exile plus Ghostly Prison don’t work very well together, so I’d love to know what the readers think. Should I just cut Path to Exile and play something else (and what) or should I just stick with Path to Exile?

The day had to come to a finish, and we walked outside to realize that my friend Tinac (with whom I was staying in Philly) had gotten his bike wheel stolen. Eventually we were able to call a cab and get a ride back to his place. Night fell upon us after watching Scream with a bunch of his friends, and I quickly laid down my head and fell asleep.

The morning began, and we made the trek to the convention center. I finished getting whatever cards I needed for my deck, and registered for the Modern 2K. Here’s the tournament report!

Round 1: Brandon Pascal (Solar Flare)

Brandon is a good friend of mine who made the trip up with me, Tiago, and Jeph Foster. He hasn’t played in many magic tournaments, but he does have some serious potential. He had nothing to do, so he decided to play in the Modern 2K on Sunday. He played his Standard Solar Flare deck, with the only change being that he took out Mental Missteps from the sideboard and added in Kataki, War’s Rage. He agreed to concede to me, and then we played some games on the side while we waited for Tiago to arrive with our breakfast (from the Reading Terminal Market of course). He ended up defeating me after I mulled to five both games. Such is luck. He actually finished 3-2 in the tournament before dropping, so kudos to him. Nice job.

Round 2: Jund

My opponent was playing a Jund list of his own creation which seemed pretty good, except that I dislike having Firespout and Bloodbraid Elf in the same deck, which I’m pretty sure he did. Game 1 was not even close for me. He led with a turn 3 Molten Rain to my 3 land keep, and I was forced to Rune Snag it. He then played Bloodbraid Elf into Putrid Leech, and I failed to hit my fourth land. Game 2 began with me mulling to 4, and casting a turn 2 Squadron Hawk for 3 more in hopes of stalling the game. He untapped, cast Punishing Fire on my Squadron Hawk, than cast Surgical Extraction. With only two cards in hand, I was unable to fight his onslaught afterward, and so began the road to failure.

Round 3: Pedro Quintero (Solar Flare)

Well isn’t this an interesting matchup. I knew what Pedro was playing, as we had discussed it the day before. Unlike Brandon though, Pedro actually did a good job of making it a Modern deck, and it could be an interesting choice for a deck moving forward. He added cards in from Iona, Shield of Emeria to Gifts Ungiven, which by the way is so annoying to let resolve.

Game 1 was going well for each of us. We were reacting well to each other, and it was a very close game. Unfortunately it didn’t end in the best of ways. It began with me sending a Spellstutter Sprite and Mutavault at his Jace Beleren on 3 counters, while he was being attacked by a Squadron Hawk with a Sword of Feast and Famine in its grasp. He attempted to Doom Blade the Mutavault, and I responded with a Rune Snag for 4, which he attempted to counter back. His counter resolved, and then a Spellstutter Sprite hit the board at another attempt of countering the Doom Blade. Finally Doom Blade was countered, but out of his hand came a Slaughter Pact targeting the attacking Spellstutter Sprite. I allowed it, untapped my lands and passed the turn.

He drew and cast a Wrath of God in his main phase, then passed. As I drew my card, I questioned Slaughter Pact and whether or not it had been paid for. He said that it had been countered, so we went back over the turn, and once he realized that he was incorrect, he scooped up his cards. Stupid way to end a game, especially going so well, but thems the beats I guess.

Despite my best efforts, he landed a quick Iona, Shield of Emeria naming white in game 2, and that was that. Game 3 was another close one, but I had enough countermagic to thwart all of his plans, and eventually closed it out with a Squadron Hawk, a Mutavault, and a Sword of Feast and Famine. I wished him good luck, and turned in the result slip, with an uneasy feeling that I didn’t deserve that win, but I guess it happens.

Round 4: CounterCat

This deck was one of the most well represented in the tournament, and took up most of the top 8. I didn’t expect the matchup to be super excellent, but it would be at least decent. I expect it to be a force to be reckoned with when Modern season rolls around (which is in fact right after the current sealed season).

So began the match, and in both games I lacked a Wrath of God and he got way too many Tarmogoyfs for me to handle. Simple enough. I felt a little disappointed that I was now X-2 and most likely out of contention, though I was happy to hear that my friend Arun was undefeated with Birthing Pod/Melira Combo, and Jeph Foster was still alive with CounterCat.

Round 5: Affinity

My opponent didn’t speak very good English, so I did my best to speak what Spanish I knew to create small talk, but the communication barrier was a little bit tough, especially when it came to numbers. In game 1, she had an 11 power Ornithopter on turn 3, and nothing in my hand could stop her.

Game two, her turn one was as follows:
Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, Memnite, Memnite, Frogmite, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer.

I took 8 on turn two, and then landed a Ghostly Prison. She was unable to do anything, including draw a mana source, and even after she finally drew a Mox Opal, I had enough of an advantage to shut her down, and had already drawn a second Ghostly Prison.

Game 3 saw my turn 3 Ghostly Prison meet a freshly sideboarded Mana Leak, but her hand was relatively slow. Elspeth, Knight-Errant hit the board post-Wrath of God, and continued to give my Mutavault flying and +3/+3 while she kept attacking it to keep it off ultimate. Than Gideon Jura happened. I made some questionable plays with Gideon Jura, as I was stumbling on how exactly to deal with her Arcbound Ravager plus 11 artifacts, but I felt I played decently well. Together, Gideon and Elspeth locked her out until her life total hit 0.

One thing I’m unsure about is whether or not I like Spell Pierce in this matchup. I chose to side it out, but that may be wrong. What do you think?

Round 6 – Affinity

My opponent was actually playing Tempered Steel, as he couldn’t find Arcbound Ravagers in time for the tournament. In game 1, he hit no white sources and all 4 Inkmoth Nexus. Squadron Hawk slowly grinded his creatures out, and a ~turn 15 Sun Titan closed out the game when he realized he had no outs to a never ending stream of Squadron Hawks. There were only 20 minutes left on the clock, so we had to hurry up the second game.

In game 2, I hit Ghostly Prison which slowed him down enough to let me draw both of my Wrath of God’s and my Sword of Feast and Famine.

Round 7: CounterCat

He flashed me a Wild Nacatl, but since I was out of contention (I had the worst breakers of the X-2’s) I decided to use this match as testing, and not mulligan like I knew what he was playing. Even though this was my last match, I don’t remember a lot of the details. Game 1 he crushed me with multiple Tribal Flames after I stopped his onslaught. Game 2, I landed a Ghostly Prison and he was stuck on two lands. This plus Squadron Hawk to chump block slowed him down enough to let me run away with the game. Game 3 began with 9 minutes on the clock, and I was sure a draw would be forth-coming, but a Ghostly Prison slowed him down, and then multiple Squadron Hawks pecked away, until one finally picked up a Sword of Feast and Famine and an Elspeth, Knight-Errant hit the board.

I ended 5-2, good enough for a measly 13th place, but I was very impressed with the deck. My friend Arun remained undefeated until losing in top 8, and Jeph made top 8 as well, though I forget exactly where he ended. Ghostly Prison, Gideon Jura, and Snapcaster Mage were all very amazing throughout the course of the day, and Dismember was very bad. I never wanted to cast it, at risk of just dying afterward. I’m not sure exactly how I want to change the list, though I know I will definitely be working on it in the near-future. One card I’m not sure about is Cryptic Command. The inner net-decker in me wants to play it since everyone says it’s good, but it feels somewhat underwhelming. Throughout the tournament, I never wanted to hold up 4 mana at a time, and it was really only easy to do with a Sword of Feast and Famine. I’ll be testing with and without it, and I might even settle with it just as a 1 or 2 of. One other card I’m considering is Remand. It seems relatively sweet with Vendilion Clique and Sword of Feast and Famine. Once again, what do you guys think?

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this installment of Counting the Storm. Modern Season is just around the corner, are you ready?

AJ Kerrigan

@AJKerrigan55 on twitter