Orlando: the site of my first Open trophy. It feels like a million years since I won that Legacy Open, the first Open where Mental Misstep was legal in the format. I still have so many memories from that weekend:
Building my deck in the middle of the night with Lewis Laskin, saying “Screw it, let’s just play Bob with a couple Tombstalkers.”
Wearing my good friend Ryan’s Boston hat and never looking back. Narrowly beating Drew Levin in what seemed like an impossible match in the semifinals.
It really was a great time. It helped cement for myself that I was going to try my hardest to be the best Magic player that I could be.
I had the same feeling leading into this weekend. I was back in Orlando for the Modern Open, hoping to hoist another trophy.
The week leading into the SCG Tour® stop, I had done a lot of chatting and testing with my fellow Cardhoarder teammates. With Modern being such a diverse format, it wasn’t any surprise that most people had fallen into their own decks and were just going to focus on that: Jacob with Dredge, Andy with Jund, and Tenjum with his U/G Eldrazi deck.
I, on the other hand, had been torn between G/R Valakut and Bant Eldrazi.
I have quite the love affair with Primeval Titan and will generally jump at any opportunity to cast the Giant. I put both decks together online and played a bunch of games with different iterations.
I was leaning towards Valakut, but earlier in the week, I got a note from Chris Andersen that he and Kent Ketter were on Bant Eldrazi and already had a list they liked with plans. After hearing their thought process on the unique cards and giving some of my input, I was hooked. We all played this deck:
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Spellskite
- 2 Thragtusk
- 2 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
I really liked a lot of what we had going on. Ghostly Prison in particular was very good for me over the event and I think that we got a lot of things right.
With Modern, you basically have to pick a handful of matchups that are either unfavorable or that you think you will see a lot of and tailor your sideboard for them.
In particular, we thought there was going to be a lot of Bant Eldrazi, Zoo and Infect. In that metagame, having cards like Ghostly Prison is insane, and it worked out to be that.
I finished Day 1 at 6-3, losing in the last round to some very good Affinity draws. I ended up dropping to play Legacy but likely should have stayed in it to get some more Modern data. I was just a bit frustrated with the format, particularly losing to decks that you aren’t expecting a ton of and thus don’t have a lot of hate.
My other two losses were to Pyromancer Ascension and G/R Tron. I didn’t expect more than a few players total to be on Storm-style decks and didn’t expect very much Tron at all. We do have some ways to interact with Tron, but in the two games that I lost, my opponent was able to assemble Tron by turn 3 and 4 and take over the game with Karn Liberated.
I played against both Zoo and Infect multiple times. All of my opponents had to read Ghostly Prison and all of them lost directly because of it. Against my Zoo opponents, I would just trade aggressively and use my removal to stay at a healthy life total so that I could land Ghostly Prison and then lock the game out with larger creatures.
Against Infect, I did the same thing. In fact, in one game against Infect I had out double Ghostly Prison and was blinking multiple Kitchen Finks on my opponent’s side on their end step so that I could attack and push through damage with my army of Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers.
Against decks trying to go wide, use spells to enhance their creatures, or do multiple things in a turn while also attacking, Ghostly Prison was hands-down the MVP.
The other card that overperformed for me in my matchups was Thragtusk. I also played against Burn twice, and Thragtusk was the nail in the coffin against my Zoo opponents after I stabilized the battlefield with Ghostly Prison. I never got to a point where I was blinking my Thragtusk with Eldrazi Displacer, but Chris Andersen and Kent Ketter reported that they did in the mirror multiple times and it was just as insane as we had theorized.
I’m not sure if I plan to run back Bant Eldrazi in Modern when I can just Become Immense and kill people with Infect, but I think the deck is still great and recommend it to anyone who is wanting to be as fair as possible while also being unfair. Here is how I sideboarded during the event.
It may be better here to cut the Thought-Knot Seers over the Matter Reshapers. I also would want to change the sideboard around a bit for more hate here, since Ghostly Prison is not as good against Affinity as it is against the other decks like Zoo and Infect.
Switching to Standard
As fun as Modern is, though, the format’s going to be on the back burner for a bit. Why, you ask? Well, the Kaladesh full card image gallery is out now, and we’ve got some brewing and testing to do!
I have to be honest. I just keep thinking about all of the awesome Energy synergy that we have in G/R with the new set. There are all kinds of awesome creatures for us to use that can generate and abuse Energy. We have a sweet new removal spell in Harnessed Lightning. I really hope that we can figure something out to make all of these cards work, but my biggest concern for this strategy and the new format in general is this card:
Kokzilek’s Return is still in Standard, and there are still many creatures, with and without emerge, that are going to see play that can trigger it.
These are all still very much playable. Gather the Pack is gone, but Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past are still here, along with Traverse the Ulvenwald. We get some new creatures to emerge off of; Filigree Familiar in particular looks awesome.
I plan on testing a whole bunch this week, but here are the ideas that I want to start with.
Level One: Temur Emerge
I think that Temur Emerge is going to be the “deck to beat” the first week of the new Standard. It has a reliable sweeper that you can get extra value out of with Kozilek’s Return. Between Primal Druid and Filigree Familiar, it will have a very good early-game against the aggressive strategies that we will likely see in the beginning of the new format as well.
Temur Emerge now even has access to two extremely powerful planeswalkers that can play right into their plan.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Nissa, Vital Force both slot pretty well into a Temur Emerge strategy, and I expect that a deck utilizing the old shell with some new cards is going to look very nice. We don’t have the luxury of the painlands anymore since Yavimaya Coast and Shivan Reef are rotating, but we do gain access to the new enemy-colored fast lands with Spirebluff Canal and Botanical Sanctum. Aether Hub can also be used flexibly, since it can offer true colorless if we happen to need it for something like Matter Reshaper and can also give us a one-shot color.
Emrakul, the Promised End still seems like the best thing that we can be doing with our mana in addition to Kozilek’s Return being well-positioned and Ishkanah, Grafwidow tying it all together, I can very easily see myself playing a Temur Emerge deck in Indianapolis for the Kaladesh release weekend.
Level Two: R/W “Artifact Matters” Aggro
Even though my heart lies in the Stomping Grounds, I think that the R/W “Artifact Matters” aggro deck is going to end up being very good. This starting squad is going to be a pretty common sight at the start of Kaladesh Standard.
Yet again we are going to see just how subtly powerful Thraben Inspector is. Getting a Clue that we can cash in later in the game has always been a great part of Thraben Inspector, but here we are going to play off two other aspects of the card.
First off, the Clue is an artifact. This is quite important with the other one-drops, as both Toolcraft Exemplar and Inventor’s Apprentice get buffs while you control an artifact. In fact, the Exemplar gets to attack on the second turn as a 3/2 if you put an artifact onto the battlefield before your combat step.
Second, Thraben Inspector is a body, and as a 1 / 2 creature, it has the perfect stats to Crew a Smuggler’s Copter, a card which Patrick Chapin already went over in detail on Premium on just how insane it is.
Level 3: Reflector Mage
The last level that I think is going to be popular will be decks with Reflector Mage in them. With Collected Company gone, there really is no default Reflector Mage deck, and I believe that the card is so powerful that it’s going to be highly worth it to find the best deck for your Mages.
That could be something with Cryptolith Rite, or just a U/W Tempo-style deck. In fact, the Spirits deck from last Standard is still fairly intact, and while that deck may never had made as big of a splash as we all hoped, there is still plenty of time for that to happen now.
Wherever I end up, I will have plenty of decklists to share after a week of non-stop testing with the new cards!
Comments from Last Week
Each week I like to end my article by highlighting a couple comments from my piece last week. Make sure you add your input in the comments so that you may be highlighted in the following article!
“Possible that Bomat Courier could be good in a super aggro list like this.”
– Jeb Griffin
Jeb, you’re absolutely right. In fact, I really love Bomat Courier. It hadn’t been revealed when I wrote my article last week, but I do really think that it’s going to see a lot of play. Whether it’s in a two-color aggressive deck or just Mono-Red, I think we’re going to see some nice Courier action. The effect is great, and if we are able to utilize all of the cards in our hand, then we can effectively draw two to three cards pretty easily with its ability.
It also makes you discard your hand, so if you happen to have some madness cards, then it’s all upside!
Good call, my friend, good call.
Let me first say that I am absolutely ecstatic for an R/G Monsters in Standard again (RIP Polukranos/Stormbreath Dragon).
What kind of an impact do you think Chandra, Torch of Defiance can make in Modern? Could decks like Burn, Storm, or even Delver make good use of her?”
– Brian Howe
Thanks for the question, Brian. I am pretty excited for the possibility of a Gruul “don’t call it a” comeback. As for Chandra in Modern, I’m not too sure. I actually had this conversation with Andy Boswell over the weekend, since he has always been super-keen on Chandra, Pyromaster in his Jund decks.
It really is going to come down to what the perceived metagame is and what we are doing with the card. Pyromaster being able to +1 in order to chip away at smaller creatures is pretty invaluable if we’re seeing a lot of Affinity or Infect. It’s also very good at handling Lingering Souls and Dark Confidant.
If we’re primarily going to be using the Pyromaster’s zero ability, then I think that Torch of Defiance is going to edge her out.
Really, though, it’s going to be trial and error, so let’s get trying!
I hope everyone has fun at their local Prerelease this weekend. Make sure to share any Masterpieces that you happen to open!