It took two full days and eighteen rounds of Magic, but the largest Constructed Grand Prix in history finally crowned its victor. Congrats to Brian Liu! It’s no small task to go to such an enormous event and pilot through nearly a score of rounds. That’s up to 54 games of Magic! Anyone that even finishes a trial like that is worth commending.
Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict created by a class getting moved, I was actually unable to attend Grand Prix Richmond. I sorely missed the chance to be there, but I enjoyed watching the coverage and seeing the insane turnout from the comfort of my apartment.
4300 players—that’s a lot of decklists, playmats, and table tents. In honor of this momentous achievement, I’ve compiled a list of things that the attendance record beat when it comes to numbers.
1. More players attended GP Richmond than have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor, one of the highest decorations the U.S. government gives, has been awarded to thousands of soldiers and those directly involved in combat. Since its inception over 160 years ago, however, we’ve still awarded fewer medals than players in GP Richmond this past weekend.
2. More players attended GP Richmond than there are Arby’s in the world.
Put perhaps a more exciting way, if everyone went to the farthest reaches of the world to find an Arby’s and enjoy a nice roast beef sandwich, it would be impossible for each player to be alone. Someone would have to double up. There’s the beef. [Author’s Note: I know, I know, that’s Wendy’s.]
3. If each player that attended GP Richmond pushed us one year in the past, adding them all up would put us before the time of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.
This is a bit of a geeky one, but if we went 4,300 years in the past, we would predate the story of Gilgamesh and his flight of fancy with the gods. Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known epics, and we can reach that far back given a silly enough scale.
I was trying to think of ways to put this massive event into perspective, and I think I’ve done it. Yeah, looks good to me.
If you’re anything like me, your mind has been swimming in Modern over the past few weeks. Even after I knew I wasn’t able to go to the Grand Prix, I couldn’t quell my mind from conjuring up another weird Modern brew centered on this fun win condition.
"You win the game." Four fun words to be sure, but before we get too excited, we have to ask ourselves the two fundamental questions of deckbuilding. How do I get to my win condition, and how do I not die in the meantime? Near-Death Experience offers a situation that can prove to be exciting and potentially pulse stopping, and Modern has several ways to answer these two questions.
Phyrexian mana and spells attached to it offer plenty of opportunities to charge toward this goal, and Angel’s Grace offers great uncounterable protection for the one turn you need it. Let’s start there and see where we go.
This little diddy digs deep into your life total as you cycle cards to find Near-Death Experience. Most of the cards are self-explanatory, but just in case . . .
Spellskite is the only creature many combo decks need. For zero mana, it can protect most anything you need, whether it’s a combo piece, a crucial creature, or even you. As was the case with my last deck protecting Blood Moon, many things that would target an enchantment also target artifacts and/or creatures, and Spellskite is a legal target to divert the spell. Remember, my life total is irrelevant, so I can bleed myself from twenty to zero in no time flat if someone casts a spell that Spellskite can Swerve.
This deck produces a solid amount of draw and tutor, meaning that Semblance Anvil adds significant cost reduction to a color that is not often afforded that luxury. This turns your win condition into a clean WWW to cast, makes Oblivion Ring just W, or can be used to reduce Idyllic Tutor or Tezzeret’s Gambit to one white mana. Either way this will allow you to cast a large portion of your hand that depends on a certain card type, and used wisely it can propel you to the tutor or early win you need while maintaining the crucial single W for Angel’s Grace. I also included a Gut Shot. Most of the deck eats away two life, but you can Lightning Bolt yourself for an odd number of damage, putting yourself at one on demand, so why not?
This deck requires no other color, though it sports blue, red, and black spells if you want to get technical. Horizon Canopy provides two crucial functions. It bleeds away a single life for more precise life alteration, and it also cycles if you need it to. Any combo player can tell you that thinning your deck is essential to finding the pieces you need, and a land that cycles is invaluable here too.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All is a simple singleton that can force the resolution of Idyllic Tutor, Dismember (which you can cast for six life) or can push through a Gitaxian Probe if your opponent is playing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or another "tax" card. Flagstones of Trokair does little to thin the deck, but its deck real estate is pretty minimal so I feel no harm comes from using it. Moreover, it can search for my singleton Mistveil Plains. If I’m forced to discard my win condition, I can protect myself from a Surgical Extraction by reinserting the binned copy in my deck. Again this is a corner case, but it only comes at the price of one tapped land.
From the sideboard, I’m bringing in Leyline of Sanctity against any and every deck that will target me, whether it’s discard, burn, or storm. Leyline of Sanctity is a clean solution to a lot of problems, and it can be hard cast without a problem. The last thing you need while you’re trying to craft your one life point is a Lightning Bolt to come flying at your dome. Relic of Progenitus, while being a cycler as needed, also protects you from graveyard-based decks like Dredge (is that still a deck?), Storm, and those with Snapcaster Mage.
Disenchant is actually a bit arbitrary; I’m not quite sure when you’d bring it in, but I foresee a need to do so even if I can’t explicitly define the circumstances. Better safe than sorry, but I can see several other options here. Wrath of God is a nice catchall, flattening most any creature your opponent can play. Finally, Pure Intentions seems like a slick counter for either Thoughtseize or a persistent Liliana of the Veil. As such, I feel like you just need one to do the job.
This is a first draft, but I think there might be something worth exploring here. Who doesn’t like a deck that does itself in?
It finally got to the point where I was brewing Modern decks in my head more than I was brewing Standard. However, with the GP fondly in our memories, we’ll press back into the exciting world of the two-year format. Let’s hop in with a doozie.
This card is baffling to say the least. Basically, when your opponent casts a spell, you can give them this 3/3 for whatever the spell was. Then your opponent can trade it back to you for whatever you cast. Lots of barter style cards have been printed in Magic; Spawnbroker, Sleeper Agent, Gilded Drake, and even other Standard-legal cards like Conjured Currency have been bought and sold over the years. Perplexing Chimera is a bit tricky though. The others lent themselves to friendlier deckbuilding. Spawnbroker existed alongside Bronze Bombshell, and decks focused on this neat little combo were all over 2006 kitchen tables. Gilded Drake is still around $20, and lots of fun decks make use of this two-mana Control Magic.
But where does Perplexing Chimera fit in?
Simic Manipulator has been a pet card of mine for Simic decks since it came out, but I also think it could play an important role here. It allows you the option to snatch your Chimera if it has three counters, and otherwise it can steal something else puny.
Three counters seem like a tough challenge though. Maybe there’s a way to make that a bit better.
How convenient! Just one blue source and your Chimera shrinks to a Valiant Guard. With zero power, you can snag it back for just one counter (you must pay at least one counter to activate the Manipulator.) Every creature you resolve ticks it back up, so this shouldn’t be a bother either. Hey, I’m not even sure you need anything else besides blue in here. Let’s find out!
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Frostburn Weird
- 4 Simic Manipulator
- 3 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Master of Waves
- 3 Perplexing Chimera
The mono-blue package offers a variety of options to this deck; most of them are familiar, but some are a bit wacky. In my mind, the best plan is to counter and Dizzy Spell what I can’t effectively steal and attack with efficient mono-blue threats while they wait patiently to cast a spell that I can’t or won’t steal.
As is the case with more conventional mono-blue decks, some creatures come in for their utility and their devotion. Judge’s Familiar and Frostburn Weird are old hats to the format, and they still do a great job of messing up combat tricks and combat math respectively. Simic Manipulator gets the full set for a couple reasons. First it provides two devotion itself, but it also becomes reasonably large after casting any number of the creatures filling the rest of the deck. Consider Master of Waves. Casting the Manipulator and then following it up with a Master grants three tokens and two evolve triggers. Right off the bat you can steal a Burning-Tree Emissary, a Mutavault, or a smallish Pack Rat.
Thassa, God of the Sea acts as a filterer and a win condition, whether she’s beating down herself or sending a powerful threat you cast or steal into the red zone. Perplexing Chimera rounds out the creature list, and it can even crash through for a marginal amount itself.
Thassa’s Rebuff is a spell I’ve been anxious to try. Mana efficiency must be maximized here, and having a semi-hard counter on two seems reasonable. Every spell that is not a counterspell provides devotion in this deck; remember, Sensory Deprivation and its functional partner Agoraphobia also count toward devotion. Speaking of which, Sensory Deprivation and Agoraphobia are great early removal that can contribute to your devotion count throughout the game. Agoraphobia can be applied to a creature, Simic Manipulator can steal it, and then you can pluck the enchantment off and repeat.
Swan Song is also a nice one-mana counterspell. The downside of the Bird it makes can be safely mitigated with Sensory Deprivation or Perplexing Chimera. Bident of Thassa, while providing devotion, can also make a Master of Waves’ Elementals particularly potent, and the ability to slam a bunch of 0/Xs into you is not irrelevant either.
The sideboard contains a playset of Tidebinder Mage. Depending on your local environment, you might just treat these to a spot in the maindeck, but every shop is different. Fated Intuition seems like a really fun card for a mono-blue deck regardless of what you’re copying. I imagine it is particularly effective when duplicating Master of Waves or Tidebinder Mage, but it can also do a great job of copying a doomed Thassa, God of the Sea or Perplexing Chimera. Gainsay can come in one for one over Swan Song or Thassa’s Rebuff, and there are still plenty of decks that crumple to a well-timed Gainsay. Pithing Needle seems like a nice catchall to stop planeswalkers, Mutavault, or a particularly troublesome monstrous activation.
This deck does suffer some glaring weaknesses on the surface. Mistcutter Hydra and Supreme Verdict in particular seem devilishly strong against it. Despite that problem, this deck still seems like a fun and unique take on the mono-blue decks that have been doing so well at events around the world. Maybe it’s something you’d like to take for a swim?
What was your favorite deck at Grand Prix Richmond? Did you see or play one that got your gears spinning? What are you playing to counter Mono-X Devotion’s hold on Standard?