Before I say anything else, the most important thing to say after this last weekend is congratulations to my friend, Patrick Chapin, for his incredible
victory in Atlanta. It was a long time coming, and I’m hoping it is only the beginning of his championship victories this season. Cheers, good sir.
Now that the most important things have been said, I can continue…
I did not go to the Wisconsin State Championship tournament this weekend.
This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it was a big deal to me. Honestly, I’ve been doing an utter ton of Magic lately, driving all over the
place, and just having an incredible time. I organized the Planes Talkers
panel (featuring Brian Kibler, Craig Wescoe, Shaun McLaren, and Toby Elliott talking about Magic) at Grand Prix Minneapolis, I’ve hit a ton of
SCG events, and I’ve gone to all of the PTQs and GPs that I could, racking up a few Top 8s and many more Top 16s. Grand Prix Minneapolis didn’t go as well
as I’d like as far as tournaments go, but I’ve been struggling with Modern since I stopped playing Obliterator Rock. Wisconsin States was this last weekend
at some writers may wonder if State Championships count, for
Wisconsin players, States has historically been a huge deal.
I think one of the reasons it mattered more to us in Wisconsin is that our local tournament organizer is Legion
Events, and they were around even back in the day. They were even a great tournament organizer back in the olden times of the late ’90s. Legion
gave great prize support, had a great staff, and just made it a huge deal. Over the years, I won twice, but the event was also won twice by Pro Tour
Champion Mike Hron, and Owen Turtenwald also took the crown. Other great players have come close (Bob Maher was defeated by Ponza-wielding Jake Welch in
1998), and other great but less well-known players, like Tommy Kolowith and Waiken Soo, have also taken the crown.
I’ve talked about the Wisconsin State
Championships before, and it is a subject that generally makes me pretty happy. Most old-school Wisconsin players still talk about the very first
Wisconsin State Championship tournament, won by Rob Castro with 5-Color Green. This year, the
Top 8 of the Star City Games Spring Wisconsin State Championship had a grizzled veteran for a victor:
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 2 Banisher Priest
- 2 Imposing Sovereign
- 4 Xathrid Necromancer
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- 1 Athreos, God of Passage
I really love the look of this deck, and it reminds me of the list that Michael Heup (“Heup, Heup!”) used to defeat
me with in the Sunday Super Series at Grand Prix Minneapolis. While I’m not sure of Chris’s sideboard choices, exactly, I’m happy to congratulate
him on his finish.
My own success in the Wisconsin State Championship has come from a very particular angle: mana denial. Oftentimes in newer formats, people really don’t
play enough mana. These days, you can’t really punish that too much, but it used to be that you could. Here are my two winning decklists, from all those
Patrick Sullivan once said that one of the hallmarks of my deck design is that I like to take a particular element in the game and just push it. I
don’t know if that is true, but I do think that both of these decks might be good evidence for his argument.
Why am I thinking about these decks? Other than the recent Star City Games Spring State Championship tournament, the reason I was thinking about these
decks is the inspiration I had recently from one of the decks at Grand Prix Minneapolis, which also takes on some mana denial.
Nicholas ended Day One at 8-1, and finished off many an impressive foe on the way there. Take this impressive 2-0 defeat of Eric Froehlich (even if it did
include a topdeck). Don’t worry; the match only takes about 15 minutes:
Nicholas also did a deck tech on the deck:
They misnamed this deck “Burn” in the coverage, and Nicholas definitely denies that name, as well he should. While one could just call this deck “Red
Aggro,” I think it is actually useful to call this deck what it is, Red Deck Wins.
Now, while the name Red Deck Wins, like the name Sligh, was eventually horribly misused by many of the people who slung it around, the real core of a true
Red Deck Wins deck is a decision to include active mana denial into the deck, but not fully embrace a true mana denial core, like a Ponza deck would.
Nicholas’s deck fits exactly into that classic space.
There are certain choices I’m not 100% sure about. Mogg Fanatic, for example, absolutely has some use in Modern, killing mana dorks of all sorts, providing
a tiny clock, but also shutting down the ability of a Pestermite to cause a win. All that being said, I’m not sure if that is enough to justify it. In
addition, I find myself wondering about the place of Pyrite Spellbomb and Dragon’s Claw in his sideboard. While Pyrite Spellbomb can certainly be used to
kill an Etched Champion, I wonder if that is the only real incentive to the card. Similarly, Dragon’s Claw, seemingly an answer to Burn, seems incredibly
narrow. Regardless, the overall arc of this deck is inspiring. In part, it is because of my crush on this card:
I guess I just love the idea of playing a deck with Eidolon of the Great Revel main.
One of the most important things that Nicholas said was that the deck needed to be able to put on the kind of clock that would allow it to compete against
the most vicious, fast combo decks. One of the ways that he accomplishes that, he said, was Vexing Devil. There are also arguments about Molten Rain and
Eidolon helping out this cause, but it got me thinking about another one of the cards I have a crush on in Modern:
This is one of those cards that is so powerful, I’ve moneyed with it at a Pro Tour in an aggressive Red deck. While usually you see this card in combo
decks, it really does have a lot of power in other approaches as well. I’ve even played one or more copies of the card in Burn decks I’ve built.
Thinking about the possibility of a Turn 1 Eidolon of the Great Revel was just exciting to me. In addition, when I did well with Simian Spirit Guide at the
Pro Tour, it was, in part, to power out Magus of the Moon. Then, with my successes with Modern Burn running Simian Spirit Guide into multiple Goblin
Guides, I ended up feeling pretty good about the idea I had for a deck.
I put all my ideas together, and slung together a string of wins on Magic Online with this:
- 3 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Magus of the Moon
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Plated Geopede
- 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
I started out 11-4 in games (5-1) before settling into a pretty steady 50+% for the rest of my matches that night.
I’m definitely a little higher on the curve than Nicholas was, and maybe I need to force Vexing Devil back into the deck. I’m still uncertain of the place
of Vexing Devil in a deck that plans on attacking fairly. Vexing Devil is one of those cards that I actually love quite a bit in Burn, but without a
critical mass of enough burn spells, I don’t love the card. Take a deck like Zoo, for example; there is just no way I’d make room in the deck for Vexing
Devil. I could be wrong about those ideas, but that’s where I’m at.
One of the things that I was really liking about the deck was the ability to push an aggressive start of some kind onto the table and then follow it up
with a Molten Rain or Magus of the Moon (or both). I didn’t like having Goblin Guide and Molten Rain in combination when my opponent was resisting
me, however, even though the two cards together seemed devastating when the Molten Rain just crushed them outright.
Eidolon of the Great Revel was also impressive, even against other aggressive decks. Oftentimes, the other aggressive deck was just forced to kill it
before they could do the things that they wanted to do, and then I would follow up with the damage to end the game. There were a few times, however, where
I found myself locked out by the card, though, interestingly, it was always by UWR Control. Perhaps this is because they had access to Lightning
Helix, but I’m uncertain because I didn’t get enough games in.
I’m uncertain if 4 Simian Spirit Guides is correct or not. I did feel like at least two felt very good. My guess is that either 3 or 4 Simian
Spirit Guides is the correct number for this approach, but I just need a ton more games to figure that out.
Similarly, I’m unsure if Plated Geopede is a good call. While, at this point, I’ve played maybe 70 or 80 games with the deck, I haven’t played the Geopede
very often. There have been a lot of games where I didn’t draw it (seemingly more than logic would indicate), but also, I’ve had a lot of games where I
drew it and I either needed to make another play instead, or I didn’t dare cast it lest I potentially die. This could be an indication that a two-mana
sometimes 5/5 might just not be good enough. Alternatively, maybe this kind of card is exactly what the deck needs.
The mana was put together to help support the powerful black sideboard cards. Rakdos Charm, simply put, is a huge workhorse, and it can accomplish a lot of
things that are deeply unfair for this style of deck. In combo matches, it can sometimes just end a game that you were nowhere near winning. Dismember, a
card that is often found in Mono-Red, is even stronger in a deck that can reasonably expect to be able to cast it without pain (or at least without much pain).
I do know that this deck is still a work in progress, but as I reflected on the Wisconsin State Championships and the kinds of decks that I’d had success
with in that event in the past, this deck just was even more exciting to me in Modern than other decks I’ve been working on have been. I still wish I could
be casting Dwarven Blastminer, honestly, but I’ll “settle” for Molten Rain and Magus of the Moon.
Speaking of the State Championship, here’s what I would have played at Gnome Games in Green Bay if I had gone:
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Brushstrider
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Experiment One
- 3 Slaughterhorn
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Kalonian Tusker
- 4 Reverent Hunter
- 4 Boon Satyr
This is obviously a take on Mason Lange’s Stompy deck from SCG Milwaukee. I’ve been having a
great deal of success with the deck in Standard, and this list reflects my experiences, and the experiences of my friend Bob Baker with the deck in Green
Speaking of Green Bay, there’s a very good chance I’ll be there this weekend, aiming for that blue ticket back to the Pro Tour. Wish me luck at the PTQ in
Gnome Games in Green Bay, and maybe I’ll see you there!