SCG Indy And Modern Mastering!

Sometimes there’s nothing left to do but sit down over some comfort food and think about how an event went wrong. But Brennan DeCandio isn’t letting his Modern results get him down when Modern Masters 2017 previews are in full swing!

I was ready to go! Friday afternoon, I was packed and on my way to the Orlando airport with Brad Carpenter, catching an early evening flight to the wonderful city of Indianapolis. After a semi-bumpy flight on the tails of a drastic change in temperature that would have me seeing snow for the first time in several years, we arrived to find Dan Jessup fresh off his flight waiting for us. We grabbed Starbucks and an Uber to a local card store, where I was to be spellslinging for the duration of the evening.

Now, for this event I was borrowing cards from a few locals, since I do not personally own any cards that are not legal in Standard (aside from my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant Commander deck). I say that because I had planned to play the Eldrazi Tron deck that Todd Stevens had piloted during SCG Baltimore.

Now, that’s what I had planned on playing. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the local game store to put it together to spellsling, I was missing more than half the deck.

I was in panic mode! It was 9pm the night before an event and I had no means of finding the cards I needed and many of the people I thought to ask had already arrived and usually don’t pack extra cards with them. Luckily I was able to get a hold of a deck that I had some confidence in at the time: U/R Gifts Storm.

Now, on paper, I thought this deck looked great. It had a strong Game 1 against many of the decks I expected to face and a sideboard plan that can get around the graveyard hate people will likely be bringing to fight Past in Flames and Gifts Ungiven. However, with the rise in popularity of Death’s Shadow decks, this might have been a bit of an oversight. Not only do those decks have up to eight maindeck hand disruption effects for only one mana, but also they have an absurdly fast clock, which is something the old Jund decks never had.

Furthering the pain train, they came equipped with cards like Liliana of the Veil and Kolaghan’s Command to be able to shred my sideboard plan of Platinum Emperion. Blood Moon is an absurd Magic card, and while it can just end games on the spot, I did lose a game against G/R Tron where I cast a Blood Moon on turn 3 as well as resolving an Empty the Warrens that made eight Goblins. Welcome to Modern!

Anyway, this was my worst performance I’ve ever had during an SCG Tour event. I came off my two byes and quickly went 0-3 and found myself walking to Noodles and Company (the only saving grace that day) getting a delicious bowl of Wisconsin Mac n’ Cheese and Parmesan Crusted Chicken. If you haven’t tried it, you’re wrong and you should feel bad. In all seriousness, it’s my favorite dish there, and despite having a terrible performance, I was feeling right as rain cheering my friends on from the sidelines and enjoying the fact that it had snowed that morning.

For this event I was rooming with Brad Carpenter, Dan Jessup and Ben Friedman, whom I’d not really had the pleasure to spend much time with prior. While only Brad Carpenter had managed to make Day 2 of the main event, Dan, Ben and I planned on playing in the Classics the following morning. We assumed that the Modern Classic began at nine in the morning and the Standard Classic would follow at 9:30.

We were wrong. Ben had already registered and had a decklist ready for the Modern Classic and we were running a bit late to the site, but he would have time just the same.

“Seatings for the Standard Classic have now been posted!”

Those were the words I heard as I entered the event hall at 8:55. I had no intention of playing Storm again in Modern, so I sprinted to the registration area and the great judges and staff working at the time were able to register me for the Standard Classic, presuming I could fill out a decklist in time. If I had time before the events to grab some cards, I would have wanted to experiment with this list I thought could have legs…

With more time I could possibly have configured a sideboard and made something like this happen. While it seems sweet on paper, I’m sure I would have quickly found that this is not the answer we’ve been looking for. Jamming a highly linear deck that struggles even when not incorporating the Saheeli Rai combo alongside a two-card combo that has a target already on its forehead probably would have resulted in a similar way that my Modern event had gone.

Instead I registered the same Metalwork Colossus variant I’ve mentioned in my previous articles that I’ve experimented with the past two Standard Classics I’ve participated in. With that being said, my 5-3 finish was nothing to be proud of. It did however get me into the Top 32 of the event, earning enough Prize Wall tickets to grab these bad boys.

At this point, however, I think it’s time to throw in the towel for my hopes of a Metalwork Colossus deck being viable in the current metagame and focus on what I’ll likely be playing this coming weekend for the Jacksonville RPTQ in Florida.

Since I beat Eli in the finals of the “Secret Open” at the Atlanta Invitational in December, he and I have had plenty of friendly conversations at the Opens since then. He’s an all-around great guy and I am super-happy for him to have won this Classic! I was able to talk to him throughout the day about how he was doing in the event and what he thought about his deck, since I expressed some interest in playing a similar variant at the RPTQ.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

I believe that, come the next B&R announcement, that either Saheeli Rai or Felidar Guardian will no longer be a Standard-legal Magic card. That being said, it’s foolish for me or anyone else to not extort as much as I can from the mistake Wizards had made in Felidar Guardian’s interaction with Saheeli Rai. I have yet to sleeve up the destructive duo, and while I’m not looking forward to it, I am recommending it to anyone who wants to qualify for the Pro Tour this coming weekend.

Let’s end the topic of Standard, since I don’t think there’s much more to say about it.

I made many mistakes this past weekend, countless mistakes that didn’t even involve the games I played in the Modern Open. My first mistake was underestimating how many people love Modern. My own personal opinion of the format is that it’s a fantastic format to exist for people to enjoy playing locally while still being supported at the Grand Prix and SCG Tour level infrequently.

The issue for me is that there are so many decks, whereas the appeal for many players is that there are so many decks. You can see my conundrum. While I love being able to play all the cards I’ve grown up with from sets I remember opening (I started buying packs consistently in original Mirrodin), the overall speed and power level of the format can lead to unenjoyable games. No one likes casting their Tarmogoyf on turn 2 only to have their opponent play the third Urzatron piece and resolve a Karn Liberated just as much as no one likes having an opponent cast an end-step Gifts Ungiven and be able to untap and amass a storm of well over their life total before getting Grapeshotted to death.

The appeal for many is that they get to play with cards they love from days of old as well as the fact that they can play nearly whatever they want. The danger is that if a deck they play gets a card banned from it, the value diminishes greatly, and the cost of building a Modern deck can be very costly.

As I’m writing this, the previews for Modern Masters 2017 are pouring in and it looks as though many of Modern’s most expensive barriers to entry are getting reprinted. I’m thrilled for this; it’s what I’ve wanted to see from a Modern Masters expansion since the original. I work at a card store by day and we have weekly events much like any other store, and Thursday Night Modern by far and away draws the biggest crowd. With fetchlands’ cost being presumably lowering because of the reprint, I can’t imagine how much more the format will grow.

I’ve heard and seen many people complain about these two. Simian Spirit Guide and Mox Opal are the format’s top remaining ways to cheat on mana. While I can understand the standpoint of them being unhealthy for the format, they are linchpins for several unique archetypes in the format. Are these two really the culprits we have to blame? Maybe yes to Simian Spirit Guide, but Mox Opal really requires a lot of support to operate.

Simian Spirit Guide shows us why it might be a problem for the format in this deck. Without the ability to generate free mana after going to an absurdly negative life total with Ad Nauseam, this deck would not function.

But do I think this deck is a problem for Modern? Hell no!

Ad Nauseam is just another joy of the extensive card pool of the format. The real question is, “Has Simian Spirit Guide ever done anything fair?” No, no it has not. “Is Modern supposed to be a ‘fair’ format?” No one ever said it was.

Once you accept that when you sign up for a format like Modern, you’re signing up for an all-expenses-paid trip into the Wild Wild West, the format is a ton of fun and I think that’s what a lot of competitive players (including me) are missing. Do we need to ban anything? No! Could Wizards ban a few cards to make it less of a degenerate format? Of course! But that’s not the point, now is it?

As for me, I might have gotten trounced this past weekend, but that just means I need to put in a lot more effort into my play and deck selection for SCG Dallas in two weeks’ time!

Modern is great, and learning to accept it for what it is will make your experience playing it all the more enjoyable. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a deck and learn only one of the many strategies that the format has to offer; there are countless possibilities that even now we have yet to see. Those who put in the time and effort are those rewarded in Modern, and it’s time I put in the legwork. Who knows where I’ll end up, but I’ll have a gauntlet of decks I want to try next week for sure.

As for me, I’m about to board my flight back to Orlando with my sweet new Commander decks and make some changes to my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant build. Once I’m done appeasing my causal needs, I have a Standard RPTQ to attempt this weekend! When all of that is said and done, my attention is fully on Modern with Dallas on the horizon and I couldn’t be more excited! Wish me luck!