Setting My Sights On Modern

Chris locked up his invitation for the Star City Games Players Championships this weekend, and is now setting his sights on new goals and upcoming events. Catch his thoughts on Standard before #SCGVegas, and see what he’s favoring for the Modern PTQ season!

Wanting something so bad that you can taste it is quite the motivator.

The Invitational in Columbus last weekend was my seventh week in a row traveling to events in the search of Open Series Points.

When I started the journey, I was tied with Eric Rill going into the Cincinnati Open , and Joe Lossett was only a handful of points behind.

Fast-forward to the Invitational and I was almost 40 points ahead after a string of Top 8 finishes, including a win in West Virginia for the StarCityGames.com Spring State Championships.

It was quite a race, and everything has been a blur of traveling, working, and never having enough sleep. I definitely couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support, and I thank you all (especially the local players I’ve done all of that traveling with).

I’m happy that it’s all over and I won the Players’ Championship invite, but I’m also kinda sad at the same time. The race and rush of it all was pretty exciting. Being on the grind for those points and trying to have the most was an entirely different kind of grind than just trying to get points to hit levels.

With Alex’s Top 4 finish in the Invitational (See! Jund Monsters isn’t thaaat bad!) he will jump into the lead for the Season Three race that’s just heating up. Eric Rill and Joe Lossett are still in contention, and there are a few people who are in the 20-ish point range back that I wouldn’t count out either.

A lot of people asked me over the weekend what I was going to do now, in regards to traveling so much to Opens and the like.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about what some of my goals for this year were. One of them was to qualify for the Players’ Championship, which is now complete. I still plan on going to as many Opens and IQs as I can because the points are still valuable for chaining qualifications and Invitational byes, but I’m going to try and focus on one of my other goals: qualifying for the Pro Tour again. I will be prioritizing GPs and PTQs over the long absurd trips to Opens that I’ve been going on lately, because I really want to try and accomplish this.

This means that I’m going to be focusing on Modern and the current PTQ season.

It is definitely a learning process, especially since to date I have exactly two Modern tournaments under my belt. The Modern format was created shortly after I took my year-ish break from Magic, and since coming back to the game it’s just been mono-Opens for me.

For me, Modern has been very fun and exciting. In GP Richmond I played a U/R Delver of Secrets deck with Young Pyromancer. It was surprisingly good, much better than I had initially thought. I really just wanted to have a good time and finally had a chance to use my own token, BBD and I were both impressed with how the deck could quickly out-tempo its opponent as we jammed games during our byes.

In my second Modern tournament, an IQ at the SCG game center, I played Melira Pod. I had made the decision that I wanted to pick a deck and just stick with it so that I could learn it inside and out. With access to BBD for Melira Pod information, and Brad/Todd for TarmoTwin information, I figured those would be my best bets. I ended up going with Melira Pod and winning the IQ, getting a bit lucky against Todd in the Top 4.

Since Richmond, though, I’ve had tons of people contact me and ask me about the U/R Delver deck that I had played, and while I’m probably going to just stick with a Birthing Pod strategy I’m still going to entertain the Delver deck and put in some work on it.

Here’s where I’m starting right now:

When I played this deck at GP Richmond, I had nineteen lands and two Thundermaw Hellkite and I flooded a lot. With Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand to work with, we have the ability to find lands when we need them and to dig for gas when we don’t. Cutting the five-drops and going down to eighteen land should help with flooding and reduce the chance we get stuck with cards in our hand that we can’t cast.

Delver of Secrets is still just as good at putting pressure on our opponents in Modern as it is in Legacy, especially without actual dual lands to solidify opponents’ manabases. A lot of people are at fourteen life before anyone even takes a third turn.

Young Pyromancer is very obviously a powerful Magic card, but it really hasn’t found a solid home. People (read: Eric Rill) keep playing with him in Legacy, but we still have cheap cantrips, Gitaxian Probe, burn spells, and soft counterspells available to us in Modern.

Young Pyromancer is capable of overwhelming our opponents pretty quickly when we can follow it up with two or three cheap spells that either dig us into more action, find us counterspells, or provide ways remove their creatures. When I was preparing for Richmond, my initial list didn’t have Vapor Snag in it. Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze are both huge pains in the neck for the deck, and sometimes we just don’t have the Spell Snare to stop them. Vapor Snag gives us some more time against them while pushing damage through.

My biggest issue with this deck while thinking about how it matches up against the other big decks in the format is that the UWR Kiki Control deck is probably a terrible matchup. Spell Snare is basically dead against them aside from stopping a Snapcaster Mage. They have upwards of eight one-mana removal spells, Wall of Omens to stem the bleeding from Young Pyromancer, and Restoration Angel is absurd against us. It dodges most of our removal and counterspells, and it is bigger than everything that we can cast.

I will definitely be spending more time on this archetype (maybe on stream even!), but now I’d like to talk about Standard.

Brad and I had worked together on the Jund Monsters list that he took to the Top 8 of the Invitational, and I was very happy with the changes we made and the gameplan we had for the expected decks at the Invitational.

I’m not sure it is perfectly suited for an Open, but for the Invitational it was very good. I’m sure he will write about it this week, but I’d still like to go into my thought processes behind the changes we made.

We quickly identified that Xenagos, the Reveler was one of the best cards if not actually just the best card we had against Supreme Verdict and black-based midrange decks (B/W and Mono-Black Devotion). It was also apparent that our post-board configuration against most decks made our copies of Domri Rade pretty poor. I’m sure if I went back and watched footage of me on camera from the last month, I’ve missed on a huge majority of my post-board Domri +1’s. We usually side down to around 20 or 21 creatures, which means we will be missing a lot. In addition, Domri isn’t all that great against the hyper-aggressive decks or Mono-Blue Devotion, so while I was initially hesitant to cut a Domri Rade I feel that it ended up being the right call.

Xenagos was bonkers for me all day. Even though I went 3-3 in Standard matches played, it wasn’t from having a bad list. I just played extremely poorly and gave away enough percentage points with my sloppy play that my opponents were able to capitalize on it with one or two lucky draws.

The switch from Dreadbore to Ultimate Price was all Brad. He wanted more ways to interact at instant speed, which I can appreciate, but once we went up to four Xenagos, the Reveler it was apparent that the two-mana instant-speed removal was very good at setting up profitable game-states for Xenagos to take over.

I still wanted a fifth removal spell in the main, and at the time we didn’t have any Abrupt Decays in the list. We had been toying with going down to two copies of Courser of Kruphix since with the instant speed removal and a proper gameplan against Burn we felt like we could afford to cut one… we had been finding that we were siding it out a lot against most of the other popular decks.

Brad had been a huge advocate for having 24 lands from the start, but I didn’t really come around until after we decided to play a fourth Xenagos, the Reveler and jammed a Chandra, Pyromaster into the sideboard. In Providence I wanted to try and find room for a Chandra in the sideboard, since it’s the best thing we can be doing against Lifebane Zombie. She was awesome for me the entire tournament, and I’m probably going to try to keep at least one in the sideboard once I make some more changes back to a build I feel is tuned to combat in the opens.

The biggest pressure for making changes to the Jund Monsters list is going to be Tom Ross’ winning the Invitational. I’m actually a bit surprised that Alex didn’t do better against Tom since he had a Golgari Charm in the main and two more waiting in the sideboard, but that’s why we actually play out the games. In general I think that the aggressive creature-based red decks have an advantage in the match, so now we absolutely have to figure out a way to combat them.

With Rubblebelt Makka and Madcap Skills, trying to block can be a nightmare if not just actually impossible. Some options that I’ve been thinking about are Anger of the Gods and Setessan Tactics.

Setessan Tactics in particular seems pretty strong against the Boss Slight deck. Being able to block and then use the Tactics to get your blowout in response to a Rubblebelt Makka bloodrush could be enough to put us ahead. Tactics is also pretty cute against Mono-Blue Devotion too.

We could also just go back to the old days and play a couple copies of Shock in our sideboard, but I’m not too excited about that prospect.

If I were going to Chicago to play in the GP or Las Vegas to play in the Open this weekend, I would recommend having something a little closer to what I made the finals of Somerset with. Having the third Courser back in the deck along with Nylea’s Disciples in the sideboard is going to help your positioning against the aggressive decks, which are likely to be popular at the GP. Burn usually shows up in droves at these GPs as well, so having more ways to gain life is never really a bad thing.

Alex had Bow of Nylea in his sideboard, and I’ve tried it before. In fact, the list that I won States with had two copies of Nylea’s Disciple and a Bow of Nylea in the sideboard, and I was always unhappy with it. I understand that it’s a more reliable source of lifegain against Burn, but having the body and the flexibility of being able to bring Disciple in against Mono-Black Aggro, Brave Naya and Hexproof is pretty sweet.

I do like the use of Golgari Charm, however. Having one in the main seems a little ambitious, but I can imagine plenty of scenarios where he was able to blow someone out with it in game one situation and just leave them speechless. When you see cards like that in game one, they usually just swing the game so much in your favor it’s crazy; but that’s the opportunity cost paying off. I had a B/W opponent discard a Drown in Sorrow in game one to make a Pack Rat. It definitely made me sit up in my chair.

I won’t be in Chicago this weekend, but I will be battling in an IQ here in town on Sunday. I plan on getting my stream all set up this week, and based on the poll from last week it looks like the majority of people interested would like to see me stream on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m sure after a few weeks I will be going to that schedule, but for now make sure you head over to my channel and follow me so that you will be notified when I go live this week.

Again, I want to thank everyone for their support during Season Two. Now that I’ve secured my slot in the Players’ Championship, I’m going to turn my eyes to the Pro Tour and work just as hard to qualify for that as I did for the #SCGPC.