The Swasey Shuffle: ‘Cause U/R The Best!

Swans of Bryn Argoll creates an incredible engine when combined with Seismic Assault, turning every land in hand into two cards. Larry talks about this combo in Modern and what role it plays.

Not only did I come up with an incredibly well thought out and witty title, but I’ve also managed to tie it together with both the song and a U/R deck! A brief aside, I’m going to leave the Pro Tour dissection and talk to the players far more experienced than I am, but I’ll definitely have a Standard brew for next time. That being said, the first order of business is the U/R deck.

I figure I’ll answer a few questions that are bound to be on your mind first and foremost, then I’ll dive into card choices and explanations after. First, yes, I do have an obsession with U/R decks. I mean, they’re the best around! And obviously nothing’s ever gonna keep them down. Second, I chose to go with U/R Swans over Cascade Swans (the deck runs spells with cascade to always hit a Seismic Assault or a Swans) because you definitely want to be interacting with your opponent in this format. Mana Leak and Lightning Bolt help you live to your combo while Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand help you dig. Sure, casting a Bloodbraid Elf and hitting a Seismic Assault is pretty great, but when your opponent has already won by turn four, it becomes a lot less exciting. I’m as big of a fan of Bloodbraid Elf as the next guy, but I’m not a big enough fan to sacrifice interacting with my opponent. Now for the card choices.

The Dig

Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand are your primary source of digging. I’m tempted to run Halimar Depths, but you really don’t want to draw tapped lands or blue sources when you need triple red on turn three. Worst-case scenario, Lightning Bolt hitting a Swans functions as an Ancestral Recall, and I heard that card was pretty good.

The Protection

Lightning Bolt, Spellskite, Mana Leak, and Dispel all serve as protection for your combo. Bolt will help you get rid of lethal attackers to live for just enough time to combo off. Spellskite will protect both Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault from removal. Mana Leak serves as a versatile counterspell. An argument could be made for Remand, but in this format, it seems that all of the threatening cards cost just little enough mana that they can be replayed after being countered with Remand. Dispel is a catch-all, stopping Path to Exile, Doom Blade, Terminate, Naturalize, and all the spells like that. It also stops counterspells. Echoing Truths are there to bounce annoying permanents, be it pre-board or post-board. Leyline of Sanctity is a big beating. Finally we have the spicy addition of one Vendilion Clique in the maindeck. This versatile card can clear the way for you to resolve a Swans, or it can cycle a card in your hand while surprise blocking.

The Combo

The combo is Swans + Seismic Assault + Dakmor Salvage + an Eldrazi (Emrakul, Ulamog, or Kozilek). How it works is that you get a Swans into play, and you shoot it with Seismic Assault’s ability, drawing two cards. Ideally you’ll have drawn another land so you can continue to do this. As soon as you hit Salvage, you can shoot it with Salvage and dredge two off the first draw trigger and draw a card with the second. You repeat this until you hit a second Salvage. At this point, you can direct one activation at your opponent with the first Salvage and then shoot the Swans with the second Salvage. This will allow you to deal two damage per cycle and dredge four cards. Eventually you’ll dredge an Eldrazi and shuffle your graveyard back into your deck. Congratulations! You’re dealing infinite damage! If for some reason you happen to draw the Eldrazi you’re running, you can just shoot Swans with lands until you get to over seven cards and then go to clean-up step. Then you can continue comboing during your opponent’s upkeep.

The Board

Blood Moon is for free wins against the decks that still don’t realize the card exists. Urza, Jund, and a few other control decks all have trouble dealing with Blood Moon while you can freely play around it. Flame Slash is for more removal against creature decks so you can have more time to combo off. Combust is good against Mistbind Clique, Splinter Twin decks, and U/W Caw-Blade style decks. Spell Pierce counters discard out of Jund, and it also stops expensive spells out of Urza, U/W, and other decks like Melira Combo. Chord of Calling? Nope! Birthing Pod? Don’t think so. Threads serves as additional removal and as a way to stop your opponent’s few threats after you’ve burned the others out. Finally the last two Cliques are for control matchups so you can just attack with flying creatures and win that way.

Moving Forward in Modern

While I’m on the subject of Modern, I’d like to point of some common mistakes I see people making. People keep mistiming their fetchland activations. This is especially important against decks that play a lot of instants and creatures with flash. A recent example I encountered was in the PTQ I just played in. My opponent had played Cryptic Command in game one, so I was aware it was in his deck during game two. During his second main phase, he had three untapped lands and a fetchland. As soon as he went to crack his fetchland, I responded by playing Deceiver Exarch tapping down his blue source. Now, he didn’t have Cryptic Command, but it’s just a small example of something people are not thinking about. This also applies to people playing Vendilion Clique and Spell Pierce. I’ve often left a Scalding Tarn up just so my opponents can’t use removal in response to me cracking it.

Another mistake I see people making in multiple formats, but more recently Modern, is that people are not anticipating how post-board games will play. For example, in the Twin mirror, the games can go on for a long time. Which means I board accordingly. This means I cut down on the combo and try to play the aggressive route, beating down with my creatures instead of opting to hold them. During the same PTQ, I won my match in the Splinter Twin mirror by using Grim Lavamancers and Pestermites to attack him from 20 to 0. Realizing I was going to be winning by this method, I boarded accordingly. That means I boarded out my Dispels and boarded in my Flame Slashes to deal with opposing blockers, Spellskites, and potential Grim Lavamancers.

Think about how game one played out. Were you often holding certain spells, finding them useless? Then board them out! Just because your opponent COULD have a card that you care about, the more important question is WILL they have the card. I lost my win and in against U/R Tron because I blindly boarded in Ancient Grudges and drew them when I needed to draw any other spell to stand a chance. I feared Torpor Orb and wanted to get value destroying Izzet Signets. Instead I got destroyed by drawing useless cards. The make-up of decks often dictates what they will be able to board in. Most U/W decks have Suppression Field now instead of Damping Matrix or Torpor Orb because it meshes with their deck better. Matrix shuts down Swords and other equipment, while Orb shuts down Hawks, Cliques, and Snapcasters.

Try Your Best

To win them all. I know that phrase sounds clichéd and silly, but I had a huge realization during that PTQ. I lost round one, and I didn’t immediately tilt. No, instead I looked at that round as a learning experience. I was playing Twin, which goes without saying. I also lost round one to myself, which also goes without saying. And I still had seven more rounds of Swiss to go. It was after losing round one I had a realization that is very much in line with what Joe Esposito is singing about.

“Try your best to win them all/and one day time will tell/when you’re the one that’s standing there/you’ll reach the final bell!”

Sure, you may lose round one, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the tournament. Just keep trucking (Ha! Another clichéd phrase) and playing each round. I realized after losing round one the futility of tilting. Just pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get ready for round two. Was it my fault I lost round one? Yes. Was I blaming my opponent’s lucky draws? For the first time in a while, I wasn’t. I looked at that match as a learning experience. Ever since I’ve started to play Twin, I’ve been watching my replays and going over plays in my head. Almost every single loss can be attributed to a mistake I’ve made. This has a tremendous impact on a player, realizing that most matches are firmly within your control. No longer was I blaming my unfortunate luck. No, instead I was blaming myself for not waiting at least another turn to play around Mana Leak and Spell Pierce. It’s better to have learned from a match than to add another story to the sob stories already out there.

*Insert Inspiring Guitar Solo*

 And so I battled back from my 0-1 start to end up 6-1 facing down my friend Matty Gemme in the win-and-in. Looking back, I can point to the exact lines of play that lost me the match, but we had a hell of a match, and I look forward to seeing him around more at PTQs and events. He’s a real standup guy and really friendly, always checking in between rounds to see how I was doing.

Anyway, the big takeaway here is that losing shouldn’t make you go full on life-tilt. This is something that has taken me a while to realize, from my misadventures on Reddit to the most recent PTQ where I just didn’t mind losing round one. I’ve definitely been guilty of tilting, but it’s only now that I’m realizing that it accomplishes absolutely nothing. Learning from mistakes accomplishes a great deal more.

krazykirby4 on MODO

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krazykirby AT gmail DOT com