Tracking The Storm – Lessons Learned In Boston

AJ discusses some intricacies of the Pod-less RUG Twin matchups, then suggests an Aggro-Loam deck for Modern!

Hello everybody, and welcome to the debut of my official column name “Tracking the Storm.” I feel this title is very appropriate for my column, as I
have an unhealthy love for the storm mechanic, and most of my articles are about different deck choices you can play in certain meta-games, and what
decks I prefer to play.

(It’s also very appropriate, as there is currently a hurricane in my area. Hope everyone stays safe.)

Recently, an immense amount of summer work for a new school program I’m entering and a lack of funding has restricted my tournament attendance. There
is no doubt that StarCityGames.com Opens are my favorite types of major tournaments, but traveling to them can be costly. Luckily, I was able to attend

StarCityGames.com Open: Boston

, and got to reconnect with a lot of friends.

For me, StarCityGames.com Open: Boston felt like one of the tournaments where both my Magic skill and my mindset on the game in general has improved
the most. I played a home-brew deck that I was very happy with… But I’ll tell you about that later in the article. Overall, just playing my matches and
seeing my home-brew deck in action taught me a lot about the kind of player I am, and what areas in my game I need to improve on.

The biggest thing I noticed was that I am excellent at getting information from the game about my opponent, my deck, and myself… But I have trouble
acting on the information I get. Too often do I second-guess myself, and end up making the incorrect play because of it. Multiple times, I come up with
what is seemingly the correct play (or the correct deck-building decision, or the correct whatever), and then I lose confidence in myself and try
something different.

I just need to boost my confidence — and I think this is something a lot of Magic players struggle with. When you have a plan, stick to it. Once you’ve
invested resources into a plan in a game, sometimes switching out four turns later (even if it is to the correct play) can be incorrect, as you have
put too much into the old plan. I hope to slowly improve my game by noticing subtleties like this.

Personally, I hope more Magic players realize that they have to sit down and review their weak points. That is the true key to improving.

Now, on to the part that you probably came to this article to read: the deck! This past weekend (at the time of writing this article) at
StarCityGames.com Open: Boston, I played Pod-less RUG Twin in the Standard portion. This is obviously not my own idea. People have done this in the
past, but it’s an archetype that has very slowly disappeared. The original build of the deck tried to act as a normal RUG control/ramp deck, with the
combo splashed in as an alternate “Hey, I win!” condition. In my build, the combo is usually the primary win condition, and the ramp plan is a plan B.

Without further ado, here is the seventy-five I registered in Boston:

Most of the cards are pretty self-explanatory, but there are some points I’d like to go over.

The singleton Explore was there to get me the extra ramp and card draw randomly when needed, and the singleton Into the Roil was to bounce Spellskites
and Swords. The “big-man” split is simply one of each. All three of them play different roles — and with all the cantrips, finding the correct one for
each situation should be easy enough.

In the sideboard, I tried to put cards in that would serve multiple roles, as you should. The Jace Belerens were for pretty much any control matchup,
like Caw-Blade and U/B. The Deprive was for any deck with big or important things they need to resolve — in other words, decks like Caw-Blade, U/B
control, and Valakut. The Spellskites were mainly for aggro matchups, as were the Slagstorms. The Flashfreezes were for Birthing Pod and Valakut, as
well as other decks that rely on either red or green spells. The Nature’s Claims were for any decks that use artifacts like Birthing Pod and Caw-Blade,
and the Creeping Corrosions were for Tempered Steel and Puresteel decks. Last but not least, the Act of Aggressions are for big creature decks like U/B
Control and Valakut.

I ended 3-3, and here is exactly how each match played out and what I learned from it (sorry about the names; I wasn’t planning on writing a report):

Round 1 – Red Deck Wins – Lost 2-1

Game 1 he quickly put on pressure, but I comboed off around turn 5 or 6 and we were off to the next game.

Game 2 once again left me at a low life total very quickly. Around turn 4, my opponent left two mana untapped, and I had the combo. I made the
incorrect decision of not comboing off in fear, and unfortunately I was unable to draw anything to slow him down. He put me down to three, and I
decided it was time to go for it — he had left two mana untapped, as I was dead next turn. I played out a Deceiver Exarch, but he had the Lightning
Bolt to kill me.

Game 3 was approximately the same, except this time I mulliganed to five and was playing catch-up the whole game. I finally got the combo online from
four life, but I needed to crack my Scalding Tarn for the second red source. I did so, and he had the Lightning Bolt.

I came into this tournament knowing that I had a weak aggro matchup, but now I see exactly how weak it is. I’d hoped to move on without too many more
aggro opponents — but unfortunately, my dream of a peaceful environment didn’t live past three rounds.

Round 2 – Caw-Blade – Win 2-0

Game 1 was a quick combo kill once he tapped out; I realized that he thought I was playing RUG-Pod, probably No-Twin combo.

Game 2 went off and we both hit a brick wall. I was getting completely mana-flooded, and the few threats I did draw got Flashfreezed. Eventually we
both slid into top deck mode, and I ran good. My first draw was an Acidic Slime to take out his only Celestial Colonnade. He then topdecked a Sword of
Feast and Famine to put on his lone remaining Squadron Hawk, and I took a hit. I ripped yet another Acidic Slime, and that Sword was no more. He then
topped a Draw-Go. I drew Inferno Titan, but that got Flashfreezed. He played a land and passed. I drew Frost Titan and passed. I forgot what he drew
next, but I then drew a Consecrated Sphinx and easily ran away with the game.

Sometimes you run good in a game.

Round 3 – Caw-Blade – Win 2-0

Game 1 he died to the combo, as I set it up with proper protection.

Game 2 was a very long grind of Squadron Hawk hits, and I drew every single one of my Spell Pierces (minus the one I sideboarded out). I slowly dealt
with his Squadron Hawks and went to one life left.

I had two Acidic Slimes with him at two. During his combat, I Into the Roiled his lone-wolf Hawk… and then he played Day of Judgment with three mana
up. I Spell Pierced, he paid, and I returned with another Spell Pierce. That was it.

I came into this tournament knowing that Caw-Blade was a very good matchup, though all my friends refused to accept it.

Round 4 – Valakut – Win 2-0

As soon as he led with Terramorphic Expanse, pass, I knew that I may very well end up in the 3-1 bracket. As expected, he was playing Valakut, and I
set up the combo and killed him the turn he tapped out for Primeval Titan.

Game 2 I slowly ground it out, making sure to leave up countermagic every turn. Eventually, I landed a Frost Titan with enough mana up to counter
whatever he played, and slowly killed him with that.

Usually in game 2 you want to become a more controlling deck against Valakut, though the combo can just sneak wins post-board. I found out his hand was
full of hate for the twin combo after the game, which he never got any use out of beyond the one use of Tumble Magnet to tap down my Frost Titan in
response to my Frost Titan tapping it down when the big, blue titan entered the battlefield. In my opinion, Frost Titan is very underrated right now,
and I like the work he’s has been doing for me in the deck.

Round 5 – Noah Swartz, piloting Goblins – Lost 2-0

We sat down and started conversing about getting friend requests on Facebook from random people we don’t actually know a lot of the time (I’m a sucker
and I accept most of them)… and then we were off.

He put on pressure way to quickly both games, and I was dead very early in the round. I wished him good luck, and went on to find out how my friends
were doing.

Round 6 – Vampires – Lost 2-0

I’m pretty sure Vampires is my worst matchup, and they have a mix of removal and pressure. Both games I died to multiple Vampire Lacerators, and he had
removal backup to deal with my combo.

3-3 Drop

After this tournament, I realized that I really needed to focus on my aggro matchups (and U/B Control, but that’s another story). So, after a
disappointing 1-2 in Legacy (I thought that ANT played two Tendrils of Agony, and if I knew that they only played one, I would’ve won the game by
making a different play), I returned home to fix up my list. After a few hours of crafting and goldfishing, I came to this final list, which in testing
so far has been very, very good:

The major changes from the old list are the additions of Solemn Simulacrum and Sea Gate Oracle. Both do a lot to smooth out my draws, and give me more
time against aggro to stabilize. The smoothness they provide allowed me to cut a Preordain and a land — I was getting somewhat flooded, anyway.

I cut a Lotus Cobra, as I sometimes drew two or three and nothing to actually cast with them. One is usually enough to do the job you need it to.

In the sideboard, I went up to the full set of Slagstorms for aggro, and I added Dispels for the control and Splinter Twin matchups. In testing, these
were the approximate percentages I got in certain matchups after making the changes between online and real-life testing:

Caw-Blade: 65-35 Favored

Valakut: 75-25 Favored

Splinter Twin: 55-45/50-50 About Equal, Sometimes Favored (I like to side out the combo game two, and then depending on what they do, sometimes side it
back in)

U/B Control: 40-60 Unfavored

Vampires: 45-55 Unfavored

Red-Based Aggro Decks: 55-45 Favored

I haven’t really tested against other decks, like Birthing Pod variants and Tempered Steel.

I really like this deck, and I recommend trying it out. The deck can perform some cool maneuvers, and I like combo decks that can use their combo
pieces for other purposes — like putting a Splinter Twin on creatures other than Deceiver Exarch. At this past FNM, I had an Inferno Titan with a
Splinter Twin on it against a U/B player, after countering his removal spell with a Dispel. He had me dead next turn with Grave Titan; he was at seven
life, and my Token plus attack would only deal him seven after he blocked. I made a token, then put another Splinter Twin on that token and made
another token, therefore getting him for nine instead of six. It was very funny to watch his face when I laid down the second Splinter Twin.

Before I go, I promised a couple of friends that I would put my new Modern deck I developed in this article. So, without further ado, Aggro Loam:

So far in testing, this deck can stand up to some of the biggest players in the format. I’m going to try to Last Chance Qualify into Pro Tour
Philadelphia, and this may very well be what I play if I qualify — though I’m not sure yet. It’s probably not right to reveal my deck for the Pro Tour,
but I would like the community’s suggestions on cards to put in or numbers to switch around, so if you have any ideas let me know. Thanks in advance.
I’ll be sure to respond to as many comments as possible.

Until next time,

AJ Kerrigan

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