Worlds may be over, but there’s an Open in St. Louis as well as the Invitational left. Read Gerry’s thoughts for Standard and Modern to stay one step ahead.

A Pro Tour with a defined metagame is easy prey. The tournament will be comprised of players on these levels. Check it out.

Level zero: Ignore current trends, play a deck that used to be good, but was probably never good in the first place, like Wolf Run Green or U/W Blade.

Examples: Matt Costa. No one else.

Level one: Look at what’s good, and decide to play one of the “best” decks, such as G/W Tokens or U/B Control. Disregard the new flavor of the week, Illusions.

Examples: Christian Valenti, Tobias Grafensteiner.

Level two: Play the hot new deck because it’s awesome and beats all the decks that you think exist.

Examples: Joel Calafell, Tommy Ashton.

Level three: Play a deck that beats the old decks and the new deck, like Mono Red or Tempered Steel.

Examples: ChannelFireball, Canadians.

Level four: Be on level three, except try to beat level three if you can.

Examples: Patrick Chapin, Michael Jacob.

Now granted, not everyone is exactly at the level I posted. For example, Tempered Steel and the CFB guys might very well be on level five, as they probably expected to beat up on the level four control decks. Some players that might look like they are on level one, like Raphael Levy, are probably on level seven, or played the deck they did because they like it and can win with anything.

At first, we wanted to beat the Standard fare, such as G/W, U/B, Dungrove Elder, and so on. Then Illusions popped up, which led us to believe that Wolf Run Ramp was either going to adapt hard or die. Mirran Crusader still seemed like a big deal, at least to the people who discounted Illusions.

If they didn’t respect Illusions, then they didn’t realize that Wolf Run Ramp would die in popularity and didn’t realize their Mirran Crusaders weren’t nearly as good as they thought they were. We knew white decks would exist but that they would be built poorly.

Still with me?

Illusions was going to be a deck and Wolf Run wasn’t, so what was going to pop up? Mono Red, obviously. Patrick was doing good work with his Grixis deck, but Michael Jacob and I decided we needed some white cards.

Oblivion Ring, Timely Reinforcements, Gideon Jura, and Celestial Purge are exactly what we needed to beat Mono Red. I was rewarded with a round-one victory over Tomohiro Kaji, a lesser known but well-respected Japanese pro, who tried to light up my life.

The cards we expected people to play that we knew we had to beat in order to stay competitive:

Moorland Haunt

Hero of Bladehold

Delver of Secrets / Birds of Paradise / Stromkirk Noble (cheap threats with one-toughness)

Shrine of Burning Rage / Chandra’s Phoenix / Planeswalkers (hard-to-kill permanents)

Nephalia Drownyard / Titans (hard to beat threats that we had to trump somehow)

Geist of Saint Traft / Thrun, the Last Troll

The cards we wanted to play in order to achieve this:

Inferno / Frost Titan

Dismember / Oblivion Ring

Gut Shot

Mana Leak / Dissipate

Desperate Ravings (we needed a draw engine)

Snapcaster Mage

Timely Reinforcements

Phantasmal Image

This is what we played:

Our list doesn’t make a whole lot of sense just by looking at it. Blade Splicer in particular stands out as a card that just seems randomly added to the list. However, it held off Hero and Mirran Crusader, red decks, and provided a clock against control.

I’ve preached about how much I want Terramorphic Expanse back, and that’s still the case. I remember during Lorwyn block, I was thinking about how awful Wanderer’s Twig and Shimmering Grotto were and how they were so bad I’d never play them in Constructed. I certainly look foolish now.

MJ was fighting me all weekend trying to get the Amulet count down to two and the Grotto count down to one. He even defiantly sided out the Amulets every round! That rascal.

The Amulets were much better than I thought they’d be, as was Shimmering Grotto. MJ was a long-time Ponder advocate, and the Amulets provided us with the shuffling effect we needed to make them good enough.

White Sun’s Zenith was the anti-control threat we added. Devil’s Play was another option. When you have the filtering power of Ponder and Desperate Ravings, you want something powerful to draw into late game, and Zenith gave us that option.

Trust me when I say Desperate Ravings is the future. If you’re stuck on two land, Desperate Ravings will find you another. If you’re flooded, Ravings will get you out of it. If you’re digging for something specific, Ravings will help.

If your hand is good, you probably don’t need to cast it, so don’t! This card is incredibly undervalued, both in Constructed and Limited, but I expect that will change very soon.

We didn’t expect to need sweepers. The threats are so powerful that you often trade Slagstorm or Day of Judgment on a one-for-one basis, so just use cheaper one-for-ones. A single Day to draw into would be okay, but the odds of ever needing it were very slim.

MJ had a lot to do with the sideboard. He wanted a Sword for U/B Control and also for Mono Red. I insisted that Mono Red players bring in Ancient Grudge against control decks even if they haven’t seen Batterskull or Spellskite, just because that’s how control decks typically beat Mono Red. We couldn’t afford to play Batterskull and maybe shouldn’t have even played the Sword.

Round One: Mono-Red

Timely Reinforcements kept my life high, and Frost Titan provided the clock while locking down his Phoenix. In the second game, I had a quick start with Blade Splicer into Sword of War and Peace, and that was all I needed.

Round Two: Wolf Run Green

This wasn’t supposed to be the easiest matchup, but he never drew a Dungrove Elder. Because of that, it was actually a cakewalk.

Round Three: Illusions

In game one, I resolved a Gideon and Frost Titan. The combination of Vapor Snag, Snapcaster Mage, and Phantasmal Image kept my Titan at bay for a while, and Gideon didn’t live long. He ended up with five guys in play to my nothing, and I was drawing dead.

Second game, I was super flooded but peeled Elesh Norn at the perfect time. Third game, he had a heavy beatdown draw with double Mana Leak, and I couldn’t quite keep up.

After round three, Kaitlin, my girlfriend, asked if I wanted to play against Illusions. I said yes, and she said, “But it just crushed you… If you could play against anything next round, what would it be?” I answered with G/W Tokens.

Round Four: G/W Tokens

I was dead in under ten minutes. Game one, he overextended into a sweeper I could have had but clearly didn’t. My Desperate Ravings didn’t serve up enough gas, and I conceded with six lands in hand.

Game two, he had a slow draw with Thrun, so my Gut Shots were useless. I couldn’t draw a Phantasmal Image or Frost Titan in time, and Thrun killed me.

“THAT’S the matchup you wanted? It didn’t look very close to me…” –Kaitlin.

Oh, the daggers.

Round Five/Six: Illusions

These matches were very similar. I’d stop their early aggression with Gut Shots; they’d put on a show with Snapcaster Mage and Moorland Haunt but wouldn’t be able to beat my bombs.


MJ was also 4-2 after day one, which led to us having the best record of any Standard deck played at Worlds. Granted, our sample size is incredibly small, but we performed well against the decks we expected to play against.

Both of us were bemoaning the fact that we had Frost Titan instead of Inferno Titan, which would have won us each another match. We didn’t think the mana could support it, but we didn’t have problems the entire day, and Inferno would have been a huge upgrade.

Other than that, we were mostly happy with our deck and the decisions we made. If I could re-do the tournament, I wouldn’t change much.

I started 4-0 in the draft portion, but my second deck wasn’t great. I lost to PV in a feature match and then to Cuneo with a self-mill deck that I was incredibly jealous of.

Going into day three at 8-4 was nice, but I felt bad after losing my last two rounds. I didn’t really have a Modern deck, and choosing for that format was a bit more difficult. I didn’t like aggro, such as Zoo or Affinity. I didn’t like control, such as Chapin’s Braid of Fire deck. I also didn’t like combo, such as Finkel’s Storm or Splinter Twin.

That left me with few options. Tarmogoyf is the best card in the format, and anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. I think the best deck would be the one that easily gets the Goyf-vantage and who wins the Goyf wars. I couldn’t come up with that deck.

Instead, I thought about playing a Goyf-centric deck that was very disruptive. Cards like Smallpox and Cry of Contrition seemed well-positioned. I wasn’t confident that I could build those decks correctly unless I played a ton of games but didn’t have that option.

I started brewing U/W Control decks, mostly based on inspiration from Gabriel Nassif and JB2002 on MTGO. Sun Titan, Jace Beleren, Path to Exile, and Wall of Omens are all pretty good in my opinion. Rather than grinding out every game, I decided to play something similar to Ali Aintrazi U/W Tron list.

I swore off Tron years ago, much like I’ve basically sworn off Delver of Secrets. However, I still find myself drafting Delver decks, and it had been like four years since I last played a Tron deck. “Maybe I’ll just give it another shot…” I thought to myself.

Yes, that is basically how unprepared most of the “pros” are. We change decks at the last second for no real reason, and that is why ChannelFireball annihilates everyone else. They practice and stick to it.

Anyway, the list I settled on!

The endgame is the Mindslaver lock, with thirteen mana and Academy Ruins. In the meantime, you’re killing things and drawing cards, trying to find an opportune time to cast Gifts Ungiven and lock it up.

Some various Gifts piles I made throughout the tournament:

Missing Tron Piece

Tolaria West

Crucible of Worlds

Academy Ruins

This way, you can get Tron and Academy Ruins active in a couple turns. If you’re missing Mindslaver but have Academy Ruins, you can exchange those.


Pact of Negation

Snapcaster Mage

Missing Tron Piece

This usually happened vs. combo decks. No matter what, I get a counterspell. If they don’t want me to make a ton of mana, then I get two counterspells, which will probably buy me enough time to find it anyway.

Day of Judgment

Wrath of God

Snapcaster Mage

Martial Coup

Creatures are going to die no matter what. I had a Hallowed Burial but cut it, which makes this Gifts pile a little worse. You need six mana instead of five, which could be the difference between winning and losing.

Path to Exile


Snapcaster Mage

Pact of Negation

This was the typical pile when you were playing the defensive game against Splinter Twin. Ghostly Prison also works, but you’d prefer to have that in your deck so you could draw it later.

One crazy thing to note: You can look at your opponent’s sideboard when you Mindslaver them! It’s weird, and I don’t really get it, but after Ali informed me I could, I did it twice in the tournament. Both times, it involved searching their deck with a Path to Exile as well, so I got to see everything!

I defeated Splinter Twin and then Boros with eight Moon effects and four Shattering Sprees. Then, while still in top eight contention, I decided to make match-losing errors against Craig Wescoe with Bant and Elias Watsfeldt with Ad Nauseam. Elias and I played twice, and he impressed me a lot. If he keeps playing Magic and is able to qualify for the Pro Tour, you should expect to see more of him.

After that, I tightened up and beat another Splinter Twin before conceding to Jeremy Neeman. I like Jeremy a lot, as he’s one of the nicest guys on the Tour, and he wanted his 100th pro point. I also thought my matchup against his Ascension deck was bad and didn’t want to play the match for real. Now that I’ve seen his list, it seems pretty easy actually, so I probably would have won.

Realistically, I could have won all of my matches, which I didn’t expect. Tron actually felt solid for the metagame. I only naturally drew Tron twice, but I easily won both of those games. Having that backdoor nut draw is pretty nice, especially in a format as high powered as Modern.

Granted, I didn’t play against Zoo at all, but that’s the matchup I was most prepared for. They don’t have much disruption outside of some counterspells, so it shouldn’t be all that bad. Timely Reinforcements, sweepers, lifelinked fatties, and Ghostly Prisons are annoying to play against, and your late game is great.

Gaddock Teeg and Blood Moon are the two cards you probably have to worry about. Granted, most decks don’t play them, but you never want to be drawing dead to any of your opponents’ potential sideboard cards.

With Path and Oblivion Ring, you should be relatively safe from Gaddock Teeg, but it does lock out a lot of your cards. Blood Moon might seem difficult, but you still have Signets, some basics, and Oblivion Rings.

The Splinter Twin matchup was surprisingly easy. You have plenty of spot removal, counters, and Ghostly Prison, which they can’t really beat. It’s much better to have an enchantment answer to their combo, as they are ready to fight Torpor Orbs and the like with Ancient Grudges.

The one thing that I would definitely change is adding a Chalice of the Void to the deck somewhere. Post-board, you want it to counter their Path to Exiles on your monsters, and it’s also pretty good against most combo decks.

Somehow, I was happy with both my deck choices and would actually play the same decks again. I would just choose to play better. The official year might be over, but I have still the StarCityGames.com year to finish. The Open in St. Louis is two weeks away, and the Invitational is the week after. I can’t promise victory, but I can promise some awesome brews!