So I won my twelfth PTQ last weekend…
If anyone is looking for a free agent for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, please contact my agent.
Which is me.
BECAUSE I JUST WON A MTGO PTQ!
— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) May 7, 2016
And in case you missed the memo on what I was playing…
If you're wondering what I played…
"Bogles are very tasty if you can get the skin off. It's getting a blade on them that's the problem."
— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) May 7, 2016
So what will I be writing about today? Pretty simple, really: why I’ve been playing G/W Hexproof in Modern so much lately, how well I think the deck is positioned for the next few weekends, and a few other odds and ends. So let’s get to it!
Why G/W Hexproof
In an article I wrote a few weeks ago, I said the following:
Coming into the #SCGINVI, I figured we would see a lot of Infect, Burn, and Affinity because they were so obvious. I also assumed Sword of the Meek plus Thopter Foundry decks along with Ancestral Vision decks would appear because new cards are cool and people want to try them. What I didn’t expect to see? Liliana of the Veil decks. Because let’s face it…
Jund and Abzan are lame and we’re all tired of them!
If I’m being honest, which I always am, there’s very little that’s skill-intensive about G/W Hexproof. You play a hexproof creature, you put a lot of Auras on it, and hopefully your opponent is hopeless against it. If they are, you win easily. If not, they win easily. Sometimes Magic can be that simple.
And sometimes it’s correct to make Magic that simple.
A wise man once told me that you don’t get extra match points for showing how smart you are or how good you are at Magic. You get the same amount as everyone else whether you do it with a complicated Psychatog deck or a simplistic Burn deck. So when choosing to sleeve up G/W Hexproof for a tournament, know that you aren’t really going to get to demonstrate your expertise. What you do get to do, however, is take advantage of people who forgot the deck existed and hopefully win a lot of matches because of it.
And, really, isn’t that what we’re all really here to do?
One thing I’ll oftentimes do is practice what I preach. When I wrote that portion of my article a few weeks ago, I truly believed that G/W Hexproof was one of the best decks you could be playing in Modern. It just seemed like everyone was focused on other things around the time of the #SCGINVI:
- Was Tron was still playable with the banning of Eye of Ugin?
- What’s the best way to build an Ancestral Vision deck?
- What’s the best way to build a Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek deck?
- Can any of the new decks keep up with the speed of Affinity, Zoo, and Burn?
There’s one question I didn’t think many people were asking:
- How’s my matchup against G/W Hexproof?
And really, why would they? G/W Hexproof isn’t seen to be a threatening deck in Modern. Outside of Reid Duke taking everyone by surprise with the deck at Worlds a few years ago, G/W Hexproof’s biggest supporter is Big Dan Ward and he’s got solid enough results to back up his love of the deck, even if he does speak of the deck like it’s the second coming of CawBlade on occasion (spoiler: it’s not).
So given that I felt I found a hole in the metagame, SCG Milwaukee gave me the opportunity to put this theory to the test. One short flight later and my Round 1 pairings were up. I couldn’t wait to see what I was up against!
Well, I didn’t expect to be playing against Living End, that’s for sure. I predictably got decimated, as that matchup is horrific for G/W Hexproof unless you get extremely lucky (which I did not) and started the tournament 0-1. But hey, bad pairings happen. Let’s see what Round 2 brings to the table!
If you think Living End is a bad matchup, Restore Balance is somehow much worse. Against Living End, you get a small opportunity to win by having your opponent get horrifically unlucky by drawing all Demonic Dreads, which doesn’t have a target because all of your creatures have hexproof (yes, they can target their own creature, but they should be dead by then). Against Restore Balance, you are given no such luxury, as Violent Outburst and Ardent Plea don’t need a target to do their thing.
Fortunately for me, my opponent mulliganed a lot in Games 2 and 3, so somehow I was 1-1 after two of the worst pairings possible. Where in the heck are the Ancestral Vision decks I want to play against? They have to be here somewhere, right?
At this point, Gerry and I couldn’t stop laughing at my pairings. The likelihood of playing against three straight cascade decks when playing G/W Hexproof is so absurdly low that I can’t put it into words. Just know that my opponent got comically unlucky again and I got out of the cascade bracket at 2-1.
After all that nonsense, things were pretty smooth sailing. I played against a few Jund and JeskaI decks that were easy enough to beat, lost to G/R Eldrazi because I didn’t draw lands on time, and lost a really close one to Burn to close out Day 1 at 6-3. Now, 6-3 is nothing to brag about, but my record isn’t what I cared about. I’m a man who cares about the finer details of a tournament at this point in my Magic-playing career. And here’s what I took away from SCG Milwaukee:
- I got paired against three cascade decks to start my tournament and was 2-1 afterward. I’m not sure if that’s me running bad (getting those pairings) or running good (beating horrific matchups) but it is what it is.
- The G/R Eldrazi player I lost to was quite good, but I felt I got rather unfortunate in the matchup, as I lost Game 1 (really tough to do in that matchup) and he didn’t have much hate to bring in. My deck just didn’t really function that round.
- The match I lost to Burn was similarly strange, where I lost Game 1 when my opponent mulliganed to five, I took no unnecessary points of damage from my lands, and couldn’t attack him with a nine-power Silhana Ledgewalker when he was at ten because I was positive I would die from the two points Goblin Guide would deal as a result (and I was correct).
- The rest of the matchups were one-sided beatings in my favor.
- Given my experience in Milwaukee, I didn’t expect to play against any hate cards geared towards beating G/W Hexproof specifically.
- Because the cheapest decks on Magic Online are aggressive decks (Burn, Affinity, Zoo), G/W Hexproof makes for a good choice as it performs well against those strategies.
- Those same cheap aggressive decks are the same ones that makes Liliana of the Veil look silly, so I didn’t expect to have to play against the powerful planeswalker very much.
- Though Abzan Company dominated SCG Milwaukee, I didn’t expect to play against on Magic Online because performing the infinite combo is borderline impossible and all of the clicking leads to losses via time out. I think Abzan Company is perfectly fine to test on Magic Online in Leagues, Dailies, etc., but I just don’t think you can play it in a tournament that matters and is timed.
I ended up going 9-5 overall before dropping right before the final round to help with some SCGLive stuff (my Round 15 opponent was playing Kiki-Chord, which is a deck I would have liked to play against actually), but during the fourteen rounds I played, if you ignore the cascade pairings, I played against approximately one deck that I felt like I should never beat – Elves.
Can’t win ever.
It is weird that I never played against Abzan Company during my trip to Milwaukee, since it was heavily played and dominated the tournament, but I had run into that deck enough on Magic Online that I felt comfortable enough in the matchup. As most matchups are in Modern, G/W Hexproof vs. Abzan Company is purely a race. I’m racing to kill them as quickly as possible and they’re racing to their infinite life combo as quickly as possible. Whoever gets to their goal first wins!
With that information-gathering session in Milwaukee out of the way, I felt more confident than ever in my choice to play G/W Hexproof in the Magic Online PTQ last weekend. Here are the reasons why:
So What Happened?
Everything I expected to happen came to fruition. My pairings for the PTQ were the following:
Four Zoo (4-0)
Four Affinity (4-0)
One Grixis (0-1, though I think this is a good matchup!)
One Jund (1-0 and ran hotter than the sun with my hands)
Even though I got the pairings I hoped for, this tournament was not easy. I got rather fortunate in quite a few spots, but in order to win a tournament, that kind of thing needs to happen. I think I played well, picked the right deck for the weekend, and caught a few breaks when I needed them most.
One humorous question I’ve been asked numerous times is how much help I got from my friends during the PTQ, seeing as how I was in Seattle competing in the Smart and Thinvitational. The answer to that question is zero, as it doesn’t really take much assistance playing a hexproof creature, putting auras on it, and hoping your opponent has no way to deal with it. The only words my friends spoke to me while I was playing the PTQ were ones of disdain, as I delayed our ability to Cube draft and eat lunch by a few hours.
Too bad, gents. I’m going to Sydney and you’re not!
Where to Go From Here?
So is G/W Hexproof the right deck to play this weekend at #SCGINDY or next weekend at GP Charlotte? You’d think my answer would be a resounding yes after winning a PTQ, but I’m not so sure. I really fall into two camps in this one.
Camp #1: Are you like me and don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to playtesting? Then G/W Hexproof is a reasonable choice.
One thing you have to be able to do to be a successful Magic player is know what your strengths and weaknesses are. One thing I’ve always know about myself is that in order for me to succeed at Magic’s highest level, I have to put a lot of time in. I don’t have much natural ability and most of the success I’ve really ever had in Magic is due to putting in a ton of reps with one specific deck. Rarely have I ever just picked up a deck the day before a tournament and done well with it because I just don’t see the correct lines of play quickly.
Fortunately, G/W Hexproof doesn’t have a lot of decisions.
Truthfully, the skill you test most by playing G/W Hexproof is your ability to mulligan appropriately, something I’ve always been good at because I don’t mind starting a game with less than seven cards. The games are generally very straightforward and sideboarding is fairly easy as well. You’ve got high-leverage hate cards (Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, Gaddock Teeg) that do a lot if you draw them but aren’t necessary to mulligan to in most instances.
Basically, G/W Hexproof is a very calculated risk where, if you get the right matchups, your tournament is going to be very easy, but if you get the wrong ones (aka the cascade bracket from Milwaukee), your tournament might be over before it even begins. But most importantly, you’re not going to get to leverage your skill advantage if you have one. If you’re okay with that, by all means.
Camp #2: Are you not like me and actually have a lot of time to dedicate to playtesting? Then play Abzan Company!
The twenty-year-old Cedric who skipped all his classes in college to play Magic would be testing the crap out of Abzan Company right now. Make no mistake about it, Abzan Company is absolutely the best deck in Modern and I don’t think it’s particularly close. And my good buddy Ari Lax explained why to me on Facebook last week.
During Eldrazi Winter, one of the few decks that could go toe-to-toe with it was Abzan Company. It had to warp itself a bit to do so, but part of what makes a deck like Abzan Company (and Birthing Pod before it) so powerful is the ability to adapt to whatever the metagame presents. With the powerful Eldrazi mostly out of the picture, what, exactly, is keeping Abzan Company in check?
The unfortunate thing about Abzan Company, and I mentioned this earlier, is that if you like to get your reps in on Magic Online, it’s hard to do so because of how much clicking is required and the inability to go to infinity and beyond with the Kitchen Finks combo. That said, if that doesn’t bother you, this is clearly the deck to beat, and if thirty-year-old Cedric didn’t have a job, he’d be casting Collected Company and Chord of Calling until he could cast them no more.
It feels good to be headed back to the Pro Tour after spending nearly four years off of it. My priorities with Magic may have changed, but my love of the game remains the same. Pro Tour Eldritch Moon should be a lot of fun a few months from now, and I have it all to think to this little critter right here.