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Ninth At Hoth

GerryT switched from U/R to U/W Tron at the last minute before Grand Prix Lincoln, and it paid off with a ninth place finish! Find out the changes he would make to his list and how to play against the most common Modern matchups.

After returning from glorious Honolulu, my next trip brought me to the ice planet of Hoth. A couple things you might not know about Hoth:

The frigid biosphere includes a minimal food chain: the predator wampas, the omnivorous tauntauns, the herbivorous Hoth hogs, a few rodent species, including snowmice and ice scrabblers, iceworms, lichens, and Dragon slugs.

The average planetary temperature is around -61C. However at Echo Base, located near the planet’s equator in the northern hemisphere, daytime temperatures can reach -32C; nighttime temperatures get as low as -60C.

Play the game, see the world indeed.

The whole #GPHoth thing started when Luis Scott-Vargas made a joke on Twitter about landing on Hoth, aka Lincoln, Nebraska. From there, it spread rapidly, and most pros refused to use the official #GPLincoln hashtag. Kibler’s Tweets were particularly good.

Now, I understand that some of the Nebraska residents got a little upset at us calling their home an ice planet. If some foreigners came to my home and started making fun of it, I might get a little defensive too. I just want everyone to understand that it was both a joke and wasn’t so much a testament to Nebraska’s awfulness as much as everything else.

For starters, the site was terrible. It was in the middle of nowhere, was small, and places in the hall, including the feature match area, were very cold. Second, there was nothing around. Food was far, and the hotels were further. If you flew in for the Grand Prix and didn’t rent a car, you probably made a mistake.

Also, I found out from a reputable source that the Nebraskans tried to move us into one of the other halls where they hold livestock auctions. You know what that meant?

Dirt.

Floors.

That’s just ridiculous. I can only imagine the outrage if that would’ve happened.

Regardless of what’s going on, I usually try to make the best out of any situation. For example, I was hungry but there was no “real” food around, so I went to the concession stand. To those of you who ate at the concession stand last weekend: I apologize.

The “hot dog” that I purchased looked old and was certainly not the color of a normal hot dog. Instead, it was bleeding a reddish-pink onto the bun, and the people I showed it to couldn’t tell if it was strawberry or blood.

Several people turned down my offer of a free hot dog, so I threw my three-dollar purchase into the trash. It wasn’t all that bad though. A few hours later, I was eating Culver’s and hanging out with LSV and some other cool people.

After dinner, the brew session started. I was likely on U/R Tron. I didn’t bring cards for any other deck, so when we ended up switching to U/W Tron, I was in a bit of a bind. Thankfully, Martell decided to run Storm and I was able to pillage his vast collection.

The logic behind this was the audible that Through the Breach helped you steal wins against decks like Jund, but Gifts for Unburial Rites and a fattie of choice was better in every matchup except the mirror. While the mirror was a concern of ours, we thought we’d gain far more ground in the other matchups.

For reference, my U/R Tron list:


That’s right—I cut the Noxious Revival/Snapcaster package. I went back and forth on it for weeks, but now I’m convinced it’s not worth it. There are the games where you quickly Tron up and win with cards to spare, but there are also games that are grindy and every card matters. In those games, you want to die if you draw the Snapcaster or Revival.

They do help you Tutor for Through the Breach with Gifts Ungiven, but seven mana is way too slow. It almost never comes up. By the time you can pull that off, they probably have more permanents than you can annihilate so you’ll just end up dying.

In the end, I played this:


I’ve been doing pretty well lately. For the most part, I’ve been very happy with my deck lists. From the above list, which I used to get ninth place, there is little I would change.

For the main deck, I’d change:

+ 1 Repeal, 1 Plains, 1 Arid Mesa

– 1 Timely Reinforcements, 1 Condescend, 1 Celestial Colonnade

The deck felt a land shy. Don’t think of Eye of Ugin as a land; instead think of it as a Rock Jockey that will win you the game eventually. Tolaria West is more of a spell than a land too. 23 is clearly a bit light, so going up to 24 real lands is probably correct. Ideally, I’d want another Talisman too. Curving out with an accelerator is about the nicest feeling you can have, but sometimes there’s an issue with getting flooded.

Repeal got added because Timely Reinforcements and Condescends were placeholders, and I wanted an answer to cheap threats. Repeal seemed like the perfect card.

You should tune the sideboard on your own, but if I had to redo the tournament I’d change this:

+ 1 Torpor Orb, 1 Timely Reinforcements

– 1 Wurmcoil Engine, 1 Pact of Negation

I didn’t like the Pact, but Luis thought it was awesome. The second Wurmcoil was probably overkill, while the third Timely is necessary if I take it out of the maindeck. Torpor Orb was awesome for me the entire tournament and I would gladly play a second. One of my losses came to Mono-Blue Faeries, and Orb would’ve been awesome there. Additionally, it’s another hate card for Melira and Splinter Twin.

This brings the updated list to this:


One card I wish I played was Wall of Shards. A couple weeks ago, when I was playing U/R Tron, the subject of Wall of Shards came up in the StarCityGames.com office. I mentioned how that card would be sick in U/W Tron and I was almost disappointed that I was playing U/R. Playing with Wall of Shards would be awesome!

Of course, when I actually switched to U/W I forgot all about it. Wall would be great against beatdown decks that take out their removal against you. I probably would’ve sided in Wall against Jund, Delver, and maybe even the Martyr decks and it would’ve been great. That said, I’m not sure what I would cut for it, but it’s something to consider.

My tournament went like this:

Day One

Round 1-3: Bye

Round 4: Melira, 2-1

Round 5: Jund, 2-0

Round 6: LSV with mirror, he concedes

Round 7: Big Zoo, 2-0

Round 8: W/B Martyr, 1-2

Round 9: U/B Delver, 1-2

The Melira matchup was easy for both LSV and me. Gifts Ungiven into Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is something they basically can’t beat. Jund was also easy for us despite Luis saying otherwise. I think he just had bad experiences against Jund with his slower, worse version of Tron.

There was controversy abound in round 6. We got called for a camera match and as we both arrived, I asked him if we were actually playing the match. He said, “Well, I probably owe you one. I’ll concede.” You see, Luis and I have played over ten times, mostly at the Grand Prix level. Other than the first two times we played and the time we met in the finals of a GP, each pairing has ended with a concession.

Seeing as how we’re good friends, we recognize the value in helping each other. Almost every single time, someone has been on the verge of leveling up and needed the pro points. In this case, it happened to be me. He was already locked for Platinum, and while there is the whole Magic Cup thing to worry about, he still did me the solid.

Another thing to note about the whole situation is how in (I think?) every single tournament he’s conceded to one of his friends, he’s made Top 8 anyway. In case you didn’t know, LSV is unbelievably good.

Anyway, I was happy to accept the concession, and we both moved on with our lives.

Big Zoo was super easy, but the Martyr deck was difficult. Game 1 he was kold to Iona, but he crushed me game 2 after a mulligan and some discard spells. In the final game, I had the option of taking the Unburial Rites route or setting up a back door plan to get the Eye of Ugin out of my graveyard and into play.

That would probably involve Gifts-ing for something like Gifts Ungiven, Thirst for Knowledge, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Expedition Map. If he gives me the card drawing, great! My Eye is back in the deck and I’ll find it in a couple turns. If he gives me Map and Ulamog, I just cast it and start annihilating him.

The problem was that I could play around Surgical Extraction by not getting Unburial Rites, but if he was smart he would Surgical my Eye of Ugin. I decided to give him credit and went for Unburial Rites, which would definitely win the game on the spot. He had one of his two Surgicals, then Sword of Fire and Ice to clock me, and then Necrotic Sliver recursion to lock it up.

It was one of the crazier game 3’s I’ve lost, but at least it was on camera!

To end the day, I had to play what is probably the worst matchup: U/B Delver. They have cheap threats, card advantage, disruption, and counterspells. I can’t think of anything worse aside from having burn as well.

In the first game, I got Elesh Norn into play relatively easily. As bad as I wanted to shove on the plan in the post-board games, I was deathly afraid of graveyard hate after the last match. I felt like I didn’t have to take that risk to win, never did, and might have lost because of it.

I wasn’t too happy to finish 7-2 after day one. I felt like I let Luis down, especially because he was 8-1 with the deck.

Day Two

Round 10: Melira, 2-0

Round 11: 4c Gifts, 2-0

Round 12: Caw-Blade, 2-0

Round 13: Mono-Blue Faeries, 1-2

Round 14: UWR Delver, 2-1

Round 15: Melira, 2-0

I started off strong, and I needed it. Sadly, it came crashing down in round 13 after a mulligan to four in game 1. I assembled Tron but couldn’t beat consecutive Mistbind Cliques. In game 3, he had a very solid beatdown draw backed up by a Tectonic Edge, and I couldn’t stabilize.

All of my matchups aside from that one were comically easy. Again, Delver might be a rough matchup, but my round 14 opponent had some pretty terrible draws.

In the end I finished in ninth place. I was telling everyone that in my entire career, I’ve never gotten a ninth place in so much as a PTQ, but that isn’t entirely true. It was even in Nebraska! However, that only happened because a corrupt TO cut the tournament from seven to six rounds in order to save an hour of his precious life.

The four 4-0s all drew in round five only to finally be shown the standings. If we all drew again, one of us would end up ninth, so we played. This was well before I had ever made Top 8 of a PTQ, so I was more than a little tilted. I was an arrogant, entitled kid and couldn’t believe I was having that type of accomplishment stripped away from me.

Naturally, I lost and ended up in ninth. To add insult to injury, they were handing out fliers that advertised the ninth place amateur prize as a box. Instead, I was handed two draft sets. Granted, that was more than the single draft set you got for finishing in Top 8, but still. I couldn’t help but notice the staff hauling boxes of product out to their cars…

Isn’t Nebraska awesome?! I think it’s fine to not count this one.

Going into the last round of the GP, I knew I was as close to drawing dead as I probably could’ve been. Even though I won my last round, I gave cards back to everyone despite people telling me to wait. Getting ninth, especially on tiebreakers even though it wasn’t very close, felt weird. I was happy with my finish, but I really wanted to play in another Top 8.

In case you’re wondering, our Tron deck is still awesome. However, I expect that could quickly change if it keeps winning. Tempo decks with Tectonic Edge or Ghost Quarter can be tough, as can a combo deck that attacks on an angle you’re not prepared for.

The rise in graveyard hate is fine as long as they don’t try to fight you on another angle. Oftentimes, you can Gifts for value in the face of a Nihil Spellbomb and still easily win. Having two game plans is great for hateful formats like Modern for just that reason. They can throw all the graveyard hate at you and it won’t matter. Similarly, even if they play something like Blood Moon, you can fall back on the reanimator plan.

Your matchups fall under these categories:

Tempo Decks

These decks try to disrupt you long enough to kill you. Stopping their pressure means that you’ll have free reign in the late game. Sometimes you can steal wins with Gifts Ungiven, but the other part of the time is spent functioning as a true control deck.

Burn-Based Aggro

The games against burn decks play out similarly to the tempo decks, except they have reach instead of counterspells. If they have both, you could be in trouble. Kill their guys, maintain a high life total, and you’ll win eventually.

Combo Decks

These are like the matchups against aggro decks, except with the roles reversed. You want to disrupt them long enough to lock them out of the game completely. Hopefully this involves kolding them with either Elesh Norn or Iona. Game 1 can be rough, but winning the match depends on how well you read the metagame and what sideboard hate you’re packing.

Midrange Decks

Luis thinks that some of these, like Jund, are tough matchups. However, I’ve found that not to be the case. Jund is an amalgam of burn and disruption, but doesn’t do anything particularly well. Any other midrange deck probably doesn’t have enough disruption or a fast enough clock to stop you from doing your thing.

Control Decks

If they’re on Teachings or Gifts, you should probably win. You aren’t too scared of Iona or Elesh Norn, and Teachings isn’t going to put enough pressure on you. Eventually you’ll find Tron, find Eye, and then they can’t possibly win.

***

If I had a Modern tournament tomorrow, I’d play the updated U/W Tron deck and my decision wouldn’t even be close. While Bronson’s deck is certainly good at exploiting a weakness in the metagame, I like the Tron deck more. Blue cards are more my style than Rock decks these days, but you can’t go wrong either way.

Next week: Baltimore!

GerryT

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