It’s not secret that this past year has been good to me. At least Magic-wise.
I Top 8’d my first Pro Tour, found myself in the Rivals league contending for the Magic Pro League next year and won multiple Grand Prix. It’s been unreal. And today, I want to share a little bit of what got me there.
At the conclusion of #MythicChampionshipVII, the 2019 professional season for Magic came to an end.
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) December 10, 2019
My focus when attacking any format, whether it was a Standard PT or a Modern GP was to identify the established Tier 1 decks and then finding a way to tune them to beat the expected metagame.
I’ll elaborate, in California I knew Phoenix was bonkers in January of this year. However, I also knew KCI was a tough matchup and was the deck people were expecting to be at the top tables. It was a simple matter to fit a single Breeding Pool into the deck. With the high fetch count and Manamorphose in the deck we now had consistent access to green mana. With a card like Ancient Grudge being super powerful versus KCI and also a great card to discard to Faithless Looting. It was a match made in heaven. And to this day I still feel like the single choice is what allowed me to win the Grand Prix, for my Phoenix deck to be favoured against the now-banned KCI and for me to eventually get to the point I’m at now.
(Adam) With flash of smiles—and firm handshake from Hunter Cochran—a new Grand Prix champion was forged.
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) January 7, 2019
It just so happened that 40 per cent of my matches at that GP were facing off against KCI. I lost every game one save for the finals. My Sideboard plan however was clutch and I didn’t lose to a single KCI deck.
During my Pro Tour Top 8 it was hardly any surprise that Oko Food decks were going to be all the rage. I started by scouring the internet for a good place to start. Kvartek had a Golgari Adventures list that looked sweet and was already preparing for the metagame by cutting it’s more expensive green spells. People were playing Noxious Grasps in their maindeck and this gave them poor targets for the cheap removal spell.
My concerns with the build were that the mana could be a little inconsistent and the graveyard recursion stuff didn’t seem to fit. I added a couple Once Upon a Times and cut the Find // Finalitys. After testing a bit of the Oko matchup I was finding it to be quite solid and so I was set to play the deck. People told me I was crazy for not playing food and going against the grain, but this was my process and I trusted it.
This trip down memory lane brings me to Modern. Which is ultimately what this article is about. I’ve obviously been playing a ton of Urza — and with good reason. Many see the powerful artifact strategy as the deck to beat in Modern. But like I said off the top, that doesn’t mean we should be looking to identify other decks that have good Urza matchups and tune them to succeed in the metagame.
The big decks are Urza, Shadow, Amulet Titan, Burn and Eldrazi Tron. Between them we have two combo decks, a ramp deck, a Delver-esque tempo deck and an all-in aggressive strategy. If we are brewing up a deck to combat all these strategies it may seem pretty difficult. Traditionally speaking combo beats up on ramp decks and other decks that struggle to interact, control beats up on Combo, big mana beats up on Control and aggro sort of has to choose what it wants to beat in a lot of cases.
What I want to do today is highlight a couple decks that may not be on your radar that have a chance to be successful in the metagame I’ve laid out above. Starting with one of the coolest new decks out there — Twiddle Storm. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the inventor’s name, so feel free to tweet at me if you know where this originated.
Twiddle Storm – Random MTGO User
I’m probably more excited by this than others will be, but Wishclaw Talisman is a sweet card I’ve been trying to make work in Urza shells for a while now. Also, Storm is great! Lotus is iconic! It has the best of many words in one shell here. Wishclaw Talisman is really powerful in this deck, it is in fact not a sorcery speed ability — which is important in this deck. But, it specifically states that it can only be used on your turn. What this means is you may activate it, hold priority, un-tap it with Twiddle or a similar effect, activate it again with the first ability on the stack.
This list lets you setup even cooler plays with lots of mana by using one Wishclaw to grab another, activating that to grab another, and with the last one grabbing Echoing Truth to bounce them all back to your own hand. Setting up for a lot of Demonic Tutors on another turn. Against a deck with lots of counters and answers you can grab Chandra post board. Against a Leyline of Sanctity you can grab Empty the Warrens. It has a lot of tools at the user’s disposal and will be extremely hard to combat.
Obviously a build-your-own Demonic Tutor is a pretty powerful effect in a combo deck. And given that this deck already wanted to play all these un-tap effects for Lotus Field, it may just be the perfect home for Talisman.
I imagine the weakness to this deck probably is going to be Burn, but the architect has a great aggressive sideboard plan in Thing in the Ice. A natural disaster for any Burn player. The old inconsistent plan from when this deck first cropped up of using cantrips to find Lotus Field is no longer a problem with Wishclaw Talisman and we can now setup a winning board state with pretty reasonable consistency.
Now, obviously an archetype like this is unproven, but I do think it could have legs in the metagame I described. Urza has pushed decks like Jund that normally prey on Storm out of the metagame, and with the exception of Death’s Shadow their just aren’t a lot of decks at the top of the format packing the necessary interaction to deal with a deck like this.
On top of that, this deck doesn’t need to play enablers like Goblin Electromancer in traditional Storm. Which makes it even better at fight through post-board interaction.
Now, for those of you who are less into combo and more into say midrange or control, the second deck I wanted to show you fits a little bit of both. The architect is none other than Kanister, who took the Urza shell and made it about as fair and interactive as possible. Specifically to better fight the mirror and to combat Karn, the Great Creator decks.
Bant Urza – Piotr “Kanister” Glogowski
This deck gets to do a lot of the fun things that regular Urza decks do but with more flair and card advantage. Look, we’ve all heard the great debates about how planeswalkers ruined Magic in 2019, so we might as well find an excuse to add more to the deck. Bant gives access to all the best sideboard cards on top of all that. Still I’m not sure we will see Kanister play this deck for long. He tends to brew, play a deck, and then move on to something new. But this is a brew I wanted to specifically point out as something that may have legs.
Urza is a deck that was traditionally weak to Death’s Shadow decks. But, with the addition of Teferi, Time Raveler, Path to Exile and Ice-Fang Coatl that can change pretty quickly. These are all potent weapons at reversing the course of this matchup. Thanks to the improvement in sideboard options like Timely Reinforcements the Burn matchup is likely improved as well. I think the Tron matchups got a little weaker, which why he is boarding in three Damping Sphere.
When Urza rose to the top of the format, Shadow was the first deck to see a similar rise in popularity to combat it. It can be difficult for traditional Urza decks to answer threats like Gurmag Angler and the fast clock backed up by counter spells is a real problem for traditional Urza decks. That could mean it’s time to adapt the shell, and this is the first place I’d look to do that.
I’ll wrap up here and probably test both of these decks on my stream at Twitch.tv/EliKassis. I have a discord setup for my Subscribers now as well. You can 24/7 access to my thoughts on any format as well as the sideboard guides I come up with. It’s becoming a nice little community of like minded Urza players and I would suggest it heavily if that’s what you’re into.
Take care and best of luck!