Top 8 with B/G Depths at Eternal Weekend

So I guess I called my own shot at Eternal Weekend.

I was very high on my B/G Depths deck headed into the Legacy Champs and I was rewarded for my preparation with a Top 8 appearance.

Let me tell you how the weekend went down.

It kicked off with Vintage which  I decided to skip in favor of just enjoying my day without grinding or working. I slept in and took advantage of the hotel pool before walking into the convention center early Friday afternoon  to meet up with the rest of my friends. I toiled with joining a grinder just to jam games having already won byes for the event previously. Ultimately, I decided not to and just got some good food and good hangs before heading to bed.

Here is the final list I submitted:

Fifth Place, Eternal Weekend, Matt Dilks – B/G Depths

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Dark Confidant
3 Sylvan Safekeeper
4 Vampire Hexmage
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Mox Diamond
1 Sylvan Library
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Assassin’s Trophy
4 Crop Rotation
2 Hymn to Tourach
2 Sylvan Scrying
4 Thoughtseize
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Forest
1 Swamp
3 Bayou
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Sejiri Step
4 Thespian’s Stage
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wasteland
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Dark Depths
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Bitterblossom
1 Assassin’s Trophy
4 Surgical Extraction
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Marsh Casualties
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Duress
1 Karakas
1 Choke
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

The are very few differences from the list I wrote about in my last article: I felt like I wanted the fifth one mana discard spell deck just to make sure I had interaction. The best curves in this deck starts with a turn one discard spell to break up your opponents draw and craft your gameplan. For this reason I added a copy of [Card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/Card] to the deck.

In the sideboard I added a second copy of [Card]Liliana, the Last Hope[/Card] for the fair decks and a [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card] for the unfair ones. [Card]Rite of Consumption[/Card] is a good card against [Card]Swords to Plowshares[/Card]/[Card]Karakas[/Card] decks that don’t also have [Card]Force of Will[/Card] like Maverick and Death & Taxes. I decided to forgo Rite because I felt like those decks just weren’t going to be popular and my gambit payed off.

Honestly, I haven’t really crunched the numbers on 27 lands, but it didn’t bite me too badly. Its possible four [Card]Mox Diamond[/Card] is too many once you go this low but I wasn’t willing to commit to cutting one the night before.

Day 1

The day kicked off with my two byes, so I got to sleep in again and roll into the event with a little extra rest. I didn’t sleep well the night before, so the extra two hours of rest was necessary. I picked up a quick win over my first U/W Miracles opponent where the games went as planned with an unchecked [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card] and fast to get me on the board at 3-0. I ended up losing the fourth to TES Storm where I die on turn two Game 1 and lose Game 2 after multiple [Card]Thoughtseize[/Card]s and a [Card]Hymn to Tourach[/Card]. Sucks to pick up an early loss in event with basically no room to give but I executed my gameplan and just didn’t get there.

Then I rallied back in Round 5, and I believe in Round 6 of the event I get deck-checked after picking up the first game against U/W Delver. I submitted my deck by email so I wasn’t too concerned, because I remember counting multiple times. The check takes a long time and they end up calling me over into the judge area. They tell me my second submission of my list only has 12 sideboard cards and I’m given the ultimatum of a game loss and I play my first submission, or no infraction and I play 12 sideboard cards for the rest of the event. I was technically mid-match, so I didn’t think of checking my phone to see what I submitted, I would have lost my [Card]Bitterblossom[/Card]s and [Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card] if I were to chose to continue like this. I decided it wasn’t worth risking a game loss because if I lost Game 3 my Top 8 hopes would be dead anyway. I ended up winning the second game anyway, though still frustrated at the disadvantage I now had for the rest of the event. I decided for sanity I need to check the email I sent, I see that my submission is correct, and I submitted what was in my deckbox. I head over to the main stage to see if I can have it corrected and luckily, I did. My warnings are gone and I have full 15 sideboard cards for the rest of the event. A quick scare but we were back on track.

The rest of the day I spent winning my rounds not really sure what the matchups were in hindsight. Round 8 I believe I get another deck check against an unorthodox burn deck splashing green for pump spells and [Card]Akroan Crusader[/Card]. This ends up being another long one because my opponent had some marked foils. I lose Game 1 but my deck is favored against Burn, they have no way of removing a Marit Lage and you can make them discard or remove an [Card]Ensnaring Bridge[/Card] with [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card]. My last round of Day 1 I won a match in three games against a Goblins opponent. Nine of the 11 rounds in the books and I’m 8-1 looking to win and draw in the morning.

The final day kicked off with an easy win over U/R Delver, the deck has very little interaction for what I’m trying to do. Suddenly, I’m looking for the draw in the last round to lock up the Top 8. I was lucky enough to be paired up to the last undefeated player and gladly accepted the draw. I ended up as the third seed in the Top 8 earning me the play. Before they could run the Legacy Top 8 they needed to cover the Vintage Top 8. So I spent most of the down time grabbing a quick meal and hanging out in the VIP area watching the Vintage Top 8 play out. I didn’t feel a need to figure out my matchup because we would receive deck lists when it started so I could figure out my plan once I knew what my opponent was working with.

I ended up being playing against U/W Miracles, a matchup that is pretty close but I’m very comfortable with. Game 1 starts out with a turn one [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card] that gets [Card]Force of Will[/Card]ed and my opponent follows up by resolving a [Card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I can’t beat. I could have taken it with a [Card]Thoughtsieze[/Card] earlier on, but I chose to take [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card]. At that point I was hoping to force him to have to pitch the Jace to his [Card]Force of Will[/Card] but it didn’t work out. I was close to running my opponent out of white sources but ran out of time before losing to Jace’s ultimate. I drew a bunch of additional copies of [Card]Dark Depths[/Card] and [Card]Abrupt Decay[/Card]s that are okay in the matchup but bad when you’re facing down Jace.

Game 2 I executed as planned, running my opponent out of interaction and winning with [Card]Bitterblossom[/Card] and [Card]Choke[/Card]. These problem permanents are a key part of many of the post-board plans for this deck and it paid off here where it mattered most.

Game 3 I kept a land-heavy hand with no Depths but some good cards in the matchup like as [Card]Dark Confidant[/Card]. I ended up behind against a blind [Card]Counterbalance[/Card] flip but remove all my opponents [Card]Swords to Plowshares[/Card] with [Card]Surgical Extraction[/Card] to keep them off balance. That said, I ended up not seeing any copies of [Card]Dark Depths[/Card] and got destroyed by a Jace once again.

That’s where my run came to an end, but it was a great event overall.

It’s hard to say if the extended break between Swiss and Top 8 ended up affecting my play. I would have preferred to not wait that long but it was the trade-off to not play a million rounds the first day. Either way I’m very pleased with my finish and put a lot of work into my deck to find a nice way to exploit the metagame and do something powerful every round.

At this point I wouldn’t change anything in my list. Everything feels great having jammed some games online this week and I still believe the deck is very well positioned.

Depths attacks the format in a very unique way. Your deck does some inherently broken things, cheating on mana and killing your opponents on Turn 2. But, your ability to shift gears, play disruptively and offer a variety of threats that are hard for fair decks to deal with allow you to fight on an axis that other combo decks simply can’t. In that way it operates kind of like the old [Card]Splinter Twin[/Card] Modern decks when you need it to.

Legacy Champs is the event I look forward to every year. There’s been a lot said about the shortcomings of its prize structure, but it’s still a long weekend of playing the best format with my buds that don’t go to every event but make time for this event every year.

Pittsburgh has been great the last two years and I would be happy to return  again. I look forward to next year and hope to compete in both events.

Standard after the Pro Tour

So there were six copies of white aggro decks in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.

Don’t freak out.

I’m here to tell you everything is okay. In fact, Standard is the best it’s been in a very long time.

So what happened? Well for starters, white weenie was the deck to beat after its strong performance in the MOCS Monthly the week before the PT. This gave players without teams or players with little time to test a very strong and proactive deck to play for the Pro Tour. Heck, even most of our team was going to play a Boros deck a mere two days before the PT.

The fact is powerful aggressive decks like this are never a bad choice. Maybe not perfect, but never awful. There’s just only so much that can go wrong when your intention is to beat down.

Another contributing factor for the deck’s success was the lack of Jeskai Control at the PT. This had been one of the deck’s worst matchups ahead of the Pro Tour but didn’t show up in high numbers even after Eli Kassis’ victory at Grand Prix New Jersey. 

If you’re looking to play Jeskai moving forward, I’d suggest moving to the [Card]Revitalize[/Card] version rather than packing [Card]Azor’s Gateway[/Card]s like Eli did.

But, you I know you didn’t come here for what happened at the Pro Tour. You want to know what I’m looking to play going forward.

What would I play in Grand Prix Milwaukee this weekend?

I think there are many options for players. I can’t really fault you for playing any of the decks in the format because the format is so close on power level when comparing archetypes.

That being said, I’ll give you a decklist for each archetype and rank them in order of which I’d prefer.

1.

PT GRN 8-2, Michael Kundegraber – Golgari Midrange

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Carnage Tyrant
2 Doom Whisperer
4 Druid of the Cowl
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
1 Thrashing Brontodon
3 Ravenous Chupacabra
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Cast Down
2 Vivien Reid
2 Vraska’s Contempt
4 Find/Finality
[/Spells]
[Lands]
8 Forest
1 Memorial to Folly
4 Overgrown Tomb
6 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Cast Down
4 Duress
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Kraul Harpooner
2 Ritual of Soot
1 Thrashing Brontodon
3 Wildgrowth Walker
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

I would play Golgari Midrange at GP Milwaukee. Something very close to Michael Kundegraber’s list from the Pro Tour. The cards I would likely cut from the maindeck are one [Card]Thrashing Brontodon[/Card] and one [Card]Ravenous Chupacabra[/Card] for two [Card]Karn, Scion of Urza[/Card].

I would also change the sideboard around a bunch depending on what the perceived metagame will be. I might want some [Card]Golden Demise[/Card] alongside [Card] Ritual of Soot[/Card] to punish these white decks.

2.

PT GRN 7-3, Morgan Mclaughlin – Jeskai Drakes

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Arclight Phoenix
3 Crackling Drake
3 Enigma Drake
2 Goblin Electromancer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Blink of an Eye
4 Chart a Course
2 Crash Through
3 Deafening Clarion
2 Discovery // Dispersal
4 Opt
2 Radical Idea
2 Maximize Velocity
2 Tormenting Voice
2 Warlord’s Fury
4 Shock
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Glacial Fortress
3 Island
2 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Beacon Bolt
1 Chemister’s Insight
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dive Down
1 Invoke the Divine
2 Lava Coil
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
2 Sarkhan, Fireblood
1 Shivan Fire
1 Spell Pierce
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Your second option is the deck that most of Team Face to Face Games played at the Pro Tour. This is our take on the popular U/R Drakes deck, but we decided to splash white in order to improve our aggro matchups with [Card]Deafening Clarion[/Card].

This deck is just objectively one of the most powerful things you can do in Standard right now. You have access to a lot of good blue and red cards and a bit of a combo finish with the drakes, [Card]Maximize Velocity[/Card] and [Card]Arclight Phoenix[/Card] synergies.

3.

PT GRN 8th Place, Wilson Mok – Jeskai Control

[Deck]
[Creatures]
3 Crackling Drake
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Chemister’s Insight
2 Cleansing Nova
4 Deafening Clarion
2 Essence Scatter
2 Expansion/Explosion
1 Ionize
2 Justice Strike
1 Negate
2 Revitalize
1 Search for Azcanta
4 Sinister Sabotage
2 Syncopate
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Island
2 Mountain
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Invoke the Divine
1 Ixalan’s Binding
2 Lava Coil
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
2 Negate
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
2 Seal Away
1 Shivan Fire
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

This kind of Jeskai Control deck is one of the obvious choices if you’re looking to play a slower deck that can look to control the board against the white decks. Additionally, there could be a bump in Golgari decks after seeing the success of aggro decks at the Pro Tour, so playing with Teferi against a bunch of Golgari decks could be a nice place to be.

4.

PT GRN 1st Place, Andrew Elenbogen – Boros Aggro

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Benalish Marshal
4 Dauntless Bodyguard
2 Healer’s Hawk
4 Skymarcher Aspirant
4 Snubhorn Sentry
4 Venerated Loxodon
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 History of Benalia
4 Legion’s Landing
4 Conclave Tribunal
2 Pride of Conquerors
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Clifftop Retreat
14 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
1 Banefire
2 Clifftop Retreat
3 Experimental Frenzy
2 Response/Resurgence
4 Tocatli Honor Guard
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Last but not least we have level one. This was obviously the breakout deck at the Pro Tour and it’s objectively a very powerful strategy that forces your opponent to have very specific answers.

Now, it’s sitting here at number four on my list because it quite obviously will have a target on its back. But, if there’s anything we’ve learned from Standard as of late, it’s that powerful aggro decks always have a good shot in this format.

Good luck to all those who attend GP Milwaukee! The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to play what you’re comfortable with and have a plan for white weenie.

Open+ Recap: Modern in Calgary

In life there are a few things that are constant — Death, Taxes and the fact that you can never sleep on Merfolk in Modern.

This past weekend, the FacetoFaceGames.com Open series traveled to Calgary, Alberta to host a massive 5K Modern Open+.

And, well, you guessed it — Merfolk took home the top prize. But, not just any old Merfolk list, Michael Ervin’s deck had some spice.

Our Calgary Open+ champion, Michael Ervin.

Ervin’s list featured some spicy inclusions like three copies of [Card]Mistcaller[/Card] a full play-set of [Card]Peek[/Card]s and a couple maindeck [Card]Spell Pierce[/Card]s.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of Merfolk genius, but Ervin must have had a good plan with these inclusions in order to take down this more than 200 person event. He also played a full set of [Card]Merfolk Trickster[/Card]s as well, which is another new option that this deck has been given access to.

Merfolk has of course, always been around in Modern. It’s one of the most consistent archetypes the format has to offer, and when enough creature decks flood the metagame it can spike an event just like this.

Our Modern Open+ Top8.

As you might expect, the rest of our Top 8 was filled with creature decks. Open series monster Kyle Gellert finished second with Counter Company, Joseph Baumgarten piloted Humans to a semifinals appearance and we also had a Bant Spirits and Dredge deck to round out the creature strategies.

Ervin’s cool list aside, my favourite deck in the Top 8 has got to be Mike Pragnell’s Esper Mill deck that is centered around [Card]Flaying Sanity[/Card]. I’m sorry, but there’s just nothing better than when a nice “deck damage” strategy comes together and puts up a good result at a tournament.

All in all these results definitely show us something that’s generally true about the Modern format — creatures reign supreme. In a format filled with tons of linear strategies and powerful combos, at the very top of the metagame it always seems to boil down to the beat down.

Our amazing judge team!

Congratulations to Michael on his win! Thank you to our awesome judge staff and everyone who made the trek out to the event. The next stop for the FacetoFaceGames.com Open Series and our sponsor Ultimate Guard is our Red Deer Modern Open on Dec. 15. Make sure to bust out your Merfolk and your mill cards and pre-register!

First Place, Michael Ervin – Merfolk

[Deck]
[Creatures]
3 Mistcaller
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merfolk Trickster
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Silvergill Adept
2 Merrow Reejerey
3 Master of Waves
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Aether Vial
4 Peek
2 Spell Pierce
4 Spreading Seas
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Faerie Conclave
12 Island
4 Mutavault
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Surgical Extraction
4 Deprive
2 Echoing Truth
2 Dismember
2 Tectonic Edge
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Second Place, Kyle Gellert – Counters Company

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Hierarch
1 Viscera Seer
4 Devoted Druid
4 Vizier of Remedies
1 Spellskite
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Qasali Pridemage
2 Duskwatch Recruiter
1 Rhonas, the Indomitable
4 Kitchen Finks
3 Eternal Witness
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Walking Ballista
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Collected Company
4 Chord of Calling
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Temple Garden
2 Horizon Canopy
2 Gavony Township
1 Razorverge Thicket
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Path to Exile
2 Sin Collector
2 Remorseful Cleric
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Knight of Autumn
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Third Place, Joseph Baumgarten – Humans

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
4 Reflector Mage
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Militia Bugler
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Aether Vial
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Unclaimed Territory
4 Horizon Canopy
2 Seachrome Coast
1 Plains
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Auriok Champion
2 Izzet Staticaster
2 Knight of Autumn
1 Whirler Rogue
1 Dismember
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Damping Sphere
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Fourth Place, Tyler White – Jeskai Control

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
3 Settle the Wreckage
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Secure the Wastes
2 Search for Azcanta
4 Cryptic Command
3 Logic Knot
1 Negate
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
2 Electrolyze
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Field of Ruin
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Flooded Strand
3 Celestial Colonnade
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Steam Vents
2 Hallowed Fountain
3 Island
2 Plains
1 Mountain
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Dispel
1 Negate
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Abrade
2 Spell Queller
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
2 Vendilion Clique
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Fifth Place, Mike Pragnell – Esper Flaying Sanity

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Hedron Crab
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Mission Briefing
1 Crypt Incursion
3 Surgical Extraction
4 Path to Exile
4 Visions of Beyond
3 Breaking // Entering
4 Flaying Sanity
4 Mesmeric Orb
4 Archive Trap
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
2 Mind Funeral
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Sheldock Isle
2 Watery Grave
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Godless Shrine
4 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
3 Field of Ruin
2 Island
2 Swamp
1 Plains
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Fatal Push
1 Surgical Extraction
3 Fragmentize
3 Crypt Incursion
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Set Adrift
1 Echoing Truth
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Sixth Place, Jeff Horan – Dredge

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Narcomeba
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Blooghast
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Golgari Thug
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Faithless Looting
4 Cathartic Reunion
3 Shriekhorn
1 Darkblast
4 Life from the Loam
2 Conflagarate
4 Creeping Chill
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Stomping Ground
2 Blood Crypt
2 Mountain
2 Copperline Gorge
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Mana Confluence
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Dakmor Salvage
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Back to Nature
1 Darkblast
1 Driven // Despair
3 Leyline of the Void
2 Lightning Axe
2 Nature’s Claim
1 Thoughtseize
1 Vengeful Pharaoh
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Seventh Place, Charles Hutchinson – Bant Spirits

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Supreme Phantom
3 Phantasmal Image
2 Selfless Spirit
1 Rattlechains
1 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Spell Queller
4 Drogskol Captain
3 Reflector Mage
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Collected Company
3 Aether Vial
2 Path to Exile
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Breeding Pool
3 Windswept Heath
1 Flooded Strand
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Botanical Sanctum
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Temple Garden
1 Island
1 Forest
1 Plains
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
4 Rest in Peace
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Stony Silence
1 Path to Exile
1 Unified Will
1 Damping Sphere
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Dromoka’s Command
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Eighth Place, Liam Walker – Hardened Scales

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Steel Overseer
4 Walking Ballista
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Arcbound Ravager
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Hardened Scales
4 Mox Opal
3 Animation Module
4 Ancient Stirrings
1 Evolutionary Leap
1 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Welding Jar
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Pendlehaven
1 Blinkmoth Nexus
7 Forest
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Spellskite
3 Damping Sphere
2 Dismember
4 Nature’s Claim
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Jeskai Drakes at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

This past weekend we watched the best in the world battle it out in Standard at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in one of the most diverse formats Standard has seen in a while. A few of my Team Face to Face Games teammates and I ended up playing a unique Jeskai take on the U/R Drakes archetype that has been floating around.

Today, I’ll be telling you how we arrived at our list.

But first, let’s talk [Card]Arclight Phoenix[/Card] for a minute. Four mana for a 3/2 flying creature with haste might seem unassuming, but the real kick comes from its alternative means of entering the battlefield. One is enough to get value, but two or three often means the game is just over. That is the kind of power we were trying to harness while working on the deck.

This article is mostly going to focus on Standard obviously. However, I should mention that you can play this card in Modern as well. For Standard there’s a few ways to build the deck and we are going to contrast and compare them for you here.

Let’s start with this list:

U/R Drakes (No Electromancers) – Eli Kassis

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Enigma Drake
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Crackling Drake
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Crash Through
2 Maximize Velocity
4 Opt
4 Shock
4 Warlord’s Fury
4 Chart a Course
1 Lava Coil
3 Tormenting Voice
1 Beacon Bolt
[/Spells]
[Lands]
6 Island
7 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
2 Dive Down
1 Spell Pierce
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Firemind’s Research
2 Lava Coil
1 Beacon Bolt
3 Fiery Cannonade
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

[Card]Chart a Course[/Card] and [Card]Tormenting Voice[/Card] do not get the cost reduction of [Card]Goblin Electromancer[/Card] in this list — which is a real cost. It makes it way harder to achieve your most bomb-tastic starts with [Card]Arclight Phoenix[/Card]. But, what this list does well however is plays a better drake game. It forgoes those combo-style starts to better maximize these two powerful creatures. With [Card]Maximize Velocity[/Card] and [Card]Enigma Drake[/Card] or [Card]Crackling Drake[/Card], you can take all the fun out of your opponent’s eyes in an instant. It’s with this list that U/R Drakes really is the new [Card]Splinter Twin[/Card] for a reason.

I would recommend you have a good plan for people bringing in [Card]Lava Coil[/Card]s and [Card]Seal Away[/Card]’s in post-board scenarios if you build your deck this way. When your opponent can remove your big flyers easily, this list gets clunky really fast. To combat that strategy you can sift through the deck with lots of cantrips until you Maximize for an instant speed lethal. When sideboarding with this deck, try to keep your core gameplan intact. You need a large number of cantrips and usually only want to board in a few cards for a couple choice matchups.

Next Let’s analyze what this deck looks like with [Card]Goblin Electromancer[/Card]s.

U/R Drakes – Eli Kassis

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Crackling Drake
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Opt
4 Shock
4 Chart a Course
2 Lava Coil
4 Radical Idea
3 Tormenting Voice
2 Beacon Bolt
4 Discovery // Dispersal
[/Spells]
[Lands]
7 Island
6 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Dive Down
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Lava Coil
3 Negate
1 Beacon Bolt
2 Fiery Cannonade
2 Chemister’s Insight
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

In this version our two mana spells are much more powerful. [Card]Goblin Electromancer[/Card], while only being a 2/2 for two mana, is surprisingly difficult to deal with in the early stages of the game for a lot of the metagame’s top decks. This version produces a powerful [Card]Arclight Phoenix[/Card] draw on turn three more than any other way you can build the archetype. The draw back is obviously the lack for [Card]Enigma Drake[/Card]. This makes playing a slower and more controlling game plan much harder and severely limits the one-turn-kill potential of the other version.

My personal favorite thing about these builds is that the sideboard cards we get are better. [Card]Chemister’s Insight[/Card] for three mana feels gross and exactly what we want to be doing against a deck like Jeskai Control in post-board situations. [Card]Disdainful Stroke[/Card] also gains a lot of power when we only need to keep up one mana instead of two. In fact, I actively dislike boarding this card in if we do not need to hit something essential, we would rather continue being proactive than adapt to combating what our opponents are trying to do — with the exception of this Electromancer build.

Now, all this in mind, the natural progression is to then find a way to combine the advantages of both of these builds in order to achieve a perfect build of the deck. Our initial build of that deck came from one of our team’s testing partners, Pascal Maynard, who played this list in a Magic Online Championship event:

U/R Drakes – Pascal Maynard

[Deck]
[Creatures]
2 Goblin Electromancer
2 Enigma Drake
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Crackling Drake
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Crash Through
2 Maximize Velocity
4 Opt
4 Shock
2 Warlord’s Fury
4 Chart a Course
2 Lava Coil
2 Radical Idea
2 Tormenting Voice
1 Beacon Bolt
3 Discovery // Dispersal
[/Spells]
[Lands]
6 Island
6 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Dive Down
1 Spell Pierce
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Entrancing Melody
1 Firemind’s Research
1 Lava Coil
1 Beacon Bolt
2 Fiery Cannonade
2 Sarkhan, Fireblood
1 Chemister’s Insight
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Pascal went 7-1 in the MOCS with this list, not an easy feat. This was even on a GP weekend where many Pro Tour competitors were playing the MOCS so the field was tough.

With this deck you get the best of both worlds — more velocity with Electromancer and more threats. That said, you open yourself up to drawing the wrong half of your deck too often. That’s just the reality of being right in the middle of two plans. So, you’re not going to be able to rely as heavily on your decks consistency, but the capacity for your deck to play on different axis’ and offer different angles of attack increases immensely.

For the Pro Tour the majority of the team and I decided on this archetype after trying all these versions, but we managed to develop the deck one step further. The MOCS showed us that white weenie aggressive decks were on the rise and quite good versus the Arclight strategies we liked.

So this is what we came up with:

Jeskai Drakes – Team Face to Face Games

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Arclight Phoenix
2 Goblin Electromancer
3 Enigma Drake
3 Crackling Drake
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Maximize Velocity
4 Shock
2 Crash Through
2 Discovery//dispersal
2 Radical Idea
1 Blink of an Eye
4 Chart a Course
3 Deafening Clarion
4 Opt
2 Tormenting Voice
2 Warlord’s Fury
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Glacial Fortress
3 Island
2 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Steam Vents
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Shivan Fire
1 Chemister’s Insight
2 Lava Coil
2 Sarkhan, Fireblood
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
2 Beacon Bolt
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Invoke the Divine
1 Spell Pierce
1 Dive Down
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Obviously, the difference here is that we are splashing [Card]Deafening Clarion[/Card]. [Card]Invoke the Divine[/Card] in the sideboard too. This drastically improved our creature matchups in testing. The interaction between the four-toughness-creatures in our deck and this incredible three-damage-sweeper is just sweet. This is a real gameplan against aggressive decks, whereas in other versions you’re strictly relying on drawing your removal when you need it. There is a small negative interaction between Clarion and Electromancer, but it is the Standard format where things are a little under-powered. We do not get to have our cake and eat it too.

Team FaceToFaceGames.com at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.

One of the keys with this change is that interaction between [Card]Crackling Drake[/Card]/[Card]Enigma Drake[/Card] and [Card]Deafening Clarion[/Card]. In deckbuilding, you’ve got to think about the way your additions impact the rest of your cards. Sure, adding a card for a specific matchup will improve it, but when it also further enhances other cards in your deck — well now we’re cooking with gas.

Trust me, the first time you wrath their board and give your nine power [Card]Enigma Drake[/Card] lifelink in the process — you’ll know exactly what I mean.

The [Card]Invoke the Divine[/Card] is great for some of the [Card]Ixalan’s Binding[/Card] sideboard plans people brought to combat the small number of threats in this archetype —[Card]Seal Away[/Card] as well. Obviously you also want this card to deal with [Card]Azor’s Gateway[/Card]. And no, I am not biased at all… This change does come at cost though, you’re often shocking yourself with lands and you obviously need to find a white source to cast your Clarion on time. That said, in testing we found that these downsides were worth having a better gameplan against the white decks that ended up dominating the Top 8 of the event.

If you are considering this deck, I’d recommend trying out each version in fact. Find the build that suits your particular play pattern and play to your strengths. If you want to play the “best” version — you’ve got to realize it may not exist. The metagame determines what works best and it is ever-changing.

With each new deck, a new process starts just like this one that our team went through to land on our version. Try to apply these skills to your approach to deckbuilding and you’ll find that you’ll be a leg-up on the competition more often than not.

My teammate, Morgan McLaughlin played the deck to an 11-5 finish. And he, Edgar Magalhaes and I all believe it was a great choice of archetype for the weekend. That said, I believe it could have been even better with a little more work.

But the process is never finished. It’s time to get to tuning for Grand Prix Milwaukee this weekend where some of us will be competing. Let’s see if there’s some more tech for U/R Drakes we can find!

Showdown Recap: Modern

Welcome to another weekly Showdown Recap, where we take a look at what happened at Face to Face Games Toronto’s weekly Sunday Showdown, a series of 1k events feeding into the Ultimate Showdown 5k Invitational. This week players battled in Modern to see who could take down the top prize.

It’s been a long time coming and Taimur Rashid finally made his way into the winner’s circle at a Showdown.

Showdown Champion Taimur Rashid.

Taimur played Grixis Death’s Shadow on Sunday, a previous hero of the Modern format that was dethroned by the rise of Humans. The talk around the competitive Modern community is that it might be primed for a resurgence and Taimur surely showed that it has that kind of potential on Sunday.

Joining Taimur in the Top 8 were two copies of Bant Spirits, myself playing B/G Rock, an Amulet Titan deck, Chris Flink playing [Card]Ad Nauseum[/Card] as usual, one of Toronto’s nicest guys in Andrew Oyen playing Infect and a copy of Dredge.

Your Modern Showdown Top 8.

What I think I like most about this Top 8 is that it might be the most perfect representation of Modern right now possible. Spirits has been riding high as of late and just took down Grand Prix Atlanta cementing its spot as the go-to disruptive creature deck in the format. Spirits, along with Rashid’s Shadow deck and Oyen’s Infect deck give us a good look at just how powerful a fast clock and some disruption can be in Modern.

Then there’s Ryan Sandrin and his baby Dredge. Dredge has picked up a lot in popularity with the addition of [Card]Creeping Chill[/Card]. I chose to play B/G Rock, as I usually do. That said, I do think it’s the deck I would recommend to anyone trying to play fair and take their time in a format filled with unfair decks that like to go fast. [Card]Assassin’s Trophy[/Card] is the real deal, and [Card]Tireless Tracker[/Card] is just as busted as it’s always been.

With his win on Sunday, Taimur cements his spot in the upcoming Ultimate Showdown and the next Regional Pro Tour Qualifier, while the rest of our Top 8 have begun their march up the leader board to qualify. This upcoming weekend at Face to Face Games Toronto is going we’ve got a Legacy Sunday Showdown. Get those [Card]Brainstorm[/Card]s packed, make sure to pre-register and come out to battle!

First Place, Taimur Rashid- Grixis Death’s Shadow

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Death’s Shadow
4 Street Wraith
4 Gurmag Angler
3 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
3 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Faithless Looting
3 Serum Visions
3 Stubborn Denial
3 Thought Scour
2 Dismember
4 Thoughtseize
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Fatal Push
2 Temur Battle Rage
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Swamp
1 Island
2 Blood Crypt
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
2 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Stubborn Denial
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Abrade
2 Grim Lavamancer
1 Fatal Push
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Kolaghan’s Command
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Second Place, Lucas Worrell – Bant Spirits

[Deck]
[Creatures]
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Selfless Spirit
4 Rattlechains
4 Supreme Phantom
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Drogskol Captain
4 Spell Queller
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Path to Exile
4 Collected Company
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Flooded Strand
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Windswept Heath
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Breeding Pool
2 Temple Garden
1 Moorland Haunt
4 Botanical Sanctum
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Forest
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Worship
2 Unified Will
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Damping Sphere
1 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
1 Tormod’s Crypt
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Third Place, Keith Capstick – B/G Rock

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tireless Tracker
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Fatal Push
4 Assassin’s Trophy
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
2 Collective Brutality
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Bloodstained Mire
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Hissing Quagmire
2 Treetop Village
3 Field of Ruin
2 Overgrown Tomb
3 Swamp
2 Forest
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Leyline of the Void
3 Fulminator Mage
2 Damnation
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Nissa, Vital Force
1 Collective Brutality
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Fourth Place, Tyrel Wildman – Amulet Titan

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Primeval Titan
4 Sakura Tribe Scouts
4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Worldbreaker
1 Walking Ballista
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Pact of Negation
4 Summoner’s Pact
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Explore
4 Ancient Stirrings
3 Adventurous Impulse
4 Amulet of Vigor
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Forest
4 Simic Growth Chamber
3 Gruul Turf
1 Boros Garrison
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
3 Gemstone Mine
3 Tolaria West
1 Vesuva
1 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Slayer’s Stronghold
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Khalni Garden
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Radiant Fountain
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Abrade
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Spell Pierce
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Ruric Thar, the Ubowed
1 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Firespout
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
1 Hornet Queen
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Fifth Place, Ryan Sandrin – Dredge

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Shriekhorn
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Narcomoeba
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Blood Ghast
1 Golgari Thug
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Life of the Loam
4 Cathartic Reunion
4 Creeping Chill
4 Faithless Looting
3 Conflagrate
1 Darkblast
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Arid Mesa
1 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 City of Brass
3 Copperline Gorge
1 Gemstone Mine
2 Mountain
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Stomping Ground
1 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Thoughtseize
2 Lightning Axe
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Vengeful Pharaoh
1 Darkblast
3 Nature’s Claim
2 Ancient Grudge
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Sixth Place, Chris Flink – Ad Nauseum

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Simian Spirit Guide
1 Laboratory Maniac
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Ad Nauseum
4 Angel’s Grace
4 Phyrexian Unlife
4 Serum Visions
3 Sleight of Hand
3 Spoils of the Vault
3 Pact of Negation
1 Echoing Truth
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Pentad Prism
1 Lightning Storm
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Temple of Deceit
2 Seachrome Coast
2 Darkslick Shores
4 Gemstone Mine
2 City of Brass
1 Nephalia Academy
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
2 Path to Exile
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Thoughtseize
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Wear//Tear
1 Swan Song
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Seventh Place, Paul Xu – Bant Spirits

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Drogskol Captain
2 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Rattlechains
2 Reflector Mage
2 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller
4 Supreme Phantom
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Collected Company
2 Path to Exile
3 Aether Vial
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Botanical Sanctum
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cavern of Souls
3 Flooded Strand
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Dromoka’s Command
1 Settle the Wreckage
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Worship
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Eighth Place, Andrew Oyen – Infect 

[Deck]
[Creatures]
1 Spellskite
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Mutagenic Growth
3 Might of Old Krosa
3 Groundswell
2 Become Immense
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Blossoming Defence
1 Distortion Strike
1 Spell Pierce
1 Rancor
1 Slip Through Space
1 Apostle’s Blessing
2 Dismember
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Windswept Heath
1 Dryad Arbor
3 Forest
2 Breeding Pool
2 Pendelhaven
4 Inkmoth Nexus
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Distortion Strike
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Dissenter’s Deliverance
1 Pithing Needle
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Spellskite
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Spell Pierce
2 Slayer’s Stronghold
1 Wild Defiance
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]