Ad Nauseam – A Primer

“Do you have a decklist or primer somewhere?”

I get asked this question pretty much on a weekly basis. When you’re known locally for exclusively playing one deck, you get a lot of cold-calls from people asking for insight. Modern has been a format for only slightly longer than I’ve played this deck in it, to the exclusion of all other decks. When you’re known as “The [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] guy”, in one of the largest Magic scenes, in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, it gets you a lot of people asking you questions.

Questions like “Why are you giving the camera that stupid face?”

I’m not saying I have all the answers. I don’t even have the most recent good results in town (that honour goes to Kevin Fang). But I do have more time spent on this deck than almost anyone else on the planet. As a result, I thought it might be a reasonable idea to write a succinct guide for the deck: Why you should play it, what its strengths and weaknesses are, how to sideboard, what to do when your wife won’t let you get the art tattooed, and so on.

Chris Flink – Ad Nauseam

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
2 city of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Island
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
2 Plains
3 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Tolaria West
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Laboratory Maniac
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Ad Nauseam
4 Angel’s Grace
1 Lightning Storm
1 Mystical Teachings
2 Pact of Negation
4 Serum Visions
1 Slaughter Pact
3 Sleight of Hand
3 Spoils of the Vault
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Pentad Prism
4 Phyrexian Unlife
1 Echoing Truth
3 Ethereal Haze
4 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Disenchant
1 Spell Pierce
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Thoughtseize

What does the deck do?

In the broadest sense, Ad Nauseam is a combo deck that attempts to win the game with the two-card combination of [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] and either [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]. The latter two cards cause you to not lose the game for being at a negative life total. [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] allows you to trade loss of life (but notably not damage, or life payment) for cards. Once you put every card in your library into your hand, you win in one of two ways. The most straightforward way is to exile three [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]s, cast [card]Lightning Storm[/card], and discard enough of the lands that are in your hand to kill your opponent. The backup win condition is to cast [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card], and follow it up with a [card]Serum Visions[/card]. As our library is empty, [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card] replaces the card draw with a win.

Okay, I understand. But why?

I know it sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through, and a lot of bad cards to play. The simplest answer is that Ad Nauseam attacks on a different axis than the majority of decks. As of publication, the four strongest and most represented decks in Modern ([card]Death’s Shadow[/card], Eldrazi, Burn/Naya Zoo, and Affinity) win the game by having the best, most aggressive creatures. As a result, most Modern players expect to have to kill creatures, and fill their decks with removal. Thankfully, since we essentially have no creatures, we blank up to a fifth of their deck. Because our game is played out primarily in sculpting our hand and developing our mana, the number of ways our opponents can interact with us are limited.

What do the individual cards do?

The cards in the deck can be sorted into four generic categories: Combo, Mana, Selection, and Protection. Some cards into more than one category.

4 [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] – Combo/Selection – Primarily used to end the game as discussed above, the five-mana Instant can also be used to draw a bunch of cards. If your life total isn’t being pressured, if you have multiple copies in your hand, or if you’re in a do-or-die situation, don’t hesitate to fire it off for its intended purpose.

4 [card]Angel’s Grace[/card]/4 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card] – Combo/Protection – Again, primarily used as a combo enabler, these spells have the built in function of extending your life total beyond its natural time frame. They each have specific uses, however. If you are, for example, at 2 life, and are attacked by 2 creatures for 3 damage each, [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] will have you finish combat at 1 life, wheras [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card] will have you finish at -4 life (and 0 Infect). Subsequent sources of damage will be dealt as though they have Infect, and while you are at 0 or less life, [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] will not positively affect your life total. Sequence your plays appropriately. Additionally, [card]Angel’s Grace[card] can help you survive your Pact triggers (see below), burn spells on your upkeep, and more.

3 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card]/4 [card]Serum Visions[/card] – Selection – The best cantrips available to us in Modern. [card]Sleight of Hand[/card] is better early, as it allows us to find a turn one [card]Lotus Bloom[/card] more easily, whereas [card]Serum Visions[/card] is better late, as it allows us to sculpt our future draws more effectively.

3 [card]Spoils of the Vault[/card] – Selection/Combo – This card is most obviously a way to find missing combo pieces cheaply and effectively. It’s a very powerful card, with many hidden strengths and weaknesses. Frank Karsten had an excellent write-up on the math of accidentally exiling all of your win conditions when casting Spoils (Spoiler: It’s approximately 7% bad, though this math didn’t account for exiling 2 or more [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]s). If you’re willing to look past this negative, the card has many other things going for it. Firstly, this deck runs a high density of Scry effects. Scrying a card to the top, and drawing it with Spoils, for a cost of 0 life, is a perfectly reasonable and frequent play. Furthermore, Spoils can be a back up win condition in this deck which is generally thought of as a one trick pony. It requires having one of [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] or [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], and either three Spoils, or two Spoils and one [card]Serum Visions[/card]. Cast [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] so you cannot lose. [card]Spoils of the Vault[/card] naming [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card]. [card]Spoils of the Vault[/card] naming a card not in your deck (my preferences are [card]Browbeat[/card] for fun, or [card]Condescend[/card] if I want to slowly and painstakingly explain the combo to my opponent). Naming a card not in your deck exiles your library. Follow this up with your [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card] and a [card]Serum Visions[/card] and you’ve won the game.

1 [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] – Selection – [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] is probably the single most powerful card in our deck. It can find either half of the combo, as well as the majority of the sideboard cards. Also, it can be flashed back, which is great in long games.

4 [card]Lotus Bloom[/card]/4 [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]/4 [card]Pentad Prism[/card] – Mana – I don’t have much to say about these except that they are mana acceleration. Casting [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] is crucial in the mirror match, but rarely ever else.

3 [card]Pact of Negation[/card] – Protection – The only real interaction we have in the mainboard, these should be used wisely. Obviously, if you are in the middle of combo-ing, use them. Otherwise, the most important skill is knowing when they should be used. As [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] and [card]Lightning Storm[/card] are both instants, you can always combo while your own [card]Pact of Negation[/card] trigger is on the stack during your upkeep. As mentioned before, you can also use extra [card]Angel’s Grace[/card]s to skip past Pact triggers.

Sideboard (They’re all Protection of one kind or another)

1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card] – Kind of a catch all against problematic permanents. Works well against artifacts and enchantments that work against our game plan, such as [card]Blood Moon[/card], [card]Chalice of the Void[/card], [card]Stony Silence[/card], [card]Worship[/card], and [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card]. It is also a good way to slow down problematic threats, such as [card]Tasigur, the Golden Fang[/card], [card]Primeval Titan[/card], and [card]Monastery Mentor[/card] tokens.

3 [card]Ethereal Haze[/card] – Comes in against the decks that, combined with their disruption, are often just one turn faster than us. Burn, Zoo, Eldrazi, Death’s Shadow, Meforlk, and Affinity all fall into this category.

4 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] – Probably the most important card in the Sideboard, and the one to which you are most likely to want to mulligan. Hand disruption is extremely problematic for this deck, and Leyline protects our first few turns while also being relatively hard to remove.

2 [card]Disenchant[/card] – Again, for those pesky Artifacts and Enchantments that mess with our game plan.

2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card] – [card]Thoughtseize[/card] serves two purposes. Firstly is in the control match up, where we need to know when it is safe to combo, or to make it safe to do so. Secondly is when are opponent has spells so problematic that simply allowing them to be cast is unacceptable. Such cards include [card]Karn Liberated[/card], [card]Scapeshift[/card], and opposing [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]s.

1 [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card] – Another card that serves multiple purposes. The primary function is to force our [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]s through countermagic, by casting Teferi on our opponents’ end steps, and untapping to cast our combo. Other, more narrow purposes for Teferi include making it impossible for [card]Living End[/card] to Cascade, acting as an emergency blocker, and attacking low loyalty Planeswalkers in control decks, such as [card]Saheeli Rai[/card] and [card]Nahiri, the Harbinger[/card].

1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card] – I originally included this card as a concession to [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. It also plays nicely as a foil to [card]Blood Moon[/card], [card]Stony Silence[/card], other Planeswalkers, pump spells from Infect, and countermagic.

1 [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] – A bit of a holdover from when Infect was more popular, [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] deals with many of the most annoying creatures in Modern, such as [card]Eidolon of Rhetoric[/card], [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card], [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card], [card]Spellskite[/card], and [card]Glistener Elf[/card].

What are Ad Nauseam’s favourable and unfavourable matchups?

Generally speaking, Ad Nauseam has mostly slightly favourable matchups, with a couple of strongly favourable, and a few unfavourable to strongly unfavourable. Let’s break them down.

Death’s Shadow – Unfavourable – +3 [card]Ethereal Haze[/card], +4 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, who shelters all[/card], -2 [card]Pact of Negation[/card], -1 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], -1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card], -1 [card]Lotus Bloom[/card], -1 [card]Mystical Teachings[/card]
Death’s Shadow is a very fast deck with a lot of hand disruption. Typically packing 10-13 discard spells (including [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]), this can be a very difficult match. After sideboard it improves a bit, with [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] and [card]Ethereal Haze[/card], but they also have access to [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] and [card]Collective Brutality[/card], which are problematic for our game plan.

Burn – Favourable – +3 [card]Ethereal Haze[/card], +3 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, who shelters all[/card], -2 [card]Pact of Negation[/card], -1 [card]Mystical Teachings[/card], -1 [card]Pentad Prism[/card], -1 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]
Burn is a fairly easy match. Their outs usually involve multiple [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card]s, or hands that play three [card]Goblin Guide[/card]s in the first 2 turns. Bring in some, but not all of your Leylines, as they can remove them with [card]Destructive Revelry[/card]. Don’t forget that [card]Ethereal Haze[/card] also prevents the damage from Eidolon triggers (except the trigger which is in response to your Ethereal Haze!)

Eldrazi Tron – Favourable – +2 [card]Disenchant[/card], +1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card], +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], +2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, who shelters all[/card], -1 [card]Lotus Bloom[/card], -1 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], -1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card], -2 [card]Pact of Negation[/card]
This match is an absolute walk, unless they [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card] your combo away, or they have enough [card]Chalice of the Void[/card]s to shut you out of the game. Bring in your [card]Disenchant[/card]s and [card]Spell Pierce[/card], and do your best to be faster than them.

Affinity – Favourable – +2 [card]Disenchant[/card], +1 [card]Slaughter Pact[/card], +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], +2 [card]Ethereal Haze[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, who shelters all[/card], -1 [card]Lotus Bloom[/card], -2 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], -1 [card]Pact of Negation[/card], -1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card]
Like Burn, this is another fast deck with little interaction. Hope to not get [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d, and Haze your way to victory. [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] can be problematic, as can [card]Stubborn Denial[/card] and [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card]. [card]Slaughter Pact[/card] and [card]Disenchant[/card] answer all these cards fairly effectively.

Bant Eldrazi – Unfavourable – +1 [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card], +2 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], +1 [card]Slaughter Pact[/card], +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], -1 [card]Pact of Negation[/card], -1 [card]Lotus Bloom[/card], -1 [card]Sleight of Hand[/card], -2 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]
The problem with Bant Eldrazi, as opposed to Tron, is the speed and interaction Bant has available. Between blinking [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card]s with [card]Eldrazi Displacer[/card]s, and countering our combo with their cheap countermagic, Bant Eldrazi has many more tools to combat us than their colourless cousin. Some number of Leylines are recommended to help protect your hand.

Abzan/Jund – Even – +4 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], +1 [card]Spell Pierce[/card], -2 [card]Pact of Negation[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card], -1 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], -1 [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card]
GB/x decks are a bit of a coin flip. They are slow but very consistent and resilient. If they see their hand disruption, you will be hard pressed to combo before you are taken out. Conversely, if they exclusively see their fair creatures and removal suite, they will likely lose on turn four without ever having made a meaningful play. Post-Sideboard games exacerbate this, as we gain access to [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], and they gain even more hand disruption.

Grixis Delver/Control – Favoured +1 [card]Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir[/card], -1 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]
These decks combine cheap, efficient threats with a strong suite of countermagic and removal. As mentioned before though, we don’t care about their removal, and their countermagic is easily overcome by [card]Pact of Negation[/card], Boseiju, and Teferi.

Scapeshift – Favoured +2 [card]Disenchant[/card], +1 [card]Echoing Truth[/card], -2 [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], -1 [card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card]
Scapeshift is a lot like Ad Nauseam. It’s a non-interactive combo deck that relies on big mana and a bunch of sub-par cards working together. That said, it’s slower than Ad Nauseam, and less effective at finding its pieces. Try not to drop to 18, don’t get hit by a [card]Primeval Titan[/card], and try to play around [card]Chalice of the Void[/card], and there should be minimal trouble.

That’s all I have to say for now about Ad Nauseam, the deck. Oh wait, I lied. A very interesting couple of Magic cards are in Amonkhet. Firstly, Gideon of the Trials. This is an especially intriguing card for Ad Nauseam decks, because it can functionally replace some number of [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]s, and it also is a card that will give us headaches if it sees regular play against us. In my limited testing (15 games against Jund), it was good but not great. I plan to start Amonkhet Modern legality with a 2-2 split with [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card], and move from there. Conversely, the card is extremely hard for us to beat, and the main board may have to shift to include a [card]Void Snare[/card] as an answer.

The second new card from Amonkhet that has piqued my interest is [card]Glorious End[/card]. I have no idea if this card is good. I have no idea if this card belongs in the mainboard, the sideboard, or in the bulk rare box at your LGS. What I do know is that it enables a lot of interesting plays. With [card]Angel’s Grace[/card] or Gideon, we can ignore the drawback, functionally making it a 3 mana time walk. Additionally, we can use it to get extra triggers out of our [card]Lotus Blooms[/card], skip past [card]Pact of Negation[/card] triggers, counter spells and Planeswalker activations, skip combats, whatever we need. The dream of blanking someone’s entire third turn, followed by comboing off is so real that I am very excited to test this card in the wild.

That’s all I have to say for now about Ad Nauseam, the deck. But this time for real.

Board Wipes and Behemoths: Titan Fall Black Green Control

I. Overview
II. History
III. Main Deck Card Choices
IV. General Strategy
V. Sideboard Card Choices
VI. Matchups
VII. Decklist

I. Overview

In the recent months since the release of Eldritch Moon, Modern has taken a shift heavily towards aggro. Jund has become two drop dot deck and moved away from its former midrange roots. Suicide Zoo has gained a very strong footing in the meta. Elves has been resurrected and Dredge has finally broke through as a real deck. We still have our usual classics; Burn, Naya Zoo, Fish and Infect. These decks have a few exploitable similarities. They all can’t handle mass removal and [card]Chalice of the Void[/card]. But we can’t just play board wipe effects and [card]Chalice of the Void[/card]; you do need an end game.

Ever since I started playing this game, many moons ago, my favourite thing to do has always been casting large expensive creatures. What follows up a board wipe extremely well? A large creature.

The whole purpose of this deck is to ramp up mana quickly with [card]Search for Tomorrow[/card], Farseek, and [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card]. On turn 3 cast a board wipe, then cast a large creature. The deck runs a high quantity of spot removal to keep the way clear for your big creatures to keep getting through to your opponent’s face.

Why should you play this? The deck starts off similar to [card]Scapeshift[/card] and Valakut decks. With no combo win condition the deck is less fragile to hand disruption and extraction effects. Running between 4 and 9 board wipe effects and 3-4 Chalice of the Void make the deck a nightmare for aggro match ups. Every creature in the deck has either some form of enter the battlefield effect or static ability that gives you value right away helping you in your midrange matches. Control decks are on the downswing right now but since most of these decks run a large quantity of 1 and 2 drops your 3 Chalice of the Void will make their game plan difficult. From testing I’ve found there is no real “bad” matchup. Just like Jund and Abzan you have a lot of matchups that are pretty 50/50. The deck is lots of fun, very consistent and is very customizable.

II. History

This started out as a heavily controlling super friends deck built around ramping up mana in a similar fashion to [card]Scapeshift[/card] then casting a Death Cloud. In a different meta this plan may work well. Unfortunately with the current meta being so aggro heavy they recover faster than you do after a Death Cloud. One land is often enough to get a threat down and start beating you down. So I had to scrap the Death Clouds. Since then the deck has made a lot of changes. There are no longer any [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card]s, no [card]Death Cloud[/card]s, no Planeswalkers. The list now plays out like Red Green Titanshift, Valakut, and Amulet Bloom.

You spend turns 1 and 2 ramping up your lands. Turn 3 you cast a wrath effect. Turn 4 we cast something big. The [card]Death Cloud[/card]s and [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card] got replaced with [card]Primeval Titan[/card]s and [card]Grave Titan[/card]s. The board wipe suite became 2 -3 [card]Damnation[/card], 1-2 [card]Languish[/card], 1-2 [card]Massacre Wurm[/card], and 1-3 [card]Gaze of Granite[/card]. Sometimes I also run a [card]Reiver Demon[/card].

III. Main Deck Card Choices

[card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card]: The deck runs a suite of 21 lands. The absolute minimum amount of lands you will have in play when you cast an [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] is 5 (2 [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card] 3 other). [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] gains so much value immediately when it enters the battlefield. You get five or more blockers and if there is any way to drop a land those blockers get bigger. If you untapped with a Primeval Titan in play those tokens go up by a minimum of +2/+2. One swing with Avenger of Zendikar and a pile of tokens can easily be lethal. 1 copy in the deck.
[card]Elderscale Wurm[/card]: In matches like Zooicide your life total becomes very small very quickly and no amount of life gain is truly relevant at that point in the game. The amount of resources they would need to expend to kill off [card]Elderscale Wurm[/card] slows them down dramatically and likely will take a few turns to get into their hand. 1 copy in the deck.
[card]Grave Titan[/card]: [card]Grave Titan[/card] is fantastic. It’s a walking piece of removal. It generates blockers. On a clear board Grave Titan kills in 2 swings. 1-3 copies in the deck.
[card]Massacre Wurm[/card]: I’ve been told multiple times to cut this card. This card has proved its worth time and time again. It kills off nearly every creature in Affinity, Hate Bears, and Burn. Every creature it kills pings your opponent for 2. I usually include it as board wipe 5-6. 1-3 copies in the deck.
[card]Primeval Titan[/card]: [card]Primeval Titan[/card] enables so many things. It finds [card]Hissing Quagmire[/card]. It finds Radiant Fountain. It finds [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]. Most importantly it ramps your lands and thins your deck. 2-4 copies in the deck.
[card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card]: Standard Creature for any ramp based deck. Blocks creatures without trample and finds you land. 4 copies in the deck.
[card]Thragtusk[/card]: I remember hating this creature back when it was in Standard. You would get your opponent just low enough to kill them on the next turn then they would play a Thragtusk and that was just enough to keep them alive. It has a pretty similar affect in Modern. Burn is getting ready for the fatal swing on turn 4 but instead you have 5 more life a decent blocker and if they kill it they still have a 3/3 to deal with. 2-4 copies in the deck.

Non-Creature Spells:
[card]Abrupt Decay[/card]: Destroys most problem cards. [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Ensnaring Bridge[/card], [card]Ghostly Prison[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and [card]Death’s Shadow[/card]. 3-4 copies in the deck.
[card]Chalice of the Void[/card]: Stops [card]Thoughtseize[/card], Path to Exile, everything in Burn, [card]Terminate[/card]. 3-4 copies in the deck.
[card]Damnation[/card]: For when you want it dead. What is it? Everything. Everything will be dead. 2-3 copies in the list.
[card]Farseek:[/card] Finds you [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card]s and [card]Swamp[/card]s. 2-4 copies in the deck depending on how many targets you have.
[card]Go for the Throat[/card]: This slot is for either [card]Go for the Throat[/card] or [card]Doom Blade[/card]. With the amount of Death’s Shadows and [card]Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet[/card]s floating around and the lack of Affinity right now Doom Blade seems bad. 1-3 copies in the deck.
[card]Languish[/card]: This is your [card]Damnation[/card] lite. It kills a lot of things without taking out your own threats. 1-2 copies in the deck.
[card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]: This is a sort of catch all. Sometimes you get value by taking out two copies most times you’re taking out 1 copy of something your other removal spells can’t hit. 1-2 copies in the deck.
[card]Murderous Cut[/card]: There isn’t a whole lot this doesn’t kill. It also has the potential to shrink your opponent’s [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s. Occasionally it becomes slightly awkward to cast but that is pretty rare. 1 copy in the deck.
[card]Putrefy[/card]: This kills nearly any creature you want and occasionally problem artifacts.
[card]Search for Tomorrow[/card]: You want this either on turn 1 or turn 3 in your hand. It’s your Standard mana ramp. 4 copies in the deck.

[card]Ghost Quarter[/card]: This kills off your opponent’s man-lands, takes them off double colours, can help you thin out your deck, slows down Tron and occasionally activates [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card] tokens. 1-3 copies in the deck.
[card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]: This lets you have extra mana without adding extra lands. This also can sometimes be a utility land. With Fish running 4 [card]Spreading Seas[/card] and up to 4 [card]Sea’s Claim[/card] These can often take their enchantments off your lands. Run 2-4 copies in the deck.
[card]Hissing Quagmire[/card]: We have man-lands in every colour combination now so we may as well use them when we can. These can be used as removal for problem creatures or to try and take your opponent’s life total to 0. Run 1-3 copies in the deck.
[card]Radiant Fountain[/card]: These often blank your opponents turn 1 [card]Goblin Guide[/card] swing. They also can be bounced back to hand with [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card] for a little more life. Run 1-2.

IV. General Strategy

This deck plays out very similar to [card]Scapeshift[/card] and Valakut/Breach lists in the early turns. If you realize early on that you aren’t winning game one you can just leave your opponent thinking you are on some weird [card]Scapeshift[/card] variant and have them mis-sideboard. Since most decks weaken their strategy game two and three this may get you a free win on game two.

Generally turns one and two are spent ramping. Turn one is either nothing or suspend a [card]Search for Tomorrow[/card]. Turn two is either [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card] or Farseek. If my opponent has a creature on the board the better choice is always [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card] so you can block and sacrifice it, not take damage and find a land.

Turn 3 depending on what has happened should either be a board wipe or a [card]Thragtusk[/card]. Against Burn it will almost always be a [card]Thragtusk[/card]. Against most creature based decks you’re going to want to drop a board wipe. This is where you want to start stabilizing.

Turn 4 we want to drop a [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. If you have lost a pile of life we get a Rot Farm and Radiant Fountain. If your opponent has man-lands still available you are going to want to find some number of [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s. If the board is entirely clear we go straight for the kill and we get our [card]Hissing Quagmire[/card]s. In the next two turns your opponent should be dead and gone.

The deck is packed with spot and mass removal which you shouldn’t have even touched up to now. All this spot removal will let you steamroll right through and finish your opponent off. If all else fails drop a wrath effect followed by another large creature.

V. Sideboard Choices
[card]Cranial Extraction[/card]: This is the answer to combo decks. Since most combo decks in Modern can’t kill before turn four, (*thanks WOTC for that policy*), and you can cast this on turn 3, you get to remove the big key piece in their deck.
[card]Radiant Fountain[/card]: This is supposed to save you from your Burn and Zoo opponents. It’s only two more life, but that two life can get you out of [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] range.
[card]Feed the Clan[/card]: Pretty much the same reason that [card]Radiant Fountain[/card]. This gets you really far out of the hole in those matchups. And since nearly every creature in the deck is over 4 power so it is often 10 life instead of 5.
Leyline of Life Force: Jeskai Nahiri isn’t a fun match. This combined with your [card]Chalice of the Void[/card] gets you through all their counterspells.
[card]Phyrexian Revoker[/card]: This turns off Nahiri the Harbinger, [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], Liliana the Last Hope, [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card] etc.
[card]Gaze of Granite[/card]: This is another board wipe. This one however doesn’t take out your creatures and it kills your opponent’s planeswalkers.
[card]Terastodon:[/card] Destroys literally anything including your opponent’s life total.
[card]Woodfall Primus[/card]: This takes out any problem permanent that is not a creature and it’s not easy for most decks to remove. If they don’t get rid of it for good the first time then it’s going to take something else out in the process.

VI. Matchups

Burn: This match can be agitating but between the [card]Thragtusk[/card]s, Chalice of the Void, and the [card]Radiant Fountain[/card]s you should be fine. [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card]s can be a nightmare for you so try to kill them on sight. Feed the Clans and the extra [card]Radiant Fountain[/card] help out. You won’t need your [card]Damnation[/card]s or your [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]s so that’s where you fit your sideboard cards in.
[card]Death’s Shadow[/card]: This match can be straight up miserable. An early Chalice of the void stops a lot of their deck’s functionality. This match you are better with a hand of 4 removal spells 2 lands and a Chalice of the Void than ramp spells. You need to keep creatures off the board since they will kill you far too quickly for a Damnation to be effective. In games 2 and 3 you want to cut the Languishes since they are next to useless in this match. You want to bring in [card]Gaze of Granite[/card], [card]Radiant Fountain[/card], and [card]Feed the Clan[/card] in games 2 and 3.

Naya Zoo: If they are on the classic version this match is a piece of cake. If they’re on the version that drops [card]Burning-Tree Shaman[/card] and [card]Reckless Bushwhacker[/card]s this gets a bit harder. Chalice is gold in this match either way but early on you want removal. Keeping as many creatures off the board as possible on turn 2 and 3 is huge. You should be able to survive until turn 4 where you can [card]Damnation[/card] or [card]Languish[/card] them then start recovering. In games 2 and 3 I would bring in [card]Radiant Fountain[/card] and [card]Feed the Clan[/card]s. Cut down on some of the non-green fatties to bring those in. Maybe bring in a [card]Gaze of Granite[/card].

Merfolk: You laugh, they cry. Abuse the Rot Farms to get rid of [card]Spreading Seas[/card] so you can keep your removal for their lords. The deck typically can’t handle more than one or two board wipes. Chalice isn’t as good here since they have [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. It will shut off their [card]Vapor Snag[/card]s and their [card]Sea’s Claim[/card] if they run it. [card]Radiant Fountain[/card] and [card]Feed the Clan[/card]s are good in the match. I would say cut the Chalices in this game.

Jund/Abzan: This match can be a little swingy. A resolved Liliana can be a problem if you don’t have the [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] ready to go. Abzan is a little more annoying since you absolutely have to get a Chalice down to stop Path. Most lists are down to only 2 [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s so that shouldn’t be a huge concern. Bring in [card]Gaze of Granite[/card], Terastodon and [card]Woodfall Primus[/card]. Cut [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] and [card]Languish[/card] since it is highly unlikely you will kill anything other than [card]Dark Confidant[/card].

Bant Eldrazi: This match is a grind. As long as you don’t make any big play errors your match should be fine. Your creatures are most often bigger than their creatures are and will win that trade. Bring in Terastodon and [card]Woodfall Primus[/card]. Maybe bring in [card]Cranial Extraction[/card] to take out [card]Reality Smasher[/card]s or [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card]s. [card]Languish[/card] and [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] are outright bad in this match.

Infect: If you lose this you probably messed up bad. Unless they have the turn 3 kill and are on the play you win this. They can’t handle the amount of removal you have. Bring in [card]Gaze of Granite[/card], [card]Terastodon[/card], and maybe the Traps. Cut [card]Elderscale Wurm[/card] and some random 1-ofs out of your cards you have full playsets of.

VII. Decklist

4 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Golgari Rot Farm
2 Hissing Quagmire
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Radiant Fountain
3 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Chalice of the Void
2 Damnation
2 Farseek
2 Go for the Throat
2 Languish
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Murderous Cut
2 Putrefy
4 Search for Tomorrow
3 Summoner’s Pact
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Elderscale Wurm
2 Grave Titan
1 Massacre Wurm
3 Primeval Titan
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Thragtusk
3 Cranial Extraction
1 Radiant Fountain
2 Feed the Clan
4 Summoning Trap
1 Gaze of Granite
1 Terastodon
1 Woodfall Primus
2 Yixlid Jailer

Winning Your Local Modern Event

So you want to win your local Modern event? Perhaps you have a Face to Face coming up soon in Moncton that you’ll be attending and want to put forward a good showing? You should prepare for these events much different than you’d prepare for a Grand Prix or higher level event, however this isn’t just a casual weekday Modern event. Today I’m going to give you some advice about how you can make this a reality.

The first piece of advice is one that almost everyone knows by now but Modern is a format where you really need to know your deck. Make sure you have a good number of reps in with your deck and understand most of the basic lines you’ll be making. The more practice you have the more you’ll see some more interesting interactions but having a strong understanding of the basics is the most important. Many games you simply need to sequence your first turns correctly including things like fetching proper lands, recognizing what deck your opponent is on and understanding a few things about how the match plays out.

Secondly, you want to try and read the field. This is much different than preparing for a Grand Prix. Don’t just open up the percentages of decks that 5-0 on Magic Online and expect a similar metagame when you show up in person. This is fine when going to a huge tournament but often real life decks won’t match the same numbers as Magic Online, especially in some areas. You need to understand what decks are going to be popular at this specific event and not in general. Playing your local weekly Modern events will give you some insight but playing more events and talking to players will generally help you understand what’s popular but maybe you’re busy and can’t make it out. Ask some locals or shopkeepers what tends be popular or winning all the time.

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to prepare for certain players in the room. Obviously you should respect all of your opponents but your events are always going to have a few very skilled players or grinders you’ll probably recognize. If your goal is to top 8 the event, stay prepared for the field but if your goal is to win the event, you’ll have to go through these folk eventually and you can hedge your deck choice to try and stay favoured versus these players.

You should also be aware that sometimes the local meta can have one deck that is a large percentage of the meta. We had a Modern PPTQ here where 18 of the 34 players were on Burn. In cases like this you may want to have access to another deck if your deck has a bad matchup against the local favourite deck. Obviously Modern is expensive but perhaps you can convince a friend to trade decks with you for the event or try to borrow something that isn’t as bad. If you’re stuck with a linear deck that has a bad matchup versus the popular deck, it’s going to be a rough day and I wouldn’t blame you for bringing a ton of hate cards or simply staying home. If you have a deck that has a reasonable matchup, don’t be afraid to tweak your numbers to gain even more of an advantage.

If you’re playing a deck with a lot of flex slots, try and make the most out of them. When most of the room was on burn, the GB/x players were quick to cut [card]Thoughtseize[/card] for [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and max out on their main deck [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] and [card]Siege Rhino[/card]s. If you have a combo or control heavy metagame you can make similar adjustments. This is the reason a lot of grinders tend to play these midrange or control decks with a lot of flexibility, because they feel like they can get an advantage by tweaking their main deck. Even if you play a linear deck, you can still do this to some extent. Some burn players know when to play [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and when to play straight RW burn. Similarly, affinity players are constantly tweaking the numbers of their cards such as [card]Etched Champion[/card] depending on what they expect to play against.

You should be in the habit of building 90-100 decks for Modern if you are able to. Now you’re not going to register any more than 75 I hope but if you can bring them to events before registering you can decide what the best configuration for the event you’re about to play. These extra cards will generally include the flex cards for your main deck and some sideboard cards that you’re unsure of are necessary. You don’t want to show up to the event with no graveyard hate because nobody is playing Dredge online and when you get to the venue, you meet a dozen Dredge players. If you have the cards on you, you can simply adapt your maindeck and sideboard accordingly. This is another big reason that getting in reps matters, so you know which cards are flexible and which are core.

When it comes to sideboarding you have a few options. Some players on the positive linear deck strategy bring a pretty boring sideboard and hope to power through with the strength of their maindeck. You see this a lot with a deck like Bogles who really only bring in a few answers to deal with their expected hate. Something like 4 [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card], 4 [card]Rest in Peace[/card], 4 [card]Stony Silence[/card], 3 [card]Unravel the Aether[/card] probably isn’t optimal but their sideboard probably isn’t too far from this. The deck has a linear strategy and knows what people are going to be sideboarding against it. Sideboarding for your opponent’s sideboard is also a good habit. Green decks used to sideboard [card]Unravel the Aether[/card] vs. Jeskai decks simply because [card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card] was so unbeatable.

When you’re playing a more flexible decks with a lot more options you need to tell yourself that you can’t come prepared for everything. Players are often too fixated on trying to have a solid sideboard plan for every deck but you realistically can’t do that in Modern. You’re going to have some matchups that are not very winnable. There’s no need to try and have an exceptional board plan for every deck. This is where reading the room is important. If there’s a few decks that only have 1 or 2 pilots, you’re just going to need to dodge them or cross your fingers if you get paired. Many players aren’t willing to admit this but it’s often correct just to give up on some matchups.

For your actual sideboard though, you only have two options for each card in your sideboard. The card needs to be either flexible or a complete knockout. Cards that only come in for one or two matchups that aren’t a complete powerhouse need to go from your deck. There’s a reason the Jund deck is more likely to sideboard a card like [card]Crumble to Dust[/card] instead of [card]Stone Rain[/card]. [card]Crumble to Dust[/card] is a huge knockout against decks like Tron or Valakut even though stone rain is cheaper and still has a useful ability. The Jund player may also wish to play a card like [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] since its must more flexible than [card]Stone Rain[/card] and some synergy in the deck with [card]Kolaghan’s Command[/card]. Ideally you can get a card that does both. A card like [card]Stony Silence[/card] I am willing to play more of than a normal sideboard card because it completely shuts down Affinity, Lantern Control, Tron, and some other nonsense decks like [card]Restore Balance[/card] or Thopter Sword. This card is very powerful but also still flexible.

Flexible cards don’t have the same power level as these hate cards but you can bring them in against a lot of decks. A few cards for me personally that have been great in this role include [card]Golgari Charm[/card], [card]Celestial Purge[/card], and [card]Anafenza the Foremost[/card]. [card]Golgari Charm[/card] has flexible written all over it but you can bring it in against a lot of decks and find a useful mode for it. It’s saved my creatures from removal, killed 26 Goblin Tokens, and destroyed a [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] all in the same tournament. [card]Celestial Purge[/card] can be great against Burn, [card]Keranos, God of Storms[/card], [card]Blood Moon[/card], or [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. Lastly, a card like Anafenza may not look as flexible as the previous two but it still is. The card’s text indicates that it’s good against graveyard strategies and it is good for that, but the card goes further than that. You can sideboard it in against combo decks to try and kill them quicker. It’s better than [card]Path to Exile[/card] vs. Ad Nauseum and puts a nice clock on your opponents. Lastly, some matchups you need to side out cards like [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Anafenza, the Foremost[/card] will always be a serviceable filler card. Worst case scenario it’s a 4/4 for 3 mana so it will never really get stranded in your hand.

So if your goal is to win your local Modern event, don’t treat it like you would a Grand Prix but don’t consider it a casual Modern event either. Really focus on practicing with your deck and having more than a 75 to work with. Play sideboard cards that matter and have a big impact on the game. Lastly, stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize. If you lose, you may be stuck playing Standard until the next good event!

Yorke on Games #29 – League Update: From Aether Revolt to Amonkhet

With Aether Revolt, we returned to the 5-7 week campaign model for league at Montreal’s Face to Face store. We wrapped up the one-day series of leagues with Kaladesh (won by Diego Santos) and C16 (won by Primo Capaldi), which-while popular-didn’t capture the epic scale and pathos that only league play can bring. Today, I’m going to discuss how this move worked out via my personal tournament report for Aether Revolt, and finish with a preview of the new Amonkhet league rules.

Aether Revolt League: A Tournament Report

As always, league began with opening 6 packs of the latest expansion and making a 60-card deck.

In my starting pool, I was delighted to find this:

Not to be confused with Tolstoy’s equally intimidating ‘Book of War and Peace’

Most of my other rares were fair to middling: [card]Oath of Ajani[/card], [card]Peacewalker Colossus[/card], and [card]Pia’s Revolution[/card]. However, I also had [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card], [card]Rishkar’s Expertise[/card], and [card]Greenwheel Liberator[/card] in the mix. Since both blue and green had low-curve creatures for Sword-wielding purposes, and blue had a [card]Trophy Mage[/card] to go find the masterpiece (effectively making a second copy of it), I went Simic for the initial build.

I swept the first three matches with ‘hard wins’, and the fourth with a ‘soft win’. An encouraging start.

Here’s a little vocabulary to help understand what I mean by these terms, which I use to keep track of my performance at tournaments (keeping in mind that ‘no significance’ matches can’t really happen in league, since with untimed rounds and self-arranged matches there are no ties or byes):

However, since I was winning all my matches, that meant I couldn’t add any new packs to my pool. Only players who lose matches may add a so-called ‘punishment pack’ of any Standard-legal set to their league pools for each loss (up to ten-then they are eliminated from the tournament on their 11th loss). Soon, I found myself outclassed and took two losses (one ‘hard’, one ‘soft’). On the upshot, I was able to open a [card]Saheeli’s Artistry[/card] and (less impressively) a [card]Sanctifier of Souls[/card]. It was time to rethink my build.

I couldn’t play anymore that week, even if I’d wanted to. Each league player is obliged to play at least 3 matches a week to stay in the tournament, but they can only play 3 matches over the minimum. Week 1 is therefore typically the busiest week, as people are excited to ‘bank’ extra matches (though they can still play each other player only once a week). As I was maxed out at 6 matches, I had to focus on redesigning my deck.
Staying in blue was a must, as [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card] had proven to be a game-winning bomb, and [card]Trophy Mage[/card] was the key to fetching my other win condition, the [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]. The Sword had fantastic synergy with both Expertises: Baral’s filled my opponent’s hands and cleared blockers for huge attacks with extra damage triggers, and Rishkar’s filled my own hand for life gain shenanigans. But the green cards in my pool, though powerful, generally lacked interactivity.

Looking to black, I had a [card]Fatal Push[/card] and a [card]Vengeful Rebel[/card] in my pool which gave me greater flexibility in dealing with problem creatures, and two [card]Renegade Map[/card]s (plus [card]Baral’s Expertise[/card]) to trigger Revolt. [card]Cruel Finality[/card] and [card]Die Young[/card] helped round off the removal package. I was ready to engage the enemy in Week 2…

The new Dimir color combination worked out beautifully. In the game against Gabriel, I remember casting [card]Saheeli’s Artistry[/card] to copy both my [card]Bastion Inventor[/card] and the [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] that was equipping it. That match ended soon after. In my grudge match against Richard, the life gain provided by my [card]Gifted Aetherborn[/card] and Sword allowed me to survive a 20-point trample attack from his [card]Aetherwind Basker[/card] and still come back to win the game. The deck was running hot, so it didn’t need fixing before Week 3.

Amir (a former fellow Team Battlezone member and one-shot ‘Resolves’ YouTube show co-host; he can be seen in Yorke on Games #9) had basically become my personal punching bag for three weeks straight, and I could tell it was wearing on him. He worried that he wasn’t going to make the Top 8 for the Megadraft finals. This was the main prize of the league: a chance to chronologically draft one pack from each Standard legal set and make a huge 60-card draft deck, to compete for the remaining packs and the league trophy. While Amir had my sympathies, at least he got improve his deck: mine had to stay the same for yet another week.

Around this time, I was quietly informed that certain players had adopted the strategy of avoiding playing me, on account of my daunting win percentile and of course THE SWORD. I mention it here because this will begin to affect my (apparently questionable) decisions in Week 5 of play.

My week of reckoning had come. I finally lost a match to Amir, having forgotten that the protection from white granted by my [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] could have removed the [card]Caught in the Brights[/card] and [card]Revoke Privileges[/card] that were detaining my creatures in the deciding game. Richard had completely leap-frogged my deck in terms of quality, and I remember having absolutely no chance against him at all. (On the other side of the league, Tim-who I never had the chance to play-became the first player to get eliminated.)

It was time for me to open some more punishment packs, and add them to my league pool. I suspected that I had made an unwise choice of sets previously in KLD and EMN, so I worked out a little algorithm for figuring out which set I should be opening, given my current build. For each Standard-legal set, I went through the visual spoiler, and assigned a value of ‘1’ for each common I would like to open, a ‘0.3’ for each desired uncommon, and ‘0.1’ for each relevant rare (ignoring mythic rares and Masterpieces in the equation). Then, I took each set’s sum and divided it by the # of cards in that set, not including basic lands. This gave me a % of expected value for opening any given pack, which made the selection process a little less arbitrary. Given the importance for my deck in opening [card]Aether Poisoner[/card]s and additional [card]Aether Swooper[/card]s to help along my improvise theme, as well as the potential to luck into perhaps another [card]Fatal Push[/card], [card]Gifted Aetherborn[/card], or [card]Trophy Mage[/card], my expected value for opening up AER was a solid 10% [a desirability score of 18.4 out of 184 possible cards], so that’s where I headed next.

In my punishment packs, I luckily got to open some on-color (albeit low-impact) rares in [card]Merchant’s Dockhand[/card] and [card]Quicksmith Spy[/card], further cementing me in blue. I had also opened multiples of [card]Prey Upon[/card], which gave my green pool some interactivity, on top of the higher raw power level it already offered over black. In the face of these developments, for Week 5 I was compelled to move out of my previously successful Dimir build and back into a modified Simic configuration. I wasn’t sure it was the right move, but I felt my deck needed to evolve somehow.

Richard put up a decent fight, but in the end I bested him. To me this served as vindication of the choice to switch colors. At the conclusion of our match, he muttered a curse that has happily yet to take effect.

Johnny, on the other hand, had artifact hate lying in wait for me: [card]Natural Obsolescence[/card] buried my Sword in game 1, when I had my [card]Aether Swooper[/card] equipped and ready to make hay in my early turns. Shortly after, his [card]Lifecraft Cavalry[/card] arrived, proving to be too much for my army of 1/1 and 1/2 creatures to stave off; I died before I could cast my in-hand [card]Trophy Mage[/card] to go find the Sword again. Game 2 was a similar rout, with Johnny showcasing more of his deck’s degenerate +1/+1 counter theme this time. At least I opened up a [card]Scrap Trawler[/card] in the resultant punishment pack, which gave me a legitimate reason to put [card]Snare Thopter[/card] back in my deck (potential Sword recursion).

It was at this point I realized that I was buying into the perception that my deck was a one-trick pony: if I got the Sword to stick, I won; if I didn’t, I lost. The whole deck-perhaps the whole league, if reports were accurate-was getting warped around this one card. I decided to comb through my deck to make it more synergistic and less one-dimensional. So began the grand Azorius experiment.

Given my knowledge that certain players were avoiding playing me, I was compelled to play everyone I could in Week 5 with my poorly-tested new deck, just trying to bank as many matches as possible in as little time as possible. I had minimal regard for the outcome of those matches, as I thought it was better to take rapid losses than to risk elimination for inactivity in future weeks, when matches would be even harder to come by due to players being eliminated. I figured that my win percentile was good enough thus far to ensure me a Top 8 position, even if I stumbled a bit.

With this mindset, I went and lost three more matches in dismally rapid succession, opening [card]Fumigate[/card], [card]Confiscation Coup[/card], and a [card]Blooming Marsh[/card] in the process. I finally came to the realization that life on the Dimir side might not have been so bad after all. Azorius had given me nothing but bad beats.

My backsliding was rewarded by a close win against Amir. Both games I won were due to the one-two punch of [card]Aether Swooper[/card] equipped with Sword, which is exactly what the deck is built to do (and not much else). After the match, I took the winner’s privilege and graciously helped him redesign his deck. I insisted he maindeck his sideboarded [card]Aid from the Cowl[/card] to take better advantage of the heavy revolt theme (the key combo of his deck was a pair of [card]Renegade Map[/card]s being recurred by a pair of [card]Renegade Rallier[/card]s).

Later the same day, I faced Richard again. I felt confident, as he had been the only player I’d been able to beat with my relatively weaker Simic build the previous week. In game 1 I was forced to mulligan down to 4 cards, but still managed to give him a decent amount of resistance. I was much more confident going into game 2, however Richard curved out beautifully, ramping into two [card]Ridgescale Tusker[/card]s in turns 4 and 5, buffing his whole team far beyond my deck’s ability to deal with it. I opened a punishment pack filled with [card]Fatal Push[/card], an irrelevant [card]Release the Gremlins[/card], and… well…

I’m probably on a government watch list now simply for Googling this image

Masterpiece #2!! I had opened 15 packs for this league, and got a statistically incredible 2 Masterpieces in my pool. This meant that my rate of opening masterpieces was 13% per pack, well over the average odds of 0.7%. With so many Masterpieces in my league deck, I was ready to petition UNESCO to have it declared a World Heritage Site. I trolled our Facebook league discussion thread by stating as much.

In a 60-card Limited deck, I had two Modern-format staples, five ways to get additional draws, one way to tutor a Masterpiece directly, one way to recur them from the graveyard, and one way to copy them on the battlefield. Assuming I didn’t draw one in my opening hand, every subsequent draw would yield a roughly 15% chance of getting one, or at least produce an intermediary step in delivering one to me. I was pumped to try this new build out.

I would never get the chance to do so. The week that I bookended my league experience by opening my second Masterpiece was the same week that the main tournament abruptly ended. Sufficient eliminations had taken place to cut to the Top 8 and the MegaDraft finals. (As it turned out, the tuning of Amir’s deck had gone too well, and he had taken out Richard later that evening; which ended things earlier than expected.)

Here’s what my own personal ‘health bar’ looked like at the end of the action:

In the MegaDraft finals-the BFZ-OGW-SOI-EMN-KLD-AER draft after the main tournament-I cobbled together a sloppy Orzhov mash-up featuring [card]Stone Haven Outfitter[/card], some equipment, and a weak vampire tribal theme. It flopped horribly. I lost my first round to Johnny Mariani with his Simic good stuff deck, who eventually won the whole tournament. It was like trying to beat back an avalanche with a dishrag. I was lucky to claw out 4th place overall.

Johnny, looking deservedly smug with his beautiful league trophy

Amonkhet League: Looking Ahead

The Aether Revolt league was a lot of fun-it was probably the most enjoyable league I’ve organized at Face to Face so far. And not just because of what I opened, but also because of the high level of friendly yet competitive play across the board, and how the final constitution of the Top 8 was impossible to predict until the very last moment of play. The weekly standings were a puzzle that we as a group tried to individually and collectively crack for the six weeks it took to play itself out.

Other players seemed to feel the same way, as in an online poll the vast majority voted to keep the ruleset exactly the same for Amonkhet league, with one small tweak: less harsh penalties for underplay. In the past, people who failed to make their minimum number of league matches were summarily eliminated: starting with Amonkhet league, underplay will be penalized with match losses up to the minimum number of matches the player ought to have played (we call this the ‘Johnny rule’, since the change was his suggestion).

The full ruleset can be found below. It should answer any questions new players might still have about the format. Hope you’ll join us for Amonkhet league, which launches at 10am on April 30th, 2017, at Face to Face Games Montreal!

1) Player registration. The start date for the Amonkhet league is 10am, Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at Face To Face Games Montreal. The registration fee is $30, which includes prizes and the price of the six packs of the starting card pool, payable at the store counter. No matches played before that date will count towards the final results. New players may join the league until May 10th, with the understanding that outstanding matches not resolved by 5pm Sunday, May 14th will count as losses.

2) Deck construction. Upon joining the league, players will open 6 boosters of Amonkhet to make their league card pool. Only cards in this pool, and basic lands, are legal for league play. There is no trading of league cards allowed for the duration of the league. Players will construct a 60-card deck from their league pool. The maximum number of copies of any card in a league deck is 4 (not including basic lands). Card pools will be registered on a checklist, which will then need to be checked and signed by another league player before being deposited at the league drop-off box at the counter of Face To Face Games (this should also include a player’s email address in order to receive essential league updates). If at any time a player is discovered to be using cards from outside their league pools in their league matches, they will be considered eliminated from the league and forfeit any prizes they would have earned.

3) Playing matches. Players are required to play at least 3 minimum best-of-three game matches per week, up to a maximum of 6-but never more than 3 in excess of the current minimum required number of matches for league players. This means that in Week 1, the maximum total number of permitted matches for any player is six; in Week 2, nine matches; Week 3, twelve matches, and so on. Players are not permitted to play against the same opponent more than once per week. Players who fail to reach the minimum number of matches per week will be penalized with match losses for any missing matches, starting at the end of Week 2. Players who exceed their maximum number of matches per week, or who play against the same opponent more than once in a week, will have those matches struck from their record, opened cards related to those matches deleted from their league card pool, and will be issued a warning. If a player’s overplaying behavior is not corrected after one warning that player will be considered eliminated from the league and forfeit any prizes they would have earned. Similarly, unsportsmanlike or other abusive play will not be tolerated in the course of playing league matches, and a player engaging in such behavior will either be issued a warning or be immediately eliminated, depending on the severity of the behavior.

4) Reporting matches. The winner must complete a match report slip (available at the Face to Face store counter), indicating the winning and losing players’ names, the date, the match result (e.g.: 2-1 / 2-0), and the cards contained in the pack opened by the loser, as witnessed by the winner. Match reports must be put in the league drop-off box at the store before the 5pm deadline on the Sunday of each week to count toward the current week’s minimum play requirement. The loser of each match must take a ‘punishment pack’: that is, the loser must open an unopened Standard-legal booster pack in the presence of the winner, and add the contents to their league card pool, which the winner records. Before the loser’s next match, they may use these new cards to improve their deck. The maximum number of punishment packs that can be added to any player’s league pool is 10. Records of all league match results for each week of play will be published via the Facebook group and/or email list, along with a list of remaining players, and those players’ win percentiles to date.

5) Player elimination. When a players loses their 11th match, they are eliminated from the tournament (a match report slip must still be filled in by the winner, indicating the loser’s elimination). Players who do not play their minimum number of matches will automatically take losses (without punishment packs) until they reach that minimum: these auto-losses will count towards a player’s total number of permissible match losses.

6) Optional formats. Optional formats, such as ‘Two-Headed Giant’ and ‘Best-of-Five Games’, are supported for regular league matches as well, if agreed upon by both players in advance and use only cards from the players’ league pools. Players must indicate on their match report slip if they decided to play an optional format.

7) Top eight. League winners are determined by elimination. When only eight players remain in the tournament, we will move to the league finals event (in the event of multiple players being eliminated during the same week resulting in less than 8 players remaining, tie-breakers will be decided first by [A] total # of games won, and then [B] total # of 2-0 records if necessary). The precise date of the finals is decided when a consensus is reached or, if this is impossible, a date is approved by a 75% [6/8 player] supermajority of the Top 8 (any other proposed in-tournament alteration to the ruleset may be approved by the same percentage of players). In the finals, the top eight players will retire their league decks and receive a free MegaDraft, drafting one 1 booster from each standard-legal set (alternately passing packs left, then right). No seeding will occur; seating and pairings will be randomized. Players will build a new 60-card deck from their MegaDraft pool and play three best-of-three Swiss rounds to determine their ultimate ranking in the tournament. Players unable to attend the finals can pick up their draft sets at the store counter at a later time; however they will be given auto-losses in their matches and will not be eligible for additional prizes or higher ranking.

8) Final prizes. The Amonkhet league sponsor, Face To Face Games Montreal, has offered a prize pool of 2x boosters for each participating player + 24 packs toward the final MegaDraft in the league finals. Most of these packs will go to providing the cards for the MegaDraft; the remainder will be distributed among the top eight players according to their final rankings [in a 6:4:2:2:1:1:1:1 ratio, or as close as possible].