What They SHOULD Have Played At PT FRF

Last week, I gave you a good history of how TeamGeist came to be, as well as talked about the direction that I think it should be headed in. I’ve had the chance to play a bunch of games with the different versions of the deck, and ultimately, there are some pretty clear decisions that have been made about what will and will not make the cut moving forward. In order to best understand these changes however, I feel like it’s pretty important to talk about how I view the deck in the first place.

What is #TeamGeist

UWR Geist is an Aggro Control deck not unlike the UB Faeries decks of old. It is designed to play mostly on the opponent’s turn, giving the pilot the ability to dictate the tempo of the matchup. Where the Faeries deck often relied on mana denial and efficient countermagic and discard, Geist relies on efficient burn and removal with tempo based counterspells and disruption, lending itself more towards the aggro spectrum. All of the threats in the deck with the exception of Geist of St Traft and the [card]Batterskull[/card] have Flash or Haste, allowing you to really put the opponent on the back foot, and close out the game before they can recover. There are a ton of different builds of this deck that exist in the community, and a number of them choose to use more reactive spells like [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Spell Snare[/card], and even [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. The #TeamGeist version however, chooses to eschew these cards in light of more tempo based counterspells and more efficient removal spells. This is not a control deck. We prefer to think of the deck more as a burn deck that gets to play sweet blue spells. In case you didn’t know, Geist of St. Traft is a red card.

How Do I Play This Deck?

Rule number one is simple. When it comes to playing Geist of St Traft,

Always Jam

There are very few scenarios where this is incorrect. Mostly on the draw vs Twin when they have 3 mana untapped, but you get the idea. There are so many decks in the format that are just cold to a resolved Geist of St Traft, especially when it is backed up by protection and burn spells. You need to remember that every point of damage counts. Why leave them on the table?

Rule number two is one that might seem a little contrary to standard Magic player habits.

Don’t Be Afraid To Give Up Some Value For The Greater Good

There is a special chart at the back of my life pad for Modern tournaments which is reserved for keeping track of a very specific metric; specifically, how many times I cast [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] on my opponent’s end of turn 2 for no flashback spell. This happens most often vs Combo or control decks, as the play will either get in 4 to 6 extra points of damage that you would otherwise not deal, or it will draw a response from your opponent allowing you to resolve a more important threat like Geist of St Traft. There also have been a number of scenarios where a [card]Restoration Angel[/card] into an open board at the end of your opponent’s turn is the correct play, even if you are trying to reserve it for a state that you could benefit from it’s ETB ability.Remember Rule number one.

Rule number 3 is a very important rule generically, and is of extreme importance here with this deck.

Know Your Role, And Do Your Homework

Modern is the format in which your experience in the format and understanding of the decks will pay off the most in a tournament setting. There was a lot of discord among the pro players that only play occasionally in the format, citing that they felt that the format is a bad one. Knowing who the beatdown is in each matchup is extremely important here, and that decision is made much easier when you understand the fundamentals of the decks you are against. Understanding what the fundamental turns of the combo decks are, and what removal or threats you will need to address out of each deck is supremely important. You need more than just a decklist on paper to have a chance in this format. Play games. Play against and with different decks. Once you know what to expect, you will be adequately prepared.

The Deck

Here is the list that we would have easily played in the PT this weekend.

#TEAMGEIST – For PT FRF

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Flooded Strand
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Batterskull
2 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
4 Remand
1 Valorous Stance
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Restoration Angel
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Vendilion Clique
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Celestial Purge
2 Counterflux
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Lingering Souls
1 Negate
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Valorous Stance
2 Wear // Tear
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

After a long period of testing, this is the list that we all came up with for this tournament. The highlights from the list are the addition of Valorous Stance and [card]Lingering Souls[/card] to the list. We initially discovered that the problem that the deck was facing before banning was the introduction of [card]Siege Rhino[/card] to the format and the ever present foil to Geist of St Traft, [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. Rhino having trample and being too large to be addressed in a one for one method without Path To Exile was a real pain for us, as most of the decks that were running Rhino were already taxing our Path To Exile effects with creatures like [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Kitchen Finks[/card], and [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. Valorous Stance is the perfect answer for us, as it neatly deals with all of the creatures that our 3 damage spells cannot reach, and it is also an instant which plays well with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. The fact that we can use the spell to prevent one of our creatures from being killed is just gravy.

Liliana of the Veil has always been a nice foil to Geist of St Traft, almost by design. The two spells have the same converted mana cost, and were both mythics in the same set. The fact that Liliana also continues to pressure your in hand resources is of extra pain to us, as inevitably, she will outpace us. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] seemed like the perfect answer for us out of the sideboard, as the Souls have great value to us both on the board and in hand, so long as we could get the flashback value somehow. A slight splash for black in the main deck was easily accomplished, and we suddenly knew we had the answers to our problems. Expecting that [card]Lingering Souls[/card] would be very heavily represented at the Pro Tour didn’t hurt our decision there either.

Why Do You Think This Is Good?

Newly minted #TeamGeist Member, and long time YouTuber Nathan Quintanilla (@GreatNate) put the PT field breakdown into a matrix and allowed us to determine our expected overall strength vs that field. We all knew that we were in a good spot, but seeing this was really eye opening.

Archetype Count % Field Match Strength Strength Index Strength vs Field
Abzan 115 28.26% 50/50 0.1412776413 55.05%
Burn 48 11.79% 50/50 0.05896805897
Affinity 28 6.88% Favored 0.04471744472
Infect 28 6.88% Favored 0.04471744472
Zoo 26 6.39% Strongly Favored 0.05110565111
Red-Green Tron 19 4.67% Unfavored 0.01633906634
Blue-Red Twin 16 3.93% Favored 0.02555282555
Scapeshift 12 2.95% 50/50 0.01474201474
Jeskai Control 11 2.70% Favored 0.01756756757
Jund 10 2.46% 50/50 0.01228501229
Storm 9 2.21% 50/50 0.01105651106
Amulet Bloom 8 1.97% 50/50 0.009828009828
Grixis Twin 8 1.97% Favored 0.01277641278
Merfolk 8 1.97% Favored 0.01277641278
White-Black Tokens 7 1.72% Strongly Unfavored 0.00343980344
Living End 5 1.23% Favored 0.007985257985
Faeries 4 0.98% Favored 0.006388206388
Jund Loam 4 0.98% 50/50 0.004914004914
Tarmo Twin 4 0.98% 50/50 0.004914004914
White-Blue Control 3 0.74% Favored 0.004791154791
Black-Green 2 0.49% 50/50 0.002457002457
Four-Color Control 2 0.49% Favored 0.003194103194
Green-Black 2 0.49% 50/50 0.002457002457
Hexproof 2 0.49% Unfavored 0.00171990172
Martyr of Sands 2 0.49% Favored 0.003194103194
Soul Sisters 2 0.49% Unfavored 0.00171990172
White-Green Hatebears 2 0.49% Favored 0.003194103194
Ad Nauseam 1 0.25% Strongly Unfavored 0.0004914004914
Bant Aggro 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Blue Moon 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Blue Tron 1 0.25% Unfavored 0.00085995086
Doran 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Dredgevine 1 0.25% 50/50 0.001228501229
Elves 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Esper Delve 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Five-Color Temur Ascendancy 1 0.25% 50/50 0.001228501229
Four-Color Zur 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Gifts Reanimator 1 0.25% 50/50 0.001228501229
Mono-Black 1 0.25% Strongly Unfavored 0.0004914004914
Mono-Blue Tron 1 0.25% Unfavored 0.00085995086
Storm Zoo 1 0.25% Strongly Favored 0.001965601966
Sultai 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Sultai Delver 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
Temur 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597
The Aristocrats 1 0.25% 50/50 0.001228501229
Through the Breach 1 0.25% Unfavored 0.00085995086
White-Red Kiki Control 1 0.25% Favored 0.001597051597

 

Any deck with a positive percentage against the actual field should be taken seriously. As you can see, #WeDidTheMath.

Against the other [card]Steam Vents[/card] decks, we feel often heavily favored. Our deck is able to play the same flash based tempo game that they are, but our trump of Geist of St Traft easily kills these opponents when it hits the table. We have a number of threats that we can deploy at instant speed, forcing the opponent to use resources to counter or remove these threats on their turn, clearing the way for us to resolve Geist and end the game after that.

Against the midrange creature decks like Zoo, Doran, and Hatebears, we are already well set up, as our removal suite lines up very well against the creatures, while theirs lines up terribly against Geist. We can become a little more controlling here if needed, as we can utilize our Explosives and [card]Lingering Souls[/card] to also help to dictate the tempo of the match.
Combo decks can be difficult to beat sometimes as we have not allowed for the coffin nail type sideboard cards, instead choosing generically good cards like [card]Counterflux[/card], [card]Negate[/card], and Wear//Tear. Some of these matches also call for [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] or [card]Celestial Purge[/card], also proving the worth of those choices.

Abzan designed in the more traditional way running lots of Rhinos, Lilianas, and [card]Lingering Souls[/card] is one of the more difficult match ups in game one, but versions running [card]Dark Confidant[/card] often fall early in game one should we draw a regular amount of our burn spells. In game two, we were forced to radically address how we approached the matchup with all of the tools that Abzan (except [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]) being so good naturally against us. Our current plan vs Abzan is as follows:

Versus Junk

Out:
-2 [card]Remand[/card]
-4 [card]Lightning Helix[/card]
-3 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]
-1 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]

In:
2 [card]Engineered Explosives[/card]
1 [card]Celestial Purge[/card]
3 [card]Valorous Stance[/card]
3 [card]Lingering Souls[/card]
1 [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]

If [card]Dark Confidant[/card] is in the list from game one, we will often prioritize some number of [card]Lightning Helix[/card] over the Remands. One brief note about Remand vs Abzan, is that with the addition of [card]Siege Rhino[/card] and [card]Lingering Souls[/card], Abzan has many fewer double spell turns than it used to. Living the dream is remanding the back half of a [card]Lingering Souls[/card], but even hitting a Rhino to time walk the opponent is perfectly reasonable. This strategy allows us to also grind as hard as Abzan does, and allows our answers to more effectively lineup with the threats we expect. Having both [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and Geist in the deck post board really puts the Abzan opponent in an awkward space, as the two cards support our game plan perfectly, while they put the universal answer of [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] in a tough spot. We are fine in a top deck war against Abzan in this configuration, as we have a number of great cards to peel off the top late in the game, like [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], or any of our 5 drop threats. Even a Geist of St Traft into an empty board can be enough, but thankfully, we have 4 copies of the best manland in the game; [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card], which more often than not closes these games in our favor.

I will be streaming this deck all month until the end of February in preparation for the SCG Modern Event in Baltimore on the 28th. I will be in attendance with fellow TeamGeist members Larry Swasey and Jason Clark, and you better bet that we all will be shooting for the top 8 together; hopefully with new tokens to sling. I’ll also have Stream Playmats for sale, so make sure you come find us and get your hands on some of this. I encourage all of you with questions about the matchups, or those of you that disagree with our evaluations, to please, come stop by the stream (www.twitch.tv/mrscottymac), leave comments here, subscribe to my YouTube Channel here or hit me up on Twitter (@MrScottyMac). I assure you, I will convince you of my assertions.