Given my poor Standard performance in Columbus this weekend, I got to experience my first foray into the new Modern format at the Star City Games Classic. No Gitaxian Probes, no Golgari-Grave Trolls, and some Fatal Pushes peppered into a handful of decklists. David Ernenwein did a solid job of breaking down the published winning decklists, though I have some additional insight from the floor worth discussing.
I have some brews that I’m interested in for the new post-ban Modern, though I would be remiss if I didn’t show up with Grixis Delver at least once. It’s my baby. The changes I made from last week’s list are pretty minor, and were pretty much just based on shower thoughts the morning of the tournament. This is what I battled with:
Grixis Delver, by Ryan Overturf
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Gurmag Angler
1 Fatal Push
2 Kolaghan’s Command
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mana Leak
4 Spell Snare
4 Thought Scour
4 Serum Visions
1 Spirebluff Canal
1 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Watery Grave
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Magma Spray
1 Collective Brutality
2 Spell Pierce
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cavern of Souls
3 Fulminator Mage
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Basically, I thought that Remand was probably good again if low-CMC creatures are going to be worse. Similarly, Collective Brutality will have fewer great matchups to shine in. The card that got cut from the 75 for these changes was the second Magma Spray. In light of the Classic results—specifically the potential return of Abzan Company—it should perhaps be the second Kolaghan’s Command or the Cavern of Souls that bites it instead.
Anyway, my tournament was solidly medium. I had a great time playing and my opponents were generally great people, though I didn’t have the requisite luck to make it through a nine-round event. I actually only played eight of my rounds, as I had three losses and thought my car was ready to leave town (which they weren’t). That’s neither here nor there though. I played some sweet games, though none against any new archetypes, so I think match records offer as much information as a full tournament report would:
Round 1 – 2-0 vs. Jund
Round 2 – 2-1 vs. GW Tron
Round 3 – 1-2 vs. Grishoalbrand
Round 4 – 2-0 vs. Grixis Control
Round 5 – 0-2 vs. Bant Eldrazi
Round 6 – 2-0 vs. Affinity
Round 7 – 2-0 vs. GW Tron
Round 8 – 1-2 vs. GB Tron
My Grishoalbrand opponent was Michael Coyle, who went on to finish third in the tournament. He killed me on turn three of both sideboard games with at least one Pact of Negation as backup. Simian Spirit Guide‘s legality remains, in my opinion, laughable. The Goryo’s Vengeance decks have enough consistency issues that it makes sense that a banning hasn’t hit them yet, and I certainly don’t want to come off as salty. Michael seemed like a good dude and we had a fun match. All I’m saying is that mana monkey is a villain and its presence in the format is suspect.
The fact that I played against three Tron decks was no accident. The Top 16 doesn’t tell the full story of this tournament, and in addition to playing against Tron a bunch, I couldn’t look left or right without seeing multiple additional copies of the deck. I don’t have raw data for the tournament, but Tron was very well-represented. In this field, it’s not remotely surprising that Goryo’s Vengeance and Ad Nauseum finished so highly. Tron is a huge winner at level one with regard to the bannings, and spell-based combo does a great job of wrecking Tron.
Regarding my Tron matchup with this specific build, I was very pleased with Fulminator Mage. Many players have asked me about Molten Rain in its place, but the ability to beat down and get in more than two points of damage came up more than once in my sideboard games. The ability to cast Fulminator Mage and leave up a counter on five mana is also a lot better than Snapcasting a Molten Rain, as you end up countering a lot of tutors for lands in the matchup. As such, I prefer using Kolaghan’s Command to recur Fulminators over using Snapcaster Mage to recur Molten Rains.
The round that I lost involved my opponent having turn-three natural tron plus a Chromatic Star to cast World Breaker in game three. There’s nothing my current configuration can do about this, and if I didn’t expect more do-nothing blue control decks to be showing up, I would consider Spreading Seas for this slot. As things stand, I suppose you just accept taking an inevitable loss to the absolute nut draw. Even turn-three Karn Liberated can be countered—it’s just turn-three World Breaker that is basically unbeatable.
Grixis Delver still seems great on the whole in Modern, though the Top 16 of the Classic this weekend did have three copies of Bant Eldrazi and one copy of Dredge, which are both convincingly bad matchups. All things considered, I would say that the changes to Modern are net-positive for Grixis Delver, though if Dredge proves to be more than fringe I will be doing more experimentation in the coming months. The four Fatal Push decks are going to be put to the test by Snapcaster Mage and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and I feel good enough about my plan against Tron’s projected increase in metagame share.
Both of my GW Tron opponents had Walking Ballista in their deck, and the Triskelion variant was quite impressive. It’s a serviceable payoff when you have tron online, and is great on turn two against decks like Delver and Infect. I would expect the card to show up in small numbers in Tron going forward, and also see it as a potential tool for Affinity. The interaction with Arcbound Ravager is definitely powerful, and Arcbound Worker is champing at the bit to reappear in the deck. Expect to play against this card in the near future.
Fatal Push made its presence known this weekend, though its impact fell more in line with my predictions than notions that it would completely change the landscape of the format. Two Affinity decks and an Infect deck made the Top 16 of the tournament, and the decks resilient to Fatal Push were more successful than the Fatal Push decks themselves. The card is quite good—it just has more secondary effects than primary effects: e.g. big mana, high-CMC creatures, sticky creatures, and spell-based combo benefit more than control decks. Meanwhile, Infect and Affinity have been squaring off against one-mana removal since day one, and rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
New Tools for 8-Whack
The relative success of Affinity this past weekend is indicative of the fact that going wide quickly is another great way to win, even in the face of one-mana interaction. Robots have proven their consistent viability historically, though I believe there may be a new kid on the block in the realm of powerful go-wide aggressive decks. Burning-Tree Emissary has seen a good amount of Modern success, and I believe that Hidden Herbalists stands to add consistency and power to the explosive Reckless Bushwhacker decks.
These decks aren’t exactly my cup of tea, and I’ve only started to experiment with them. Bushwhacker Zoo decks have moved away from Goblin Bushwhacker to play more consistent and less all-in strategies, though I believe that Hidden Herbalists allows the deck to goldfish turn three-kills consistently enough to really push a narrow-minded game plan. I think that Goblin Bushwhacker still doesn’t quite cut the mustard, though I am inclined to believe that I want the full 8 Burning-Tree Emissary effects. This is where my build currently sits:
Herbalist Zoo, by Ryan Overturf
The deck is light on actual lands that tap for mana, which is fine because we’re really trying to win on turn three anyway. We need to be fetch-heavy to enable revolt, as this deck is basically unplayable without doing so consistently. The Manamorphose may look a bit odd, but we have a lot of red spells to cast after we play Hidden Herbalists, and we won’t always have a Burning-Tree Emissary to filter our Herbalists mana. This deck should handily smash Tron, keep pace with other linear decks, and be able to steal plenty of games even in the face of efficient interaction.
I’m wary of facing off against Inquisition of Kozilek into Tarmogoyf, and I expect that as I learn the ins and outs of this deck I will have to make small adaptations to handle the Tarmogoyf problem. On the play this deck will often be explosive enough for this not to matter, but you can’t always win the die roll or keep the nuts seven. Ghor-Clan Rampager, Mutagenic Growth, and my own Tarmogoyfs are on my short list of potential includes as remedies. I strongly dislike Path to Exile for this job, as I believe a narrow-minded focus on raw damage output will lead this deck to the highest win percentage. Minimally, Narnam Renegade will be able to attack with abandon due to its deathtouch. I’ll either be playing this or Grixis Delver at the upcoming SCG Regionals, though either way I am very excited for this event and the future of Modern.
Whelp, as I mentioned last week, this will be my last regular article on Modern Nexus. Thanks again to everyone reading, and special thanks to everybody who commented last week. Don’t let anybody tell you that spreading positivity doesn’t matter. I appreciate you. Good luck to all of you, in Magic and in life.
Thanks for reading.
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