March 24th FNM

March 24th FNM

Buongiorno fellow nerds! Tis another typical week at the salt factory. I attended my LGS Jack’s on Queen as per usual. They ran both a Standard and Modern event, and as per my current feeling about standard I decided to play modern. This week I finally understood how to play Ad Nauseam.  This week I had the added benefit of having access to two copies of Pact of Negation which help me combo off when I have zero mana available. Let’s go!

Round 1; Win in 2 vs Mardu Burn

Image result for new goblin guide art

 

My first opponent of the evening is, I’d like to consider, a good friend of mine. Every game we play against each other is awesome. Game one I hit Phyrexian Unlife, and my opponent took me to zero life, and then brought me to three infect counters. For game two I sideboarded two copies of Blind Obedience and two copies of Vapor Snag. I managed to stick a Blind Obedience, but I was stuck on two lands. My opponent proceeds to blow my face off with burn spells and single copy of Goblin Guide. I had two lands, a Pentad Prism with two charge counters, and two Lotus Blooms in suspend with two suspend counters remaining. In my hand is Ad Naus, Pact of Negation, Simian Spirit Guide, and Phyrexian Unlife. I am at five life when I pass the turn to my opponent. “Pretty sure it’s over” he says confidently as he directs a Lightning Bolt at my face. With his lone Guide, and the bolt I was dead, however out of sheer persistence and the idea of not being able to pay for the Pact at my upkeep I decided to counter the Bolt. My opponent swung with his Goblin Guide and took me to three, and then passed back to me. Untap, upkeep, Pact trigger is placed on the stack. My opponent is about to scoop when it hits me. Put the suspend triggers on the stack, each Bloom ticks down to one. Discard the Spirit Guide and remove two counters from the Pentad Prism, tapping my only two lands for the remaining mana I needed to total five and pay for the Pact of Negation. Here in lies the issue; I am at three life, completely tapped out, and facing down a burn player with no cards in his hand. I pass the turn and he draws, he then proceeds to windmill slam a Monastery Swiftspear. BUT AHA! THANKS TO THE BLIND OBEDIENCE IT ENTERS THE BATTLEFIELD TAPPED! My opponent swings with his Goblin Guide taking me to one life, and then passes. I untap, upkeep, trigger Lotus Blooms and my opponent just utters “oh no”. I cast both of them and draw my card for turn. During my first main phase I sacrifice both blooms generating six black mana, I tap my lands for a blue and a white. I cast Phyrexian Unlife using the blue, white, and one of the black. I then use the remaining five black to cast Ad Nauseam and Lightning Storm my opponent to death.

Round 2; Win in 2 vs Death’s Shadow

Image result for death's shadow

My deck strongly favours the slower starting non-blue decks, and this is the kinda thing that I feed on. Game one and game two were both very similar in the sense that my opponent dropped a Tarmogoyf on turn two and proceeded to chip me away all the while I was establishing my combo. I didn’t really sideboard anything as this is a really decent match up for me. However during game one I did have to cast a few copies Angel’s Grace on my opponent’s turn to keep him from killing me, but I did manage to Lightning Storm my opponent to death.

Round 3; Win in 3 vs Bant Eldrazi

Image result for spellskite art

I’ve always wondered how this match up would go, and today I found out the hard way. I kept a decent hand, but apparently my opponent is playing a main board ace in the hole, Spellskite. I looked at it, thought about it, and scooped. My opponent was openly confused at my turn two scoop. The deck is stream lined for game one, the only win con in the list right away is Lightning Storm. I am also lacking the one of Slaughter Pact which the list requires. For sideboard I brought in Laboratory Maniac and Vapor Snag to push through Spellskite for the win. Game two I managed to Storm my opponent before the could stick Spellskite and game three I managed to win off of Laboratory Maniac. I am in desperate need of the Slaughter Pact, you know, to ensure that I don’t have to concede whenever my opponent casts a Spellskite.

Round 4; Loss in 2 vs Grixis Control

 Image result for snapcaster mage art

For every good run comes a straight up kick in the teeth. These games were quite reminiscent of the mono-blue fairies list that I ran into a couple of weeks ago. This deck was crippling. Remand, Mana Leak, and Cryptic Command, all being brought back by Snapcaster Mage ensured that I never cast Ad Nauseam once. Brutalllll.

Conclusion

We went 3-1 on Friday and managed to snag first! One of our prize packs contained a foil Fatal Push which is priced around 40 dollars Canadian. I managed to scrounge together enough trade credit to treat myself with a new foil Cavern of Souls. I am in love with this new art and the card went straight into the B/W Eldrazi list.

Image result for new cavern of souls

Until next time; keep slinging spells, tapping the cards and most importantly, stay salty my friends!

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Spirit Control Deck Tech

Spirit Control Deck Tech

Hello saltlings! I was unable to attend my weekly FNM at Jack’s on Queen due to work constraints, so instead I’m going to do a short standard deck tech!

Last weekend I Head Judged a GPT for Montreal at Jack’s on Queen. I had the opportunity and privilege to watch local competitors go head to head with a variety of decks. Sure there were a few copies of Mardu Vehicles, but the list that stood out was the opposite of Vehicles. Vehicles is a list that is almost all creatures, with removal splashed in. The list I had my eye on was a combination of blue and white, and the only creature in the list was a three of Sphinx of the Final Word.

Sphinx of the Final Word

I watched this bird/man/lion close out games pretty convincingly once it hit the board on turn seven. My only quam with the list was that it didn’t manage to close out the game on a regular basis. One game I saw the pilot had played a Sphinx early on but it was cleared out via board wipe. However, once the first one was gone, the bottom two were in the last seven cards of his library. I felt deep down that this player was onto something, so I took a play from his book but decided to lower the creature curve a little.

Azorius Spirit Control

So in order to close out the game a little bit faster than the Sphinx counter part, I opted to go with smaller flash induced spirits.

Mausoleum Wanderer

The first of these ghostly goobers is Mausoleum Wanderer. This Cursecatcher type spirit is a little upgrade than its’ fishy counterpart. Not only does the wanderer have flying, it also had a triggered ability. Whenever another Spirit enters the battlefield under your control, Mausoleum Wanderer gets +1/+1 until end of turn. The activated ability counters an instant or sorcery unless the spell’s controller pays x, where x is the Wanderer’s power.

Rattlechains

The second and one of the most useful Spirits in the deck. Rattlechains‘ enter the battlefield ability gives another Spirit hexproof. It also gives all of my Spirits flash, which is so good when attempting to counter things with Wanderer, or stopping board wipes with the help of our next Spirit.

Selfless Spirit

This little nugget is pretty good when it comes to chump blocking, as well as preventing board wipes from taking you out of the game. Selfless Spirit can be flashed in with Rattlechains in order to perform some pretty sneaky counter plays.

Spell Queller

Probably the best spirit ever printed, Spell Queller is the best at flashing in at the right time and taking your opponents’ Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Spell Queller eats everything that is relevant in the current standard meta right now so it’s definitely a solid pick up.

DisallowHorribly AwryVoid Shatter

The counters in this deck are quite nice. I’m a huge fan of Horribly Awry as it deals with a majority of the prime threats in standard at the current moment. Anything that doesn’t get picked off by the above counter spells will be stopped by Negate.

Blessed AllianceImmolating GlareStasis Snare

Counter spells are blue, removal is white. Using Stasis Snare and Immolating Glare as targeted spot removal and Blessed Alliance as a shortcut around indestructible or hexproof creatures, this deck is pretty effective at removing threats. I’m still toying with the idea of Declaration in Stone, let me know what you think in the comment section below!

AnticipateGlimmer of GeniusBlighted Cataract

We need to dig for the answers. I’m using the typical Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius as card draw engines. I decided to run two copies of Blighted Cataract as additional card draw engines later in the game.

Well that’s all she wrote folks! Until next time, enjoy some Modern Masters 2017, and stay salty my friends.

March 10th FNM & The WotC Bans

March 10th FNM & The WotC Bans

Modern Tho…

That special time of the week again! Driving out to Elmvale on a magical Friday night to jam some cardboard crack with my friends! This week I had something a little special in place for the folks at Jack’s on Queen. For the past month or so I’ve been ranting and raving over the Snow-Mentals deck, but through multiple play time online I discovered something, it’s pretty darn bad. However, I made a miraculous discovery whilst rummaging through my brother’s card collection for goodies. It was an old deck box, a deck box that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I flipped it open and what did I see staring back at me? The eyes of a combo deck, a combo deck so despised that people just scoop at the sheer sight of the namesake of the deck….AD NAUSEAM…

Now for those of you ‘modern virgins’ out there let me give you a crash course on how the deck works. The namesake of the deck Ad Nauseam was printed in Shards of Alara and it didn’t see much play in its’ standard day, but in modern, with cards like Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife, this allows one to draw their entire library. Once you have your entire deck in your hand, you discard three copies of Simian Spirit Guide and cast Lightning Storm, at this point you ditch all the land in your hand to OTK (One turn kill) your opponent.

Round 1; Loss in 3 vs Mono-Blue Fairies

You want to know what is the worst possible match up for a combo deck? A deck with literally all of the answers. Game one I got countered every play I made, it was a nightmare. Game two was hilarious. So the deck runs twenty lands and I didn’t realize it, stupid me. Lightning Storm deals a base of three points plus x where x is the number of charge counters on it. GUESS WHAT GUYS, AT THE CURRENT POINT AT WHICH I AM WRITING THIS BLOG I REALIZED I WAS READING LIGHTNING STORM WRONG!!! I thought that you ditched one land to add one counter, APPARENTLY IT ADDS TWO COUNTERS. THIS WILL BE RELEVANT LATER. I managed to combo off game two and take it. Game three I just got completely countered out.

Round 2; Win in 3 vs Mardu Burn

Playing against my good ol’ pal in round two. I think I’ve got a pretty decent match up against burn as I can drop Phyrexian Unlife and force my opponent to do an additional eleven points of damage to me. Game one I did as such, dropped Unlife and managed to combo off. Game two I never had such luck and was brutally beaten by a gang of Goblin Guides and Monastery Swiftspears. Game three I stuck an Unlife and took my opponent down after they took a mulligan to six. I was able to capitalize on the lack of burn and combo kill!

Round 3; Loss in 3 vs Super Friends

So this is where the freak out in round one comes in. So not only did I cast Ad Nauseam before Angel’s Grace, which isn’t allowed, I also didn’t read Lightning Storm properly. I thought the card quite mediocre, to my understanding, discarding a land merely added one charge counter to the spell, while in reality it adds two. So when I realized the deck only ran twenty land I thought I could only play three lands and had to keep the other seventeen in my hand. Regardless, I took my opponent to three, even after discarding seventeen lands. Game two I managed to win, some how, I can’t even remember. What I do remember is game three. On my opponent’s turn four he played Doubling Season. He had Leyline of Sanctity out so I could not throw a storm at his face, so I dropped Laboratory Maniac and passed the turn back. If I were to untap, I had the Ad Nauseam/Angel’s Grace combo in my hand, but alas it was not meant to be. My opponent cast Jace, Architect of Thought and since Doubling Season also doubles planeswalker loyalty as they enter, he ulted immediately. My opponent went through my deck and played a copy of my Unlife, he went through his and played a second Jace. He then ulted again and cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from his library, and I scooped. He would have taken an extra turn off of the cast trigger, and then annihilator six would have wiped my board.

Round 4; Bye

I hate having byes. I come to play Magic, and when an odd number of players show up, there is nothing one can do. I just walked around and spectated other matches until the round was over.

Conclusion

Now if I knew how the deck was supposed to work I probably would have done much better. But considering the entire night I was refusing to play lands so that I had enough damage to kill for sure restricting my ability to play. I also desperately need a couple copies of Pact of Negation and a single Slaughter Pact, to ensure that my combo actually goes off, and to deal with little pests like Spell Skite

Ban Hammer Time

Ok, so can we talk about the Felidar Guardian in the room? The current standard competitive meta is the most boring thing. Standard as a whole right now is revolving around three primary decks; G/B Constrictor, Copy Cat, and Mardu Vehicles. Each of these lists has their own strengths and weaknesses, however the dominance of these decks has pushed every other tier two or lower deck to the nether regions of competitive play. Now let us talk about the whole MORE BANS situation. WotC announced that they were going to be doing bans a week after a new standard set prereleases, and five weeks after every Pro Tour.

Last time the ban hammer took a swing it took out Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and the most hated card in standard history Reflector Mage. The reasoning behind the bans were as follows; “Emrakul faced too little resistance and ended games too easily. She was the world-ending, all-powerful monster she was in the story, which was too much for Standard.” this is a direct quote from their Restricted and Banned Announcement on January 9th, 2017. This is a valid statement and Emrakul was a little too strong. “Simply put, Smuggler’s Copter is too efficient and shows up in too many decks, diminishing the format’s diversity.” another direct quote. You want to know what other card is too efficient and shows up in too many decks? Walking Ballista and Heart of Kiran. Now the thing that kills me is in the article, WotC states that Reflector Mage combos too well with Collected Company. But having one of your creatures bounced is hardly game ending, you want to know what is game ending? The combination of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. WotC has even stated that this was an oversight in R&D and that they had no intention of printing an infinite turn four kill in standard, nevermind the same block. But saying sorry with no intentions of a fix? Why bother saying sorry at all?

However, there is something in the article that slightly irks me. WotC says that they have no intention of banning anything because they deem a three-deck format as “healthy”. They go on to say that they saw the “rise of Temur Tower” at GP Utrecht and how it will join the “upper echelon”. If one does a simple google of ‘GP Utrecht top 32 deck lists’ one will find that only three copies of Temur Tower were in the top 32, as opposed to thirteen copies of Mardu Vehicles, nine copies of G/B, and three copies of Copy Cat. At GP Barcelona there was one copy of Temur Tower in the top 32, but was crushed by nine Copy Cats, twelve Vehicles, and six assorted G/B lists. I would prefer to call Temur Tower a ‘blip’ on the standard radar compared to these commanding giants. For example, there were more copies of Aetherworks Marvel decks in the top 32 at GP Barcelona than Temur Tower lists. Even taking a quick skim of the top 32 lists from GP New Jersey this past weekend, one can see only three Temur Tower lists made top 32.

 

Well that’s plenty salt for one post. I hope y’all can agree to some extent that something in standard needs to change. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, stay salty my friends.

 

Modern Masters 2017

Modern Masters 2017

What Masters?

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple weeks then let me fill you in on a little something…. WIZARDS OF THE COAST HAS LOST THEIR MINDS. A month and a bit after WotC denounced Modern as a format, they produce the greatest money machine of all time. Modern Masters 2017 is the culmination of all the great stuff that us modern players want in our lives. It’s a magical Christmas set. This set will be opened like crazy, so if you are on the bubble about throwing together a modern list, it’s the best time to do so.

Why Modern?

But why should you, random player, build an eternal format deck? Because it’s eternal. The great thing about modern is that the cards never rotate, so you can take your time in putting the deck together. I had been working on my original B/W Eldrazi list for about a year, and I’m still looking to optimize it. But there in lies the beauty of modern, I can take my time. In a rotating format like standard it seems like a rush to break the format, and get all the best cards, and then build the best deck while you can before it rotates.

Another great thing about Modern is the diversity. I don’t know about you, but I personally can’t stand playing against the same decks over and over again. The deck diversity in modern is so good, people often complain about it. As an example, if we look at the last three Star City Games Standard Opens, there are three decks that exist; Saheeli/Cat Combo, Mardu Vehicles, and a combination of G/B Aggro decks. These three decks act as a sort of rock paper scissors at times, where in Vehicles beats Saheeli, Saheeli beats G/B and G/B beats Vehicles. Sure this isn’t 100% of the time but these are the better match ups. Not only does this make somewhat boring Magic to play, but it also makes for boring Magic to watch. The casters they get for these televised events are pretty good, but there are only so many ways they can narrate a vehicles mirror before it gets absolutely dry. I would not like to turn your attention to the last three SCG Modern Opens. Out of all three Top 8’s, there were five copies of Death’s Shadow, four copies of Grixis Control, three copies of Bant Eldrazi, and the rest were all one ofs. Not only does deck diversity make for great playing, but it also makes for great spectating.

Modern is currently in the best state it ever has been, and it’s never too late to DELVE into the awesomeness.

Where to Start?

Ok, have I convinced you? Good, let’s begin. The format of modern is a big place, and you have to remember that looking for the best deck is not necessarily the way to go, as with modern there is no definitive “best deck”. If I could be honest, the best thing to do is find a list that looks interesting, and then use some sort of online simulator to test your games out, like untap.in. Doing this can prevent the dreaded “oh I finally put a deck together, played it, and I don’t like it” scenario.

This is where the diversity of modern shines, it has something for everyone. Enjoying blitzing your opponent with hastey one drops and then finishing them with burn? Play Boros Burn. Enjoy lowering your life total to play a one drop creature that has eight power and eight toughness? Death’s Shadow is your list. Do you enjoy monotonously sitting around, slowly killing your opponent and forcing a draw? Looks like you’re going to want to play Lantern Control. Want to have no friends? You’ll probably enjoy 8-Rack. Modern is a format in which any play style can be competitive and fun as well! Well, except maybe 8-rack…

Let’s Get Started!

So now you’re all set, you’ve picked your deck, where are you going to play? Well if you live in the Simcoe County area, Jack’s on Queen holds Modern and Standard based Friday Night Magic. They are also holding Modern formatted Grand Prix Trials throughout the upcoming months for Grand Prix Montreal and Grand Prix Vegas. Check out their Facebook for details.

In addition to these, Face to Face Games hosts huge competitive rules enforcement level events called Face to Face Opens! These large events are held at Seneca College in Toronto and usually host around 160-200 players. The next one is approaching awfully quickly, as it is March 18th. If you are available to attend this event I highly suggest you do so. I’m proud to say that the Head Judge for the event is a very good friend of mine, and also my judge dad, Jason Malott. Jason’s love for the game runs deep, and he was my inspiration for pursuing the life of a Magic judge. I unfortunately am slated to work that day, but I will be with him in spirit!

Drafting the Beast

Modern Masters 2017 is releasing March 17, and a majority of stores are holding drafts for the event. I have a few tips for drafting this monster of a set.

Step 1; Don’t go in blind

When the first Modern Masters set came out in 2013 I had only ever played standard, so I was completely green to the concept of ‘modern’. So I sat down at my LGS and proceeded to draft my first packs of Modern Masters. It was a pretty chill event, just a couple pals chilling playing draft. So here’s me, flipping through the cards of my first pack, I had a game plan in mind but I didn’t know what any of the cards in the set were. I get to the uncommons and see this four drop 4/4 flier by the name of Tower Gargoyle, and if there is anything I know about drafting, flying is good. I take a peak at the rare and it’s some two drop green creature. It has some text that give it +1/+1 for each card type in the graveyard so I though ‘that’s pretty meh in draft, I can’t build around that’. So just as I was about to pass the pack and my buddy stops me, “Dude…what are you doing?”. “Uh, taking the best card in the pack?” I replied, shocked at his interjection. “You’re going to take the green card, put it in a sleeve, and sell it.” At this point I’m supremely lost. He put his hand on my shoulder, leans in and whispers “That’s a Tarmogoyf, and it is currently priced at $200.” Guys I nearly lost my mind. I never could have imagined that this little piece of paper was a crisp $200 bill. Needless to say my luck to this day has been pretty shook. But if you are going to go draft MM17, please take a look at some of the ‘chase cards’ from the set, because if you pass a Liliana of the Veil, you will never forgive yourself.

Mythics of note;

Rares of note; as well as the fetch lands…

Step 2; Know your archetypes

Every set has certain archetypes that belong to the respective colours, Modern Masters 2017 is no different. According to an article published by Magic R&D Developer Adam Prosak, there are five archetypes in MM17.

White-Blue Blink – This colour combination focuses on enter the battlefield effects and blinking the creatures to abuse these abilities.

Blue-Black Instant Control – This dual colour combination utilizes instant speed removal and counter spells to alter the battlefield.

Black-Red Unearth – Unearth is an ability that allows cards to return from the graveyard with haste for a turn.

Red-Green Wheenie Tokens – This combination wants to create a bunch of small goblin/saproling tokens and go wide, swinging past even numerous blockers.

Green-White Populate – Populate is an ability from Return to Ravnica in which you can create a token that is a copy of another token creature you control.

It is important to know these archetypes when going into a draft scenario to have the knowledge of how the colour combinations are supposed to be played. There are also some three coloured cards in the set, so one can mix and match archetypes to their choosing.

Step 3; Drafting for winning VS Drafting for value

The age old debate comes up. You’re on your last pack, your deck is coming together quite nicely, and you’re super deep in a Green-White token list. Your last pack has ‘meh’ commons, ‘meh’ uncommons, a Snapcaster Mage and a foil Craterhoof Behemoth. Now you know that the Hoofey is going to be awesome in your draft deck, however after the draft it’s just going to sit in your binder and not amount to much, SCG has it at $30. But that Snapcaster, a prime modern staple in any blue deck, besides merfolk. You could start a bidding war over the Snapcaster, SCG has it at $40. So what do you do? Take the Hoofey and hope to do well, or take the Snapcaster and know that it will sell. Truth be told, it’s entirely up to you.

This incident happened quite a while ago at Grand Prix Vegas. Pascal Maynard was in the Top 8 at Grand Prix Vegas, where the draft was Modern Masters 2015. He was pretty deep into a Red/White list when he opened his pack two and stopped dead. There was a copy of Burst Lightning which would have been great for his list, but something shiney caught his eye, a foil Tarmogoyf. What he did next garnered him so backlash, he took the Goyf. This event sparked a huge social media storm known to most Magic players as Goyfgate. The backlash from his fellow Pro-Players was that of anger and disgust. Some saying he “ruined the spirit of the game” by drafting for value rather than winning. But in a statement issued by Maynard, he did indeed ‘win’. He put the foil Top 8 stamped Tarmogoyf up on E-Bay for auction and vowed to donate half of the money to Gamers Helping Gamers. Let’s just say the world was behind him as the card finally ended up selling for $15,000 USD.

Wrap-Up

So yea, that’s it for this blog. I hope you enjoyed the read and that some of my insight into the modern format brought you closer to building your own list.

Until next time, stay salty my friends.