Hi guys, this is my first in a series of weekly articles for mtgUK so please bare with me while I settle in.
So over the last few PTQ seasons I’ve had a few top 8’s and done alright, but never quite managed to convert the performance into a win. For this Modern season I decided that had to change. I proxied up a few of the decks from the recent GP’s and MODO PTQs and first tried out Pyromancer’s Ascension and then Dredge, as these are decks similar to things I’ve played before and which suited my play style, but I wasnt really happy with the consistency of either. Then I tried some games with LSV’s Tron list from the GP and straight away I knew I’d found my PTQ winning deck.
1, Power level of cards. Modern is a fast powerful format and with Tron you get to play with 3 lands that tap for 7 mana and massive spells that are just more powerful that what most other decks are doing. Obviously raw card power doesn’t always mean the best deck but it certainly helps.
2, The Gifts Ungiven reanimation package. I guess this could go under 1 but it’s powerful enough to be worth talking about on its own. The Gifts reanimation package is just so good and costs you so few cards in your deck. I read somewhere recently about people not playing enough of their free wins in limited and the same applies here: so many decks just can’t beat a t4 Iona, Shield of Emeria or Elesh norn, Grand Cenobite, not to mention that Gifts is basically the best card draw spell available.
3, I could get hold of the cards. Not the best reason, but when you dont have a collection and someone says they can lend you 60+ of the 75 you want, that’s a pretty compelling reason!
I forked out for the deck on MODO (about 250 tix) and started playing in a few dailies, 2 mans and a ptq, I was pretty happy with my results. One thing that did come up a few times was not having anything good to Gifts for when facing down an active Liliana of the Veil – no 4 spells guarentee her removal from the board and neither of the big white monsters survive her edict ability. I thought about boarding in something like Myr Battlesphere but slots are pretty tight and it wouldnt really be very good against anything else, so I decided to try swapping the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in the main with the Wurmcoil Engine in the board, as it survives Liliana pretty well and I’d found myself wanting more lifegain a few times.
Emrakul is fine to search up when needed and does make a few matchups easier but everytime I drew it naturally it just cost way too much to be relevant. Even in the games where i would eventually get to 15 mana they would already be dead from Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre/Celestial Colonnade beatdown so I didnt think it was worth the slot.
(Note, against Melira, Sylvok Outcast you can still win by decking after they gain infinite life if you discard Ulamog to Thirst For Knowldge before casting it and annihillating them, it’s not as easy for sure but it’s already a pretty favourable matchup.)
The other change I made to the maindeck was to take out the Wrath of God and Day of Judgment to add two more Wurmcoils. The first one had been testing well when I randomly drew it and I was finding that the Wraths were dead cards quite often after an Unburial Rites or Timely Reinforcements. They’re both similarly bad in the matchups they’re bad but I won games just by Wurmcoil being a threat – it races both Elesh Norn and Iona nicely and it even beat an Emrakul in one race 😀 Not to mention the fact that it’s an artifact to discard to Thirst and you do sometimes just raw dog it on turn through Tron lands.
Needless to say I was happy with the changes I’d made and sleeved up this 75:
3 Expedition Map
4 Path to Exile
4 Azorius Signet
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Gift’s Ungiven
1 Unburial Rites
3 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Ulamog, The Infinite Gyre
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Celestial Purge
1 Torpor Orb
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Rule of Law
1 Pact of Negation
1 Grafdiggers Cage
2 Timely Reinforcements
R1 Keith Cornell with BW tokens
Game 1 I get a little lucky and topdeck a Gifts after he takes my hand apart with discard and Tidehollow Scullers. Luckily Gifts into Rites on Elesh Norn puts a stop to that and he’s quickly on the back foot. He does try and Path her off of a Windbrisk Heights but I’ve drawn a Remand and he’d tapped out to activacte the Heights.
Game 2 he stuggles for lands and I just make an early Iona on white which leaves him very few castable spells.
R2 Kevin Blake with UW Tron
Game 1 I get the tron first after he mulligans and then just take control by chaining Gifts and Thirst while he’s stuck with Wraths and Paths in hand.
Game 2 is much the same with me getting tron first and then using a map to get the Tec Edge and keep him off tron. I Gifts for map Ulamog and two other things and he gives me the map and puts Ulamog in the bin so I just get the Tec Edge again and keep him from ever getting tron.
R3 Sean McNally with Jund
Both games here are pretty uninteresting as he mulligans to 5 G1 and 6 G2 and never really puts me under any pressure. My deck just did what it does and accelerated it’s mana and made big threats.
R4 vs Simon Marshall with Affinity.
Game 1 He wins the die roll and gets a very fast start of T1 stuff T2 Etched Champion T3 Cranial Plating and attach, T4 another Plating with attach. Sadly my Signet into Gifts into Elesh is too slow as I’m forced to Repeal the second Plating and dont have the mana to Gifts as well.
Game 2 He gets another fast start and I mess up a Gifts which probably costs me the game. I set it up so if he gives me the wrong things I can Unburial Elesh and kill his Overseer before it gets too big but sadly he doesnt and by the time Elesh is in play his guys are all +2/+2 and she doesnt do enough. I’m not sure what the better Gifts pile would have been and if it would have been enough anyway but I’m pretty sure what I did get was wrong.
R5 Matthew Johnson with Jund again
I dont remember much about the specifics of these games but my life total ended on 17 G1 and 18 G2 without me ever gaining life, so I imagine he didnt get very good draws. There may have been some mulligans involved again but I might be getting confused with Round 3.
R6 Robert Ferguson with 45% Zoo
Game 1 I’m feeling pretty confident with 2 Maps to get the final Tron piece and Eye and a Gifts to get Elesh Norn until he Aven Mindsensor‘s me in response to the first Map. I crack the second in response to get the Tron piece but only hit a basic off the random 4 cards and Gifts for the top 4 cards doenst get there sadly.
Game 2 Involves an early Timely Reinforcements putting me from 16 to 22 and then I only take another 2 damage before my accelerated big monsters finish him off.
Game 3 Involves an early misplay from him as he makes a T2 Tarmogoyf instead of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben when I only have a single tron land in play. My draw is a little clunky as I’ve mulliganed to 6 and kept 2x Power Plant and, Signet for mana. I miss my third land drop but the Signet lets me Path the Thalia then play out a Reinforcements which gives me time to draw into more mana before Elesh Norn and a Wurmcoil finish him off. Had he made T2 Thalia I would have been stuck with nothing I could cast pretty much all game which would have been bad.
R7 Karim Al Takrouri with UR Tron
Game 1 we trade Remands for Gifts for a few turns before he sticks a Through the Breach, luckily it’s only Kozilek so I just Path it and assemble my Tron before making an Iona on Red and beating him up.
(Quick aside – I’m not sure if red or blue is right to say with Iona in this matchup, Red stops them Breaching Eldrazi at you which I think is more relevant but if they have anything that removes Iona from play then it’s going to be Blue bounce rather than Red burn. I dont think I’ve ever lost after resolving Iona against them either way but I’m not 100% sure which colour is correct)
Game 2 He Trons first and forces through a Breached Emrakul which eats all my lands and I scoop a turn later.
Game 3 I Tron first with the help of my Tectonic Edge and then start trying to resolve Ulamog, all the while keeping his mana down. Ulamog gets Remanded and countered about 3 times in total I think but since my hand is Dispel, Pact, Mindbreak Trap, Negate, Remand I just keep letting it happen and trying again rather than countering his counterspells. I only had 1 blue left up after casting Ulamog and wanted to make sure I could force 3 spells out of him in a counter war so I could trap him but it never came to that.
The Top 8
7-1 put me into top 8 in second place I think which meant I would be playing against Simon Marshall again with his affinity deck
Game 1 I aggressively mulligan my 7 since I know what he’s playing and it takes me to 4 in order to find a playable hand and I dont survive very long. I think if I’d drawn a Gifts I might have been ok but 4 cards is difficult to beat anything, especially Affinity!
Game 2 He starts fast as usual and I Timely up some life and blockers. Luckily none of his men fly so when he Plates up a Champion I answer with Wurmcoil and we stalemate on the board for a bit. The matchup definiely favours me as the game goes long and I eventually just make too many big threats despite his Blood Moons stopping me casting my Ulamog.
Game 3 He tanks for ages before Blood Mooning me t3 which I think probably wins me the game. The Moon isnt that awkward as I’ve drawn a signet and a basic and it turns off his InkmothNexus‘s which I dont have that many ways of dealing with.
In the Semis I’m playing against Matt Light playing Aggro Loam and get pretty fortunate.
My quarters match against affinity had taken so long the the other Semi between UW tron and Jund finished just as I’m about to lose game 1 to Matt. Luckily for me the Jund deck won the other semi and Matt is pretty sure his matchup against Jund is terrible (having already lost to Stephen and his Jund deck in the swiss) and rather than beating me only to probably lose the final Matt scoops to give one of us the best chance at winning the PTQ.
The final is vs Stephen Murray playing Jund
Again I get pretty fortunate.
Game 1 I keep a loose hand of 5 lands Signet and Thirst, which in my defence included 2 tron pieces and a Colonnade, but draw nothing but lands. Jund does play a fair bit of discard so I like assembling Tron early against them since it gives you so many powerful topdecks. He Thoughsiezes me on t3 and I Thist into and cast a Path in response only to show him 5 lands in hand and I quickly lose that game…
Game 2 Was pretty epic as he sticks an early Liliana and we get to a board state of him having Liliana on 6, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and a Treetop Village plus lands vs my 6 lands, including a full tron. No cards in hand, no non land permanents. I rip a Thirst and mainphase it drawing another Thirst, a land and a Signet. I ditch the Signet and Thirst again hitting Gifts, land, Signet and again ditch the Signet. I pass and in response to Liliana’s ultimate gifts for an Unburial Rites and a Wurmcoil (to go with the Elesh Norn Liliana had put there earlier) dropping to 3 lands and 7 life from his attack for 11. I peel a very Timely Reinforcement and making 3 guys and give myself enough life to survive anther attack and Unburial Elesh Norn.
Although I definitely got lucky I think the better play from him is to push Liliana up to 7 and leave me all my mana, even if I do make threats that stop me dying he can force me to pick between lands and guys which is almost certainly going to beat me whichever I choose.
Game 3 was a little anticlimactic after that as he keeps a slow opener including too many Jund Charms and his Liliana dies to my Colonnade after being Remanded twice without really affecting me. A Wurmcoil and an Elesh Norn later– and I’m going to Barcelona!
So I need to come up with a name for my article series. Can you guys help by making suggestions below please?