Fact not Fiction – Top 10 cards you didn’t expect to see at the Pro Tour Return to Ravnica by Michael Maxwell
Pro Tour Return to Ravnica is done and dusted, with Eggs taking down the tournament. The much maligned combo deck stormed (or meandered slowly to be more precise) through the competition to leave Modern fans everywhere wondering if they are going to have to spend the next few months sitting through 20 minute combo turns. I don’t expect the deck to become overly popular despite the win, due to both the complex and tedious nature of the deck and the fact that it probably wont stand up to the hate that people will now have to put in their sideboards, but that’s a topic for another day.
I was scrolling through the decklists which accumulated 18 or more points, looking for any decks that were cool or unusual, of which there were a few, when I started noticing a few interesting card choices in some of the more stock decks. And when I say interesting I mean ‘is that a typo and/or what does that card even do?’ interesting.
Some of these choices were clearly made with real thought and a definite plan behind them. On the other hand, I am fairly sure some of them were the result of having a 14 card sideboard and people throwing in that one card they always love to play for no real reason other than ‘it’s sweet’ AKA the LSV clause.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tried to jam Ajani Vengeant into a Modern deck, or how often I played a Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker instead of a third Cruel Ultimatum back in Shards era standard. For the last few weeks I’ve been getting some odd looks for the singleton Chandra, the Firebrand in my Grixis control list, but have you ever copied a Diabolic Revelation with Chandra the turn after casting Gilded Lotus? Because I have :)
Before I start my top 10, here are a few honourable mentions:
Marco Frantuma went for the old ‘2 Slaughter Games and 1 swamp in my RUG combo sideboard’ gambit, but any style points he may have lost for that were certainly made up for by the Melokus also in the board.
Ludvig Londos went even deeper with lands in his sideboard, playing not just a plains but also a snow-covered Plains in his Scapeshift sideboard. Apparently being able to cast the 4 Leyline of Sanctity in his sideboard was worth an additional 2 slots, although he managed to save one slot by maindecking a swamp for his sideboarded Slaughter Games. Why he went for one of each type of plains I have no idea, since he isn’t playing Gifts Ungiven. Mr Londos had a few interesting choices and we’ll be hearing from him again later.
Andre Mueller invoked the LSV clause to get a single copy of Crime/Punishment into his Gifts-rock deck.
Yuuya Watanabe made an interesting choice in selecting Victim of Night as his removal spell of choice in Jund. Terminate is the more usual choice here, but given that the Jund deck is running Twilight Mire RB is often harder to get than BB. The rise in popularity of Olivia Voldaren in Jund sideboards might begin to make the drawback relevant on occasion.
A couple of affinity players, including top8 competitor Pedro Carvalho, had a single copy of Favorable Winds in their sideboard, presumably for matches where having your Inkmoths and Blinkmoths bigger is important (the mirror?).
The top 10 cards you didn’t expect to see
Is Chameleon Colossus, who managed to weasel his way into a couple of Jund sideboards rather than Olivia Voldaren or Thrun, the Last Troll who are both more usual sideboard choices. Either they thought the pro-black was particularly relevant or they were seriously next-levelling Yuuya by having a creature that was a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie all at the same time.
Goes to alpha original and casual favourite Fog, which was a 2-of in the sideboard of Scapeshift and 2-basics-in-my-sideboard player Ludvig Londos. Scapeshift decks seem to be a hot-bed of odd card choices and it looks like the 1-mana Fog was just what Londos was looking for to buy him the turn he needs to combo off.
If you’d asked me before the Pro Tour which deck might have played Ancient Ziggurat I’d probably have gone for some 5-colour Elementals deck that was playing Primal Beyond and Cavern of Souls too, but it was actually Mike Hoffman’s 24 land + 36 creatures 4-colour dredgevine list that opted for the powerful if restrictive land. Using Hedron Crab and Lotleth Troll to fill the graveyard with Gravecrawlers, Vengevines, and Skaab Ruinators, Bloodbraid Elf (which is guaranteed to hit a creature) is the big finish in this deck.
Want to see their hand but really don’t want to pay 2 life to Gitaxian Probe them? Well there’s always good old Peek to fall back on. Robin Dolar clearly thought the instant speed was more important than the option to pay 2 life and so included a single copy in his U/W list.
Playing U/W but don’t wont to have to spend 2 or 4 life to Gut Shot or Dismember their mana dork or Bob? Then Piracy Charm might be the card for you. A pretty narrow answer to 1-toughness guys (the other 2 modes are next to useless), but if you really don’t want to pay life then it might just be good enough. Turns out more than one of the U/W decks made a few interesting choices as well.
Burning Wish, Cunning Wish, and Living Wish have all made an impact in Legacy over the years, but none of those are legal in Modern, but it turns out Glittering Wish, which is in at number 5, is a card. Paul Heynan played the full 4 copies in his Junk deck, although he didn’t go too deep with his sideboard choices. Turns out being in the worst 2 colours for combo limits your potential as a wish card, although I’m sure a few players raised an eyebrow as Paul searched for his sideboarded Vraska, the Unseen or Wheel of Sun and Moon.
Mind Rot not quite doing it for you? Then try Delirium Skeins, which is in at number 4. Brandon Nelson had 3 in the sideboard of his G/B Vengevine list, which could well have made life pretty hard for any combo or control players out there. Given that the majority of Brandon’s cards are quite happy being in the graveyard having to discard 3 isn’t too big of a deal for him, but decks like Storm are really going to struggle to go off if you make them bin three.
sees our good friend Ludvig Londos make his final appearance. If you’re sick of playing Scapeshift and getting to 7 or 8 lands but being unable to find your namesake sorcery, and cards like Peer Through Depths aren’t doing it for you, then you could always go for Clutch of the Undercity. Apparently worth playing a swamp for, Clutch will always find you the Scapeshift you need for the low price of 1UB. It can also find Cryptic Command if you really need it to, and I suppose once in a while you might actually cast it to bounce a guy.
I wonder how many of Craig Wescoe’s opponents played around Charge Across the Araba. I can only assume that it’s zero and that several people had to pick up and read the card only to slowly realize that they were dead. Easily capable of killing people out of nowhere in conjunction with the hordes of tokens that Wescoe’s white weenie deck can produce, this Kamigawa block uncommon was certainly not on the list of cards I expected to see at the Pro Tour.
As unexpected as some of those cards were, none of them were less expected to me than pretty much the entire Nivmagus Elemental deck piloted by Gerry Thompson. There was a bit of hype when this card first got spoiled, but no-one really seemed to be mentioning it when the PT came around. Storm was the obvious thing to pair the elemental with but I’m not sure anyone had Ground Rift, Tainted Strike, or Clout of the Dominus(!) on their list of potential Modern playables.
Those are my 10 cards I least expected to see on the Pro Tour.
Did I miss anything?
Which cards did you see that you never thought would be playable in Modern?