Liverpool Modern PTQ Tournament Report by Graeme McIntyre
Liverpool was my first modern PTQ of this season as I didn’t fancy trying to get back from Chesham to Glasgow on Christmas Eve due to the chances of snow grinding (overpriced) public transport to a halt. My playtest group were out in force for this event, with 7 members of the group in attendance. We got smashed, though. Daryl Weir and I played Kiki-pod (very similar to the one Ian Bennett came second with at the Chesham PTQ which I mentioned in my last article), Greg Shanks played Jund, as did Grant Hislop, Bradley Barclay played U/W Midrange, Peter Deane played Scapeshift. Chris Boyle played R/G Tron. So nothing clever, and no consensus. Typical of modern, but not something which makes me feel overly comfortable about a given tournament. The problem is that all of these decks are fine choices, in spite of being radically different, and there are 5 different decks, so while they’re “fine”, it’s difficult to say with confidence that any of them is actually “good”, and “correct” is definitely something of a stretch. That aside, I felt like the pod deck I was playing did exactly what I suggested would be a good call in my last article – it’s a midrange deck that goes over the top of Jund, while having access to a wide range of quality hate cards, and as such being decent against the combo decks. It’s even pretty powerful.
Round 1 – Richard Foster playing U/W Tron
Game one I lose to a reanimated Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite pretty early doors the way decks with no instants or sorceries often do, and Richard makes a comment about not knowing what my deck does. He is greeted with a pleasantry and no useful information; him not knowing *is* actually a big advantage for me, and I’m not going to give that away. Game two I resolve a pod early, and a short time later I have Kiki-jiki, Mirror breaker and Deceiver Exarch in play, copy 30 guys, and attempt to attack, when it becomes clear that Richard didn’t know they had haste; turns out, that’s what my deck does! Game three I resolve a Birthing Pod, but at one point he is looking like he might be setting up something good for the following turn, and I’m not quite in a position to combo that turn, so I flash in Restoration angel at the end of his, which he Remands. I untap and Sowing salt his Urza’s Tower hitting one in play and one in hand, revealing Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Sphinx’s Revelation, both of which are no longer threats due to his crippled mana. This gives me the time I need to assemble my combo, and win the match. (1-0)
Round 2 – Jordan Griffin playing Jund
Game one is looking good for me, as I have a Birthing pod and Murderous redcap in play, facing off against a Tarmogoyf. He casts Bloodbraid elf and hits Liliana of the veil, though. If he forces me to sacrifice a creature, I will need to get lucky to win the game, but if he makes me discard a card, I’ll untap and kill him, as the Murderous redcap has persist, meaning I can sacrifice it for a Zealous conscripts, untap the Pod, and sacrifice the Redcap to search for Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker, and make 100 Conscripts to kill him. He attacks, I don’t block, and then he seems like he’s about to pass the turn when he remembers his Planeswalker, and thinks for a bit, then finally makes me discard a card. The frustration evident on his face is one of the main strengths of decks like Kiki-Pod; in such a wide format it is difficult to test against all the decks, and it’s hard to look at a deck list full of singletons and work out from that all the situations from which the deck can combo off. The next two games are pretty discard heavy, and I can’t get established on the board, so his aggressive draw quickly dispatches me. (1-1)
Round 3 – Dan Merit playing Kiki-pod
Game one I cast Linvala Keeper of Silence pretty early, and shut down his mana. This results in him being tapped out a fair amount, and me being able to naturally combo off Restoration angel and Kiki-jiki, mirror breaker. Game two I sacrifice Murderous redcap to search, resolve the persist, and he casts Cord of calling in response. I’m dreading Aven mindcensor but am pleasantly surprised with Harmonic Silver the ability of which I redirect to Spellskite. With that all resolved, I search for Conscripts, untap the Pod and kill him with Kiki-jiki. (2-1)
Round 4 – Michel Reid playing Jund
These games are reasonably unremarkable, with me establishing a strong presence on the board early in both games, making it difficult for him to break through. In the second game, I have a Wall of omens in play, flash in Restoration Angel, draw Kiki-jiki then draw a mountain in my main phase, make 10 copies and attack. Again, my opponent seemed a bit surprised, but this might just have been frustration. The latter is understandable as the deck is a combo deck with no real way to draw cards, so it often looks like it just misses it games (in this case I was legitimately lucky, although I was also not under much pressure.). The general sense of surprise I felt from most of my opponents makes me pretty keen on the deck, however. (3-1)
Round 5 – Russell Anderson playing Living End
As soon as he cycles a creature on turn one I realize I’m in a pretty bad spot. My hand doesn’t have a Pod, so I can’t just go and find a Ethersworn canonist to shut him down, meaning I’m probably losing game one unless I get lucky. I am quickly smashed by a hoard of guys who often wheeled in draft. My mood brightens slightly as I go to sideboards and see Chalice of the void, as this is a pretty decent sideboard card against the deck, which I hadn’t really prepared for particularly, having dismissed it largely due to the presence anti storm cards also hitting it, as well as Deathrite shaman being a major force in the format. I play a Chalice on turn one for zero, and evokes Ignot chewer. Soon, I am overwhelmed once again. (3-2) The irony of being knocked out by this deck after using it as an example of a deck that is basically dead the week before isn’t lost on me, but neither is the fact that it’s generally not being doing well, and didn’t top 8 this event, either. A few years ago, I think I would have been raging about this, but instead I was disappointed for a couple of minutes, then totally fine.
On The Modern Format
The format is *made* for people to do this sort of thing! Living end is really powerful, and probably has a pretty decent game one against a lot of decks. It’s also pretty affordable, the expensive cards being the land, most of which have recently been reprinted. I don’t think it’s a great choice for the reasons I have mentioned, but clearly the deck isn’t a dog in a cape (House, MD. That’s a pop culture reference btw, pretty rare stuff!). Sadly, I was also the last person in my group in contention, and that was the Liverpool PTQ done. Tricky format, modern. Still, there is some scope for bannings/unbannings and important new cards in the next set. This would be a welcome thing, because while I don’t think modern is a terrible format, and I’m happy enough to play it, I think it could be an amazing format with some minor changes. As it stands, I think it is lacking in definition, beyond “Your deck should be able to put up and score against Jund and not just get crushed by combo”. This seems problematic to me. My hope is that they either print a conditional 1cc 3/2 for green, red or white, where the condition is easy to meet for Modern but impossible/hard for Standard, or just unban Wild Nacatl. There are basically no good aggro decks, zoo is a totally iconic deck and should be represented in modern (haunted zoo isn’t really the same thing), and it would keep people honest. The format would narrow a little, sure, but as a result of this, less compromised control decks could be built to respond to the metagame – an unreasonable expectation as things are – and the format would gain a diversity of archetypes, at the cost of a narrowing of decks. To me, this seems vastly preferable.
All the best in Milton Keynes to those who go, I think Kiki-Pod is a decent choice, as is blue white midrange, for what it’s worth. This one is a bit too awkward for me to get to, so my next shot is in Dublin. Here’s hoping I’ll have Wild Nacatl, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor in my deck. Graeme McIntyre