Crucible of Words – BG in Modern, Decklist and Tournament Report by Cyrus Bales
Greetings, last week was PTQ London, the last Modern PTQ I’ll be able to attend, since the one in Dundee this weekend is just a little too out of the way for me. The week before I lost in the final playing Jund, this week I expected a metagame shift so built accordingly with a “home brew”. In Manchester I suspected Zoo, and was a bit off in my prediction, for London I took that knowledge and and decided it would be filled with WUR and BG/x decks like Junk and Jund.
Here is the list I built for the PTQ London:
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Dark Confiant
3 Kitchen Finks
4 Leatherback Baloth
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Doom Blade
1 Victim of Night
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Verdant Catacomb
2 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
1 Twilight Mire
1 Woodland Cemetery
4 Treetop Village
Obviously I stuck to my own advise of late and played the BG shell which is the best thing in modern right now. However I decided to take a departure from the norm, and no longer splash another colour. I largely did this so I could play Leatherback Baloth, hardly a known powerhouse, but he’s mostly a Tarmogoyf that dodges Spell Snare, whilst being good to accelerate into on turn 2 and doesn’t get weakened by Deathrite Shaman. I ran him because the week before, a lot of game came down to drawing Tarmogoyf, but running effectively 8, it seemed like this would happen more often, also it gives me more guys who dodge Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix as wel as being able to attack in Celestial Colonnade, Restoration Angel, Obstinate Baloth and Loxodon Smiter and come out on top. Being slightly bigger is very important as I expected to play against very few combo decks if any.
Other interesting features, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood allows me to win Goyf wars and more importantly, provide a “soft-lock” against ground pounding aggro, by bringing back Kitchen Finks with persist and removing the counter over and over again. That trick is also nice to keep a threat on the board against the UW decks as they have to Path to Exile it which gives them even less answers for your 8 “Goyfs”.
The usual spread of black and green spells is here as well, I lose a couple of manlands by shifting a colour out, but can play a lower curve to run an additional spell to make up for it. Without Lightning Bolt I’ve upped Abrupt Decay like the BUG decks do, so I can kill early stuff and rely on it resolving, this also gives me more main deck answers to Cranial Plating and Swords. Expecting a lot of tokens, I opted for a couple of Maelstrom Pulse as it also gives you a nice catch all answer.
Sideboard wise, without having Slaughter Games and Rakdos Charm that hurt my combo match up a little, however I was predicting a field with only a small combo contingent so this was fine. I opted for Duress as a sort of replacement to Slaughter Games as Memoricide is pretty weak thanks to it’s counter-ability. Duress can pick away a Scapeshift or Splinter Twin, but does double duty in the UW/x match up, taking a Supreme Verdict or Cryptic Command. The rest is pretty obvious, I went for Shadow of a Doubt for the Tron and Scapeshift match up as they would not expect it from a BG deck, but it was possibly not the optimal card, but not targeting makes it good against decks with Leyline of Sanctity who try to Reshape for example.
ROUND ONE – NAYA ZOO (2-1)
This was against a friend of mine, which sucked as a round one pairing, but considering Reading made up 10% of the field, it wasn’t the most unlikely that two of us would get paired early on. His deck was a bigger zoo, with Loxodon Smiter and Domri Rade with Swords in it as well, almost like the standard deck but with a few modern additions.
Game one, he keeps a one lander with a Noble Hierarch, I kill it then the game is largely sown up. I decide not to plus my Liliana of the Veil because I suspect he is running Smiters since I saw Stomping Ground and the Hierarch. Turns out I was right, he never gets into the game.
Game two, I don’t have a lot of notes on this one, pretty sure I drew a lot of lands whilst being on the back foot from the off and never really getting there.
Game three, this is a long old game, I make loads of big men, but he has Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of Feast and Famine. I don’t draw an Abrupt Decay, but I have so many men he needs to find another guy to keep me at bay, and my Deathrite stops him from gaining card advantage with Sword of Light and Shadow. It comes down to him needing any kind of removal, which he doesn’t get, so I can bash for the win. I bought myself a few extra turns early on by attacking into his pro-green guy with two finks, then using the Oran-Rief to keep them both 3/2 and gain myself some life.
ROUND TWO – WUR (1-2)
Game two, I make an early Liliana, which does a lot of work, by the time he starts burning me out and trying to clock, he’s down too many cards and it’s over.
Game three, this was a really tight game, near the end, I’m on 4 life, he has a a Vendillion Clique and two cards in hand with two mana up. I’m about 99% sure he doesn’t have a burn spell in hand. I can attack with everything including my Treetop Village for lethal, but he could have a Path or something to make it not lethal. I decide to hold back and use my mana to cast Kitchen Finks instead and put him to two. Basically I’m forcing him to draw a non-Electrolyze burn spell to win, which he does and kills me. Straight away, I disliked my line of play and thought I should have gone for the lethal damage, which he tells me would have won me the match. So I successfully outplayed myself :( .
ROUND THREE – BR BURN (2-1)
Game two, this game is tighter, I gain a little bit of life with a Deathrite and clock him, it ends up with him either top decking a burn spell for the win, or I come across and kill him next turn, I manage to kill him as he draws a blank. Liliana gave him less cards to work with, which helped me out a fair bit here.
Game three, I get a couple of Kitchen Finks and this helps me stabilize, along with a Duress and Inquisition I force his burn spells to go defensive mode, which is always bad for him, especially when I have all these 5 toughness men.
ROUND FOUR – AFFINITY (1-2)
Game one, I take a peek at his hand and get to remove some things, but he’s going to have an active Etched Champion soon, I do have a Liliana, but he top decks another guy so my plan of making him sacrifice it fails. He draw some more guys and Cranial Plating which does me in whilst I never leave defensive mode.
Game two, we end up with a real enough game of magic here, where I repeatedly kill his stuff, but he manages a slow clock which gets me low, but my guys are bigger and win the race whilst I sandbag an Abrupt Decay for any Master of Etherium or Cranial Plating that he top decks to ruin my day.
Game three, his first three lands are all Inkmoth Nexus, and he plays a few other things like Welding Jar and Springleaf Drum to pump up the two Cranial Plating he draws. I take them both out, and a Fulminator Mage forces a Welding Jar sacrifice to stop me being attacked for a turn and save his Nexus. His next play is Ravager, which just gives him a 5/5 Nexus to kill me with.
ROUND FIVE – UW CAW-BLADE (2-1)
Despite being out of contention, I felt I ought to give the deck more of a run out and also get some prizes for my £20 entry. Extra planeswalker point to edge me closer to the mammoth number needed for three byes was also a thought.
Game one, we ended up in a race, which I seemed to lose thanks to Path’s and Cryptics etc. After Thoughtseizeing him to see double Path and double Spell Snare, I knew it would be a slog. I got him down to 2 life though.
Game two, was one sided and all about Liliana who came down on turn two and drained him out of the game single-handedly. Some dudes came along for the ride and applied the pressure I needed later on.
Game three, there was a bit more back and forth, but I kept drawing Leatherback Baloths and pumping them with Oran-Rief to make 5/6’s, which he couldn’t Dismember, he was forced to chump a couple of times with Colonnades which is usually a sign of losing. Eventually he ran out of answers and my giant men got to Baloth him in the face.
ROUND SIX – JUND (1-2)
Game one, my opponent mulligans to four and the game goes as expected. He gets some good men like Deathrite and Dark Confidant and even a Liliana out, but he’s too far behind and I eventually beat him down.
Game two, he comes out the block well and removes my men whilst making some of his own. I’m on the back foot the whole time and don’t quite get to stem the tide, my life total on my pad went down in one large chunk of 11 damage, so I guess that was an alpha swing with his army.
Game three, I kill his Dark Confidant and Goyf, but he makes another Dark Confidant and it runs away with the game. He floods the board with Kitchen Finks and just lets Dark Confidant win him the game, after a large number of turns, I’m dead and buried by him massive clutch of cards in hand and do all I can to stave off death, but it’s not enough as his board is huge.
ROUND SEVEN – BLUE TRON (2-0)
Game one, I take a peek at his hand and then apply as much pressure as I can. I manage to kill him before he hits anything scary, which isn’t that difficult when you have a lot of huge men!
Game two, Liliana goes to town on him and I get to split his permanents AND keep my Liliana in play. A Shadow of Doubt in response to his Treasure Mage adds the insult to injury I was looking for. Very one sided.
ROUND EIGHT – RW BURN (2-0)
If I win this, it takes my booster haul up to 8 for my £20 which seems reasonable, and I’m nothing if not cost effective.
Game one, I pick apart his hand and force him to burn my creatures, which always ends in disaster for burn players unless they have Searing Blaze. He gets a fair amount of land and I finish on 14 life.
Game two, I get to play a couple of Kitchen Finks and his his hand with some discard before making a big Tarmogoyf who gets to attack and win me the game. Near the end he got me to four, but I was swinging with enough guys and he couldn’t top deck two burn spells in one turn, and I had a kill spell to hit my own Finks in case he drew a Boros Charm.
So that’s about it, what insight did I gain from this tournament? I beat myself up about the error in round two a fair bit, and it could have made my day a lot better and helped me dodged the Robots later on amongst other things. Once you stumble a little, you end up facing more of the decks you didn’t expect since the top tables are very different to the mid and low tables. These results aren’t really special or even valuable, since once you end up in the losing bracket, you end up against less mainstream decks and generally worse ones etc.
In terms of the deck, Leatherback Baloth was really sweet, I managed to kill a lot of people with him, the ability to drop either him or a Liliana on turn two off of a Deathrite gives you a very powerful start against any deck in the field.
The problems with the deck I found are worth mentioning. Victim of Night was terrible and used up too much of my black mana when I could cast it. I would cut it for a Doom Blade I think, since against decks like Affinity, you want all your removal to be live main deck, since those are the decks you need every card to count against. The other issue I had was some hands ended up being mono-three-drops. This is not necessarily the best way to win a game of magic.
What changes would I make? That’s a tricky one, whilst I was pretty happy overall, it did feel like it was missing something, and splashing another colour is still the right call. I imagine going back to Jund would be preferable, however I’d probably use Profane Command as my Bloodbraid Elf replacement card, is it’s crazy good. You get to two for one people with it all the time, gives you extra reach, and can make your team unblockable. I’ve managed to kill their Dark Confidant and bring back my Deathrite on turn three, who doesn’t love doing that?!
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this, it wouldn’t be a PTQ season without me playing something a little bit weird now, would it?!
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.