Crucible of Words – Fanboy3 Manchester 2013 Modern PTQ 2nd Place by Cyrus Bales
This weekend just gone saw PTQ Manchester take place with over 160 players. Being the modern format, but without [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] and [card]Seething Song[/card], it offered us something a little different, this week I’ll talk about the deck I played, why I played it and give you a tournament report.
Firstly, let’s talk about Jund. Since the printing of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], Bloodbraid Elf was no longer the bogey man of the Jund deck, yes the haste and card advantage was savage, but the real strength was from the black and green core, which is the best thing you can do in modern right now. [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], this is the strongest package in modern and the framework for the best decks.
Whether you splash blue, red or white, this basic package is the best Rock skeleton there has ever been, and in an open format, rock is where you want to be, allowing you to have game against the whole field. As you can tell, the reports of Jund’s demise seemed rather unfounded to me. But which splash you want for the third colour is the tricky part, and the “correct” choice will be down to what match ups you face.
Going into this tournament, I was expecting a lot of Zoo, it’s been all over MODO and can clock really quickly. This instantly turned me away from BUG, who cannot beat Zoo without a near miracle, leaving me with Junk and Jund. Now, if you read my articles, you know I’ve been playing Junk for some time in modern, including two GP’s, in these lists I had opted for [card]Doran, the Seige Tower[/card] to accompany my [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]s rather than [card]Lingering Souls[/card] because I needed [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card] to help with the storm match up. This was no longer the case.
The Deck List
I toyed with some Junk lists, but found myself heavily reliant on many three drops, which was not where I wanted to be against what I thought would be a Zoo heavy field, as they can randomly clock you before you get to make those big plays. Whilst I also thought WUR would be a big part, I was most focused on Zoo, so this left me playing red for [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and then [card]Firespout[/card] in the board. Without Bloodbraid Elf, the great Firespout gets to see play again, giving you the potential for one sided sweeps or just a great anti-aggro tool.
Here was my deck:
4 [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]
4 [card]Dark Confidant[/card]
4 [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]
2 [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card]
3 [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]
4 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]
2 [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]
1 [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]
4 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]
4 [card]Raging Ravine[/card]
2 [card]Treetop Village[/card]
4 [card]Blackcleave Cliffs[/card]
1 [card]Twilight Mire[/card]
4 [card]Verdant Catacomb[/card]
2 [card]Marsh Flats[/card]
2 [card]Misty Rainforest[/card]
1 [card]Stomping Ground[/card]
1 [card]Blood Crypt[/card]
1 [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card]
1 [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]
1 [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card]
3 [card]Rakdos Charm[/card]
2 [card]Slaughter Games[/card]
2 [card]Thrun the Last Troll[/card]
2 [card]Ancient Grudge[/card]
2 [card]Sowing Salt[/card]
So, aside from the usual choices, let’s talk about what’s going on here. In terms of discard, I opted to have six main deck Thoughtseize effects, rather than having five with one in the board. These are great for information and as a general catch all, they are great for planning out future turns and using your Liliana more effectively against a deck that might have Smiters etc. The 3-3 Split is due to me expecting Zoo and not wanting to lose too much life, the four Liliana as opposed to three also fills in the gap not hitting bigger things with Inquisition leaves. Liliana is versatile, allowing you to remove a guy or rinse their hand, as well as the odd ultimate to put away a Tron match up.
Life gain, you may have noticed I have some. Four kitchen finks means I have 8 things to drop on turn 2 off of a Deathrite Shaman, making him even better. Finks is very strong against Zoo, often gaining you 8 life as he blocks and trades to prevent your face being smashed in. Against decks running burn and sweepers, he also comes back to give you a more permanent presence on the board.
Obstinate Baloth is the big surprise in this list I feel. Many people have opted for [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] who is flat out terrible in this deck, and here’s why: Huntmaster dies to every removal spell in Jund, including Abrupt Decay when he flips, sure he’s ok against Liliana, but who cares about a 2/2? WUR decks and Zoo decks have so much burn, that he’s more like a four mana bear that gains a bit of life and makes them discard a card, which is not where you really want to be. Against Junk or anything with big men, he matches up poorly unless you can flip him, which often is too late. The Baloth however, gains a big chunk of life right there and then, is very strong against Liliana, and more importantly, dodges lots of removal, Bolt, Helix, Firespout, Abrupt Decay etc, as well as attacking into [card]Restoration Angel[/card] mana very effectively. [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] is another common choice, but she also dies to many of the removal spells and is too slow against Zoo. [card]Thrun, The Last Troll[/card] however is a very good shout, whilst being weaker to Liliana, he’s better against the UW/x decks by a long way, but again, not too special against Zoo.
Removal, I split my [card]Terminate[/card]s into 1 Terminate and one [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card], just to have a nice catch all answer, however this did make me weaker to X/4 manlands, but bringing in all the 4/4’s in my sideboard would help this if I needed them.
Manlands, if I’m going to get flooded, I’d like to have something to do with them, and by playing only three colours unlike Lingering Jund, I could afford to have six manlands, which are also very decent against decks relying on counterspells, and having more manlands than BUG has [card]Tectonic Edges[/card] puts you in better stead there.
Sideboard wise, it’s pretty self-explanatory, [card]Rakdos Charm[/card] is probably the best sideboard card in modern, it hoses many decks and is very versatile, allowing you to cram what feels like 6 or more slots into just three. Olivia is a trump card who eats [card]Blinkmoth Nexus[/card], and additional lifegain for Zoo and the [card]Dodecapod[/card] ability for the mirror made another Baloth a good shout. Affinity is a thing, hence the grudges, although I was tempted by fitting in a [card]Shatterstorm[/card] but the space was too tight. Sowing Salt was obviously for Tron, but also very nice against these new UW/x control decks that lean heavily on [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] which is also a match up where Thrun comes in.
So with all that worked out, it was time for the tournament, and for me to not play Zoo all day long…. :|
The Swiss Rounds
ROUND ONE – Mono Blue Fairies (2-0)
Game one, he was on the play, and I got to take a few things from his hand with one drop discard, and my [card]Dark Confidant[/card] hit the table, making me pull ahead. He drew a lot of land and I happened to have the [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card] for his [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card] as he flooded out fiercely.
Game two, was a bit more of a real game, but he missed his third land drop I think, and this allowed me to get a hold on the game and make a large Goyf who got a lot of work done. I got to kill hill [card]Scion of Oona[/card] and his [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] in short succession and bashed through for the win.
ROUND TWO – Junk (0-2)
Game one, I was on the play and took a piece out of his hand, I missed a land drop, I think it was my third? I got him down to 12, but he has Lingering Souls up the wazoo and a [card]Gavony Township[/card] to hammer it home, my singleton Pulse would have probably won me the game, but I was not lucky enough to mise it in back to back rounds. I made a horrible mistake of swinging into a known [card]Zealous Persecution[/card], I kind of thought it would be better to get it out of his hand on defence so I had more turns to draw Pulse, but as soon as I made the play I knew it was wrong.
Game two, I thought he was more token based after seeing souls and [card]Zealous Persecution[/card], so I boarded in a Sowing Salt to hit his township, obviously Firespout etc would be very good here. We spend ages trading resources, I Sowing Salt his Stirring Wildwood to find one in his hand, and then see his whole deck, and realize he’s not very token based and I’ve boarded a little wrong. We end up in top deck mode, expect I have Dark Confidant, he hits two souls over the next three turns and closes the game out efficiently.
ROUND THREE – Affinity (2-1)
Game one, I’m on the play, my opening hand looks sweet, Thoughtseize, into Dark Confidant, into Liliana, with a Goyf to drop at some stage. So turn one I five myself with a fetch shock and Thoughtseize to see: [card]Galvanic Blast[/card], [card]Steel Overseer[/card], 2 [card]Cranial Plating[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card], [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] and [card]Glimmerpost[card]. Oh, this was the match up where that start of mine is pretty terrible. He proceeds to make guys and stuff, I get two swings in with a 5/6 Goyf, but evasive robots slay my measly 15 life in no time.
Game two, my opponent mulligans and I go into control mode, blowing up everything he plays then making a chain of [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]s and then an [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card] to pressure him whilst allowing me to finish on 19 life whilst his draws don’t give him what he needs to come back.
Game three, I mulligan this time, and find a hand with Rakdos Charm, Goyf, Olivia and lands. My first draw is [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] then I settle into blowing up his double Plating and [card]Vault Skirge[/card], until I can drop an Olivia and shut off all his man lands.
ROUND FOUR – Junk (2-1)
Game one, my opponent mulligans on the play on my discard eats into him. He seems a bit more like the GW hatebears deck than the BG core of my round two opponent, I am lucky enough to see my Liliana should not be ticking up and giving him a free [card]Wilt-Lief Liege[/card], so I use her as an edict. The life totals are close but I edge it out.
Game two, I’m of the back foot quickly, and whilst I don’t remember much from the game, my notes say [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and [card]Wilt-Lief Liege[/card], which explains why his life total was healthier than mine.
Game three, I’m afraid I don’t remember too much about this game, aside from blowing him out with a Firespout into Liliana to kill his Baneslayer Angel.
ROUND FIVE – WUR Control (2-0)
Game one, his list was higher on the curve and had [card]Ajani Venegant[/card] and [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card] to compliment his [card]Spreading Seas[/card] to shut down mana. I picked his hand apart with discard and resolved a Liliana who capitalized on his missed land drop and I went to town on him.
Game two, He mulligans and again I hit his hand then start sticking threats. He ends up horrible stuck on lands whilst I play out my hand and then Liliana comes down to guarantee he can’t get back into the game. Unfortunately it was one of those games where we didn’t get to play magic due to his mana screw.
ROUND SIX – Melira Pod (2-1)
Game two, he drops a [card]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/card] and my triple Deathrite Shaman draws falls apart as his angel kicks my head in extra quick thanks to exalted.
Game three, this game was tight to begin with, he had 4 mana dorks, a Kitchen Finks and a [card]Wall of Roots[/card]. I attack with my Tarmogoyf, he blocks with the wall, then I blow him out with Firespout and get a five and a half for one. Next turn I drop Olivia, then eat all his guys as he drops them for the win.
ROUND SEVEN – JUND (2-0)
Game one, we both mulligan, he keeps a one lander, but has an awful lot of one drop burn spells he can cast. I lose a Deathrite and a Dark Confidant, but he never gets to play much magic, by the time he gets into the game, it’s too far gone in my favour.
Game two, we both keep seven, and I get to see he’s on the Huntmaster plan. I draw better and have him on the back foot, there is a sequence of plays where we are both in draw go mode, I get to force him into a double block and blow him out with a Lightning Bolt, then close out the game.
This game was a feature match and the coverage is below…
ROUND EIGHT – ID
I ID myself into 8th place.
Before the top 8 started, I went over to Raoul who had top 8’d, this was the player who beat me with Junk in the swiss. I told him I thought his deck was the best choice for the top 8 and that I expected him to win, he seemed a little nervous as he had never won a PTQ before and was quite clearly in a good spot. I advised him not to worry and told him I’d see him in the final where he’d probably beat me so he shouldn’t be concerned.
The Top 8
Quarter Final – Kiki-Pod (2-1)
Game two, this game is a bit back and forth, again at a very slow pace, until I Firespout myself way ahead and crush his board. From that point on he doesn’t have a chance to get into the game and I close it out pretty quick, opting to use a [card]Rakdos Charm[/card] then some removal to finish it in that turn for the extra two points of damage.
Game three, this is where it all goes incredibly surreal. My stern and silent opponent explodes into life and the peculiar banter begins. In terms of the game, I hit him with discard and removal, but I forget a lot of the specific interactions as the persona of my opponent is what sticks in my mind. He’s in top deck mode and requires either a [card]Chord of Calling[/card] or [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] to win. He flips the top of his deck and shouts “ASHAR!” only to put a land into play. He wiggles his fingers over his deck to bless it with luck, I then take out his creatures making Chord no longer lethal. He shuffles his library making comments then hands me his deck, it’s very tense due to the need for one card, so I decide to give the crowd what they want and go for a lengthy pile shuffle to prolong the moment to a few laughs.
He summons over a player to flip the top card of his deck for him, “ASHAR!” it’s another fetch land. We repeat this process giving him one more shot. “ASHAR!” it’s nothing and he the game is done. I can’t begin to recount the banter or the atmosphere, suffice to say it was reminiscent of an Incredible String Band song as the height of their drug induced talent.
Off to the semi!
Semi Final – WUR Control (2-0)
Game one, I mulligan then come out with discard and make threats, he stumbles a little bit on land which allows me to pull ahead. I don’t remember too much aside from him having to chump block a Tarmogoyf with just about everything including a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card]. Eventually he runs out of chumps and I take it home.
Game two, I keep a one land(fetch land) and Deathrite Shaman hand on the draw. He keeps two lands with [card]Think Twice[/card]. I miss my third land drop put have the Shaman to power things out which doesn’t quite get me to drop a Liliana when I want to. I see Matt is stuck on three lands with only one white source, whilst I have a little pressure in Goyf, I wait for the opening and use the Sowing Salt I was saving for his Colonnade on his [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card] to shut him off of white and keep him two turns away from his powerful four drops. This play pretty much seals the deal and I take home the game. He was pretty unlucky with his mana and I have no illusions that this match up was more luck based rather than skill this time. However we had a discussion about Sowign Salt, he really disliked my play of bringing it in, but I was adamant that it was right since the Colonnade is very strong and the source of most of his wins, especially since his presumable sideboard [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] plan was terrible against Jund so he couldn’t bring it in.
Final – Junk (1-2)
Game one, we sat down and shuffled up, it was clear he was still a bit nervous so I told him he was probably going to win in order to settle his nerves and hoped for a good game of magic as we shook hands and began the game. He doesn’t have a turn one play, I Thoughtseize him and take his Dark Confidant, he promptly draws another forcing my turn two to become Deathrite and Lightning Bolt. From here I remain on three lands and muster up a Kitchen Finks whilst he proceeds to draw Lingering souls, I believe he draws three in total, which makes my Liliana pretty blank indeed. I stay on the three lands whilst he beats me down with an aerial threat, I’m not lucky enough to draw Maelstrom Pulse so we head to game two.
I’m much happier than I was in the swiss since I can board right, not bringing in Sowing Salt as he’s clearly not as token based as I thought in round two. Instead I bring in all my big men so I can attack in Stirring Wildwood and trade fairly with his 4/4’s as well. Lightning Bolts here make a big difference as I get to have the Dark Confidant and Deathrite Shaman advantage more often since I can kill his more easily. I also bring in some Rakdos Charm, which can either exile his graveyard to shrink a Goyf or fizzle a Deathrite activation, but more importantly exile Lingering Souls to prevent the flashback. Also, because he makes a lot of guys, you can sometimes cheese him out and just hit him for lethal with the Rakdos Charm, I imagine he wouldn’t be playing around it either.
Game two, I Inquisition him after he mulligans and see a pretty ropey hand, as he’s brought in [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] and has two of them in hand whilst I have Deathrite in play. I make a Dark Confidant and it gets the [card]Path to Exile[/card] I know he has in hand. He makes a Timely to get back into the game, in response I fetch an untapped shockland to make sure he doesn’t gain the life despite me not having a use for that mana in his turn. I make an Obstinate Baloth and Tarmogoyf and he never gets back into the game, he needs to fetch a shock land to cast a spell, but that leaves him dead to Bolt, catch 22.
Game three, we both keep seven, he hits me with a turn one Inquisition to see my hand of [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card], [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card], [card]Treetop Village[/card] and two fetch lands. This is an ideal hand, as it allows me to out muscle his creatures or match them, and I even have a manland for good measure. I lose a Goyf then make a Village after drawing a land for the turn, we both make Goyf’s, he Thougthseizes my Thurn then makes a Deathrite. I draw another land and pass. He Path’s my Goyf then makes a [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], I draw another land then make the Baloth. He draws a Dark Confidant and makes it, but doesn’t start attacking me despite his superior board presence, I draw another land, whilst Dark Confidant draws him a Lingering Souls and casts it. Again he doesn’t attack, giving me a chance to draw back into the game when he should be closing it out.
I draw an [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], allowing me to attack with Raging Ravine and Goyf after taking his own Goyf out, choosing to let the Dark Confidant stay to give me Rakdos Charm as a super live draw that can win me the game later on as his life total hits the bottom. I do this because I’m already so far behind on cards due to having no spells, and he’s so far in front, that my only real way is to pressure him and hope to either draw decent spells, or shut him down with a big Rakdos Charm. He trades the Smiter with my Baloth, he makes a Thrun, then plays into my hands next turn by making more Lingering Souls tokens to make my Rakdos Charm lethal, and only pokes in for two rather than pressuring me to kill me before I get the chance to draw it. I continue to draw lands whilst he’s only got three lands and a grip full of spells, all of which cost three or less. We got back and forth, I keep drawing lands, and he keeps only attacking for a tiny amount, and making more guys. On my last turn I draw my sixth spell for the game, it’s a useless Deathrite Shaman and he can finally swing for the win, the turns he hesitated and kept guys back didn’t end up costing him. I extend the hand to congratulate him and wish him all the best for the Pro Tour.
Coverage of the final is below…
I was a little bummed out about game three, only seeing six spells in the game, two of which I was made to discard. I would have rather lost to a game of magic rather than the great magic gods in the sky, but luck plays a big part in magic and you can’t win an event without a bit of it, I’m sure I’ll be getting knocked out of many more PTQ’s in the future so it’s nothing to get worked up about.
Jund is pretty good as it turns out. In terms of where the modern format is now, Storm taking a bit of a hit has made the usual cycle of “One combo deck will be the best deck for this tournament, just choose the right one” no longer applies. Instead I feel modern is now “Play a BG/x deck, different tournaments make different splashes the correct choice”. Sure, there will be tournaments where other decks do well, but on the whole, this is where I feel the format lies, and having a very solid core Rock framework for your deck means you’re not going to be horribly matches against anything. Even Tron, the supposed bad match up of Jund is not that bad, you can easily get hands that beat them, and your sideboard improves things in a big way.
Deathrite Shaman is still the best, please plan accordingly.
I’d like to just take a quick bit of time to thank Fanboy 3 and all the judges involved for running a well-paced tournament, in this day and age of massive PTQ’s it’s not easy to get through rounds that efficiently, especially in a format which has Eggs.
Also, the coverage of Metagames deserves a mention. Yes, it’s very easy to criticize them if you want, but remember they have only just started doing it, and frankly any coverage at all is a wonderful thing and we should all support them in the future. As time goes on, the coverage will get better, so I’d like to thank them for their work this weekend, and when I inevitably scrub out of a PTQ sometime, maybe I could drop in the booth and give them a hand!
Lastly, and most importantly:
“The healt of the salmon to have you a long.”
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.