UWr in Modern and Legacy – Shared Discovery by Rob Wagner
Hi all, it’s been a while! I’m currently on holiday between finishing a university course and starting my new job – which I do in three or four weeks’ time. In two weeks from the moment I am writing this I will move to London from Manchester, so I can take advantage of the heavily-skewed PTQ distribution for once!
This past weekend I took part in two win-a-box events in the North; the first a Modern event in Leeds at The Travelling Man and the second a Legacy event in Liverpool at The Scythe and Teacup Gamer Cafe.
I am often a player of Blue-White decks (as any regular reader will know) and in a format I haven’t tested much of that will tend to be what I default to. Sure enough, that’s what happened this weekend, as presented in this double tournament report.
This weekend also marked the first time I had played with the new Legend/Planeswalker rules. They played out about as I expected, which I will describe below and summarise at the end of the article.
A quick search on mtgonline.com of recent decklists from Magic Online Modern events helped me find a few UWr lists, and I copied one with the exception of a single card as follows:
The Linvala is my own addition over a second Thundermaw Hellkite, and it proved excellent. I faced a Jund opponent and won a close game 1 using Geist plus protection from Liliana, but my opponent was sadly manascrewed for game 2.
My round 2 opponent had an innovative White-green Death and Taxes-like brew, against which my range of cheap removal matched up pretty well. I then beat a Blue-Red Splinter Twin deck in close drawn-out games, for which I was thankful of my Linvala.
My round 4 opponent refused the ID and sadly justice didn’t do its job but my round 5 opponent was happy to ID us both into the top 8.
My quarter final is really where it got interesting for the perspective of this article, because I had a UWr mirror match.
On the play in game 1 I had no counterspell but I had Geist, Angel, and a couple of Paths for spells. On my turn 3 I elected to run out my Geist of Saint Traft, figuring that since he can’t kill mine by playing his own this play is only really bad if he has both a counterspell and a Geist of his own. He actually had neither, but my plan would have been to attack on turn 4 and blink mine using my Angel so that he didn’t have a good attack of his own.
I don’t remember if there were one or two more games after that but I know I won a game where my opponent got stuck on two lands and I made my way up to 5 mana so I could resolve my Geist with a counterspell for protection. That proved good enough.
I beat a Gifts-Rock deck in the Semi finals who got similarly manascrewed in game 3 after I had got stuck on lands in game 2 (nearly got there with a hundred bolts though), and in the finals I beat an Affinity deck using good ol’ Geist of Saint Traft and a bunch of removal.
The Molten Rains were really awful for me and I never brought them in – if I had faced a Tron deck I would have preferred Sowing Salts. I also would play all 3 Path to Exiles main if I was doing it again, moving a Pillar of Flame to the sideboard. The split of Mana Leak and Remand was the right way round now that Geist of Saint Traft is so good – you need to counter it if possible, just putting it back for a turn can be ineffective.
So, with a win under my belt in Modern I took the long journey (lift courtesy of Rob Catton) to Liverpool for their monthly Legacy event. This is a format where I get to play 4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor so I do exactly that.
With the new Planeswalker rules making the harder to kill, I was expecting an upsurge in Jaces, Lilianas, and Elspeths. In addition to wanting to have a decent game against Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets decks I went with the Punishing Fire flavour of Blue-White Counterbalance (shaped a bit by what card I own):
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Detention Sphere
2 Entreat the Angels
4 Force of Will
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Punishing Fire
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Spell Pierce
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Swords to Plowshares
Obviously if I was to own all that I wanted I’d have two Volcanic Island instead of that Steam Vents, but there you go. The deck was otherwise where I thought I wanted to be at the start of the event.
How the Rounds went
I faced a Jund-coloured Life from the Loam deck in round 1 and after a lot of back and forth I locked him out of basically all his spells using Counterbalance and a 2 mana spell on top of my library. Game 2 I locked out much of what my opponent was doing, but a Pack Rat threatened to make things difficult. Thankfully Geist and Jace teamed up to save the day.
Round 2 I faced a BUG-coloured deck with a Faerie theme, and the Bitterblossoms were certainly a card I didn’t have much to combat with. Thankfully my opponent didn’t manage to draw them until they were too late and I was able to clear a path using Jace and Fire for my Colonnade to deal enough damage to help his enchantment to kill him.
In the third round of five, my opponent was also on a Blue-White-red deck, but using Stoneforge Mystics instead of Punishing Fires. This naturally favoured me, and I was much better equipped to handle his creatures and his Planeswalkers; I was certainly aided by being the only one of the two of us to have access to Geist of Saint Traft after sideboarding.
I couldn’t unfortunately ID round 4 as I got paired down (well, my opponent couldn’t ID) and my deck was very well-positioned against mono-blue Merfolk.
My Quarter Finals matchup was Mono-Blue Show and Tell, which I am not particularly strong against but I certainly wasn’t dead immediately. My lands weren’t quick to hand in this match, and I had to get very lucky in game 3 by matching his turn 2 Defense Grid with a hopeful Counterbalance and blind-flipped a 3 mana spell for his Show and Tell, but was then able to Brainstorm and cast Sensei’s Top to keep both a 3 cmc (for Show and Tell) and a 5 cmc (for Dream Halls) to basically lock my opponent out of the game.
At one point in game 1 I had to make a second Vendilion Clique to take his second Show and Tell, and it was nice to be able to keep one in play under the new rules.
My Semi Finals opponent had just dispatched the other UWr deck, but his Black-White deck was also not that well positioned against my card selection as I was able to combat both his small creatures and his discard using my Punishing Fires.
I survived turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, turn 2 Hymn to Tourach, turn 3 Liliana of the Veil, all of which resolved and the planeswalker ultimated. I then split the finals with a Dredge opponent because we all wanted to go home before the storm really picked up.
Thoughts on Legacy
My Punishing Fires were very good for me all day, with many matchups where they helped. In the past I could have used my Jaces to kill my opponents Jaces but in round 3 I had a Jace stand-off where we both had one in play. Mine lived far longer because I was able to pressure his with both Punishing Fire and with Geist of Saint Traft. The Fires were also good when people are trying more cards like Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant, Shardless Agent, Baleful Strix and Liliana of the Veil; though the impact on your mana base has to be respected.
If I were playing this deck again I would change the 2 Entreat the Angels into a Vendilion Clique and a Plateau, and I would swap the main deck Counterspell with the sideboard Vendilion Clique. I was otherwise very impressed with the deck, and the sideboard was very strong (though you can change Baneslayer Angel if you’re not as much of a fan). Pyroblast in particular was extremely strong as it can deal with Jace and Geist from the opponent.
Having played with the new Legend and Planeswalker rules I think that they played as I initially imagined, and I am not much of a fan. Being able to reset your own Permanents can be very useful with some Planeswalkers and especially Vendilion Clique, and I certainly like that benefit. However, I don’t think it outweighs being able to have some particular cards on both sides of the table.
I don’t really care about the flavour, but I think that Planeswalkers can be so powerful that being able to kill your opponent’s Planeswalker with your own is a valuable line – remember how strong Elspeth, Knight Errant and Gideon Jura are against opponents’ Planeswalkers? I also think that Geist of Saint Traft was balanced by the ability to kill it with the Legend rule; now that can’t be done the card is very hard to deal with, even with creatures of your own.
A card which has gone up significantly in play value with the new rules in Modern is Eiganjo Castle, and similarly Karakas in Legacy. Not losing your land to the legend rule is nice as you always felt a bit gutted getting Strip Mined at a speed you can’t respond to, but that’s the risk of playing these lands.
Now that your opponent can do very little from your Geist having effectively 4 toughness and the ability to Bolt or Path all your other blockers out of the way, the creature is almost unbeatable for many otherwise-good decks.
One card that my Modern GW opponent came up with was Renounce the Guilds, which seems like a great idea to me. I would happily play 1 and probably 2 in the sideboard of my Modern deck now, as it deals with many troublesome permanents such as Raging Ravine, Celestial Colonnade, and Ajani Vengeant.
My last thing to note is how Wear//Tear has basically made Disenchant redundant in decks with easy access to both White and Red mana. This slightly saddens me as I am a long-time player of a single Disenchant in my sideboard and it would be nice if it was at least a choice.
Sorry for the length, but I had to include both humble brags and helpful information. Hopefully you can take away something useful about Geist of Saint Traft decks in both Modern and Legacy, as the card is now pretty ridiculous – more so than it was before anyway. All the best!
@DrRobWagner on Twitter