In case you missed it, Wizards of the Coast have announced the decklist for the new Modern Event Deck. And its a bit naff. Whilst looking at it pragmatically it seems “good value for money”, in reality it fails on the main objectives a deck like this sets out to achieve:
Give me more fetch lands
What, this isn’t the objective of the deck? OK. How about this quote from Zac Hill from this 2011 article:
“Event Decks were created to make it as easy as possible for someone to show up at Friday Night Magic and play in a tournament. And when I say “play,” I don’t just mean “register a legal deck.” I mean have an actual game experience that communicates what it’s like to really participate fully in FNM. Competitive cards. Competitive strategies. Competitive tactics, theories, and ideas.
The concept behind the product was to remove every conceivable barrier possible to Friday Night Magic participation by allowing someone to show up empty-handed and, with a minimal amount of background knowledge, be participating in an event within ten minutes of arriving at the store.
Are they going to automatically be wielding the best deck there? Probably not, but they are going to have something decent to start out with. And they’ll figure out what works, and they’ll decide if anything doesn’t, and they’ll have a direction to take their deck once they’ve logged a few rounds of game play under their belt.”
He goes on to state that the expected results that the event deck should get against a fair gauntlet of other decks of that format is approximately 25%, or to put it simply, you should have a reasonable chance at going 1-3 at an FNM.
Now, there has been a fair amount of complaint at the power level of the Modern Event Deck, that it can’t handle the fast combo side of the gauntlet, that the Birthing Pod decks are just too consistent (and with tutorable access to Orzhov Pontiff against a tokens deck this seems to be the case) and Jund decks are, well, Jund decks.
So… our brave editor has tasked us all with creating a new event deck for under the RRP of £65. You can find full details of the competition here, please remember to submit your lists asap! – Introducing: The Modern Event Deck Competition by Dave Shedden
Now with all this in mind, I need to construct a deck.
Let’s construct The Deck.
Brian Weissman, circa 1995
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Black Lotus
1 Demonic Tutor
2 Disrupting Scepter
1 Ivory Tower
1 Jayemdae Tome
4 Mana Drain
1 Mind Twist
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Sol Ring
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Time Walk
Step 1: Acquire the power 9 for less than £65
[furtive whispers] What do you mean be realistic? Back in the day they were only a few dollars a piece!
Well, it seems that the Power 9 are a little out of my scope for this deck, though analysing The Deck, it does seem that its closest relative is, in fact, a Legacy deck. The Miracles deck, in all its current guises, is a rather similar deck to The Deck.
The Miracles deck also works by trying to stall the game out; outlasting the opponent through one-for-one-ing with spot removal, bursts of card advantage/quality through cantrips and filtering and eventually a resilient way to win the game, whether the two-of Serra Angel in Weismann’s deck, or a flood of angels being Entreated or even a Batterskull with its trusty resurrecting Germ token in some Stoneforge Mystic variants that are running around now.
So where does that leave us?
Hmmmmm… I get the feeling that if I submit this as a finished product I might not still have a writing gig here much longer.
Attempt three anyone?
So lets break the deck down into its various components:
Card Draw and Filtering
and finally, Lands
Card Draw and Filtering
So, we want as good card quality in this deck as possible, so lets start with our playset of Sensei’s Divining Top.
[furtive whispering] WHAT DO YOU MEAN, BANNED?!
So there’s an awkward problem with Modern at the moment. The cantrips and library manipulation all kind of suck. Sleight of Hand is OK at best. Serum Visions is powerful but a lot less so than Brainstorm, Ponder and even Preordain.
The big issue is that the draw a card is before the scry meaning that the card you draw isn’t necessarily the card you want. The closest card to Sensei’s Divining Top is Crystal Ball, which as a 3 drop artifact is unfortunately vulnerable to Abrupt Decay. For this reason, amongst others, we’ll need 4.
Unlike Top, multiples of this actually gets better as the scry allows you to get rid of unwanted cards and see more cards than you otherwise would, unlike with Top where you can get a little bit stuck on bad cards at times.
The other advantage of this is that fetch lands are less of a necessity, which also shrinks the budget needed for our manabase as we don’t need to be running a shock/fetch one.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor *YES I KNOW THIS IS BANNED TOO, STICK WITH ME* is also a powerful card advantage and card quality tool for the Miracles deck, as well as being a long-game threat.
Whilst not having quite as powerful a draw engine as his mind sculpting version, Jace, Architect of Thought is pretty good at drawing cards, drawing aggro away from you (and reducing its effectiveness), blanking the Deceiver Exarch half of that combo and having an ultimate that really should win you the game. Unfortunately, whilst his price tag is also significantly less than his alter ego, it is still too much of a hefty tag to put more than one in the deck.
Think Twice is a card that I had to think long and hard about. I wanted a mix of cheap, efficient draw and a powerhouse, and it was the former that was really hurting me. See Beyond was an option as we have a fair few situational cards in the deck, but the sorcery speed of it hurts a lot as we need be able to keep our mana open on our opponent’s turn to react to their plays.
This left Think Twice as the only realistic cheap, instant speed card draw spell open to us. For the powerhouse card draw I wanted an “X” spell that can scale with the state of the game.
Sphinx’s Revelation would be the go-to option here were we not on a budget, and I would imagine that if this sort of deck tickles your fancy you may well have some of these for your Standard deck anyway. However, there are constrictions here for me to work with, and so we look to Mirrodin Besieged and its Blue Sun’s Zenith to draw us out of a tight spot.
The Counter-Top combo is one of the most potent in all of Magic. There’s nothing more demoralising than seeing your opponent, turn after turn, paying 1 mana, not spending a card, countering all your spells and showing you that if any do actually get through the soft-lock then you’ve got to get it past this sweeper/spot removal/wall of angelic death.
Whilst Crystal Ball isn’t as good as Sensei’s Divining Top at enabling this lock, it can help create some serious card advantage by clearing spells off the stack with very little investment. We still, therefore, want access to Counterbalance, and a 1-of seems sensible here.
We want to make sure we can get our counter shields up early. Whilst we haven’t got any counterspells anywhere near as efficient as the Miracles deck counterspell suite of Force of Wills, we can make do with some good, cheap counters.
Mana Leak and Spell Pierce get worse as the game goes on, sadly, but both are good in the early game, and play counterpoint nicely to Negate and Logic Knot, which are both a little more difficult to cast but are more likely to counter spells outright in the late game.
Voidmage Husher as a one-of rounds out this section nicely. It can provide some fun pants-down moments as your opponent tries to go off with Splinter Twin, Birthing Pod, any number of planeswalker abilities, or even as a good old Stone Rain as your opponent activates a fetch land.
Opponent Has Things.
Things Get Smooshed.
The Day of Judgment Is Upon Them.
This part of the list gave me the most pause. The WotC Event Deck has been applauded for including 3 copies of Path to Exile. Unfortunately, our budget only stretches to one, with some other pieces of not-quite-as-efficient back-up. Oblivion Ring is one of my all time favourite go-to cards when I’m looking for answers and certainly fits the bill for what we want for a piece of spot removal.
The final piece isn’t typically thought of as spot removal, but it does a similar sort of job. Wall of Omens can stall a ground assault by most early creatures, as well as replacing itselfIt can be a little underrated at times, but its a solid addition to our deck.
Gah, I keep forgetting that we can’t just rely on the big fella for everything in this format.
OK. Well, we need something that’s hard to kill, can disrupt our opponent and gets things done in short order. Despite having fallen far out of favour since the cycle rotated out of Standard, Frost Titan never actually stopped being good!
An ultimating Jace, Architect of Thought can find one, along with a big beatstick from your opponent’s deck too, although you’re probably just better off drawing a bazillion cards with his mini Fact or Fictions.
In another comparison to the Miracles deck, we want something that we can react with end of turn to just untap with and win when we have a window. Entreat the Angels is the card of choice in legacy, but in our Modern deck we have to consider:
A) Our inability to cast it during our opponent’s end step with any ease
B) The clunky telegraphing of the miracle trigger when we decide whether or not to cast it, and, for this deck
C) the fact that it costs a pretty penny to actually get hold of a copy.
Our replacement here is White Sun’s Zenith, spewing out kitties in the end step like they’re going out of fashion, ambushing attackers and recycling itself back into our library so we can do it all over again later on.
Here is where it gets really tricky. in an “ideal world” we’d be running a fetch/shock manabase. These are:
a) expensive on the wallet, and
b) expensive on the life total.
Due to our budget running out rather fast I’ve had to compromise a little here, going for Guildgates, Glacial Fortresses and Adarkar Wastes. The Wastes are a little awkward with the life loss, hence only two compared to the three of the others, but hopefully too much pain can be avoided.
The Azorius Chancerys give a little bit of card advantage being a land that taps for 2 mana, helping us to keep hitting our land drops right up the curve and being as efficient as possible with our mana. We’ve gone for more basic Islands than Plains due to the large numbers of of UU costing cards in the deck, with the only stringent white commitment being on our XWWW kitty maker.
Ahh, the tricky part. Shoring up those weaknesses whilst not taking away from our strengths. We have our obligatory graveyard hate, ways of shutting down problem cards, Nevermores to stop BIG problem cards (i.e. for the more combo based decks) and Celestial Flares for hexproofed monsters, regenerators and big, all in fatty strategies.
Budget Modern Counter-Ball
4 Day of Judgment
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Mana Leak
1 Spell Pierce
1 Path to Exile
2 Logic Knot
1 Voidmage Husher
2 Think Twice
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Blue Sun’s Zenith
2 White Sun’s Zenith
4 Crystal Ball
All of this comes in at the princely sum of £64.97, a whole 3p under budget!
Going forward with Counter-Ball
To tune the deck up there are a number of directions we can go down. To start with the manabase, a fetch/dual base incorporating Hallowed Fountains and non- Verdant Catacombs fetchlands into it. The Guildgates can definitely come out, along with the Adarkar Wastes, but I do like the Azorius Chancerys in there for the reasons I stated earlier.
More Path to Exiles would definitely be good, though I always like access to a copy or two of Oblivion Ring (or Detention Sphere, or even Banishing Light at a pinch) as a catch-all safety valve, just in case. Wall of Omens could be replaced by Snapcaster Mage, providing a similar function in terms of card advantage.
As for counters, well, there’s not a lot we can do here aside from tailor it to your local metagame. Some people may prefer a Dissolve or Dissipate for their added bonuses, whilst combo heavy metagames might need the flexibility of some Disrupting Shoals. Remand, however, doesn’t really fit with what the deck is trying to do.
We aren’t trying to extend the game an extra turn or two to try and finish it all at one with a big combo finish, rather we’re looking three, five, ten turns even into the future before we actually wrap things up.
And speaking of wrapping up, I think there is an appropriate place to leave it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on a budget Blue/White control list, and that it’s given you the inspiration to go out and build a sweet, sweet brew of your own.
But I couldn’t leave it there.
Here is a bonus decklist, complete with fetchland:
You can find full details of the Modern Event Deck Competition here, please remember to submit your lists asap! – Introducing: The Modern Event Deck Competition by Dave Shedden
Have fun brewing and good luck!