Thu, 30 November 2017
Every card in your deck has purpose some of the time; Cryptic Command is the card that is the best, the most.
Welcome Back to Modern, Cryptic Command!
One of the most successful [new-ish] decks in Modern is Jeskai Control.
This archetype, featuring Search for Azcanta from Ixalan has reinvigorated pure control in the format.
Seminal to this strategy is the power of Search for Azcanta to flip into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. In its mana-mode, this card implies the availability of four mana. You can leave up four, and threaten Cryptic Command. If you don't have to use the Cryptic Command, you have four lands to go find it.
Former US National Champion Ali Aintrazi played a version at a recent StarCityGames event, moving up to Nahiri, the Harbinger and Torrential Gearhulk as his late game heavy-handed threats.
Nahiri is particularly exciting in this archetype. She can discard cards to help flip Search for Azcanta, and will dig you to a big Torrential Gearhulk.
Also decks WITHOUT Cryptic Command
In the spirit of gearing Mike up for the upcoming #SCGInvi in Roanoke, Virigina, our intrepid duo goes over all kinds of decks beyond the soaring Jeskai Control...
When do you play FOUR copies of Cryptic Command?
Check out this meditation on Modern now!
Fri, 27 October 2017
Modern remains one of the freshest, most dynamic, Magic formats. One of the big reasons? Ixalan in Modern is driving new combinations, and even new archetypes!
Modern Manipulation: Opt
The funny thing about Opt is that it is barely playable at all in Standard... But it is awesome in Modern!
The secret is that the efficacy of cards -- in particular library manipulation cards -- is inversely proportional to their casting costs in larger formats. Opt helps make combo decks like Storm more consistent. It also helps keep them going once they start to go off...
And of course? Being a one mana instant is one of the best things you can be.
And Opt is.
For reference: U/R Gifts Storm, by Scott Simmons
Modern Mana: Unclaimed Territory
It's not that Unclaimed Territory is so great (though it's pretty good)... It's the critical mass this land represents when combined with Ancient Ziggurat and Cavern of Souls.
Collins Mullin absolutely destroyed last weekend's Open with a Humans deck with only 4 Aether Vials -- deck or sideboard -- as his only non-creature spells.
Mullen could cast any Human he wanted. All these lands that can tap for any color, put together, let him consistently play Noble Hierarch at the one, [fellow Ixalan Staple] Kitesail Freebooter come two, and Mantis Rider on three mana. Mantis Rider!
That's G, B1, and URW!
For reference: Humans, by Collins Mullen
Modern Merfolk: Deeproot Waters
Ixalan gives Merfolk players some actual new Merfok. However their sideboard enchantment may be more interesting, and seems much, much more powerful.
Deeproot Waters is quite like an Oketra's Monument... With tons of upside.
It's not just that you can make a 1/1 like the white artifact; because Merfolk is full of Lords -- Lord of Atlantis, Master of the Pearl Trident, and Merrow Reejerey -- so it is probably a safe bet your enchantment will spit out 2/2 or 3/3 Merfolk.
For reference: U/G Merfolk, by Jeremy Bertarioni
These ideas are just scratching the surface of Ixalan in Modern. Settle the Wreckage, Field of Ruin, and Merfolk Branchwalker all performed last week, and in different decks!
Learn more about Ixalan in Modern here!
Thu, 17 August 2017
Mike can't stand Shrine of Burning Rage in Modern :(
You'd think Mike would be happy about a Burn deck winning Grand Prix Birmingham... But he just can't wrap his head around Shrine of Burning Rage replacing Eidolon of the Great Revel at the two. To Mike, Eidolon of the Great Revel is simply one of the strongest cards in Modern; by contrast...
Patrick does little to turn his opinion around.
Burn deck aside: Scalding Tarn
Mike hates Arid Mesa in Modern Burn decks. While many lands are functionally identical for mono-Mountains fetching (Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills have essentially the same text here), Arid Mesa is most likely to tip the opponent off.
It doesn't come up super often, but if you pass your first turn with the fetch in play, you tend to want the opponent to fetch for an untapped shock land; they are least likely to do this against Arid Mesa.
Mike therefore likes Scalding Tarn in a 4/4/4 split.
Patrick points out a four-fetch distribution has some merit.
The two wax on the difference between the two of them playing a first-turn Scalding Tarn. It doesn't matter which red fetch Michael plays... The jig is up before he ever breaks it. Patrick, though, is a longtime Grixis mage. He would get even more value from turn one Scalding Tarn when playing Burn than most!
Poor Mike :(
More and More Modern
With three big Modern tournaments across three continents to work from, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores have much to discuss. Everything from Storm to TitanShift is up for discussion. Check it out now!
Fri, 2 June 2017
New Set on the Block Amonkhet had a pretty good weekend in Modern, across three continents, last week. Amonkhet cards contributed to all of the main macro archetypes: Control, Combo, and Beatdown!
Amonkhet Control: Glory-Bound Initiate in Esper
At Grand Prix Kobe, Akio Chiba slotted Glory-Bound Initiate into his creature-poor Esper Control deck, Stonefore Mystic style.
Can't disagree with you there!
Chiba played a four Painful Truths deck, where the life gain from Glory-Bound Initiate could be really effective in fueling his main card advantage engine. Glory-Bound Initiate is just that good in Modern!
Subtly, exerting Glory-Bound Initiate may not have that much of a downside, as opponents may actively try to trade with it.
Amonkhet Combo: Vizier of Remedies in Collected Company decks
Vizier of Remedies + Devoted Druid is an infinite mana engine.
Devoted Druid says "Put a -1/-1 counter on me and I'll untap."
Vizier of Remedies says "Go ahead and untap. But Don't worry about the -1/-1 counter, no problem."
Once you've got infinite green mana access, the world (or at least your deck) is your oyster. Here are some of the things players did last weekend:
Amonkhet Aggro: Harsh Mentor in Burn
Meanwhile back in Baltimore, MD -- USA -- Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Stephen Neal added a Harsh Mentor as his "fifth copy" of Eidolon of the Great Revels.
Neal's version was super atypical for Burn (at least since the release of Inspiring Vantage), going up to some fifteen creatures... But still finding room for some unique spell choices.
Shard Volley, anyone?
What is important for Amonkhet fans is that Harsh Mentor might be Burn's best friend in certain matchups. Of course it makes life harder on the fetchland player, but think about Affinity: Harsh Mentor makes doing stuff like activating an Arcbound Ravager downright dangerous.
TLDR: Amonkhet hit Modern hard last weekend; and it hit from Control, Combo, and Beatdown. Obviously more on this story as the format continues to develop.
Listen to "Amonkhet in Modern" now for even more decks and details!
Fri, 3 March 2017
Nicholas Byrd won the most recent Modern Open with a wonderfully positioned Ad Nauseam deck. This style of deck combines the mana acceleration of Simian Spirit Guide, Pentad Prism, and Desperate Ritual with a number of esoteric and specialized cards to kill with a solo Lightning Storm.
Thu, 2 March 2017
Somebody must like them:
MichaelJ and Patrick sure got some sweet preview cards from Modern Masters 2017 Edition!
Mike's Modern Masters Spoiler:
Compulsive Research is near and dear to Mike's heart. He has both filled his own graveyard with Firemane Angels and forced opposing Firemane Angel decks to draw a lethal number of cards. This is a card that allows you to access every part of the veritable buffalo.
What Patrick Wants to Find in a Modern Masters Pack
We all know what a soft spot Patrick has for Grixis. There is no more "Grixis" card than Cruel Ultimatum.
Top Level Podcast shares some war stories, and tells you why Compulsive Research and Cruel Ultimatum are some of the most exciting cards in Modern Masters 2017 Edition:
Back to our regularly-scheduled podcast tomorrow.
Fri, 24 February 2017
Death's Shadow produced a clean break -- including both Grand Prix and team event wins -- and is probably the best deck in Modern.
Weren't Bannings Supposed to Nerf Death's Shadow?
Just a few weeks ago there were bannings.
Golgari Grave-Troll was there for Dredge. Yes, Dredge would still be viable, but its biggest, burliest, enabler disappeared.
Gitaxian Probe is kinda sorta not a real Magic: The Gathering card. Why does Gitaxian Probe even exist? The banning of this card pushed a pin into the collective bubbles of decks like Infect, Storm, and... Death's Shadow.
Gitaxian Probe had a special place in the old Death's Shadow deck. Sure, the new version still has cards like Mishra's Bauble, but Gitaxian Probe also cost the Death's Shadow deck life (in most cases), (oddly) helping to grow the centerpiece threat.
A More Interactive Death's Shadow Deck
The previous version was mostly an offensive deck. Wild Nacatl or Monastery Swiftspear got the ball rolling; the creatures were much more plentiful... but the interaction was deemphasized.
The current version is almost a Jund deck. This deck has only a few creatures (even if they are doozies)... It has a ton of midrange interaction instead. Fatal Push, a ton of direct hand destruction including the maximum numbers of both Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, and even Tarfire have repositioned the archetype.
In addition to having the superpower of being one mana, Tarfire is a Tribal Instant. As such, it's really useful for 1) buffing Tarmogoyf, and 2) getting Traverse the Ulvenwald online super quickly. Some versions even have Seal of Fire to make Tarmogoyf that much bigger!
Most of the offense in this strategy is accomplished by only two creatures: Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf. Unfortunately -- and especially given the printing of Fatal Push -- neither of those guys is hard to kill. The deck can weather opposing removal in a number of ways...
Thirteen creatures have never stretched so far.
Fri, 17 February 2017
Kari Zev's Expertise is already format-warping.
Years from now, when we look back on Aether Revolt, it will likely be the case that what we remember most about the set is how badly it helped players to cheat.
Cheat on costs, that is.
Kari Zev's Expertise is at this point the most prominent example of how Aether Revolt can break -- really break -- the rules of Magic to gain a massive advantage. Dan Ward was the first person to innovate Kari Zev's Expertise in Modern (though he lost in the finals of his Regional Chapionship, to Mike's apprentice Roman Fusco playing the Inspiring Vantage Burn deck).
How Does the Kari Zev's Expertise Combo Work?
Dan played Simian Spirit Guide, so he could pop off the Expertise against a second turn beatdown card (say a Grim Flayer). Threatens can be good cards in and of themselves, but this one also gives you the opportunity to play a two mana card for free.
The most important two mana card you can play is Breaking // Entering:
Note two things about these cards:
When you are casting Breaking // Entering this way, you never give the opponent a chance to use Relic of Progenitus or Extirpate. If you separately cast Breaking and then Entering, the opponent would have a chance to respond, but entwined this way, it is just one giant beating.
Ward's deck still had Goryo's Vengeance, Cathartic Reuinion, and other traditional enablers.
All That and Fatal Push!
Fatal Push is going to continue to be highly effective in Modern... A card (for once not Rare or worse) on the order of Path to Exile. One of the reasons that Ward's deck seemed so reliable is that he lacked the small creatures that make Fatal Push such an effective defensive card.
Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores go over not just a number of ways to cheat costs in Modern, but run down ideas for other archetypes like Burn, Grixis Control, or Abzan Company. Check it all out in this week's episode!
Thu, 17 November 2016
Say Blood Moon wins the last big Modern event. What's the plan? How about we go UrzaTron with 4 Karn Liberated?
Before we start...
If you haven't had a chance to fill out our survey, we'd really appreciate it! (It only takes 30 seconds)
Okay... So part of this is just Tom Ross. How is Tom Ross a real person / Magic: The Gathering player? Tom's reaction to Blood Moon winning Grand Prix Dallas was to play an even slower deck that relied on not just nonbasic lands... But getting three particular nonbasic lands onto the battlefield!
Part of it is that Tom correctly assessed that people would prepare for Blood Moon decks, maybe making decks good against anti-Blood Moon decks that much better. It turned out he was right!
G/W Tron over G/R Tron
The main [deck] reason to play green-white UrzaTron instead of the more traditional green-red build is Path to Exile. That is, Tom played Path to Exile over Pyroclasm in the starting sixty.
Three copies of a spot removal card is hardly the whole point, though. Not only does the Tron deck manage Path to Exile better than almost any other deck (who cares if the opponent gets one extra basic land when you are tapping yours for three?), it makes much better use of the white mana... Just elsewhere.
Seven is big, and they just get bigger
The natural one-two-three is Urza's Tower, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Mine in some order. That allows you to tap for seven mana with just three lands, or the cost of a Karn Liberated.
On eight mana you get Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and ten mana gives you Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Seemingly every play from there allows you to go "over the top" of a fair opponent's game plan. It's just about hitting your lands, and then landing almost any hitter to win.
Karn Liberated is only one answer to Blood Moon
There are a ton of direct answers to Blood Moon in Tom's deck, incidentally... Karn can remove a Blood Moon from the battlefield, as can either Ugin or Ulamog. Casting those cards might be tough under a Blood Moon, though (and World Breaker might be even tougher with its colored mana in seven). However Oblivion Ring costs just three mana to start. If Tom is not under substantial life points pressure, he can work an Oblivion Ring to really asymmetrical advantage. It can free up his lands from under Blood Moon easily, regardless.
The deck has a good number of answers to obvious threats and strategies. Main deck Relic of Progenitus can give Dredge fits, while Spellskite will have an Infect player's head scratching. Tom's deck isn't necessarily about locking out a game forever... Some of these tools are just there to buy time; remember - given a window to make a play, it's unlikely there is one on the other side of the table better than one of Tom's.
Plenty of G/W Torn, but More Modern in "Karn Liberated and the Answer to a Blood Moon Victory"
Fri, 11 November 2016
Skred. R. Instant. Skred deals damage to target creature equal to the number of snow permanents you control. A Coldsnap Role Player takes the Modern stage!