Modern, Mtg

Back to Back GP Weekends, Part Two: Modern and the Infamous Board State in Oakland

Read Part 1 about GP Vancouver, here.

I obviously didn’t have a ton of time to practice this brand new deck before the first ever Magic Fest. Our team got together on the Wednesday before the GP to practice, and afterwards I felt pretty good about the deck. Modern isn’t my strongest format, but I felt like this creature centric combo deck played to my strengths. I was feeling ready to make infinite mana and win matches with a giant Walking Ballista. I registered this deck at all three events over the weekend.

Campbell Glass and I flew down to Oakland on Thursday night so we could get a good night’s sleep before the PTQ, or MCQ, on Friday. Campbell had a great run at the tournament, going 3-0 before picking up a loss. Even though she won her last match, she ended up outside the top 8 of the 201 player event. I went 1-3 and all of a sudden wasn’t feeling that great about my deck. I played a Sealed event after the Qualifier, which went alright, and then we went and got some great Chinese food in Oakland’s Chinatown. Back at the hotel, our last minute practice games went much better and I was able to go to bed feeling confident.

That confidence didn’t last very long, unfortunately. I got off to a rocky start after my bye. I told my teammates that as long as I didn’t play against the Thing in the Ice/Arclight Phoenix deck all day, I felt like my deck was relatively well positioned. So of course it’s what I played against to start my day.

Round 2: vs. Levi (Arclight Phoenix)

I won the die roll and started with a Noble Hierarch, with a turn three combo in hand. My luck ended there, because Levi played a Steam Vents untapped, and then paid two life to Gut Shot my Noble Hierarch. The game didn’t get any better for me when he flipped a Thing and brought back multiple Arclight Phoenixes to kill me in one attack. In game two I was actually able to combo, using Postmortem Lunge to take advantage of my opponent’s removal. Unfortunately, game three played out similarly to game one, and I lost the match.


Round 3: vs. Oscar (Frenzy Affinity)

This was a really good match against Affinity. In game 1 I got close to comboing, but Oscar’s Galvanic Blasts were right on time to keep me off the win. Shalai came up big in game 2, stabilizing me at just a high enough life total to turn the game around. Ghirapur Aether Grid looked silly when my opponent didn’t have at least eight artifacts to take down Shalai, and I squeaked out with a win. I made a pretty big mistake in game three by sacrificing my only land that could produce white mana, and exposed my Noble Hierarch to removal. I lost the game to a huge Blinkmoth Nexus while holding a Path to Exile.


Round 4 vs. Joseph (Hardened Scales)

By this point I was feeling really unlucky – I thought that my deck was a really solid choice against some of the more popular non-red decks in the format. So I was delighted to see a turn one Hardened Scales from my Round 4 opponent. Unfortunately he followed it up with a Walking Ballista that he kept at a high enough power to disrupt my combo, but I was feeling confident going into games two and three. I hit the turn three kill in game 2, and while game three took a little bit longer, it didn’t take long for me to find my combo pieces in the face of no interaction.


Round 5 vs. John (Elves)

John was a really friendly opponent, and we talked briefly about how much it sucked being in the two loss bracket this early in the tournament. I mulliganed to five in game one, and while I was close, I wasn’t close enough and I get run over by elves. In games two and three, I played to an early combo kill, and I was able to pull it off in both of them. Shalai was huge in game three, because she shut off the possibility of John killing me out of nowhere with a Shaman of the Pack.


Round 6 vs. Michael (Grixis Death’s Shadow)

My opponent’s draws did not match up well against mine, and this match proved why Postmortem Lunge deserved a spot in the deck. It gave me an option to combo off early, even through light disruption. Michael was able to strip my hand and cast an early Tasigur in both games, but he ran out of steam while I exploited the disruption with Postmortem Lunge, picking up the win.


Round 7 vs. Jonah (KCI)

I had some of the most busted hands and draws against my KCI opponent, Jonah, that I had seen all day. KCI is usually a half a turn slower than Devoted Druid combo and that’s exactly how both of our games played out. He had no disruption for my Devoted Druid on two into Vizier of Remedies on three in either game. After starting off 1-2, I had won four matches in a row! I hoped to ride my momentum and finish the day strong.


Illustrated by rk post

Round 8 vs. Sam Pardee (Spirits)

I saw that my round 8 opponent was Sam Pardee, and knew that I was going to have to fight to get into Day 2, but I didn’t expect the games to play out quite how they did. I made my way over to the feature match area trying to remember everything I had learned over the last couple of days. I had to take a mulligan to five in the first game, and the card disadvantage and a timely Spell Queller was too much to overcome.

Game two, however, was much more interesting. I kept a really good hand, with multiple redundant pieces and a Worship as my backup plan. I figured that I would be able to combo early since the spirits deck only has a couple of ways to interact, and being on the play should have let me stick important pieces before Spell Queller came online.

But oh, how wrong I was. Sam showed me lots of Spell Quellers, but I was able to stick Worship on a turn where he was tapped out. Now I had all of the time in the world, or so I thought, to get to my combo. Unfortunately, Sam also had multiple Path to Exiles on a turn when I tried to combo off, leaving me with only a single Vizier of Remedies left in my graveyard and only one Postmortem Lunge left to draw to. I got a Shalai, Voice of Plenty on the battlefield, and used its ability to make my board huge. Unfortunately, huge wasn’t good enough in the face of his six lords plus two Selfless Spirits. By that point, I tunnel visioned pretty hard on my only realistic win condition left – making a Walking Ballista that was big enough to kill Sam in one go. If I took more than one turn with Walking Ballista on the battlefield, I risked exposing it to removal on Shalai plus removal on the Ballista itself. I was also getting antsy; I remembered that his deck might play a card like Knight of Autumn in the sideboard. I figured that I had to act fast, so as soon as I was able to make 28 mana I tapped all of my mana sources, including untapping my Devoted Druids multiple times. I cast Walking Ballista for X=14, and one at a time pinged my opponent. With the last trigger on the stack, Sam activated one of his Aether Vials and put a Phantasmal Image into play, copying my Shalai. Shalai gave him hexproof, causing my last Walking Ballista trigger to fizzle and leaving Sam at one life. A few turns later, Sam finds a removal spell for my Shalai, taking away my last reasonable win condition. I decided to go out in a blaze of glory by attacking with all my creatures because I had fewer cards in my library than he did. Combat went the only way it could – he sacrificed a Selfless Spirit, saving all of his creatures and leaving only one of mine alive. Then I conceded the match, as the writing was on the wall.


The board state during this game got ridiculous. On the turn I cast Walking Ballista, I made one obvious misplay, but even had I done the technically correct thing, I’m not sure that I would have seen the winning line in the heat of the moment. For most of the game, I had multiple copies of Path to Exile in my hand. They didn’t matter, though, as Sam had two Drogskol Captain on the battlefield. I told myself that the cards in my hand – Windswept Heaths and Path to Exiles – were worthless on the current board. And I was right, for 98% of the game. However, had I left a white mana source untapped, I would have given myself an out to Phantasmal Image copying Shalai. I would have given myself a chance to remember that Phantasmal Image is not, in fact, a spirit, and so does not have hexproof. Casting Path to Exile on the Phantasmal Image with the last Walking Ballista Trigger on the stack would have won me the game. I had enough mana that I should have left a Birds to Paradise or Razorverge Thicket untapped, because either would have technically been better than the Devoted Druid that I had access to. That’s my misplay. Not casting my removal spell, while not smart, is easily explained by the evaluation I had done earlier in the game.

Realizing these mistakes was tough, but ultimately, the game was still a blast to play, and I’m glad that I was able to learn from it. I need to work on constantly reevaluating the board state and the cards in my hand, and I need to make the technically correct plays, even if it doesn’t seem like it matters at the time.

And that was that. I lost an insane feature match, but I am so glad that it was showcased. It was an amazingly absurd game, and I think it’s awesome that it’s out there for people to watch. I still have yet to Day 2 a constructed GP, but going out like this didn’t put much of a damper on my day.

I played the same deck at the MCQ (formerly PTQ) the next day, and went an unexciting 2-3-1. I think that this deck is pretty well positioned in Modern right now – it has a relatively consistent turn three combo, and Postmortem Lunge gives it outs to interactive decks. When Ravnica Allegiance comes out at the end of the month, we even get to upgrade Commune with Nature to Incubation // Incongruity, which gives us access to main deck interaction of our own.

Illustrated by Darrell Riche

Even though I wasn’t able to put up a strong finish, my teammate Campbell, had her second strong Modern GP finish in the last month, coming in 49th in Oakland. She played Storm, and has been on an absolute tear recently.

I played a bunch of Magic over the last three weeks – lots of ups and downs, but ultimately it was a great time. I put up a good finish in Vancouver, and then got to watch my friends battle on Day 2 in Oakland. And that’s that for now. I’m patiently waiting to find out what the next step for competitive, local magic will be – but in the meantime, I’ll be brewing new Standard decks, attending Pre-Releases, and battling on Magic the Gathering: Arena. Until next time!

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1 Comment

  1. […] Read my tournament report from Oakland, including my point of view from the crazy feature match against Sam Pardee, in Part Two here. […]

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