Unfortunately, Worlds was not the best tournament for me. I couldn’t test because of school (I’m now going to University of Oregon) and even had to fly back to Oregon in between GP SD and Worlds. To make matters worse, my flight plan involved me getting in late Wednesday so that I wouldn’t miss classes when the tournament started Thursday. Repetitive traveling, over working myself, and lack of testing all contributed to my 7-11 record. For the future, I am going to have to find a way to balance Magic and school without sabotaging either.
One good thing, however, did come out of Worlds: my modern deck. While I only posted a 2-4 record in modern, I think Past in Flames has a lot of potential and with some tuning could become one of the better decks in the format. Without further ado, here is the list I played at Worlds:
The thing that is probably most striking about this list is Quicken. Quicken is certainly no joke. At first glance, Quicken doesn’t seem like it would allow you to combo at instant speed, since the deck needs to cast two sorceries: Past in Flames and Grapeshot. However, Past in Flames gives the Quicken flashback, which in turn allows you to cast Grapeshot as an instant. Against other combo decks or control decks with things like Teachings or Gifts Ungiven, this line of play can be incredibly powerful.
Quicken also has other less explored potential, like using it with Ideas Unbound. Ideas Unbound is already a reasonable choice in this deck because Past in Flames mitigates the discard drawback, but it has extra utility with Quicken. Ideas Unbound triggers at the beginning of the end of turn step, so an end of turn Ideas will not trigger the discard until your end of turn. Presumably, they will be dead by then.
One more cool use of Quicken is the ability to Pact of Negation a relevant spell on your opponent’s turn, and then kill at your upkeep with the pay for Pact trigger on the stack. Honestly, the only reason I had 2 Quicken, 1 Sleight of Hand instead of 3 Quicken was because I couldn’t find Quicken at the site.
While the deck was certainly powerful, I did find some problems with it throughout the day. One big issue with this deck is the presence of Empty the Warrens. Empty’s main purpose was as an answer to graveyard hate. Realistically, a lot more people were running cards like Mindbreak Trap than Tormod’s Crypt. Empty isn’t any worse against Trap than Grapeshot is, but when your answer to Trap is Pact of Negation, the fact that Grapeshot kills that turn and Empty the Warrens doesn’t is huge. You could try a bigger board plan with both Empty and Goblin Bushwhacker, but I really don’t think it’s worth it with the amount of graveyard hate in the current metagame.
The next really important realization with this deck is that even if you build it to be as fast as possible, it is not a consistent turn three deck. With the heavy presence of fast zoo in the format, we have to build it to win on turn four while interacting to help us survive until then for the deck to be effective. That means playing 4 Lightning Bolt and 4 Remand or some similar amount of disruption. With that in mind, here is where I think the deck should be:
The maindeck is almost the same, except for the Quicken I meant to get, and the addition of the fourth Bolt over a Grapeshot. I also think its worth at least considering Ideas Unbound over Peer Through Depths, but it’s hard to say which is right without having played much with Ideas. If I had to guess, I think Peer is probably still better since it’s instant speed and digs deeper and costs less blue, which is relevant the turn you are going off. Playing some number of both may work, but it gets pretty clunky pretty fast. Coincidentally, they are both arcane spells, so the splicing potential is the same.
The sideboard takes the slots created by cutting Empty the Warrens and uses them for 2 Gigadrowse, and 2 Dreadship Reef. This gives the deck a stronger anti-control package and generally solidifies the “be patient and abuse Quicken” plan.
As far as gameplay goes, the biggest difference between this deck and other storm decks is the ability to go off with fewer resources. A couple times during the tournament, I would do something like Ritual to Manamorphose to Grapeshot to kill a guy or two in order to buy some time and still be able to go off a turn or two later. It is also very important to note that you need at least two mana floating when you cast Past in Flames since the cheapest rituals in the deck cost two. Other than that, gameplay is reasonably intuitive. Keeping track of your blue mana when comboing is crucial because you need to cast cantrips to build up enough storm. In fact, comboing without a Manamorphose in your hand or graveyard is pretty tricky.
Here’s a quick matchup and sideboarding guide:
Teachings: Against control decks, you have inevitability. Be patient, especially if you have a storage land. Punish them for casting teachings by using Quicken and going off. Try not to let any key cards touch the graveyard as they often have Surgical Extraction as a bullet.
You can afford to cut one Past in Flames because the games go longer and you will have time to draw it. Serum Visions is not an instant, so it’s not great when you are planning on going off at instant speed most of the time. Post board, you are much more likely to have a Dreadship Reef which is huge. You also have Gigadrowse to tap them out if they’ve caught on to Quicken and aren’t tapping out themselves. Cutting a Mountain is fine since even when you need red the life cost from Steam Vents is largely irrelevant.
Zoo: Plans for the Zoo matchup depend a lot on their build. Game one you are simply in a race. Try to prevent them from killing you on turn four and try to kill them on turn four. Casting a Remand is usually better than a Peer if it is going to buy you a turn as Peer can be used the turn you go off (and can even be spliced on).
On the draw, Remand underperforms, so I think you can afford to bring in some Pacts to hedge against Mindbreak Trap. On the play I would probably just cross my fingers that they aren’t playing any Traps or don’t draw them unless it’s game three and you’ve seen them. If you do have to bring in Pacts on the play, the best way to do it is probably cutting a couple Serum Visions or maybe one Past in Flames. While cutting card draw is annoying, every other card in the deck is more important, and the post board games go long enough that you still should be able to draw your combo. There is also a chance that you will need Echoing Truth instead of Pact if they are Rule of Lawing, and the same cuts apply.
Twin: Against Twin, patience is a virtue. Like a lot of combo mirrors, the person who blinks first often loses. If they go for it, playing Quicken and following it up with a couple rituals and Grapeshot should break up their combo. The one thing to be extremely careful of in this matchup is to not get your Seething Song Dispelled unless you have a plan that accounts for that.
The main reason I don’t like Gigadrowse in this matchup is that they can easily float mana in response and then Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite to keep up Dispel. Just like teachings, cutting a Mountain is reasonable since your life is largely irrelevant. Again, the extra Reefs allow you to play the waiting game better. Echoing Truth gives you yet another way to interact. Serum Visions is of marginal value early game and isn’t a great card to draw in a staring match.
I don’t think Remand is even good enough on the play in this matchup. Firespout, Ancient Grudge, and even Echoing Truth are all better time-buyers. Their hate cards of choice are usually Thoughtseize or Ethersworn Canonist, both of which are pretty beatable, but if they happen to have Mindbreak Trap you should replace Echoing Truth with a couple Pacts.
Based on the Worlds metagame, there aren’t really any other decks with a huge percentage of the metagame. Regardless, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the plan is. Against any aggro deck you want to buy time and combo, and against any control or combo deck you want to be patient and use Quicken and storage lands to give you a huge advantage in long games.
The two above principles are why I like the Past deck so much. It really feels like it has a solid plan against any type of deck. Hate cards are sometimes tricky, which makes it very important that you understand the metagame and know which types of hate are being played. The exact list may fluctuate, but I think a list of Past in Flames should be a big player in Modern for the foreseeable future, including the next PTQ season.
Finally I want to apologize for my temporary absence from writing and recording videos. The transition to college has taken a lot of time and taken a lot out of me, but I think I am starting to get the hang of it and should be able to resume recording and writing on a reasonably regular basis. I know Luis and I are really excited to get back to running the legacy gauntlet, and I am also definitely interested in recording some dailys and 8-mans with the Past in Flames deck. Until next time, may you Quicken a Grapeshot for 20.