Since finishing in Top 50 of Pro Tour Barcelona, I’ve been on a cold streak. I’ve earned 2 Pro points this season beyond the 3 I received for showing up at Pro Tour Seattle—and even those came thanks to Modern GP finalists Jacob Wilson and Sam Pardee carrying me to a 12th place finish at Grand Prix San Jose. I’m not exactly sure what caused my slump. I think it was a combination of not playing much and bad deck choices. Regardless, I was hell-bent on doing well at the Invitational. I wasn’t able to do much testing in real life, but I did a lot of theorizing with other people, alongside a bit of Magic Online.
I discussed Standard with a few people, but worked most closely with Ross Merriam. I knew I was going to play some form of a UW [card restoration angel]Resto[/card]-[card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] deck, though I wasn’t sure exactly how to build it. Ross has experience with the archetype and I generally respect his opinion.
After talking with Adam Prosak and Ross, I decided that the cost of splashing red was not worth the benefit. Pillar of Flame did make the deck less soft to Geralf’s Messenger and Knight of Infamy, but Unsummon was much better in the mirror and against Bant. Cards like [card izzet staticaster]Staticaster[/card] were the real draw to red, but I couldn’t justify all the heavy-M10-dual draws just to splash a sideboard card. Ironically, Ross talked himself into playing red and regretted it.
Wrapter and Ross convinced me to maindeck [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card]. They argued it was the best way to finish Zombies, and was obviously good against Bant and the pseudo-mirror. It wasn’t reliable against the Naya midrange decks, but it made more sense to board it out there than to board it in everywhere else. I could always bring in [card supreme verdict]Wrath[/card]s and [card jace, architect of thought]Jace[/card] to attack the Naya decks anyway.
Runechanter’s Pike was an unfortunate casualty of the Geist addition, but it was a necessary cut to maintain the threshold for instants required by [card augur of bolas]Augur[/card]. It was then that Ross found the gem of Feeling of Dread. With all the overcosted creatures people were playing, Feeling was a huge tempo swing and obviously had synergy with Geist. From those insights and a few Magic Online games, I settled on this:
The deck performed admirably. I finished 7-0-1 in the swiss, won my first round of Top 8, and lost the semis in ridiculous fashion. I recorded a Daily Event with the deck after the Invitational, for your viewing pleasure.
One of the biggest strengths of the deck is the amazing redundancy of its removal. If you are facing a large creature, you can easily have a series like Unsummon their guy, next turn Azorious Charm it, next turn [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card]-Charm it, next turn [card restoration angel]Resto[/card]-Snapcaster-Unsummon it, and last but not least Feeling of Dread them. If you would like to see a good example of how to play the deck in the complicated UWx mirror, I would highly recommend my match against Max Tietze. I felt like I played really well and maneuvered pretty effectivel,y even though he had the advantage of Counterflux to end [card sphinx's revelation]Revelation[/card] wars.
Because I felt like my string of bad finishes had a lot to do with bad deck choice, I decided to play the best and most interactive deck in both Legacy and Standard. Instead of trying to beat my opponents with creative deckbuilding, I wanted to beat them with a tuned list and superior play. For Legacy, I knew I wanted to play BUG early on. I decided right away that maindeck Force of Will was trash. Combo is relatively unpopular, and throwing away cards in grindy matchups is miserable. I really liked the look of Jarvis Yu’s BUG list from an Open in Maryland, so I hit him up for advice on Facebook. We talked some things through, and came up with this:
I only went 5-3 with this deck, but I still think it was good. The Darkblast and [card pernicious deed]Deed[/card] in the board were supposed to be Engineered Plagues, but the dealers were sold out and I couldn’t find them. It ended up working out, as the only time I played against a tribal deck was Elves, playing for Top 8, and Darkblast did a ton of work.
The planeswalkers were both pretty impressive. [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] took over a couple games, and [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card] did a ton of work—even ultimating twice!
Tarmogoyf, believe it or not, was a complete embarrassment and I boarded it out almost every round. Basically, every other non-mana permanent in the deck that costs more than one gains card advantage if it survives for more than a turn. ‘Goyf, on the other hand, can simply be ignored for a couple turns, and then [card abrupt decay]Decayed[/card] or [card swords to plowshares]Plowed[/card] before it kills them. ‘Goyf is still definitely good against some aggressive decks, but overall I think it is a poorly positioned card.
One big difference between my list and other BUG lists is the lack of Hymn to Tourachs. I don’t like Hymn because in many matchups permanents like Jace, [card dark confidant]Bob[/card], and Liliana gain an insurmountable amount of card advantage, and having a two-mana spell with no board impact isn’t acceptable.
I do like Gerry’s idea of Shardless Agent and Ancestral Vision, because it is insane in grindy matchups and helps support the Force sideboard. Speaking of the Force sideboard, the [card spell pierce]Pierce[/card] and [card vendilion clique]Vendilion[/card] in the board of my list were there to add some blue cards when I bring in Force against combo, but may be unnecessary if you are Agent’ing. Even though the Shardless build has more blue cards, I don’t think Force main is correct. Here’s what my Shardless build might look like:
This list takes a lot of what I learned at the Invitational and puts it all into a nice tight package. Even though I like the look of this list, I still don’t think I’m going to play it at Grand Prix Denver. With the move to sideboard Force of Wills and such to try to win the BUG mirror, it seems like the perfect time to drop some combo on the unprepared. Prosak did this to success at the Invitational, and I’m excited to [card tendrils of agony]Tendrils[/card], Show and Tell, or [card glimpse of nature]Glimpse[/card] some people out at Denver.
While most of my games weren’t all that interesting, I figured I’d touch on a few of the games that were. In a game against David Thomas, I had two active [card deathrite shaman]Deathrites[/card] with him at 6. I fatesealed him with [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card], and saw [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card], which I told Dave while I was thinking. He said, “I guess you have to bottom it.” I figured I might as well, since it is better to give him one draw step than three. In addition, I would either have to use both Deathrites this turn, or the next turn to finish him off, so he was guaranteed an opening to Snapcaster. Unfortunately, what I failed to realize was that he only had one Brainstorm in his ‘yard. Therefore, I could have just main phased the Deathrite activation and killed him. I’m not sure if I would have figured out the play if Dave hadn’t said anything, but I was impressed with his play throughout the match and that he managed to trick me.
Another game I should touch on (as much as it pains me to do so) is my game five against Ben Weinberg. Ben laid an early Nevermore with very little other pressure, and instead of naming Supreme Verdict (which he had done in previous games) he went with Restoration Angel.
Some turns progressed, and I took control of the game with Jace, Memory Adept. I felt confident, but had some suspicions that something strange was going on, because of the odd Nevermore play and the fact that his hand seemed so weak. Thus, I intentionally made sure to keep Jace under 7 loyalty so that he couldn’t Zealous Conscripts it. Once I finally felt I had complete control of the game, I decided to use Jace’s 0 ability to mill him.
On Ben’s next turn, he counted both of our decks and announced that we both had 30 or less cards in deck. He slammed a Zealous Conscripts and took Jace. At this point I was pretty sure that I was dead. Ben had drawn all three Zealouses and played them to mill me out one turn before I was going to mill him.
After the match, I tried to figure out if I could’ve started 0′ing Jace earlier. It’s hard to say, so I’ll let you watch the video and be the judge. Losing a tough game five like that was definitely a tough way to end the tournament, but it’s hard to complain about such a good finish. Despite the tough loss, it felt great to put up a solid finish and end the cold streak I was on. Here’s hoping that Denver helps start a new streak for me.