I spent last weekend the way I like it best: playing paper Magic! Two events: Modern on Saturday and Pioneer on Sunday–here’s what I’ve learned.
Last time I played Modern, Hogaak was legal. I was attracted by Julian Henry and Dylan Donegan PTQ-winning lists, and I wanted to try Gilded Goose and Oko, Thief of Crowns in Modern. I played their 75 and Ioved the deck. Urza, Lord High Artificer is an incredibly powerful card, and Emry, Lurker of the Loch is a super-fast threat that represents an infinite source of card advantage. I was also impressed by Gilded Goose, turning metalcraft on Mox Opal as early as Turn 1 with ease. Oko overperformed as well.
My only loss in the tournament came to Gurmag Angler and Stubborn Denial, which was a powerful combination that I felt powerless against. I didn’t play very many games, but I disliked the Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek + Whir of Invention package. While I understand that it gives the deck inevitably, I also don’t want to have those bricks in matchups where interaction is important, and I somehow found those games often.
If I played the deck again, I would register a more midrange version, cutting the combo entirely and playing maindeck Thoughtseize and Assassin’s Trophy. With Mystic Sanctuary, spells like Assassin’s Trophy gain a lot of value and I found it very important to have good spells to cruise until the lategame where you can take over the game with your powerful threats (Oko, Emry, Urza).
Andrea Mengucci – Sultai Urza Midrange
1 Breeding Pool 2 Mystic Sanctuary 4 Misty Rainforest 4 Polluted Delta 2 Scalding Tarn 1 Snow-Covered Forest 4 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Swamp 1 Watery Grave 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch 4 Gilded Goose 4 Urza, Lord High Artificer 4 Arcum's Astrolabe 3 Cryptic Command 3 Engineered Explosives 2 Metallic Rebuke 4 Mishra's Bauble 4 Mox Opal 4 Oko, Thief of Crowns 2 Assassin’s Trophy 2 Thoughtseize Sideboard 2 Collective Brutality 3 Damping Sphere 3 Fatal Push 2 Thoughtseize 2 Tireless Tracker 1 Dead of Winter 2 Drown in the Loch
I was very excited for the Pioneer tournament, as it was the first time for me to play the format in paper. Leading up to the tournament, I did a Pioneer stream where I went 4-1 twice with Izzet Phoenix and Simic Vehicles, but since I had to lend Phoenix to a friend I was locked in playing the second deck. But I had a great time activating Smuggler’s Copter and the deck performed very well.
Andrea Mengucci – Simic Vehicles
4 Yavimaya Coast 4 Botanical Sanctum 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hashep Oasis 4 Mutavault 4 Elvish Mystic 2 Gilded Goose 4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase 2 Questing Beast 4 Thought-Knot Seer 2 Wicked Wolf 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Oko, Thief of Crowns 4 Stubborn Denial 3 Heart of Kiran 4 Smuggler's Copter 3 Once Upon a Time Sideboard 3 Reclamation Sage 2 Feed the Clan 2 Mystical Dispute 2 Disdainful Stroke 1 Negate 1 Lifecrafter's Bestiary 2 Scavenging Ooze 2 Karn, Scion of Urza
Smuggler’s Copter and Once Upon a Time both dodged bans, but they are definitely in the watchlist, and while the deck could still be solid without Once Upon a Time (Miyamoto0321 didn’t play any on their way to a Top 4 in the MTGO PTQ), I’m not sure how competitive this will be without Smuggler’s Copter. Copter is amazing in this deck, as you have plenty of 1-power creatures to crew and you also have lots of Llanowar Elves to get rid of later in the game. This way you can maximize them to always lead with one, but aren’t flooded with them later. Heart of Kiran is much worse than Copter, but still a solid play, especially since Oko’s high loyalty plays very well with it.
I got paired against three aggro decks, and Wicked Wolf heavily overperformed. I was very happy for having cut Reality Smasher, and I found Questing Beast to be slightly better but not even that good against the majority of decks.
I loved Mutavault and Hashep Oasis. The deck is already perfectly fixed with 12 Simic lands + Gilded Goose + Once Upon a Time and not playing 4 copies of Mutavault in an aggro deck with Smuggler’s Copter is just wrong. (Unless you are playing some heavy colored-cost cards like Tempest Djinn).
I definitely need to refine my sideboard. I wanted some extra tool against control and found them in Lifecrafter’s Bestiary and Karn, Scion of Urza. I’m not sure how control will shape up in Pioneer, but I resolved a Bestiary against Blue-Black Control and it took over the game pretty quickly. I asked Autumn Burchett on Twitter why they chose to play Unravel the Aether over Reclamation Sage in their Golgari Midrange deck and their answer was very satisfying.
Unravel got the nod here since it is so good against Ensoul Artifact on Darksteel Citadel, gets rid of Wilderness Rec before their lands get to untap, and answers a flashed in Embercleave before combat damage happens. Rec Sage working with OUaT is really nice though
— Autumn Burchett (@AutumnLilyMTG) November 17, 2019
I loved Reclamation Sage last weekend, especially because it can be found with Once Upon a Time, but being able to “kill” Darksteel Citadel, Wilderness Reclamation and Scrapheap Scrounger is definitely something to not sleep on. I would split the two, getting rid of Feed the Clan for good, since Burn doesn’t look popular and we still have an okay matchup against it anyway.
I’m excited to play more Pioneer in the future, but for now I need to focus on Standard, with the new bans that shook the whole format! You can catch me on testing the format on Twitch!