Woo Brews – Modern Pro Tour and Resto Living End

Pro Tour Born of the Gods was an emotional roller coaster ride for me. My expectations were unrealistic, such that every win felt expected and every loss felt like death.

It was a reminder of why I play in so few Magic tournaments. They feel bad for my health. I take competition too seriously and can’t handle the swings. I prefer playing a few hours on Magic Online to a 12-hour binge in a convention center because it feels like a game and not a test.

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I finished 7-7, a finish which felt horrible at the time, but that I’m totally fine with now. The competition was very good. Every player had at the very least spiked a PTQ so there were no noobs. I really didn’t feel favored or unfavored against the field. It seemed like everyone had prepared their plan and stuck to it and the rest was up to the cards.

I played against top players from all over the world and held my own. I suppose that is good enough.

Looking back on the whole experience I am extremely grateful. I got to prepare for the tournament in Spain for two weeks with my brother, and despite the ups and downs I would 100% do it again. Who knows, maybe I will one day.

Waiting Between Rounds

Pro Tour Born of the Gods was like every big tournament in that there was a lot of waiting between rounds. Some rounds we had to wait close to an hour for matches to play out. Once the round timer ended players would tank forever on plays that were obviously irrelevant to everyone but the players themselves. Meanwhile, hundreds waited.

This is a problem. Waiting for this long between rounds makes for a worse tournament experience. It’s not fun. It’s so many wasted human hours. And it is an actual problem for larger Grand Prix of being able to fit enough rounds in a day to actually determine a winner. If the game is going to continue to grow, this is going to have to be fixed.

Rounds take forever because the incentive is for rounds to take forever. Players earn points for going to time. Players even earn points for going long past time for extra turns.

Clearly the solution is to take away the incentive of going past time and there are two ways to do this.

First, we could take away the point incentive of a draw. This is a great idea. Sure, it punishes the player who gets paired against the [ccProd]Elixer of Immortality[/ccProd] player, but the Elixer of Immortality player is probably now going to think better before playing that deck. But if the control decks do get matched up, that’s fine, because both players know long in advance that there is no incentive to draw and will try to avoid the situation. Take away the point incentive of a draw and way fewer draws will happen.

Obviously getting rid of the point kills the intentional draw, but that’s totally fine. There is no reason for intentional draws to exist anyway. You don’t see them anywhere but Magic. I see no problem with incentivizing the Magic players to play Magic in the Magic tournament.

But wait! Doesn’t this create an incentive for collusion? Well sure, but there is already an incentive for collusion and the current system has an incentive to play extremely slowly.

Get rid of the stalling incentive, get rid of the stallers, get on with the tournament.

An alternative or addition is to get rid of the 5 extra turns. I say ax them. Players always play slowly during extra turns. For what? Because the time of these two slow players time is more valuable than that of the 400 players waiting? No. Round is done. Time’s up. Who has more life? You win! I think this is great.

Either way, waiting an hour between rounds makes for a bad experience and is totally unnecessary. It would take a rule change to fix, but we have a combination of good options.

The Viewing Experience and Unwatchable Decks

The Pro Tour site had a viewing section to watch feature matches and the Top 8. I stopped by this area at various points over the weekend and was pleased by the improvement in coverage. Coverage was professional. It was entertaining. It was good.

But one problem stood out to me, and that problem is unwatchable decks. Wizards is clearly aware of this problem, as the banning of Eggs showed. That deck won the Pro Tour but it was by no means too good. The problem was that it would not only make for miserable play and tournament experiences but it made for miserable viewing experiences. Gaming is becoming more and more viewer-driven and decks like Eggs cause problems.

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So we have Storm. Storm is unfun to play against and it’s unfun to watch. It needs to go. There isn’t a problem with the deck being too good, because it isn’t. There’s a problem with the deck existing. Instead of nerfing it down with banning cards like [ccProd]Seething Song[/ccProd], I think Wizards should just ban the actual storm cards. Without [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd], there is no ponderous, slow, non-interactive storm counting deck that loses players and viewers.

Viewing experience is a real thing that goes hand-in-hand with playing experience. The experience should be good. Good means interactive and comprehensible, and Storm is neither. It’s a relic of the past and I’d bet its days are numbered.

The Bolt-Snap-Bolt Metagame

The metagame is extremely diverse. You can play any number of [ccProd]Snapcaster[/ccProd] [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] decks!

Welcome to our new oppressive overlord.

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[ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] is the most played and best card in Modern and it combos best with [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd]. Lightning Bolt is an extremely efficient removal spell that kills any 1-drop and lots of 2s and 3s. With Snapcaster Mage, UR decks can easily handle aggro decks without having to overload on removal.

Lightning Bolt also goes to the face, and Bolt-Snap-Bolt does a ton of damage against decks without creatures. The combination is dead nowhere and good everywhere.

We have other viable decks, but moving forward Snapcaster Bolt is going to be the dominant force in Modern. Sure, it allows for all different kinds of blue/red, but I imagine after a year it’s going to get old just like [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd].

Wizards has a few options. The first is to create some kind of competing early drop in white, green, or black. I’m not sure what it would look like, but it would have to get value against Bolt and/or Snapcaster Mage somehow.

The issue is printing the card without seriously messing up Standard. The fix might be to print the card in Modern Masters. Why not print new cards in Modern Masters? Well, print-run issues might make that card worth a million, but I suspect Wizards might want to increase the print run anyways with ‘Goyfs past $100 and fetchlands creeping there.

Alternatively Wizards is going to have to ban Snapcaster Mage. Not now, but maybe in a year before the next Pro Tour. The combination is crippling to creature decks and non-blue/red decks. It’s going to be fine for a while, but give it time and we’ll see what happes.

Pro Tour Born of the Gods Draft

I went 2-4 in draft which is way below expectation. I didn’t spend nearly as much time preparing for draft as for Modern because I just didn’t care. Next time around I could maybe prepare more, but that would mean caring more, which is unlikely. Realistically I could either hope to run better or surround myself with more sources of Limited information by preparing with a bigger team.

At 2-4 the post-tournament struggle is determining whether everything I thought was wrong, if I just got unlucky, or both. Obviously complaining about luck is not productive, but Magic is a high variance game and when you go against good players anyone can win. Sometimes you might actually draft well and play well and still lose. It doesn’t mean you drafted poorly and played poorly.

I do think I drafted poorly though. I don’t think I did a good job of evaluating the new Born of the Gods cards and how they effected the power of Theros cards.

After reflecting on the first draft (here) I felt that I should have been blue/black, but it’s hard to feel too wrong after opening Elspeth for my white deck in pack 3. I ended up with a green/white splash blue heroic deck that relied on [ccProd]Retraction Helix[/ccProd] as a heroic enabler.

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I thought my deck was good but I ran into problems against two blue/black controlling decks where Retraction Helix was very poor. Without Retraction Helix I didn’t have enough heroic enablers to function and I was all in on Elspeth, which wasn’t enough.

Maybe I could have run a bit better, but if I was in blue/black I probably wouldn’t have had to.

In the second draft I took aggressive red cards over first-, second-, and 9th-pick [ccProd]Tromokratis[/ccProd]. I was rewarded with deep red and black all draft long and had a deck that I thought could 3-0 and salvage my tournament.

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As it turned out, I had severe mana problems in the first four games while facing down early chase rares and mythics. Afterwards I was kicking myself for maybe building my deck wrong, but I don’t see how that would have helped me hit my third land drops from good two land hands. Sometimes there’s a lot you can do but very little of it matters.

On the whole, I felt like the format has changed a lot. It seems like bounce has gotten worse and hard removal in the new set has gotten better. It seems like Ordeals have gotten worse and high drops have gotten better. Either that or I ran bad. I’m really not sure and I suppose I don’t care too much either.

Pro Tour Born of the Gods Modern

I went 5-3 with Living End in Modern and was inches from being 6-2 which would have been great. I felt that I was spot-on in my metagame prediction and was well placed with a great deck.

My build of Living End was skewed toward beating control-combo. I figured I had enough for beating blue and I had never had problems with beating Zoo, so I cut down on Zoo hate. I had full sets of [ccProd]Leyline of the Void[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Slaughter Games[/ccProd] and I was actually hoping to get paired against Storm.

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As it turns out, I didn’t play against any combo, and besides beating UWR, Infect, and Merfolk I was paired against Zoo 5 times and went 2-3. Looking back, with my configuration I should have been able to pull out 3-2, but 4-1 would have been a stretch.

Zoo has changed and I lost in a variety of ways. I lost several games by not drawing [ccProd]Violent Outburst[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Demonic Dread[/ccProd] before dying, which can happen. I lost to a well-timed [ccProd]Thalia[/ccProd] from fast Zoo. I also lost a long game where [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Domri[/ccProd] fought my Spiders and I drew the third [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd] the turn I was going to invert the board to pull ahead.

Most of my teammates somehow dodged Zoo entirely, so I’m not sure I would skew that heavily against it, but if I had known I was going to play against Zoo all day I would have gone with the [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] build of Living End I had abandoned shortly before the event.

Restoration Angel Living End

[ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] is a great card in Living End against fair decks. Restoration Angel is clutch in otherwise losable games post-Living End. Restoration Angel can protect Spiders from [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd], blink [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Deadshot Minotaur[/ccProd]s, or reveal two surprise blockers. With Restoration Angel it’s really hard to lose combat.

Restoration Angel is also a great combo with Violent Outburst in that they’re both instants. Blue mages will respect Violent Outburst and fall behind to an end-of-turn Restoration Angel. They are going to have to risk having their mana overloaded, get beaten down, or ramp us with a Path to Exile.

Resto Living End

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Resto Living End

[ccdeck]4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Stomping Ground
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Verdant Cataccombs
1 Plains
1 Swammp
1 Forest
3 Living End
4 Demonic Dread
1 Beast Within
4 Violent Outburst
3 Fulminator Mage
1 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Restoration Angel
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Monstrous Carabid
3 Shriekmaw
4 Street Wraith
4 Pale Recluse
4 Jungle Weaver
—–Sideboard—–
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Beast Within
2 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Slaughter Games
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Shriekmaw
1 Ricochet Trap[/ccdeck]

With a version of Living End like this I would never expect to 2-3 against Zoo, and a 4-1 or 5-0 would be the expectation. Obviously we lose [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd], we go down on combo hate, and we go down on instant-speed hard removal for beating Twin.

Is this build better or worse than stock Living End? Eh, I’d say it’s metagame and matchup dependent. I do wish I’d played it though, and I’m going to keep it in my back pocket for future Magic tournaments.

I think it might be a good choice in Richmond…

<3 Travis

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