As soon as the previous Pro Tour ended, I started my testing for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. My team, which included myself, Petr Souchurek, and Thomas Hendriks, had decided that I’d be on Modern, Petr would be on Legacy, and Thomas would play Standard, long before even the previous Pro Tour.
I actually requested to be on Modern. Why? Why did I want to play the format I’ve disliked the most since its release? The answer is simple. After the Bloodbraid Elf banning, I played a local tournament with an updated Jund deck I borrowed, won all of my games, and I liked it. In fact, I liked playing the deck so much that I continued to do so on Magic Online, leading up to the Team GP not long afterward, where I managed to Top 4 with Per Nyström and Elias Watsefeldt.
The deck was great at the that point, but many months later, I began playing the deck again and after about 10+ Leagues of testing and tuning, I realized that Jund wasn’t what it once was. I couldn’t get the win percentage over 60% in Magic Online Competitive Leagues, which is quite low. In the end, after about 50 matches, I was down to to 53%.
The deck was too fair in a metagame where people pushed the advantages to the extreme, meaning that once you got the upper hand, it was by so little that it took just as little to swing that advantage back. Once I realized that the Humans lists got even more tuned and needed even more cards to keep an advantage against, I had to give up the deck. And that was even before Militia Bugler turned up. Glad I escaped that bloodbath!
The deck I decided to try next was Jeskai Control. Not because it was necessarily another fair deck, but because it had received the most amount of new hype with the new tool Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Teferi has taken Standard by storm and it started to see play everywhere. Even in Legacy. At this point, the notion of playing him in Modern was pretty new, so I wanted to see what he was all about. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.
Teferi is busted. Everywhere. To add, the cheaper instant-speed interaction gets, the more powerful he becomes. With things like Logic Knot, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, etc. to cast the turn you untap lands, he becomes incredible. The more powerful those cards are, the easier it gets to get to Teferi as well.
To add to this, Teferi solves a ton of problems. Control usually needs particular cards once they’ve resolved, such as planeswalkers like Karn Liberated or a resolved Blood Moon. Teferi also serves as a cheap threat with 2-mana counterspells against combo decks, so you don’t have to rely on flash threats, but can instead have a powerful engine.
So Teferi made the deck a lot stronger—a deck I otherwise never would had liked because I believed it lacked power. But soon, I noticed other issues with Jeskai. While I had a higher win percentage than with Jund, I felt that the deck had too many all-or-nothing matchups.
For example, beating Tron is almost impossible in a three-game match, while you crushed Humans. To add, even though you had Teferi, other midrange matchups were close and I hated losing to Blood Moon. Fetching your lands accordingly to an unknown opponent almost felt random. Do I take damage to make sure I’ll be able to play all of the spells I draw? Do I not take damage if they play aggro? Do I play around Blood Moon? When do I play my cantrip, my fetchland, and my tapland?
Not being fully happy with Jeskai, but very impressed by Teferi, I looked for a U/W Control list. Luckily, pretty much at the same time, as if my friend Marcus Ewaldh heard my calls, he contacted me randomly with a U/W Miracle Control list he had been working on.
At first, it was a bit rough around the edges. If you don’t know Marcus, all of his lists start with four Snapcaster Mage and four Spell Snare, regardless of the format. The first version looked like this.
But I was instantly impressed. I 5-0’d my first League. After some tinkering and tuning, I managed to go 24-6 after my first six. That’s a 80% win percentage, folks.
The deck revolves around using your cantrips, Opt and Serum Visions, with Snapcaster Mage to flash them back, to set up a Terminus early and help you swing the tempo in your favor, and gain total control by casting something the same turn. If you can’t manage to do so before turn 4, Cryptic Command helps you tap down your opponent’s team while continuously searching for that Terminus.
Four Ancestral Vision might seem like a lot, but together with four Celestial Colonnade, it’s the perfect number. First, it gives the deck a level of unfairness against other control decks, midrange decks, combo decks, and even aggro decks post-sideboard. It’s an advantage that can’t be Field of Ruined, Fulminator Maged, Blood Mooned, or discarded if you’re on the play, like Search for Azcanta. It also makes it so that you have something to do on turn 1 if you don’t know the matchup, which is excellent for this deck in particular. Using your cantrips to try to find the wrong cards before you know the matchup can be disastrous. For example, scrying a Terminus on the top versus Tron is horrible, because you win a lot of games by grinding them out, bit by bit, and then every draw counts.
You never want to leave yourself without the option to miracle a Terminus. For example, if your starting hand is Island, Island, Flooded Strand, Ancestral Visions, Serum Visions, Cryptic Command, Cryptic Command, I will always search for a Hallowed Fountain on turn 1 to suspend Ancestral Visions. The same goes for normally leading with a Celestial Colonnade before casting cantrips, not only because you might not know what to look for, but what if you draw a Terminus on turn 2 and your opponent plays a Goblin Guide or Champion of the Parish? Then not only have you drawn a card you can’t cast for a considerable amount of time, but that creature would more importantly be gone.
Since you wish to give youselves more chances to miracle Terminus, learning how to cantrip properly is key. There’s no exact science you can follow, but most of the time, Serum Visions is better to cast first in the early game and Opt is better to cast on your opponent’s turn, always with a white mana open. Many times against creature decks, on turn 2 with 2 mana up you’ll lead by casting Opt to see if you can find a Terminus and then if you don’t find one, you can cast your Path to Exile.
Say you have Hallowed Fountain, Island, Opt, Serum Visions, Path, and two Cryptic Command against Humans. It’s correct to Shock yourself with Hallowed Fountain on turn 1 to cast Serum Visions. If you find Terminus, great, cast that the next turn, or if you’re on the play, maybe even leave it second from the top to get maximum value. If you don’t, then next turn you can Opt and then Path to Exile. If you continue to hold up white mana every time you draw a new card every turn, whether or not it’s your draw phase, from an Opt or Cryptic Command, there’s a much higher chance to get there, meaning that you can start reliably casting it early because you get to see so many cards with so many cantrips.
Lastly, remember not to waste the scry from your cantrips. If you’ve cast a Serum Visions, keeping both on top, it’s seldom correct to Opt to save mana. You waste a scry to draw a card you already know about, meaning that it will let you dig one card deeper if you, for example, are looking to cast as many Terminus as possible in the matchup. That is, of course, if it’s not a Terminus you already know about on top.
Another example is to use shuffle effects like Field of Ruin or Flooded Strand before you cast Serum Visions. Remember, however, that if you’re looking for a Terminus desperately with cantrips, try not to shuffle your library with either land before you’ve actually found the Terminus. Shuffling your deck means that those cards you’ve scryed to the bottom will now have a chance of being drawn again, making the possibilities of finding one lower.
With the tuning from around 140 matches, the metagame shifting, Humans adding another basic land and Militia Bugler to their deck, Dredgevine popping up, Storm getting bigger and KCI and Tron retaining high numbers, this is the deck list I ended up on.
The deck needed a bit more early interaction than the original list. It already over-boarded against other control decks. Cutting a cantrip, the fourth Snapcaster Mage and a Spell Snare—the card you only want to draw two copies of against control and Affinity—I added a Mana Leak, a Detention Sphere, and an Oust. Having Terminus as your only wrath effect main deck makes it extra important versus Humans to have some different interaction in both Detention Sphere and Oust to be better against Gaddock Teeg and Meddling Mage.
We had some unusual sideboard options. Every dedicated graveyard deck, like Dredge, KCI, and even U/R Storm are ready for anti-graveyard hate cards. Since most U/W Control decks are already playing Search for Azcanta and sometimes Detention Sphere, boarding in the maximum amount of cards to remove Rest in Peace, like Nature’s Claim, Echoing Truth, Abrupt Decay etc. isn’t a problem, which is the normal way for U/W Control to interact with the graveyard. I hated playing a Rest in Peace when my opponent had an answer ready for it so they could not only continue their game plan but also unlock a card otherwise dead in their hard. Additionally, it hamstrings your Snapcaster Mages, one of the best cards in your deck. With Dredgevine becoming the new kid on the block, Rest in Peace wasn’t even fast enough sometimes, whether they had an answer or not!
That’s when I turned to Surgical Extraction. This way, since I’m only playing one Detention Sphere, I could blank my opponent’s answers for my sideboard cards and keep playing my own cantrip game instead of having to spend a turn to cast it. People weren’t ready for it. It also helps you against both Tron and R/G Valakut, together with Field of Ruin, a better version of the old tag team of Fulminator Mage and Surgical Extraction, turning those matchups from good to great. Last, if not least, it doesn’t hamstring your Snapcaster Mages, but actually empowers them!
Spell Queller is another fantastic sideboard card. I believe that Vendilion Clique isn’t powerful enough for U/W Control because you can’t leverage the body without the burn of Jeskai Control. While Spell Queller’s clock is lower, its effect is more powerful, which is more important for U/W Control.
But the main reason I added Spell Queller to the deck is because of KCI.
Spell Queller is actually the optimal card against the deck. First, it’s a counterspell, which is your most important card to have an abundance of against them. Second, it’s a threat. Having a flash threat is important, because resolving a planeswalker and keeping up counterspells for both their Guttural Response and KCI can be tricky. Third, it can’t be targeted by Guttural Response, which is crucial, especially on the draw. Fourth, it can’t be killed by Pyrite Spellbomb, making it almost impossible to kill post-board. Fifth, and yes, there’s even a fith reason, Spell Queller exiles. A part of KCI’s game plan is to grind your counterspells out by recasting a number of KCIs together with Buried Ruin. If you exiletheir KCI, it makes that job a lot harder for them.
After playing a number of games versus KCI, which I still haven’t lost to since I switched to U/W Miracles, the Spell Quellers were locked, but more reasons to play them started to appear everywhere. U/W Control started to see more play than Jeskai Control, which they are naturally better against. Bant Spirits started popping up, where Spell Queller is fantastic after they remove removal spells and it can ambush most of its creatures, even Geist of Saint Traft. Seeing as how Grixis Shadow moved toward playing Kira, Great Glass-Spinner in their sideboard, Magnus Lantto’s latest tech, it even becomes great there.
Out on the Play
In on the Play
Out on the Draw
In on the Draw
Out on the Play
In on the Play
Out on the Draw
In on the Draw
B/R Hollow One
Naya Burn: W
Bant Spirits: W
Jeskai Control: W
Jeskai Control: W
Ad Nauseum: W
B/R Hollow One: L
I ended up on a 9-4-1 personal record at the Pro Tour, which I’m fairly happy about in the end. I felt like the deck was fantastic and what might be the most work I’ve put into a Pro Tour paid off. Lastly, I want to add that I still believe the Terminus version is the one to go with, instead of playing a series of different Wraths for 4 mana. They’re too slow and too fair. I still firmly believe that you have to do something powerful and unfair in Modern, but that doesn’t mean that you have to win by comboing off by turn 3. But drawing three cards for 1 mana, albeit turn 5, while removing the board for 1 mana to counter all of your opponent’s spells is also unfair.
Additionally, the metagame has revolved around a lot of resilient threats lately, like Bloodghast, Vengevine, Flamewake Phoenix, what have you. This version doesn’t actually destroy anything, but instead exiles or tucks all of your opponents threats away, which is a huge upside. That makes something like Bogles an amazing matchup instead of a bad one. I had the pleasure of playing against Xathrid Necromancer from the Humans sideboard against me. It’s literally a Gray Ogre if I don’t block with Celestial Colonnade or Snapcaster Mage against the deck.
Don’t you also want to be exceedingly happy when your opponent casts Kitchen Finks?