Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast
This past weekend I got to play in the inaugural Super Sunday Series finale and as is usual lately, I won it. I’ve been on a bit of a hot streak—there’s no denying that—but I do feel that I have been playing the best Magic of my life. Running well doesn’t hurt either. I loved this tournament because I felt I was very well prepared for its structure and various formats. I actually hadn’t cast a Born of the Gods spell until round two, because I just got mana-screwed/flooded round 1 and I did zero practice drafts as well as no Standard prep. I realize I may not be setting a great example here, explaining how I did no practice for the format and won the event, but this was a calculated decision.
I knew I was going to play Mono-Black control, a deck I have a ton of experience with. I messaged some friends and asked how they would build the deck and what they thought about Born of the Gods Standard. Ultimately, they had a similar opinion to my own going in, which was that the format wasn’t going to change, and one of the decks that gained the most was Mono-Black itself via [ccProd]Bile Blight[/ccProd].
I know from experience that whenever a new set comes into Standard everyone feels the need to reinvent the wheel and try every old strategy again with the new cards, but I wanted to stick to a strong, proactive, consistent game plan that I knew could never be a terrible choice. [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Pack Rat[/ccProd] is and always was the best thing to do in Standard, and I wasn’t going to let a new set of cards scare me off.
Additionally, I felt that Born of the Gods on the whole was a weak set, its best cards have a low power level and there isn’t anything particularly interesting. This played a large role in my choice to do no drafts. First of all, it would have been difficult for me to find boosters and 7 real, living players to get together to help me do a draft, and second, one or two drafts on the whole would do little to help my overall EV in the event, and lastly I already had a great strategy for drafting Theros and felt I was proficient at it. I was just going to lean on my existing knowledge of Magic, try to be conservative, and try my best not to do anything too crazy and survive until the Theros packs where I would go back to what I know. This seemed to work out pretty well.
Born of the Gods Mono-Black
4 Pack Rat
4 Bile Blight
2 Devour Flesh
4 Underworld Connections
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Temple of Deceit
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Drown in Sorrow
2 Devour Flesh
2 Dark Betrayal
1 Doom Blade[/ccDeck]
This is built more anti-aggro than I usually run, and it hurt me in this event. The metagame showed ZERO total copies of Mono-Blue Devotion, and in my matches I ran into one red/white burn deck and four different [ccProd]Sphinx’s Revelation[/ccProd] decks. Obviously if I had known that this was going to be the field, I would have reverted to my previous versions of the deck that ran 4 [ccProd]Duress[/ccProd] and 3 [ccProd]Erebos, God of the Dead[/ccProd]. The matchup is a breeze when I run this configuration.
I opted to play zero [ccProd]Pharika’s Cure[/ccProd]s for a few reasons, but the most obvious is the printing of [ccProd]Drown in Sorrow[/ccProd]. Just by this card’s existence, I felt that aggro turnout would be suppressed. I have as much two-drop removal as I have ever run, and with Drown in Sorrow to top it off I only really lose an edge vs. Mono-Red aggro where I can get burned out. I usually need Pharika’s Cure for White Weenie and Blue Devotion as well, but with [ccProd]Bile Blight[/ccProd] the need for Pharika’s Cure is lessened.
I chose to play 2 [ccProd]Devour Flesh[/ccProd] in the main and 2 sideboard to help against [ccProd]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/ccProd] which ended up being both a popular and successful card at the event, despite me never getting paired against one. One of the players in the event even told me specifically that he played a version of black with Blood Barons because I had posted a few articles with lists that had less Devour Flesh than before. I have always liked Devour Flesh as a removal spell in the mirror and against devotion decks. Going forward I’m confident that a mix of Bile Blight and Devour Flesh will become the standard.
On to the tournament. It was a total blast! Getting to have dinner with Mike Turian, Randy Beuhler, and Marshall Sutcliff was awesome and a tour of Wizards headquarters wasn’t too shabby either. Catered meals and an open bar helped set up some worry-free fun times. Getting to speak to some pretty prominent members of Wizards R&D about the Modern bannings, Magic Online, and anything I could think of was pretty surreal as well. Those guys care a lot about Magic and if you have a reasonable criticism they’re willing to sit there and listen. They even listened to some of my unreasonable criticisms.
The tournament started with a Born of the Gods and Theros draft and I was thrilled with my deck. The drafting was pretty straightforward and I just took the good cards that were passed to me.
[ccDeck]1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Nyksborn Eidolon
1 Mogis Marauder
1 Fellhide Minotaur
1 Reaper of the Wilds
2 Erebos’s Emissary
1 Disciple of Phenax
1 Insatiable Harpy
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Underworld Cerberus
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Eater of Hope
1 Eye Gouge
1 Traveler’s Amulet
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Bile Blight
1 Read the Bones
1 Weight of the Underworld
1 Lash of the Whip
To quote LSV: “good old Jund.” I showed a few of my friends in the event and some Wizards employees my deck, and each time the response was the same—“eh, sure.” I had to correct each of them, “No, this deck is great.” I was so happy with my deck. I feel black is the best color in Theros and I got almost all of my favorite cards except [ccProd]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/ccProd]. I’ll have to survive for now with just [ccProd]Reaper of the Wilds[/ccProd], [ccProd]Underworld Cerberus[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Keepsake Gorgon[/ccProd] instead. [ccProd]Eater of Hope[/ccProd] is even a sick rare as well.
In the first round I played very few spells and lost to [ccProd]Forgestoker Dragon[/ccProd], a veritable [ccProd]Shivan Hellkite[/ccProd] of modern days. In the second game I discarded to hand size roughly 3-4 times. A pretty bum way to start such a high-value tournament but I didn’t let that discourage me, I knew my deck was great and I could win the next two rounds and rally back in Standard, and that’s just what I did. I finished the draft 2-1, and went win, loss, win in the Standard portion.
Day Two I started with a feature match against Dave Sheils. He and I always have interesting matches and this one was no different. We played three long grindy games on camera and I was able to come out on top thanks to a timely topdecked [ccProd]Duress[/ccProd] for the [ccProd]Supreme Verdict[/ccProd] he needed to take control. I felt this match was a good example of why it was a smart decision for me to stick to Mono-Black—it was extremely close and even the slightest of mistakes could have cost me, but since I knew my deck well I was able to win with a hand that wasn’t perfect but good enough.
I finished the second day with a 6-2-1 record, which meant on to the Modern Masters Top 8 draft. My first pack went like this:
P1p1 [ccProd]Sanctum Gargoyle[/ccProd]
P1p2 [ccProd]Myr Enforcer[/ccProd]
P1p3 [ccProd]Errant Ephemeron[/ccProd]
P1p4 [ccProd]Amrou Seekers[/ccProd]
P1p5 [ccProd]Horobi’s Whisper[/ccProd]
P1p6 [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd]
P1p7 [ccProd]Careful Consideration[/ccProd]
As you can see the draft started very poorly for me, in no universe am I happy second picking a [ccProd]Myr Enforcer[/ccProd], but I am always happy to get a third pick [ccProd]Errant Ephemeron[/ccProd]—the single best common in Modern Masters. A fifth pick [ccProd]Horobi’s Whisper[/ccProd] is a pretty insane signal, and following that up with a [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd] made me feel great about my chances to end up with a good deck. My final deck at the end of the draft was relatively unimpressive and I wasn’t thrilled, though I knew I had some great cards. Modern Masters is a set of synergies and I had almost none, so I knew it was going to be hard for me to get a nut draw to blow someone out before they got a chance to play—instead, I had to play grindy knock-down, drag-out games where almost all of my decisions mattered, which I liked. I never got a free win with my deck and I had to earn it every time. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
[ccDeck]1 Rathi Trapper
2 Theiving Sprite
2 Dreamspoiler Witches
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Errant Ephemeron
2 Warren Pilferers
1 Marsh Flitter
1 Vedalken Dismisser
1 Logic Knot
2 Reach Through Mists
1 Horobi’s Whisper
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Traumatic Visions
2 Careful Consideration
1 Death Cloud
One thing I noticed about the coverage and people who Tweeted at me was the number of viewers surprised and amazed by [ccProd]Death Cloud[/ccProd]. Death Cloud is totally sick in general, though probably at its worst in my deck. I usually pick that card highly, and always play it if my mana can support it. It’s particularly nice with cards like [ccProd]Errant Ephemeron[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Executioner’s Capsule[/ccProd], anything that lets you “hide” a card from the Cloud is nice since it drains both players of a ton of resources.
In the quarterfinals I was paired against Manuel Mayer and we played some great games. The second and third game being capped off by [ccProd]Take Possession[/ccProd] targeting [ccProd]Meloku, the Clouded Mirror[/ccProd]. It was pretty awesome how I was able to blow him out in the second game with this combination, and early in game three cast a [ccProd]Careful Consideration[/ccProd] discarding a Take Possession to feign the coast being clear, only to slam the second. Take Possession is a card that I don’t usually play in my deck unless I have multiple [ccProd]Kodama’s Reach[/ccProd], but it is a very strong sideboard card for a matchup where games will go long. My answers just matched up well against his threats and I was able to [ccProd]Horobi’s Whisper[/ccProd] multiple green 5/5s, [ccProd]Traumatic Visions[/ccProd] his [ccProd]Cloudgoat Ranger[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Take Possession[/ccProd] his [ccProd]Meloku[/ccProd].
In the semifinals I was against Andrew Robdrup who drafted a 5c affinity/sunburst deck. His deck was fairly strong and aggressive, but in the match I just had great hands. Game one I forced him to sacrifice all of his creatures and discard his hand to a [ccProd]Death Cloud[/ccProd] while I had an [ccProd]Executioner’s Capsule[/ccProd] left on the table for his Errant Ephemeron and dealt the death blow with my own Errant Ephemeron. Game two he didn’t play a fourth land until turn 8 and I had a great hand once again, using [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dreamspoiler Witches[/ccProd] to remove his smaller creatures. I reduced his life total to 0 with whatever I could find, in this case [ccProd]Pestermite[/ccProd].
The final match was against Makihito Mihara who needs no introduction. He drafted a deck with double-[ccProd]Rude Awakening[/ccProd] which made combat pretty difficult knowing I could never get too low. I feel I managed my resources and life total quite well and never died to a surprise Rude. The final game was extremely tense and involved topdecks back and forth. I played a big Death Cloud which meant we were both drawing off the top. He drew [ccProd]Citanul Woodreaders[/ccProd] into two good spells but I turned it around with Take Possession on [ccProd]Imperiosaur[/ccProd] and Slaughter Pact. I sealed the deal while holding a Traumatic Visions.
The tournament was pretty amazing all around and I had a great time. I’d like to thank Alan Hochman, Steve Port, and Glenn Goddard, without whom this tournament would have never happened. I would also like to encourage everyone to play in future Super Sunday Series finals so that maybe someday this tournament turns into something more special than it already is.
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