Despite having won something like 18 out of my last 20 matches in Magic Online Leagues with my MOCS deck, I have a really bad feeling about it.
I spent the last couple of hours before the deck submission deadline agonizing between Hollow One and Blue-Red Control, and I think I chose poorly.
I decided to go with Blue-Red because my win rate with it has been absurd and it has a good Jund matchup, but I’m worried that the MOCS field will look nothing like the Magic Online metagame.
For Pro Tours, we usually have until midnight the day before the tournament to submit deck lists, but given the technical constraints, Wizards made us submit the deck lists for the MOCS three days before. Even though it sucked to lose those few days of playtesting, especially given that they just unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, we were all on equal footing and I was looking forward to those “stress-free” days prior to the MOCS.
In reality, it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve just been having nightmares of a field of Hollow Ones (my version of Blue-Red has an abysmal matchup against it) and beating myself up over the last couple changes I made. Hopefully, it’s just paranoia and nothing more.
I wasn’t having much success with my first few Jace brews. The card felt really good, but the people who weren’t playing Jace were ready for it, and the shells I tried didn’t feel quite right. Blue-White wasn’t bad—good sweepers combined well with Jace—but it didn’t feel special either. My back-up plan was Hollow One, but I was worried that, whereas Abzan was a very good matchup, Jund would be much harder because of cards like Terminate, Dreadbore, and Kolaghan’s Command. It turns out that these changes don’t make enough of a difference and the matchup is still favorable.
I had been putting off trying Blue-Red as a home for Jace for some irrational reason, but finally got around to it after DaveSea mentioned he had been playing his version to good results.
Slight adjustments made to the list during streaming. We went 4-1, 4-1 and 2-3 (Punted 1 game away). Deck seesm really good pic.twitter.com/Ul1JDJWCkU
— David Murphy (@DaveSea89) February 24, 2018
I liked the look of it, and gave the original version a try. While Disrupting Shoal was better than I expected, I still didn’t feel like it was the best I could do. I also decided to cut Thing in the Ice, since I didn’t think it would line up well against Jund and Liliana of the Veil. It’s possible that I didn’t give it a fair shot, but those were the two major changes I made, and here is what I submitted on Tuesday:
I’ll go through some of my card choices.
2 Mountains and Only 1 Steam Vents
I felt like the mana base could support a second basic Mountain and I wanted as many sources of red as I could while limiting the damage I took from my lands. Not having the second Steam Vents could definitely cost me especially after sideboard when I need RR for Anger of the Gods (if you draw something like Island, Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta for instance), but hopefully the tradeoff is worth it.
I wanted to try some of the cheaper options available since Jace makes the early turns even more important, and low impact cards less painful later in the game. Ever since I added it, I’ve been looking for reasons to cut it for something like Logic Knot or another removal spell, but it’s been very good.
Glimmer of Genius
It might seem weird to include Glimmer of Genius before you’ve maxed out on Cryptic Command/Jace, but it’s a split I’ve been liking in a Blue-White Control for a while now and I believe it is good here as well. Glimmer lets you punish opponents trying to play around Cryptic Command and the extra versatility is always nice with Snapcaster Mage.
Another pet card of mine and one I’ve had in Blue-White on and off. It lines up nicely against a lot of Modern’s archetypes, specifically Jund and Eldrazi decks, and even though I usually don’t love these type of “win the game” expensive cards, I do believe that in this case, having Wurmcoil Engine is straight up positive EV. I’ve also found it to be “fast” enough against Burn decks, which was a nice little bonus.
I’ve decided to only play one copy of Young P Diddy and zero copies of Thing in the Ice. I feel like these cards get worse in multiples, making it easier to play/sideboard against you. I chose the one that lined up against Liliana of the Veil, and just like Spell Pierce, I’ve been looking for reasons to cut it to no avail.
While the card is very good, I don’t think Blue-Red can afford to waste too much time casting these kind of cards. Unlike Blue-White, Blue-Red doesn’t have a sweeper and you can’t afford to fall too far behind, but I still felt like I would be happy to draw the 1 copy most of the time.
People who watch my stream know that I kind of despise Blood Moon, mostly because I usually play decks (namely U/W/x Control) that do poorly against it, but I must say the card has been stellar. I love Field of Ruin, and I know Vieren had it over Blood Moon in his PT deck, but I have been very happy with it.
I was initially looking for cards to help against Burn. I tried Bottle Gnomes, and it was good but narrow. The games I struggled were the ones where I let their guys stay in play too long, so I was thinking about playing a copy of Burst Lightning in the main deck or sideboard, but it didn’t feel right. I was also looking for cards to help against Bloodghast decks, so Magma Spray was a nice option. It was a last-minute addition, but I’ve been happy with it in the few games I’ve drawn it. It’s great against Matter Reshaper, and I’ve had a game where I was able to Bolt a Tarmogoyf because I had exiled their turn 2 Dark Confidants with Spray. I could even see playing the card in the main deck depending on how the metagame shapes up.
There are a bunch of cards I didn’t try. If it’s not broken, why fix it? After making the initial changes, I was pretty much winning non-stop, so I didn’t want to mess too much with my list and just got as familiar with the deck as I could. The list of cards I could see including in the main deck are: Vendilion Clique, Logic Knot, Spell Snare #2, Magma Spray, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Steam Vents #2, Cryptic Command #4, Jace #4, Thing in the Ice, Abrade #2, Roast #2.
The last card I cut from my sideboard was Surgical Extraction. I can’t quite explain why I did that when I was so worried about my Hollow One matchup, but I had the feeling it wasn’t even that good when I drew it in my playtesting games. I decided to go with an “untested” Vendilion Clique. The card has been stellar in Blue-White, but for some reason, I haven’t felt the need for it in Blue-Red. I still thought it might be a nice one to have against Storm (a deck that is still somewhat popular online and the weapon of choice of the current trophy leader) as well as against other control decks or random combo decks. I also had Disdainful Stroke over Logic Knot for the entirety of my testing, so hopefully I didn’t screw myself over with that change (the main argument I see for Stroke is that it doesn’t suck against Relic of Progenitus, which might seem narrow but it is a very real concern against Titanshift/Tron).
If I could go back in time, besides the fact that I would probably just register Hollow One, I might play Magma Spray over Spell Pierce in the main and Surgical Extraction over Vendilion Clique in the sideboard.
I’ve also been doing well against Tron. Blood Moon is obviously every good against them but it usually doesn’t win you the game straight up. What it does do is buy you enough time that Ulamog isn’t unbeatable anymore, and you can afford to lose the two permanents and counter it. It’s still not the greatest matchup by any means, and you can’t skimp on sideboard cards.
In my experience, the deck is also great against Blue-White, Grixis, and Jeskai Control. Blood Moon is very good, and having 4 copies of Remand is amazing.
Burn is quite close, and I don’t have a ton of data but I think so are Affinity and Humans. I haven’t played a single match against Bogles (Logan played against it and won) and I’m assuming it’s close as well, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was unfavorable. Explosives is nuts against them, but I only have 1 copy in the sideboard and I’m not sure how impactful Anger of the Gods and Thing in the Ice are.
I’ve barely played against Death’s Shadow decks, and I’m assuming the matchup is close as well, the green version probably being tougher.
I’ve talked about Hollow One a lot and here is the list I would have registered:
This list is one card off what Brock is playing (I have Explosives #2 over Blood Moon). I made a few changes to my GP Lyon list: I went back to the 3 Angler/1 Tasigur split and cut 1 Ancient Grudge and 1 Rakdos Charm for a 2nd Fatal Push and a 2nd Explosives (a nod to Bogles and a tough Humans matchup).
Here is what my latest Blue-White Control version looked like:
As I said, the deck was performing a bit better than Grixis, but I didn’t feel like Jace really brought it to the next level.
I also tried out Avignon’s 5-0 Martyr list and quite liked it, but didn’t really love all the Gideons he was playing. I ended up with the following list, though I didn’t want to sink a ton of time into it and it’s probably still quite rough:
My results with Blue-Red have to be taken with a grain of salt as I think the Leagues on Magic Online have been especially soft since the unbans. It was almost impossible to pass the 65% win rate in Modern before the PT, and now Brock, Logan, and Reid all have been winning about 80% of their matches (Mike Sigrist also said he want 4-1 in five or six Leagues in a row with Jund). This is one of the main reasons why I think I should have stuck to Black-Red Hollow One, a deck that has proven itself over time. Going with Blue-Red was a gamble, but in the end, I couldn’t resist Jace.
Hopefully half the MOCS field doesn’t show up with the intention of putting 4/4s into play on turn 1.