Last week, we hit the books and narrowed down our search for 3 competitive decks to sleeve up in San Antonio. We’ve done our research and copied our homework from esteemed mathematician, Frank Karsten, so we have a concrete idea on what the Team Unified Modern portion of the World Magic Cup 2016 looked like. Peter Rawlings bribed me to be his teammate with $7.00 dollars in dimes and a bootlegged copy of the 4th season of Moonlighting. So if he’s on the team you know he’s going to play Dredge. If you aren’t familiar with his dredging ways, you can read his first article he ever wrote for Spellsnare right here!
Looking at the metagame breakdown Frank wrote for the 2016 World Magic Cup in Rotterdamn, we identified Infect and Dredge as two pillars of the team format with both decks being the most played. With us choosing Dredge as one of our three, we’ve eliminated other Stomping Ground decks from the search. So what does that leave us with?
Peter was a big fan of Infect for a long time, and he also happened to write several articles on the poison dealing deck for Spellsnare.com as well (found here and here). And while it is entirely possible to field both Dredge and Infect, it looks like we’ll be benching Blighted Agent and co. As I’ve written in my past articles, the banning of Gitaxian Probe hasn’t hurt Infect nearly as much as the printing of Fatal Push has. Death’s Shadow Jund (or Grixis) still looks to be one of the most popular and best decks in the format, so the prospect of fighting against Liliana, the Last Hope, discard, and Fatal Push seems like a losing proposition. Despite Peter’s poisonous predisposition, Infect is getting the axe from us and will not be making our squad!
Cutting Infect from potential squad members does open up another Modern staple however. The 3rd most played deck in Rotterdamn was the scrappy pile of robots most commonly referred to as Affinity. Affinity shares minimal overlap with other tier 1 decks sans the copies of Inkmoth Nexus both it and Infect covet. With Infect out though, we can freely consider the artifact-based deck. Affinity meets the benchmark of being proactive for the Modern format as well.
Affinity is a deceivingly difficult deck to play, however. Knowing what hands are both fast, but also powerful is an under-appreciated skill when piloting the deck. Dumping your hand turn 1 is great, but means little if you’re only amassing 2-4 power total. There is also the added difficulty of being one of the most widely ‘hated’ decks in the format. Artifact hate is plentiful in each color and the overlap of cards will mean little in Team Unified Modern when there is no shortage of artifact hate options.
Just because one deck has Ancient Grudge doesn’t mean another can’t have Shatterstorm or Vandalblast. Affinity being a deck since the very beginning of the format, and it’s status as a staple of Modern, lends itself to the idea that you should always have hate for it. Plus, the splash of artifact hate being good elsewhere, like against Lantern Control for instance, means you’ll rarely find an opponent in Team Unified Modern who isn’t packing some number of artifact hating sideboard cards.
Knowing how to beat these frequently seen cards like Stony Silence and Vandalblast is the other challenge when playing Affinity. Both skills come from a firm foundation of knowing how to play the deck and a familiarity with all its intricacies. Unfortunately, no one on my team has that foundation, and for that reason we’ve eliminated it from our list of potential options.
As I’ve mentioned before, Dredge and it’s Stomping Ground-hording ways eliminated both traditional Jund and Death’s Shadow Jund from being an option.
But what about other BGx Rock-style decks? Abzan was the 4th most played in Rotterdam, and the archetype has seen no shortage of hot new cards to be incorporated. Grim Flayer and Fatal Push are both boons to the archetype, plus ‘Goyf and Bob are both powerhouse staples of the format. Not to mention, I’ve got a Japanese playset of Liliana of the Veil that’s burning a hole in my binder. I also do have a history of playing durdling midrange decks! All previous facts considered though, Abzan breaks one of my personal rules for Modern. It simply is not proactive enough. Grim Flayer and ‘Goyf might be great at handing out beatdowns, but the deck is primarily interested in playing the control role. Packed with disruption, the name of the game is react. And for that reason alone, we’re benching Abzan.
Lantern was one of the most popular decks at Rotterdam as well. And since we’re not piloting Affinity, it shares minimal overlap with the rest of the foramt. But if we axed Abzan for not being proactive enough, you know we’ve got to cut Lantern as well.
Tron in all its variants has been building steam online recently; especially its Walking Ballista-filled colorless version, Eldrazi Tron. It overlaps very few cards with the rest of the format and while not entirely proactive, it does attempt to do big busted, game-ending things. The only issue with Tron is I don’t hate myself, nor do I hate any of my teammates.
In all seriousness, Tron is a perfectly reasonable choice despite my personal bias against the deck.
My other non-Peter teammate has a history playing one of the most under-appreciated decks in the format: Burn. As Roman Fusco will tell you in his Regional winning tournament report, there is so much more to burn than just slinging Bolts and counting to 20. The much-maligned deck has been gaining steam and esteem the past few years however, and people are finally starting to realize the deck’s potency.
Naya is the optimal version however, and once again, that Stomping Ground rears it’s ugly, necessary head. R/W or R/B is an option for Burn, but why limit yourself and settle for a less-than-optimal version when there are other tier 1 decks to choose from?
What’s another under-appreciated, often under-the-radar deck in Modern? I’ll give you a hint, what card does Lightning Bolt hate?
While Merfolk has had many a vocal champion, few have considered the deck to be tier 1. It’s finals appearance at Grand Prix Vancouver and recent Open top 8 might finally solidify it as more than just a fringe role player though. The Aether Vial-based tribal beatdown deck wins faster than you’d think, and as a surprising amount of disruption whilst doing so.
Spreading Seas, Cursecatcher, and Dismember do enough to slow the opponent down while you beat in with giant Seapeople. One of its greatest strengths for Team Unified Modern however, is the non-existent overlap it has with other popular Modern decks. Not much else is looking to register Lord of Atlantis after all.
With Dredge and Merfolk throwing on their jerseys, what’s a Modern noob like Austin to register?
Oh, how about just one of the most complicated decks to play in Modern? Abzan Company!
The deck has had a solid following since it’s initial emergence, and was one of the few decks to be able to compete during the dreaded Eldrazi Winter. While most were enamored with Death’s Shadow Jund during GP Vancouver coverage, I found myself being drawn to the G/W/B combo creature deck. The toolbox of options plus the resiliency and redundancy of the creature suite sparked my interest immediately.
Twin often played a middling tempo creature beatdown plan while opponents cowered in fear of the combo, and Abzan Company plays with a similarity that I admired. Plus, after all the ancestors I’d rallied, and the countless copies of Reflector Mage I’d snuck into play, the prospect of sleeving up Collected Company was mighty tempting.
With no other deck playing Path to Exile or Noble Hierarch, it looked available to play and I set to work. I’ve built and been slinging the creature based combo deck the last few weeks in preparation, and I have to say, the deck is a ton of fun. But more importantly, it is so much faster than I thought it was. My first few games I was stumbling into infinite life quickly and consistently. On turn 3, I’d gained a meager 70 billion life while scrying my entire deck and I knew I was hooked.
Next week I’ll breakdown the deck in further including specific card choice and sideboarding! Plus I’ll cover all the things I’ve learned about the archetype in general!
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