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A Little Bit of Everything

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Magic is in a bit of a lull right now. Because of this, I don’t really know what to write about. There’s not really much to say about Standard until Amonkhet spoilers start rolling in. I could write about which 100 cards I think should be banned in Modern or how the threats are too good and the answers are too bad in Standard, but there’s already a ton of similar articles. I’d imagine it’s something most of you are sick of at this point. Modern Masters 2017 is something that’s still new and exciting, but considering that I can only name ten cards in the set off the top of my head, I don’t think I should be giving anyone advice on how to draft it.

There are a few topics that come to mind for me, but the majority of them don’t offer much room for elaboration thus making them difficult to write an entire article about. So rather than just picking one or two and rambling on about them, I’m going to touch on a medley of topics.

Improving

Based on the fact that you’re reading this article right now, it’s fair to assume that you want to be a better Magic player.

You’re taking the initiative to seek out information; You're putting effort into improving.

If your goal is to do a bit better at your next local tournament or something of the like, then reading a few articles could be more than sufficient. If your goal is something larger, like doing well at an SCG Open or a Grand Prix, then you're likely going to need to do some serious play-testing. If your goal is to be the best player in the world, then you need to work harder than everyone else.

The point is, it’s never just enough to want to improve. A lot of effort is required in order to actually do so. There seems to be a pretty large misconception among most players about how hard you actually need to work before you start seeing some results.

This brings me to my next topic . . . 

PTQ Win

I won an MTGO PTQ last week.

If you're skeptical of the last portion at all, I’m a living testimonial. A few months ago, I wrote about how I decided to start taking Magic more seriously. Since then I’ve only become more committed, and I’m playing more Magic than ever. My goal then was to qualify for the SCG Players’ Championship which I was able to do in only one season of the SCG Tour. Without the SCG Players’ Championship this year, my goal was get onto the Pro Tour. It only took playing in four tournaments that could actually qualify me for the Pro Tour to get there. I’ve been putting the necessary effort in and the results have followed, and I assure you that you can achieve your goals as well if you work hard enough.

Winning a PTQ would normally be more than enough for me to write an article about, but I won it with Four-Color Saheeli. I wrote about Four-Color Saheeli in my last article, a million other people have written about the deck, and there isn’t a relevant Standard tournament until Amonkhet is released. It would be easy to write, but I can’t imagine many people would actually get anything out of it. For those of you who are interested though, this is the list I played with a slightly updated sideboard guide.


Vs Mardu Vehicles:

Vs Mirror (Play)

Vs Mirror (Draw)

Vs GB Constrictor (Play)

Vs GB Constrictor (Draw)

Four-Color Saheeli Vs Mardu Vehicles is a Close Matchup

The consensus seems to be that Mardu Vehicles is heavily favored against Four-Color Saheeli, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Mardu Vehicles is favored in the matchup, but it’s much closer than most people seem to think it is.

The matchup is reminiscent of Mono-Blue Devotion Vs Mono-Black Devotion to me. Similar to Vehicles and Saheeli, Mono-Blue and Mono-Black were the decks to beat in their respective format. The consensus was that Mono-Black was a sizeable favorite against Mono-Blue. But while Mono-Black did have an edge in the matchup, it was by a thin enough margin that the winner was normally determined by which pilot had a better understanding of the matchup.

I’ve played the matchup a ton now and between my last two events with Four-Color Saheeli, Grand Prix New Jersey and the MTGO PTQ, I’m 11-3 against Mardu. Variance exists and my results could be an outlier, but the fact that great players like Corey Baumeister and Ben Friedman reached the finals of Grand Prix New Jersey in a top eight primarily comprised of Mardu Vehicles is evidence of this as well. If the Saheeli player understands how to approach the matchup and when to transition roles, the matchup actually becomes fairly close

MOCS

I just finished playing in the Modern MOCS Monthly a few hours ago. Despite raving about how great Death's Shadow is for months now, I decided to play Dredge instead. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel Dredge is clearly the second best deck behind Death's Shadow. I tested a lot prior to the event, and the metagame (at least the online metagame) felt particularly hostile toward Death's Shadow. I played against an endless stream of Fatal Pushes, Path to Exiles, and Lava Spikes, so Dredge seemed like the better choice for the event. This was the list I settled on.


I ended up going 6-2 which was good enough to qualify me for the MOCS Playoffs, but I still would’ve liked to have done a bit better after starting 5-0 as I could really use the MOCS leaderboard points. I definitely don’t regret switching to Dredge though, as I’m fairly confident it was the best deck for the event. My only losses were to the mirror and a wu Control deck that played multiple copies of Rest in Peace. I likely should’ve beaten the wu deck regardless but my inexperience with the deck caught up to me that round, and I lost a Game 3 that was definitely winnable with tighter play.

Overall, I can’t be too disappointed though. Qualifying for the MOCS Playoffs was a relief considering I had failed to do so twice already. Hopefully, I can put up a good finish in the MOCS Playoffs again and make a serious run at qualifying for the Magic Online Championship.

Abzan (WBG) is Underrated in Modern

The most midrangey of all color combinations, Abzan has access to some of the best creatures, removal, and disruption in Modern. But as of late, the popularity of the color combo has waned a bit.


Stock Abzan is one of the better decks in Modern, and one of the few midrange decks that can actually compete in a world of Death's Shadows. Abzan’s matchup against Death's Shadow is close, but it’s one of the few decks in the format that’s inherently favored against it. Access to a plethora of essentially unconditional removal spells in conjunction with a high threat density, gives Abzan an edge over the current Modern menace. Abzan’s biggest problem is its weakness to the more linear strategies in Modern. With only 15 sideboard slots, you have to pick and choose your battles. But with that being a said, an accurate metagame prediction (or at least as close as you can get to accurate in Modern) and a well tuned sideboard could make Abzan one of the better choices for any Modern event.

Aside from just the deck we know as Abzan, other Green, White, and Black strategies have went underappreciated for a bit too long now.


Abzan Company was one of the most dominant strategies in the early Post-Eye of Ugin metagame, but has since almost completely died off. Now seems like a good time for the archetype to make a resurgence. One of the biggest reasons the archetype lost traction in the first place was the amount of Grafdigger's Cages that were seeing play in response to the breakout of Dredge. Abzan Company has the ability to function both as a combo deck and a fair deck, but Grafdigger's Cage does a great job at fighting it on both fronts. And while Dredge is still a popular archetype, the emergence of Death's Shadow has altered the graveyard hate people are playing.

Rather than playing Cage to just hose Dredge, players are looking toward cards like Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, and Rest in Peace, in order to cover both the Dredge and Death's Shadow matchups.

The decrease in residual hate for the deck in combination with the metagame shifting toward more attrition based games bodes well for the return of Abzan Company.

Perhaps the biggest sleight to the Abzan wedge though, is the lack of enthusiasm around Abzan Death's Shadow. Proponents of Jund, Grixis, Esper, and even Sultai have emerged, but the variation that I believe to be the best is currently the least talked about.


If I did choose to play Death's Shadow in the MOCS, my list would’ve been similar to this. While testing Jund Death's Shadow earlier in the week, MTGO player LouisBach absolutely crushed me with their take on the archetype. It was quickly apparent to me that Abzan was where you wanted to be if you were at all concerned about any sort of mirror. If you read my article about how I first came across the original Jund Death's Shadow deck the story was pretty similar, so I had a good feeling about the Abzan list. And fortunately for me, the list was published the next day. After playing some games with the deck, I’m confident in saying that it’s the best version of Death's Shadow right now. If my testing hadn’t gone so well with Dredge, I would’ve been happy to register it for the MOCS. It’s definitely a deck to keep an eye on going forward.

Stop Boarding in Surgical Extraction

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be putting any Surgical Extractions in your sideboard, in fact almost the opposite, as Dredge is one of the best decks in Modern right now. What I am saying, is that players seem to actually bring in Surgical Extraction far too often.

I tested a handful of Modern decks this past week, and regardless of what deck I was playing I was constantly having Surgical Extraction cast against me after sideboarding. The prospect of “getting” your opponent seems to be too appealing for some people to resist. But the truth is, Surgical Extraction will rarely be worth a card.

A good rule of thumb for Surgical Extraction is this, “if you have to think about bringing it in, then you probably shouldn’t.” Meaning, It will be rather apparent when you actually want to be boarding Surgical Extraction in, and these are likely the only scenarios where you actually should be bringing them in.

Streaming

If it’s not apparent based on the fact that I’m currently writing an article about Magic, I enjoy talking about Magic. And as I mentioned earlier, I’m constantly focused on improving as a player and the sharing of information is essential in order to do so. I constantly find myself sharing interesting scenarios I come across with my friends and discussing them, so streaming just seems like a logical thing to do. It seems like a great opportunity to learn and have some fun while doing it. I plan to begin sometime this week.

If you’re interested in checking it out, give me a follow on Twitter or Twitch to find out when I go live. Also if there’s anything you would want to see me play or do, just let me know. Having a good idea of what people are interested in watching would help a ton.

Felidar Guardian Shouldn’t Exist

I wrote about why the combo is too good for Standard in my article last week, but these three screenshots articulate the exact reason why much better than I ever could. The following images were taken from Game 3 of the finals in the PTQ that I won.

This sort of detracts from my points about “working hard to achieve your goals” and “the Four-Color Saheeli versus Mardu Vehicles matchup is close if the Saheeli player understands the matchup” as it’s essentially evidence that getting extremely lucky can circumvent the need to actually exhaust any effort, but it certainly does a good job at illustrating why the combo doesn’t belong in Standard. Like I said in my article last week though, I think not banning anything was the correct call. It’s just unfortunate this is what we’re stuck with.

But I do get to go to Japan because of it, so that’s cool.

Closing Thoughts

The format for this article was a bit different than the usual for me. It felt a bit weird to jump around a bunch, but it was also pretty fun to just write about everything I wanted to. Let me know if you liked it, and if it’s something I should consider doing more in the future.


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