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No Confidence in Dark Confidant

Editor’s Note: Gathering Magic is happy to publish this piece by Brian Basoco, a member of the Jonathan Job/Brian Basoco/Rudy Briksza team that took down the SCG Team Constructed Open in Atlanta.


I'm sitting down to write this the Tuesday following the StarCity Open in Atlanta and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I'm now an Open Champion. I really want to start this article off by thanking Rudy Briksza and Jonathan Job for teaming with me to take down this open and get my first, but hopefully not last, trophy. I would also like the thank Tannon Grace who helped put Rudy with us at the last possible moment.

Formation of the Team

We had originally spoken with Dave Thomas at SCG Dallas last month to be the third member of our team. I was very confident in the team and thought we had a great chance at the Open. We discussed the upcoming Dominaria Standard and Dave was close to locking in his deck choice. He almost had the format nailed as soon as the last of the spoilers were released. It seemed that we would be coming into Atlanta prepared and ready to go.

We then got the dreaded message on Tuesday that Dave had torn his Achilles tendon and would need surgery. He was determined to just have the surgery on Wednesday or Thursday and be at the open Friday evening. This is the point where Jonathan and I knew he would not be our Standard player for this tournament.

We began to message people but we had a very high list of requirements for the player of the 3rd slot. If we didn’t find anyone who fit, we would have to cancel our plans to attend the Open. We then reached out to Tannon who was nice enough to contact Rudy and we began making arrangements and discussing deck choices. Jonathan and I were pretty convinced that Approach of the Second Sun was going to be the deck of the weekend.

Preparation

Dark Confidant
Rudy said he’d learned, through his testing, there were just too many things in the format forcing you to shuffle your deck, mill Approach, or just attack for way too much damage. It took some slight convincing on his part, but we quickly began to realize that he may be right on this game plan by playing the Torrential Gearhulks instead. I decided that I would trust his judgment and decided to stick to my testing for Modern.

I was set on playing Humans as I feel very comfortable with the deck. I have been playing it on Magic Online for quite some time now but was not quite set on my 75. I have played Dark Confidant in my deck for quite some time but found it unimpressive every time I managed to resolve it. I would either be too far behind on board for it to matter or it would just not provide enough damage for me to end the game when I needed it to be over that turn. I reached out to several people that I consider experts and posed the question, “Why Dark Confidant?” and the majority response I got was “Well it's Bob”. I thought that was a pretty terrible reason and decided to branch off from the Standard list a bit.

I tested many variations of the deck. I tested Collected Company, but I felt it made the mana base much worse. I tried it with only three copies of Phantasmal Image, but that didn't seem correct either. I pulled up several lists from Modern events and eventually came to one conclusion. I like the option of three Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and two opens slots in the deck.

I knew that a majority of my testing should go into those two open flex spots. I was expecting a lot of the mirror for the Open and I knew I needed to be prepared. I tested quite a few different cards and options, like main deck 1-drops Dauntless Bodyguard, Thraben Inspector, and Kytheon, Hero of Akros, but none of them felt great in the mirror. The Kytheon, Hero of Akros was great as another 1-drop versus Burn and some of the other racing archetypes, but not what I wanted to do for this particular weekend.

I then moved to testing an additional 4-drop in the deck. I didn't have as much time to test this as I would have liked to, but I really wanted something for the mirror and against Hollow One.

I originally tested Hostage Taker but it felt really bad in some of the other matchups. I eventually arrived at Restoration Angel. It felt very good in the mirror and lead to some pretty impactful plays. It allowed me to get another enter the battlefield trigger from several creatures and have an extra blocker against my opponents’ Mantis Riders.

I considered switching out the Kessig Malcontents for a copy of Thalia, Heretic Cathar for a brief period but found that the Restoration Angel made me just want more targets with powerful enter the battlefield effects. This was reinforced by winning through an Ensnaring Bridge before sideboarding against lantern control while playing Magic Online. This match is typically very difficult and virtually unwinnable in Game 1, but having the Malcontents provided a series of possible outs that could still win me the game.

The Sideboard

I knew that I had to be prepared for the mirror going in to this tournament, so I ended up putting two copies of Hostage Taker in my sideboard to go along with the Restoration Angel. I typically play two copies of Dire Fleet Daredevil in my sideboard, but I knew Dominaria was going to be in full swing for this tournament. So, I decided to include two copies of Damping Sphere. I only had a brief chance to test the card, but it seemed very powerful when I was able to get it into play.

This card proved to be great when it resolved. I had a chance to actually play it a few times in the tournament and it felt like it locked my opponent out each time. The only exception was Paul Muller on Storm in the Swiss rounds who had managed to Grapeshot my creatures and go on the offense with a Goblin Electromancer. We didn't quite get to finish this game, as our teammates had finished their games, but I'm curious how that match would have ended.

The only card I wish I had included was Whirler Rogue. This card is much better than people give it credit for. The ability to tap two artifact to kill your opponents Phantasmal Image is a key interaction that I didn't quite think about in my testing. I was quickly shown the power of the card by Ross Meriam in the swiss rounds. That was the first and only time I lost in the humans mirror all weekend. With all that said, I eventually ended up on this list.


Conclusion

I decided on my final 75 cards the morning of the tournament and was quite nervous about the contents of my sideboard, but each card proved to be very important throughout the day. The only card I would switch out in the future would be one copy of Whirler Rogue for one copy of Hostage Taker. My games against Benjamin Ragan on Affinity in the Top 8 made me wish I had a colorless blocker very badly. It would have also given me a very similar effect versus Humans mirror, anyway.

Thanks to GatheringMagic.com for allowing me to tell my story.

—Brian Basoco


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