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U/R Tempo Primer

This past weekend was the perfect storm of playing a decent deck, into a field of decent matchups, and playing it decently well. I had what was my best swiss record ever at the Modern Open in Indianapolis — going 13-0 in matches played until I conceded my 14th match so I could take a lunch break and then drew the final round so I could be 2nd going into Top 8.

The deck that got me there was an archetype that is an old favorite of mine —ur Tempo:


This deck simply plays the style of Magic I love playing. It plays a slew of cards that work well together and allow you to slowly get ahead while interacting with your opponent and developing your own board. It does this while also playing almost entirely at instant speed.

The thing people are most interested in knowing when a newish deck like this breaks out into Modern is how it lines up against the things you expect to play against. Based on my experience in Modern and testing this deck I feel like the following paints a reasonable picture of this deck against a majority of the Modern field:

Good Matchups:

  • Storm
  • KCI
  • Robots
  • Spirits
  • Tron
  • rg Valakut
  • Elves

Close, but ur Tempo is ahead:

  • Humans
  • uw Control
  • Burn

Close, but ur Tempo is behind:

  • Jund
  • Jeskai
  • Hollow One
  • Grixis Shadow
  • Mardu Pyromancer

Bad Matchups:

  • Bogles
  • Dredge

In less specific strokes I think this deck tends to be favored against Big Mana, Spell based Combo decks, and small creature decks. I find it tends to struggle a bit against removal heavy interactive decks and things with large creatures / Lingering Souls. Lastly — it is a dog against decks where your Lightning Bolts are not meaningful.

The second question on people’s minds after seeing a deck like this is what updates would the player who played it make after the event. Moving forward I would start with the following deck list for testing:


While it makes me a bit sad to say it — Spellstutter Sprite just is not good in this deck. I certainly should have cut the last one before the open, but my love of that card had me holding on to the last copy for too long. In iterations past of this deck we did not have good threat density and needed Sprite to help protect our 3 power flying creatures.

With the introduction of Nimble Obstructionist though this is no longer the case. Rather than trying to protect a threat already in play with a Sprite, we can simply play more threats so we have more pressure when the opponent doesn’t have removal. Speaking of Nimble Obstructionist — that is the card people have asked about the most in my list since it is far from a Modern staple. While I feel like many people want me to say something revolutionary about this card, the truth is it is hardly format warping. It simply slots nicely into being exactly something this archetype is interested in. We very much are on board for a 3/1 with Flash and Flying for 3 mana. The fact that we can randomly use it to stop annoying triggers is an upside.

Over the course of testing and the open the list of triggers I have been happy to be able to Stifle include:

  1. Chalice of the Void on 1 to force a Grim Lavamancer into play
  2. Oblivion Stone
  3. Planeswalkers
  4. Lethal Exalted Trigger on an unblocked Infect Creature
  5. Reflector Mage
  6. Sin Collector
  7. Horizon Canopy
  8. Celestial Colonnade
  9. Field of Ruin
  10. Fetch Land

And I am sure others I am forgetting. While I certainly do not think a 3 mana cantrip stifle is playable in Modern, I think when we get to staple that effect onto a card that can also be an evasive threat it becomes really valuable.

The other thing of note in this updated deck list is that I have cut all the copies of Mana Leak. While leak is often good against combo decks, it leave a lot to be desired against many things in the format — especially creature based decks. While Remand also is not stellar in a lot of these matches, the floor on Remand is higher since it at least draws us a card for 2 mana in most spots — even when facing down a Cavern of Souls.

The most important thing to start learning when you are playing this deck is to figure out when you are the aggressor and when you are the control deck. This role assessment is going to differ not only in matchup to matchup, but also in game to game depending on how your given draw is lining up into theirs. Counting out multiple turns in advance to figure out if our Lightning Bolts should be removing attackers or helping us race by blasting them is very important.

As far as sideboarding goes there are two basic “packages” that you should be aware of that cover a good deal of the Modern field. The first of these is the “creature package” that we bring in against decks where our counter magic is often too slow or simply not effective because of Cavern / Vial:

In:

Out:

The second package is going to vary a bit depending on which of the counter spells you want and whether or not you are interested in Alpine Moon. In general when we are playing a matchup where our removal is not good we want to start by cutting the Burst Lightnings, Grim Lavamancers, and Abrades to fill in whichever disruption we want out of the sideboard. If we want to bring in more than six cards we start trimming copies of Wizard's Lightning.

To provide a small bit of specifics against some of the more popular decks in the format, with my latest list I would board against the following decks as such:

VS Tron

In:

Out:

VS Humans

In:

Out:

VS uwx Control

In:

Out:

We cut Wizard's Lightning before Burst Lightning in this matchup because kicked Burst Lightning can kill a Celestial Colonnade.

VS br Hollow One

In:

Out:

VS Burn

In:

Out:

VS Mardu Pyromancer

In:

Out:

VS Robots

In:

Out:

Negate may feel odd here, but Ghirapur Aether Grid is their best card against us so we want some ways to stop it. Negate also stops Whipflare, Cranial Plating, and Karn, Scion of Urza in a pinch.

VS Storm

In:

Out:

Finally I would like to wrap this article up by addressing what have been the most common questions since I started to solidify my decklist for this archetype

Why are we not playing Serum Visions?

While it may sound appealing to have “help” flipping Delver, a simple fact remains: Serum Visions is a really terrible Magic card. The amount of selection it provides at sorcery speed is simply not worth the 1 mana it costs. Modern is a brutally fast format a lot of the time. This means not only do we often not have mana for more cantrips, but when we do cantrip we also want to be getting the card we need now and not next turn.

Why are we playing 22 lands / Wandering Fumarole?

A good deal of these low curve ur decks tend to cheat on their overall land count. Often running 20 or even fewer lands on the back of playing more cantrips and getting a higher spell density. Rather than spending out turns trying to find more lands, I much prefer to simply play more lands while including lands that do things. In this case we are playing lands that can attack. Mutavault especially is a very powerful card that allows us to convert two mana into two damage every turn on an empty board.

While Wandering Fumarole is going to feel bad coming into play tapped on occasion, it will also feel great when you are flooding out and have an extra threat because of it. Think of Wandering Fumarole as lands that would normally be cantrips searching for lands — only because they are actually lands they always hit. If you wanted to be exceptionally greedy you could play Faerie Conclave over Fumarole, but I think the dual land makes Fumarole the better choice.

Why are we not playing Wizard's Retort?

The short answer is because this card is too often Cancel to be reasonable.

The longer answer is that even 2-mana counterspells are often too slow in Modern, so having one that is often going to cost us three is a big deal. This is compounded even further by the fact that we cannot flip a Delver of Secrets on two and then protect it with Wizard's Retort. Next factor in that we have four colorless lands in our mana base and you can see how this card stretches us a bit thin, even if it is really good when it works.

It is a real shame Wizard's Retort was not just a wizard version of Silumgar's Scorn, because then it would be awesome in this deck.

Wrapping Up

While I hardly think this ur Tempo deck is going to break Modern as a format, I think it is a newish competitive archetype that is going to be here for the longer haul. In addition to my Top 8 finish there was another iteration of the deck that finished in 16th. Past the open in Indianapolis there have been other players posted 5-0 results with it on Magic Online fairly consistently since I started testing it. If you would like to see some of this deck in action, be sure to check out my page dedicated to it on my personal website here.

Have a question or a comment about this deck I did not cover above? Let me know in a comment below.

Cheers,

—Jeff Hoogland