This past weekend I trekked out to Columbus Ohio to play in the Team Constructed Open with Chris VanMeter and Kent Ketter. For those not familiar with how these events work, they are a team tournament where each player on a team plays a different Constructed format from Legacy, Modern, and Standard. Our team had a decent run over the weekend - finishing 10-5 in total for 13th place.
I was sitting the Modern seat which is located in the center of each match. This means even though I was primarily focused on that format, I saw a good deal of my teammates matchups and gave input at various points. Today I would like to cover the highlights of my teammates decks and then talk about my deck and matches.
I'd like to start with talking a bit about our Legacy choice - Grixis Rock / Good Cards:
Grixis Rock | Legacy | Kent Ketter
- Instants (17)
- 2 Diabolic Edict
- 2 Fatal Push
- 2 Lightning Bolt
- 3 Kolaghan's Command
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- Lands (21)
- 1 Swamp
- 2 Island
- 2 Badlands
- 2 Volcanic Island
- 3 Bloodstained Mire
- 3 Scalding Tarn
- 4 Polluted Delta
- 4 Underground Sea
I would like to start by pointing out something I think people correctly miss-identify with this archetype in Legacy - this is not a control deck. Watching Kent play this deck all weekend and getting his feedback on it, we concluded this is very much a midrange or "Rock" style deck. Thoughtseize and quality two for ones like Hymn to Tourach mean we are taking our opponent's best cards and grinding them down fairly often.
This deck combines these powerful disruptive elements with the Blue cards that are the life's blood of most reasonable Legacy decks:
This gives the deck play against the more degenerate decks in the format, while also giving you an absurd amount of consistency in any game that is going long. Watching the Legacy matches play out over the weekend, Kent seemed to be dismantling both fair and degenerate decks. Cloudpost, however, seemed to be giving him a run for his money - seems you can't even get away from Tron style decks in Magic's oldest format.
The Grixis deck on the team that ended up winning was playing two copies of Blood Moon which likely help it be more competitive against these big mana decks.
On the weekend, Kent was something around 6-2-7 in Legacy matches played. The 7 was incomplete matches, not draws, as Kent was often the last person playing when CVM and I either both won or both lost.
Up next we have the deck Chris ended up landing on for freshly rotated Standard:
G/W Tokens | Standard | Chris VanMeter
- Creatures (16)
- 1 Knight of Autumn
- 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
- 2 Trostani Discordant
- 3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 4 Thorn Lieutenant
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- Instants (4)
- 4 March of the Multitudes
This style of aggressive deck is exactly what I like to be playing week one, so I was happy Chris ended up playing it. The reason I like this deck is because it has a strong curve that allow it to simply run over opponents, while still retaining the ability to play a defensive game with its creatures and removal.
The thing that is most interesting, and perhaps powerful, about this deck list is not its main deck. If you look at the sideboard there is a variety of not only additional interaction, but also larger threats in the form of Lyra Dawnbringer and Vivien Reid. Against aggressive and other midrange decks in the format, the plan with this Green-White Tokens list is to board bigger by becoming a Control deck of sorts.
We do this by cutting the following cards:
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
- 2 Trostani Discordant
- 3 Legion's Landing
- 4 Saproling Migration
And then bringing in the entire 15 card sideboard.
Chris had the best record on our team going 12-3 in the matches that he played. The one piece of feedback Chris had after playing was that he wished he had played some copies of Sorcerous Spyglass in his sideboard to give him a couple of better tools against decks that try to lean into planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as their win condition.
Then we have the decklist I ended up playing in the event - Rock:
B/G Rock | Modern | Jeff Hoogland
- Lands (25)
- 2 Forest
- 5 Swamp
- 2 Overgrown Tomb
- 2 Treetop Village
- 3 Field of Ruin
- 3 Hissing Quagmire
- 4 Blooming Marsh
- 4 Verdant Catacombs
My personal result in this event was thoroughly average - going 9-6 across 15 matches making a true Modern deck with multiple 3-2s. Folks who have been following my work with this archetype will note that the list I ended up playing is very close to the list I have been mostly settled on for awhile now. Looking back I was happy with the conclusions I came to with this archetype.
The only last minute change I made was fitting two copies of Nihil Spellbomb into the sideboard. This was a response to Creeping Chill making Dredge a potentially more popular choice, which ended up paying off as I played against Dredge twice in my 15 matches. Making small changes like this is the correct way to "metagame" in Modern. Nihil Spellbomb is a card that comes in for a variety of matchups, while also giving me an additional tool against what could be a more popular deck.
Reflecting on the matches I lost, I feel like with just a touch more favorable variance my 9-6 could have easily been an 11-4 or a 12-3. I lost back to back games against a Valakut player where they were dead on board, untapped and drew a card to kill me. I lost a match to Dredge where they found their 4th Bloodghast in their last 20 cards to hit me for exactly lethal while they were otherwise dead on board. I lost a round 15 match on camera to Jeskai Control where I mulliganed into never drawing a third land, into a Game 3 where I drew almost no spells.
The point of talking about these thin margins isn't to complain about variance - it is very much part of Magic and one that I am familiar with. It is simply to point out that the difference between a great record and a more average one is often very small margins.
I'd like to wrap up talking about some of the card choices in this list that I most often get quests about. First up - zero Dark Confidant. I think in a world of Tireless Tracker, Dark Confidant is simply outclassed. Not only does Tracker often draw more cards than Confidant, but Tracker also hits harder while doing so. Confidant has always been awkward against aggressive decks in Modern and against controlling decks he often dies before drawing any cards. While playing both Confidant and Tracker could be an option, Tracker drags up the average converted mana cost in our deck enough that the drawback Confidant has is increased.
The other two cards I get the most questions about are two from the sideboard:
I am not playing Languish because I could not get a hold of Damnation. I think in many matches Languish is a better card for us than Damnation. This is because many of our creatures can get to more than 4 toughness, while the decks we want a sweeper effect against generally do not play threats that outsize Languish. This allows us to keep pressure in play while controlling the board against small creature decks.
Nissa, Vital Force is my preferred tool for going "bigger" in Mirrors and against decks like Control. The reason I like Vital Force is because she allows us to assume whatever role is currently best for us in a given situation. If we need to be aggressive, she is effectively a 5/5 with haste that can close a game out very quickly. It also provides another way of pressuring opposing planeswalkers off of the table. If we need to generate some card advantage, both her minus and ultimate do this in a reasonable way.
Overall, I think I was fairly happy with our deck selection for the Columbus Open. Magic is a game that has enough variance in it that you should never expect to do well at every event you play and winning 66% of my matches with is about what I expect to do with decent play and average luck.
As far as Legacy is concerned, the Grixis Rock deck felt like a fantastic choice and I was unsurprised to hear it was part of the winning team. The Tokens list, as well as this Standard format in general, seems incredibly sweet even after playing the first major event. There are aggro decks, control decks, tempo decks, midrange decks, and even whacky combo decks to be played to some success. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it develops more as we move forward.