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It's So Cold in the D – A Modern PTQ Report


It’s Friday, I have a PTQ to play tomorrow, I have no deck, and I have played zero games of Modern. It seems that a lot of my tournament reports have been starting out like this lately, but such is the life of a student. That week was particularly stressful, as I had two midterms, a take-home exam (don’t ask), and an assignment. On top of the workload, I was coming down with a cold, so I had absolutely no time to prepare. Luckily, I’ve been playing Magic long enough that I have a rather large network of contacts from whom to draw upon, and this time, it was Sam Tharmaratnam who came to the rescue. He shipped me the following list:

It’s fairly similar to Michael Hetrick’s (better known as shipitholla on Magic Online) list with a few changes. This is actually a deck I’m reasonably comfortable playing without any practice. It suits my style, and I’ve played a lot of Fish-style aggro-control decks in my day. Most of the cards are fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll run through some of the more important ones:

Geist of Saint Traft

If I had to pick one card that makes this deck work, it would be this one. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this deck’s entire game plan is to protect Geist at all costs. I’d even say that most of the games I lost were because I didn’t draw this card. It’s that good.

Celestial Colonnade

The W/U man land really shines in this deck. When combined with Geist of Saint Traft, you can close out games very quickly once you gain control. I pretty much always want one in my opening hand and would never play fewer than four.

Geist of Saint Traft
Celestial Colonnade
Runed Halo

Runed Halo

I wasn’t super-impressed with this card, but it definitely has its uses. It comes in for a variety of matchups, but it is probably best against decks that try to win with Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. As Hetrick pointed out in his videos, you can name Deceiver Exarch since it’s a lot easier for you to remove a Pestermite is. That makes it fairly difficult for the opponent to win, but you shouldn’t rely on it too much. You still need to put pressure on him or else he has all the time in the world to find an answer.

Stony Silence

This is something of a concession to the Eggs deck, though it also comes in against Affinity and Birthing Pod decks. You never want this in multiples, though I feel that one isn’t enough to draw it consistently.

Phantasmal Image

Jund decks are starting to play Thrun, the Last Troll, which is actually a giant beating against this deck. What applied to Standard last year still applies now, so Phantasmal Image is a highly efficient answer. It’s also pretty good in the mirror when you’re trying to win Geist fights.

Stony Silence
Phantasmal Image

There was a decent chance my PTQ was going to be doomed from the start since there was a little thing called Winter Storm Nemo going on at the time. My parents strongly suggested that I skip this one, but I wasn’t going to let a little snow get in the way of slinging some cardboard crack. Luckily, my buddy Jesse was driving us in his luxurious Toyota Tundra, and like true Canadians, we hit the highway Friday night in the middle of a blizzard.

Ice Storm
We managed to make it to Detroit without any incidents, though I did count at least six cars and/or trucks in the ditch along the way. I played somewhere around thirty games against my friends that night to grow comfortable with my deck before turning in. Of course, that’s when my cold started acting up, so I didn’t get any actual sleep. So let’s recap:

  • I’m sick.
  • I’m on no sleep.
  • I’ve done hardly any playtesting.
  • I know hardly anything about this format.

This should go well.

Any day I start with IHOP is a good day, though, and start my morning with delicious pancakes and bottomless coffee I did. It’s been a while since I PTQ’d at Pandemonium Games, and I was instantly reminded of how much better run their PTQs are than ours. It’s the little things that make a big difference, like complementary score pads and pens. A cheaper entry fee and better prize support certainly helps, too. I didn’t take super-detailed notes, but here’s the round-by-round as I remember it:

Round 1 vs. Jacob Hutchinson with R/W/U

Geist of Saint Traft
I’m still not entirely sure if this was a mirror match or if Jacob was running the more controlling version of this deck that Guillaume Wafo-Tapo did well with recently. I was off to a bit of a rocky start as he resolved a turn-three Sword of War and Peace. He had no other creatures in play, and I took the opportunity to resolve a Geist of Saint Traft. I had a bunch of burn spells in hand, so I would presumably be able to stop him from doing anything with it. I didn’t really expect him to play Snapcaster Mage as a Coral Merfolk, though. I was planning on trading it off with a Vendilion Clique, but he had an Electrolyze to stop that noise, and I found myself on the losing side of the damage race. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have tapped out to play the Geist, and I should have played more conservatively.

Game 2, I started things off with a mulligan, but my six-card hand had a two Geists, so I couldn’t really lose. Game 3 gave me multiple Remands, which drew me into Geists, and I was able to overwhelm my opponent with Angel tokens and a Colonnade.

Round 2 vs. Matt Karczewski with R/G Tron

Slayers' Stronghold
I have no idea if this is supposed to be a good matchup or if I just got lucky, but this wasn’t particularly close. Matt kept kind of a sketchy hand Game 1; it had a few cyclers but only one land. He failed to find a second land for a quite a few turns, and I took advantage of the situation by doing somewhere around 15 points of burn to the dome. Game 2 was more of a real game. I had an early Geist of Saint Traft, but he countered with a Karn Liberated, opting to use the +4 ability. I tanked for a while, deciding which card to exile—a Vendilion Clique or a Restoration Angel. I ultimately decided to hold on to the Angel since it survives Pyroclasm. I casually drew a Slayers' Stronghold and crashed in for 8. He got in two more activations with Karn and even played a Wurmcoil Engine, but it wasn’t enough. I attacked with my Geist and flashed in my Angel to prevent the life-gain from the Wurmcoil. The Angel token hit him for exact damage.

Round 3 vs. Gary Zogopoulos W/U Merfolk

Threads of Disloyalty
I may not know much about Modern, but I do know that a deck chock full of burn spells should do pretty well against a deck that plays a bunch of small creatures. As long as I can kill of his Lords, it shouldn’t be too difficult to win. This is definitely a matchup in which I have to play the control role. Geist of Saint Traft is still important, but it’s more of a late-game finisher here than an early play.

Well, that’s pretty much what happened, although I did lose Game 1. I burned away all of his Lords, and the rest of his deck was fairly unimpressive. Electrolyze was an all-star here, and the post-board Threads of Disloyalty and Engineered Explosives really put the game away.

Round 4 vs. Morgan McLaughlin with Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod
I’ve known Morgan for years, actually, and I have traveled with him to tournaments on several occasions. He’s recently had a lot of success playing Birthing Pod in Modern on Magic Online, including making multiple PTQ Top 16s. I hadn’t yet played against this deck, and I’m really not familiar with all of the ways it can win, so I felt that I was at a disadvantage. Game 1 was a long, drawn-out war of attrition, but I couldn’t stop him from eventually bringing a Birthing Pod online. Morgan started explaining that I was dead, but I insisted that he show me the combo. A bunch of activations of Birthing Pod later and to Morgan’s horror, he realized that I already killed all of his Restoration Angels, and he was forced to fizzle out.


To make matters worse for him, he paid enough life to his Birthing Pod that my attack from Geist of Saint Traft and Celestial Colonnade was lethal.

In Game 2, I may have played a little too aggressively. I tapped out for a Geist of Saint Traft and promptly died. This is where my lack of familiarity with his deck really hurt me since I had no idea when I was safe and when I had to hold back.

For Game 3, I boarded all of my counters back in and played a tempo game with him. I drew multiple Remands to keep him on the back foot, and some timely Path to Exiles let me force damage through. I also had a backbreaking Mana Leak on his Restoration Angel, and the combination of my 4-power flyers and burn spells successfully put him away.

Round 5 vs. Chris Weidinger with W/U Merfolk

This went pretty much the same way as the previous W/U Merfolk matchup did. I killed all of his creatures and eventually put him away with some combination of Geist of Saint Traft and Celestial Colonnade.

All right! One more win, and I can comfortably draw into Top 8.

Round 6 vs. Mark Sun with R/W/U Geist

This was a very weird match. I crushed him Game 1 when he was unable to deal with my Geist of Saint Traft. Game 2, he was stalled on lands, and he just kind of assumed he’d be dead. Normally, this is good for me, but I had been severely flooded and didn’t draw any Geists. Once he finally did draw lands, I was in serious trouble. I also was blown out by a Counterflux, a card I had no idea was even being played in Modern. I might have played differently had I known he had it, but in the end, he was able to trump everything I did.

Game 3, he took a mulligan to four cards. Normally, this is good for me, but I had a hand full of burn spells and no real way to take advantage of him not doing anything early. I made a mistake here that cost me the match: He played a Sowing Salt on my only red source. What I should have done was cast a Lightning Helix in response to his dome. My thinking at the time was that this was an attrition-based match and that I shouldn’t waste cards. I was bound to draw another red source soon. Well, I didn’t for a while, and the last turn came down to me being 3 damage short of killing him and dying for exact damage to his Celestial Colonnade.

I feel that I made a good judgment call based on the information I had at the time—it just blew up in my face in the worst possible way. It’s not often I lose to a mull to four, so I have to give props to Mark for not giving up.

Round 7 vs. Zee Babar with R/U/G Splinter Twin

Lightning Helix
This is it: Do it or die. Zee was playing an interesting take on Splinter Twin combo, with Deathrite Shamans and Tarmogoyfs. The first game was back-and-forth for a bit, but he was able to combo off with Dispel backup. The sideboarded games went a lot better for me, as I had more counterspells. Runed Halo did some work shutting off part of his combo.

My opponent did make some questionable plays during the match that I was able to take advantage of. In the deciding game, he played a Splinter Twin on a Pestermite that had summoning sickness. I informed him that he didn’t have two red sources, and he was forced to retap his mana and tap one of his two Deathrite Shamans. On my turn, I attacked with Geist of Saint Traft, and he chump-blocked with his other Deathrite Shaman. This cleared the way for my Lightning Helix on his Pestermite, as he no longer had the mana to play his Negate.


After looking at the standings, I was fairly confident I could draw into Top 8, as I had the second-highest tiebreakers of the 18-pointers. My opponent in the last round was Christian Ladoucer, a player from Windsor I’ve met on a few occasions and even teamed with at a Toronto Trios tournament. He took me up on the offer to draw even though he wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to make the cut. I’d feel like a scumbag if I made it and he didn’t, but the onus is really on him to figure out if he can safely draw or not. It all worked out, though, as I finished in seventh and he in eighth. The Top 8 was pretty sweet, actually, as half of it was Canadian players. Other than Christian and I, Morgan and Jesse also made it in. One of us had to take it down . . . FOR THE MOTHERLAND.

Quarterfinals vs. Stephen Rakovich with Affinity

This was probably the easiest match I played all day. I took a mulligan to five cards in Game 1, but I knew as long as I had a bunch of removal spells, I shouldn’t have too much difficulty. Stephen kept a sketchy hand Game 1. He had a turn-one Vault Skirge and a Mox Opal, but no third artifact or second land. He failed to draw anything before I slammed down Electrolyze on turn three. He eventually started to get something going, but I cast Electrolyze two more times that game courtesy of Snapcaster Mage. Tiago Chan teamed up with Vendilion Clique (which got rid of an Etched Champion I previously Remanded), and I put the game away very quickly.

For Game 2, I came up with the hilarious sideboard plan of bringing in Stony Silence and a bunch of artifacts. That may seem insane, but the way I see it, he can’t win with a Stony Silence in play unless he already has a Cranial Plating equipped or has a massive threat in play, in which case I’m not going to play it. Batterskull is still fine as a 4/4 lifelinker even with a Stony Silence in play. I ended up not drawing it, but Engineered Explosives did a pretty darn good job of cleaning up his board. We had a bit of a staring contest in which I didn’t want to trade my Geist of Saint Traft for his Ethersworn Canonist, but I eventually drew a burn spell to start the beatdown.

Jesse lost his match against R/G Tron, but the rest of us Canucks made it through to the semis.

Semifinals vs. Morgan McLaughlin with Birthing Pod

Vendilion Clique
I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get another free win, so this was going to be a tough match. Game 1 was a tight race. He was on the man plan, and I was taking to the skies with Vendilion Clique and Celestial Colonnade. Morgan played a Phantasmal Image to get rid of my legendary flyer, seeing my hand of two Geist of Saint Traft. He was at 5 life and had no blockers. I had a bunch of live draws, as any burn spell takes him out along with an attack from my Colonnade. I draw my card: Slayers' Stronghold. Well, it’s like a burn spell. I play the Stronghold, play a Geist of Saint Traft, give it haste, and attack for 8. GAME!

The next two games didn’t go quite as well, however. Morgan sided in a bunch of beefy dudes like Thrun, the Last Troll and Obstinate Baloth. That made things very awkward for me, as I was more focused on stopping his combo and wasn’t equipped to fight on this angle. I think I missideboarded for Game 3, as I once again had a hard time dealing with his army of 4/4s. I boarded back into my counterspell suite, but I should have left Negate in the sideboard. I thought that his Thrun was a one-of, so I didn’t bring in my Phantasmal Images, and that proved to be a mistake. I did my best to race, but a Zealous Conscripts combined with a Deceiver Exarch to tap my blocker did me in on the last turn. Again, my lack of familiarity with his deck really came back to bite me. I feel that I could have won if I had been better prepared.

The R/G Tron player proved to be our nemesis, as he took out Christian in the semis and then Morgan in the finals.

Wrapping Up

All things considered, I had a pretty solid finish, and I definitely performed above my expectations. I still have some other PTQs in my area I’m planning on attending, so don’t count me out of Pro Tour: San Diego just yet.

Aside: Can I just say once again that the prize support at Pandemonium is awesome? I mean, LOOK at all this swag!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you guys next time.

Nassim Ketita

arcticninja on Magic Online


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