Sometimes when a player attends a PPTQ, they’ve been going for weeks. They know the people going and have a finely tuned sideboard in order to attack their meta and have the best shot possible in order to cut up their opponents and win the PPTQ.
Othertimes, a player walks into a PPTQ, never having played against anyone in the store for months, having been gone from the meta from a while, and whips out their favorite deck and pre-built sideboard and hopes for the best. They check with the judge about their older, rattier sleeves, and sit down blind, ready to play seven hours of modern in the dark.
I did the latter this past weekend at one of my local game stores, Cataclysm games. I haven’t seen this store in quite some time, but I was happy to see some familiar faces still walking around and working at the store. I even got a deal on some fastlands while I was there, and was happy to be back in a familiar setting. Along with this, I will be going back to college this week, so getting in some solid matches while taking a bid at an RPTQ slot felt worth it to me in this particular store.
The PPTQ was modern, and while I love the green mana symbol, I’m a tried and true blue player in modern. I’m one of ‘those’ modern players who loves their deck to death, no matter what. I truly had zero idea what anyone else was on, so I just brought what I had. It’s the deck I have the most experience with in modern, and a deck I play nearly religiously. Speaking of which, here is the deck I registered at this PPTQ.
Merfolk –Forrest Winstead
2x Vapor Snag
3x Spell Pierce
4x Aether Vial
3x Unified Will
This list falls into the relatively stock department as far as modern decks go. It plays four-of of all the important cards, and has a fairly straightforward gameplan. To go with this, the sideboard follows the “little of this and that” philosophy. A little Hurkyl’s recall for the affinity matchup, some grave hate, some grindy cards like thassa, and some removal spells and specific silver bullet cards. Unified will for the combo decks, since we will always have more creatures than them, and one dispel for the 15th slot.
This was a six round tournament with thirty-three players, and my goal in writing this article is to analyze the metagame in post, and how I would adjust my deck if I were to go back to play in this tournament again. Along with this, I will talk about some important cards for other blue players to consider going forward and addressing the modern meta after this past weekend as a whole. Finally, I will spoil this part now for the sake of staying on topic, I do lose my potential win-and-in for a top 8 slot in the final round. But, for now, onto the games.
Round one- VS Nacatl Burn – Robert 2-0 loss
Starting off poorly, we played against the naya burn deck with four-of Wild Nacatl. While I am certainly of impartial to either version of burn, (that being nacatl vs. no nacatl) Nacatl burn suffers slightly against the merfolk matchup, giving more valid targets for vapor snag and not having a more live topdeck burn spell in the later portions of the game when the ground gums up. That being said, my opponent cast nacatl on turn 1 every game, which made the card shine, as merfolk is a turn behind this deck, especially on the draw.
Adding insult to injury, some painful grim lavamancer activations and a top deck lightning bolt sealed my fate quickly in game two, after failing to find a lord effect and flooding slightly. Overall I would blame this loss more on a lack of sideboard dedication for the matchup more than anything. Only 1 dispel in the sideboard really hurt here. Merfolk is generally favored against burn, however, my opponent’s piloting was exceptional, even though he told me he had only been on the deck for around a month.
I would like to write something meaningful for this slot, but unfortunately, I received the bye in round two due to the thirty-three players. The 100% win percentage in round two was nice, but I always prefer to play magic.
Round three- Jund – DJ 2-1 loss
This loss was especially painful for me. I played a gentleman named DJ who had been piloting Jund for around a year and a half. I’ve always felt at least even post sideboard against G/B/X decks, and this matchup was no different. From what I saw of the deck, he was on the aggressive fourteen two-drop version of Jund popularized a couple months ago, with Kitchen Finks in the sideboard. Game one was very close, myself squeaking out a win with a lord off the top and pierce to protect it to push a merfolk through for lethal. Game two was me having double lord and pierce followed by drawing nine lands in 5 turns, and being beat into submission by kitchen finks.
In game three, I kept a close keep on the play. Relic, spell pierce, dismember, silvergill, lord of atlantis, and reejerey with one island. If I draw a land in the next three turns, I have three castable spells and can easily invalidate the graveyard and start drawing extra cards with silvergill adept.
This however, was not the case, as I did not draw a land for five turns and got the old Liliana on turn three treatment, followed by ooze to eat all my discarded creatures. I eventually drew the land, but at that point Liliana buried me faster than I could recover.
At this point I am 1-2, and feeling discouraged. But, I figured I would play it out and maybe win a couple and have some of the other X-2’s drop, and see if I can’t put a top 8 finish together from the wreckage.
And I got so very close.
Round 4- Win – 2-1 Vs. Abzan
While I feel around fifty-fifty against jund, post-sideboard I feel heavily favored against Abzan. Relic is more impactful against Abzan due to lingering souls, their removal is clunky and at sorcery speed with cards like maelstrom pulse. Path to exile helps me activate mutavault sooner, and overall they have less ways to pressure me quickly through dismember. Thassa is an absolute house against them, and she quickly closes games all on her own. I quickly lost game one to a double lingering souls, and a maelstrom pulse killing two lord of atlantis. Game two was quickly won only by the merit of spreading seas against a three color deck, paired with lords and vaults. Game three was an absolute grind, the handshake coming mere seconds before the time ran out in the round. I used Thassa’s activated ability to make my board unblockable and swung for exactly lethal at two life. While some matches in the day were lopsided one way or the other, my opponent was excellent, as were these games of magic.
Round 5- Win- 2-0 – Crispy on Mono green Stompy
Round five was against my good friend Chris on the the mono green stompy. His nickname in-store is Crispy, for reasons unbeknownst to myself. He implored the same strategy as myself and walked in with his favorite deck and hoped for the best. Merfolk however has quite the edge against stompy, as vapor snag and spreading seas keep him off of pressuring my life total and makes his more impactful cards like leatherback baloth harder to cast. Game one and two went fairly the same way, snag into silvergill adept generated time for multiple lords to resolve, and then my board was just much larger, and unblockable.
So, sitting at 3-2, and seeing many drop, the standings broke that if I won my next match I stood a chance to make the top 8 of the tournament and make a bid at the RPTQ invite. All I had to do was play super sharp and make the best of the situation. There was a chance However, sadly for me, that is far from what happened.
Round 6- loss -2-0 – Jon on Jund
While I stated earlier that I felt confident in my B/G/X matchups, this was not the case. Jon, from what I have seen and heard of him, Is a stone cold master of Jund. I even spoke to him before the tournament, and the conversation went was follows.
“I’m on fish. You?”
“Gonna Jund’em out.”
(coworker from the back) – “Like always.”
Now it’s not only the player that made this matchup absolute nightmare to play against. I nearly had him game 2, making him stuck on no green mana with spreading seas, but then he resolved this card and the game was practically over.
I cannot remember a time I have been so viciously beaten to death by a magic card. The shock effect in conjuction with fatal push absolutely tore through my board. It barely felt like a game of magic. This combined with scavenging ooze quickly slammed the door on my ability to draw an out, and I conceded shortly after.
With top 8 firmly out of reach, firmly defeated, I drove home, hungry for a solution.
But, where does the deck, and therefore myself, go from here?
Well before I address that, let’s look at the meta breakdown, based on what I saw at the top tables, and rumblings around the event itself.
6-7 Titan-shift decks
5-6 B/G/X decks
5-6 burn decks
3 Counter’s company/ Reliquary knight Coco
5-6 U/W/X control
6-7 random slots (enchantress, lantern control, fish, bogles, mono green stompy, living end)
If you were to tell me that the top half of the standings were going to green and red creature / midrange decks, I wouldn’t have believed you at all. But sure enough, eldrazi tron and grixis shadow, the so-called boogymen of the format, did not show up to play at this PPTQ. It seems to me, with Tom Ross’s impressive finish with infect at the latest open followed by Todd Stevens going back to G/W company, combined with scapeshift testing with the new ramp spell Hour of promise, that green is on the rise. Along with this, modern is absolutely crawling with Primeval Titan. So what do I change, if anything?
First off, I am going to cut this card permanently. With so much removal running around, and the deck playing twelve lord effects already, this card is too redundant. Along with this, the card is as sturdy as a wet paper towel, and nearly dies when players look at it wrong. It felt like a liability the whole tournament, and is overall not worth the slot in the 75.
Following this, I would put tidebinder mage back into the mainboard and reduce the number of spell pierces. People played around it too often, and the card rotted in my hand against all these creature decks. Tidebinder mage is another double blue source for thassa, is a merfolk, and helped my deck out greatly in the creature matchups. I could easily see moving it into the mainboard. I will replace spell pierce with the dismember, or perhaps more vapor snag, as living in a creature-meta has caused my spell pierce to get much worse over time. Finally, I will add more dispel to the sideboard to better combat burn with a one mana counterspell that matters both early and late game.
As a final note, Even though I missed so nearly, I had an absolute blast at this tournament, and having a tournament full of friends I knew before going back to school was worth it on its own.
One more parting note. If we are truly forced to bow before our green and red overlords, how on earth does one sorry blue mage combat such primal power?
Easier to cast, slightly narrower counterspell is still counterspell.
See you all next week!