Making It In Modern: Deck Selection

Good day everyone and welcome to the first installment of “Making It in Modern!”  This series will dive into what it takes to hold your own and be comfortable doing so in competitive Modern tournaments in the hopes that you can spike some big events.  I will go over strategies, metagaming, and spotlight decks and different cards to aid you in your goal.  My subject for this week will focus on the strategy of selecting a deck to test and then take to a deck to a higher level Modern tournament.

So, should you take a home-brewed deck that you created to your next Invitational Qualifier or Grand Prix, or should you select an archetype by choosing a net deck from tournament results posted on a website?  This concept can be quite polarizing to a large portion of the Magic community between those that think that one is better than the other.  Neither is wrong in terms of what you want to get out of Magic: the Gathering, but one is correct in your attempt to spike a tournament.  In order to determine which is best we need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

NET DECKING

Using a net deck means you are copying a deck list from a website that posts decks based on tournament results.  Many of the current modern decks are archetypes that have been around for years and will show up on many sites as you search for a deck to play.  The biggest advantage of using a net deck, like Affinity or Storm, is that these decks are proven to have put up great results, and are lists that professional players will use when testing for their events.  Also, you have hours upon hours and articles upon articles of content that you can review to leverage your inexperience with a deck. This can help you if you don’t have an overabundance of time to test.  You can  watch videos to find lines that may not come up in testing or read articles to determine the deck’s good match ups and bad match ups and figure out how to sideboard against certain decks.  The downside to using a net deck is that you may not find a deck that you find enjoyable.  It is very important for you to find a deck you enjoy to play for a large tournament.  If you are playing a deck you hate at a Grand Prix, you will not be totally invested and it’s going to feel bad playing Magic all day with a deck you can’t stand.  Just make sure that you do some testing and find the deck that best fits you if you choose this method.

BREWING FOR A TOURNAMENT

Of course, a Brew is a deck that you built yourself, either from scratch or taking a concept of cards and building around it how you see fit.  Brewing can be beneficial to you in the sense that it could be a concept that you might exclusively be familiar with at your event.  This gives you the rogue aspect and you could catch people off guard with all the cards they have to read themselves.  Sideboarding against you might also prove difficult for your opponent if they only have your deck as the example for your archetype.  Brews can also be the most fun decks that you have played and getting the enjoyment out of playing it could be the positive expected value in an event that you are looking for.  There is nothing wrong with having fun playing this game.  Where you get the advantages of having a cool new deck however, it hurts you by having virtually nothing in forms of content to leverage your playtesting.  You will more than likely have to do extensive testing, and figure out all the intricacies of the deck for yourself, where you wouldn’t have to do so much with an already established deck.  This could prove difficult for a player that can’t devote the majority of their time to the game.

THE VERDICT

In terms of the average Magic player, selecting a deck that has proven results and has the content available for you to digest has the best chance of giving you the outcome that you desire.  The best thing to do for you to spike a Grand Prix, PPTQ, or IQ is to select a net deck you are most comfortable with and use it.  Find the archetype you feel you will have the best time with and test it at your FNMs and in your play groups.  Testing is still the key to having the best results.  As you test, you can make changes to the deck that you see fit to best combat the metagame of your event.  You can still be innovative and creative as well by doing this and receive fulfillment if you are bothered by playing a deck that you didn’t build.

I choose my Modern deck by looking through many websites to find a modern deck I would enjoy and be competitive with and I ended up on Dredge as a result.  Something about using the graveyard as an extension of my hand and being arguably favored game one against any deck was too appealing for me.  I copied a deck list card for card and this is what I registered at tournaments.

Lands

1 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Blood Crypt

3 Bloodstained Mire

4 Copperline Gorge

2 Dakmor Salvage

2 Gemstone Mine

2 Mountain

1 Sheltered Thicket

2 Stomping Ground

2 Wooded Foothills

Creatures

4 Insolent Neonate

4 Bloodghast

2 Golgari Thug

4 Narcomoeba

4 Prized Amalgam

4 Stinkweed Imp

1 Haunted Dead

1 Scourge Devil

Spells

3 Conflagrate

1 Driven

4 Faithless Looting

4 Cathartic Reunion

4 Life from the Loam

Sideboard

3 Thoughtseize

2 Ancient Grudge

1 Gnaw to the Bone

2 Lightning Axe

2 Abrupt Decay

1 Nature’s Claim

4 Collective Brutality

As time went on, I made changes that I saw fit based on my testing and content that I read to fix bad matchups and win more.  I ended up cutting the Haunted Dead because I felt the black in its activated ability was a little too color intensive if you need red and green mana first.  I also cut out Scourge Devil because I felt it was unnecessary and would rather be doing something else than unearthing it on multiple occasions.  To simplify the mana base, I cut the fetches and two lands in favor of more lands that could produce all five colors.  This helped make Driven more castable because the despair side is very good and underrated.  Sure, I could have put Haunted Dead back in, I just didn’t really value it too highly.  I rounded out my cuts by adding a Gnaw to the Bone in the main to stem the bleeding from my pain lands, adding another Golgari Thug to raise the dredge count, and added two Burning Inquiry to give myself more enablers.  If you are familiar with the Black Red Hollow One deck, you know why Burning Inquiry is so good!  After fixing up my sideboard, this is the list I ended up with.

Lands

4 City of Brass 

4 Mana Confluence   

4 Gemstone Mine  

2 Mountain

2 Dakmor Salvage

2 Copperline Gorge

Creatures

4 Insolent Neonate

4 Bloodghast

3 Golgari Thug

4 Prized Amalgam

4 Narcomoeba

4 Stinkweed Imp

Spells

2 Burning Inquiry

4 Faithless Looting

4 Cathartic Reunion

1 Darkblast

3 Conflagrate

3 Life from the Loam

1 Driven

1 Gnaw to the Bone

Sideboard

3 Collective Brutality

3 Abrupt Decay

2 Ancient Grudge

2 Lightning Axe

1 Driven

1 Vengeful Pharaoh

1 Darkblast

1 Ray of Revelation

1 Gnaw to the Bone

I have been playing this iteration of Dredge for the last 5 months, changing a little bit every once in a while to help combat the ever-changing metagame.  I have taken it to a few bigger tournaments and plan to take it to my next one in Baltimore, MD in two weeks.  Going through my results with the deck, I found I am currently 38-12 with it, which is a 76% win rate.  I still love the deck after all this time, and it all started as a net deck about a year ago.

Wrap up

Only you can really determine what you want to do in Magic: the Gathering and you control what you choose to play.  Choosing an already established archetype will help you to get to the next level if you choose to play competitively.  Take this knowledge and go out to find your favorite archetype and just play it and learn it.  Play the best Magic you can play and always remember to have fun!  Let me know what you think by commenting or following me on twitter @T2TKS and keep giving my articles a read.  I will be posting every Monday!

Please don’t forget to give our Facebook page a like (https://www.facebook.com/MTGDeckTechs/) and follow us on twitter @MTGDecktechs.  Thank you all, and see you all next week!

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Jason Stoops

Jason Stoops

Jason has been playing Magic: the Gathering for 20 years off and on. Jason first took to the game competitively in 2009, when Zendikar released and after a hiatus from 2012-2015, he came back for good when Battle for Zendikar released. Jason mainly plays Modern and Pauper and is an avid fan of green based midrange decks and other combo decks. He has two PPTQ top 4s on his list of achievements. You can follow Jason on Twitter- @T2TKS

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