Modern Preparation for GP Barcelona (P1)

by Simon Nielsen on 18 July 2018, Wednesday

Simon Nielsen


Modern Preparation for GP Barcelona (P1)

Grand Prix Barcelona is a couple of weeks behind us now, but I believe there is something to be learned from my testing process. Not just my notes on the decks I tried out, but also I don't think my procedure was perfect at all and I almost panicked at the end. 

Now I think I've learned some lessons about how to approach testing for an important event.



Step 1: "I'm just gonna stick to Elves."

The article about Green-White Elves that I posted a couple of weeks ago was one I started to write about six weeks ago. But due to some unfortunate delays, it took a lot longer for it to get out. Back when I started to write it, I believed the deck to be very good.

The metagame was full of Humans and Hollow One, two favored matchups, and people tried to beat these fast decks with other creature decks like Bogles and Affinity, more good news for an Elves player. 

I thought for a long time that I was just going to play Elves in Barcelona. But once the tournament got close and I had to start the testing, Elves just fell apart. The metagame had now become a lot more control-based, with Jeskai Control, Tron and Mardu Pyromancer showing up a lot, and very few Humans and Bogles in sight. 

That's just not a good metagame for Elves, as they don't like to see sweepers, lots of cheap interaction and Grim Lavamancer. Especially when the good match-ups show up more rarely. 
So it didn't take me many leagues to just drop the elvish family. This change in the metagame, something that we haven't seen happen in Modern at this speed before, meant that I would have to start over with my preparation. 


Elvish Clancaller

I do believe it's worth it to retake another look at Elves now that Magic 2019 is out. Elvish Clancaller is an exciting new card, that both provides an additional mana sink and makes turn 4 kills more consistent.

I wouldn't build the deck with the Devoted Druid combo and Chord of Calling anymore, instead just run Lead the Stampede and try to embrace the go-wide strategy. Then we can also utilize Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx with Elvish Clancallers double green casting cost.

This is where I would start with a new Elves list. We still keep the white as Horizon Canopy is a must-play in this deck and we always want access to the powerful sideboard cards.


Step 2: "This KCI deck MUST be broken!"

At this point, two weeks before Barcelona, Matt Nass had won his second Grand Prix with Krark-Clan Ironworks. And this time, it was clear that the deck wasn't just a one-person fluke, as we had another version in the top 8 and multiple more who got close to making the single elimination bracket.



It was pretty clear, at least to me, that the deck was broken and just the best deck in Modern. Like Amulet Bloom before, it seemed to reward those who put in the time to learn the deck. And I had already dabbled with KCI before, so just sticking to it for the rest of my testing time seemed very smart. Hopefully, there wasn't too much hate.

However, I just couldn't win with it.


Stony Silence Damping Sphere

In the leagues I played online, I just kept posting unimpressive results. When I took the deck to my game store for FNM and such, I still didn't do well. Part of it was that people had upped their hate, as both Stony Silence and Damping Sphere did double duty against Tron, and Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void could also do wonders against Hollow One, so there was a lot of incentive for people to just jam these cards in their sideboard. 

But I think the significant part here was that I was just doing things wrong. And not the types of mistakes where you immediately notice that you did something wrong and made a mental note never to do this again. But I probably messed up my mulligan decisions, my sequencing, my choices of whether or not to crack my Chromatic Stars, etc. or keep them for my combo turn. Sometimes I might have gone for it too aggressively when I should have waited. 

I spent about a week losing with KCI. Since it takes ages to combo off online, I didn't exactly get to play that many leagues a day, mainly since the tedious nature of the games and my poor records also kept my motivation low.

Also, I had thought the deck would yield similar results to the ones I had with Amulet Bloom once I put in the work to learn the deck. But I found that the power level of these two decks just isn't comparable. KCI lacks both the absurd explosive power of Amulet Bloom while also not being as resilient against hate pieces.

In the end, I decided that bringing this deck to Barcelone would just be suicide, and any more time spent on it would just be wasted into a black hole. Less than a week before I had to leave for Barcelona, I needed to find myself a new deck.

Step 3: "Huh, Infect is doing quite well…"

As I was scouring Modern trends for a new deck to pick up, I noticed that Infect had been doing well lately. Aaron Barich won the SCG Invitational with a regular Green-Blue build, and while Matt Nass was busy showing the world his prowess with KCI, two copies of Green-Black Infect made the top 8 of an online PTQ. 

And it makes sense. After all, Infect is well positioned against the rise of Tron and KCI, and the addition of Phyrexian Crusader improves the match-up against Jeskai, Mardu and Humans hugely. It seemed like a good bandwagon to jump onto.


Phyrexian Crusader

With the help of some of my Infect-playing friends, I re-added the playset of Might of Old Krosa back into the deck, as it felt like it was still important to kill them quickly, even if the black gave me access to interaction.

We shaved down on Glistener Elf as that one frequently just get blocked anyway, and we don't need this many Infect creatures anyway. I replaced them with a couple Birds of Paradise, which made it easier to keep up mana for protection, helped the mana base so I could play 4 Inkmoth Nexus with a low land count and still reasonably be able to cast Phyrexian Crusader. Also, it still provided me with speed, as I could now more often play Phyrexian Crusader on turn 2. 


I was doing quite well with this version initially, quickly 4-1'ing two leagues on stream. One of my losses were to Hollow One, and in my next league off-stream, I went 2-3, losing to two more Hollow One decks. Maybe this was just a bad match-up?

I decided to grab the problem by the root and asked Piotr "Kanister" Glogowski to play some matches against me with Hollow One. And I just got crushed three more matches in a row. It seemed like the combination of lots of disruption, a fast clock and creatures that can reasonably block Phyrexian Crusader was just too much to overcome.

And it wasn't like this was the only problems I was facing. The mana base just isn't great, as we try to play a bunch of 1-mana green spells together with a double-black 3-drop. And sometimes the deck wouldn't function, drawing too many tiny Infect creatures, or would rely heavily on drawing Rancor to get through blockers. 

Collins Mullen (one of the creators of 5-color Humans) recently wrote about a version that only plays Phyrexian Crusader in the sideboard. This partly solves the issue of the mana base, as you only have Crusader against grindy match-ups where having functional mana on time is less important, and this approach also leaves room for sufficient pump spells in the main deck. I think this version makes a ton of sense if you are interested in Black-Green Infect.

But at this point, I was off it.

Time to find a new deck!

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