Reviewing Team MTG Mint Card’s Modern Thoughts for PT OGW
I have just come back from Pro Tour Oath of Gatewatch, where I had the pleasure of working with Team MTG Mint Card. Now that I'm a MTG Mint Card member and content provider myself, I feel very glad to be sharing our entire preparation process with you guys.
Over the last couple of years, Team MTG Mint has always put up great performances at Modern Pro Tours, largely from predicting the metagame correctly and playing the best positioned deck for the weekend. It also helps that we've got Modern Master Lee Shi Tian on the team. This time around we didn’t perform as well as we hoped for, so today I will be going over where we were right and where we were wrong in Modern.
Firstly, here are the two decks that 8/10 members of the team played:
4 Gavony Township
1 Godless Shrine
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Razorverge Thicket
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
4 Archangel of Thune
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Courser of Kruphix
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
3 Spike Feeder
4 Wall of Roots
Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mountain(265)(Full Art)
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Snapcaster Mage
Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in Atlanta (10th)
What We Got Right
We predicted the metagame correctly.
Our metagame predictions were perfect. We identified that Affinity and Burn would be the most played decks followed by Infect, Eldrazi, Zoo and Abzan. While many people expected RG Tron to be popular in the wake of Splinter Twin being banned, we correctly predicted that it would be very underplayed as it was actually quite poorly positioned and that pro players were less likely to pick up a deck of that style. We hit the nail on the head with that one, as only 11 people played it.
Both our team decks, Angel Chord and Blue Moon, were very well positioned for this metagame. Angel Chord has a favorable matchup against Affinity, Burn, Eldrazi, Zoo and Midrange decks, while having an even matchup against Infect and an unfavorable matchup against RG Tron. Blue Moon was similar, having a favourable matchup against all those decks and a bad matchup against RG Tron, with the exception being it instead was favored against Infect and was even against Burn. For the team, the deck choice was largely based on preference to the style of the deck, as we thought both decks were equally positioned against the metagame we expected. I personally chose Angel Chord over Blue Moon, because having designed it with Matt Rogers, I had much more experience with it and had tuned it throughout most of the mock tournaments we held in the house.
Our gauntlet decklists mirrored what was played in the Pro Tour.
Since it’s the Pro Tour, we expected people would adapt their decklists to the expected metagame and we correctly predicted how people would do so. Examples include our gauntlet Affinity list had Master of Etherium instead of Etched Champion and our Infect deck was Blue-Green instead of Green-Black, and also, our Zoo deck was based around Reckless Bushwhacker.
Although this was less relevant than predicting the actual metagame correctly, it did lead to minor nuances in our final decklists that may have been missed otherwise. This includes the traditional use of Anger of the Gods instead of the much hyped Kozilek’s Return in our Blue Moon deck. We predicted Etched Champion would be underplayed, therefore we chose to play the more powerful sweeper. Our Angel Chord deck also had a hard time beating Etched Champion, but knowing Master of Etherium would be more prevalent meant we could play Qasali Pridemage over Kataki, War’s Wage-a choice which we preferred much more, as we wanted an artifact destruction effect in the main deck, but the latter would have been too narrow to play.
Both team decks were polished.
Pro Tours usually showcase a brand new format, whether that is a Standard format that has been largely shaken up by the new set, or in Modern’s case, largely being the new ban list (although this time around the new set also made a massive impact). This means that teams are often figuring out their decks till the very last day and by the time they decide on something, they haven’t left themselves much time to tune it, which often leads to some raw decklists. This is more commonly seen in Standard Pro Tours, especially with teams that come up with new archetypes. In Modern, this is less the case as players are more experienced with their decks and likely have more time to tune it.
Nonetheless, I believe both our decks were very well tuned. A lot of this had to do with our metagame accuracy. Both decks felt like it had the correct maindeck configuration for the field from the heavy emphasis of Batterskull in Blue Moon, to playing Courser of Kruphix and Orzhov Pontiff in the maindeck of Angel Chord.
In Modern, due to the range of decks it has, it is important to maximize your sideboard, but answers are much narrower which leads to a large emphasis on predicting the metagame correctly, or else you find yourself wasting valuable sideboard slots on dead cards. Both our decks felt like they had a great sideboard and talking to team members afterwards, it seems like they used their whole sideboard. I personally spent more time working on the sideboard of Angel Chord than the main deck to ensure we weren’t falling into traps such as over-sideboarding in any matchup- a mistake that is all too common in Modern as people pack too many sideboard hate for a specific matchup.
What We Got Wrong
We underestimated Eldrazi Aggro.
We completely underestimated Eldrazi Aggro. The fundamental issue was that we never moved away from Relic of Progenitus and discard effects, as we believed it was a fundamental part of the deck.
We did have an Eldrazi Aggro deck in our gauntlet, which Paul Jackson worked on quite a lot, but playing these reactive cards meant that the deck could never be as fast, or explosive enough to catch our attention as being good.
Due to our failure with the archetype, we also didn’t really consider Eldrazi to be an aggressive deck. We worked on Midrange Eldrazi a lot and thought the deck had potential, so assumed people would play versions much closer to what we were seeing on Magic Online. In the end, we chose not to play the Midrange Eldrazi deck, because we thought our list just wasn’t quite there, although we did expect certain teams to find a good list, so we made sure we were prepared for it. However, we always just assumed it would be Midrange based, so we prepared for the wrong version of the archetype and unfortunately, the two versions are very fundamentally different.
Funnily enough, we actually found Frank Lepore’s version of Eldrazi Aggro from the MODO League decklists and we thought it had potential. We knew about the existence of that deck and we were in the loop of interesting cards such as Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Skyspawner, but as time was running short, we dismissed it and just hoped people wouldn’t play something similar.
We didn’t focus on decks that utilize Graveyards once we concluded Midrange Eldrazi won’t be popular.
As mentioned above, we gave up on the Midrange Eldrazi deck a couple of days before, as we felt like the deck just wasn’t quite there yet. Looking at Magic Online decklists, people were still playing lists similar to ours and no one seemed to have any technology. At this point, Tomoharu Saito stated that he thought Eldrazi wouldn’t be popular at the Pro Tour and we agreed. Some team was probably going to break it, but as long as a good list doesn’t come up online it was unlikely to be popular, as everyone would have figured out the current list wasn’t good enough, but most people would also probably not find a good list. And we were right, as Eldrazi was only 8% of the metagame (and a team did also break it :P).
Where we went wrong however, was not taking this opportunity to then realize that decks that utilize the graveyard were actually going to be well positioned.
Graveyard hate was at an all-time low, as it felt like decks that utilized the graveyard were kept “in check” by the Midrange Eldrazi deck and its 6 maindeck Relic effects so people weren’t playing them and hence people weren’t playing hate for it in other decks. But when we decided that Eldrazi wouldn’t be popular, we should have identified that now we can play decks and basically not worry about graveyard hate, because everyone else was cutting them! Team Cygames figured this out correctly with their Goryo’s Vengeance deck and also Ari Lax with his Melira Company deck.
While Angel Chord was well positioned for the Pro Tour, I think Melira Company was just a better version of our deck for the event. They’re faster and utilize silver bullets better thanks to Collected Company and Eternal Witness and when there’s no graveyard hate going around, they’re no less vulnerable than us. Melira Company has a favourable matchup against all the same common decks that Angel Chord was favoured against, but has more game against bad matchups such as Goryo’s Vengeance, by being more explosive. Throughout testing, the only issue with Melira Company was its reliance on the graveyard, but when we decided Midrange Eldrazi was going to be underplayed, it should have been a no brainer to make the switch. I thoroughly got punished for this, as I lost to it in the event-the matchup is a complete race and they’re a solid turn faster than us at goldfishing.
Overall, I am happy with how we did in Modern. While it’s easy to dismiss our decks amidst Eldrazi Aggro’s success, both our decks performed well and our Modern record was positive. Our metagame predictions were on point which was evident as Matt Rogers went 9-1 with our Angel Chord deck and Jason Chung went 7-3 with Blue Moon, with all 3 losses being against Eldrazi Aggro-a deck which was only 6% of the field, but was a large concentration on the top tables.
This shows that our deck performed well against “the field”, but Jason’s deep run meant he had to face Eldrazi Aggro multiple times, which was a deck we weren’t prepared for, so our Blue Moon list was poorly positioned against it. The biggest factor to our poor performance had to do with our relatively bad record in limited, an area we definitely need to work on for the next Pro Tour.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article and could take away some of the experiences we had! If you have any feedback/questions on this article or ideas for future articles, please feel free to comment and I’ll try to respond!
Until next time!
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