Unified Modern Analysis (Part 4)
Today, I will be continuing on with our deck selection process for the World Magic Cup from my previous article, which can be found here:
Jason is almost the polar opposite of Matt – he loves to play very linear decks, especially those that are often complicated and can give him opportunities to outplay his opponent. His pure talent and skill for the game means he can find extremely narrow lines of play and he’s fantastic at bluffing and reading opponents to figure out what he needs to be playing around.
Since we had already decided on Dredge, and the decks Jason were interested in playing have almost have zero overlap in key cards with the decks Matt was interested in playing, Jason had an almost complete free reign over what he wanted to play. Our plan for Jason was simply for him to find a deck he was comfortable with and thought would give him the best chance of doing well. The following were the decks he tested initially:
We were initially high on this deck as we thought it would be well positioned since we heard that it had a good matchup against Dredge and fair decks such as Abzan and Bant Eldrazi. Infect was a tough matchup, but playing a full playset of Sudden Shocks in the sideboard improves it dramatically. That being said, the deck was pretty underwhelming overall and the Dredge matchup wasn’t even that good. The deck has little in interaction, yet is slower than the other combo decks in the format.
Blue-Red Kiln Fiend
This deck was increasingly becoming popular on Magic Online and was putting up great results, so Jason decided to give it a try. Since we thought the lists were still relatively unpolished, Jason worked on the deck quite a lot. Unfortunately, the deck still always felt too inconsistent and seemed to be just a worse version of Infect. The deck has so much more moving parts than Infect, as it doesn’t have cards such as Vines of Vastwood or Inkmoth Nexus that can double up in roles, which means it needs to draw a much more specific set of cards each game if it wants to win. This leads to very inconsistent draws and makes the deck more susceptible to disruption.
After Blue-Red Kiln Fiend was dismissed, Jason decided that he wanted to revisit Blue Moon. This is a deck he’s had a lot of success with in the past, notably a 10th place finish at Pro Tour Oath of Gatewatch. We had previously discussed how we felt that Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a big addition for the deck and that we believed that the deck could be well positioned for this event.
It has a great Infect matchup and is favourable against other midrange decks such as Abzan and Bant Eldrazi, thanks to Blood Moon and its high volume of cards that produce a lot of incremental card advantage. Although Dredge and Red-Green Valakut were expected to be tough matchups, we believed that the former could be fixed post-board as the Blue-Red color combination provides us with some great sideboard options such as Izzet Staticaster and Anger of the Gods, while the latter was harder to fix but we could often steal games with Blood Moon backed up with counterspells.
Jason’s results were solid, and as he played more leagues, the list became more refined. We did have some doubts over the deck though, as the results weren’t as convincing as we’d like them to be, especially for a player of Jason’s calibre. This led us to last minute considering putting Jason on Infect instead, with Matt swapping out Noble Hierarch for Birds of Paradise in Abzan. Ultimately, we decided to let Jason select the deck he thought would be the best, and he chose Blue Moon, just mere minutes before the cut off for decklist submission.
Final Deck Choices
Seat A: Abzan played by Matt Rogers
Abzan (Modern - Others)
Modern by Matt Rogers
1 Godless Shrine
3 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Shambling Vent
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Windswept Heath
2 Anafenza, the Foremost
4 Grim Flayer
3 Noble Hierarch
2 Scavenging Ooze
In the main deck, we made very little changes to Willy Edel’s list from my previous article. We found Smuggler’s Copter to be underwhelming so we swapped them out for a second Anafenza, the Foremost and a third Nihil Spellbomb.
As explained in my last article, we found Nihil Spellbomb and Anafenza, the Foremost to have much more application in matchups where the opponent’s graveyard doesn’t matter than we initially thought, so we didn’t mind being a bit heavy on them.
With seven graveyard hate in the main now, we found the Dredge matchup to be very winnable as we often just needed to draw two graveyard hate cards or a combination of discard spells followed by a timely Scavenging Ooze or Anafenza, the Foremost to win the game. Since we were cutting the Copters, we also swapped out Elves of the Deep Shadow for Noble Hierarch, the latter being useful for pushing Grim Flayer through and winning Tarmagoyf mirrors.
The biggest change we made to the sideboard was the addition of Night of Souls' Betrayal. This was a card we believed to be excellent in this metagame, as it was amazing against both Infect and Dredge.
Infect could basically never beat it unless they were able to remove it or played Tarmagoyfs in their board, while against Dredge it kills off their Narcomoebas and Bloodghasts so they have to rely solely on 2/2 Prized Amalgams and Golgari Grave-Trolls to win. This is pretty tough for them, especially since we have Path to Exiles to keep Golgari Grave-Troll in check. We cut the Sorin, Solemn Visitors for them as we expected less Burn and other fair decks in this metagame.
We also added a Golgari Charm and a Painful Truths to the board. The former was a way to slightly hedge against Ad Nauseam as it kills Leyline of Sanctity, while still being useful in other matchups such as Infect. It also works particularly well in combination with Nihil Spellbomb against Dredge.
Painful Truths is a card that Matt and I personally like a lot in the Abzan sideboard, as post board the games often become more of a grind as our deck becomes more reactive with answers and it helps find our potent sideboard cards. We also found the card to be good against Lantern Control, as they usually don’t have enough mill-rocks to control all of our draw steps in the turn we are casting it.
Seat B: Blue Moon played by Jason Chung
Blue Moon (Modern - Others)
Modern by Jason Chung
1 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
Our Blue Moon list was heavily tuned for the metagame we expected. This list was greatly positioned against Infect with the full four copies of Electrolyze main and two Izzet Staticasters in the board, while its Dredge matchup was tough pre-board but gets significantly better post-board with Ravenous Traps, Anger of the Gods, Izzet Staticasters and Surgical Extraction.
With the added presence of Red-Green Valakut, we made way for 2 Vendilion Clique in the main with a third in the board as well as two copies of Flashfreeze. Due to the increase in Lantern Control, we also opted for Shatterstorm over Vandalblast as the former can’t be hit by Inquisition of Kozilek and gets around Welding Jar.
We decided to put Blue Moon in Seat B as we believed that teams were more likely to put their best players in the middle, who were probably more likely to be playing Infect or Abzan. Red-Green Valakut and Ad Nauseum were also matchups that this deck didn’t want to face, and we expected teams were less likely to put those decks in the middle because they would make the same assumptions we did and want to avoid playing against Infect. Ultimately, we believed that seating would be largely irrelevant and the margins would be minor, but we still believed it was more likely than not.
Seat C: Dredge played by Calum Gittins/Zen Takahashi
No event deck found
For specific details behind all the card choices, please check out my article here. A is for Abzan and B is for Blue Moon, so naturally we decided to put Dredge in Seat C because C is for Calum.
Overall, I felt like we had well positioned decks for the field, and more importantly our lists were well tuned for the metagame. This was thanks to our excellent metagame analysis. That being said, I do think we over estimated how popular Dredge would be, which meant we probably didn’t need as much hate for it as we did in our decks.
We went 2-2 in the Modern portion, which combined with our poor Team Sealed record, wasn’t enough to make Day 2. I think our Modern pairings were relatively awkward, as I think in both our wins we could have been unfavored in all three seats if their positioning was different and our losses came in similar fashion as we paired unfavourably based on seating, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Looking over the Top 16 metagame, I think our line-up and seating would have been well positioned against those top teams had we been able to make a deep run in the event.
The tournament itself was an awesome experience and I really enjoyed working with my teammates. This was the first premier level team event I’ve played in, and both preparing for it and playing in it was nothing quite like I’ve experienced before. That being said, one area we could have improved on in testing was communication, and this is likely an issue that most teams need to address more when preparing for a team event.
All of us were good friends from before the event, yet there were still some communication issues that we had to work through. Often Magic players like to be quite deductive with their arguments, which makes it much harder to overcome conflicts when there is a disagreement, especially when people’s ego get in the way. In an individual event you could agree to disagree and move on, but in a team environment each decision affects all of you so you need to be able to properly manage these conflicts and actually try to find the best solution.
Often these situations are dealt with by the most dominating voice getting their way, but that’s a very poor outcome as it simply limits the amount of information that the Hive Mind has to make the right decision. I know I’m personally guilty of this, and it could have really hurt us had we not been a team full of other outspoken people. Even if you believe that your actions have the team’s interest at heart, you’re naturally biased to support yourself which makes you not the optimal judge for determining whether your beliefs are more accurate than others’.
Furthermore, this can also lead to your slightly shyer/introverted players choosing not to speak because of the dominant presence of the other players, which further reduces the amount of information for your team to work with. One idea that I discussed with English captain Eduardo Sajgalik after Pro Tour Kaladesh, who had a relatively geographically and experience Dispersed team, was it would be good for him to play board games with a lot of social activity to create a bond between his team members. His team did end up playing a lot of Hanabi before the event and he said it helped with his team’s communication.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article series as I covered the entirety of Team New Zealand’s preparation for Unified Modern. Although Grand Prix San Antonio is still a couple of months away, I’m sure the information from these two articles will still be relevant then.
Team events truly are a lot of fun to play, and I hope the Unified Modern GPs next year are successful so we will see more team events get added to the Grand Prix schedule. Personally, I can’t wait for GP Sydney next year, which is Team Limited, where I will be partnering with Jason Chung and William Poor, two of my closest Magic friends who also happen to be the best limited players in New Zealand!
Until next time!
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