Quite the weekend, wasn’t it? A colorless Pro Tour Top 8, a Broncos Super Bowl victory (WOOOOO!!!!!), and also Modern Regionals. Because we mere mortals needed something to do as well. As I’m writing this we’re still waiting for all the Regionals results to be posted (I find it odd that two days after the event only the East Coast listings are up), but it appears that Eldrazi was largely a non-factor, with very diverse decks (currently) represented.
This data, coupled with my experience at Denver Regionals, gives me hope that the colorless threat is manageable. Time will tell, though.
The last time you saw me, I was trying to decide between an Esper Control list and UW Merfolk, and noted the deciding factor would be how much Zoo vs. Tron and Eldrazi were present. Further testing after that article showed Esper had a decisive advantage against BGx and Grixis, where Merfolk was even to slightly good. While Processor Eldrazi was a nightmare for Esper, the Heartless Summoning version was surprisingly decent because Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek on the enchantment slowed the deck down enough for Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Lingering Souls to race. Both versions were a breeze for Merfolk thanks to a very fast clock and Spreading Seas being incredible against the Eldrazi core (Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi Temple, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth). While instructive, this really didn’t help my choice since I didn’t know what the actual metagame would look like, despite Sheridan’s best efforts.
What finally made the decision for me was, appropriately, my own tournament results. I went 7-6 in Black Gold’s weekly Modern tournaments two weeks before Regionals with Esper and 10-1-2 the next week with Merfolk, with the draws being intentional to split the finals of two events. With broadly similar metagames both weeks and theoretical testing being inconclusive, I listened to the results and registered this list for Regionals:
UW Merfolk, David Ernenwein (Denver Regionals, 2/6/2016)
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
3 Harbinger of the Tides
3 Merrow Reejerey
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Master of Waves
4 Aether Vial
4 Spreading Seas
4 Path to Exile
2 Echoing Truth
4 Wanderwine Hub
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Stony Silence
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Rest in Peace
2 Meddling Mage
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
|Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)|
The only change since the last list was switching the sideboard Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and Kor Firewalker for the Burrenton Forge-Tenders. There wasn’t enough Grixis or Jeskai to warrant the third Kira and tournament experience suggested that in a Burn heavy metagame Kor Firewalker only made you lose more slowly. It came down too late and didn’t gain enough life to be worth it. Forge-Tender came down early enough to absorb creature damage and then save you or creatures from burn spells that I played three, anticipating additional value against Anger of the Gods and Pyroclasm. I was not sorry I had them.
StarCityGames Denver Regionals
I was very glad I preregistered for this event because the place was packed. During the players meeting it was announced that we had 232 players and would be playing nine rounds of Swiss. This was revised to 229 when it turned out that we had three no-shows, my opponent not being among them. We also started a half-hour late, so while yes I did come to play Magic, getting an early bye and thus lunch would not have been unwelcome.
Round 1: Dominique Last-Name-Illegible (sorry), UR Delver (Win 2-0)
I inadvertently smudged Dominique’s name in my notes and am very sorry I can’t fully credit him. I’ve never seen him before so I assume he’s from out of state but neither of us is very chatty pre-match.
I win Rock Lobster/Paper Tiger/Scissors Lizard and play first, mulliganing and then going Cursecatcher into Master of the Pearl Trident. Dominique mulligans and has a turn one Gitaxian Probe for life and next plays a turn three Blood Moon off two fetched Islands and a Steam Vents. At this point I’m just building my mana to play Master of Waves and have two Seachromes and Mutavault in play, along with two Paths, the Master, and an Island in hand. I should have activated the Vault and Pathed it to get a second blue, but don’t and it doesn’t matter. He only has a Young Pyromancer and Snapcaster Mage without a flashback the next turn and scoops it up on my next attack.
+3 Burrenton Forge-Tender +2 Rest in Peace Spreading Seas is bad against blue decks and I put him on Pyromancer midrange so Harbinger isn’t the best. Anticipating Pyroclasm and red removal, I bring in the Forge-Tenders.
My opening has two Aether Vials, Forge-Tender, Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept and two Islands. Dominique has Island into Serum Visions, bottoming both, then Delver of Secrets and no second land for two turns. When he does find land it’s another Island. I play the Vials out, find a few Lords, and his Vapor Snag cannot stall me enough for him to stabilize.
Round 1 took ten minutes total so I got a chance to scope out the room. It’s about half Mountains, with the balance being Burn of many colors. Quite a bit of Kiki-Chord as well. It also looks very light on Tron and Eldrazi, so I hope to hit Burn and Delver as much as possible.
Round 2: Jacob Nagro, RG Tron (Loss 1-2)
Another new face! I hope he’s on a red deck. Unfortunately, he is most definitely not.
I go first and keep Cursecatcher, Kira, Master of Waves, and four lands. It’s not a great hand but good enough against anything but Tron. Naturally he’s on Tron and plays turn three Wurmcoil Engine, turn four Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and I can’t win. Merfolk cannot beat a resolved Ugin.
I keep Spreading Seas, Lord of Atlantis, a Master of Waves and four lands. Jacob mulligans and Pyroclasms my Lord but Seas keeps him from Tron, despite Sylvan Scrying. I get a good board together and he never has the mana to drop bombs on me.
I usually shave Vial on the draw and decide I want another threat.
I feel pretty good keeping a hand with Cursecatcher, Spreading Seas, and Stony Silence after a mulligan. Unfortunately Jacob has Nature’s Claim for both my enchantments and then ramps to Ugin. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Really annoying hitting one of the only Tron players with red decks to either side of me. Sometimes DCI Reporter is just not your friend. I take the opportunity to wander down the strip mall the event is held at to the sub shop for food. There’s a taco truck just outside but in my experience taco trucks are either the best food you’ve ever had or a trip to food poisoning hell. There’s no middle ground. I don’t see anyone lined up for it, which indicates to me the latter will be true. I’m not feeling adventurous enough to find out.
Round 3: Tim Feldhaus, Enduring Ideal (Loss 1-2)
Another new face, which is what I prefer in large events. If I wanted to play people I know I wouldn’t shell out cash for the privilege.
I’m surprised when he leads with Temple of Enlightenment. The only place I’ve seen that is Ad Nauseam so I’m very glad I have Cursecatcher in hand. Imagine my surprise when he plays two Runed Halo to shut down my threats and an Oblivion Ring for a lord. Mono-white prison, go figure. Fortunately I cast a big Master of Waves and he doesn’t have Ghostly Prison.
I really don’t have anything else and the versions of this deck I’ve seen relied on Felidar Sovereign and Heliod, God of the Sun to win. Decks like this really make me wish Wash Out was legal. I’d willingly pay extra for that kind of flexibility, but it’s not likely to be in the cards anymore.
He has two Ghostly Prison, Peace of Mind, and three Runed Halo to stall my offense, but I’m getting there thanks to lots of lands and un-Haloed threats. My plan is to use Echoing Truth to remove the Halos end-of-turn and then use Meddling Mage to keep them gone and win the following turn. What I don’t expect is Enduring Ideal, which finds Greater Auramancy, Dovescape, and then Form of the Dragon. Not expecting the Auramancy, I don’t use Truth and am locked out. That’s very frustrating since if I’d known Tim played Enduring Ideal I’d have just named it with Mage and I would have won, but rogue decks are like that.
Sidenote: It used to be that the Epic copies were “played” which triggered Dovescape and provided the alternate win condition. This also meant you could use Meddling Mage on Enduring Ideal to lock them out of the game. This is no longer true because ‘play’ is now ‘cast’, a fact I verify with the judges before scooping.
I am never in this game. He has Porphyry Nodes into Runed Halo into Ghostly Prison, with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx AND the Ideal to just crush me. I have a line where I Path my last creature to kill the Nodes and then play Mage on Ideal and try to get back into the game, but I’m a mana and a turn short.
Never saw that coming, and it was soul crushing. A friend of mine playing Grixis hits him the following round and avenges me but still, prison is frustrating. I get lunch to try and cool off before the next round. I’m still live for Top 8 but I need to win out with good tiebreakers.
Round 4: I Forgot to Write Your Name Down (sorry), Naya Burn (Loss 0-2)
I was late getting back to the site and in my rush forgot to write down my opponent’s name. I was too tilted after the match to do it then, sorry My Opponent.
I keep a one lander with a Vial and two Paths and a string of Lords, reasoning that the only way this gets punished is exactly turn two Destructive Revelry. He has Revelry (of course) and it takes me four turns to draw a land. Fortunately I have Paths for all his creatures, but once I start playing creatures he has three Blazes with landfall to kill me.
Tilting and with only an outside shot of making Top 32 I drop from the main event. At best I can win $50, but if instead I drop I can play in the IQ that was supposed to start at the beginning of the round but was delayed because almost nobody was signed up. Figuring my EV is better in the IQ than continuing to frustrate myself in the main event I sign up. They plan to start during round 5 so that more droppers will sign up, so I take the time to watch the Pro Tour coverage in the lobby and calm down. Throughout the day, as it became obvious that Eldrazi would dominate the Top 8, there was considerable discussion about the deck and its implications, with the general consensus being that that getting to play 2/X’s for free is absurd. People agreed Eye of Ugin should go, but not until the quarterly ban announcement. I agree with the sentiment, but as the IQ showed, Merfolk players probably have less to worry about than the rest of you.
StarCityGames Invitational Qualifer
In the middle of Round 5 the IQ finally gets underway with 24 players for five Swiss rounds. It looks like a lot of X-4’s have left completely and the X-3’s are hanging in the main event. This is fine by me. It means 3-1-1 will make Top 8, barring oddities from unintentional draws.
Round 1: Steven Fachs, Naya Burn (Win 2-0)
Steven is a semi-regular at Black Gold who plays a wide variety of red decks, which is what I had been hoping to face all day in the main event. I ask him how he did in the main event and apparently he thought that the IQ’s start time was actually the Regional’s start and was one of the no-shows. He’s playing the IQ to get something out of the trip.
Steven’s on the play and plays out Monastery Swiftspear into Atarka’s Command while I am flooded on Spreading Seas. Seas slow down his development but he always has another land drop and he beats me down to six with the Swiftspear and a Goblin Guide while I use Cursecatcher to counter a Skullcrack, landing Silvergill Adept to stop the bleeding. He passes with a Sacred Foundry and three Islands up and I play Master of Waves for five, which draws a Bolt to my face to put me to three. Thankfully, Steven is at eight from fetching and shocking and when he fails to draw another land he scoops with a hand full of two-color spells.
Seas was okay that game but I’d rather they’d been creatures or removal so I didn’t have to take so much damage and establish my board sooner. He’s running Naya so I assume he has Nacatls, but it never comes up.
Steven leads with Swiftspear again and I answer with a mulligan and a turn one Forge-Tender to completely stuff his offense, which is helped by Steven missing a land drop. A string of lords and Kira wins me the game at 15 life.
Being able to block without fear and counter burn for one card is very good: who’d have thought? I didn’t want to lose to Burn and drawing Forge-Tender is excellent at fulfilling that.
Round 2: Adam Guinn, BR Eldrazi (Win 2-0)
Steven tells me that he dropped at 2-2, angry about how his deck was running. This surprises me because X-2 is still in Top 8 contention, but here he is anyway.
We both mulligan and Adam’s on the play. He leads with Sulfurous Springs and Inquisition of Kozilek, taking my Vial. He then plays another Springs and Thoughtseizes me, discarding a Master of Waves. I play Harbinger and pass. Adam has another Springs and passes. At this point, I think he’s on some kind of cheap Jund or Mardu deck. Unfortunately, I have no other creatures so I Spread a Springs to cantrip and attack. Adam finally reveals he is on BR Eldrazi by playing Eldrazi Temple and passing. Surprised, I just Spread it, play a Master of the Pearl Trident which he Dismembers (taking two from his painlands) and attack. He continues to just pass. I play a Mutavault and another Lord gets Dismembered, but he scoops after I Path his Conduit of Ruin.
We both mulligan again and I keep a hand with Forge-Tender, two Spreading Seas, Silvergill Adept and lands. Adam leads with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Inquisitions the Adept. This confuses me: Seas is miles better in this matchup than creatures. I play the Tender and say go. He plays Eye and Inquisitons away my freshly drawn Harbinger and Lord of Atlantis, which he then Surgical Extractions. Now I’m really confused. I Spread his Urborg and then Eye of Ugin and he never plays another spell, just another Eye that legend rules the other one away while I draw threats to kill him.
He admits that was a huge mistake, but he forgot Seas is a cantrip and he’s new to Modern. This undermines somewhat his claim that Merfolk is a good matchup for him, which suggests to me his testing wasn’t very good. Read your opponent’s cards! One more win and then I can draw into the Top 8!
Round 3: Tristian Raitano, Jund (Lost 1-2)
I’ve never seen Tristian before but he clearly is an experienced, dedicated Jund player. I know this because he triple-sleeved his deck and is in the process of foiling it out, and not just foil but premium foil (he was only missing six Expedition lands at the time). His deck was probably worth more than your house.
Vial is not very good in a purely attrition matchup like Jund. Hibernation wins races and Forge-Tender can save a better creature from Bolt or Anger.
My hand is five lands, a Seas, and an Adept, so I have to mulligan. Mulliganing is terrible against Jund, and my six is pretty mediocre but I have to keep. Tristian plays Inquisition into Thoughtseize to make it much worse and then Tarmogoyf to really put me under the gun. I almost get back into the game with Path and Silvergill but Scavenging Ooze undoes most the damage I dealt and quickly kills me.
My only land is Mutavault so I have to mulligan in another game, and once again my keep is mediocre. Not that it matter because his draw is perfect: Bolt my lord, play Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, and then Thoughtseize my last card. I never had a chance.
Standings are posted and I was right, I will only need one more win to get in and a draw to be sure. Time to try again.
Round 4: Brad Last-Name-Also-Smudged (sorry), Atarka Red (Win 2-1)
I use the front and back of my legal pad for these notes and the same smudge that obliterated Dominique’s name effected Brad’s. Oops. His deck is mono red except for Atarka’s Command.
Brad wins the play, mulligans, and then plays Swiftspear into Eidolon of the Great Revel. I don’t have Vial and do have only two lands, so I never find the space to turn the corner against him.
Mage is the only other card to bring in here that *might* do something against Rift Bolt.
I mulligan a hand with only Mutavault for mana into one that can play a turn one Forge-Tender. This proves to be fortuitous since he has several Swiftspears and a Goblin Guide coupled with Atarka’s Command. I have the Tender and a Path to survive until I can get Kira and some Harbingers out to finally pressure him. Brad gets a couple shocks in with a Grim Lavamancer before I Path it and hit him to three with me at four. If he has three burn spells I die, but he only has two and Forge-Tender saves me from the lethal one, having effectively gained me 11 life over the game. He reveals the last card in his hand is Destructive Revelry, which makes me feel very smart for not playing the late Aether Vials I drew.
I mulligan two landless hands and assume I’m just dead. My five has Forge-Tender and several Vials, and the Kithkin again goes to work absorbing damage from a Swiftspear and then saving a lord from Searing Blaze that later gets Shard Volleyed. Brad misses his second land drop, which lets me tick up the first Vial and play a second. This turns out to be good, because Brad then draws a land and plays Destructive Revelry which would have been crippling had I not had Cursecatcher to Vial in. He has several lands but isn’t playing anything except an Eidolon, which I find odd, and it lets me work my Vials to produce a large Master of Waves for the win. After the game he reveals that all he had drawn were Eidolons, which would have killed him since I only actually cast three spells that game.
Standings go up and the top six can draw in and up to two 3-2’s will make it in so naturally I draw.
Round 5: Didn’t record the name because we ID’d
Kind of says it all. Sign the slip, sort your deck and turn it in, and go get food. Easy.
The Top 8 consists of me, Tristian and his Jund deck, a Slivers deck, Temur Delver, Bogles, Esper Midrange piloted by the guy I drew with, Eldrazi Aggro, and Steven Fachs on Burn, who got in as the only 3-2.
Quarterfinals: Adam Ramsey, Temur Delver (Won 2-0)
Adam is a frequent top eight player at SCG IQ’s but I have no idea what he’s playing. He’s not happy to play me so I guess it’s a blue deck of some description. I’m the fourth seed and he’s fifth so I get the play.
I open with Aether Vial while he mulligans, fetches an Island and plays Delver of Secrets. This Delver never flips while I play another Vial and a couple of Cursecatchers and a Master, beating down while he struggles to do anything. He gets out some (small) Tarmogoyfs that I Echoing Truth away before killing him.
Another matchup where Seas does nothing. RiP is very good against his Snapcasters and Lhurgoyfs and Hibernation is one of the best tempo cards available for the matchup.
No Delver for Adam: just a 0/1 Tarmogoyf while I start playing Lords. He plays Scavenging Ooze and Vapor Snag to slow me down but I’m never under any real pressure and Harbinger proves its value as a tempo card repeatedly.
Adam admits he really can’t beat Merfolk unless he gets a lot of Bolts and flips Delver on turn two. Because I know Jordan will ask, I inquire about Disrupting Shoal and he has a tirade about how the tempo advantage doesn’t make up for the card disadvantage, especially when he doesn’t want to exile cards with Tarmogoyf and Hooting Mandrills in his deck. Guess he’s not a fan.
All the high seeds won so I’ll be on the draw for the rest of the finals.
Semifinals: Aaron Chism, Colorless Eldrazi Aggro (Won 2-1)
Aaron is playing an Eldrazi deck that I learn later is nearly a copy of the Channelfireball PT deck. I don’t know where he got it because at the time I didn’t know that the Pro’s were using that list.
Aaron begins with a free Eldrazi Mimic off Eye while I have Vial. He then plays a 4/4 Endless One with Urborg and bashes. I Spread the Eye and Vial in Cursecatcher while he has a Mutavault and a 3/3 Endless One. I untap, play Silvergill, and on his attack, I Harbinger the 4/4 with Vial. I then block the Mimic and Mutavault with Adept, which draws Dismember to protect the Mimic (I’d have protected the Vault). I play Kira, have an additional Harbinger for the 3/3 the next attack, and then play Master of Waves for the win.
Merfolk appears to be well positioned against Eldrazi thanks to Harbinger and Spreading Seas and I really don’t have anything to board in. I just hope it’s true and make no changes.
On the draw I keep an Island, two Seas, three Silvergills and a Cursecatcher, reasoning if I get another land (19/53 chance the first draw and 19/52 the second) I should just win off the power of the cantrip creatures and the best card I could have against Eldrazi. I don’t draw it and quickly die.
I think the risk was worth it since he only ended up playing three lands again and the Seas would have completely shut him down. Shame it didn’t work out.
This was a nail biter. I have two Vials and a decent setup for a large Master of Waves and Path, but no Seas. He mulligans and initially has no Eldrazi lands but plays undercosted creatures that I Path, while also using Dismember to stop my offense. Eventually, he gets out Reality Smasher and starts pounding me. I sneak in some damage and when we’re both at five he plays Ratchet Bomb and attacks. I use a Vialed Master of the Pearl Trident, complementing my Lord of Atlantis, to fuel a Vialed Master of Waves and then block with the Trident. This prompts a Bomb activation. I have my other Master on the next attack to trade with all his attackers and then swing unimpeded for the win. Really wish I’d drawn Harbingers that game since they’re the only things that interact with Smasher efficiently, but a win’s a win and it’s off to the finals.
Finals: Quinn Keifer, Bogles (Split)
Quinn is the youngest of the Keifer brothers, who are all excellent players despite being very young (I heard they all learned to read so they could play). I’d overheard Quinn got a judge called on him in the main event because, and I quote, “he was too young to play Magic.” The player must have been from out of town: nobody in the Denver area is dumb enough to think that about the Keifers, and am pleased to hear Quinn crushed that player easily. He’s not at the table when I get there because he’s asking the judges how to ask me to prize split.
See, his brothers have Invites but he doesn’t and he really really REALLY wants to play with them at the Columbus Invitational. I also have and Invite but can’t use it so I work up a split give him the Invite. I go over to the judges and confirm that the proper procedure is to agree to a split first then discuss specifics. Once a split is agreed to then as long as you’re only dealing with the prizes at hand almost anything goes. I go sit down and when he comes over Quinn asks if I want to split and I immediately agree and state my proposed split of extra cash for second while first gets the invite. Quinn agrees so I concede. I really hope he and his brothers do well at the Invitational and would love to see the look on their opponent’s faces when they lose to kids half their age. Good luck boys!
Fine Day’s Work
Taking second in an IQ is nothing to be sad about, and to top it all off the Broncos won the next day. THAT WAS A GOOD WEEKEND!
Despite running poorly in the main Regionals event, I think that I picked the right deck. There were a number of Merfolk decks hanging around the undefeated table for a while so I know my choice was good I just didn’t get favorable pairings. While I ran well against the IQ field, I do think, if the Pro Tour is any indication, changes will need to be made. In an Eldrazi world, Kira isn’t good enough while Harbinger is definitely a four-of now. Sea’s Claim should also be played, but it is so bad against everything but Eldrazi and Tron that I’d play two. I was really happy for the Forge-Tenders but not for the Hibernations, which would only have been good once in games played (although they’re essential against Bogles). How I’d change Merfolk will really depend on what the meta looks like going into the Grand Prix weekend. We have a SCG Open and Classic the next two weeks to help define the format so we’ll see. You can bet I’ll be watching closely while making up my mind about going to Detroit for the GP.
Keep grinding Nexites and I’ll see you in the comments.
David began playing Magic during Odyssey block, quit playing Magic when Caw Blade ruled the world, and returned to Modern shortly before Deathrite was banned. He’s made an appearance at the Pro Tour, made money at GP Denver, and is constantly grinding and brewing in Modern.