“A whole new world! A dazzling place I never knew!”
With the bannings of Gitaxian Probe and Grave Troll, many people, myself included, were excited to see how this would change the Modern format. Combine this with the printing of Fatal Push and you have the makings for a pretty fun weekend.
We saw Grixis Delver in the top 8 with 4 Fatal Push, a sweet Esper list in 9th place with 4 as well. Abzan CoCo with Rallier in 2nd, and only one Dredge and Infect player to be found. The meta is far from settled but so far it looks to be pretty interesting.
So with all this excitement for Fatal Push and the new bannings, what was I playing? No surprises here, it was Jund.
Initially I was pretty excited about Abzan with Fatal Push. For years the issues with Abzan were pretty apparent; no fast lands, Dark Confidant is mediocre in the deck, and the deck had no removal spell that you were happy to cast on turn 1. That had all changed fairly recently with the printings of Blooming Marsh, Grim Flayer, and now Fatal Push.
I had settled on Abzan almost two weeks before the event. Slowly though, the issues with Abzan became more apparent.
While crushing the mirror was a decent proposition, I was finding it didn't close fast enough in a format as wide open as Modern. There's no telling what you'll play against, and I was more comfortable getting aggressive with Raging Ravines and Lightning Bolts than trying to durdle and grind with Lingering Souls.
The list I settled on with two other friends had a pretty basic gameplan: crush the fair decks Game 1, hit the bad matchups hard in the sideboard. The maindeck configuration leans heavily towards beating the mirror, Abzan, Affinity, and control.
The 4 Drops
We're playing three heavy hitting 4 drops that bring multiple bodies to the table. Combine this with Kolaghan's Command and Liliana, the Last Hope and you're going to be stretching your opponent's removal thin.
Kalitas just feels a turn slow in Modern right now. It didn't, and still doesn't do anything versus Dredge, it's too susceptible to one-for-one removal in BGx mirrors, is too often a ¾ for 4 against Tron, and it only really shines against Affinity, and Bant Eldrazi. I could maybe see it come back if Abzan CoCo picks up again.
Huntmaster isn't typically going to just crush a matchup, but looping it is insane and you'll rarely find yourself disappointed when casting him. Chandra, Torch of Defiance tested poorly and only really felt great in the mirror matches. I don't recommend her at all.
Zero Fatal Push
I know people are going to ask, so I'll obviously mention it: 0 Fatal Push. Snapcaster decks, like Grixis, benefit a lot from this card. Playing 1-2 copies of Fatal Push and Terminate alongside 4 Thought Scour allow them to diversify a bit more easily. Push > Snapcaster > Push for 4 mana is also pretty insane.
In Jund, I want my removal to be versatile. Lightning Bolt, Kolaghan's Command, and Abrupt Decay don't kill everything, but they're incredible just because of their utility. Terminate does just kill everything. I ran into some pretty awkward scenarios in testing with Fatal Push that left me pretty uncomfortable playing it in a relatively unknown meta. In testing, I lost against Affinity when I didn't have revolt active to kill a Master of Etherium. Huntmaster went to town on me in the mirror when I didn't have revolt to kill it. A couple other scenarios came up, but rarely where the 1 mana really mattered.
On top of that, nothing felt right to cut from the deck for Fatal Push. With 4 Lightning Bolts, I didn't really find myself wanting the 5th-Xth 1 mana removal spell. I think the card is great, just unnecessary in Jund.
The sideboard was basically just half hate cards for bad matchups, and the rest was filled up with what I consider to be incredibly versatile cards.
4 Fulminator for Tron and RG Breach. With Dredge and Infect weakened and the excitement for Fatal Push, I expected Tron to prey on people this weekend. I saw it all around me, I just happened to dodge it. I was 5-2 in testing against it prior to the tournament. How no Tron snuck into the top 16 is beyond me, it was there in numbers.
3 Nihil Spellbomb. Not quite as narrow as Leyline of the Void, this is still a powerful graveyard hate card for Dredge. It also has the upside of coming in against random Snapcaster Mage decks, shutting off delirium against Abzan, or allowing you to one-for-one a Kitchen Finks. Again, Dredge was all around me but I managed to dodge it.
The rest of the sideboard was filled with cards I consider to be versatile while still being incredibly powerful out of the sideboard.
I'll talk changes after the report.
234 players, 9 rounds of swiss, let's get into it:
Round 1 - Jund
Awesome, this is was one of the matchups I planned for. The thing with this matchup is that it isn't skill intensive at all. Beyond some small nuances in threat sequencing, sideboarding , and deck construction, the mirror doesn't usually come down to who is the better player. Doesn't matter how good you are, sometimes you draw 2 lands in a row while your opponent draws 2 threats. You didn't do anything wrong, but that's how it goes.
My opponent leads on tapped foil Raging Ravine. I learned after the match that he only had foil Modern Masters 2 Dark Confidants. With my Judge promo Dark Confidants, I won the real game. If you learn anything from this report, respect your Bobs and they'll respect you.
Not to be outdone, I return with my own tapped Ravine.
We get into topdecks and I land an uncontested Dark Confidant. Skill game.
My maindeck is pretty setup for this matchup. I cut the discard as they're poor topdecks and just bring in some 2 for 1s and Spellbomb. Spellbomb is pretty medium, but it can help to 1 for 1 Kitchen Finks, nullify opposing Scavenging Ooze and Kolaghan's Command and at worst it draws a card.
Pretty much a repeat of game 1. We trade in the early game and I play a late Dark Confidant that eats a removal spell. I follow it up by rebuying it with Liliana, replaying it, and keeping his Raging Ravines at bay with my double Lightning Bolt in hand.
This Bob sticks and the game is over shortly after.
2-0 1-0 overall
Round 2 - Affinity
Alright, two rounds in a row I've hit the decks that I was gunning for. With two Kolaghan's Command, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Liliana, the Last Hope, and a decent sideboard, I was pretty happy with my matchup against Affinity.
I have no idea what my opponent is on, but I keep a hand of 3 lands, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Kolaghan's Command, and Liliana, the Last Hope. In the dark this hand is a little too reactive for my taste but I'm probably never throwing it back.
Unfortunately for me, my opponent ends up drawing double Ravager, double Cranial Plating. He quickly rips through my removal and I'm left topdecking. I stare at an Ornithopter with two +1/+1 counters suited up with a Cranial Plating that has me dead in two turns.
Draw for turn? Huntmaster. Alright, not bad but it's not going to answer this 6/4 Ornithopter.
I take the hit and go to 5.
Draw for turn? Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Huge swing. I crack in with Huntmaster and his trusty wolf as I get two chump blocks on his Ornithopter. I win the race.
My sideboard is slightly lighter than usual for Affinity hate, but again my main felt comfortably built to beat it.
Liliana is the definition of mediocre in the matchup. By turn 3 your Affinity opponent is probably empty handed and is immediately deploying whatever threat they topdeck. Her edict can't hit manlands and usually eats an irrelevant Memnite or Ornithopter. Sure, she's an “answer” to Etched Champion, but in two years I can count on one hand the number of times I've done that. It's three times.
Fulminator is underwhelming, but I don't mind bringing in a couple just as a 3 mana answer to a pesky manlands.
The important thing to realize is don't cut Dark Confidant. Too many Jund players think “oh, aggro matchup, better cut Dark Confidant.” No. Stop it.
While Affinity is an aggro deck, the way Jund usually loses to Affinity is not from them killing you turn 4 with Cranial Plating. You simply have too much removal. The way Affinity typically beats you is by grinding through your removal with manlands and Arcbound Ravager and hitting you for 2-3 a turn. Dark Confidant helps you keep your hand full and the removal coming.
Playing Affinity 3 times in this Classic has left the exact sequences of events a little fuzzy. My notes just simply have the word Pia underlined twice for this game. That card was great all day.
My opponent did show me a Pia's Revolution that was stuck in his hand with him on 2 mana. That card seems pretty gross against us if they land it on an even remotely respectable board.
Round 3 - Lantern
I think this is probably the matchup Lantern likes seeing the least right after Burn. Maybe Tron is worse for them, but I'm sure they're never happy sitting across from us.
More artifact destruction out of the board, especially Ancient Grudge, makes this matchup even more favorable.
I Inquisition him to see a hand of double discard spell, Lantern of Insight, and two redundant mill rocks. The double discard spell is unfortunate as it means my only threat is going to be taken if he draws a black source. I take the Lantern of Insight and wonder why my opponent didn't lead on that.
Kolaghan's Command and Ancient Grudge are pretty self explanatory. Artifact based deck. Kill artifacts.
Nihil Spellbomb is just a hedge against Academy Ruins. It's also an instant speed draw spell, so if you're opponent only has 1-2 mill rocks, you can play over the top of them and nab that Kolaghan's Command they were about to mill.
Painful Truths is medium. They can't respond once it resolves, so you draw 3 and the 2 cards under the top are unmillable.
Unless my opponent sets up an insanely fast Lantern lock and starts milling my lands without knowing my hand, I don't think I could lose this game.
I don't lose this game.
I draw lands, deploy my threats, and my opponent can't setup the lock. I draw the third Kolaghan's Command, but I don't need it.
My opponent mulligans to 6 and keeps a pretty slow hand. I Inqusition and see Academy Ruins, Glimmervoid, Ensnaring Bridge, Codex Shredder and Mox Opal after his turn 1 Ancient Stirrings. Academy Ruins looks to be pretty annoying and I take the Bridge.
Round 4 - Affinity
I was pretty disappointed in myself for punting this game. I had a couple close games all day but none where I visibly recognized such a clear misplay on my part. I had all the right tools for the matchup, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, both of my Kolaghan's Commands I just let my mouth speak before my brain had a chance to think.
My opponent says combat and I just muscle memory out a “yep” without thinking and let his Signal Pest, plated Ornithopter, and Blinkmoth attack. I was going to be able to shock his Pest and shatter his Cranial Plating with Kolaghan's Command and then eat his Pest with Scooze to survive at 1 life. Letting his Pest attack meant his Blinkmoth was swinging for 2 instead of 1. This was my grossest misplay all day and I'm still disappointed in myself. I pride myself in thinking through my lines clearly but I drew the Kolaghan's Command for turn knowing it sealed the deal and let my emotions cloud my communication.
Same as round 2
Game 2 and 3
Nothing particularly spectacular happened in games 2 or 3. My opponent mulled to 4 game 2 and put up a respectable fight. Unfortunately, both sideboard games were just endless removal into Pia to lock it up. My opponent says he plays 4 Etched Champion, didn't see any.
Round 5 - Sun and Moon
This is a matchup that seems like it would be atrocious on paper, but I somehow haven't dropped a match against it when I've play it online. It seems like in every match my opponent steals one game off a quick Blood Moon, and that's to be expected. Most of the time my opponent just draws the wrong half of their deck.
I keep a removal heavy hand in the dark as my opponent leads on Temple of Triumph.
Lightning Bolt is fine at finishing off planeswalkers but isn't something I want to see multiples of. Trim 1, maybe 2 depending on your board.
Kolaghan's Command is medium, but sometimes you answer their initial threats and just draw step discard them while they're hellbent. It's also not horrible when it's rebuying creatures.
Painful Truths is just generic card advantage to help fight through their powerful planeswalkers.
Fulminator Mage does double duty. It can help keep them off their 4, 5 and 6 mana planeswalkers while also being a threat through Blood Moon. It can be really potent in combination with Kolaghan's Command since their deck is so slow.
I play turn 2 Dark Confidant and don't attack into their open mana the next turn. I find myself doing this a lot in this matchup just to prevent it from dying to Blessed Alliance or a Nahiri minus. 2 damage rarely matters but the 5 cards that Dark Confidant will draw over the course of the game will.
11 cards this Dark Confidant drew me and it allowed me to fight through a Nahiri, the Harbinger, a Gideon Jura and an Elspeth, Sun's Champion. 6 of those flips were lands, all in a row. I win at 2 life.
I play my Dark Confidant and just don't deploy any more threats. My opponent doesn't immediately Wrath my Dark Confidant. I'm perfectly happy burying him in card advantage.
He finally Wraths. I play another which he chooses to immediately Wrath.
Round 6 - Tooth and Nail
In general I think Jund is heavily favored in this matchup. While their ramp enchantments are hard to interact with, they're still pretty slow when their Arbor Elfs and Voyaging Satyrs don't stick around.
The biggest worry in this matchup is early Utopia Sprawls into Garruk Wildspeaker and Blood Moon from the sideboard. Plus, sometimes they make a ton of mana and just draw air. They have a ton of bricks in their deck.If you can keep their mana dorks off the board, and back it up with pressure, you'll be just fine.
My initial 7 is pretty awkward. Raging Ravine, Twilight Mire, double Terminate, double Huntmaster, Tarmogoyf. Probably keepable, but just felt a little clunky. I ship it back and draw up a pretty standard hand with an Inquisition, some removal, and a Goyf.
Opponent leads on Arbor Elf. Bolt.
Birds of Paradise? Terminate.
At this point I'm assuming RG Ponza, but finally my opponent casts an Overgrowth.
I play a Tarmogoyf and my opponent does nothing forever. He finally casts a Harmonize with two mana up and concedes.
Believe it or not, I didn't build a sideboard with Tooth and Nail in mind.
I sideboard trying to make my deck as lean as possible. I wanted to disrupt them and clock them quickly so 4 drop creatures are out.
The last cut was Liliana the Last Hope as the only relevant mode was the +1 and even that was mediocre. 3 mana to kill an Arbor Elf is nothing to write home about.
I don't bring in Fulminator Mage as the deck is mostly monogreen. Any competent player is going to enchant their basic lands with Utopia Sprawl anyway. Destroying a Stomping Ground won't typically matter, as most of their mana will come from their enchanted basics and doubling it with Garruk and Voyaging Satyr.
Collective Brutality can maybe kill a mana dork and escalate to maybe hit a Harmonize. Not amazing, but I think it's better than what I'm taking out.
My opponent goes tapped Stomping Ground, pass. Weird. I Thoughtseize to see three lands, Overgrowth, Xenagos, God of Revels, and Tooth and Nail. I don't play Tooth and Nail, but I feel like that's a mulligan. Regardless, I take Overgrowth, figuring I can easily race him trying to hardcast Tooth and Nail.
Round 7 - Abzan CoCo with Renegade Rallier
Between regular Abzan CoCo and this version, I don't think the dynamics with the Jund matchup change much. They're grindier, and blocking becomes a little more annoying with revolt, but I figured it'd still be the same game. I was wrong.
Sticking a Dark Confidant on turn 2 is a big game and Anger of the Gods out of the sideboard is great. I'm a little underprepared for this matchup, but overall I think I have enough tools to get the job done.
My opponent ends up getting 2nd place in the Classic.
I know what my opponent is on at this point in the tournament, so that was helpful. I throw back a mediocre 7 with triple discard, Tarmogoyf on the draw. My 6 has Dark Confidant and removal, but none of that removal is Lightning Bolt.
Finally my opponent casts an end of turn Chord of Calling for 3. This is awkward because he already has Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Viscera Seer so I assume it's getting Kitchen Finks. I have two options, I can bolt Anafenza, but then my opponent can just get Renegade Rallier and revolt back Anafenza. Pretty disgusting. So I instead elect to let it resolve, knowing I can double removal spell my opponent on my next turn.
Unfortunately my opponent main phases a Voice of Resurgence. I can either let my opponent combo, or Lightning Bolt in response and give my opponent a 6/6 elemental. Either one was a losing proposition. game 2.
Liliana of the Veil is pretty mediocre in the matchup. Her +1 is slow and her edict is normally eating an irrelevant mana dork or half a Kitchen Finks.
I still want some number of discard just to be able to cleanly 1-for-1 value creatures or Collected Company. I don't want to overload on discard as it's a bad topdeck in what is usually a grindy matchup.
Anger of the Gods needs no explanation. Great card in the matchup.
I trim a Huntmaster and Pia and don't bring in Kitchen Finks simply because they play the value game much better than us. Trying to fight them on this angle is a losing proposition. You win this game with Dark Confidant and Anger of the Gods.
This game went on for a while but it was basically over turn 2.
My opponent is on the back foot the whole game and is using Collected Company just to fetch up chump blockers.
Eventually it is too much and we go to game 3.
Rallier really showed his stuff in this matchup, rebuying Forge-Tender twice.
The next Forge-Tender, and this was probably the turning point of the matchup, my opponent aggressive sacrificed to counter a Lightning Bolt. He was trying to crack in for 5 with double exalted on a Renegade Rallier.
He Ralliers back the Forge-Tender and does a similar line of play the next turn.
I elect to chump and finally get to land my Anger of the Gods. I follow it up with Scavenging Ooze and it's looking pretty good. My opponent's end of turn Collected Company finds two Kitchen Finks, but I fight through them easily.
Round 8 - Ad Nauseam
This is typically a good matchup for Jund. Looking at standings, I'm almost guaranteed 1st or 2nd seed by double drawing. No reason not to draw, so we shake hands and I get food. I got two slices of pizza, and one slice had too much garlic.
Had we played it out, this is how I would have sideboarded.
Pretty straight forward, take out clunky or slow creatures and removal and then bring in artifact destruction, discard, and land destruction.
This matchup basically centers around discard and Liliana of the Veil. Leyline of Sanctity after board can be awkward, but typically beatable. If you have artifact destruction to slow them down and Liliana of the Veil, you'll usually lock up the matchup.
Fulminator combined with artifact destruction keeps them off the requisite mana to combo. If they're forced to keep hitting land drops, Liliana increases significantly in power level.
Painful Truths is just a card that can help you find more sideboard cards quickly. Nothing impressive, but better than a Scavenging Ooze.
Round 9 - Grishoalbrand
Again, another draw. I watch my friend's match. He was also on Jund with a similar maindeck configuration. He ended up 24th.
I think I'm more prepared than most people are for this matchup. This is how I would have sideboarded had we played it out.
Similar to Ad Nauseam, take out clunky creatures and bring in hate cards.
Spellbomb is a pretty obvious one. They're a Goryo's Vengeance deck.
Liliana of the Veil is weird. She's simultaneously one of your best and worst cards in the matchup. If your opponent doesn't kill you with Goryo's Vengeance, they still have Through the Breach. Liliana helps keep their hand empty and shut off that angle. Unfortunately, if your opponent doesn't have a Griselbrand in the graveyard, she can just be a liability and give them a discard outlet.
Fulminator isn't amazing but he does two things. One, Grishoalbrand is incredibly light on lands. Sometimes they keep a two lander and do nothing after you stone rain them. It's also castable through Blood Moon, of which this deck typically runs 3-4 of in the sideboard.
Top 8 - Affinity
I was feeling pretty good. I had beaten Affinity twice in the swiss, what would a third match be?
Unfortunately, my opponents draws are Opal and Etched Champion so I get to stare at that turn 2.
I never hit my third land drop until it's already too late.
Same as rounds 2 and 4.
My opening hand is three lands, Anger of the Gods, Kolaghan's Command, Abrupt Decay, Ancient Grudge. My opponent mulls to 6 but keeps a decent hand.
He double Cranial Platings and backs it up with a Stubborn Denial in force spike mode in response to an equip. He almost fights through my opening hand but eventually gets g## Round out.
I cast the Pia eventually, but it's not enough. Good beats.
Summing Up and Changes
If I'm expecting a decent amount of Burn, I may cut the Liliana, the Last Hope for a Collective Brutality and swap the Pia back to the third Huntmaster. I didn't feel like Burn was going to be popular though, and it paid off. 6 people I knew there, one of them was playing RW Burn, but none of us played against Burn in 9 rounds. I honestly didn't see anyone else playing it.
The sideboard was heavily metagamed to beat Tron and graveyard based decks. I don't think my sideboard was wrong exactly, it just didn't line up. Tron, RG Breach and Dredge were very popular online, and we haven't seen any real paper events since the bannings and new set. I saw Dredge and Tron around me all day, I just never hit it. A friend played against Dredge twice and he ended up 40th. I'm really surprised to see no Tron in the top 16.
I'll have to see where the meta settles before I make a more informed decision on the sideboard. I don't think this is where it will stay.
If you have any other questions about matchups, sideboarding , card choices, etc. feel free to ask. Thanks for reading.