Monthly Modern at 20SS! Competitive Modern events are few and far between at the store due to the relative inaccessibility when compared to Standard, so when I took a look at the events calendar a few days back, I made sure to leave the day open today to take part in the tournament. Modern is my favorite format in all of Magic (though I have to qualify that statement by saying that I have not played much Legacy at all) — there is a lot of interactivity, and the way the games play out often promote and reward tight play more than Standard. With the next PTQ season being Modern, it’s important to get as much experience in as many matchups as possible.

My deck of choice, as I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, is UW Control, a list first popularized by Tzu-Ching Kuo, then refined by Jon Finkel and Brian Kibler at the Players’ Championship. The deck has evolved a little since then, most recently finishing second at Grand Prix Lyon, piloted by Emanuel Sutor. With the advent of Deathrite Shaman in Jund, Kitchen Finks loses much of its utility and thus gets relegated to the sidelines, replaced by Blade Splicer. Sutor’s list also did away with Swords and Mutavaults, making room in the main for Wall of Omens to give the deck a little bit of extra card advantage, as well as a miser’s Baneslayer Angel to sure up the Jund matchup.

My list is slightly different in that it still ran the Swords and Mutavaults. Swords were obvious as they oftentimes just steal games; Mutavaults were kept in as another body to stick a Sword on. I also never bothered to switch out the Finks for Walls as I felt the lifegain would be relevant in other non-Jund matchups. The only person at the store that I knew would be playing Jund was Matt Jones, it’d suck to run into a burn deck and not have the repeated lifegain of Finks.

I was matched up against James in the first round. James doesn’t play much constructed Magic, but had old cards lying around and wanted to grind points for the store league, so he decided to slap together a White Weenie list. Student of Warfare, Thalia, Silverblade Paladin, and pretty much every other 2-power First Striker in White. Geist was a dead card against his deck, Finks could only buy time, and even the mighty Celestial Colonade could only trade with a guy bonded with Silverblade. I got off to a slow start in game one and could never catch up.

Game two I won off of the back of good ole Baneslayer. Soaring as high as $50 at one point in time, her wallet slaying days are behind her, but she does prompt insta-scoops against decks without Doom Blades. Game three was a similar story, except this time it was a Snapcaster with a Sword of War and Peace. There’s just no way for James to race against the huge life swings, and he soon conceded. The victories felt a little undeserved as both came from one-of cards in the deck, but my play overall was pretty tight and I made the right decisions, namely siding out the Geists.

1-0 after the first round.

Round two was against Burn. I punted the first game when I had lethal on board. All I had to do was survive until I untapped, and I had 6 mana open with a Snapcaster in my hand and a Cryptic Command in the yard. When my opponent cast a lethal Hellspark Elemental, I made the amateur mistake of Snapcaster -> Cryptic, choosing Counter/Draw. My opponent shrugged, unearthed the Elemental and killed me for exactsies. All I had to do was tap his Elemental when he went to combat instead of jumping the gun and countering it; instead I gifted a win to my opponent.

I felt awful about myself, but I made sure not to dwell on it for too long and focus entirely on the next games. Kitchen Finks did an incredible amount of work the next two games, gaining me two crucial points of life each time when I would have been dead otherwise. In game three, I stabilized at 2 life and dropped a Baneslayer. My opponent had no cards in hand and could only shake his head when the top of his deck gave him a Searing Blaze. He’d bring me to 1, but that was all she wrote.

2-0 after round two.

Round three was done and over in five minutes. Yep, it was against Affinity. He puked out his hand both games while I sat and stared at dead cards. I never saw my sideboard cards and never did a point of damage to him. He lost a total of four life the entire match, having cast two Vault Skirges, after which he promptly slapped on a Cranial Plating and gained it all back, and then some. Gross.

2-1 after round three.

Much to my chagrin, the fourth and final round would also be against Affinity. I lost a close game one when my opponent was able to get Arcbound Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus online at the same time. He attacked with a lethal Signal Pest equipped with Cranial Plating, the Ravager, and the Nexus. Having no flying blockers and with my guys all tapped from an alpha strike the previous turn, I had no choice but to Snapcaster -> Path to Exile on the Signal Pest. My opponent simply swapped the plating onto his Inkmoth, gobbled up all of his remaining artifacts with his blocked Ravager, then sac’d it to pump up the Inkmoth for lethal.

Thankfully, my draws for games two and three were much better this time. I was able to constrict my opponent on just two mana sources with a turn 2 Disenchant on his Mox Opal. He could never get a real offense online and died after a few hits from Geist and Clique. In game three, I stabilized at 6 life with a Supreme Verdict, getting a four-for-one out of the deal and putting my opponent in top deck mode. I Cliqued away a crucial Cranial Plating while getting a flying blocker for his Nexus, and was able to Spell Snare a Steel Overseer. From there, it was a slow grind to an eventual aerial victory through the Clique and Celestial Colonnade. The Blade Splicer token was extremely relevant in holding off his Metalcrafted Etched Champion.

3-1 to finish the tournament.

A few thoughts: moving the fourth Restoration Angel to the sideboard was just so wrong in retrospect. There are so many effects I want to be recurring with Angel. This tournament also reinforced the choice of Finks over Wall of Omens, though I haven’t played with the latter card and this may just be confirmation bias. I can definitely see the merits of running Wall. Card draw is very important for this deck, as it doesn’t have many ways of getting card advantage beyond Cryptic Command. Other changes I’m considering include cutting the Mutavaults and reconfiguring the mana base to mirror Sutor’s. It leaves me an extra slot for the mainboard Baneslayer who overperformed today, and lets me take advantage of the now higher creature count by running Moorland Haunt. Sword of War and Peace is staying in now that Lingering Souls will see a ton more play post-Chicago, Feast and Famine can stay in the sideboard.

That’s all for now. I’m visiting my folks in New Mexico next week through Thanksgiving; I’ll write up a report for this week’s TNM, and if I’m lucky, there will be a place close to my parents in New Mexico for FNM.

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