With the Philadelphia PTQ only a week away, Luis decided to host Sunday Modern for a second time this month. I was surprised to learn that we had enough for the full four rounds, being that most of the regulars had left town for the Holidays already. Noticeably missing were the entire HotC crew, so it was up to me to carry the Hipsters banner.

I had made some changes to my list since the last Modern event two weeks prior. I decided that three mainboard Cliques was where I wanted to be after all, even with Lingering Souls being so prevalent. I also shifted my two Kitchen Finks to the sideboard for a second mainboard Baneslayer and a singleton Jace Beleren. I had spent a good two and a half hours Saturday night testing the new build against John Fung’s Spirit Jund, and was feeling really comfortable with how the list performed. Jace drew so many cards whenever he hit the board. Even when I only got one card off of him, he took a Bolt or Abrupt Decay out of John’s hand, which isn’t the worst.

So here’s what I ended up running:

Deck: UW Modern

Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard

4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Blade Splicer
3 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Vendilion Clique
4 Restoration Angel
2 Baneslayer Angel

4 Path to Exile
4 Spell Snare
4 Mana Leak
2 Dismember
1 Jace Beleren
2 Cryptic Command

4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Eiganjo Castle
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
1 Marsh Flats
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
3 Scalding Tarn
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge

2 Steel Sabotage
2 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
1 Negate
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Sword of War and Peace
2 Supreme Verdict

Round one: Henry — BW Tokens
I won the roll and kept a comfortable 7: three lands, Geist, Vendilion Clique, Mana Leak, Spell Snare. Henry took a mulligan and settled for his 6. He led with a tapped Isolated Chapel and attempted a turn 2 Thoughtseize, which I promptly Mana Leaked. I untapped and slammed Geist onto the empty board, and Henry responded with only an Honor of the Pure. I followed up with a Clique the next turn, seeing only Surgical Extraction, Dismember, and Intangible Virtue. I won fairly easily.

Henry would reveal later that his mana base was incomplete, not having any Godless Shrines on hand. That one turn made all the difference. Had he resolved Thoughtseize, Geist would have been the logical pick, and my clock on him would have been dramatically lengthened with only a Clique available to me, which would have been that many more turns for him to stonewall me with a Lingering Souls or a Spectral Possession.

-1 Mana Leak, -1 Spell Snare, -2 Dismember
+2 Supreme Verdict, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Disenchant

I wasn’t entirely sure about the Dismembers going. I expected Hero of Bladehold, but I thought 4 Path would have been enough. It certainly feels miserable to Dismember a Spirit token.

We both kept on 6 in game two. I had three lands, Clique, Leak and Supreme Verdict, and drew into the second Verdict. I ended up losing this game. When I resolved Clique, I saw: Lingering Souls, Spectral Possession, Path to Exile, Dismember, Surgical Extraction. I sent Souls to the bottom, and the card Henry drew was a Tidehollow Sculler, which he immediately used to eat one of the Verdicts. From there, it was tokens and anthems — and I effectively had only one Verdict, since my opponent could just use Extraction to get rid of the one I’d get back from the Sculler. A Hero of Bladehold sealed the deal.

-1 Spell Snare, -1 Geist of Saint Traft
+2 Dismember

Yeah, not making that mistake again.

Game three was a bit of a nail biter. We both went to 6 and I kept a slower hand of three lands, Disenchant, Blade Splicer and Baneslayer. Henry apparently kept all the removal in the world, Pathing and Dismembering my Blade Splicer and Golem and still having a Path left over to immediately answer my Baneslayer. Colonnade did a lot of work this game, as well as Tectonic Edge to keep my opponent off of triple White at first, and then off of Black entirely. Henry would eventually stabilize at 1 life when he resolved a Spectral Possession and an anthem, which I snap Disenchanted. He would get greedy the following turn and attack in with his three Spirits, expecting to squeeze in two points of damage before falling back on Worship (!), but Restoration Angel and Colonnade reduced that to only one damage while, more importantly, eating two creatures. A Dismember off the top turned off Worship and let me get in for the last point. What was I saying about Dismembering Spirit tokens earlier?

1-0 matches, 2-1 games.

Round two: Davey — Esper Delver
Davey was playing a list similar to what I had been considering: UW shell adding Black for Lingering Souls, Creeping Tar Pit, Inquisiton, Esper Charm and Smother. Davey went a step further and traded the white creatures for Bobs and Delvers.

Game one we both kept at 7, and Davey came flying out of the gates with a Delver, which he would blind-flip off of Remand the next turn and followed it up with Dark Confidant. Meanwhile, I fetched EoT and stared at the Spell Snare that came a turn too late, trying desperately to think of lines of play that could dig me out of this deep hole that I suddenly found myself in. I dropped a second fetchland and shipped the turn back. Davey held back his Confidant and swung only with the Insectile Aberration, bringing me to 13 and missing out on two points of damage — it was safe to swing with Bob considering he had the Remand, so Ambush Viper Snapcaster Mage was not an option even if I had it (I didn’t). I fetched again, going to 12, praying for an answer off the top.

Dismember. Not the best to be doming myself for 4 just to get rid of Delver and leave Bob on an empty board, but at least I’d be able to resolve it through the Remand thanks to Spell Snare. I went with that line of play, and now my clock was now lengthened to four turns, and I passed. Bob did what Bob does and flipped a land and attacked me to 6. Cryptic Command off the top, and my fourth land allowed me to cast it, but still no creatures. Back to Davey, and his Bob drew another land. He attempted an Inquisition, which I snap Cryptic’d just to draw the extra card. Geist of Saint Traft. Bob would hit me down to 4. I slammed Geist the following turn, leaving two lands open for Mana Leak. Davey didn’t get anything from Bob or his draw, held back his Confidant and passed back to me. I ripped a Path off the top and sent Bob packing, and Geist ran away with the game with two pieces of permission as backup.

-1 Mana Leak, -1 Spell Snare
+2 Celestial Purge

We both kept at 7 again in game two. Davey would bolt himself to start it off with a Delver, but this time I had the Path ready. Davey got to work attacking my hand with Inquisition after Inquisition, stripping a Geist, a Blade Splicer, and a Celestial Purge over the course of several turns. His Creeping Tar Pit would also become active and get me down to 13 before Tec Edge dealt with it. With the board wide open and Davey tapped out, I main phased a Clique and saw Disfigure, Path, Sword of Fire and Ice, Scalding Tarn and Darkslick Shores. Sword was sent to the bottom and Davey drew nothing relevant. He dealt with Clique using Disfigure and passed it back. I drew Jace Beleren and immediately began replenishing my hand, drawing into a second Clique, which saw nothing special and began getting the beats on. A Geist two turns later prompted the concession.

2-0 matches, 4-1 games.

Round three: Michael – Elves
When Michael led off with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood followed by Pendelhaven, I thought I was up against some weird Infect brew. Turned out to be Elves when he tapped both for a Llanowar Elf and an Arbor Elf. I snap Dismembered the Llanowar. I didn’t quite know how Elves worked other than their ability to get really big really quickly, so I figured disrupting the ramp would be important. A Blade Splicer the next turn made me feel really safe, and a Restoration Angel ambush a turn and a half later sealed the first game.

-2 Mana Leak, -2 Spell Snare, -1 Jace Beleren
+2 Supreme Verdict, +2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Sword of War and Peace

I got mauled in game two. Michael kept on 6 while I went down to 5. I saw my third land too late, and Blade Splicer and Pal were not enough to stop Nettle Sentinel, Ezuri’s Archers, two Elvish Archdruids and an Imperious Perfect.

I would mull to 5 again in game three while Michael kept at 7, but my 5 was as close to the perfect 5 as I could have wished for: three lands, Restoration Angel, Supreme Verdict. Michael got on the early offensive with Nettle Sentinel beats, and when the crucial fourth turn came, I bricked on land number four, but got the next best thing in Vendilion Clique. I saw a hand of all gas: Forest, Llanowar Elf, Ezuri’s Archers, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Imperious Perfect, Joraga Warcaller. I bottomed Imperious Perfect only for Michael to draw Bramblewood Paragon. Clique traded with an Elf to gain me some precious points, and the beats continued. I managed to minimize damage by Pathing a kicked Joraga Warcaller and Ambushcaster Vipermaging another Sentinel. I was out of blockers by this point with 13 life, and needed my fourth land.

Celestial Colonnade.

I was hoping I’d emerge with a healthier life total, but so long as Michael didn’t have anything crazy like somehow powering out an Overrun, I’d live. He came in for 6, noticeably holding back his Paragon in case I had another Snapcaster, but for the second match in a row, my opponent missed points of damage, since if I had a Snapcaster, I would have played it to Path his lord anyway, so he might as well have gotten value out of an attack in case I didn’t have it (again, I didn’t have it). I went down to 7 and finally got to untap with Supreme Verdict mana after what seemed like an eternity.

I drew Kitchen Finks and almost got greedy for a moment before catching myself. If Michael slammed an Ezuri the next turn, I would have just punted the whole thing. Nope, I wasn’t going to be stupid. Supreme Verdict, go. Michael threw his Elves in the yard, untapped, played a land, and shipped back to me. It was at that moment that I knew I had won. Over the next turns, I would gain 8 life out of Finks and Restoration Angel while Michael simply ran out of gas.

3-0 matches, 6-2 games.

Round four: Vasu — UW Angels
I had watched Vasu play against John Fung in the previous round. John was piloting a version of Colin Morton’s Superfriends deck that made the Top 8 of GP Toronto a few weeks ago. John was turned onto the idea when Luis and I got a laugh out of saying “+1 Elspeth: jump my Gideon, attack for 9.” John took it one step further and added Red to the deck for Ajani Vengeant, going old school Superfriends from the Alara/Zendikar Standard days (with the change being Jace got weaker). I wanted John to win the match so that I could concede to him in the final round and push him into the top 16 of the store championship, but it was not to be. Vasu got the win in their match, and we split in the final with me taking the store points. I kind of wanted to play the mirror since I never actually tested the matchup, but both our respective third rounds were pretty taxing mentally and we were pretty exhausted.

In the end, I finally managed to X-0 a Monthly Modern event, which also happens to be my first X-0 in Constructed at the store this season. Say what you will about the store league (and I know I’ve done a fair share of complaining myself), but it feels really rewarding (aside from the 5 points toward my standings, which I ironically no longer need at this juncture) to finally go undefeated being that the level of play among patrons has noticeably improved because of the demanding system.

Takeaways from this go-around: Jace has earned his spot. My mind was pretty much made up about him already after testing against John’s Jund deck, but Beleren proved his worth again today. In the one game that I actually resolved him, he drew me three cards to nullify three Inquisitons. That is nothing at all to scoff at. Kitchen Finks also continues to put in an obscene amount of work, even if he’s just coming out of the board (this isn’t so much a validation of Finks than it is yet another shot at Wall of Omens. YOUR MOTHER DRAWS CARDS IN HELL!). Lastly, I never got to untap with Baneslayer today, but I still managed to do just fine. This one goes out to all the naysayers who make the misguided claim that UW is just a poor man’s Jund that can’t win without Baneslayers.

All in all, it’s about being comfortable with your deck and getting to know each other well, as Zac put it in his recent FNM report. By now, it’s safe to say that I have achieved that with my list. I won multiple mull-to-sixes and even a mull-to-five today, all because I more or less knew the lines of play by heart and had a keen awareness for the variations. I also think I played well today, which is another trend I’m noticing whenever I’m playing the deck. Let’s hope it continues on Saturday in Philly.

Until then, Happy Holidays everyone!

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