We say it often, and it bears repeating: we are spoiled by Twenty Sided Store and the amazing community and environment Luis and Lauren have created.

I joined Monique and Rob today for another Modern PTQ, this time in Selden, NY. I had some fun games throughout the day, but there were two matches in particular that left a sour taste in my mouth, and they made me realize just how fortunate we are to be gaming at 20SS.

After last week’s beating at the hands of Pod, I jammed a couple of Aven Mindcensors into the board. Vasu had suggested tweaking the mana a little to include Lightning Bolts in the main against the problem decks, which also gives access to Pyroclasm and Combust post-board. It was tempting, but I decided against it since I didn’t get much time to test the new build out. The few games of goldfishing made me realize the concessions I had to make were rather big: I typically have to Bolt myself on the first turn in order to cast Lightning Bolt right away, and then on turn 2 I usually have to follow up with a tapped Colonnade. Awkward.

So I stuck with the deck that I knew, and made relatively few changes. Steel Sabotages became Annuls since Auras is now a deck, and it also incidentally hates on Twin, a deck that I hadn’t even considered given how favorable the matchup is for me.

Below is the list I ended up settling for:

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 Annul
2 Celestial Purge
2 Negate
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Aven Mindcensor
1 Sword of War and Peace
2 Supreme Verdict

141 players were in attendance, meaning it was once again eight rounds of Swiss before top 8. Let’s get right to it.

Round one: Jake – Blue Jund
Yep, Jund with Blue. Not that I had any clue in the first game. He led off by Bolting himself and casting Shaman, followed by a turn 2 Liliana and turn 3 Inquisition. The only thing I played that game was a Cryptic Command to bounce his 6-loyalty Liliana to his hand, after which it was off to boards.

-2 Mana Leak, -3 Geist of Saint Traft, -1 Spell Snare
+2 Rest in Peace, +2 Celestial Purge, +2 Supreme Verdict

I mulled to five while my opponent settled at six. It would be a greedy six, a non-fetchland one-lander with three Deathrite Shamans, the first two of which were met with a Dismember, the last with a Celestial Purge. Meanwhile, Tiago delivered savage beatings all the way down to 8 life. Jake drew a fetch finally, Bolted himself to 5 and cast Tarmogoyf, only for me to Path it and kill him next turn with Snapcaster and Colonnade.

This was the game that I saw Blue in, given away by his turn 1 Watery Grave. Still, given the way it played out, I didn’t end up seeing an actual Blue card. Could this have been some weird Gifts brew? The Stomping Ground I saw both games thus far hinted no, but it wasn’t conclusive evidence. I did mentally note not seeing any White ever, though, so maybe that was it?

Spoilers: it was. Jake was on the play and made a terrible mistake to start off, fetching for Stomping Ground with his Verdant Catacombs at the end of my turn. He dropped a Forest on his turn 2 and attempted to resolve Dark Confidant with no Black sources, and thus ended up Time Walking himself for a couple of turns. I took advantage and Cliqued onto an empty board, seeing Sudden Death, Liliana, Terminate, the Bob he wanted to cast, and Deathrite Shaman. I bottomed Shaman to further deny his mana, then hit him for 3 before he ripped the Overgrown Tomb he needed. His Bob was immediately met with a Path, his Goyf the next turn with Snapcaster Path. I would get my opponent to 9 before a Terminate and a Snapcaster took care of both of my creatures over two turns. I was left with no cards in hand and drew into Supreme Verdict, which came in handy removing the Snapcaster, a Bloodbraid and the second Snapcaster she Cascaded into. Things got scary when I took two hits to the jaw by a 4/5 Tarmogoyf, but eventually my Colonnade got there.

1-0 rounds, 2-1 games.

Round two: Sam – Kiki Pod
I think this matchup is becoming my new Affinity (especially since I didn’t play against any robots last weekend). Game one was a blowout since I kept a Geist and light removal but no permission hand, and he had all the pieces to organically go off. Game two, I Cliqued to see a hand of: Kiki, Kiki, Pod, Chord of Calling, Phyrexian Metamorph and Stomping Ground. I bottomed the Pod, drawing my opponent into a Redcap, which he immediately cast to kill my Clique. I Cliqued again the next turn and the turn following that, both times getting pieces out of his hand until he was left with a single Kiki-Jiki, which I had the answer for with a Path in hand. Unfortunately, Sam would draw Pod off the top and go off anyway. I never ended up seeing my hate cards.

The boarding plan was:
-3 Geist of Saint Traft, -2 Mana Leak, -1 Spell Snare
+2 Supreme Verdict, +2 Stony Silence, +2 Aven Mindcensor

1-1 rounds, 2-3 games.

Round three: Mystery Opponent I – Scapeshift
I’m going to leave the identity of my opponent for this round a secret, since I contribute to HotC not to slander, but to discuss competitive Magic. That said, this guy was a complete shark. He frequents another game store in New York, the clientele of which I’m not very fond of, as evidenced by his actions prior to us starting our match. As I began shuffling the deck he presented me, my opponent immediately called a judge and tried to get a game loss for me, claiming I peeked at his bottom card.

Bullshit I did.

We’ve all done the Joe Camel head tilt. I specifically turned my head to the left and moved his deck to the right so as to avoid looking. I was shocked that someone would even make as petty an accusation as this, but I kept calm, explained the situation, and implored the judge to exercise his best judgment. An offense like this at max called for a warning, and that’s assuming I’m even guilty of it in the first place. It was clear this guy was trying to milk a reaction from me and get me to tilt. I wouldn’t be shaken so easily. The judges agreed, gave me only a warning, and we continued with our match.

Unfortunately for me, I would end up taking mulligans to five for games 1 and 3. Game 1 he reached seven lands while I was stuck on three and comboed off. Game 2 I Mana Leak his turn 2 Sakura Tribe Elder and played a Blade Splicer unopposed, then rode all the way to victory on the backs of the Golem and Tec Edges. Game 3 looked fairly even with me Negating a suspended Search For Tomorrow but unable to obtain board presence for fear of him going off when I tap out. I finally went for a Geist with Mana Leak backup, but when I pointed the Leak at his Cryptic Command, my opponent slammed a Guttural Response on the table. The sequence left me tapped out and drew him into his seventh land, which prompted him to go off.

Rather unfortunate that things transpired as they did, since our match was actually fairly entertaining, but as I would learn later, this was not the worst the day had in store for me.

For what it’s worth:
-2 Dismember, -4 Path to Exile
+2 Negate, +2 Aven Mindcensor, +2 Annul (for Prismatic Omen, which I never saw)

1-2 rounds, 3-5 games. Out of top 8 contention as early as round 3, and feeling quite frustrated by the events that had transpired, but I stayed in for the points.

Round four: Alex – Fish
Big shoutouts to my man Zac Clark on this one, I’ve gotten enough thrashings from his Merfolk deck (the threat density is TOO DAMN HIGH!) to know how to properly play against it. Alex was playing mono-Blue, which meant no removal and more countermagic. He took the first game after putting a Spreading Seas on my Colonnade and attacking in with 4-power guys. I had expected to lose the first game, but I felt that as long as I was careful (i.e. never playing Islands), I was favored post-board. The matchup is a race, one that I’m better equipped to win.

-2 Dismember, -2 Mana Leak
+2 Supreme Verdict, +2 Stony Silence

Game two was over fairly quickly, as an early Clique tore a Mana Leak from my opponent’s exciting but hard-to-cast hand (Tec Edge, Tec Edge, Reejerey, Cryptic Command), which allowed me to resolve Geist. I happily traded my Geist for his lord, played a Restoration Angel main phase so that I could Clique away his Cryptic while he was tapped out, and victory followed two turns later.

I kept a full grip while Alex went to six in the last game, a hand that he would begrudgingly keep. As it turned out, it was an absolutely atrocious hand with a single land (a Mutavault), Aether Vial, and a bunch of dead cards. Alex topdecked an Island, which allowed him to get in some damage with Mutavault, but on his second attempt, I turned my Snapcaster Mage into a 2-mana Stone Rain. I Cliqued the next turn and saw just how much trouble he was in: Mindbreak Trap (cute tech against Supreme Verdict), Echoing Truth, Pithing Needle (which I had seen the previous game naming Celestial Colonnade) and Tec Edge. I let him keep everything and he eventually found a lord and another Mutavault, but he was racing 5 to my Clique and Angels in the air. I Spell Snared his Echoing Truth targeting my Angels and that was that.

2-2 rounds, 5-6 games.

Round five: Mystery Opponent II – Twin
If you thought the Scapeshift guy was bad…at least he didn’t try to cheat me.

I didn’t realize it at first. My opponent was extremely young, no more than 10 years old by the looks of it. He won the die roll and fairly effortlessly killed me on turn 4 with a Pestermite and Splinter Twin while I stared at a Snapcaster, an Angel, and a couple of Spell Snares.

-2 Spell Snare, -2 Blade Splicer, -2 Baneslayer Angel
+2 Negate, +2 Annul, +2 Celestial Purge

His play in the first game was hurried and sloppy, almost intentionally so, but it was over so quick I didn’t think much of it. Game two was when it started getting suspicious. Cracking a fetch and not letting me cut him before drawing for turn; casting Serum Visions and accidentally scrying 3 instead of 2. And the best part: ripping Twin off the top right after I Cliqued away a copy — not that that couldn’t happen, but the way he almost taunted me as he pulled it off his library without even looking and excitedly announced the card as he tried to slide it under his Exarch.

“Relax. Annul.”

He leaned back into his chair with a look of disgust, and we were onto game 3.

I pile shuffled him before game 3 just to see if he was indeed that stupid.

“What, you think I’m cheating?”

“No, just being careful. Listen, we still have 40 minutes left in the round, would you mind slowing it down a bit? The past two games have been sloppy and things often came very close to being out of order. I don’t want to have to call the judge over a mishandled trigger or something.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

I opened my seven and knew there was no way I was losing this game. Turn 3 Pestermite — Pathed. Turn 4 Exarch followed by Turn 5 Twin — Mana Leaked. His hand ravaged and all his combo pieces sent to the bottom, he went on the attacking with finite numbers of creatures plan and started racing me with two Exarchs to a Geist. A Pestermite soon joined the party, but he was dead on the crackback. He “miraculously” topdecked a Bolt and brought me down to 1 life, then excitedly tried to Snap it back only to be denied by my three favorite words since coming back to the game.

“Snapcaster, Mana Leak.”

Another look of utter contempt, and he was out of there with his cards before I could even finish scooping up mine. I had to get him to come back just to sign my slip. I was quite pleased with myself having just shown that little punk what’s what, but the more I think about it, the more I realized just how stupid I was being for not calling over a judge immediately when I saw the suspicious behavior. Imagine how terrible it would have been had I let that kid get away with it. I came to my senses and pulled over fellow Twenty Sided patron Connor, who was judging the event, and gave him a recap of what had transpired.

This time, I was lucky and got to vent some of my frustration from the previous rounds on someone who was, in all likelihood, a cheater; I will do my best to ensure that there will not be a next time.

3-2 rounds, 7-7 games.

Round six: Lisa – Infect
Finally, an opponent who’s just happy to play Magic against good players. Lisa is actually a fellow Brooklynite, having gone to law school here. The store we were at happened to be her stomping ground (no pun intended). It was her first PTQ and one of the first times she’s even touched the format. We chatted about our progress thus far in the day, and I brought up my run-ins with the two scumbag opponents, and she was sympathetic. I could only imagine what it was like for her to see these unsavory types invade her local store. Twenty Sided is having its own Modern PTQ in February, and I am just dreading having to deal with people like those two coming into our home turf and ruining what should be a great experience for everyone.

We bantered some more and got to shuffling. Lisa went to five while I kept at six. She led with Inkmoth Nexus and my heart nearly skipped a beat.

It was a good run. Eight rounds in Philly and five rounds thus far in Selden. It was time to face Affinity.

“No, no, no, don’t do it Lisa!”

Then she simply passed.

“Oh. Oh…you’re on that deck.”

We shared a hearty laugh.

The rest of the match was pretty nondescript. I drew removal like a champion, Dismembering twice and Pathing thrice in game one, and did more of the same in game two. Pump spells don’t do much against Path, and her attempts to Vines of Vastwood or Apostle’s Blessing were all swiftly met with countermagic. She did a total of 5 poison to me in our entire match. Felt as awesome for me as it must have been inversely for her. She was a good sport about it, and still maintained her cheery disposition. I wished her luck and left with a smile, the first time doing so against an opponent all day.

Boarding, if it even matters, was fairly simple:
-2 Baneslayer
+2 Negate

4-2 rounds, 9-7 games. We decided to cut our PTQ short there. Rob had won his sixth round as well, and was also 4-2, but we both died too early in the day to matter. Monique went 0-3 and got three no-shows, so she was looking to leave as well. No sense sticking around longer when we could leave on a high note, so we simultaneously dropped and got the hell out of there. Sorry Selden, I will not be back. I understand the crowd today wasn’t entirely representative of your usual scene, but why go anywhere else when I have the best place to play Magic a short subway ride away from my place?


Meta Concerns and Takeaways
There was a ton of combo today. The three opponents Monique played against were Kiki Pod, Kiki Pod and Storm. Rob and I both faced combo for four of our six rounds. The Aura deck is becoming a real part of the meta now — the table next to me during my first round was Burn versus Auras. How long until we all start playing Fracturing Gust and Paraselene? Other quirky decks of the day include an old school UW Tron, a Through the Breach/Emrakul deck, and my personal favorite, Naya Borderpost (these dumb things) using Violent Outburst to Cascade into Restore Balance.

In terms of deck performance, I mulliganed more today than I did in Philly and saw some awkward draws, but I didn’t lose any matches I shouldn’t have lost, and even managed to win a couple of tough matchups in Fish and Infect. The large amount of viable archetypes in Modern puts me in the age old dilemma of only having enough hate in the sideboard for a part of the field, and while I was at least somewhat prepared for the decks I lost to today (definitely moreso than I was in Philly), sometimes you just don’t draw your sideboard cards.

Also, 14 rounds without playing against Affinity. I feel like the next one of these I do will just be endless Etched Champion rushdowns.

Speaking of which, the “next one of these” might just be the Twenty Sided PTQ. Next week is Atlantic City, after which there aren’t any PTQs happening near us, so it’s going to be a bit of a break before I’m Moderning again.

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