By Charles Hagaman

mm182_dreamsI have this theory that as an adult, you will never like anything as much as the things you liked between the ages of 12 and 15. Whenever nerds get in a fight about favorite Final Fantasy games, everyone always picks whichever game they played when they were 12-13 years old. Many people spend their whole lives infatuated with whatever genre of music they loved at age 15. Everyone has their favorite movies, games, albums and activities from that age, and it seems like nothing in adult life will truly compete. I suppose I feel this way about first turn Kird Ape. I had Kird Ape with me in 1996 when, playing in my first constructed tournament (a Type II side tournament at the Mirage prerelease at the Hotel New Yorker), I was welcomed to the league by being Armageddon’d in two straight games by a fairly good player named Jon Finkel.

I must admit, I initially had a negative reaction to Tuesday Night Magic’s constructed format at Twenty Sided Store switching to Modern a few weeks ago since my Magic budgeting is constrained by the fact that I am fresh out of grad school and trying to make a career in the arts. I typically have choir rehearsal on Tuesday nights, though, so I had figured it was a wash as far as I was concerned. Last weekend though, my choir (plug plug Young New Yorkers Chorus plug) had a concert and therefore we had a week off from rehearsal. With a newly free Tuesday, I trawled the lists of recent MODO Modern daily events and found a spicy RG Beatdown list that made my inner child gleeful. Of notable benefit was the fact that I had exactly the right fetchlands, and it is the rare Modern decklist that doesn’t require Bobs, Goyfs, St. Trafts, Cryptics, or other cards that cost hundreds of dollars per playset. I made a few substitutions due to card availability, and ended up putting together the following 75:

RG Beatdown

4 Experiment One
4 Kird Ape
4 Goblin Guide
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Stormblood Berserker
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rancor
3 Dismember

3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Stomping Ground
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Mountain
1 Forest

2 Act of Aggression
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Arc Trail
2 Molten Rain
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Vines of Vastwood
1 Mutagenic Growth

I rarely play 19-land, hyper aggressive decks, but this one is a thing of beauty. 25 of your plays cost one mana, and the threat density of your draws is sky-high. It’s possible to keep one-land hands fairly easily when you have four potential plays and time to draw into explosive Burning-Tree Emissary chains that will catch you up on tempo. In one-land situations, you can also deploy Rancor into open white mana with a relatively clear conscience. If you get Pathed, you’ve handed them two of your threats for one of their answers, but when that second land turns on 2-3 more of the cards in your hand, it almost feels like a favor.

A significant benefit of Wizards reprinting some powerful old cards into Modern-legal sets is that I get to build my first Modern deck featuring my old Revised-edition Kird Apes and Lightning Bolts, and Urza’s Legacy Rancors. When I got to gaze with mirth on my 90’s-era Rancored Kird Ape bashing for 4, it didn’t feel Modern to me at all, it felt like exactly what I wanted to be doing when I was 14.


Round 1 vs Derek (UB Delver)

I win the die roll and mulligan. I remember Derek as a long-time Tempered Steel player and elect to play turn one Kird Ape off a Copperline Gorge to save some pain from playing an untapped Stomping Ground. Derek punishes me for it on the very next turn by playing Watery Grave untapped and Disfiguring it. Over the next few turns we develop our boards, he with a Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage and two rounds of Inquisition of Kozilek, I with the small number of remaining animals in my hand. Around turn four, he Vendilion Cliques on my draw step and pushes a Dismember to the bottom instead of a Lightning Bolt. I find this questionable since we are in a race, but quickly find out why on the next turn when he drops Tombstalker, removing his entire Thought Scour-assisted graveyard. I Bolt his Clique and begin cracking back on the ground. I draw another Dismember, facing down his ‘Stalker and unflipped Delver at 6 life. I can potentially win the race if he bricks again on a Delver flip, but he finally flips a spell and I am dead.

Sideboarding: +2 Vines of Vastwood, +1 Mutagenic Growth, +2 Act of Aggression, -3 Ghor-Clan Rampager, -2 Stormblood Berserker. If the Crypts/Cage in my board were Relic of Progenitus, I would bring those in to fight his Snapcasters and deny him Tombstalker fuel.

Game two, my seven-card hand has no lands, nor does my six. Derek also mulligans into a land-heavy hand. He Inquisitions me, but I have a meaty hand and play 19 lands, so my remaining gas and some threat-dense draws don’t meet much resistance.

Game three, he plays an untapped shockland to start at 18 and I deploy a fully grown Ape. He Thought Scours EOT and plays another untapped shockland. I have a vomitous second turn, attacking for two and playing Burning-Tree Emissary. Derek tanks, but elects to let the Emissary resolve, and then Mana Leaks my follow-up Stormblood Berserker. Now, I don’t know the contents of his hand or deck but I would almost certainly recommend Leaking the BTE to slow down the beats as much as possible. For the remainder of the game he is forced to start tapping mana on his own turn, so I am able to Rancor and Bloodrush without having to play around removal. Derek was generally unlucky with blind flipping Delvers throughout the match, so there wasn’t much of a race in the games that I was able to win.

Round 2 vs Lirek (4-Color Gifts)

Lirek is borrowing the deck from Li and is somewhat learning as he goes, not an enviable position to be in when piloting what many people in the room were calling the hardest deck in the format.

My game one hand is an absolute monster, opening with an Experiment One. Lirek plays Overgrown Tomb and Deathrite Shaman. On my second turn, I do my impression of Zanesville, Ohio in 2011 and play a pair of Kird Apes, crashing in with my 3/3 Human Ooze. Lirek cracks his fetchland EOT and tanks on what land to get, deciding on Hallowed Fountain, then untaps and DAMNATIONS ME out of nowhere, using his Deathrite for the second black mana. I have a follow-up creature, which Lirek Dismembers in response to a Rancor attempt. I am sitting on a hand of two Dismember and a land, when Lirek casts Gifts EOT, putting Iona, Shield of Emeria and Unburial Rites in the yard. He Rites the Iona and names red, but I coolly fritter away eight life to draw and quarter her, putting me to seven life, all of the damage self-inflicted. Lirek’s follow-up of Lingering Souls is enough to ice the game.

Sideboarding: +2 Tormod’s Crypt, +1 Grafdigger’s Cage, +2 Vines of Vastwood, -4 Stormblood Berserker, -1 Ghor-Clan Rampager. In hindsight, I probably also wanted the Molten Rains on the play.

Game two I have another good hand, playing Experiment One into BTE, Kird Ape and Rancor, with Crypt in hand. I don’t run the Crypt out right away, wanting to make him shape his game plan around setting up Gifts for Elesh Norn, and planning to play Crypt on the turn he’s able to cast Gifts. Crypt is immune to Remand, and if he has Mana Leak, I will be playing threats on the first three turns that he will probably be Leaking instead. Lirek taps out on his third turn for Timely Reinforcements to gain six life and three Soldiers of indeterminate species. On my next attack he blocks with two Soldiers on an X/2 and a chump with the third, and I am able to bloodrush Ghor-Clan Rampager to save my guy and push through another four. He has no turn four play and I am able to add to my army the following turn with a pair of Goblin Guides for lethal.

Game three, I again come out of the gates quickly with Tormod’s Crypt in hand. He again has turn three Timely to go back to 20 life and make blockers, but when the three Soldiers gang block my Kird Ape I’m able to again send it on a Ghor-Clan Rampage to roll right over his blockers. Lirek finds a Supreme Verdict to clear the board, but I come right back at him with a hasty Flinthoof Boar, which is able to deal lethal on the following turn with the help of kicked Vines of Vastwood and a Lightning Bolt.

Round 3 vs Li (UW Troll-Tron)

Li and I were up front before the round, him telling me all about his deck, and obviously we immediately get paired when the next round starts. He is playing Troll-Tron, with zero Karns, but featuring Eye of Ugin into Big Daddy Wurm-Father Wurmcoil Engine, as well as Mindslaver with Academy Ruins for the lock, and Tron-fueled Sphinx’s Revelation.

Happy Helmet, take one.

Happy Helmet, take one.

I lose the die roll and Li opens on Tron piece into Expedition Map while I start mushing my farm animals to the battlefield. Li has his Tron assembled by turn three, playing a Solemn Simulacrum to find an Island. His fourth land is Eye of Ugin, which searches up a Wurmcoil. I am operating on just two lands, so I am beating him down without much resistance, but still have a healthy five cards in hand, including a Bolt and a Dismember. His Wurmcoil doesn’t concern me terribly since I can shrink it with Dismember, or just remove the creatures that he blocks to deny him lifelink. On the turn that I expect him to untap and drop Wurmcoil though, Li drops another Urza’s Tower and sticks me in the Happy Helmet.


Happy Helmet, take two.

On my turn, I find it to be a terribly nice idea to Dismember and Bolt two of my creatures and forget to attack with my remaining Burning-Tree Emissary. I am fortunate to have bricked on my third land again, otherwise I probably would have put a Rancor on the stack before shipping my Ape off to the vest-making factory. Li untaps and plays out Wurmcoil. I find my third land and start playing out more threats and Rancor while Big Wurm and my war pigs stare at each other, but when Li activates Eye of Ugin for a second Wurmcoil, I die in short order.

Sideboarding: +2 Act of Aggression, +3 Ancient Grudge, +2 Molten Rain, -3 Dismember, -2 Grim Lavamancer, -2 Stormblood Berserker.

Game two, I open on the play using all my mana on the first two turns dropping creatures, with Act of Aggression and Ancient Grudge both in hand. On Li’s second turn he plays Talisman of Progress. I draw BTE on my third turn which lets me deploy another threat while also Grudging Li’s Talisman, which sets him very far behind. He would have had turn three Solemn into turn four Wurmcoil, but my Grudge delays this plan by a full turn. When his Wurmcoil shows up on the fifth turn, I am able to EOT bolt the Solemn, then untap and steal his Wurmcoil for lethal.

Additional Sideboarding: -4 Goblin Guide, +2 Grim Lavamancer, +2 Stormblood Berserker. On the draw I don’t want Goblin Guide to help him find Tron.

Game three I have no one-drop, opening on a seven card hand of BTE, two Flinthoof Boar, Act of Aggression, Rancor and lands. Li plays Ratchet Bomb turn 2 on the play. All of the threats I have in hard are two mana, so I play BTE into War Pig and sandbag the second Boar while his bomb ticks up to 2 counters. He deploys a Treasure Mage fetching Wurmcoil, which trades with my Rancored Emissary. I have to be content to beat him down with just a 3/3 Boar, since he is leaving the Bomb at two counters, preventing me from playing the second Boar or Rancoring the one on the board. Li though, is having a tough time assembling Tron, leaving him short on the mana needed to take over the game. He eventually blows the Bomb at eight life when my attack would bring him to double Bolt range. I play the second Boar, but when I attack on the following turn and bloodrush a Rampager, he removes it with Path, which I had not yet seen out of his deck. Li wonders aloud whether he should even play Wurmcoil into my possible Act of Aggression, eventually deciding on running it out there. I, of course, had been sandbagging Act from my opening hand and am able to steal it and lethal him.

Round 4 vs Eric (Burn splashing Black)

Game one, I mulligan on the play into a hand with no one-drops but two Lightning Bolts, not knowing what Eric is playing. I play a fetch land and pass. Eric cracks a fetch into basic Mountain and plays Goblin Guide. I immediately put him on Burn, and once his attacking Guide leads me to the Copperline Gorge on top of my library, I crack my fetch into a basic and Bolt the Guide, attempting to lose as little life as possible to my own lands. He plays a Keldon Marauders on the following turn to continue working over my life total, and also shows a black splash for a pair of Deathrite Shaman on subsequent turns. He has Lava Spike, suspended Rift Bolt, and Skullcrack to repeatedly dome me while my pigs and apes are returning the favor in the red zone. He is almost out of gas in hand and I have him on a two-turn clock once he declines to block with his Deathrite Shamans, which have more than enough fuel to kill me. I pass the turn to his BB untapped with me at eight life and one card in his hand. He activates both Shamans to put me to four, and I respond by aiming a Bolt at one of them to potentially give myself another turn. Unfortunately, his last card is Lava Spike and I die in a fire.

Sideboarding: -3 Dismember, +1 Mutagenic Growth, +2 Vines of Vastwood. It’s possible I wanted the Arc Trails here as well, but I didn’t see any X/1s out of his deck until the third game.

Game two, I open with Experiment One, while he sends Goblin Guide into my face. Turn two, I return the favor, playing Burning-Tree Emissary (evolve my Ooze), Rancor my Ooze, Grim Lavamancer, attack for four. His turn two he suspends two Rift Bolts. My turn I attack for six, play a Stormblood Berserker, and sit on Lavamancer activation, but make a misplay in forgetting to evolve my 4/2 Experiment One, thanks to the Berserker’s three toughness. Eric punishes me by aiming the Rift Bolts at my Berserker and Ooze, which is not completely terrible since I am playing the control role in the matchup, and am looking to force him to spend burn on my creatures by being aggressive. He again plays a pair of Deathrite Shamans and passes back to me. I aim Rancor at my BTE, and it resolves. I attack into his eight life with a 4/2 trampler, and he accepts the two-for-one trade with his Shamans. I Rancor up the Lavamancer, having only a Bolt and second Rancor in hand, as I could then be convinced he didn’t have instant removal and I had only 4 cards in the yard for Lavamancer fuel. On his turn, he taps out to aim burn at my face but I am able to nug him EOT down to six, then finish with an attack plus Lightning Bolt.

Game three, I keep a seven card hand on the draw and have only have one land, but I would make this keep any time: fetchland, Kird Ape, Experiment One, BTE, BTE, Stormblood Berserker, Lightning Bolt. Eric opens on Grim Lavamancer into Keldon Marauders. I brick on land on my turn one and turn two draws, playing Experiment One into Kird Ape, and begin racing him. He removes my Ooze with Lavamancer. He plays a Vexing Devil, which I pay off with four life, dropping to a precarious eight. He then immediately plays a second, which I let stay on the board. On my fourth turn I finally draw a second land and play it. My attack with Kird Ape goes unblocked due to respect for potential Rampaging and I am able to play BTE, BTE, Bloodthirsty Stormblood Berserker to add seven more power and toughness to the board. On his turn he Lava Spikes me to five but passes on attacking. I untap with two Lightning Bolts in hand. His Lavamancer will nug me to three at EOT. He still has three cards in hand, in a burn deck. There’s no way I can possibly win this, right? I have two Bolts and Rancor in hand which represents a lot of damage, but not enough to kill him this turn. I elect to remove both his creatures with Bolts since I have to kill the Lavmancer, and the Devil can both eat one of my 2/2 attackers and kill me on the crack back. My attack for nine puts him to eight.

Eric has three cards in hand, two Mountains and a Blood Crypt in play, and is playing a burn deck. He informed me last turn that I was dead to any land, but missed. How could they possibly all be bricks? Even if they are, I am dead to any land, Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, or Bump in the Night off the top of his deck. Eric begins his turn and reveals his hand: Ash Zealot, Ash Zealot, Searing Blaze. Once again, I am at three life. I and the gathered bystanders encourage him to slam the top card of his deck, Craig Jones style.

He slams a third Ash Zealot and everyone groans. My animals devour him like a gazelle on the Savannah  I was flat out lucky that he bricked so many draws in this game, since something like 70% of the cards in his deck would kill me.

Evil Tim points out that it’s a shame that I discover I might actually love Modern when it’s about to become an irrelevant competitive format for the rest of the year, and I won’t be able to play on a Tuesday night for the next couple of months. Thanks to Tony and Li for lending me Goblin Guides, Twenty Sided Store for being a great place to play, and my opponents for being good sports when they had to get fairly unlucky to lose some of those games.

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