For me, Modern season is all but over. I had a blast. I attended four PTQs, did okay at a couple, and missed top 8 at my local store by the skin of my teeth. Given the option, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

But whereas many are going to be frantically cashing out on their staples over the next few weeks, I’m holding on to everything because Luis, in what could only be considered a brilliant move, switched the Constructed format of Tuesday Night Magic from Standard to Modern (and if you disagree, I hate you).

Oh yes, it’s time for pet decks.

Deck: Gifts

Counts: 60 main / 15 sideboard

4 Deathrite Shaman
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

1 Engineered Explosives
2 Path to Exile
1 Raven's Crime
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Life from the Loam
3 Mana Leak
1 Dismember
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Damnation
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Batterskull
1 Unburial Rites

1 Academy Ruins
1 Breeding Pool
3 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Forest
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
2 Marsh Flats
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
2 Swamp
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Temple Garden
1 Vault of the Archangel
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave

1 Darkblast
3 Duress
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Golgari Charm
1 Negate
1 Stony Silence
3 Timely Reinforcements
1 Creeping Corrosion
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Baneslayer Angel

I had always wanted to play the deck, but figured that Modern season was not the best time to start learning it. And boy, is there a lot to learn. I could write entire essays on the many possible Gifts package configurations and what to tutor for when, and I’m pretty sure I’d be wrong in a good portion of the cases. The decision trees are massive. You don’t always get to Gifts at the end of turn four (turn three with Shaman) for Rites/Norn, untap, and win. Against the non-blue decks, sure; but blue is everywhere nowadays, with everyone and their dog playing UWR, Zac Hill Grixis, or Twin, and with classic UW and Scapeshift still making appearances here and there.

Against these decks, there’s a whole sub-game of trying to resolve Gifts—and with only three Mana Leaks at your disposal, trying to brute-force it is not an option. It requires careful maneuvering to successfully cast a Gifts, and then you have to know what to do with it. A resolved Gifts Ungiven essentially creates a sub-game—and its outcome may well decide the actual game. It becomes a chess match, but the Gifts player has a disproportionate amount of information, while his or her opponent has to make the decision while being at that disadvantage.

And then there’s the Loam mini-package. The classic Raven’s Crime and Life from the Loam duo plays a key part in many matchups, but I never know when it’s correct to dredge. Sometimes I bin three lands off of it and feel like the champion of the fucking world; other times I dump something like Shaman, Pulse, Liliana and hate myself for being so stupid. Luckily, the deck is designed to get back what it dumps. Snapcaster Mage, Deathrite Shaman, and Academy Ruins are all there to squeeze out maximum value from the graveyard, prompting the player to be adventurous by providing a safety net of sorts.

It’s nuances like this, and the fact that I just feel so stupid when I’m piloting this deck, that make me want to play it repeatedly until I master it. Like I mentioned before, sometimes you just get matched up against decks that can’t stop you from getting your fatties and auto-scoop as a result, but the real fun comes from squaring off against the lists that put up a fight. It’s a combination of skill, luck, and psychology—the same things that attracted me to fighting games many years ago.

I can’t wait.


UPDATE: I went 0-4 at TNM and had great fun doing it. The deck is really hard to pilot, and at times I felt completely overwhelmed. Also, not playing Darkblast main was just about the biggest mistake I could have made ever. Now to buckle down and actually learn the lines of play—it’s definitely something that’ll take some time and effort.

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