As many of you are already aware, Grand Prix Richmond is this coming weekend. The format’s Modern, meaning that this Limited enthusiast will be playing in his first Constructed GP.

Planar Birth

I admit, I’m more anxious about this GP than any other Competitive REL event I’ve ever played, save perhaps my first: Philadelphia 2012 (Return to Ravnica Sealed). My expertise is Limited, my confidence is in my Limited play. I’ve long deferred to my friends for advice on all things Constructed. Now, I need to rely on myself on Saturday. Interestingly enough, the first time I was in this situation, Philly, was also the beginning of another story: my Modern life.

Philadelphia was a significant event, beyond being my first high-level tournament and heralding Hurricane Sandy, because it was where my first Modern deck was completed. The day before the main event started, I ran around the room, looking for dealers selling Avalanche Riders and Fulminator Mages (the most expensive nonland component of Living End at $2.00 each, something which no one seemed to have in stock or desire).

When I returned home, I jammed Living End at Twenty Sided, playing against Robots and Burn each tournament (which are very poor matchups for the deck, particularly before Grove of the Burnwillows became standard). The deck was a ton of fun, surprisingly flexible (opponent holds up countermagic or plays graveyard hate? Hah! Blow up their lands or hardcast Monstrous Carabid and Kessig Wolf Run them out), and at the time never got the credit it deserved. Well, a string of successes have changed public opinion on the deck, and while I don’t see myself sleeving up Jungle Weavers again for Richmond, I’m excited to see what my first deck will do this weekend.

Restoration Angel

From Living End, I moved onto our Ponderer, Li’s blue-white midrange deck. Quite honestly, it was love at first sight. Restoration Angel, Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, and Path to Exile are some of my favorite cards to play with, with Geist of Saint Traft sitting chief among them. There’s just something beautiful about being reactive and proactive at the same time.

The deck had a horrible matchup against Tron and Robots (ROBOT HOOOOOUSE!) and suffered against Deathrite Shaman into turn two Liliana of the Veil, but had play against everything else and never lost to UWR. Eventually, Modern Masters and Theros took me out of the Modern game, and barring a test run or two UW was put to pasture.

From the Ashes

It’s no secret that Theros soured on me quickly, and with that, I returned to Modern. I conceded that T1 Deathrite Shaman was too common a problem for UW and finally put in red (starting with the GP-winning list of Vjeran Horvat). The deck lost a Cryptic Command, Eiganjo Castle, the maindeck Sword of War and Peace, Moorland Haunt, all the Kitchen Finks, and the miser’s Sphinx’s Revelation, gaining Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Electrolyze, with Thundermaw Hellkite replacing Baneslayer Angel.

Suddenly, I could beat Tron, kill a T1 Deathrite Shaman without using Path to Exile on upkeep (or having to put Dismember in my deck specifically for it), clear the way for my Geist of Saint Traft, and burn my opponent out with Snapcaster Mage. Games were much faster and more exciting, since rather than take control of the game and slowly kill with Celestial Colonnade or Restoration Angel (as UW often did), I was sticking Geist of Saint Traft and Remanding my opponent’s next (read as: final) two plays. In short, I loved UWR Geist.

Paradigm Shift

In quick succession, Deathrite Shaman was banned, Wild Nacatl returned to Modern, and Pro Tour Born of the Gods saw UWR control win it all. The loss of Deathrite meant Lightning Bolt was less necessary and I might be able to return to UW. The return of Wild Nacatl and Zoo meant Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix were more necessary than ever (though Kitchen Finks is an excellent answer in UW). The victory of UWR control meant I wanted Geist of Saint Traft more than ever (since it’s one of the best anti-control creatures in Modern).

I adopted Jeremy Dezani’s list from the Pro Tour, which eschewed Electrolyze for Spell Snare (a change I’d discussed making) and played a slightly slower game than Vjeran Horvat, favoring Mana Leak over Remand (Remand provides better tempo against slower decks but is a far worse answer to Kird Ape). I miss Thundermaw Hellkite and have returned it to the maindeck, though I’m undecided whether to cut the second Restoration Angel (which I’ve currently done) or the last Electrolyze. Perhaps I’ll remove both and play a third Vendilion Clique. I’ve still a few days to decide.

Birthing Pod

I wonder what the post-Valencia Richmond metagame will look like. There’s sure to be plenty of UWR control around, seeing as it just won the Pro Tour and has play against everything. Perhaps Robots, Infect, Boggles, or Little Zoo will return to slaughter UWR before it can contain the game. Perhaps Birthing Pod will take home the trophy, since Gavony Township is a fantastic, fantastic card, particularly against URx Lightning Bolt decks. Perhaps Splinter Twin, the premier and oldest combo deck in Modern, and an always solid choice, will punish players for tapping out for Geist of Saint Traft or Birthing Pod. Perhaps Living End or Storm will capitalize on a dearth of aggro and dedicated hate and eliminate the durdle and combo decks. Perhaps the new Tezzeret deck will prove to everyone that Chalice of the Void is insane even in a format without sol lands.


I don’t know what the metagame will be. What I do know is that I’m excited. And anxious. And ready.

Best of luck to everyone competing this weekend. As always, thank for you reading, and I’ll see you next week.

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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