Why Modern Hero?

Last week, Hipsters writer and Eternal-format specialist Tim Akpinar wrote about the Modern event deck and how he would turn it into a competitive B/W Tokens deck. Working with Tim and fellow writer Jess, we came up with the idea for two different columns. The first one was Tim’s piece last week. The second one is a longer series revolving around actually playing the deck at tournaments—and it begins right here.

The plan is very simple. I haven’t played Constructed Magic, let alone Modern, in a very long time. Here comes a fantastic opportunity to find out what it’s like for a new player to get into the format. Since the box doesn’t come out until the 30th, Jess has been kind enough to lend me all the cards so that I can play it beforehand. So, we’re going to take it to a tournament and if everything goes well, there will be a lot more Modern Magic in my future.

What’s in the Deck?

March of the Multitudes

Planeswalkers (1)
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Creatures (5)
Soul Warden
Tidehollow Sculler

Spells (30)
Honor of the Pure
Inquisition of Kozilek
Intangible Virtue
Lingering Souls
Path to Exile
Raise the Alarm
Shrine of Loyal Legions
Spectral Procession
Sword of Feast and Famine
Zealous Persecution
Lands (24)
Caves of Koilos
City of Brass
Isolated Chapel
Vault of the Archangel
Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Ghost Quarter
Kataki, War’s Wage
Relic of Progenitus
Not the Actual Contents of the Modern Event Deck

Not the Actual Contents of the Modern Event Deck

Not the Actual Sideboard Either

Not the Actual Sideboard Either

Well that seems pretty straightforward. I have played very little Modern in my life so it’s nice to see a very synergistic deck. Whenever I analyze a new deck I always try to figure out what my opening plan is. What do I want to do on the first few turns of the game to establish my plan?

Turn 1

There aren’t a whole lot of exciting things to do on turn one. The best play is probably opening with Inquisition of Kozilek. My two other options will be Soul Warden or Windbrisk Heights. It’s a bit strange to have an aggressive deck with limited things to do on turn one. At least it won’t be too problematic to open up with a tapped Isolated Chapel.

Turn 2

Luckily things really pick up for this deck on turn two. This is where I’ll be hoping to put pressure on my opponent. If I go the disruption route and open with Inquisition, then the ideal follow-up will be Tidehollow Sculler. Any opening hand I have that starts with this one-two combo will probably work out well for me.

The other path this deck can take is the aggressive tokens route. Raise the Alarm and Shrine of Loyal Legions are probably my best plays on turn two for this strategy. There are also plenty of support cards to play at this point, most notably Honor of the Pure and Intangible Virtue.

Turn 3

Finally we get to the big guns of this deck. Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession are two of the most efficient token producers in the game. Obviously any opening hand that can land one of these on turn three will put us in a good position to pressure our opponent.

Without one of these two plans, the aggro tokens or the disruption package, I’ll need to be sure to have a variety of answer cards such as Path to Exile and the versatile Zealous Persecution. That could be problematic, but this deck has a lot going on and likely mulligans pretty well.

Four Rounds of Modern

Round 1

Evil Tim playing Evil Twin

Evil Tim playing Evil Twin

I got to the store about 45 minutes early so I could re-acclimate myself with the climate and environment of a Constructed tournament. I caught up with a few friends and then watched Zac Clark goldfish his Storm deck for a while. Eventually Dana showed up with my deck and we added the final four cards (Caves of Koilos) that Jess was missing.

Pairings went up for round one and of course I was going to play fellow Hipsters writer Tim Akpinar, who knew what I was up to. I had no idea what deck Tim was playing and I kept a slow hand with minimal disruption and an Elspeth. I should have kept a more aggressive hand. The only token generators I had were Raise the Alarm and Elspeth.

Now, Raise the Alarm proved to be very effective over the course of the night, and it was helpful in this game. I eventually paired it with two anthem effects but it was not fast enough. Eventually, down to eight life, Tim resolved Deceiver Exarch at the end of my turn. I tried to rid myself of the threat with Path to Exile, but Tim had the Dispel to win the game.

I was very excited with how quickly the deck could do damage, but very concerned about being able to disrupt the combo. As such I sideboarded as follows:

  • +3 Duress
  • +2 Dismember
  • -3 Zealous Persecution
  • -2 Shrine of Loyal Legions

Here I made a pretty big blunder. My inexperience with the format led me to completely undervalue the importance of Zealous Persecution in this matchup. Luckily for me I had a very solid draw in game two, on the play. Turn-two anthem into turn-three Lingering Souls into a turn-four Elspeth made pretty quick work of Tim.

For some reason, after game two I was worried that Tim could bring in some kind of Pyroclasm effect. I made this board change:

  • +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
  • -2 Soul Warden

Yikes. I definitely should have left in Soul Warden. Another clear mistake due to two problems. First, I have a lack of understanding of the match-up. Second, my default line of thinking was clearly to be proactive, when my deck was perfectly capable of being reactive instead.

Fortunately, Tim kept a questionable two-land hand in game three. I was able to disrupt him early with Tidehollow Sculler and Raise the Alarm. A few anthems later Tim was down to one life. He had Deceiver Exarch in play and Splinter Twin in hand. He drew for turn and it was … Misty Rainforest.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 0

Round 2

Blog Founder Zac Clark playing Storm

Blog Founder Zac Clark playing Storm

I knew going into this round that Zac was on U/RSstorm. So, I had no delusions that I’d need to be either lucky or fast. I opted for lucky, keeping an opening hand with Tidehollow Sculler. Zac ended up doing most of the damage this game to himself. Two Misty Rainforests, along with two untapped Steam Vents plus two Gitaxian Probes dealt a grand total of 10 damage without any help from me. Dealing another 10 damage with Sculler and a single Raise the Alarm was pretty straightforward.

I sideboarded pretty confidently, having played my share of Storm combo decks in the past:

  • +3 Duress
  • +3 Relic of Progenitus
  • -3 Path to Exile
  • -3 Zealous Persecution

In game two I kept another disruptive hand with Tidehollow Sculler. On the play, Zac used Thought Scour and put one of his Pyromancer’s Ascensions in the yard. My Sculler managed to snag another one, and Zac was left digging for another way to win the game. A steady source of Lingering Souls tokens forced Zac to use Grapeshot as a pseudo-Wrath of God twice. It wasn’t enough, as he never got enough gas to prevent my onslaught. In this game he only dealt five damage to himself, but it was still enough to cost him another game.

On the other side, I was doing a decent amount of damage to myself with Caves of Koilos as well. Still, my mana was pretty consistent and not once in two matches did I long for a Marsh Flats or Godless Shrine.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 0

Round 3

Extremely Tall Will playing U/W 'Tron

Extremely Tall Will playing U/W ‘Tron

I was feeling pretty excited about starting 2-0 with the Modern event deck. Raise the Alarm and Lingering Souls were producing a decent amount of dudes and I was dealing enough damage to win before my opponents.

In the third round I was paired against Will who is very, very tall. He opened with Urza’s Tower on turn one and I knew I might be in trouble. In the maindeck I didn’t have too many answers to Tron’s powerful effects. I had Soul Warden and Lingering Souls but Will played out Urza’s Mine and Talisman of Dominance on turn two followed by Urza’s Power Plant, Solemn Simulacrum, and Fabricate for Mindslaver on turn three. On turn four he played Academy Ruins and I scooped it up.

Sideboarding vs U/W Tron:

  • +2 Ghost Quarter
  • +3 Relic of Progenitus
  • -1 Vault of the Archangel
  • -1 Plains
  • -3 Zealous Persecution

In game two I had City of Brass and double Shrine of Loyal Legions to go with some anthem effects. I thought I was pretty safe but an Inquisition of Kozilek on turn one revealed that Will had kept Tower, Island, Mindslaver, Remand, Repeal, Repeal, Repeal. Yikes. I took one of the Repeals but I likely should have taken Remand. It was a moot point as he was able to draw into a Mindslaver lock before I could get Ghost Quarters out.

I was very poorly prepared for this matchup and possibly should have mulliganed into a better disruption package. At least Tron isn’t a very popular deck.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 1

Round 4

Max "You can only use my photo if you promise not to say mean things about me" Tkach playing U/W 'Tron

Max “You can only use my photo if you promise not to say mean things about me” Tkach playing U/W ‘Tron

Unfortunately it turns out that the Twenty Sided Store Modern metagame has a lot of U/W Tron. In round four I was paired with Max who also opened up with Urza’s Tower. Here’s how the game went:

  1. I play Windbrisk Heights, Max plays Urza’s Tower
  2. I play Shrine of Loyal Legions, Max plays Urza’s Mine
  3. I play Spectral Procession, Max plays Urza’s Power Plant and then Karn, Liberated

You can imagine how that game turned out. I tried to hang on for a bit—and even killed Karn—but then I had to face down Iona, Shield of Emeria (naming white of course). I modified my sideboard plan a little bit after the lessons learned in the previous match:

  • +3 Relic of Progenitus
  • +2 Ghost Quarter
  • +3 Duress
  • -3 Zealous Persecution
  • -2 Soul Warden
  • -1 Sword of Feast and Famine
  • -1 Vault of the Archangel
  • -1 Swamp

In game two I ended up having a bit of bad luck and opened on double Windbrisk Heights. But that wasn’t the bad luck. The bad luck was that both of them revealed Duress. I was pretty much out of disruption and was all in on aggression when Max dropped Ghostly Prison. I never had enough mana to ramp up to attack and activate Windbrisk Heights (which would have dropped anthems into play).

By the time I had a reasonable army assembled, Max was able to resolve Sphinx’s Revelation for a billionty life and my night was done when that was followed up with Iona.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 2

Wrap Up

I was really happy with how the deck played out. Putting up two match wins and only losing to a very difficult U/W Tron match-up was a pretty good showing for a $75 event deck. Here were the cards I was very impressed with over the course of the night:

Cards I was not so impressed with:

  • Sword of Feast and Famine—I never got to do anything with this, but I also never felt like it would have been a huge swing for me

The sideboard was fine, but I might have been happier with some number of Oblivion Rings available to me. That was especially true after getting blown out by Ghostly Prison in the final round. I would probably consider replacing the Dismembers and/or Kataki’s with Oblivion Rings.

One thing I didn’t have a problem with at all was my mana base. Isolated Chapel, Caves of Koilos, and City of Brass provided plenty of on-color mana sources. I did not long for Marsh Flats or Godless Shrines and I was fortunate to not lose to variance at all. These lands may be improvements over the cards in the deck, but not by a wide enough margin to justify the cost.

Next Time on Modern Hero

So now that we’ve seen the deck in action it’s time to really put it to the test. We want to know what it’s like to lay out the money to get into Modern with this deck as our entry vessel. I’ll be picking up the deck next week (May 30th) when it comes out. For the next eight weeks I’ll be playing four rounds of Modern every week with the deck, for $10 entry fee per week. Also, I’m going to give myself a budget of $10 per week to make any improvements to the deck. Any store credit I win will go towards entry fees first, and then towards improving the deck.

After every week I will post a detailed tournament report (as above). At the end of the report I’ll propose a handful of upgrades for the deck and you guys will vote on them! The next week I’ll make the most popular upgrade(s) and play four more rounds. After two months of playing Modern we’ll make some final improvements and then hit the road for Grand Prix Boston/Worcester for the epilogue of our hero’s journey.

Finally, at the end of the series and once the Grand Prix decklist is finalized, we’ll auction the deck off and give 100% of the proceeds to a charity related to the gaming community (to be determined later). So you definitely don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to help improve the deck on a weekly basis!

Modern Hero: Week One goes live on June 6. Mark your calendars!

Rich Stein is a former amateur Magic player turned Magic journalist. He came very close to making day two of several Grand Prix tournaments before metaphorically hanging up his playmat. He now returns to the table to sling spells in the guise of investigative journalism. You can also check out his weekly news column: What We Learned, which appears on Mondays on this very site.

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