Grand Prix Boston is only a week away. We’re in the midst of Modern Pro Tour Qualifier season. It shouldn’t be surprising that many of us (yours truly included) have Modern on the mind.

Lately, I’ve been… frustrated with UWR Geist, the deck I ran at GP Richmond:

UWR Geist

Land (25)
Arid Mesa
Scalding Tarn
Celestial Colonnade
Hallowed Fountain
Steam Vents
Sacred Foundry
Sulfur Falls
Tectonic Edge

Creature (13)
Snapcaster Mage
Geist of Saint Traft
Vendilion Clique
Restoration Angel
Thundermaw Hellkite

Spell (22)
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Spell Snare
Lightning Helix
Mana Leak
Cryptic Command
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Damping Matrix
Rest In Peace
Stony Silence
Wear // Tear
Engineered Explosives
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

I’ll get to my frustrations in a minute, but first I’d like to discuss about the basics of the deck and the metagame.


Why play UWR Geist?

UWR Geist is a fast and fun deck. All it needs to do is stick one threat (most notably [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven], though [casthaven]Vendilion Clique[/casthaven] works beautifully as well), connect with it once or twice, and [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lightning Helix[/casthaven], [casthaven]Snapcaster Mage[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Celestial Colonnade[/casthaven] can finish the job.


How does it work?

UWR Geist is burn deck that masquerades (reasonably well) as a tempo/control deck. It has all the fun of counterspells without the fuss of rounds going to time.


Why play these spells?

The deck has the best removal in Modern, packing four [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven]s and four [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]; the best creature in Modern, [casthaven]Snapcaster Mage[/casthaven]; the best countermagic in Modern, [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mana Leak[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Spell Snare[/casthaven]; and the best land in Modern, [casthaven]Celestial Colonnade[/casthaven].

It uses [casthaven]Remand[/casthaven] better than any control deck, since it plays so fast a game that [casthaven]Remand[/casthaven] is often a two mana [casthaven]Dismiss[/casthaven]. Similarly, [casthaven]Mana Leak[/casthaven] tends to be [casthaven]Counterspell[/casthaven] (even after a [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven]).


What other options exist?

UWR Geist is the fastest and most aggressive build of the Modern UWR shell, but not the only one.

  • UWR Control (which won the Pro Tour) employs game-winning haymakers like [casthaven]Sphinx’s Revelation[/casthaven], [casthaven]Vedalken Shackles[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gideon Jura[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Batterskull[/casthaven]. It plays a much slower game, opting to win on turn twenty rather than UWR Geist’s turn five-eight.
  • UWR Flash never taps out on its own turn and flashes [casthaven]Restoration Angel[/casthaven], [casthaven]Aven Mindcensor[/casthaven], [casthaven]Electrolyze[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Shadow of Doubt[/casthaven] in on the opponent’s turn. It is slower than Geist (its creatures are more expensive and less explosive, and it uses less damage-efficient burn like [casthaven]Electrolyze[/casthaven]), faster than Control (which relies heavily on [casthaven]Celestial Colonnade[/casthaven] to win), and is best at reacting to an opponent’s early- and middle-game threats.
  • UWR Kiki-Control is similar to UWR Control, but plays slightly less disruption (and more [casthaven]Wall of Omens[/casthaven]) to have room for the instant-win combination of [casthaven]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Restoration Angel[/casthaven].


So… why is it frustrating?

Not yet, young padawan! We’re close, but not there yet.


How are the matchups?

Glad you asked!

  • Against combo decks like RG TronMonblue Tron, and [casthaven]Scapeshift[/casthaven], [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven] is immune to [casthaven]Karn Liberated[/casthaven] (Tron’s best early-game weapon against UWR) and provides a clock that’s usually faster than the combo deck’s.
  • Against other blue decks, [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven] is again the star of the show; it’s immune to [casthaven]Lightning Bolt[/casthaven], [casthaven]Path to Exile[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lightning Helix[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Electrolyze[/casthaven] (also known as the majority of their removal spells), and trades one-for-one with [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Supreme Verdict[/casthaven] (which forces them to tap out on their own turn, which the other blue deck don’t want to do).
  • Against difficult matchups, like Robots, BG Rock, Jund, Boggles, and [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven], the deck is able to steal wins thanks to… (you guessed it) [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven]. It’s a three mana, hexproof, semi-flying 6/2… in blue/white… which is absurd!. In fact, practically any matchup can be won on the back of [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven] plus removal/countermagic, or by pointing a lot of burn at an opponent’s face.


So… why is it frustrating?

Perfect timing, young padawan!

As I said, the deck has good matchups against decks like RG Tron, UWR Control, [casthaven]Splinter Twin[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Gifts Ungiven[/casthaven]. However, it has problems against decks with [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven], [casthaven]Liliana of the Veil[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Tarmogoyf[/casthaven]… also known as the BG shell of Jund, BG Rock, and Melira/Angel [casthaven]Birthing Pod[/casthaven]. It’s also got a difficult Robots matchup as it has few answers to a turn one [casthaven]Cranial Plating[/casthaven].

I find myself paired against BG decks and Robots quite frequently these days (absolutely shocking, considering that Pod and Robots remain two of the best decks in Modern). Tapping out for a [casthaven]Geist of Saint Traft[/casthaven] only to have it be eaten by [casthaven]Liliana of the Veil[/casthaven] or stonewalled by a [casthaven]Tarmogoyf[/casthaven] is getting old. Having my hand shredded and my few threats stripped by T1 [casthaven]Inquisition of Kozilek[/casthaven], T2 [casthaven]Thoughtseize[/casthaven] is no fun.  Those matchups are winnable, but they’re always uphill battles and I see no point at going to GP Boston with a deck that’s going to have unfavorable matchups against the field.


What’s the solution?

I’m not so sure. I’ve been toying with a couple ideas ([casthaven]Lotus Cobra[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Grave Titan[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Plow Under[/casthaven], [casthaven]Snapcaster Mage[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Abrupt Decay[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/casthaven]), but nothing’s crystallized and there’s not much time left to finish, prepare, and test. I could tweak the deck, I could brew something up, or I could pick up my own copy of our Modern Hero, Rich’s token masterpiece.


I’m curious what you have to say. What do you think the Boston metagame will look like? What do you enjoy playing/watching in Modern? Do you think I should tweak UWR, transform it into another version of the deck, or scrap it completely? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

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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