“Babe, I can feel your anxiety.”


“You’re pacing all around.”

I am, in fact, pacing, but hadn’t realized it until she called me out. And sure… I am always anxious before I play my first round of a tournament. I breathe and take a seat across the table from her. She adores observing me as I wrangle down my fire from it’s stoking, and pins me down with eyes endeared by my unrestrained passages professed in order to paint my love of this game I leave her to play.

After an infinite moment, she rises from her chair her hips tracing a line around the table, and sits on my lap planting a big wet one on my lips.

“Come on. Let’s get you some tea and snacks.”

I purchase a Matcha Latte and enough snacks for the day: one pink lady apple, one small tub of organic raw walnuts, two energy bars, one large bottle of electrolyte water, and one small cup of full fat yogurt. I eat one energy bar, a banana, and the yogurt for breakfast and finish my tea. After counting my deck one last time, I sling my backpack on and head out to Manhattan on a terrible humid Sunday morning to battle Modern, the last Modern PPTQ of the season.

I hadn’t made time for any of them over the summer, mostly due to work but also due to my continued interest in bettering my limited game. I hadn’t thought much about competitive modern until I settled on a deck to play. And now that I have, the Modern season is over and I have to think about Standard again.

I didn’t change my list at all since I settled on a 75. As it stood I did not test enough against linear aggressive decks, but I knew how my matchups played out for the most part. Delver can be tough, burn is fast and a coin flip, merfolk is really rough, and against affinity I have to play tight and patiently.

As I exited the station at 42nd street into the sun and pressed through damp air in the shadows between buildings I stopped for an iced tea. Arriving shortly after 10am I figured I would be one of the first to arrive, but once buzzed into the second story on 5th avenue the long and narrow comic shop was already teeming with magic players and, already, the stale stench of mansweat. Without any circulation it will be exceptionally gross air we’d all breathe today. No matter, I think, i’ve had worse.

I register my deck.

Tarmo Twin

Creatures (14)
Deceiver Exarch
Snapcaster Mage
Huntmaster of the Fells

Spells (24)
Lightning Bolt
Serum Visions
Spell Snare
Spell Pierce
Gitaxian Probe
Cryptic Command
Splinter Twin
Lands (22)
Desolate Lighthouse
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Sulfur Falls
Hinterland Harbor
Steam Vents
Breeding Pool
Stomping Ground

Sideboard (15)
Grim Lavamancer
Keranos, God of Storms
Blood Moon
Ancient Grudge

The scene is packing in and the wait list 13 deep. Any ideas of this meta being soft is quickly squashed.

Round one I am against a guy from the LGS who is on Jund. I like my Jund matchup: maindeck Huntmaster of the Fells and Tarmogoyf can easily overwhelm the removal suite and clear the way to the combo. I just have to keep Scavenging Ooze off the board and not get my hand completely shredded. After sideboarding I have Keranos, Thragtusk, and Blood Moon. Turns out, I win game one by tempoing him out and game two through a Choke and a sideboarded Leyline of the Void (it didn’t come out until turn 4 – but I was surprised it came in against me at all). Blood Moon is at it’s best in this matchup to blank his manlands and surprise-lock him out of playing over half his deck.



Round two I go up against another LGS guy on Grixis Delver. This is a tough matchup for me, but I attempt to grind through his removal and soft countermagic. Game one takes him forever to navigate and we have only twenty minutes left in the round when he wins game one. Sideboarding is tough for me against Delver because i’m never sure how much I should be controling the game and how much I should be comboing off. I decide to stick to the combo plan and it fails me… well, kind of. I flood out with loothouse in play and he beats me down uncontested.  We sign the match slip.




Three pits me against YET ANOTHER LGS player, this time on my favorite deck I didn’t play: Naya Company. This is where I make my only glaring mistake that costs me a game, and the match. My hand is 4-of-a-kind Snapcaster Mage and burn, so I pick off his creatures, but when he plays a 5/5 Knight of the Reliquary I neglect to see the main phase Snapcaster Roast line, and instead I try to Snap bolt it twice, and he has Path to Exile twice. A flooded game two and a Choke later and I am suddenly 1-2. I wish my opponent the best.




Round four I go up against Soul Sisters, which is proooooobably my worst matchup in the format? Yeah, probably. I am loose and laughing my way through the matchup, and my opponent is beyond competent with the deck. It was over quickly.




By now most everyone is complaining about the heat and the damp air. I mop my brow and decide to play it out.

My next two matches, now that I am 1-3 and even dead to cash, are light and more fun. My round five opponent is playing a Red / White control deck with a ton of burn, Anger of the Gods, and…. SWANS! He lands the Swans of Bryn Argoll after playing Reliquary Tower and I start laughing. When untaps, he draws 14 cards, attacks with the Swans and passes. I scoop. I board into Keranos Control, as his deck cannot function well enough without the Swans. I board in my Pyroclasms against his Young Pyromancer and Soulfire Grand Master. Games two and three I 20’d him with Keranos and have a hand of 7 counterspells in hand at the end of each game. The guy had to read Keranos when I resolved it. It didn’t feel fair.




My final round of the tournament pitted me against, yep, another LGS regular on Abzan Collected Company. Also known as Podless Pod. Also known as the deck I have not given a single thought to since it entered the metagame. Luckily for me, I knew every card in the deck and what to look out for. Turns out, playing around CoCo and Chord of Calling is much easier than trying to interact with Birthing Pod. Game one I twin and game two I land turn 1 Grim Lavamancer, which traded for about 10 of his cards. Eventually I Pyroclasm his board and my Grim and attempt to Tarmogoyf him to death. He rips Reveillark and was a sacrifice outlet away from completely swinging the game in his favor. Luckily I snap-bolt the game away from him before he can stabilize.





And that was it. 3-3. An uninspiring performance. I should have made time for more tournaments. Now it’s Standard season, or, Hangarback Walker season. Next week I will go over my decisions on the format and what my testing has come up with. I believe I have to decide on what side of Hangarback I am on, and whether any shift in the metagame can possibly change that stance. I aim to make more time this season to PPTQ’s and IQ’s, so you’ll have more tournament reports coming in the next few months!

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.

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