I’m roughly 200 Planeswalker Points short of my second bye. This is a big deal to me and the first time in my life I’ve played enough competitive Magic to be this close. So it wasn’t an easy decision to attend the TCG Modern States event in Rhode Island over a Standard PPTQ in Naragansett, RI or Lebanon, NH. While I love Modern, and am between decks in Standard, the fact that there was no point multiplyer for the event meant that it was basically the equivalent of playing an FNM and would not take me much closer to that second bye.

Still, I had sleeved up Bubble Hulk and had only gotten the opportunity to play one Tuesday Night Modern event with it at Pandemonium. This seemed like a good time to throw caution to the wind and bin some Protean Hulks before walking my dazed opponents through the convoluted kill.


It didn’t go particularly well.

Round One—Abzan Company (2-1)
Round Two—UWR Control (1-2)
Round Three—Death and Taxes (0-2)
Rount Four—Affinity (2-1)
Round Five—UR Delver (0-2)

Some cool stuff happened including killing the CoCo player despite them being at a billion life, winning a counter war against the UWR Control deck, and my Affinity opponent making his Ravager big enough to kill my Protean Hulk (on purpose). Most of my games were interesting, rife with decision making, even if the deck itself isn’t particularly interactive. The problem of course is when you play an uninteractive combo deck against decks that are really good at interacting, well, you go 2-3.

The lopsided nature of many match-ups is one of the common complaints I hear about Modern. While I can sympathize—I too get the “feel bads” after playing one of those 70-30 match-ups—it’s kind of the nature of the beast. When you have a million different viable decks with vastly different strategies and builds, sometimes you have to play against something that stomps you. It’s a trade off.

I have been asked why I like playing combo decks so much in Modern, especially given some naturally bad match-ups paired with sideboard hate (much of it incidental). The simplest reason is that I’m, at best, passable at Magic and tend to do better with decks that reward rote learning than ones that force you to make a lot of interactive “on the fly” decisions that determine the outcome of the game. I worry about picking up Jund, Grixis, or Jeskai Control because even with my familiarity in the format, I worry I’ll just get outplayed. Given my very moderate success with Bloom Titan, I’ve been searching for the next combo, the next way to sidestep playing fair Magic in favor of something more powerful.

Right now I’m on the bubble and need to double down on playing one combo deck or get off of them altogether.

I digress. We have a Modern SCG Open to examine.

The biggest story here is that there were zero copies of Abzan Company in the top 32. This is insane given the decks ubiquity at top tables as of late. The deck’s absence here certainly isn’t a death knell to the archetype and says more about the other decks in the room than the power level of Melira and crew. Either the field was full of decks hostile to the little creature combo deck or people started wising up and dedicating more sideboard slots to stopping the combo or mass creature removal. Looking at the top 32, it seems like both of the above scenarios are at least a little bit true. In the top 32, there are four RG Tron decks, a Scapeshift deck, two RG Valakut decks, and a few control decks with lots of spot removal/sweepers which all seem reasonable against Abzan. Furthermore, looking into sideboards, the prevalence of Anger of the Gods, Graffdigger’s cage, Kozilek’s Return, and Engineered Explosives cannot be understated. Players knew they would play against CoCo and metagamed accordingly.


The other main observation from Indy is that Nahiri is the real deal in Modern. The card shot up from $20 to $35 overnight due to the top eight success of UWR Control and WR Control. The card is versatile and allows for a “combo” kill while only using up one additional maindeck spot. Nahiri loots you into action, kills problematic creatures, and flings Emrakuls at opponents. The best part is that if you draw that nigh uncastable spaghetti monster, you can just +2 and shuffle it back in the library. It’s also worth noting that the exile clause is really excellent against persist creatures, indestructable Darksteel Citadels, and other recursive threats (the resurgence of Dregevine decks comes to mind).

As far as innovation goes, the two RG Valakut decks in the top 32 opted to entirely eschew Scapeshift for Summoner’s Pact/Through the Breach to sneak out a Primeval Titan at instant speed. I’m not sure how fast the deck can goldfish compared to Scapeshift, but the fact that it’s not all-in on the combo means that cards that traditionally beat up on Scapeshift aren’t nearly as effective here.

RG Valakut

Creatures (12)
Oracle Of Mul Daya
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Pia And Kiran Nalaar
Lands (25)
Arid Mesa
Cinder Glade
Stomping Ground
Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle
Wooded Foothills

Spells (23)
Lightning Bolt
Summoner’s Pact
Through The Breach
Oath Of Nissa
Search For Tomorrow

Sideboard (15)
Grafdigger’s Cage
Relic Of Progenitus
Obstinate Baloth
Reclamation Sage
Anger Of The Gods
Crumble To Dust

The biggest anomaly in the top 32 is definitely Adam Bowman’s Sliver deck. The list plays a playset of Aether Vial and Collected Company alongside 31 slivers (and one Spellskite) to amass an army and bust through, or fly over, an opponent’s defenses. The mana is good enough with Cavern of Souls and Sliver Hive to accommodate a bunch of Mutavaults as honorary Slivers. While Slivers appears to be slightly less disruptive than Merfolk (the other tribal Vial list) the sheer number of stackable abilities makes it difficult to interact with outside of sweepers.


Creatures (32)
Blur Sliver
Darkheart Sliver
Diffusion Sliver
Galerider Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Necrotic Sliver
Predatory Sliver
Sedge Sliver
Sentinel Sliver
Sinew Sliver
Lands (20)
Cavern Of Souls
Godless Shrine
Overgrown Tomb
Sliver Hive
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave

Spells (8)
Aether Vial
Collected Company

Sideboard (15)
Cautery Sliver
Frenetic Sliver
Gemhide Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Homing Sliver
Screeching Sliver
Syphon Sliver
Telekinetic Sliver
Warping Wail
Sliver Hivelord

It would appear that given my quest for byes, and my lack of desire to travel to North Carolina, that I’m locked into playing a lot of Standard these next few weeks. However, unless I’m wildly successful and spike a PPTQ I’ll be reporting back on the Modern meta and the results from Charlotte. Thanks for reading.


In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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