Blue is Alive in Modern
This post was written by Justin Gennari, an RSG content contributor. Find him on Twitter @gennair
Hello Magic Players! With the Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom bans shaking up the modern format into an aggro heavy mess I felt that Regionals was the single best tournament to try to next level the modern metagame. I went into this tournament with the assumption that the decks to beat were Affinity, Burn, Tron and the new Eldrazi decks. Following this logic I attempted to create a list that would have good pre board matchups with the creature decks and still be able to compete with the inevitability of the Eye of Ugin decks. I ended up with this list:
4 Wall of Omens
4 Kitchen Finks
3 Restoration Angel
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Sun Titan
4 Path to Exile
3 Spell Snare
3 Cryptic Command
3 Spreading Seas
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Detention Sphere
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Gideon Jura
4 Flooded Strand
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Hallowed Fountain
2 Mystic Gate
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Kor Firewalker
2 Stony Silence
1 Timely Reinforcements
Card Choice Reasoning:
4 Wall of Omens / 4 Kitchen Finks: The core of the Restoration Angel value train. These cards are roadblocks. Wall of Omens is a good chump blocker that replaces itself and sometimes draws more cards down the line. Blocking a Monastery Swiftspear or Goblin Guide can be key in preserving your life total. Kitchen Finks is amazing against almost every creature deck. It does double duty versus burn, blocking and gaining life. I choose 4 finks over blade splicer because I valued the life gain so highly in this tournament.
3 Restoration Angel: This is one of the best cards in the deck. On turn 4 you get to hold up mana for either Cryptic Command or Angel. Resetting your Finks after it has died or drawing a card with Wall provides extra value to a very hard to kill flyer.
2 Vendilion Clique: Disruption with a clock. This card allows you to interact with the unfair decks in a big way. You take their best card and then they have to deal with a fast evading clock. Bonus points for having a good ETB for Restoration Angel.
1 Sun Titan: This is definitely a spot you can flex. Six is a lot of mana. However, as a one-of end game threat I found Sun Titan to be everything I wanted. Getting back Ghost Quarter, Finks, Clique, or Wall leaves you with a ton of choices.
4 Path to Exile: You need removal and this is the best you can ask for.
3 Spell Snare: 2 CMC is very important in Modern. Almost all of affinity best cards are a 2. Gofys, Snaps, Mimics, Remands, and Blighted Agents are all cards that can really put you in a bad spot. This allows us to interact with these cards earlier with the absence of Lightning Bolt.
3 Cryptic Command: One of the best blue cards in modern. In combination with Restoration Angel this card gives you the ultimate turn 4 flexibility.
3 Spreading Seas: Okay here comes the spice. This card is AMAZING in modern. It feels good in almost every matchup. It hits your obvious targets like man lands, Eye of Ugin's, and Urza Lands but it also does significant work against Burn, Bogles, Infect and Jund. Turns out that decks that don't play islands, don't like their lands being Islands.
3 Supreme Verdict: The big metagame call. All of my verdicts are mainboard in an attempt to destroy the creature aggro decks. Affinity hates the combination of board wipes and land hate, Zoo can't ever beat this card and Eldrazi continually gets 3 for 1’d when you cast verdict.
2 Detention Sphere: Sometimes troublesome permanents hit the board. Detention Sphere is great against any deck not running Abrupt Decay. Hitting all an opponent's Lingering Souls feels good, and Detention Sphere is also super strong versus Reality Smasher whose “protection clause” does not include abilities.
1 Elspeth / 1 Gideon: I choose the two planeswalkers over Dragonlord Ojutai. Elspeth gives you a clock by throwing your Finks into the air or gives you a blocker every turn to chump that 7/7 Endless One. Gideon is just a complete lockdown for the creature decks. You can't kill me if you don't deal with my 8 loyalty planeswalker first.
4 Ghost Quarter: In an attempt to not die to Eye of Ugin decks I main boarded the full package of Ghost Quarters. It may be correct to split between Tectonic Edges but I was never actually bothered by the downside of them getting a basic and found that GQ was much better against Inkmoth Nexus which is another great reason to run four.
4 Celestial Colonnade: This ends up being your best clock when you start controlling the pace of the game. I feel that it is an auto include.
Counter Package: 1 Glen Elendra / 1 Dispel / 2 Negate : I am very weak for a blue deck versus unfair combo. To compensate for that I dedicated 4 slots in my board to beating them. Glen Elendra was amazing all tournament long versus the likes of Storm and Ascendency. Negate does double duty versus Karn Liberated.
Anti-Red Package: 2 Kor Firewalker / 1 Timely Reinforcements: I didn't know which card I liked more versus burn. I figured seeing as we can easily cast WW and that it comes down before things like Skullcrack that the Firewalkers were a better choice. This ended up being mostly true.
2 Engineered Explosives: This inclusion was an attempt to make my Infect matchup slightly better. It also came in against things like Affinity, Bogles, and any token deck.
2 Stony Silence: It's nice that we have a good pre-board against Affinity but I also like telling them they can't ever win. Card is too strong not to play.
1 Crucible of Worlds: A concession to how bad Tron is for a deck without a clock. I played this to give me a better chance of locking them off tron. It also ended up being very good versus my random 8 rack opponent.
2 Spellskite: Another attempt to make Infect a closer match. It also does double duty versus Bogles.
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: This slot was originally Celestial Purge for the Lilianna decks. At the last minute I switched to this planeswalker as a way to go way over the top of GBx.
0 Snapcaster Mage: WHAT A BLUE DECK WITH NO SNAPCASTERS?! I admit it felt weird. But I just did not feel that Snappy did enough to warrant an inclusion in this deck. I decided to have Snapcaster sit the bench on this one because we played no 2 mana counterspells or draw spells. (Note: 1 Snapcaster could be worthwhile. Needs further testing.)
0 Remand / 0 Mana Leak: 2 more blue staples sat the bench this tournament. These spells were replaced by Spreading Seas. In combination with no Snapcasters I decided that I wanted to influence the board more than hold up mana for early counters. This is not your typical control deck, it plays more like a midrange deck.
0 Lightning Bolt: This is a legitimate question. Why not include the most played card in modern? The reason ended up being shock lands. I wanted to take as little damage from my lands as possible in an effort to make my Burn matchup as favorable as possible. All in all taking no damage from my manabase ended up being critical in many many games this tournament.
Sitting down at the player meeting we find out that there are over 600 players at this event. Oh boy, 10 rounds of Magic. I buckle up for what would assuredly be, a long day of Modern.
Match 1: Zach playing Storm
Game 1: Of course, I sit down from a familiar face round 1. I know before the match starts that he is on Storm. My key cards are Spell Snare, Cryptic Command, Path to Exile (for Goblin Electromancer), and a creature to make a clock. My starting end isn't particularly strong versus him but a spell snare does slow him down. Eventually 3 Electromancers are on the board as he tries to beat me down while looking for Past in Flames. I draw a Verdict wiping away his 3 bears and winning game 1.
Game 2: I board in my counter package and feel very confident that I can take one of these two games. Zach surprises me on turn 1 when he exiles two Simian Spirit Guides and plays a Blood Moon. I chuckle to myself as I look at the basic Plains and Island in my hand. He proceeds to play 2 lands and then another Blood Moon leaving very little cards in his hand. I slam a Detention Sphere on the two blood moons followed by a Glen Elendra which takes the game.
Match 2: Rob Castellon playing Burn
Game 1: I recognize Rob immediately as the Judge who Top 8’d Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. I feel confident as he plays Stomping Ground and 1 drop. I attempt to preserve my life and hold up Spell Snare as I try to control the board. This plan quickly goes south however when a main deck Molten Rain smashes my Hallowed Fountain and only untapped blue source. I die.
Game 2: I board in my anti-red package and keep a removal heavy hand. He keeps a spell heavy hand and I slowly begin to worry as lightning strikes my face over and over. He floods out however as I draw Kor Firewalker and take game 2.
Game 3: Molten. Rain. Over and over again. I feel like one of my fetches for Hallowed Fountain ended up costing me in a major way but my mana was really tight trying to cast Kitchen Finks in this game. Molten Rain eventually destroys any hope of me taking this round.
Match 3: Walker playing Affinity:
Game 1: YES, Affinity. This is what I wanted to see all day. After losing what I believed was a good matchup versus Burn I was determined to show that my Affinity matchup was indeed favorable. Game 1 gets drawn out with a large board state and a lot of life swings. I finish the game with a pair of Finks, a Clique, and a Cryptic to tap his guys.
Game 2: He develops a good army of robots before a Supreme Verdict wipes them all away.
Match 4: Justin playing Infect:
Game 1: Oh boy, here is a matchup I wanted to dodge for this tournament. He keeps a decent hand but only has 1 creature. An Inkmoth. Bad Call. GQ destroys the Inkmoth and I take game 1.
Game 2: He establishes a board with an Agent. He Probes me and sees my Supreme Verdict on turn 3. He then plays a Glistener Elf. Here is where I make a mistake. I should have EOT flashed in a Clique to take the obvious third creature. I don't. So after I Verdict away his board he slams another Agent which eventually infects me.
Game 3: I keep a hand with a lot of Paths and land removal. He floods a little as I play a Spellskite and take over the game.
Match 5: Greg playing 8-Rack
Game 1: One hell of a crazy game of Magic. Just take a look at this very blurry picture that Greg kindly allowed me to take. http://imgur.com/isnenDY . Don’t understand what's going on? I don't blame you. I try to hold as many cards as possible in an effort to not die to his racks. I tick up my Elspeth and create a clock. That is until he plays Ensnaring Bridge. I can't attack. He is ticking up a Liliana behind his bridge threatening to half my board. I find a Cryptic Command and go for the win. Bouncing his bridge EOT. I attack and kill his Lilianna and then plan to Clique away his bridge in his draw step. Unfortunately he draws another Bridge and the lock begins again. After 30 or so turns of ticking up Elspeth I finally draw a Detention Sphere. It hits 3 Bridges and I swing for around 50 damage.
Game 2: I bring in Crucible of Worlds. I slam it on turn 3 and then never have to play a land from my hand for the rest of the game. Turns out that is incredibly strong versus the racks and I take game 2 easily.
Match 6: Charles playing Bogles
Game 1: I see Temple Garden, Gladecover Scout go. Groan. His Scout quickly takes on two Ethereal Armors and a Daybreak Coronet. My Wall chumps for a turn allowing me to Detention Sphere the Armors and causing the Coronet to fall off. Unfortunately, I do not have a Path for a Kor Spiritdancer and lose to his always full grip.
Game 2: I Spreading Seas his first land and he never draws enough lands to get out from underneath my “wasteland”.
Game 3: Holy cow. This was one hell of a game of magic. I honestly don't remember everything that happened. It was a back and forth with many creatures. Finks chumps and Colonnade swings put us in a crazy position. 2 life to 5 life. I make a tough choice and bluff the Restoration Angel/Cryptic Command. He doesn't attack allowing me to stabilize and win the game. It was a really enjoyable match which you don’t normally get with Bogles.
Match 7: Christian playing Colorless Eldrazi
Game 1: The new modern boogeyman. Christian is playing the Channel Fireball list. He gets off to fast start with a Mimic, Endless One and Reality Smasher. A few chumps with Walls and Finks lets me survive long enough to Verdict his whole board away. His Chalice is useless against our deck as I stabilize and take game 1.
Game 2: His start is not nearly as fast. Spreading Seas deals with his man lands and a timely Detention Sphere on a Endless One lets my Finks and Clique swing for lethal.
Match 8: Andrew playing Bogles
Game 1: Here we go again. Land. Gladecover Scout. Fortunately for me, Andrew only draws Spirit Mantle and a lot of lands. A Cryptic bounces the Mantle as an Angel eats the Scout and I take game 1.
Game 2: Spreading Seas takes away a mana slowing him down for one turn long enough to allow my Engineered Explosives to deal with two 1 drop enchantments and a Coronet. A Cryptic bouncing a Umbra allows a Verdict to kill the Bogle and win game 2.
Match 9: Jeremy playing 4 Color Ascendancy Combo
I need to win my last 2 rounds to make top 8.
Game 1: I played near Jeremy round 2 so I know he is on the Ascendancy Combo. I mull to 5 and choose to not hold up Spell snare and instead play a Finks to present a clock. Bad choice. He wishes for an Ascendancy and kills me.
Game 2: I board in EE, Glen Elendra, and Negates. I keep a very interactive hand. I path an early mana dork and slam Glen Elendra on 4. This baits out an Ascendancy which promptly gets Detention Sphere’d. EE’s make his dorks useless as I squeak out game 2.
Game 3: I take a peek at my hand on the draw. Path, Snare, DSphere, Colonnade, Colonnade, Ghost Quarter, Mystic Gate. I go into the tank. This hand has most of my best interactive spells, BUT, it doesn't have an untapped land turn one that can Path a turn 1 dork or Snare a turn 2 Caryatid. I decide that I shouldn't mulligan a hand with all these good spells and that I wouldn't get punished unless he had turn one dork and the Ascendancy in hand. He leads with a turn one dork and I draw a Finks. Uh oh. I play Colonnade and pass. He drops a natural Ascendancy. Crap. On my turn I still don't draw another colored land. I play a GQ and pass the turn. My upkeep Path gets remanded which taps his lands. He still goes off hard during his turn playing a Wind Zendikon on a land. I get him to fizzle out on his last card by GQ my own land for a Island to Spell Snare his Remand. I get smashed in the face for 18. I Path his Zendikon on the next turn. I play Finks and then die to pumped up dorks.
Dead. I can no longer top 8.
Match 10: Naveed playing Jund
I get paired up with my good friend Naveed in the last round. I concede to him to try and get him in the top 16 and spilt prizes. This ends up being the wrong choice as we could have drawn and both gotten top 32.
We played a match just for fun which I won 2-0 but it wasn't taken very seriously.
Result: 48th place 7-3 (7-2 in matches)
Dream crushed. I thought I really had a shot to take the whole thing down. I can’t complain too much however as I was able to go 7-2 with my pile of UW cards. I really enjoyed the matches I played during this tournament. Every single one of my opponents created fun and enjoyable matchups where I felt that I learned quite a lot and experienced many new board states.
Moving forward I do not believe modern is dead and I do not believe that the Eldrazi overlords are unbeatable. I think the meta will continue to adapt and change to battle these spaghetti monsters. Cryptic Command, Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks, Spreading Seas and Supreme Verdicts shown really bright when paired up against the Eldrazi. The matchup still needs a lot more testing and the biggest problem is actually Thought Knot Seer. If they take your Verdict you can be in big trouble.
Did you sleeve up blue cards this weekend? Do you have any questions or suggestions for this deck? Let me know in the comments or at Twitter: @Gennair