Should I still write tournament reports even though I did poorly? Spoilers, but the answer is that has never stopped me before!
In today's installment of "I thought you were quitting paper Magic?", I attended an MCQ yesterday for MC Richmond. The format was Modern constructed.
I initially wasn't planning to play because (a) the entrance fee was kind of ridiculous; (b) modern is a bit of an unbalanced debacle right now because of Hogaak; and (c ) my one assembled Modern deck (Grixis Death Shadow) hasn't been used since 2017, and was completely absent in the meta for the recent MC Barcelona. That being said, I was still considering it because in my head there's always the fantasy of "Oh, I won the MCQ now I went to the MC and somehow I won too and now I'm on the gravy train." Oh, and the Death's Shadow discord convinced me this deck is still legit. (There's a discord!)
What helped in my decision to play was bringing the GDS deck to a Modern FNM a couple of weeks prior to the MCQ. Only three people joined up (including me) due to the heavy rains, but that was enough for a couple of matches and enough to remind me why I enjoy playing this style of deck so much. GDS plays out like a puzzle every turn, where you're trying to find the right sequence of moves for your turn to optimize for your Death Shadows and also to stay alive. Granted that's not unique to this deck, as that's typical of Modern; that's why I enjoy this format much more than Standard.
So I decided to play the MCQ. With only an FNM as practice. Good luck to me, although I kind of already spoiled the outcome with the first line of this post. After some hemming and hawing on the sideboard choices and plans, here's the list I went with:
Grixis Death Shadow 2019
And the sideboard plans too for good measure. Feel free to tell me if these are terrible choices:
- Tron: -4 Fatal Push, 1 Kolaghan's Command,1 Abrade,2 Ceremonious Rejection,
- E-Tron: -2 Gurmag Angler,-2 Fatal Push, 1 Kolaghan's Command,1 Abrade,2 Ceremonious Rejection,
- Burn: -4 Street Wraith,-2 Dismember, 1 Kolaghan's Command, 1 Abrade,2 Collective Brutality,1 Kozilek's Return,1 Anger of the Gods,
- Humans/Spirits/Coco: -2 Gurmag Angler,-2 Street Wraith,-4 Stubborn Denial, 1 Kolaghan's Command,1 Abrade,2 Collective Brutality,1 Engineered Explosives,1 Kozilek's Return,1 Anger of the Gods,1 Plague Engineer,
- H1: -2 Gurmag Angler,-4 Street Wraith,-1 Fatal Push,-1 Stubborn Denial, 1 Kolaghan's Command,1 Abrade,2 Collective Brutality,3 Leyline of the Void,1 Anger of the Gods,
- Scales: -2 Gurmag Angler,-2 Street Wraith,-4 Stubborn Denial, 2 Ceremonious Rejection,2 Collective Brutality,1 Engineered Explosives,1 Anger of the Gods,2 Liliana, the Last Hope,
- R Phoenix: -1 Gurmag Angler,-4 Street Wraith,-1 Dismember,-1 Temur Battle Rage, 1 Kolaghan's Command,1 Abrade,2 Collective Brutality,3 Leyline of the Void,1 Anger of the Gods,1
- Hogaak/Dredge: -2 Thoughtseize,-1 Dismember,-3 Fatal Push, 1 Kozilek's Return,3 Leyline of the Void,1 Anger of the Gods,1 Plague Engineer,
- Jund/Shadow/Grindy decks: -1 Street Wraith,-2 Temur Battle Rage-1 Mishra's Bauble, 1 Kolaghan's Command,2 Liliana, the Last Hope,1 Plague Engineer
- Control: -4 Fatal Push,-1 Temur Battle Rage, 1 Kolaghan's Command,2 Collective Brutality,2 Liliana, the Last Hope
- Valakut/Amulet: -4 Fatal Push, 1 Kolaghan's Command,2 Collective Brutality,1 Liliana, the Last Hope
- UR Phoenix: -4 Street Wraith,-1 Temur Battle Rage, 1 Engineered Explosives,3 Leyline of the Void,1 Anger of the Gods
Metagame expectations: The great thing about Modern is despite the existence of an overpowered deck in the format, you can still expect a lot of deck diversity, unless your field is full of pros who will play "the best deck" no matter the cost. For most other people, they will often have a pet modern deck and will prefer to stick with it rather than spend a ton of money to move to a different deck (which may even not exist in a couple of weeks!). That being said, my general plan for Hogaak decks was to avoid them (and I did that successfully!). This being Manila, I expect the metagame to lean a bit more towards aggro, burn and control. (I was not wrong!)
On to the match reports!
- R1 1-2 LOSS vs dredge elementals. Apparently Vengevine is an Elemental. Who knew! His deck also had Lightning Skelemental! I won game 1, then mulled to 5 in game 2 looking for the Leyline, promptly losing to his super aggro hand. Game 3 I mulled to 6, keeping a one-lander with no Leyline because I was unhappy with my mull to 5 in g2, and that didn't turn out well either.
- R2 2-1 WIN vs rg burn. Game one I kept a one-lander again and opened with double Street Wraith to look for a land (and failing to find one), before going fetch into shock into Thoughtseize into sadness at seeing Monastery Swiftspears in his hand. I quickly lost game 1 and boarded out many of my lifeloss cards. I stayed in control games 2 and 3 and won easily.
- R3 1-2 LOSS vs uw control. Game one vs UW control is tough since I have so many dead cards (although Fatal Push on Colonnade is always fun), and I lose to a JTMS that has brainstormed too many times. Game two I hit him with four hand disruption spells before quick aggro with a Shadow and an Angler to win. Game three I do turn one Serum Visions drawing Thoughtseize, and he goes turn two Rest in Peace and I curse that Thoughtseize for being one turn too late. The game goes long and he throws a lot of removal at my creatures and manages to take out both of Lilianas that I snuck under his permission. I eventually run out of gas at six life just as he draws a Restoration Angel and I lose in the air.
- R4 2-0 WIN vs whir. I got an early Shadow in game 1 and use Dismember to stop his Engineer from building an Ensnaring Bridge, then just protect the Shadow with Stubs for the win. Game two he's stuck on two lands and a Mox Opal which I disable by using Inquisition and Kolaghan's Command to get rid of his other artifacts.
- R5 1-2 LOSS vs burn. The burn matchup is completely manageable despite how I joke all the time about helping the opponent out. The key is to keeping creatures off the enemy board, which is why we board in more removal. His build however had Bedlam Revelers, which was problematic for me as few of my spells could cleanly answer it (aside from Dismember, which I board out in the matchup). Game three went long and I managed to stablize at around 7 life, but he drew a Reveler before I could draw a threat to close the game.
- R6 0-2 LOSS vs tron. Okay, this one was against my teammate so we both knew what we were facing. We played seriously though (more or less), and I lost to his optimal Tron draws despite the disruption.
At X-4 there's no chance of prizes so I dropped. My teammate winning round 6 was probably better anyway, since his deck had a better matchup against the field. He later went on to win the last 2 rounds, so our pool won some packs for the event despite how poorly I did.
Despite the occasional imbalance, I love Modern as a constructed format. The power level is high, there's a lot of deck diversity, and most matchups are very skillful. It would be super easy to quit (paper) Magic if Standard was the only format you played - the yearly rotation times are natural quitting points after all. But Modern makes it more likely for me to keep playing constructed, even if only occasionally.
Side note: someone called me out at the tournament yesterday with "Roy Tang! You're still playing?" which is indicative of both how active I used to be (since people still recognize me) and also how inactive I am these days. I half-jokingly replied that I only play about once a year these days, but that's not too far from the truth. A few weeks back, popular player Sam Black tweeted about how he much he valued the in-person aspect and community of playing paper MTG and not so much the eSports/online/Arena/streaming side. For me it's kind of the opposite; I don't have any ill will towards the local community, a lot of them are fun to hang out with, but I believe that if I could play Magic 100% online for an affordable rate (i.e. on Arena, and if it had Modern), I would gladly do so.
Going to tournaments is a pain and a hassle, given conditions in Metro Manila, and they take up far too much time. Then there's all the logistic of putting together decks, trading and buying and selling individual cards, having to shuffle with my sweaty hands, having to be aware of whether your opponent is doing something shifty, etc, all of these things that I dislike about paper Magic go away if I'm playing Arena. I'm not saying I'm quitting paper Magic, I know better than to assume I can do that, especially given that Wizards just announced their new plans for profession play going forward, but I am looking forward to the day that Arena and paper have parity in the formats and opportunities they afford players.