April 25th, 1844. Final report.
Months ago I set sail from the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean for London, England, such that I would arrive in time to take part in the Mythic Championship that was scheduled for the end of the month of April. On my voyage I assembled a contraption I had developed for the purpose of allowing me to compete in games of Magic: The Gathering against other competitors, even those in other parts of the earth. This futuristic contraption was so unbelievable and ahead of its time that all would scoff if I told them it was possible; not even the legendary Leonardo da Vinci could dare consider such madness. I dubbed it Magic Online, for Magic was the game I played, and my journey was on a straight line to London. Twas a simple name, but why complicate matters unnecessarily?
Of course, artificers in other parts of the world also simultaneously came to the same conclusions as I did, also developed the same device I did, and also called it Magic Online, for reasons of their own, allowing these other competitors to challenge me in a battle for mental superiority via our linked machines. Regardless of the century, plane, or species, developing artificers never fail to invent the Magic Online. These simultaneous and miraculous inventions provided me with all I needed to test properly for the upcoming Mythic Invitational. To wit, I had warm bodies to test against, decks to use against them, and time in the day to spend doing so. One would mock God to ask for more than this.
On board my vessel I had much time to contemplate the intricacies of the Modern format I would be playing in London. I wrote thoughts daily into my journal—by sunlight when possible, but even occasionally by candlelight when the sun would set. If only, I oft considered, the sun would not also set on my dreams of a great performance. I would find such a performance greatly to my liking, however fantastic and unlikely it seemed. The most plausible result would be an average one, based on past precedent and based on my laziness aboard the vessel. I took many days off to do nothing. Nothing, I found, was quite an enjoyable way to spend time, but not optimally conducive toward tournament success. That said, I found the motivation lacking to prepare, and the will to succeed running dry.
As time grew closer, the motivation and will returned and I begin to approach preparation at a fevered pace to make up for time lost. Try as I might, I could not often preserve the daylight hours to work how I wanted to. I discovered the sun sufficiently waned day after day far too early for my fancy, and the tournament approached at far too fast a rate. I daydreamt often that I would gain additional hours in the day to fuel my testing. Alas, such was not the case, and double alas, I found myself quite frequently embattled against the forces of darkness when my ally, the sun, would desert me in my time of greatest need. Darkness was also my old friend. Hello, darkness, and good luck.
Darkness never stopped me, nor did the nighttime, for that matter. I lit up a candle, an action that the children aboard who taught me much of their language might describe as "lit AF" and kept plowing away at this Modern format throughout the night hours. It was not uncommon for me to discover the candle burned through completely, and a brief check of my pocket watch informed me that it was 4am and I was, indeed, quite the buffoon for having stayed up so late. Buffoonery never stopped me either.
Scurvy claimed half the crew. Not me. I easily survived. I fell victim to another disease, though. Swervy, I called it, as I dodged all the pitfalls that could have befallen me on my journey. No disease harmed me, I was not claimed by the storms that ravaged the ship, and the sea pirates that boarded our vessel, commandeered the ship, killed all of the crew and other passengers somehow did not lay a finger on me nor did they steal my prized collection of Modern Magic: The Gathering trading cards. Also they preserved the original destination of London, England. Luck, as it would go, was on my side.
Eventually we did touch shore, but it was further from London than originally planned, as the powerful winds we encountered had blown us off course. I purchased a horse and traveled largely on horseback toward my destination. My horse did run away at one point, forcing me to continue the journey afoot. No matter. I would walk 500 miles to play in this event. And I would walk 500 more for the return journey. Nothing would deter me from finding the ExCel Center in London and then ExCelling at the event itself. This was the entire point, and a PowerPoint it was.
Modern was not the only format that would be played at the Mythic Championship. Limited, or more specifically, booster draft of the War of the Spark expansion set of Magic: The Gathering was also going to comprise six of the precious sixteen rounds of play. Twas quite normal for this to be the case, but an abnormality did exist. We would not be able to officially prepare in advance for this portion of the event, as the release coincided with the event itself. A prerelease Mythic Championship was unheard of, but these were new times, and came with new challenges and experiences. I was never one to shy away from adventure in this manner. I embraced the chaos and made it my own. The madness too.
The lack of new booster packs did not deter us from trying to prepare, however. Us? Ah yes, I forget myself. Upon reaching the destination of London, delayed as I was, I met up with a number of my colleagues and we crafted an approximation of what we surmised the set would look like. This approximation we tested endlessly, providing us with what we hoped would be one full leg up on the competition...perhaps even a second leg if fortune favored our boldness. Fortune often did, as the crew I found myself with were as formidable as they were steadfast. Their intellect and lust for the challenge were unmatched, even by myself.
In Modern, I decided to stick to what I knew. I quickly eliminated numerous options of decks I might play, settling eventually on playing one of the following strategies: Humans, Tron, Dredge, or Lantern Control. Quickly that list was narrowed to either Dredge or Humans. Eventually I selected the Humans deck, or Humanitarian Tribal, as I oft called it. I was, after all, on a trip to London for humanitarian reasons.
I found this deck the most enjoyable to play, something I value strongly. I also found it to be the strategy I employed the best, based on my skill set, limited as it was. Lastly, I found it to be powerful in the format as a whole. It seemed, at least to an addlepated simpleton like myself, that Modern is a self-correcting format that ebbs and flows as decks, card choices, and a deck's share in the metagame frequently adjusts and readjusts to take on whatever currently dominates.
Humans I found to be a strategy of yesteryear that had fallen by the wagonside when other strategies adapted to beat it. Having considered it thoroughly walloped, those other strategies then turned inward on themselves, cannibalizing each other to gain a true leg up, whilst sacrificing some of what made them good against Humans in the first place. "Perhaps "gain a true leg up" was not the best word choice when discussing cannibalism," I jotted in my journal, chuckling madly to myself in the process. I found myself greatly pleased with my own wit, and if I dare, also the scent of my own emissions. I was intoxicated on myself, although others found that behavior reprehensible and also did not enjoy my attempts at humor. I give them leave to go pipe themselves.
To provide an example, the Blue-Red Phoenix strategy began removing Gut Shot from their decklists in order to facilitate Surgical Extraction to combat the rising tide of graveyard-oriented strategies, including the Phoenix deck itself. These seemingly small changes add up, and one suddenly finds that a good matchup against Humans has now become a true dice roll, or perhaps even unfavored.
Ebb and flow. As the cycle progresses, once more Humans finds itself trending toward the top of the metagame. And thus a deck that I once loved, that I had abandoned when it began to fall short, I pick up yet again in hopes that I am correct in my assessment on its glorious return.
I also determined that I myself am human, and thus it would only make sense to thus pilot a deck called Humans. Some clarity in an unclear world is always a welcome sight.
My list is a relatively straightforward one. I did not attempt to reinvent the wheel, although I heard talk that Cyrus McCormick may have done exactly that with his most recent invention. And that, my friends, is a timely historical reference to tie the theme of this piece together. Let no one say I did not try.
One thing that I (perhaps foolishly) decided to do against common wisdom was to play only a single basic land. While all other lists play one Island in addition to the Plains, I opted for a second Seachrome Coast against all convention and the advice of everyone I knew. I asked numerous trusted competitors if they agreed with me. All of them unanimously did not. I did it anyway, for I cannot be managed and I do not have a manager.
Personally, while having a second basic provides a huge benefit against Path to Exile and Field of Ruin, I found that Island was so unbelievably bad when trying to cast cards like Auriok Champion, Gaddock Teeg and friends, that I was willing to just occasionally lose to the decks that had Path and Field in order to have a superior mana base against the rest of the decks. While Island can sometimes insulate against Blood Moon, it does not occur often enough to warrant serious merit.
Militia Bugler is a card that I found to greatly overperform expectations. Once, the card was not very good in Humans, being too slow to be effective in the fast-paced format, but that no longer appears to be true. Decks like Grixis Death's Shadow and Blue-Red Phoenix now sit atop the world and attacking these strategies favors cards like Militia Bugler to combat the wealth of interaction they offer. Even against a fast deck like Dredge, Militia Bugler is a powerhouse after sideboard to find Auriok Champion, which can often beat them single-handedly, especially multiple copies.
One might note that the sideboard looks randomly thrown together and contains a lot of one-ofs for no apparent purpose. Turns out, there is a purpose, one that I shall make apparent with haste. In this tournament, each competitor will be provided with a copy of the decklist of each opposing competitor, however when it comes to sideboard cards, only the names of the cards will be provided, and not the quantity.
So playing one copy of a powerhouse card like Chalice of the Void provides a twofold benefit. One, there will be matchups where drawing the Chalice will be quite potent and secondly, when your opponent sees Chalice of the Void in your sideboard, but doesn't know how many copies of it you play, they may board in excessive answers to it, not knowing that it's only a singular choice.
Likewise, a card like one Grafdigger's Cage might warrant a Dredge deck to overboard on Nature's Claim against me, fearing that I play two or three copies, and finding themselves with mediocre cards with limited targets against me in games where I don't draw my Cage. I feed off that fear and designed my deck to capitalize upon it.
When it comes to cards like Sin Collector or Gaddock Teeg, playing a single copy is worth it simply for the fact that they can be found with Militia Bugler, which can make it seem like one possesses extra copies of the card. In the case of Sin Collector, but not the legendary Gaddock Teeg, it can also profitably be copied by Phantasmal Image, providing the...illusion...of more copies once the initial is found. Once again, I find myself overwhelmed in joy by my own brilliance and wit, thanks to my play on words. 'Tis like I am a modern day Shakespeare, were Shakespeare to be much dimmer-witted, frequently lack coherent thought, and also be singularly obsessed with a card game called Magic: The Gathering.
Known decklists is a new procedural change, but it is far from the only drastic measure being premiered at this event. Through correspondence, it was made apparent that there would also be a new rule in regard to mulligans at this event, and the competitors would serve as the test subjects for the experiment. The rule is such that you draw a full complement of seven cards with each mulligan, putting a number of cards of your choice from your hand onto the bottom of your deck based on how many times you've mulliganed. A mull to five would result in drawing seven cards and placing two cards on the bottom of the deck, for instance.
This new rule, while favoring other strategies, like Dredge and Tron more significantly, did not prove useless for my beloved Human strategy. Far from it. Humans has a high number of very mediocre hands that lack a turn-one play and are faced with far too many two-mana plays of questionable quality. Those hands are almost always mulligans, but six-card hands are not a death knell for the deck.
Humans has explosive draws that don't require the critical mass of the seventh card, and Humans also often has bad or redundant cards that are unnecessary. The third or fourth land, for instance, is not always valuable, and extra copies of Aether Vial or redundant copies of legendary or low-impact creatures can be safely shuffled away. This is exacerbated by knowing decklists, since one now knows exactly which card to shuffle away, playing against a known matchup each round.
Ultimately, the resurgence of Humans is based predominantly around the metagame wrapping back around to it being good again, but it is at least in part to the Deputy of Detention, a Vedalken Wizard that has proven to be valuable time and time again. Deputy of Detention is an all-purpose answer with value in nearly every matchup, that also removes the need for narrower and worse cards like Knight of Autumn, which always felt like bad cards that were a necessary evil in the sideboard. This is a massive improvement for the deck that provides huge gains in many matchups, especially random nightmares for Humans like the various Ensnaring Bridge strategies.
It is here, my dear reader, that I fear I must leave you. I flip over the last page in my journal, and through the sweat-stained pages I note that I have nothing more to say. Rather, I find I have nothing more of value to say. There is always more to be said, but only a fool rambles on unnecessarily. And by my choice to describe that to you, and in length, I fear that I have only marked myself the fool.
The true test, of course, comes tomorrow. For I write this on the eve of the tournament, and I suspect that the final verdict of whether I am a fool or whether I have struck genius will come down (at least in part) to the results tomorrow provides, far more than the words I spew from my lips. I fear not death, but I embrace the chance at life. What more can one do?
I will fight my hardest for victory, but if I must fail, I shall do so on my own terms.
I suspect those terms will probably entail a one-land keep, an opposing Thoughtseize, and an Aether Vial in my graveyard. I don't like it, but I accept.
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