Rotterdam hosted two team tournaments in November: Grand Rotterdam and the World Magic Cup. I was looking forward to these tournaments; my preparation for Pro Tour Kaladesh boosted my confidence in Kaladesh Limited and the last successful Modern events Jérémy Dezani and I played were good omens.
It started with GP Rotterdam. Jérémy and I teamed up with Tomoharu Saito. Saito has limited English vocabulary and for him anything that is "good" becomes "happy," as in "I have a happy deck for the Pro Tour," or "I like my teammates, we have a happy team." So, naturally, we were "Team Happy." We had a few practice Sealed decks before the actual event that proved to be useful. On Saturday morning, we used every single second of deck construction to build our decks.Long story short, it was a successful event. We reached the Top 4, eventually falling to eventual winners Carvalho/Salvatto/Dominguez.
Needless to say, our confidence in the first portion of the WMC (three rounds of Team Sealed) was off the charts. We just needed to figure out our Modern decks. Guillaume Perbet, who also played in the GP, joined us for four days of testing at the Easy Hotel in Rotterdam.
As a reminder, Team Unified Modern works like so: each member of the three-player team needs to have a Modern legal deck without any card included in two different decks (except for basic lands). For example, that means only one of the three decks could run Stomping Ground.
Some players have a favorite deck in Modern, something they know very well and would play better than anybody else. That was the case for my teammate Kevin Sauvageon, who qualified for the WMC in Modern and made Top 32 of GP Lille with his trusty Bant Eldrazi deck.
With that in mind, we had to find the other two decks. Jérémy had had a lot of success with Jund (top 32 in Lille and a ninth place at the MOCS) and had been playing the deck over and over again for a couple of weeks.
While looking for the third deck, Jérémy had a clear idea of what I had to play: "I don't see Raph losing a single match with Dredge." I had played some games with the new Dredge, and as you know, I have quite some experience with this strategy so I knew it was something I could handle. The only problem we had was that we could work around the fetches (I could be play the Mana Convergence version) but we had to change the Jund mana base to allow the Dredge deck to play Blackcleave Cliffs. He tweaked Jund a bit, adding Blossoming Marshes.
On Thursday evening, I had enough practice with Dredge to claim that I would indeed not lose a match with it. On the other hand, Jérémy was feeling more and more depressed and eventually threw in the towel. He just couldn't make Jund work. No matter how much he changed the manabase, he would never do better than 2-3 in Magic Online leagues.
At 11 pm, we had to decide on another deck and the only other reliable and viable option was Affinity. Ad Nauseam was also possible but Jérémy had never played a game with it and wasn't feeling it. We couldn't play infect because of the Noble Hierarch and Breeding Pool in Bant Eldrazi. We couldn't replace Bant Eldrazi by Infect either since Inkmoth Nexus overlapped. So we picked up an Affinity stock list inspired by Robot Master Patrick Dickmann from GP Lille and went for it.
While we were not happy with the way things went, we were still satisfied with what we had.
The Dredge deck I played is very similar to many of the lists out there. I made a few changes in the main and in the sideboard.
With Affinity and Infect being two of the most played decks in the format, I wanted to have the best card against them in my main. Infect players need to have a Pendelhaven in play if they ever want to beat Darkblast. Two in the main and two in the sideboard sounded like a must-have. It also gives you another dredge card.
Scourge Devil / Rally the Peasants
I needed to make room for the Darkblast in the main, so I took out the Scourge Devil and Rally the Peasants that classic lists have. I'm not going to debate here on what's the best card between the two (one brings back Prized Amalgam, the other one gives a bigger boost), but more on its necessity in the main. I understand that it gives you a chance to kill one turn faster, but so does Conflagrate. On the turn you're winning, you can just Dredge a Life from the Loam, attack and cast Conflagrate for pretty much the same effect. The big difference is, you need to have creatures out for Scourge Devil to do its work.
The card I find the hardest to play around is Anger of the Gods. Scourge Devil threatens to deal a lot of damage if they don't play it on turn three. But at the end of the day, if they don't have it, they're dead, whether you have Scourge Devil or not. Which brings to the next topic.
The Mana Base
For a long time during testing, I didn't really have the option to try out the mana base with fetch lands (since Jund was packing Stomping Ground and Blood Crypt), so I played all my games with the manabase above (replacing Stomping Ground by Karplusan Forest and Blood Crypt by Sulfurous Spring). When Jérémy decided to throw Jund away and pick up Affinity, it was too late for me to change the mana base since I had also built the sideboard with the five-color lands in mind.
In any case, I was satisfied with the mana. I was happy to be able to cast Narcomoebas and Prized Amalgams against Relic of Progenitus and Leyline of the Void and have green, black and red available on my lands when I wanted to keep my options open to play Lightning Axe, Darkblast or flashback Ancient Grudge. Having double or triple black was also something I needed when I faced Infect since I wanted to be able to cast them two or three times on the same turn.
The most important aspect of the fetch lands is that they allow you to time your Bloodghasts. I'm probably the guy who has played the most Bloodghasts in Modern and I know how decisive the timing is against cards like Relic of the Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt and Anger of the Gods.
As I played more and more games with the deck, it turned out that it almost never mattered. The only decks that played Anger of the Gods were TitanShift and Goryo's Vengeance (played by Jérôme Gascogne from the Belgian Team), and you just can't afford to not go-all in against these decks. They will play their Anger on turn three, and kill you on the following turn or the turn after, and the two damage (or five if you had a Prized Amalgam) you would have dealt if you played around it wouldn't have mattered. If they don't kill you on the following turn or the turn after, you probably win anyway. In the end, it's not about you playing fetch lands or regular lands, it's about them drawing Anger of the Gods on turn three.
There are a few other differences between the two mana bases. The amount of lands you'll have left in your deck to draw after you fetch - which is probably a good point for the fetch mana base - except that you sometimes struggle to find your second land and want to naturally draw it. Another point for the fetches is that you get extra targets for Life from the Loam. On the other hand, the damage involved in fetching is a liability for the fetch mana base as you take far more damage than when you ping yourself a couple of times with Mana Confluence (so a good point for the fetch-less mana base).
Overall, the two versions are pretty close, but I still prefer the fetch-less mana base I played with for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning.
Leyline of the Void is by far the most powerful card in Dredge against Dredge. Bojuka Bog arrives too late and doesn't stop your opponent from expending his army in the early turns. Just showing that you're running Leylines will force opponents to board in enchantment removal, which is something that I really hate doing.
I don't understand why people have Nature's Claim in the board. Sure it's versatile, but the four life you give your opponent - especially when you're racing - is a real downside against Infect, Affinity or any deck that's planning to kill you in one blow. I've never been in a situation where I needed a Nature's Claim and didn't want a Destructive Revelry instead. Having Ray of Revelation as a one-of is a good way to fight off Rest in Peace (play it in response to the trigger). You'll still lose your graveyard, but at least you can keep playing.
I played six matches over the tournament and went 5-1 before the team got eliminated. I lost once to TitanShift when it killed me twice on turn four after a turn three Anger of the Gods (a sequence that fetch lands couldn't have done anything against) and beating an easy matchup twice in Lantern Control. I also defeated Grixis Control (also pretty easy as long as they don't open Leyline of the Void), Black-Red Eldrazi and Abzan Company.
The deck felt extremely powerful and can beat any sort of hate and is above all super stable. I would probably play it again for as long as its cards are legal.
As for our tournament, our Limited preparation didn't quite pay off and we started 1-2. But with the structure of the tournament as it was, that didn't matter. We managed to pull two wins in Modern and were able to draw into Day 2. We then beat Peru in the qualifying round of the first stage of Day 2 before We proceeded to lose to the US and then to Malaysia to finish in the Top 32 of the tournament.
Our Bant Eldrazi deck went 3-3, losing to Infect twice and Scapeshift, while our Affinity deck went 2-3. Without any restrictions (if anybody could play anything without a deck preference), I think the correct setup for the tournament was Dredge – Infect – TitanShift. The first two decks are just too good to not play and the last one is really up to you. TitanShift is able to beat Dredge and could be fine against Infect with Sudden Shocks.
I picked up seven Pro Points in the Netherlands over the two tournaments, which isn't bad even though the finish at the WMC wasn't exactly what we wanted. But just like every time we lose, we learn and we move on! After only one Pro Tour, I'm up to 21 points, which is a pretty good start. I'll just have to keep it up!
Next up: GP Madrid (Standard) two weeks from now.