My situation this season in this year's pro season is fairly tricky. After PT Dragons of Tarkir in Brussels, I was standing at 32 points, locking gold and leading the race for the French captaincy at the WMC. Pierre Dagen was five points behind and Thierry Ramboa, after another good finish in Utrecht, was only six points behind. To reach Platinum I need 14 points which could be done by going X-4 at PT Origins or making four points at GPs and going X-5 at the Pro Tour.

So I considered my options. My friend Trey Van Cleave contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I was going to Copenhagen. I hadn't planned to go, but he convinced me to go as he would find a place for us to stay. Following our conversation, I booked my flight to the Modern GP and we ended up staying at my old friend and old-school pro player Svend Geertsen's place.

I hadn't played Modern / Loam Pox in a while and I needed to remember how it worked and maybe work on it a little more to see if it was still fine in the new format. GP Utrecht 2014 finalist and fellow Toulousian Eliott Boussaud told me he wanted to test the deck as well. I needed a fresh new look at it as it felt I couldn't really see any way to improve it on my own.

So he started playing it a bit, trying out cards I hadn't tried, taking out cards I would never have taken out myself. It opened a lot of new options to try new cards myself.

In the end, we played slightly different versions, but something that's a few cards different from my last version.

Here is what I played:

DECKID=1242429

There are a few major differences with the last version I posted. If you want to know how the deck works in details, I advise you to catch up by reading the previous articles about it (as it would be too long to go over all the cards again).

First of all, the manabase. It doesn't look like it at first, but the switch between Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge is huge. The main reason I wanted four Ghost Quarters was to be able to fight Tron. Tron and its three or four Relic of the Progenitus and its resilience to Tectonic Edge was one tough matchup. Turned out, it didn't need much to turn it around (more on this in the matchup analysis).

Tectonic Edges are overall better against slow control decks, but you are usually ahead against them already. Ghost Quarter allows you to deal with Inkmoth Nexus in Infect (that you would usually not be able to target with Tectonic Edge) and also fetching your own basic lands, when you're missing the second black mana or the green. I didn't think I would have to use that trick as often as I did in the tournament. It helps you get lands in the graveyard when you have none for loam or just one. You sac the quarter, fetch a land, have three lands to get back to your hand. That trick is particularly useful when you have a Zombie Infestation in play.

No Lingering Souls. That's a huge change, and I have to say, I wasn't so sure about it when Eliott submitted the idea. I thought the deck had a hard time closing games and Lingering Souls helped a lot with that. It helped blocking in the early game as well. However, having them in your starting hand felt a little miserable. It turned out that even without them, it wasn't much more difficult to close games, but missing them was crucial in one specific matchup (more on that later).

We needed to find a way to fight creatures off as we took out the blockers. And the best way to do that was to up the number of Vengeful Pharaohs and Golgari Brownscales. Why would you need to block if your opponent never attacks anyway? With three Pharaohs it's much more likely that you have one in your graveyard at a given time during the game. You also need to get some life back from the creature hits, so we needed extra Life Lizards.

The thing is, these creatures can also be cast. I hardcast Golgari Brownscale to block and attack multiple times, therefore replacing the chump ability of the Spirit Tokens. I also won a game against Elves that resolved an Ooze (with nothing else on the board), by hardcasting not one but two Vengeful Pharaohs. It felt like a Limited game when your opponent plays random 1/1s and 2/2s and you cast your 5/4 deathtouch bomb.

Things get complicated when the board gets clogged with blockers on the other side and you can't attack with your Bloodghasts. Bloodghasts and Zombie Tokens are your main win condition but when your opponent doesn't want to attack into your Pharaohs with his Tarmogoyfs for examples, and you don't have flyers to deal the damage, there's not much you can do, except burn him out. We had Flame Jab to deal two or three a turn, but sometimes it was a little too slow, especially when your opponent started gaining life with Kitchen Finks. I tried out Conflagrate and I just loved it. Conflagrate is the poor man's Fireball when you have to hardcast it. In our deck, it's a way to deal eight to ten damage directly to the face. Sure, you have to set it up, but when you know you have it in your deck and your opponent isn't attacking, you can loot and dredge away your whole deck to find it and cast it for lethal.

You have to set up your game to cast the biggest Conflagrate you can and it will usually be in the very late game. By then, you should have Squee in your graveyard. Just pass your turn with a Loam in hand, get Squee back on your following upkeep, dredge a another Loam, play the two of them you're holding, go up to 13 cards and flashback your Conflagrate for 13. In theory, you can even go up to 17 if you play four Loams on the same turn, something that's good to know if you have no other way to win. You'd need all four green sources in play to cast the Loams (one Forest, two Overgrown Tomb, one Stomping Ground), two red sources to flashback the Conflagrate (two Blood Crypt), four lands for colorless mana (for Loam), and 12 lands in the graveyard. In theory it's possible, however it's unlikely that you'll have 12 lands in the graveyard as you'll probably be holding some of them in your hand.

Overall, you can expect to reliably cast your Conflagrate for 10-12 damage, as you'll probably want to make sure there will be no surprise in your opponent's hand and free the path with Raven's Crime.

That strategy won me two matches against Junk Collected Company and Jund as I couldn't get through their Kitchen Finks and Tarmogoyfs with my Bloodghast. I pinged them a bit for a couple of turns with Flame Jab and finished them off with a 10+ Conflagrate. Ironically, in both games, Conflagrate was the last card of my deck and I had to mill my whole deck twice to win the matches.

Conflagrate is also the only way you can kill a Tasigur or a big monster when you start dredging and aren't holding a removal in hand. It's not that bad to discard five cards (usually five lands) to kill Tasigur.

As for the sideboard, we needed cards to fight graveyard strategies such as Living End and some kind of sweeper for Elves. Even though it doesn't interact well in the deck (it doesn't do much in the graveyard on its own), there's nothing anywhere close to its effect for us.

We tried out a few more cards that didn't make the cut.

- Worm Harvest as a win con didn't make the cut. Tapping five mana to make a bunch of worms could have been an interesting strategy if the decks in the format didn't have so many ways to interact with them. Tapping out (when you tap five lands, you're most likely tapping out) also means you're vulnerable to a lot of things: Splinter Twin going off, Collected Company comboing you, etc. Or they could just counter or kill them all and gain a turn that way. Overall, it wasn't a good way to finish a game. Every time I had it in my graveyard, I always had something better to do.

- Mystic Retrieval was a card I wanted to try. But even though its effect is interesting, allowing you to bring back a removal (important when you're facing a big creature you can't kill with a Go for the Throat or a Murderous Cut), it's often too slow. You also can't play it from you hand since you're not running blue mana (its casting cost is also pretty steep), and it's not an instant (that would probably make a little difference).

- Eliott decided to play Chalice of the Void in the sideboard. I didn't quite have the time to try it out, so I preferred to leave it out. On the play against affinity, it keeps them from playing their Memnites, Ornithopters, and Mox Opal. Against Living End, it shuts down, well, Living End. He said it was also a pretty good way to beat burn, but I wasn't quite convinced as they might board in Destructive Revelry against you anyway to destroy your Zombie Infestation, so you would just give them a new target.

To the matches I played during the tournament and that are a pretty good sample of the Modern format today:


Day 1

Round 1-3: Byes
Round 4: Affinity (0-2) - 3-1

With the previous version, I was always confident when I faced Affinity. Taking out Lingering Souls turned out to be crucial. Two of my four losses came from Affinity and it felt like I really, really needed them. I had played a couple of games online without the Souls, and I managed to win the matches, but maybe they weren't representative enough. They were just too good to fight Signal Pest, Vault Skirge, and Nexus.

+4 Ancient Grudge
+1 Darkblast
+2 Ray of Revelation

-1 Conflagrate
-2 Go for the Throat
-1 Golgari Brownscale
-1 Raven's Crime
-1 Bloodghast
-1 Murderous Cut

While I don't think the full four Lingering Souls should get back in the deck, I believe one or two are necessary in this matchup.

Eliott decided to cut both Go for the Throat for other cards. I believe they are necessary evils to fight Splinter Twin and Scavenging Ooze. However it is possible that we don't need them as much as I thought and that we should replace them with two Lingering Souls.

Round 5: Infect (2-0) - 4-1

Infect is a great matchup but you have to be extremely careful how you play your removal. Don't be greedy and let them play their pump spells. Just shoot on sight! Soon enough, they will totally be out of resources and you'll be able to beat them down slowly but surely. There's nothing more demoralizing for them than having their first creature darkblasted.

+4 Ancient Grudge
+2 Ray of Revelation (for Wild Defiance)
+1 Darkblast

-1 Conflagrate
-1 Zombie Infestation
-2 Golgari Brownscale
-1 Vengeful Pharaoh
-1 Murderous Cut
-1 Squee, Goblin Nabob

Round 6: Splinter Twin (2-1) - 5-1

People don't believe me when I tell them Twin isn't a bad matchup. Sure they can play around one or two removal spells. The problem for them is that they're going to have a hard time beating you down or burning you out when you have a Pharaoh or a Brownscale in the graveyard, so their only option is the combo. And when they wait for too long, you start blowing up their lands or attacking their hand.

The sideboard also helps a lot. Ray of Revelation takes care of both Splinter Twin and Blood Moon. You can also play around Blood Moon by fetching the basics when you need them.

+2 Ancient Grudge
+3 Ray of Revelation
+1 Raven's Crime

-2 Vengeful Pharaoh
-1 Golgari Brownscale
-1 Zombie Infestation
-1 Conflagrate
-1 Darkblast

Round 7: Elves (2-0) - 6-1

Elves is a usually a good matchup for you. You have a lot of removal and Jund Charm after board to help you clean the board. You lose the games when they go first and you can't find enough removal to stop them from going wild.

+1 Darkblast
+3 Jund Charm

-1 Bloodghast
-1 Zombie Infestation
-1 Golgari Brownscale
-1 Murderous Cut

Round 8: Infect (2-0) - 7-1

Round 9: GW Collected Company (2-1) - 8-1

That matchup is a tough one. It was one of the matchups where Conflagrate was a total MVP and won me the match against an army of Kitchen Finks and blockers.

+2 Jund Charm

-1 Zombie Infestation
-1 Bloodghast


Day 2

Round 10: Death and Taxes (1-2) - 8-2

While the first game is pretty hard to lose (they have no answer to Vengeful Pharaoh), they have a lot of stuff against you after board like Grafdigger's Cage, Rest in Peace, and Mirran Crusader. I did win game one, ran into a Leonin Arbiter game two (probably messed up that game), and didn't bring my Ray of Revelations in game three when I saw Grafdigger's Cage and thought he might not have RiPs. Bad read.

Round 11: Zoo (0-2) - 8-3

Zoo used to be a tough matchup, but when we added extra Pharaohs and Brownscale, it became a lot better.

+2 Golgari Brownscale

-1 Conflagrate
-1 Flame Jab

However, the match didn't go how I planned. I didn't see any of the important cards in game one and I don't think I could have beaten his three Rest in Peace after board. Since our plan relies heavily on Pharaoh and Brownscale, Rest in Peace in Zoo is pretty much unbeatable for us. We could board in some Ray of Revelations if we know they have it, but not sure it would help too much as your graveyard is already gone by the time you play it and the following attack might hurt too much.

Round 12: Burn (2-0) - 9-3

Burn is not a favourable matchup. It always comes down to the wire and to the way they sideboard against you. I've seen Burn player sideboarding in Path to Exile to take care of Bloodghast for example. You really don't want to draw a defensive card when you're not really racing.

+2 Golgari Brownscale
+1 Raven's Crime

-1 Flame Jab
-1 Conflagrate
-1 Abrupt Decay

I talked a lot about this matchup in my other related articles. Go have a look if you need more tips about this one.

I thought about adding a Syphon Life. I haven't played this card to know if it's good enough, but it sounds like it could be a pretty good way to fight burn in addition to the four Brownscales. I'll be trying that out. Someone suggested Firemane Angel, but it might just be a little too slow, plus you can never cast it or bring it back.

Round 13: Affinty (0-2) - 9-4

Well, I guess we need some Lingering Souls back in the deck. At least two.

Round 14: Tron (2-1) - 10-4

The addition of Ghost Quarters totally turned the matchup around. Randy Buehler is running an online tournament, the "Gauntlet of Greatness," that involves all the best Modern decks and making them battle each other in a single elimination bracket. I happen to notice he was about to stream the match between Tron and Loam Pox in the quarters, and I offered to champion my own deck. Unfortunately the Loam version only had two Ghost Quarters and that wasn't enough to keep him from casting Ugin on turn four in game three.

You can watch the whole match here.

-2 Darkblast
-2 Go for the Throat
-2 Murderous Cut

+1 Raven's Crime
+4 Ancient Grudge
+1 Bojuka Bog

It's now fairly easy to keep Tron from reaching seven or eight mana, and even if they do you have ways to deal with a Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine (after board when you have four Ancient Grudges). Not so much Ugin, but not all versions are running it. You have to play a bit around Relic of Progenitus by trying to keep a Loam and a fetchland or a Ghost Quarter in hand or in play so you can start dredging again after a graveyard cleaning.

Round 15: Jund (2-1) - 11-4

I'm paired up against Pierre Dagen in the last round of the tournament, my direct opponent in the race for the French captaincy. He needs the point to reach gold, and I need the points to...stay ahead of him. It felt bad, but only one of us would get a point in this tournament.

The Jund matchup depends entirely on the timing they draw their Scavenging Ooze. You're never sitting pretty as long as you don't have an answer to Ooze in your hand. You keep their Tarmogoyf at bay for as long as the Pharaohs are in the graveyard.

You pretty much have no cards to sideboard either.

The last game of this match, just like the last game of Day 1, was about me trying to survive thanks to Zombie Infestation / Life from the Loam, while looting and dredging away my whole deck to find my Conflagrate (which happened to be, again, the very last card of the deck).

So I finished 39th and racked up a PT point in Scandinavia. Not sure it's going to be useful but I enjoyed playing the deck I've been advocating since I first built it last December. I've been playing a lot with it on Magic Online and thought I could master it at the tournament, but it is soooo hard to play correctly. There are so many things you have to think of, the lands you're fetching (probably the most crucial thing), your life total to manage, the triggers to remember (Squee, Bloodghast), how many lands you need this turn to do what you have to do, between discarding them to Infestation, to Flame Jab or to Raven's Crime...and all that in a timely manner. One piece of advice, don't show up at a tournament if you haven't practised a lot with it first.

Next up is GP Lille for me, just made up my mind. So Legacy it will be!

Have fun dredging your deck away!

Raph

Twitter:

@hahamoud