By now, you should be all aware that Pro Tour Fate Reforged took place last weekend in Washington, DC. Unlike most of the Modern tournaments I attended since the creation of the format, I was very much looking forward to playing in this one. Since the day after Worlds in Nice when I started brewing the deck that I ended up playing at the Pro Tour, I played a lot of Modern. I had finally found a deck I enjoyed playing, and it felt like it had a lot of potential. I wanted to bring it to GP Milan but unfortunately, airlines strikes kept me from going.

Back there, Pod took first and second place and the problem was that I couldn't beat Pod. I tried a million different approaches but no matter what I did, I just couldn't beat it. There were rumors that Birthing Pod could be banned, so I waited and hoped. On the 19th of January, the good news arrived: Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time...and Birthing Pod were getting banned. Oh yes, it felt good. The only concern I had was that Golgari Grave-Troll got unbanned at the same time, and with it, the fear of people stuffing their sideboards with graveyard hate came along. Soon enough, my fears vanished as I couldn't figure out a good build with the Troll, and everyone was widely saying that the card wouldn't see play at all.

On Thursday, January 29th, Team Revolution gathered in DC to start testing together. The line-up for the tournament was slightly different than usual. Some of our players aren't playing anymore (your beloved Melissa took the job at WotC), and the Swedes (Denniz and Joel) decided to test with their countrymen. To the Honolulu crew (Pierre Dagen, Jérémy Dezani, Timothée Simonot, Brad Nelson and Patrick Dickmann) came along some of their best buds (Todd Anderson, Brian Braun-Duin and Valentin Mackl). Some of them knew about my creation but had doubts about its effectiveness and believed it was a little too wacky. Further testing showed that the deck was good and interesting, however it was too late for any of them to learn how to play it.

The deck is extremely hard to play, and while BBD was almost convinced it was the deck to play, he decided to play something else as he thought there was no way he could play it correctly. With now 50 minutes in each round, I thought even I would have a tough time navigating through all the decisions and triggers of the games with this deck.

I thank my team for helping me improve my deck as much as they could. They were working on their own stuff: the Frenchies on Abzan, Patrick, Valentin and Todd on Twin and Brad and BBD on Monoblue Tron. So after a while, I was on my own to try to figure out the last changes I would make to the deck.

Here is the deck I ended up submitting:

DECKID=1229637

For the review of the cards in the deck, please check out the first two articles. Part one is here and part two is here.

What happened since v2.0?

Tarmogoyf out.

When I added the Tarmos to the deck, the format was a little lighter on spot removal. Abzan, a deck that was for sure going to be popular, has about no problem to deal with it and Zoo which could have been a new contender to the format didn't care about it either. I played it because it was good at what it did, putting pressure fast, but the format evolved and it doesn't quite fit the deck's strategy anymore. It took me a while to take them one but it was the right decision. I wanted the deck to use its synergy to the maximum. Dredging away Tarmogoyfs doesn't really get you anywhere, and drawing one didn't do as much as I wanted it to do. Scavenging Ooze, the one big problem of the deck, also made it weaker. The other two-drops in the deck are overall more impactful, and I often ended up waiting a long time before casting them.

Thoughtseize out.

That was probably an even harder decision to make but it makes sense. The deck doesn't really have problems against combo or control decks. I used to play it to disrupt my opponent for a bit, but it could never really disrupt their strategy 100%. The life loss was relevant in a deck with that many fetch lands, and it made turn one plays just more complicated. You often need to fetch a shockland on turn one, and you also have a lot of turn two plays, meaning that one of the only way you could play a turn-one Thoughtseize was to start the game on 15. In game one, when you don't know what you're playing against, it might just lose you the game if you're up against burn for example.


The Manabase

-1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
+1 fetch land

I found out that I was losing a lot of games because I was missing my third color. The black mana you can use from your fetch lands when Urborg is in play is far less relevant than having an extra fetch land to find your third color. As for the mix (two Bloodstained Mire, two Polluted Delta, two Marsh Flats), they are essentially there to dodge Pithing Needle as they basically do exactly the same thing.


The Removal Suite

+2 Go for the Throat

Go for the Throat fixes a lot of the deck's problems. You need creature removal to deal with Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, Siege Rhino, Restoration Angel and Deceiver Exarch. Against Abzan, you want as many spot removals as possible as they will most likely play a discard spell before playing their threats. Restoration Angel was also a problem without Gofer as it's too big for Abrupt Decay. Same goes for Siege Rhino. Without Thoughtseizes, Twin has a much easier time putting the pieces of its combo together, so we needed something to make up for it in that matchup. Gftt is a very good way to kill an Exarch in response to a Splinted Twin as it also makes it impossible for them to Redirect the target to their Spellskite (as it destroys a non-artifact creature).

+3 Liliana of the Veil

They were there in v1.0, they left for v2.0, and they are back for v3.0. I felt I needed more creature removal, something that would be a discard enabler, and eventually a game ender. I felt a little "light" on high impact cards if my opponents disrupted my graveyard. They're in the deck mostly for that reason.


The Unlikely One-ofs

In v1.0, I had two Raven's Crime in the main. I took them out for v2.0 as I didn't feel I needed them. When I tried it again, it was by far the best card against combo. Every time I had it against Twin, it was game over. It also makes up for the lack of Thoughtseize.

Just like a lot of the one-ofs in the deck, they might not be great in most matchups, but they're never really dead cards and can win you games out of nowhere.

+1 Golgari Brownscale / +1 Vengeful Pharaoh

In testing, I had a very hard time beating Zoo and Burn. They would play too many threats too fast, and even when I managed to kill their creatures one by one, they would finish me with burn spells. I had to find a better way to fight these decks and I found it in the form of these two cards.

You want a "free" way to destroy your opponent's beatdown creatures. The problem with Vengeful Pharaoh is that you have to take hits first before you can destroy a creature. So I needed a way to gain life for free. I had thought of Golgari Brownscale before but never really gave it too much credit. So I tried them both together, and that was it! The magical formula to beat Zoo. All you had to do was to dump one of each in your graveyard and punish your opponent for attacking you. In the worst case scenario, they play around it and don't attack you for a while as you stabilize the board, go up in life with the Lizard to get out of reach and fill your graveyard with threats.

Every time I read Vengeful Pharaoh, I found something new about it. It's not exactly a targeted "No Mercy":

- It triggers if a creature dealt damage to a Planeswalker you control. So you have the option to kill a creature when Liliana is being attacking.
- It destroys target attacking creature. It doesn't have to be the creature that dealt damage to you, meaning you can block a Tarmogoyf with a Spirit Token, take a hit from a Loam Lion and choose to destroy the Tarmogoyf. A detail that can be extremely relevant in some games.

The Pharaoh/Brownscale strategy works very well against all the aggressive decks, burn and Affinity, as long as they're not running Scavenging Ooze.

Golgari Brownscale doesn't look like it, but it has a huge impact on the game. Being able to give you some life to get out of reach against burn, or just allowing you to fetch your shocklands more loosely is crucial. I lost so many games before because I wasn't running any that it had to be in. Also, it gives you an extra dredge card, the sixth maindeck along with the four Life from the Loam and Darkblast.

With these one-ofs, I tried to have the deck the most stable with as many high impact cards as possible if I milled them.


The Sideboard

With so many changes and a brand new format, the sideboard obviously had to change.

The fourth Zombie Infestation was there to fight off Burn (still the best card against it) and most importantly, give you another enabler to dump your Brownscale and Pharaoh. If you don't have a dredge spell in your graveyard, drawing your Pharaoh after it destroyed a creature and not being able to dump it again will feel miserable. So against the aggressive decks, you'll be bringing in the whole package:

+1 Zombie Infestation
+2 Golgari Brownscale
+2 Vengeful Pharaoh

Talking about very high-impact card, Ray of Revelation was a very important card of my sideboard. How about a card to destroy a Blood Moon, for free? Just make sure you fetch your Forest at some point. Or even better, a Splinter Twin? A Tempered Steel? A Daybreak Coronet? A Rest in Peace? A Pyromancer's Ascension? A Bitterblossom or a Crusade?

Since I gave up on the Thoughtseizes, I wanted to have more Raven's Crimes in my Sideboard. The matchup against Twin became a real nightmare for them with so much spot removal and potential Mind Twists.

The extra Deathmarks were there to fight Abzan a little better. To beat Abzan, you have to deal with their creatures before they get out of hand. You can't rely on Vengeful Pharaoh as they have Scavenging Ooze to exile it. The only solution is to destroy them one by one, and the best way to do it is with Deathmark.


The Matchups

Vs. Affinity

+4 Ancient Grudge
+1 Ray of Revelation
+1 Golgari Brownscale
+2 Vengeful Pharaoh

-3 Bloodghast
-2 Go for the Throat
-2 Liliana of the Veil
-1 Raven's Crime

The matchup hasn't changed since my last article. The first game is still hard to win, and the next two are hard to lose. At the PT, I played against Affinity three times, lost game one three times, and haven't lost a post-sideboard game. If your opponent is running Tempered Steel like Matt Sperling, your Ray of Revelation might come up handy. Otherwise, it's always good to have an out to a potential Blood Moon or Illness in the Ranks.

Vs. Scapeshift

+2 Raven's Crime
(+1-2 Ancient Grudge?)

-2 Abrupt Decay

That matchup kinda disappeared. The loss of Dig Through Time buried the deck. I expected a lot more Scapeshift decks in the tournament, but there was barely any. The matchup is still very good, even without Thoughtseize. Raven's Crime is just a million times better in that matchup as they need most of their cards to combo you off. Once you have Life from the Loam / Tectonic Edge running, it becomes very hard to lose. In testing, I played against that deck dozens of times and I have yet to lose to it. Don't forget to bring in Ancient Grudge if you feel your opponent is going to bring in Batterskull and/or Relic of Progenitus.

Vs. Zoo

+2 Vengeful Pharaoh
+2 Golgari Brownscale
+1 Zombie Infestation
+1 Go for the Throat
+2 Deathmark

-4 Bloodghast
-1 Raven's Crime
-1 Liliana of the Veil
-1 Flame Jab
-1 Murderous Cut

I explained this matchup when I introduced the one-ofs. They're very unlikely to have graveyard hate and they won't be able to get over your Pharaoh/Brownscale defense.

Vs. Burn

+2 Vengeful Pharaoh
+2 Golgari Brownscale
+2 Raven's Crime
+1 Go for the Throat
+1 Zombie Infestation

-4 Lingering Soul
-1 Flame Jab
-1 Murderous Cut
-2 Liliana of the Veil

You need to set up a fast clock and get your Brownscale going as early as possible. Zombie Infestation enables all that, and all the removal suite will try to keep you safe from early beatdown. I did beat a Burn deck at the PT, finishing game one at one life thanks to the two life I got from the maindeck Brownscale I dredged away the turn before.

Vs. Twin

+2 Raven's Crime
+1 Go for the Throat
+1 Ray of Revelation
+2 Ancient Grudge

-1 Zombie Infestation
-3 Liliana of the Veil
-1 Lingering Souls
-1 Flame Jab

Against Twin, you're going to play the control player. You're going to kill pretty much all of their creatures, and start the beatdown with Bloodghasts. The reason why I take out Lilianas, even though an active Lili can be devastating, is because you rarely want to tap out in this match. If you want to strip your opponent's hand, Raven's Crime will do the job just fine, and you don't have to tap out for that.

Vs. Abzan

+2 Deathmark
+1 Go for the Throat

-1 Raven's Crime
-2 Liliana of the Veil

Discarding your opponent's hand in this matchup is rarely effective as you'll sometimes hit Lingering Souls. This is a tough matchup but not unwinnable. The biggest threat is by far Scavenging Ooze, which would take away your Loams and engine if you leave your opponent with too many green sources. You'll basically try to control his mana as much as you can, and be ready to shoot the Ooze when it comes down.

At the PT, I got to face:

-Affinity x 3 (3-0)
-Jund x1 (0-1)
-Burn x1 (1-0)
-Abzan x1 (1-0)
-Twin x1 (1-0)
-Dredgevine x1 (0-1)
-RG Tron x1 (0-1)
-Storm x1 (1-0)

I ended up with a 7-3 record with this deck, losing to an impossible matchup (Dredgevine) a very difficult one (RG Tron), and a close one ( Jund).

The deck did everything I wanted it to do and performed really well. However, I feel the list can be improved to fix the bad matchups.

If I had to play the tournament again, I would play the flowing list:

DECKID=1229638

Maindeck:

+1 Terminate
+1 Zombie Infestation
+1 Ghost Quarter
-2 Liliana of the Veil
-1 Tectonic Edge

With Scapeshift almost out of the spectrum, Tectonic Edges aren't as important anymore. However, I would have loved to have a Ghost Quarter or two in the 75. Being able to destroy Tron pieces, a bounce land against Amulet decks or a Nexus against Affinity and Infect can be huge.

Liliana was fine, but Zombie Infestation and Go for the Throat came in in many matchups and they occupy important slots in the sideboard. Terminate is a little harder to cast than Go for the Throat (relevant in the aggro matches) but a little more versatile as it destroys Nexii and Affinity creatures as well. I like having a mix and being able to answer as many threats as possible. Moving these cards to the maindeck frees that sideboard space and they replace Liliana just fine.

I would have loved a second Ray of Revelation in the sideboard. You get so far ahead when you manage to have one in the graveyard against Twin. There are also some other decks that I didn't get to play against they would be great against like Monowhite Life (Ghostly Prison does hurt a lot), Enduring Ideal (that I haven't seen anywhere at the PT), BW Tokens or Boggles (which is close to be an unloseable matchup).

The big question mark is what do I do against Dredgevine? I knew coming in that I wouldn't be able to beat it. I was unfortunate enough to play one on day one (and lost), and regretted that I took my Leylines of the Void out. They sure aren't as good since Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time aren't legal anymore, but there isn't a better card against that deck and Purify the Grave isn't impactful enough. We have room for one here, maybe we can fit a second or a third one if Dredgevine becomes popular.

I could see the second Ghost Quarter moving to the maindeck to replace the last Liliana and freeing a second slot for a Leyline of the Void.

I love this deck as it has solutions against most of the field, interacts with almost every deck in a way that there is a lot of room for fancy plays and mistakes from your opponent. Again, it's a very hard deck to play, and probably even harder to play against.

My miserable 3-3 record in draft and my poor plays on day one put me in a position where 10-6 would make 6 PT points, but no money (81st place). I have some regrets about my day one, but had so much fun tuning and playing the deck that it was all made up for.

I'd like to thank TCGplayer for the support, MaxProtection for the apparel, Thiago Rodrigues for the cards on Magic Online, Fantasy Sphere Toulouse, Melissa DeTora and Mickael Rabbie for the physical cards as well as the team for putting up with my deck for a week, especially BBD who gave me valuable opinions.

I don't have any more Modern events to play in the near future, so it's up to you to make me proud! Believe me, this deck is the nuts.

Cheers,
Raph

Twitter: @hahamoud