This past weekend I found myself at a Modern PTQ. I started out 4-0 with Splinter Twin and had a very good feeling. The deck was dismantling my opponent's left and right. Even in games where I wasn't expecting to win I would end up drawing that one card I needed and find myself walking up to the judge's stand with the results slip.
I met my friend Byron King in the fifth round, and that was when my luck had run out. He beat me in a very quick two games and I did not end up finding another win after that. Byron then said to me, "So this means I'm going to go on to win the event, right?"
You see, I beat Byron in the eighth round of the TCGplayer Diamond Open in Orlando before going on to win the event, so it would stand to reason that by beating me in this event, Byron would be the eventual winner.
...which he was! Byron actually ended up winning the PTQ with the following list:
I asked him for his deck on Facebook because I had been looking for an excuse to play Golgari in Modern for weeks and this was a good one. He promptly sent me the list along with quote a bit of his own commentary.
"I knew I wanted all eight discard spells in the main deck. Against control, they clear out Spell Snare and Remand, along with giving me information on how to deploy threats. They are obviously good against combo, and can always be pitched to Liliana when players go hellbent.
Tectonic edge might be the silent MVP of the deck. I double edged players on their fourth turn at least five separate times, and closing out those games is not hard.
The Kitchen Finks over Courser of Kruphix were almost certainly wrong, but I've played a lot of Jund with Finks in previous years and only got minimal testing with Courser. Finks is only more resilient in the mirror, since path or double bolt is needed for either one in any other matchup.
The Obstinate Baloth was a third Skinrender or fourth Fulminator Mage multiple times, but I finally settled on another card for burn/aggro (it is Florida). After using Tectonic Edge all day, the fourth Fulminator Mage is overkill against anything besides Tron. It's not worth the sideboard slots trying to fix that matchup though.
The Batterskull was potentially a Garruk Relentless or a Sword of Light and Shadow. I wanted a trump in the mirror, and 'skull is only weak to Maelstrom Pulse. The other cards are strong, but they each have their problems. Sword only locks up games you were already winning, because both players have more removal than creatures. Garruk kills Dark Confidant, is capable of winning the game on its own, and flipping it is absurd. I eventually decided that Batterskull's resilience was more important.
I owe a shout out to Colin Menz for conceding to me in Round 3. I had a dominant position, but the game was certainly not finished. I really appreciate it."
Let's see how the deck feels.
Golgari Midrange vs. Monoblue Tron
Golgari Midrange vs. Splinter Twin
Golgari Midrange vs. Bogles
Golgari Midrange vs. Zoo
As you'll notice I did implement the one change Byron suggested, which was exchanging the Kitchen Finks with Courser of Kruphix. I'm not sure if they were better, in all honesty. One thing that I liked about Kitchen Finks was that three power is relevant against a wide variety of threats with three toughness, and yes, against things like Abrupt Decay, Slaughter Pact, Flame Slash, and Dismember it simply shines.
I wouldn't say we had PTQ winning results in our matches, but I think this goes to highlight how different the online metagame can be from the real life one. As the Splinter Twin player this past weekend, I also didn't draw anywhere close to that in our games against one another. Or Byron drew much better than I did in these matches. Truth be told, though, all of our games were very close, and each match we lost we managed to take to game three, which is reassuring. Usually there was one card from our opponent that took their game over the top, which we were unable to deal with: Keranos, God of Storms in Splinter Twin, Rancor in Zoo, etc. This is a good sign, because it ends up pointing to simple variance being the culprit in these situations.
That being said, I'm not particularly sold on the deck for the same reason that I've been avoiding if for months: while I love the green/black color combination (often supplemented with blue, mind you), the deck is simply too fair for me to consider when most people can win matches with two cards. While most other decks in the format can win by "having it," our deck is trying to make sure we stop them from "getting it." I think most of the time I've been playing Modern, I have decided I would rather be the guy who makes them stop me from having it rather than the guy who hopes they don't have it, if that makes sense.
Nevertheless, Byron did just qualify for the Pro Tour with the deck, so it does have a few things going on. One thing I felt almost immediately was that I wish the deck had more threats. We have four Tarmogoyfs, four Dark Confidants, three Scavenging Ooze, and two Courser of Kruphix. That's pretty much it aside from the mana intensive Treetop Villages. While that may seem like a lot, you have to remember that several of these are very fragile and only hit for two damage at a time. We also ended up playing against UWR Control and a single Blade Splicer - god Forbid in conjunction with a Restoration Angel - didn't have too hard of a time shutting us down without the proper removal.
But again, this deck is a pretty common staple in the format. It puts up results, and while it does play a very fair game, it does so very efficiently. It has one of the highest one-mana discard spell counts around and some of the most versatile removal available. It has four copies of the most oppressive planeswalker and four copies of one of the strongest manlands. What the deck does do, it does extremely well.
As you can see, it does have some cards that it has a hard time against. A resolved Keranos, God of Storms, for example is almost impossible for us to beat. We don't have a single evasive creature in the deck, so if we can't get your creatures out of the way, we're certainly not going around them. Unfortunately, none of our removal takes care of a Keranos, so we have to hope we're able to discard it before they land it. Against Tron, the Wurmcoil Engine was quite hard for us to beat in game one. It would take two to three separate pieces of removal just to deal with it, unfortunately. The deck ended up performing as it should in the following games, however, and either took care of it before it was an issue, or worked around the giant 6/6 "titan" instead.
This is an attrition deck, through and through. Your goal is to grind out the opponent with one-for-one trades before overwhelming them with card advantage from something like Liliana of the Veil, Courser of Kruphix, or Dark Confidant. In our matches, however, this was easier said than done, simply because our card advantage engines had a hard time sticking around. I would also not be opposed to attributing this to me having less experience with the deck - or even with this type of deck - than others in Modern. I even make some silly misplays like playing my spell post combat (which gets countered) while I have a Tarmogoyf in play. With decks like this, or really any deck, you need to maximize every point of damage you can, and this is especially true when piloting one of the more fair decks in the format. Decks like Pod and Twin can beat you in one turn from twenty life. This deck, however, Insists on working for its victories; my advice is to learn from my mistakes (which I try to point out) and don't make it harder for the deck than it has to be.
My goal at the PTQ was to be the guy doing unfair things in a somewhat unfair format. Byron had different plans and he ended up qualifying for the Pro Tour with them, so more power to him! ...or less, depending on how you look at you. You know, cause fair decks and all that. Either way, congrats to Byron!
That's about all I have for today. Make sure to check back on Thursday as I find something to show off in Standard before the rotation takes effect. Or we could try some more Vintage, which honestly sounds much more exciting to me. Let me know in the comments which you might prefer and I'll see ya then.
Frank Lepore@FrankLepore on TwitterFrankLepore on TwitchTV