For those of you that might remember (and for those of you that don't, I guess), I wrote about a Modern Zur list about a year ago. Zach Gutnik managed to Top 4 a TCGplayer Modern State Championship with the list and it seemed pretty sweet.
Fast forward to about three weeks ago when a different player, Timothy Fay, managed to Top 8 the SCG Modern event in Worcester. Zur strikes again. On the third episode of the Freshly Brewed podcast, Ali Aintrazi and I discuss Coldsnap, how obscure the cards are, and the few cards that made a competitive impact (or still are). Zur the Enchanter is a card that seems to keep popping up in Modern from time to time to show us that there are quite a few relevant enchantments that cost three mana or less.
The best part about Zur is that he's a card similar to cards like Splinter Twin, in that they get better the more options you have to use with them and the more cards that get printed. Once Deceiver Exarch was printed (and to a lesser extent Village Bell Ringer and Restoration Angel), Splinter Twin became that much more versatile. The same is true with Zur and my biggest excitement came after Bitterblossom was unbanned.
Unfortunately the list we're looking at today doesn't contain the tribal enchantment, but it does have a minor pedigree behind it so I'm eager to try it out.
My final record with the deck was actually 2-3, and while I could have kept a better hand against the Burn deck, I think there are some larger inherent problems going on.
My first question is whether Duress is better than Thoughtseize. Sure, you take less life loss, but every other deck in the format has already accepted that Thoughtseize is a much less narrow card. I think I would simply go with two supplemental Thoughtseize if I needed a fifth and sixth one mana discard spell, but ultimately I would probably just omit them from the maindeck to begin with.
My other biggest concern is that we have access to black, yet we're not using cards like Disfigure (which I think is one of the best removal spells in the format right now) or even something like Ultimate Price or Go for the Throat. Instead we're using four Path to Exile, which are actually counterproductive to our Mana Leak and Spell Pierce plans. To put it another way, every Path to Exile we cast is ramping them to 50% of the Spell Pierce fee.
In fact I would go so far as to say that I think Mana Leak is actually bad in a deck where you want to constantly tap out for things like Geist of Saint Traft or the namesake card, Zur the Enchanter. If we're trying to keep mana up for Mana Leak, I would much prefer having something like Vendilion Clique or Snapcaster Mage in the deck (which having zero of is also surprising to me). This is basically a tap out deck where we want to cast our Spreading Seas on turn two, our Geist of Saint Traft on turn three, and our Zur the Enchanter on turn four. If I am incorrect and this is not our plan, then we need more of the aforementioned control elements to help us, you know, control the game.
Aside from the maindeck, I would definitely feel more comfortable with another Timely Reinforcements in the sideboard, or some additional removal spells against infect. Unfortunately Illness in the Ranks affects one of our primary threats in the form of Lingering Souls, so perhaps something like Ghostly Prison would be better. In fact I don't see how it wouldn't be considering that it also has the potential to work against decks like Zoo or Burn (if we actually had time to play it against them, that is).
Ultimately, I wasn't thrilled with this version of the deck or some of the choices. What this version did show me is that a Zur strategy could definitely be possible, but I think we're trying to do two different things here. Are we tapping out or countering? Why Duress? Why Spell Pierce? Why Mana Leak and Path together? I asked a lot of questions about the deck and I think making some changes could really make it a true contender, especially considering that this version alone made the Top 4 of a pretty sizable event. Maybe there is room for that Bitterblossom after all.
I'll be back on Thursday with some more sweet Standard action, but in the meantime feel free to catch my stream on TwitchTV or my brand new podcast with Ali Aintrazi, Freshly Brewed (which you can find on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or the link below). Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
@FrankLepore on Twitter
FrankLepore on TwitchTV , streaming Monday - Thursday afternoons
Freshly Brewed Podcast with Ali Aintrazi (also available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio)