Welcome back to Journey to GP Birmingham, our ongoing series of articles follow our continuing trials, in an attempt to prepare us for this summer’s Grand Prix in Birmingham. With only a month to go until Modern players from around the UK and beyond descend on the city of Birmingham, we catch up with James Wise as he puts the finishing touches to his now mostly Boros Burn deck. Has the last couple of months helped hone his skills? Read on and find out.
The Final Stretch
Over the last few months I have found it increasingly hard to get in some practise at any large-scale tournaments, due to a hectic work life and family commitments. But that doesn’t mean I have neglected my GP prep. I have been attending quite a few FNM’s and other small-scale events in the hopes of playing against as many different types of decks as possible. Most of the time I have had average to good success with my beloved Burn deck. After a lot of tweaking and testing I feel I have found the right build for the current meta game, although most of the differences to other Burn decks are either in the mana base or sideboard. This is the list I have settled upon.
My main take away from the last few weeks of testing is how I have to approach the different top tier decks of the format. I have always liked the saying ’Some matches are like a game of chess, while others are like hurling pebbles at siege tanks’, and this has never been truer than in this current Modern meta. I have great match ups against some decks, and yet others are sometimes just auto losses. So how do I plan on tackling all the different match ups I might face? Read on and find out.
Despite been the top deck in the format, I have had little experience facing this deck. Most of the players in my local meta don’t appear to hold a particular fondness for this deck, and so very few people have been taking it to any event I have attended. Luckly, the few times I have played against the deck I have found it to be a great match up. The entire idea of the Death’s Shadow strategy is to reduce your own life total to fuel your name sake card, which helps us out no end. All we have to do is hold on to a few Instant speed Burn spells while we swing in with our own creatures. When our opponent reduces their life total low enough, we just hit them with our store of Instants and finish out the game in short order. After game one our opponent will more than likely lay off the self-destruction and instead will try to focus on a more mid-range game. This can work to our advantage as we have more time to find that all important kill spell. I generally remove all of my Searing Blazes and a couple of Rift Bolts, slotting in my three Path to Exiles, the Deflecting Palms and a single Rest in Peace. Most of my opponent’s creatures are too big to be removed by the Blazes, and the Rift Bolts can allow them to gage what their life total will be in advance. The Paths on the other hand handle any opposing threats very well, and the Rest in Peace is a headache for my adversaries Snapcaster Mages. Finally, there is nothing as satisfying as redirecting a lethal Death’s Shadow or Gurmag Angler with a Deflecting Palm, so I would be remised to leave them out.
Affinity can either be an easy game one, or an absolute nightmare. It largely depends on whether I am on the play or not, as if I am able to have access to my second land before my opponent can establish a dominating board presents I can halt the vast amount of damage I can receive. It’s an interesting match up as I more often than not take on the role of a control player, targeting my opponent’s creatures rather than their life total. Once I am in control of the board I can then focus on the beat down, as it can be very difficult for Affinity player to regain a footing once they have dumped out their hand. In terms of sideboarding I generally remove the Rift Bolts and board in the Destructive Revelry. It’s also important to remain focused on my opponent’s board state, as this will dictate how best to use my Destructive Revelry’s. If my adversary has got out their Mox Opal but has failed to find and Glimmervoids or Springleaf Drums, then targeting the Mox is the better plan as it will cut them off from casting spells such as Galvanic Blast. Over all my games against Affinity are fairly good, especially after sideboarding.
Eldrazi Tron and B/G Tron
Remember when I talked about some games been like hurling pebbles at siege tanks? Meet the siege tank. Tron is by far my most disliked match up and it all has to do with one Artifact, and that Artifact my friend is Chalice of the Void. Since my deck is so close to the ground containing no three drops in the mainboard, I can quickly be locked out of the game by a turn two and turn four Chalice. If my opponent can’t find a Chalice in game one, then I have a good chance to pick up an early win. The issue comes in game two, when my opponent knows my battle plan and will aggressively mulligan to find that all important turn two Chalice. While I can do the same with my Destructive Revelry’s it is more often than not worst for me to do so. My deck hinges on the amount of gas in my hand, and when I mulligan to find an answer to my opponent’s hate cards I can find myself coming up short. I can always try and keep a highly aggressive hand, but if I see that turn two Chalice with no Revelry’s in my hand I will find myself fighting an uphill battle.
Now this is a deck I have had a lot of practise against. Been the favoured deck of my fellow master Chris Vincent as well as many other local players, I have had the pleasure of facing it more than a few times. This match up is all about speed, as if I allow my opponent any room to establish a board state I will quickly find myself out matched. However, if I can put on the pressure early and often I can quickly overwhelm my adversary before they can find any answers. One of the cards I have to look out for in this match up is Spell Snare, as if there is a single Blue mana open, I can find some of my most powerful spell such as Boros Charm been countered. The main goal is to focus on single mana spells such as Lava Spike and my creatures to close out the game as early as turn three or four. When it comes to game two I must be aware of Runed Halo and Dispel, and will probably remove the Searing Blazes for a couple of Destructive Revelry’s and my Rest in Pieces. Focus on been aggressive and don’t relent, that is my game plan.
These two decks have similar strategies, focusing on filling the graveyard and then recurring threats. Both can be very fast and unlike Affinity, they are very resilient to removal. The aim in the first game is to be as fast as possible, putting on the pressure and not letting up for even a moment. This is a race pure and simple, and I can’t afford a misstep. Game two however is another kettle of fish. The most obvious choice from my sideboard is of course Rest in Peace, with a couple of Paths to permanently remove any pesky threats. Unlike our Tron match up, aggressive mulligan’s can help you out no end. A turn two Rest in Piece is almost impossible for some graveyard based decks to fight through and can give us plenty of breathing room to find the gas we need to win. Now I’m not saying I will mulligan down to three cards or anything, but going down to an ok six with a Rest in Piece is far better than keeping a Burn heavy seven in this particular match up.
And that will about do it for this entry. Yes, I haven’t gone through all the decks I might face over the weekend, but I don’t want to reveal all my tricks do I. We here at Master of Magics are very much looking forward to GP Birmingham. While some of us will been hitting up the side events, me and Chris Vincent will be battling it out for supremacy in the main event. If you are heading to the GP yourself I hope you have a great time. And hey, if you see any of us and we aren’t on the middle of a game, come over and say hi. GP’s are a great experience and really bring our community together, and I indented to make the most of a weekend full of Magic.