Grand Prix Liverpool and Modern
Hi everyone, as you might have heard, this past weekend thousands of Magic players descended upon the Liverpool ACC to play some Team Unified Modern. I played in the main event and chose to team with some good friends of mine in Tom Law and David Calf. After the RPTQ, where David lost in the top 8 with Bant Spirits and Tom lost in the finals of the Last Chance Qualifier with KCI, we had decided that they would play said decks which left me looking for a deck.
We had a small discussion leading up to the event which led us to the conclusion that out of our three decks, one should contain Noble Hierarch, one should contain Ancient Stirrings, and one should contain Faithless Looting. After Ancient Stirrings and Noble Hierarch were taken by my teammates I found myself looking for a Faithless Looting deck to play. I started looking towards Dredge as an starting point as I believe it is the most powerful Faithless Looting deck when it gets to execute its game plan unmarauded. The problem with this is the fact that the deck gets crippled by powerful graveyard hate such as Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace, and combined with the fact that our KCI deck had taken Nature’s Claim for their sideboard, I had to consider some other options.
Next, I explored the newest hotness in the Modern format, Izzet Phoenix. The deck is based around Arclight Phoenix from Guilds of Ravnica and a handful of cantrips, cheap spells, and self discard to get our Arclight Phoenixes into the graveyard. The problem that we found with the deck is that the payoffs just weren’t good enough for the amount of work that needed to be put in to get the phoenixes into your yard. So we turned, finally, to our backup option.
Hollow One is a deck that has been around since the namesake card was released in Hour of Devastation and is capable of some super explosive turn 1’s with a combination of either Street Wraith and Faithless Looting or Burning Inquiry allowing us to deploy multiple copies of Hollow One to the battlefield before your opponent even has their first turn. The other appeal of Hollow One as a deck is that it is far less vulnerable to graveyard hate cards than the previous two decks as your first few threats will typically end the game themselves. After playing a few leagues with each deck I decided to put the rest of my time into trying to learn Hollow One as best as I could and finding a good list. Thankfully there were very few card crossovers with KCI and Bant Spirits, and so I was fairly unrestricted in my deckbuilding.
A few days before the tournament a pair of Hollow One articles were published; one by Martin Juza on Channel Fireball (https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/hollow-one-in-modern/) and the other by Pete Ward (one of the best talents that English Magic has to offer) on Hareruya (https://article.hareruyamtg.com/article/16815/?lang=en). I decided to go with Pete’s list as I had been discussing the deck with him the past weekend at the RPTQ, and his sideboard was more achievable as I didn’t have access to Engineered Explosives. After a night of playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate and reading both articles a few times over, I was ready for the GP.
The main event
As this was a team event, there were no byes which meant that it was an earlier start than normal for us as we headed to the venue for around 8:45 am. We got to the venue and found our seat for Round one to start off the tournament.
Spirits vs Spirits
Hollow One vs KCI
KCI vs Arclight Phoenix
Round one started with a Spirits mirror for David, me playing against KCI, and Tom facing off against Arclight Phoenix. My games consisted of presenting my opponent with a Hollow One on turn 1 in both game one and two. In the first game, I died on turn three, and in the second a timely Thoughtsieze made sure I could take the game. Game three saw my opening hand containing Scalding Tarn, Hollow One x2, Street Wraith x2, Goblin Lore, and Leyline of the Void – a powerful hand as long as I was able to draw a second land within the top 5 or so cards of my library. Unfortunately my extra draws with Street Wraith and natural draws could not find me a second land before I got buried by an army of thopters courtesy of Sai, Master Thopterist. I finished my match at the same time as David had won his, meaning that the round was on the KCI against Arclight Phoenix matchup. After being put far behind by an early Arclight Phoenix and a pair of Surgical Extraction Tom just wasn’t able to find a mass of artifacts to create enough Thopter tokens to block and survive. 0-1
Starting the tournament 0-1 is never where anyone wants to be but we were prepared to fight back and make our best attempt at making day 2.
Spirits vs Hardened Scales
Hollow One vs Jeskai Thing in the Ice
KCI vs Dredge
After losing round one we got paired against the team of Pete Ward, Marc Tobiasch, and Fabrizio Anteri – a daunting team to play against. From my point of view, nothing much happened in my match. Both games I got to execute my plan perfectly and started with 2 Hollow Ones on the table on turn 1 in both games which lead to Marc being put under more pressure than he could handle. David was quickly dispatched by Fabrizio as the Hardened Scales matchup is a tough one for Spirits due to Walking Ballista and Hangerback Walker being able to easily take over the board. As in round one, the match came down to Tom with KCI. After winning game one while David and I were still playing, game 2 presented us with a number of complicated scenarios as we had to try and navigate a pair of Ancient Grudges while under a fast clock. We ended up taking a line where we had to go to 1 life after an attack and leave ourselves dead to a third Conflagrate in the hope of drawing a Krark-Clan Ironworks to string together an infinite combo. Luckily, our deck was co-operative and we moved to 1-1.
Spirits vs Tron
Hollow One vs Burn
KCI vs Spirits
Round three found my teammates with poor matchups meaning that we would have to win one against the odds to keep our back away from the wall. My games were once again uninteresting as the Hollow Ones continued to appear on turns 1 and 2. The spirits against Tron matchup became very anticlimactic when Ugin, the Spirit Dragon appeared on turn 4 to clear our otherwise lethal board in both games to make the game score 1-1. As became common, Tom was the last match remaining and was facing down a board of Spell Queller hiding a Galvanic Blast, 2x Drogskol Captain, Reflector Mage, Supreme Phantom, and Noble Hierarch. We had to block with a thopter and activate Inventor’s Fair to search for Engineered Explosives, however we needed to draw an artifact to turn on our Mox Opal, or draw a Yavimaya Coast to be able to cast the explosives for 3. Unfortunately we drew the 4th copy of Grove of the Burnwillows to die to the spirit army. 1-2
Spirits vs Storm
Hollow One vs Bogles
KCI vs Tron
We were 1-2 and our backs were, most assuredly, against the wall. This round we had some slightly more favourable matchups across the board. My hand in game one was a 6 card hand with Street Wraith, Hollow One x2, Faithless Looting, Goblin Lore, and Flamewake Phoenix on the draw with a scry. I think that this hand is good enough on the draw – you get to look at 3 cards to find a land and if you hit one then you can make 2 Hollow Ones on turn one and set yourself up to win the game. Of course, the land never showed and we rather swiftly lost game 1, but my one copy of Liliana of the Veil from the sideboard stole game two before a pair of mulligans allowed me to take the match. David’s spirit army managed to Quell enough spells so that we won the round before Tom had to finish his match! 2-2
Spirits vs UW Control
Hollow One vs Dredge
KCI vs Infect
This round we got paired against the team of Charles Eliatamby, Griffin Russell, and Sam Rolph – another powerful team. My game one started with a pair of Hollow Ones being able to outrace a slow dredge hand and a turn zero leyline was enough to seal game 2. David’s Spirits were able to dodge Terminus in game 1 and a timely Knight of Autumn to destroy a Detention Sphere freed 2 Selfless Spirits to take game 2 and the round. 3-2
Spirits vs Elves
Hollow One vs Grixis Death’s Shadow
KCI vs Infect
Another round with bad matchups. Tom lost pretty quickly to Infect before either David or I finished game one. David’s games were super close with game three coming down to a pair of Collected Companies needing to hit 2 spirits but it was not to be. After putting into play a Noble Hierarch and a Selfless Spirit, our tournament was over. 3-3.
After being eliminated I immediately wanted to sign up for the PTQ the following day because I was having so much fun playing Hollow One. The rest of the day was filled with Smash Bros and dinner with the Master of Magics crew before heading back and getting some sleep.
The PTQ was fairly uneventful after I lost round one to Burn and was eliminated from making the top 8, but I rattled back 4 wins against Hardened Scales, Tron, Izzet Wizards, and Hollow One before falling to the second Hardened Scales matchup to finish up the PTQ at 4-2, getting me a box topper which contained a sweet Fulminator Mage.
Team tournaments are always a lot of fun and I am always excited to play in them, even if me and my team don’t do so well. English GPs are also always the most fun because of the large amount of friends that I get to see and I can’t wait for Magic Fest London in April!
You can find me at almost every European GP and also on Twitter at @MattBrown_MTG.
Thanks for reading and good luck at your next event!