Hi All. Last weekend I had the opportunity to try and win a PPTQ and secure an invitation to this season’s RPTQ. This article will let you know how it all played out for me.
To the surprise of probably nobody, I decided to run back the exact same 5c Humans 75 as last time. I debated cutting one Reflector Mage in the maindeck for a Militia Bugler to make the deck a little more resilient to removal-based control decks like Mardu and Jeskai, but as I hadn’t really tested it out much, I thought it would be best to stick to what I know. I’ve reproduced the list below:
I’ve been playing the deck since about December 2017 and have really liked it. Below are my main reasons for sticking with the deck.
- It’s the new Jund?: I believe its general metagame ‘positioning’ is technically a bit worse than it was say six months ago. This is because over recent months, more people are picking up Mardu Pyromancer, Jeskai control, White Blue control and Tron and conversely, less people are playing decks Humans wants to play against like U/R Gifts Storm, Ad Nauseum, Grishoalbrand. However, I think the deck is still a good choice because, despite slightly more unfavourable matchups, it’s a strategy that has a reasonable chance to defeat a large cross-section of decks Modern has to offer. The ability to potentially end the game on turn four and be disruptive in the process is a strong corner from which to be fighting. The Jund menace we’ve seen over the years had a similar gameplan in the sense that it aimed to put a disruptive clock on the opponent. The humans deck is a faster and arguably more disruptive version of the deck with a better early game (but worse late game/ability to play grindy games).
- I feel confident playing this deck: I’m a believer that Modern is a format that rewards learning a specific deck very well and playing it well. Confidence is important for any Magic tournament and not having to worry about routine sequencing, mulliganing and sideboard allows me to save my energy for when I’m in a particularly tough spot.
- I find the deck fun: Competitive Magic events can sometimes be serious affairs, but I’m not ashamed to say that I’m an advocate of ‘fun’ when it comes to all kinds of Magic, competitive or casual… or maybe I’m just enjoying a refreshing change from playing Celestial Colonnade, Snapcaster Mage and Path to Exile for the previous seven years of Modern. Whatever the cause, enjoying playing my own deck helps my heart stay in the tournament. On the flipside, I’ve certainly had bad experiences bringing decks I don’t really believe in to tournaments and playing carelessly as a result.
I travelled to the event with fellow Leeds players Laurence Arnelll and Tommy Hayward. Lawrence was on Jeskai and Tommy would be playing ‘whatever deck he could borrow’ (probably Jeskai also). At the venue we also encountered Alfie Bennett, Andrew Devine, Matthew Duggan and Rob Catton. Surely at least one of us would make Top 8 this time round?
The event was held at Forge 26 in Halifax and attended by 38 players. This meant six rounds of swiss followed by a cut to Top 8. Here’s how things played out for me:
- Round 1 vs Burn – Win (2-0) – 1-0
- Round 2 vs Mardu – Loss (1-2) – 1-1
- Round 3 vs Mardu – Win (2-1) – 2-1
- Round 4 vs Storm – Win (2-0) – 3-1
- Round 5 vs Lantern – Win (2-0) 4-1
- Round 6 vs Green Tron – ID (0-0-3) 4-1-1
(as far as I’m aware that’s the match record you should put on the match slip for an ID – though most judges will simply accept ‘ID’ written on a signed slip.)
I don’t have many talking points from the swiss matches, but there was an interesting mulliganing scenario that came up. In game one of round four (against Storm) I mulliganed a 0 land 7 card hand into the following 6 card hand on the play. I knew that I was up against Storm.
Would you keep this hand? I won the game in question and the match but the process is nonetheless important. I’ll reveal what I did at the end of the article.
So I was able to make it into the Top 8 – and so did Alfie. Here’s an overview of all the decks in the Top 8 in Swiss standing order:
- 1st Hollow One
- 2nd Hollow One (Alfie)
- 3rd Green Tron (my round 6 opponent)
- 4th Mardu (my round 2 opponent)
- 5th Burn
- 6th 5c Humans (me)
- 7th Mardu
- 8th Bant Spirits
I’ll share more details on the Top 8 matches as they have more talking points than the swiss matches:
Quarterfinals vs Green Tron (on the draw)
- Game one: My turn two Kitesail Freebooter was a big reminder of why this matchup is tough. I look at my opponent’s hand of Karn Liberated, Oblivion Stone, two Wurmcoil Engines and my opponent is ready to sacrifice Expedition Map on turn two to get Tron online next turn and start casting such nonsense. I decide to take the Oblivion Stone because it at least forces the opponent to spend a turn to play the Karn and get rid of it. I still have a chance to win if my opponent doesn’t draw any land and I can draw Reflector Mage to bounce the inevitable Wurmcoil Engine. Unfortunately none of this happens, multiple Wurmcoil Engines brickroad me and buy time for him to get the Oblivion Stone back as insurance, just in case I reflect those Wurms.
- Game two: I have a hand that beats down very fast with Noble, Vial, triple Lieutenant and two lands. I start with the Vial and play the Lieutenant next turn. With the trigger on the stack I use Aether Vial to put in the Hierarch which nets both of them a +1/+1 counter. The following turn two more Lieutenants come down and I hit my opponent for nine damage. He doesn’t have turn three Tron and concedes.
- Game three: I start with a turn one Vial. My opponent misses their land drop. Turn two sees Kataki and the opponent has to decide if they want to keep map around by paying upkeep. I make sure I pay upkeep for the Vial and use Kitesail Freebooter on turn three and see a hand with Sylvan Scrying, Chromatic Star and some very big spells. I Phantasmal Image the Freebooter and take both of the cheap cards. With no topdecked lands my opponent is stranded to my three turn clock and eventually perishes over what was probably a risky keep.
Semifinals vs Mardu (on the play)
- Game one: I mulligan a one lander I can’t justify into the following six card hand.
I think some people would definitely keep this hand, but I mulliganed it. I know I’m up against Mardu and Meddling Mage isn’t a good card against them (they have too big a variety of removal spells and can slow you down with Lingering Souls), let alone on turn two. Reflector Mage is also sub-par as their early game will likely involve mono-removal peppered with Lingering Souls. Young Pyromancers often show up later to mop up rather than on turn two. Mantis Rider is ok, but with no good plays until turn 3 I think I’d rather have a shot at a more explosive hand. I get Aether Vial, Noble Hierarch, Plains, Thalia’s Lieutenant and Horizon Canopy and scry a Champion of the Parish to the top. I keep Vial on two throughout the game as there are much more relevant 2’s to flash in than 3’s. My opponent deals with my Champion and has me playing off the top of my deck while he plays and flashes back a Lingering Souls. I draw a card and attack with my 2/3 Noble Hierarch and 2 Lieutenants (one 3/3, one 1/1). My opponent blocks 3 Spirits on the 3/3 and one on the 1/1 and I Vial in the Phantasmal Image to make a third Lieutenant, kill all of my opponent’s blockers and put him on board.
- Game two: This game was super long but ultimately comes down to one important decision point about halfway through the game.
I have 2 Aether Vial (one on 2, one on 3), two Militia Bugler, a Noble Hierarch and an Auriok Champion. I have three non-Canopy lands in play and can cast anything I draw (or Vial it in if it’s a 2 or 3). In hand I have a Reclamation Sage. I draw a Phantasmal Image for the turn. I am at 24 life.
My main plan is to draw into Izzet Staticaster to destroy my opponent’s X/1s and contest the board. To facilitate this, I vial in the Reclamation Sage, choose not to destroy my Aether Vial and then Vial in the Phantasmal Image copying Bedlam Reveler. I unfortunately don’t draw anything useful at all. My opponent draws Liliana, the Last Hope and starts killing X/1 creatures and I have an ultimate ability to worry about. What I should have probably done instead is copy the Auriok Champion and get aggressive and try to give my opponent as few turns as possible to win the game. Every token made by the opponent is then +2 life and cancels out two attacks from it. Every Noble Hierarch I draw will also allow me to keep one of the Champions back if I want. As it happened I drew Hierarchs and 2/1s (things Liliana the Last Hope could outright kill) and eventually lost to the ultimate ability.
- Game three: This pans out very similarly to game two. There’s a turning point similar to the scenario outlined above during game two only I have less creatures out and he has four spirit tokens when Liliana the Last Hope joins the game. With absolutely no way to pressure the Planeswalker I’m at the mercy of the top of my deck which unfortunately only provides lands before the zombie horde arrives!
I sideboarded out a couple of Thalia’s Lieutenants against all my Mardu opponents, probably living in too much fear of Blood Moon and Ensnaring Bridge and wanting to make room for Reclamation Sages. Thinking about it more, Blood Moon is probably something I have to accept a bit more and maybe on balance its just better to stay focussed on plan A of putting as much pressure on the opponent as possible.
So I’m going to need to fight it out a bit more this season! Although disappointed not to have won, I’m generally happy with the way I played other than maybe the slightly loose sideboard tactics against Mardu based on a fear of the Blood Moon. I’ll probably be addressing that with more testing over the next couple of weeks. I’ll also admit that I need to make sure I’m a bit sharper next time as I missed a few Auriok Champion triggers and an exalted trigger – fortunately I wasn’t particularly punished for these missed triggers, but that’s besides the point.
I’m not sure when my next chance to attend a PPTQ is, but it’ll hopefully be soon and it’ll probably be Modern. I’m hoping to write a more extensive piece about Modern more generally, particularly the things I’ve learnt from playing the format more recently, which, based on some of the examples in this article, may include how I’ve (hopefully) improved my mulliganing skills!
Keep or Mull vs Storm in round 4
I mulliganed the six card hand against the Storm deck. Despite being on the play and having a turn two Freebooter this hand isn’t very good at applying pressure on the opponent and there’s a lot of reliance on topdecking a land in the first two draw steps to play Image, Bugler and Reflector. The former I don’t really consider particularly strong in the matchup. It helps find disruption but it will often be too slow to make the difference against Storm unless you are applying a lot of pressure, which we won’t without some seriously good topdecking. Reflector Mage can slow an early Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer, but they can actually pause a turn if you’re not clocking them and play the 2 drop during the turn they want to ‘go off’ sometimes. My mulligan to 5 ended up being Champion, Thalia, Thalia’s Lieutenant and two lands and I won the game quite handily.
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154) or at most PPTQs in the North of England, RPTQs, GPs in England and some other large competitive events like Mega Modern and Legacy Masters that arise during the year in the UK.
As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next event!