Pondering—PTQ Philadelphia

Now that the PTQ season has officially switched over to Modern, it’s time to get our travels on. Matt, Monique, Rob, Luis and I met up in front of Twenty Sided in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, and off to Philly we went. I ran the same list I X-0’d Monthly Modern with the previous weekend. I was feeling confident and looking to do well. 189 players showed up to the event, meaning it’d be eight rounds of Swiss before a cut to top 8.

Round one: Nick D. — Eggs
When my opponent suspended Lotus Bloom to start things off, I was immediately glad that I had kept a hand with a Snapcaster and a Geist. However, I was on the draw and hurting for countermagic. I flashed in Snap at EoT and dropped Geist. I took him down to 10 before he comboed off. I conceded after the second Faith’s Reward and went to boards.

-2 Dismember, -4 Path to Exile, -2 Baneslayer Angel
+2 Stony Silence, +2 Rest in Peace, +2 Steel Sabotage, +2 Negate

A turn 2 Stony Silence made things very difficult for my opponent in this game. Things got a little scary when he cast Echoing Truth on the Stony as I flashed in Vendilion Clique, but with not enough resources out he attempted to go off to no avail. From there, I replayed the Stony, delivered the beats with Snapcaster and Clique while constantly keeping up countermagic, and it was academic from there.

Game three would be a repeat, with turn 2 Stony Silence and a Steel Sabotage to counter the Lotus Bloom. Nick would Echoing Truth the Stony and attempt to go off again, but conceded when he didn’t see a Reshape to find a Bloom.

1-0 matches, 2-1 games.

Round two: Josh — UW Tempo
“Mirror, mirror on the wall…” said Josh as I led off with tapped Colonnade. This was the first time I had played the mirror, but having played enough matches against UWR Delver, I knew how scary a protected Geist can be. So I waited until I could back up my Geist with a Spell Snare to play it, which went unopposed. My opponent untapped and played a Baneslayer, which was immediately Dismembered. I got in a couple of hits with Geist before he played a Gideon and used his +2 ability, but Cryptic Command sent Gideon back to his hand, allowing me to get in for the kill. As we went to boards, Josh joked about bringing in Akroma, Angel of Fury, morphing it and blinking it with Restoration Angel to unmorph it. Super secret tech!

-2 Mana Leak
+1 Sword of War and Peace, +1 Disenchant

Not much to say about this game. I weathered early beats from my opponent’s Clique and Snapcaster before drawing a Sword and sticking it on an Angel. Four turns later, I had a second win in the bag.

2-0 matches, 4-1 games.

Round three: Sal — Kiki Pod
When Sal started the game with an untapped Temple Garden into Avacyn’s Pilgrim, I actually put him on Hate Bears, but a Fire-Lit Thicket the next turn clued me in on what he was actually playing. Sal accelerated at a frightening pace toward what I could only assume was a combo kill, but luckily I had a Clique in hand and took away his Kiki-Jiki before he was able to pull off the infinite combo. He killed the Clique with a Murderous Redcap, and got me down to 12 before I stabilized with a Baneslayer and rode it all the way to victory.

-2 Mana Leak, -2 Spell Snare, -1 Geist of Saint Traft
+2 Celestial Purge, +2 Supreme Verdict, +1 Disenchant

Clique did a ton of work again this game, throwing Kiki-Jiki to the bottom and getting in two hits before getting Pathed. Sal got in a few exalted hits with his mana dork before I followed up with another Clique, which Sal responded to by flashing in his Restoration Angel, which was his only card in hand. I happily pulled the trigger on the Supreme Verdict and got a 4-for-2, killing two dorks, a Spellskite and the Angel. I dropped Baneslayer the next turn, which Sal would copy with Phantasmal Image. I promptly Pathed it and dealt the finishing blow with Baneslayer and Colonnade.

3-0 matches, 6-1 games.

Lunch break and status report:
Luis (Spirit Jund): 0-2 drop
Tony (Spirit Jund): 1-2 drop
Monique (Spirit Jund): 1-2
Matt (GW Hate Bears): 1-2 drop
Rob (GW Hate Bears): 2-1

Tony, Matt and Luis left to catch a train back to New York, so it was down to Rob, Monique and myself to represent 20SS. Overall the room seemed very prepared for Jund, so much so that there weren’t any in the top tables after the first three rounds. Affinity was popular, as was Pod, with a few other combo decks floating around. Round four was called and off I went.

Round four: Joe — Tribal Zoo
This round was over quickly. It was my first time playing against the deck and I had no idea how fast it could actually be. My opponent curved out with Hierarch, Geist, Bloodbraid into burn with Tribal Flames and Lightning Helix backup both games and completely smashed me. I also approached the matchup in the wrong way, I feel like. Instead of hiding behind Blade Splicer tokens until my opponent ran out of gas (which admittedly was a lot), I chose to go aggressive and try to match tempo. I found out the hard way that there’s no real way to efficiently race some of the most aggressive creatures in the format backed up by burn.

For what it’s worth, my sideboarding decision was as follows:
-2 Mana Leak, -2 Dismember
+1 Kitchen Finks, +1 Sword of War and Peace, +2 Supreme Verdict

3-1 matches, 6-3 games.

Round five: Nick L — UW Tempo
Another mirror, except this one was not as close as my second round. Nick was running Remands, which I felt was incorrect. I landed a Geist and Spell Snared his Snapcaster ambush attempt and that was it for the first game. I went with the same board plan as round two.

Game two was the same with Geist doing most of the work and Nick never finding an answer. I should note that Nick played Rest in Peace at one point. I don’t like bringing it in against Snapcaster decks; if it’s going to turn off both of our graveyards I’d rather let my opponent waste the card slots in his deck to do so.

4-1 matches, 8-3 games.

Round six: Pete — Kiki Pod
This round made me wish I had included some copies of Aven Mindcensor in the sideboard. In game one, with my opponent close to dead after I Cliqued away his Kiki-Jiki, he simply untapped and drew the Chord of Calling to win. Game two was even worse as he landed Pod on turn 3 and wasted no time turning his Wall of Roots into a Magus of the Moon. I never drew the Dismember and Pete comfortably comboed out to kill me.

4-2 matches, 8-5 games.

The second loss effectively put me out of top 8 contention, but since Monique and Rob were intent on playing out the last two rounds, I figured I might as well go for some Planeswalker points and help secure a few byes for future GPs.

Round seven: Ian — Kiki Pod
I would lose this round as well, though the games were closer. I failed to stop an organic Pod chain in the first game, got the second through a protected Geist, and frustratingly came one turn short of killing my opponent when he topdecked the Negate he needed to counter the Celestial Purge pointed at his Kiki-Jiki, after I had already fought through a Glen Elendra Archmage. Bad beats, but still my fault for not being prepared for the matchup.

4-3 matches, 9-7 games.

Round eight: Rob Kofsky — GW Hate Bears
Rob was also 4-3 after round seven, and we joked about playing each other. Sure enough, be careful what you wish for. I was excited to play Rob as he is one of the best players at the store, no questions asked. It was also the first time we faced each other in a constructed format. I was on the play and Mana Leaked a turn two Thalia and followed it up with a Geist. I Dismembered the second Thalia and that was all she wrote. Despite being a three mana do-nothing in certain situations, Geist is still one of the scariest creatures in the format.

-2 Mana Leak, -1 Spell Snare
+2 Supreme Verdict, +1 Sword of War and Peace

Game two was as lopsided for Rob as the previous was for me. He was able to lock me down with Thalia, Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor, which effectively turned his Ghost Quarters into Strip Mines as he decimated my mana base. I eventually found a way to deal with two of them, but my life total was too low at that point, and Rob killed me with the remaining guy and his Stirring Wildwood.

Game three was also a grind, but a very close one. We both mulled to six and just threw haymakers at each other, each removing multiple Baneslayers until my Clique and Moorland Haunt token sat staring at Rob’s Arbiter and manland. I had a mental slip — the first one all day — and attacked my Clique into his Stirring Wildwood, forgetting that it had Reach, but Rob graciously let me back it up. We did some more staring at each other before I ripped a Sword off the top. Rob couldn’t find an answer in time and I took the match.

At the end of the day, it was 5-3 matches, 10-8 games. Rob and Monique both finished at 4-4.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’m glad I stuck around to play the entire event. I hit a bit of a wall after the sixth round and felt extremely tired, but I tried to not let it affect my performance. The deck performed well and gave me mostly keepable hands all day, and aside from the match against Tribal Zoo, I don’t think I made any other major misplays the rest of the day. It did make me think back to Ari Lax’s article a month or so ago talking about the major archetypes in Modern. In his section on UW, he said the deck rewards tight play and the matches will generally be close — which they were, for the most part (again, not counting Tribal Zoo and the mirrors, though I like to think that’s because I was a lot more familiar with the deck than my opponents were).

In terms of matchups, I managed to avoid some of the major archetypes altogether. No Jund, no Affinity, no Tron. The first was probably because, as I mentioned earlier, the room was prepared for Jund. Most of the Jund players lost early, and I started the day 3-0, which made our chances of meeting up highly unlikely. But the fact that I didn’t play against Affinity, Tron or Scapeshift was rather fortunate. Affinity just mauls me while the other two out-mana UW real quick. Luckily, the addition of Aven Mindcensor after the beating I took from Pod will also incidentally make things awkward for those two decks. As for Affinity, well, let’s hope my luck continues in future events.

Big thanks to Monique and Rob for saving a seat for me in the car, and Luis and Matt for making the car ride down such an enjoyable experience. There are two more PTQs next weekend — Selden, NY on Saturday and Bound Brook, NJ on Sunday. I’d like to make it to one of them and keep the momentum going. Until then, have a safe and happy New Year everyone!

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Comments
10 Responses to “Pondering—PTQ Philadelphia”
  1. Rich Stein says:

    The Tribal Zoo deck sounds like it’s wicked fast. Are you planning on making any changes to your deck for next weekend?

    • Li Xu says:

      The Zoo deck is ridiculous, it’s like the UWR Delver decks of old in that it doesn’t care about its life total, happy to bolt itself with fetches and shocklands so that it can consistently Tribal Flames for 4 or 5, and it runs Path for when creatures are too big. I think conservative play is the key to beating the deck, though some help from Kitchen Finks never hurts.

      As for changes, Mindcensors are going in for any deck that searches its deck a lot (Pod, Tron, Scapeshift). I’m also considering Shadow of Doubt for the same matchups, though it may be overreacting a bit. It’s hard finding room in the side when so much of it has to be devoted toward Affinity.

      • Rich Stein says:

        I always wanted Shadow of Doubt to be good, but it just never really gets there. Mindcensor isn’t awful for sure, and might be a good idea.

        Battling any fast aggro deck usually hinges on them overextending into a Wrath effect. Another option would be life-gain out of the sideboard. You’re usually only a turn or two away from stabilizing when they kill you. An effect like Heroes Reunion or Peace of Mind could work well out of the board in Bant against Aggro, and maybe even against Jund, I’m not sure.

      • Li Xu says:

        Finks is quite good in the situation, but then it just comes back to not having enough room in the board again. I might cut the Negates, actually. Most of my matches I boarded out countermagic, and Negate only really comes in handy versus decks that out-mana quickly, which Mindcensor kind of handles from a different angle.

  2. Allen says:

    Any interesting tech from the pod decks?

  3. So, Li, I’ve got a few things I’ve learned about the U/W deck, mostly from MTGO testing.

    I gave up trying to beat aggro decks with straight U/W. The deck can’t present enough removal to win–and you’re kind of on the “ride the geist-ning” plan a lot of the time. Also, turn 1 Birds/Noble Hierarch/Deathrite Shaman was a beating.

    I ended up splashing red for a set of bolts (-2 Wall of Omens, -2 Dismember,+4 Lightning Bolt, -1 Moorland Haunt, -1 Eiganjo Castle, -4 Seachrome Coast,-3 Blue Fetch,-1 White Fetch,-1 Island,+4 Arid Mesa,+4 Scalding Tarn,+1 Steam Vents,+1 Sacred Foundry,+1 Mountain). Solves a whole host of problems. First–you can beat turn 1 Deathrite Shaman/Noble Hierarch in a way which doesn’t make you want to die. Second–sometimes, with 8 removal spells main-deck, you can play “kill all the monsters.” This is particularly effective against decks like hatebears, and whatever random tribal aggro you might face. Third, you get to fight Affinity, Pod and Jund with Pyroclasm, which is just a huge beating. Combust out of the sideboard is good times in the mirror and the against Twin. Counterflux as a true “no sir” is a huge beating against non-Boseiju Scapeshift, and very solid against other blue decks too.

    Metagame concerns aside–you also can just burn people out, and have fewer true bricks against decks like Eggs. It lets you play as an aggro deck more easily.

    You lose some points in all your matchups to your manabase not being the most stable thing anymore–but I never liked the U/W deck’s manabase, as 5 colorless lands was always super awkward for me.

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  1. […] last week’s beating at the hands of Pod, I jammed a couple of Aven Mindcensors into the board. Vasu had suggested […]

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