Pondering—Modern Value Burn

Lightning Helix

Contrary to what Matt would have you believe, I actually quite dislike playing control decks. I play Islands, sure, but what I love most about Blue is not about being that guy that just says “no” all the time. In truth, it’s my love for value and tempo that make me play Blue.

Take, for example, my first ever Standard deck. Odyssey block UG Madness. I loved that deck, and not just because it cost something to the tune of $20 and was therefore perfect for Middle School Li. The real reason was because it was a tempo deck that was filled to the brim with value. It beat people with a bear that: a) grew bigger, b) let you cast spells at a vast discount, and c) was incidentally the hardest creature to kill in the format since it dodged Terror.

Fast forward to my second Standard deck ever, UW Delver almost ten years later. Yeah, okay, it played Mana Leak. But that’s not why I loved that deck. It was the tempo blowouts thanks to cards like Vapor Snag, Gut Shot, and of course, Snapcaster Mage. And nothing, and I mean nothing, screams “value” more than flashing back a Ponder.

And honestly, who can hate a guy for liking value? I know I can’t.

So naturally, when I saw the deck that won the MTGO PTQ during Atlantic City weekend, I just had to sleeve it up and give it a try. I jammed about a dozen games against Zac at the store today, against his modified version of UW, one that combined the light creature count and heavy countermagic suite of the Sun Titan variant and the high Planeswalker density of the Colin Morton build. I think I lost only one game the entire day, maybe two. The deck is fantastic. The amount of burn in it is just ridiculous. Zac’s deck aimed to bury me under the overwhelming card advantage generated by spells like Spreading Seas, Cryptic Command and his numerous Planeswalkers; but each time, I simply sent all my burn to his face and got there with either a Geist or a hasty/flashy flyer.

And don’t even get me started on Electrolyze. Man is that card good.

The best part of the deck, I think, is its flexibility. In my matches against Zac, I was the beatdown, but I can easily see this deck doing an effortless 180 and be the control. With 15 removal spells and four Snapcaster to recur any of them, it’s hard to imagine any creature staying on the board for long against this list. I can see how this deck can be a little soft to the more dedicated non-creature combo decks though. Storm and Scapeshift with decent draws can probably live at a precarious life total and go off through the deck’s comparatively light suite of permission spells. The maindeck Aven Mindcensors seem to be a nod toward this problem (at least as far as Scapeshift is concerned).

I’d need more testing against other archetypes to be sure, but here are a few changes I would make to the list. First and foremost, Izzet Charms have got to go. Those cards suck; even the pilot that took down the PTQ said so. He stated that he would give Restoration Angel a try in their stead, but I’d personally try out Magma Jet. That card is sweet for several reasons. It’s burn that goes either to the dome or to a creature; it fits the 2CMC slot that Izzet Charm leaves behind; and most importantly, the Scry 2 is perfect for a deck that just wants to keep drawing gas.

I would also switch out a Geist for a second Hellkite, or even cut the Sword to make room. Hellkite is exactly what this deck wants to do, and since we’re on 25 lands (or as I like to call it, “The Colonnade and Tec Edge Fun Zone”), five mana is not at all difficult to get to.

Again, I need more games against more decks before I can deliver a final stamp of approval, but things look promising. Who knows, if things go well, I might just end up rocking this at the Twenty Sided PTQ.

9 Responses to “Pondering—Modern Value Burn”
  1. Matt Jones says:

    1, I don’t hate anyone.

    2, where’s the deck list? (Are there counterspells in there???)

    3, your deck is missing 10-20 green cards.

    • Li Xu says:

      The list just won GP Bilbao, beating Jund in the finals. I think this is the next evolution of the UW list and would definitely learn the matchup prior to the PTQ at the store.

      • Matt Jones says:

        Ah ok! Please post decklists you’re talking about so we don’t have to hunt for them or have them in separate windows 🙂

        4 Arid Mesa
        4 Celestial Colonnade
        1 Glacial Fortress
        2 Hallowed Fountain
        2 Island
        1 Mountain
        1 Plains
        1 Sacred Foundry
        4 Scalding Tarn
        2 Steam Vents
        1 Sulfur Falls
        2 Tectonic Edge
        2 Aven Mindcensor
        4 Geist of Saint Traft
        4 Snapcaster Mage
        1 Thundermaw Hellkite
        3 Vendilion Clique
        2 Electrolyze
        2 Izzet Charm
        4 Lightning Bolt
        4 Lightning Helix
        2 Mana Leak
        3 Path to Exile
        3 Remand
        1 Sword of Fire and Ice

        1 Baneslayer Angel
        1 Batterskull
        2 Counterflux
        1 Disenchant
        2 Engineered Explosives
        2 Pyroclasm
        2 Rule of Law
        2 Sowing Salt
        2 Tempest of Light

        Sleeve this f’er up and let’s get to play testing. Most of my missing cards showed up today. I’m going to put Bears, Pod, Dredge, and Elves together tonight and should have them for tomorrow if you wanna hit it up right at 6pm.

  2. Junie says:

    Yo, Li, this is the first Geist deck that I’ve ever considered building. Quick question: How much of a priority is protecting Geist in this deck? I personally can’t see myself playing a list that is all-in on Geist. I’m guessing that he’s not the be-all, end-all given that you’re considering cutting one…

    • Li Xu says:

      I think it’s matchup dependent, but most of the time you’ll likely use him as a burn spell. And there will obviously be situations where you put yourself in a better situation by keeping him alive (say, blowing out two blocking Lingering Souls with a value Electrolyze). But yeah, since there’s so much burn, I’d guess you wouldn’t be afraid ever to just straight ship him in.

  3. Junie says:

    do you think Boros Charm, Aurelia’s Fury, or Skullcrack (or any other GTC crash) will find a home in the deck?

    • Li Xu says:

      All definite possibilities. Four to the face is very good, especially in a deck with Snaps. Aurelia’s Fury is Cryptic Command in RW with the added bonus of delaying combo decks a whole turn thanks to the Silence clause. Skullcrack will probably be SB material, if that. Lifegain’s not super relevant in Modern, though we are seeing a resurgence of Kitchen Finks both in Jund builds and the more controlly UW builds with Sun Titan and Sphinx’s Rev. Might be brutal against Soul Sisters too.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] and wins two PTQs and a GP in succession. Only this time, the deck is playing with some new toys. I wrote about it immediately after the two PTQs, before the GP Bilbao win, and was impressed to no end. The deck has […]

  2. […] and wins two PTQs and a GP in succession. Only this time, the deck is playing with some new toys. I wrote about it immediately after the two PTQs, before the GP Bilbao win, and was impressed to no end. The deck has […]

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