Pondering—The Wurm-Father

The Wurm-Father

I’ve always dismissed Wurmcoil Engine. I never thought it was a bad card—it is very clearly absurd in a vacuum—it just was never particularly relevant against the decks that I played. When it was in Standard, it was at the mercy of Vapor Snag, and that’s assuming the game even went to six turns. In Modern, it was even less of an issue, since my deck of choice played Path to Exile.

After the latest Sunday Modern, however, I take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about Wurmcoil. All hail the Wurm-Father.

I actually settled on playing what I played by pure chance. After crashing out of the inaugural Tuesday Night Modern by going 0-4 with Gifts, it was painfully apparent that I was not practiced/disciplined/smart/what-have-you enough to play the deck at an actual event just yet. I picked up a full set of Chronicles Urza-Tron lands from Luis (sadly, not Antiquities), and decided I’d give UW Tron a shot (I would have gone the GR route, but was missing too many pieces). Out of laziness and not wanting to tear apart my other existing decks (my biggest complaint about paper Magic…I know, first world problems), I did not play Path, Colonnade, or even a Gifts package. So all of a sudden, this started to look like the mono-blue, Sundering Titan Tron deck.

Due once more to laziness, I mashed the two decks together and plugged in cards that I wanted to play in the vacant slots. You should’ve seen the original pile. Sun Titan, Phantasmal Image, Ulamog’s Crusher (this one’s for you, Alex!), Myr Battlesphere. Name a janky, Timmy card that has absolutely no business being in Modern, and I probably played it in the beta version of the deck at some point. Eventually, however, I settled on this:

Deck: Jank Tron

Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard

Creatures:11
4 Treasure Mage
2 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells:26
1 Condescend
3 Expedition Map
3 Repeal
2 Azorius Signet
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Remand
1 Talisman of Progress
2 Telling Time
1 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Day of Judgment
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Mindslaver

Lands:23
1 Academy Ruins
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Glacial Fortress
3 Hallowed Fountain
3 Island
2 Plains
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower

Sideboard:15
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Negate
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Rest in Peace
1 Spellskite
1 Torpor Orb
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Supreme Verdict

The mana is surprisingly consistent for a colorless deck that wants to play double blue and double white cards. Solemns and mana rocks help out immensely in that department. Ratchet Bombs in the main was also pretty clutch. I kept them in even after I kicked Sun Titan to the curb, figuring that they are just insane against Zoo, but I didn’t realize just how sick nasty the card would be until I actually played with it (more on that in a little bit).

The game plan against the fair decks is to ramp and draw cards until you stabilize off of either a Wrath effect or a fatty. From there, it’s just a simple matter of finding an Eldrazi to close out the game. Against combo, it’s a bit of a race, and aggressive mulligans are absolutely necessary. Remand and Repeal are amazing tools for stalling until you kill them with your giant monsters.

***

Round 1: Peter—Exarch Twin
Peter’s well-known around the store for playing Twin, but I’ve never actually played against him in Modern. I was fairly certain he was on Twin when he went first turn Steam Vents, second turn Scalding Tarn. When he searched up a Stomping Ground with the Tarn, however, I got a little confused, and slightly relieved, since I kept natural Tron and Wurmcoil but not enough disruption. I got in one hit with Wurmcoil before Peter flashed in Pestermite at the end of my turn four. I held it off with a Remand, but could not draw into a second answer. Pete tried again, got it to resolve, suited it up with Splinter Twin, and we were off to boards.

-2 Telling Time, -1 Sphinx’s Revelation, -1 Day of Judgment, -1 Supreme Verdict, -1 Consecrated Sphinx
+2 Celestial Purge, +1 Torpor Orb, +1 Disenchant, +1 Negate, +1 Spellskite

No natural Tron in the second game, but with a Signet and a Solemn, I managed a T4 Wurmcoil and delivered the beats while Pete kept digging. I Remanded an EoT Pestermite at the end of my T5 to force Peter to play it during his main phase, then fetched up the last Tron piece I needed with the Map that had been sitting there since the first turn. Assembling Tron instantly accelerated me from seven available mana to 12, allowing me to cast Ulamog and Vindicate the Pestermite. Pete naturally redirected it to his Spellskite, but that put him at a low enough life total and left him with too few blockers to survive my alpha strike.

My hand for game three had one Tron land, no blue sources, and no acceleration, but there was no way in hell I was going to ship it. What could it possibly have been? Only the most insane hand against Twin ever: Plains, Urza’s Mine, Academy Ruins, Azorius Signet, Treasure Mage, and crucially, Torpor Orb and Ratchet Bomb.

T1: Mine, go.
T2: Plains, Ratchet Bomb, go.
T3: Academy Ruins, Signet, Torpor Orb, go.

The Stomping Ground in Peter’s deck reminded me that Ancient Grudge was a total possibility, but luckily for me, the only spells Peter played that entire game was the first turn Serum Visions, and a Deceiver Exarch as a blocker for my Treasure Mage. As it turned out, Peter had to send two Grudges to the bottom in search of more land, and with two Wurm-Fathers at his door-step, he extended the hand. They were exciting games, and it’s always a pleasure to play with Peter.

2-1 games, 1-0 matches.

Round 2: Robert—Four-Color Gifts
Robert was clearly a braver man than I, piloting what many consider to be the most unforgiving deck in the format. Ironically, it was I who got punished in the first game for misplays, first forgetting to draw two cards off of a resolved Sphinx, and then attacking a one-loyalty Liliana when he very obviously had another in his hand—why else would he have used the -2 when I had a Solemn to sacrifice in place of the Sphinx? I got all of my fatties either killed or Pathed, and with Robert locking me out with Ghost Quarter/Loam/Raven’s Crime, it was time to pack it up.

-2 Telling Time, -1 Day of Judgment, -1 Supreme Verdict
+2 Rest in Peace, +2 Celestial Purge

I slammed down a Rest in Peace on turn two in the second game, which greatly slowed down Robert’s game plan. He eventually dealt with it using an Engineered Explosives, but by that time I had assembled Tron, and was accelerating toward Eldrazi. Robert was able to Gifts up his Loam engine, but I simply fetched up Ulamog and blew up his green source to lock him out.

Game three saw my opponent going to 15 in order to Thoughtseize away my Wurmcoil after I had fetched one up via Treasure Mage, then 13 to get rid of them permanently via Surgical Extraction. My Sphinx ate a Go For the Throat before any cards could be drawn, and the board seemed to be at parity. Robert continually tried to keep me off of Tron via Ghost Quarter, only for me to replace them with spare pieces from my hand. I eventually found my Eye of Ugin, which spelled the end for Robert. In a costly misplay, he attempted to Snap back Go For the Throat on Ulamog, only to realize that it’s indestructible.

4-2 games, 2-0 matches.

Round 3: John Fung—Mythic Conscription
John and I both pulled an audible before the tournament, and both found ourselves in the 2-0 bracket against each other. I knew John was on this deck, it had always been his pet deck. Unfortunately for me, short of drawing my Wraths, I can’t deal with a Geist of Saint Traft with an Eldrazi Conscription on it, which was exactly what happened in the first game. My life total went: 18, 17, 16, 15, 3.

-2 Telling Time, -1 Repeal, -1 Sphinx’s Revelation
+2 Phantasmal Image, +1 Supreme Verdict, +1 Disenchant

Game two was all about Wurmcoils. John got off to a good start with turn three Elspeth off of a Lotus Cobra, but I had natural Tron and double Wurmcoil, which was too much for the deck to race. I ended the game at 43 life after hard-casting Emrakul.

Game three was again a Wurmcoil versus Elspeth race, but John crucially played Gaddock Teeg to stop both my Repeals and my Wraths. John peeled the Sovereigns of Lost Alara off the top, and I died with two Wurmcoils on the board and a Day of Judgment in hand.

5-4 games, 2-1 matches.

Round 4: Richard—Melira Pod
These games were not close, not even for Tron, which usually wins landslide victories. Game one was decided on turn two when I dropped a Ratchet Bomb. Game two I got a three for one off of Supreme Verdict when Richard went for the Township beatdown plan. The Wurmcoils and Mindslavers were irrelevant as the games were pretty over by then.

Sideboarding:
-2 Telling Time, -1 Sphinx’s Revelation
+2 Rest in Peace, +1 Torpor Orb

7-4 games, 3-1 matches.

***

Not too shabby for a troll deck. I was very fortunate against Twin and a little unlucky against Mythic, but the other two wins were well-deserved, in my estimation. The event made it real obvious which cards belong in the deck and which cards don’t. Telling Time sucks. I knew it sucked going into it, actually. The earliest builds played four, and I just kept cutting them and cutting them. The card is a complete trap. It looks so good on the surface: card draw, dig, and selection, all at instant speed. Turns out, I’d rather do any of a plethora of different things on turn two than hold up mana for Telling Time (play mana rock, play Ratchet Bomb, crack Expedition Map, hold up Remand/Condescend/Repeal). Also, it felt super awkward at times when you saw three cards and didn’t want to keep any one of them on top.

Consecrated Sphinx also sucked pretty badly at times. It’s amazing in the control matchups, and will probably be relegated to the board, but it’s just so dead in some other games. While it’s not particularly tricky to get to double blue with this deck, oftentimes it’s just not fast enough against combo decks. Along the same lines, Sphinx’s Revelation is also just too slow against combo, but I never saw the card all day, and casting it when Tron is online is absolutely amazing.

On to the all-stars, which were basically every colorless card in the deck. The rocks and Solemn all ramped, Ratchet Bomb hosed entire decks, Mindslaver was at worst a Time Walk and at best a hard-lock, and the giant monsters, well, they killed my opponents. Wurmcoil puts the game out of reach very quickly for the fair decks, and the Eldrazi usually prompted concessions on the spot. Ulamog was especially amazing every time I had him. While Ulamog himself can be countered, the Vindicate that comes with it can’t (well, not without my opponent wasting a slot on Squelch or Trickbind, anyway), and the thing I blew up was always backbreaking. And you know the deal with Emrakulstorybro already.

I tinkered with the list a little and took the following modified version to TNM:

Deck: Jank Tron v2

Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard

Creatures:10
3 Treasure Mage
2 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells:27
1 Condescend
3 Expedition Map
2 Path to Exile
3 Repeal
2 Azorius Signet
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Remand
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Sphinx's Revelation
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Day of Judgment
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Mindslaver

Lands:23
1 Academy Ruins
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Glacial Fortress
3 Hallowed Fountain
3 Island
2 Plains
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower

Sideboard:15
2 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Negate
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Pithing Needle
2 Rest in Peace
1 Torpor Orb
1 Supreme Verdict

The list still wasn’t optimal, as I would have preferred the third Wurmcoil over the Battlesphere, and I also needed some Spellskites in the side. Alas, I didn’t have access to the third Wurmcoil, and the Spellskites were in the board of UW, which was being lent out.

Regardless, I was able to go 3-1 again, beating Orlando’s Percy Grixis, Richard’s Melira Pod, and another player piloting Jund. None of the three decks were able to apply enough pressure, and I just built toward fatties, Eldrazi, or Mindslaver, and easily won. I lost against Charles Hagaman’s Gruul Zoo, a match that Spellskite would have been awesome in, especially against the two Act of Aggression he used on my Wurmcoil to kill me in games two and three. I did get perhaps the sickest Mindslaver off against Charles in the first game, though. It was looking dicey with me at six life and Charles having two Kird Apes and a Burning-Tree Emissary on the board, but I took his next turn and spent a Bolt and a Dismember in his hand to kill off his two apes. I then casually untapped and played Wurmcoil. It just felt so wrong.

It was then that I came to grips with the appeal of Tron: it lets a Spike reawaken his/her inner Timmy. Most people started off as Timmy when they first learned to play Magic. I know I did. My first booster pack was from Prophecy, and I opened Plague Wind, which, after Avatar of Might, was probably the most Timmy card in the set. Destroy all creatures you don’t control? What’s more Timmy than that? It even had the nigh-uncastable mana cost to go along with it. Fast forward a dozen years or so, and I’m casting these insanely high CMC cards fairly (well, relatively), while my opponent has to settle for a 2/2. That’s exciting.

Of course, UW is still my weapon of choice for the bigger events, but it’s nice to be able to take a break after a long PTQ season.

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