Summer’s winding down, and you know what that means: more time to play Magic! I haven’t been able to get out and play Modern in months, long enough that multiple new decks (such as Dredge and Bant Eldrazi) have become Modern mainstays. With that in mind, I was slightly nervous heading into the PPTQ I played last Saturday, but I trusted my Grixis Delver deck to see me through as best it could.
My results weren’t spectacular, but it was a fun day of magical battles, and I got to play against a couple decks I didn’t have much experience against. Some friends and I are gearing up for the Milwaukee Open in October and this was good practice for that.
For a detailed tournament report, read on!
This PPTQ was held at Misty Mountain Games in Madison, and drew a crowd of about 40 players. I’d changed my deck’s configuration only slightly from the last time I’d played Modern, adding Burst Lightning over Forked Bolt in my main deck, cutting my main deck discard spells for a couple of Gitaxian Probes (as the discard spells can make fetching lands slightly awkward), and making a couple minor changes to my sideboard. I chose the Burst Lightning because I wanted a burn spell that functioned at instant speed against Affinity’s man lands, and because the Kicker ability could help kill big fat Eldrazis. That second point was immediately relevant.
Round 1: Vs. Bant Eldrazi
This match-up felt really close, and I think I made a couple mistakes throughout it. For one thing, I may not have used my fetchlands optimally. There were a couple times I could have used them to shuffle after bad Delver of Secrets reveals, except that I’d already cracked them end of turn to avoid losing two life. The life was relevant, but the shuffle might have been more so?
I also ran into the “multiple Tasigurs” problem, and made a slightly risky/bad decision to attack with one Tasigur then play another to block. It seemed like I was in a position to race my opponent at the time, but Stubborn Denial blew out that plan, as well as several others throughout post-board games. That card is the real deal against my deck.
I snuck out game 1, but didn’t get there in games 2 or 3. I also milled my sideboarded Blood Moons (using Thought Scour) in both game 2 and 3. My luck wasn’t there, but I think I could have tightened up my play as well.
Oh well, good to play against the deck at least. On to round 2!
Round 2: Vs. Ad Naseum
My opponent and I got deck-checked this round, and my opponent ended up receiving a game loss due to a mistake he had made on his decklist. It ended up not mattering, as he beat me in both of our actual games.
In both games, I felt that I’d put on a decent amount of pressure, but just couldn’t close quite quickly enough. I basically sided out my creature removal and brought in all my counterspells for game 2, but I don’t think I brought in Echoing Truth, and I think that was wrong, as my opponent won at -5 life, and Echoing Truth could’ve bounced a Phyrexian Unlife to kill him. I was split over the course of both games as to whether I should have counter Phyrexian Unlife (my opponent cast it in both games), and I ended up countering it in the first and not countering it in the second, trying to save my counters for the Ad Nauseum itself. I’m still not sure which was right, and want to play the match-up more.
I learned that I need to mulligan for a threat aggressively and flip Delvers as soon as possible. My opponent also went off in response to a Tasigur activation that I think I had to make, but that signaled to him that the coast was clear to try his combo. I had an already revealed Countersquall in my hand, and a Mana Leak, but they weren’t enough to get through both Ad Nauseum and a Spoils of the Vault (which did not exile enough Simian Spirit Guides or Lightning Storms for my liking) to find Pact of Negation.
Round 3: Vs. Jund (or as I like to call it, the Grindhouse)
Ugh, this match-up. This is the deck I’ve most consistently gone to time against when playing Grixis Delver. Usually, if this hits game 3, no one’s gonna win. It’s just a product of how the games play out. You Terminate their guy, then they Lightning Bolt yours, then you Spell Snare a Goyf and Burst Lightning a Ravine and finally, finally stabilize behind Young Pyromancer. The games are great, but also a slog.
I lost game 1 to drawing/playing every single mana-producing land in my deck. I won game 2 while at 2 life, hiding behind a Blood Moon and sweating a top-decked Lightning Bolt for at least 5 turns.
Game 3, we drew. My opponent was ahead most of the game, but I’d managed to stick a Young Pyromancer, cantrip and create enough Elemental tokens to chump block forever, then finally turn the corner by drawing real spells. I even managed to stop my opponent from ever making a Zombie token with his Kalitas, as I killed it with a token and a Lightning Bolt.
But my opponent had gained enough life at the point to put the game out of reach, and so we shook hands at the end of extra turns. Then, we immediately shuffled up for round 4.
Round 4: Vs. Wilt-Leaf Abzan
This match was kinda strange. Game 1 played out to a point where my opponent had an overwhelming army of big dudes on the board, but he refused to block my creatures and died to Lightning Bolts. I’d made a Tasgiur on turn 2 in this game, which I think overly influenced my opponent’s sideboarding decisions.
Game 2, my opponent brought in Rest in Peace, which is fine except for the fact that it shuts off some of his best creatures (Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary). So, he had to side those creatures out. Which made the game kind of easy to win, even through the turn 2 Rest in Peace. I did get lucky in that I my draw led me to play a Young Pyromancer and removal spells game and not a turn 2 Tasigur game. But the game felt a lot more safe than game 1.
Round 5: Vs. Bring to Light Scapeshift
This match was interesting. In game 1, I got off to the races pretty quickly, leading with Serum Visions into Young Pyromancer into Young Pyromancer into counterspells. My opponent was dead pretty quickly.
For game 2, I brought in my additional counterspells, Blood Moons, and Crumble to Dust (you can tell Crumble’s gonna be important because there’s a hyperlink). I proceeded to get mana-screwed for a good portion of the game, stuck on only two lands and only two of my three colors. My opponent didn’t have much pressure though, and I was able to counter anything relevant and even put on a bit of pressure. I found my third land, which was a fetchland, and my opponent used a Pulse of Murasa to put the land back in my hand, since there was nothing else in our graveyards to target.
This turned on the Crumble to Dust I’d had in my hand since the beginning of the game. With a couple more land draws, I was also able to Snapcaster the Crumble to Dust. Having stripped eight of my opponent’s 11 mountains, he was unable to actually win the game with Scapeshift/Valakut. He also hadn’t sided in any big life-gaining dorks (like Obstinate Baloth), so just had nothing to kill me with.
The opponent definitely should have sided in Baloths. I definitely got lucky and played better than my opponent. It’d been a slightly rough day up to that point, so I was glad to be back at an even record.
Round 6: Vs. Elves
I was hoping my draw in round 3 would let me get paired up against people with 9 match points, as I could have conceivably offered a concession in this last round and gotten a minor amount of prizes, but that’s not how it worked out. Still, there was pride to play for!
I got rolled in game 1, as my opponent very quickly produced 10 power worth of elves and a lord to make them lethal. I ended up winning games 2 and 3 on the back of Lightning Bolts (and variants thereof) in combination with Young Pyromancer’s amazing ability to stabilize a board state, but the story I want to share about this match is focused on, of all things, Rakdos Charm.
I’m pretty high on Rakdos Charm. Some would (and have) said that I’m too high on it. But I look at it and I see a card that’s good against Affinity and good against Dredge, all in one, and that screams awesomeness to me. I’d bought a couple in advance of this tournament, and I was playing one in my sideboard. And I hadn’t gotten to use it yet, which I thought was a crime.
So, before game 2, I talked myself into siding it in, I think over a Spell Snare or something. I figured, “Hey, my opponent created a lot of creatures really quickly, there’s a world where Rakdos Charm deals like 7 damage to my opponent then we just Snapcaster it and kill them.” Some of you probably recognize the world I referenced above as Magical Christmasland.
I drew Rakdos Charm in my opener in game 2, never cast it, and proceeded to win the game anyways. Meanwhile, while sideboarding I had somehow COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE CARD COLLECTED COMPANY. If it wasn’t already apparent that I don’t play much Standard, it probably is now.
So anyways, game 3 I decided it would be nice to actually win the match, and so I boarded out Rakdos Charm and boarded in my one copy of Dispel, for the sole purpose of countering Collected Company. I drew Dispel in my opener, and the Company that it shut down was likely the difference between wining and losing the game. Engineered Explosives didn’t hurt either though.
I think Grixis Delver is still fine in this metagame, as it has play against every deck. It’s never going to instantly crush anything you play against (unless your opponent is playing a greedy mana deck and you draw a sideboarded Blood Moon that they can’t get rid of), but it gives you a chance against everything. Moreover, the deck is still just fun to play. I know some versions have been cutting Young Pyromancer lately, but he was great for me most of the day. The only thing he was not good against was Reality Smashers.
I ended up siding out my counterspells a lot over the course of the day, but I also had matches where I brought in all my extras as well. The tension between counterspells and removal spells continues to be real, and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right spot on that yet.
I’m going to keep tweaking the list, especially the sideboard, and might even try a couple Collective Brutalities in the main, where Gitaxian Probe is currently. I don’t love Probes, but didn’t have anything else that I really wanted to put in that spot. Brutality seems to be doing really well for itself, and might have a spot here. It even fuels Tasigurs!
I’m hoping to get out for some more Modern soon, so look for some more tournament reports in the near future! Until then, may you kill on turn 4 (but not before, you degenerate).