What an exhausting weekend. 15 rounds of Magic: The Shuffling over two days is taxing. It’s good to be back home, munching on some beef jerky and looking back on the SCG Richmond Modern Open. I was originally intending to bring a pet brew to the format that I’ve been working on over the last couple weeks, but over the night before the tournament I debated between the brew and Kiki-Chord. At the literal last second (when deck lists were being collected), I audibled to Kiki-Chord. Magic: The Shuffling, indeed.
Second Starbucks trip of the day at 9am. Time to play MTG all day!
I rode into Richmond with two others from Charlottesville, and a bunch more of our crew showed up as well. It was my first modern event bigger than a PPTQ, and I went 7-2 on day one, finishing at 36th to make day two. I lost almost every die roll in the weekend. I think I maybe won three of them. We overall had four people from The End Games make day two, though one didn’t show up for it. I went 3-3 on day two for a 10-5 finish still at 36th place. I was disappointed with not doing better on day two, but overall I’m very pleased with my performance. I only made a couple of mistakes, and only one or two of them made the difference in the match outcome. I’ll discuss more about my deck, thoughts, and takeaways moving forward at the end. But first, the round-by-round.
Round 1: Win 2-1 versus Burn, start day at 1-0
Opponent is bamboozled by the old “label your deck box ‘Modern Burn’ and play the furthest thing from it” trick and keeps a creature-heavy hand. He drops a Goblin Guide on turn 1 and swings to reveal Windswept Heath. I play it for a basic Forest and drop a Birds of Paradise. “That’s… not burn. Crap.” (LUL) He drops a Monastery Swiftspear on turn two, and I drop Eldritch Evolution to turn the Birds into a Courser of Kruphix and start shutting off his creature plan. The combination of life gain from Courser and playing a Scavenging Ooze the next turn buys plenty of time to turn four Chord of Calling for a second Courser and respond to his Skullcrack on my turn five with a Chord for Siege Rhino. He scooped.
Stop hurting me.
Game two is pretty short. I have a turn one Noble Hierarch, which he bolts. The rest of my hand is a little slow, and he rolls over me.
Game three I opened with tapped Temple Garden. He swings in with a Goblin Guide. I drop a Verdant Catacombs. He swings in with Goblin Guide, and I fetch basic Swamp for Abrupt Decay. To my surprise, he throws a Path to Exile on his Guide to get a second land (his hand was mono two-drop). I untap, fetch a basic Mountain, hit Renegade Rallier, get it back and fetch a tapped shock land. He untaps, draws, and passes, so I slam a turn 5 Sigarda, Heron’s Grace. He has a second Path, so I untap and find Kambal, Consul of Allocation with a Chord. He hits it with a Lightning Helix, so I chord out a Thragtusk. He hits that with a Searing Blaze, so I swing with the token and Eldritch Evolution a dork into a second Kambal. Another scoop.
Round 2: Loss 1-2 versus BUG Delve, fall to 1-1
Game one he opens with Serum Visions into Grim Flayer. I follow with Wall of Omens to shut it off. He drops another and gets one attack in, but I drop Siege Rhino followed by double Restoration Angel. Quick game. I do have to ask a judge to watch our match for slow play, and my opponent has to be asked to pick it up after taking 30-60 seconds to decide every action from fetch lands, to whether to cast a creature, to whether or not to escalate a Collective Brutality.
Game two I lose a fight over Nahiri, the Harbinger. He opens with a Thoughtseize and takes her. I grab it back with Eternal Witness. He hits her with Maelstrom Pulse. I throw another Angel to blink the E-Wit to get back Nahiri again, but hits his own land with a Ghost Quarter to get the Fatal Push on the Witness. He slams a Tarmogoyf, and I draw land after land.
Significantly less effective against 0/4 creatures.
Game three is mine to lose. We trade creatures back and forth repeatedly with Grim Flayers, Scavenging Ooze, Gurmag Angler, Siege Rhino and the like. We end up me at 20 and him at 12. I start swinging Siege Rhino with an exalted trigger into his 4/5 Tarmogoyf until he draws removal. We back and forth with some creatures to trade. In the end, I punt the game hard by missing an exalted trigger swinging with a Renegade Rallier into his already-on-the-field Snapcaster Mage while he was at 4. Losing the Rallier to my own sloppiness means being unable to block his Goyf with my Courser and crack back for exactsies. He finds another Goyf and I draw lands. This is my biggest mistake of the weekend, and the only one that decidedly cost the match.
Round 3: Win 2-1 versus Blue Moon, improve to 2-1
Game one I start slamming beaters of every kind in my deck while he draws Serum Visions and Lightning Bolt. By the time he finds the Blood Moon, he gives me the triple red I need to slam Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and combo off.
Great against 4-color, until your opponent has Restoration Angel.
Game two is uneventful. I can’t find lands and have to mulligan to 5 and keep Forest, double Wall of Roots, Courser of Kruphix, Scavenging Ooze. I never find a second land and he hits me with Cryptic Command to bounce the Forest back to hand. Scoop it up and go to game three.
Game three I open with Birds and he hits it with Lightning Bolt. I drop a Scavenging Ooze and eat the Birds in response to Electrolyze then follow with Spellskite into next-turn Eidolon of Rhetoric. I play the better one-spell-per-turn game and power through. At this point, I felt good about recovering from the previous round’s punt.
Round 4: Loss 0-2 versus U/W Control, fall to 2-2
Game two is Gideon of the Trials into Verdict into Jace, Architect of Thought, into make Gideon Emblem and drop Gideon Jura. At this point, nothing I have is big enough to make a dent into Gideon, and he continues to tick up both walkers. My last-chance desperate Chord for 15 was met with a Negate as Jace ults. Scoop before he can have the satisfaction of killing me with my own Emrakul.
If this looks like absolute misery, that’s because it is.
Round 5: Win 2-0 versus G/R Tron, improve to 3-2
My only die-roll win of the day. I open on a Hierarch in game one. He drops a Tron land and bauble, and I take a deep breath. I’m used to playing decks that struggle against Tron. Or maybe that’s just because Cass just ALWAYS has it when we play at TEG. Either way, I follow with Wall of Roots. He cracks his bauble, plays Tron land #2, and casts Sylvan Scrying to find the last piece of the puzzle. I play Nahiri, the Harbinger on turn 3 and discard/shuffle away my Emrakul. He plays the dreaded turn 3 Karn Liberated and exiles Nahiri. I untap with land #4, Wall of Roots, Restoration Angel, Path to Exile, and Chord of Calling in hand. At this point, it’s getting to be combo or bust, so I play the Catacombs, play the Wall, and pass. At this point, I’m expecting to use the Angel to possibly save a dork against Karn or have to possibly race an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. He takes Karn up on my hand, and I throw the Path. Second Tower. Ulamog, target mana dork and land. I use the Angel to save the dork, untap, Chord for 5, Combo, Win.
The best way to kill an indestructible 10/10? Kill the player.
Game two was exactly the way we drew it up and laid out from the moment I drew the 7. Tron piece, map, go. Fetch, Birds, go. Tron piece #2, pass. Land #2, Eldritch Evolution the Birds for Fulminator Mage, pop a land. He untaps, plays his newly found tron land and plays another map. I meet it with Abrupt Decay and another land. At this point he strumbles on land and I play Nahiri. He draws Pithing Needle in time when Nahiri is at 8, but a Chord finds Qasali Pridemage on his end step. Ult Nahiri, find Emrakul, fill out the match slip. Death to Tron!
Round 6: Win 2-1 versus R/B burn, improve to 4-2
Game one he opens with Swiftspear into my turn two Courser and turn three Rhino. The game is pretty short from there. In game two, he opens with Vexing Devil. I know the Claim // Fame is coming on the next turn to bring it back. He plays a Guide first to swing in, then Claim. Like an idiot, I take the 4 and use Abrupt Decay on the Guide, when I had a Courser in hand. From there, he just got too much in before the Courser’s life gain could matter. Game three is a matter of turn two Kambal into turn three Rhino. He doesn’t have the removal for Kambal and quickly loses.
It’s cute, but overrated.
Round 7: Win 2-1 versus Eldrazi Tron, improve to 5-2
Game one iss long. After keeping a hand with Birds, Wall of Roots, Wall of Omens, and Nahiri, I draw two more Birds, a Chord, and both Hierarchs. I spend most of the game using the Walls and Birds to block for Nahiri while she alternated between trying to push to Ult and removing his creatures. At one point, he takes four life to Dismember a Birds (while saying, “I can’t believe I’m about to do this…”), only for me to Chord for the fourth and final Birds. He finds Endbringer and Basilisk Collar and I find lands 6 through 8.
Sometimes taking 4 is worth it. Other times you kill a Birds of Paradise on turn 6.
In game two, he draws a lot of lands, and I draw both Rhinos and two Angels. Very easy. In game three, he has a (relatively, for this deck) slow start while I open with Hierarch and Birds. He lands a Thought-Knot Seer on turn three to take a Chord from my hand, and I jam Eternal Witness to keep making land drops. When I untap on turn four, I blink E-Wit with an Angel to make the last land drop, then Evolution the E-Wit into Kiki-Jiki. Hurray for more Tron death!
Round 8: Win 2-1 versus G/R Tron, improve to 6-2
When he opens on Tron piece and a Chromatic Star, I’m happy to be playing yet another Tron deck, as I think I’ve reached the comfort level where beating Tron is just a thing I can do. Unfortunately, he drops Ugin, the Spirit Dragon on turn as I’m only able to get a Rhino and Thragtusk down before it’s too late. Karn Liberated to follow it up seals the deal.
Sylvan Scrying? More like Sylvan Dying!
Game two I open with a dork, and he opens with a Tron piece into Grafdigger’s Cage. I play a Wall of Roots and say go. He plays a second Tron piece and a bauble, so I end-step Abrupt Decay it, hoping to cut him off of a possible Sylvan Scrying the next turn. I untap and Chord out a Fulminator Mage, and he doesn’t have another land or green source. Rhino-Resto-Resto and he confirms the stranded Sylvan Scrying. Game three is a Hierarch into a turn two Eldritch Evolved Fulminator to blast his land. I hit a Crumble to Dust on turn four as a follow up, and Nahiri flavorfully brings Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to close out.
Round 9: Win 2-0 versus Eldrazi Tron, finish Day One in 36th at 7-2
Having already locked in making Day Two, I’m feeling very at ease. Seeing my opponent play turn one Urza’s Somethinganother and Dismember my Birds of Paradise (when else does a 0/1 do so much damage?) makes me feel even more at ease. I start slamming creature into creature into Rhino into Angel to pressure a quick W for game one. Game two sees the third turn two Fulminator Evolved play of the day, followed by another Crumble, followed by the combo. With only a single 9-0 left in the field, I’m very happy to be 7-2.
When all else fails, just combo them out.
Day One Recap:
After the first 9 rounds, I was still a little mad at myself for the round two punt. I determined not to miss any more triggers (I still missed one on day two, but it thankfully wasn’t relevant). My goals for the next day are to make top-32 and hopefully get a feature match (of course, the dream is always the camera match but that’s just greedy). I got really good match ups playing four Tron decks and two Burn decks on the first day, and I was really happy with my sideboarding (something I was nervous about with this deck). Four of us made it to Day Two from TEG, the best performance we’ve had at an open probably ever, certainly the best in many years. I hit the sack early to get up and ride in early since my ridemates were playing in the Classic.
Round 10: Win 2-0 versus No Show, start the day at 8-2
Sadly, one of our crew that made Day Two couldn’t attend. We got paired. After a 10-minute wait, the judge had me sign the slip and that was that.
Round 11: Loss 0-2 versus Storm, fall to 8-3
I had to take a mulligan that was a little slow (two lands, Wall of Roots on turn two, three-drops on turn three). He does storm stuff. Game two I had to run a Rhino into a Remand early. I had Kambal and the Rhino, while he had mana open for another Remand. Trying to burn through it, I played the Rhino. It stuck, he Dismembered it, and proceeded to untap and Empty the Warrens for an army of goblins. I couldn’t get enough blockers in, and Kambal was just too late. In retrospect, I should have jammed Kambal first, but it really didn’t matter thanks to the Dismember. As it turns out, my opponent went on to win the entire event, so I don’t feel too bad about the loss. He was also just a genuinely nice guy.
Losing to the guy who took it all down isn’t so bad. Congrats to Kazu.
Round 12: Win 2-1 versus Skred, improve to 9-3
I open with a pretty fast draw with double Birds into a Wall of Omens. His draw is a little slow, and he’s forced to Anger of the Gods my dorks away. He plays a Koth of the Hammer into Chandra, Torch of Defiance. I end-step a Restoration Angel, untap to play Kiki-Jiki, and win. Game two was just misery. He hits my turn one Birds with a Skred, hits both of my basic Forests with Molten Rain, and slams a Blood Moon on an empty board. Time to scoop it up.
I love casting this card. I hate having it cast against me.
For game three, I run a Noble Hierarch into a Skred. He plays a Relic of Progenitus. I force the Relic with E-Wit to get back the Birds. A Kambal gets some damage in on a Mind Stone. He plays Stormbreath Dragon. I throw an Angel at the end step, untap, and Chord for Kiki.
Round 13: Win 2-0 versus Bogles, improve to 10-3
My opponent for this match is the second saltiest person I’ve ever met. For game one, I slam a Wall of Roots followed by a Nahiri to eat his Ethereal Armor. Wall keeps blocking as a Chord finds Qasali Pridemage to take care of the Daybreak Coronet. Restoration Angel blinks the wall post-block to stop a second Coronet’s lifegain before I have to just give up the Wall on next turn to keep Nahiri at 8. He plays a second Slippery Bogle to have more permanents as a buffer. I use Nahiri’s -8, find Emrakul, and swing for 16 with an exalted trigger. He Paths the Angel in response to remove my post-Emrakul clock, and I Abrupt Decay the Coronet to give him one less enchantment to sacrifice. He asks a judge if Totem Armor is relevant (hint: it’s not), and sacs down to one land and one Bogle, against four lands and a Hierarch. We race attacks back and forth with Noble Hierarch and Slippery Bogle while I am ahead by just a single life, until Siege Rhino shows up to close it out.
Even if the attack doesn’t kill, the game is still over.
While boarding, I consider the possibility of mulliganing aggressively to find Spellskite for turn two. I draw my seven with triple Birds and Evolution and realize I don’t have to. My first draw is the Spellskite itself. I slam it, and he only casts one more spell throughout the game. I ride the lock to victory. As the match ends, my opponent starts ranting about how I was “so rude” and “we were having a fine match but you just had to start being rude” and “maybe it’s just who you are”. I respond with, “okay, guy, have a good day,” and laugh as he storms off while onlookers comment about his salt and the imagined rudeness.
Round 14: Loss 1-2 versus Affinity Feature Match, fall to 10-4
At this point, I’m actually a little nervous. X-3 is live for top-16 and possibly top-8. I wasn’t hoping for top 8 at all, but top 16 was exciting to me. We get called to the feature area and set up. Zachary Alexander is a very cool guy, and I was very glad when I saw he made the top 8.
Game one was an exhibition of why I loved playing Kiki-Chord all weekend. Turn two Qasali Pridemage after a Hierarch takes out his first Cranial Plating. A Siege Rhino on turn three gains some life and starts the race with his Vault Skirge. I pass the next turn, he swings in the air, and I throw a Resto Angel to block and blink the Rhino. He goes for a Galvanic Blast on the Angel before blocks, and I respond by a Chord for yet another Angel, and another Rhino blink. At this point, our life totals are fairly similar, and I’m able to trade the Angel with his party hat-wearing Vault Skirge. He’s left with a Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, Cranial Plating #2, and three lands. I swing with the Rhino, and he blocks with the Overseer. I follow with fetch land, and double Renegade Rallier to get back the Pridemage twice and blast both his remaining artifacts. Both he and the judge are staring in disbelief, and we start boarding.
It’s basically a build-your-own board-wipe against Affinity.
Games two and three were both exhibitions for why Affinity is a top-tier deck. My hands are slower than his and don’t line up well to interact. I have Hornet Nest in game three, but he instead suits up an Ornithopter with fancy hats and hits me for 18 damage in the air over the course of turns two and three. Sometimes variance sucks.
Round 15: Loss 1-2 versus R/W Prison, finish the tournament in 36th at 10-5
For game one, I have a decent start against most any deck I expect to face, with a dork on turn one and Wall of Roots on turn two. He finishes that by pitching a Simian Spirit Guide and dropping a Wrath of God on my board a turn early. I draw nothing but lands as Chandra takes me out.
I absolutely adore this card.
In game two, he saw every sideboard card he brought in over the first three turns, and I saw nothing after a mulligan to 6. Despite having had success against prison in previous events and testing, sometimes the deck just makes your life miserable, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It was a frustrating end to the day, and I’m still pretty unhappy with the results on Day Two. I’m happy with how the tournament went as a whole, but turning 7-2 into 10-5 was disappointing.
Here’s the list I ran this weekend:
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Selfless Spirit
2 Stony Silence
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Hornet Nest
2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
1 Crumble to Dust
1 Fracturing Gust
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Sigarda, Heron’s Grace
Yes, that’s 61 in the main. With this kind of super-toolbox deck, I think it works.
First off, I loved this deck this weekend, I think it was a great choice for such a large event. It’s got a lot of things going for it.
2) Even when you’re behind, there are ways out if you can find them. Having a combo that instantly ends the game is great, as sometimes it’s your only way to close a game. Other decks can be better in the late, late game (like Tron), but being able to stop the game from going that late through either Resto/Kiki or Nahiri/Emrakul helps prevent that from being an issue.
3) The deck has a TON of synergy going for it, and almost every card has multiple uses in the deck. It’s rare that any card is actually dead in a match, which makes game one very manageable. It also makes the sideboard better. Every card in the sideboard has uses in multiple matchups, so it’s easy to react to many situations.
4) Having the ability to search your deck means not having to play more than 1-of or 2-of many cards. It also means you have the ability to react to a lot of situations and strategies. This benefit really extends to the sideboard. Being able to search for 3-drops as early as turn two really helps take advantage of the diverse sideboard. In most decks, you have to play as many as three copies of important cards. When you have 5 tutors that stick a creature on the battlefield and multiple methods of recursion/reuse, every one-of out of the sideboard feels like a full playset or more.
This card is the real deal.
Throughout the day, I brought in every card from the sideboard at least once. However, three of the slots were pretty ineffective. Stony Silence was in place for Tron, Affinity, and the possibility of Lantern Control. Fracturing Gust was in for much of the same reason. I only drew one Stony Silence throughout the entire weekend, and it was too late by the time I drew it in my Affinity match. I think I could definitely cut the two Stony Silences for another Qasali Pridemage and another Fulminator Mage. I could probably cut the Fracturing Gust for just another card altogether. I’m not sure on that last slot yet.
Reasons for Success
Obviously, making the right call on deck choice was important. But, there were definitely some other things that definitely helped.
Sideboarding is a difficult and extremely important aspect to playing magic. It’s one of the things I think I personally need to work on more. Making sure to always shuffle the entire sideboard in and just pick out the 15 least useful cards is a huge help, especially to a toolbox deck like this.
It seems silly, but playing a deck with so many lines of play and access to so many options really demands keeping calm. When things are going bad and I’m getting blown out, getting salty is bad. But, getting too excited and overeager to make a play also leads to misplays. I managed to keep a level head and stop to think through all of my options throughout the tournament so that I (mostly) wouldn’t miss anything.
The last thing I think I did successfully this weekend was identifying when to start attacking to put pressure on the opponent when I was catching up from behind, and knowing when to go all-in on a plan. As my Burn-playing friend can tell you, every 1 life matters, and sometimes failing to attack with a Hierarch can leave them with that 1 critical point left as you die.
Moving forward, I’m going to try playing some different decks since I picked up some cards this weekend. I really liked playing Kiki-Chord, and at future big events I will probably look to play some kind of toolbox deck again.
I definitely still need to work on sideboarding and identifying flex spots where I can afford to make cuts in future decks. I also need to play more with exalted creatures so I can remember my triggers better.
Into the Wild Blue Yonder
In about a week-and-a-half, I will be moving to South Korea for the next year, and I’ll be playing MTG as much as possible over there. I’m told they play a lot of modern over there, so hopefully I’ll have a lot to write about. It’s going to be an adventure learning to communicate despite a language barrier, but I’m looking forward to it immensely.