Rees’ Pieces #8 – Pro Tour Fate Reforged (Modern)

Its just coming up to 10:30 in the evening of Sunday the 8th February and the finals of Pro Tour Fate Reforged have just finished. The victor: Antoni del Moral Leon of Spain playing straight up Blue-Red Splinter Twin, defeating the American Justin Cohen who was playing Amulet Bloom Combo. The rest of the top eight consisted of a second copy of Splinter Twin, 2 copies of Burn and 3 copies of Abzan. Today I’m going to take a brief look into these decks and try and give you an insight into different choices the players have made in deck construction as well as give you an idea of what the meta will be like post Fate Reforged.

pro tour fate reforged

Lets get the ball rolling with Abzan Midrange, this was by all means the deck to beat coming into this weekend. With Cruise and Dig gone, and especially Birthing Pod banned all eyes were on this deck. And what do you know they were right, it showed up and in ridiculous numbers. The percentage of people playing Abzan in the field was 28% of all competitors which is a ridiculously high number. However only three made it into Top 8; Jesse Hampton, Jacob Wilson, and Eric Froehlich. Here is Hamptons list:

Planeswalker (4)
4 Liliana of the Veil
Creature (12)

2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
4 Siege Rhino
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Scavenging Ooze
Sorcery (12)

4 Lingering Souls
4 Thoughtseize
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Maelstrom Pulse
Instant (7)

4 Abrupt Decay
1 Dismember
2 Path to Exile
Land (25)

4 Windswept Heath
2 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Stirring Wildwood
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Twilight Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Temple Garden
2 Treetop Village
2 Swamp
1 Fores
1 Plains

Sideboard (15)

1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Path to Exile
3 Aven Mindcensor
2 Fulminator Mage
1 Feed the Clan
1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Damnation
3 Stony Silence
1 Batterskull

Going into the tournament this is probably what you would expect from an Abzan deck, even though it has a couple of curve balls in the 75. Resilient threats, hand disruption, flexible removal; a proactive game plan backed up with plenty of cards to disrupt anything your opponents doing. I mentioned that there were a couple of curve balls earlier and while a the main deck is almost set in stone for your starting 60 the sideboard is where this particular list has an unexpected card or two. Feed the clan is a common from the recent Fate Reforged expansion originally thrown in the chaff pile as unplayable. It came on the radar at the first Open Series event after release though where Gerrard Fabiano had 2 copies in his sideboard to board in against aggro. Fabiano had very few ways to get the full ten life out of the card. In this Abzan deck almost every creature has the possibility to trigger ferocious making it more effective of a sideboard card here, primarily for the Burn match up where it’s text often reads ‘have a dude in play? counter the next 3 spells your opponent plays’. Another interesting thing is the three copies of Aven Mindcensor. Being able to snipe opponents when they crack fetches is nice but there are also a number of decks this card shuts down such as Amulet Combo, Scapeshift and Tron. However this is not a foolproof plan and in game three of Jesse’s semi final against Justin Cohen (on the Bloom deck) a Mindcensor in play seemed to have the game locked up, proving that both luck and skill are needed to win matches Justin ripped the exact pair lands he needed out of the top 4 cards of his library to kill Jesse. the last card i’d like to mention is the Vault of the Archangel among the lands in the main. In a meta where you expect a large amount of people to be playing Abzan this is a huge advantage to have especially combined with Lingering Souls. My spirit token for your Rhino? Yes please!

Efro’s list is very similar to the one above, but I’d like to take a minute and talk about the Abzan deck that Jacob Wilson piloted which came from a slightly different angle:

Creature (27)

4 Noble Hierarch
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Qasali Pridemage
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Loxodon Smiter
4 Siege Rhino
3 Wilt-Leaf Liege

Sorcery (6)

4 Lingering Souls
2 Thoughtseize

Instant (4)

4 Path to Exile

Land (23)

3 Gavony Township
3 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Plains
3 Razorverge Thicket
1 Godless Shrine
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
1 Marsh Flats

Sideboard (15)

2 Thoughtseize
2 Chalice of the Void
2 Fracturing Gust
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Stony Silence
1 Zealous Persecution
2 Sword of War and Peace
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
1 Rule of Law
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Leyline of Sanctity

This is a different take on the GWB midrange deck. Now if you’ll throw your mind back in the day and recall the card Birthing Pod  Wilson was an expert with the deck, even using it to make the finals of the previous Modern Pro Tour. While Pod is now banned this is what remains. A bunch of mana accelerators in Birds and Hierarch, along with difficult to deal with creatures like Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence. It keeps in the Rhinos a normal Abzan list has and adds Loxodon Smiter and Wilt Leaf leige in multiples. Word on the street says by the end of day 2 Jacob Wilson’s opponents were even ending game ones with copies of Thoughtsieze and Inquisition of Kozilek in hand, afraid of running into a hand full of these. Smiter is also excellent against control and Liege also makes all of your creatures better (especially good with Lingering Souls). The Gavony townships in the manabase are another shout to Pod and go great with all the mana creatures and Souls tokens, combining with Wilt Leaf Liege to make your guys bigger. This list is definitely tuned to beating other Abzan decks, which as it turned out was very popular. This comes as a price though, the deck runs four copies of Path to Exile as its only removal it makes your Splinter Twin match up weaker as seen in the quarter finals against Jelger Wiegersma. This also means that you are relying heavily on Lingering Souls against Affinity game 1, though you have a solid sideboard plan for them later. An unfortunate similarity with Pod as a result of all the mana creatures is that the deck can run out of steam pretty quickly and will have some awful late game top decks. This deck was a strong meta choice but fell short in the final eight.

The next deck I would like to discuss is Splinter Twin. While there have been many different versions of the deck splashing green, white or black it is straight UR Twin that puts two decks into the Top 8 of this Pro Tour in the hands of Jelger Wiegersma and Antoni del Moral Leon who eventually lifted the Trophy. Twin is a deck that has always been a mainstay in Modern ever since its inception, one of the premier combo decks in the format. The deck contains ‘the combo’ in Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite and Splinter Twin itself, Cards that by you time and help find the combo, and protection for your combo (with some overlap in between). The deck also has a decent tempo plan with Snapcaster Mage beatdown and Lightning Bolts; though you look a bit silly getting into the red zone with a 1/4 Exarch sometimes its just what it takes to get the win. Here is the winning decklist from Antoni Del Moral Leon:

Creature (11)

3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
4 Deceiver Exarch
2 Pestermite

Sorcery (5)

1 Flame Slash
4 Serum Visions

Instant (16)

1 Peek
1 Dispel
2 Electrolyze
2 Spell Snare
2 Cryptic Command
4 Remand
4 Lightning Bolt
Enchantment (4)
4 Splinter Twin

Land (24)

4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Stomping Ground
3 Steam Vents
1 Desolate Lighthouse
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Mountain
5 Island

Sideboard (15)

1 Dispel
1 Flame Slash
2 Keranos, God of Storms
2 Blood Moon
2 Spellskite
1 Negate
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Pyroclasm
1 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Shatterstorm
1 Anger of the Gods

While there are variations of twin involving splashing other colours (shout out to Makahito Mahara and the Humble Defector tech in Grixis), straight Blue Red lists are fairly similar and this one is pretty stock. Having multiple cliques in the main is a bit of an oddity but does improve your tempo plan and let you know exactly what you have to play around. The ability to also target yourself with the ability to ditch dead cards should also be noted. One card that faded out of these lists is Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker; even with less bolts flying around with delver gone people are still hesitant to include him in their lists despite allowing you to play all of the combo in one turn after picking a fight on your opponents end step. If you take a quick peek at his board you might see nothing of interest or out of the norm but if you look closer you’ll see a stand alone copy of Jace, Architect of Thought in the list and boy is this a spicy one even if |i’m not exactly sure what its doing here, possibly for the control match up or maybe even against Tokens. While the Plan B is fine, if you play Twin, if you’re lucky enough and if you can find it you’ll have combo on turn five with protection every game hiring the A Twin. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

The next deck to discuss is good old fashioned Burn. While it did lose some power with the ban on treasure cruise the important thing to remember is that most of the other decks also lost out with the banning and Burn was good deck before Treasure Cruise was printed. As it is the deck is still very good putting up a plethora of good finishes this weekend culminating with two Top 8s in the hands of Lee Shi Tian and Seth Mansfield who both unfortunately lost in the quarterfinals. The formula of the deck is pretty simple: count to twenty, using combination of early creatures and direct damage spells. While the concept is simple the deck still takes skill to pilot and there are complicated lines of play take and decisions to make. Here is Seth Manfields 75:

Creature (13)

4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Goblin Guide
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
1 Grim Lavamancer

Sorcery (8)

4 Rift Bolt
4 Lava Spike

Instant (20)

4 Skullcrack
4 Searing Blaze
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Shard Volley
2 Lightning Helix

Land (19)

4 Arid Mesa
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Sacred Foundry
2 Mountain
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Stomping Ground
4 Scalding Tarn

Sideboard (15)

4 Destructive Revelry
1 Lighting Helix
3 Kor Firewalker
3 Molten Rain
2 Deflecting Palm
2 Path to Exile

4 Eidolons, 4 Goblin Guide, 4 Swiftspears is standard for any burn deck now but Seth is also playing a single Grim lavamancer. Its a bit of a risk as if it gets picked off by a removal spell early it doesn’t do anything but if you can untap with it the pay off is huge. I like the one as its already a risk be it one worth taking, but multiples are often dead so any more would be taking too many chances. The other interesting thing in the main deck is the 2-2 split of Shard Volleys and Lightning Helixs, many other players choosing to play three or even four shard volleys despite of its downside. Helix however is a bit slower at two mana but the life gain attached can be crucial when you’re in a tight spot with an Eidolon in play, or against the mirror. As far as the sideboard goes most of it is pretty standard now, one of the more interesting cards is Deflecting Palm. This is a sweet one and it can have applications all over the place. Abzan player have a giant ooze they’ve taken over the game with? Swing the game back in your favour, Tron opponent bearing down with a Wurmcoil? Prevent the damage and deal it right back at them. As the day goes on though these kind of tricks get spoiled to your opponents which can make them play around it games two and three, though even that you can use to your advantage. I’m just gonna say Valakut the Molten Pinnacle and leave that there.

If I haven’t saved the best til last, I’ve certainly saved the most complicated. Amulet Bloom Combo is a deck that has been around a while but has only recently started putting up good finishes at high level events. Justin Cohen whose been piloting the deck for a long time made it into the Top 8 here very nearly but not quite accompanied by his housemate and current testing partner Sam Black. Like I said the deck is complicated but the main things are the combination of Amulet of Vigor with Karoo lands allowing then to untap when they enter the battlefield, along with either Azusa or Summer Bloom to give you multiple land drops in a turn accelerating out either a Primeval Titan or a Hive Mind. With Hive mind in play you simply cast a Pact and have your opponent unable to pay for their Hive Mind copy. If you make a Titan however things get tricky, with amulet in play you can fetch Slayer’s Stronghold and Boros Garrison which both Untap to give your Titan haste. Into combat goes your titan and you’re finding some more lands. If you have either excess mana or two Amulets in play you can find Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion and a Vesuva to copy the Slayers Stronghold, which both untap to give your titan Double strike. The beauty of the deck though as going all in on a Titan will often have you stopped in your tracks by a path to exile, is to tutor up Tolaria West and a bounce land to return the West to your hand. This synergy allows you to go and find either a Summoners Pact, to get a new Titan, or a Pact of Negation to protect the Titan you have in play. You can also use the Tolaria Wests to tutor for the pacts to allow a Hive Mind win, or to tutor for a utility land like Cavern of Souls to make your Titans uncounterable. To help us get a grasp on the deck, here is Cohens list:

Creature (7)

4 Primeval Titan
1 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Sorcery (12)

4 Serum Visions
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Summer Bloom

Instant (7)

4 Summoner’s Pact
2 Pact of Negation
1 Slaughter Pact

Artifact (4)

4 Amulet of Vigor

Enchantment (3)

3 Hive Mind

Land (27)

1 Khalni Garden
1 Vésuva
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Boros Garrison
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Radiant Fountain
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
1 Mana Confluence
1 Forest
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Tolaria West
3 Gruul Turf
4 Simic Growth Chamber
2 Cavern of Souls

Sideboard (15)

3 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Thragtusk
1 Hornet Queen
2 Firespout
1 Pyroclasm
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Seal of Primordium
1 Swan Song
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Wurmcoil Engine

While saying that there is a ‘standard list’ for Amulet Combo isn’t exactly accurate, there are a couple of differences here to decks we’ve seen in the past. Firstly there is only one copy of Simian Spirit Guide as opposed to the usual four, and in its stead we see Ancient stirrings to try and make your draws more consistent finding both lands or an Amulet of Vigor. The board is where the difference is really shown with a whole host of big creatures to bring in with Sigarda, Wurmcoil Engine, two Thragtusks and a Hornet Queen. These are primarily for the Abzan match up as the games there can be quite rocky with all of their hand disruption and answers for Titan and Amulet, making the combo aspect of the deck weaker and increasing the value of large difficult to deal with creatures. The Thragtusks and Wurmcoil are also Excellent against Burn which had a good showing at the PT, and the Sigarda is an excellent card against a control deck. Many people thought that with the rise of Abzan this deck would not be played in large amounts due to it being a weak match up and the deck certainly didn’t end up being very popular. Justin Cohen and Sam Black however thought that they had a good build for the meta and certainly proved it with their finishes; Justin losing in the finals to Antoni.

And that’s it for today everyone, in the end there really were not that many surprises coming out of the Pro Tour but that does leave the format open. Thanks for reading and I’l catch you next week.

Rees’ Pieces #7 – Tasigur Talk

While the golden fanged shaman didn’t exactly go under the radar when he was spoiled, I think few were prepared for the full potential for him in standard. At the SCG Open this past weekend there were seven copies over four decks in the top eight, and his impact was definitely shown in Gerrard Fabiano’s victory. From Aggro to Midrange to Control its safe to say he’s Sultai to stay. Before we take a look at couple of decklists here’s an overview of what Tasigur does and what makes him so great.

 

 

Firstly, he’s a six mana 4/5 with delve. This makes him realistically castable on turn three or four after an early Satyr Wayfinder or Commune with the Gods. Cost reduction mechanics are great (see Treasure Cruise) and the fact that he has a decent base that allows you to both threaten your opponent or bolster up your defences all the while providing you with a source of card advantage.

 

Moving on to his ability you can pay four mana (of which two must be blue or green) to put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard and have your opponent choose a nonland card in your yard to return to your hand. So your opponent gets to choose what you get, so more often than likely it’ll be the worst spell in your graveyard. However its still card advantage and with Tasigur’s delve ability along with other cards such as Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, and Murderous Cut you can have decent control on what’s in your yard for them to give you. Considering the rest of the card the cost of using the ability is fair, and in slower and grindier strategies you can just pass with mana up and if your opponent doesn’t do anything you can double activate him at the end of your turn. These all make him a decent early game card with the help of graveyard fillers, or a fantastic late game top deck when you have a bunch of land in play and a graveyard of fuel.

 

But thats enough harping on about him for now, lets get down to business and look at a couple of standard lists from the past weekend:

 

 

Gerrard Fabiano – Sultai Control

4x Satyr Wayfinder

2x Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

1x Garruk, Apex Predator

2x Kiora, the Crashing Wave

2x Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

4x Bile Blight

4x Dig Through Time

2x Disdainful Stroke

3x Hero’s Downfall

2x Murderous Cut

2x Sultai Control

2x Crux of Fate

1x Interpret the Signs

2x Rakshasa’s Secret

2x Thoughtseize

2x Island

3x Swamp

2x Llanowar Wastes

4x Opulent Palace

4x Polluted Delta

2x Temple of Deceit

4x Temple of Malady

1x Temple of Mystery

2x Yavimaya Coast

1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

 

2x Rakshasa Deathdealer

2x Feed the Clan

2x Negate

2x Pharika’s Cure

1x Sultai Charm

1x Polukranos, World Eater

1x Silumgar, the Drifting Death

2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1x Drown in Sorrow

1x Thoughtseize

 

This is the winning decklist from the open at the weekend, with two copies of Tasigur in the sideboard. Watching Fabiano play the deck though he brought them in against a wide range of opponents I would be surprised if he didn’t start playing at least one in the main if he continues forward with the deck. He provides a road block against the aggro decks and buys time and also is a card advantage machine in the late game where this deck shines. It utilises both Murderous Cut and Dig Through Time which as mentioned earlier can be used to manipulate your graveyard, but then the deck is also chock full of super powerful cards like Ugin and Garruk which you can get back with Tasigur’s ability, not to mention the versatility of cards like Sultai Charm and Hero’s Downfall. He really does shine here.

 

Abzan Aggro – Hunter Nance

4x Fleecemane Lion

4x Rakshasa Deathdealer

4x Siege Rhino

3x Wingmate Roc

3x Courser of Kruphix

3x Anafenza, the Foremost

2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor

2x Abzan Charm

3x Bile Blight

4x Hero’s Downfall

2x Thoughtseize

1x Forest

2x Plains

3x Caves of Koilos

3x Llanowar Wastes

4x Sandsteppe Citadel

3x Temple of Malady

1x Temple of Plenty

2x Temple of Silence

4x Windswept Heath

2x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

 

1x Back to Nature

1x Bile Blight

1x Murderous Cut

1x Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

1x Liliana Vess

1x Nissa Worldwaker

1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor

4x Drown in Sorrow

3x Glare of Heresy

1x Thoughtseize

 

The aggro variant of Abzan has been becoming more and more popular after a bunch of successful finishes just before Fate Reforged was released. In this deck we see two copies of Tasigur in the main with the only real graveyard manipulation being Tasigur himself. However the card quality in this deck is less variable with nothing like Satyr Wayfinder your opponent can hand you back. In this deck you want all of your creatures have some kind of ability that allows them to stay relevant later into the game and Tasigur fits the bill perfectly, providing a much needed source of card advantage while having a 4/5 body to apply the beats with. Golden.

 

And with that its time for me to wrap up another article. Last time I mentioned I’d let you know about all the Cloudform bad beats stories I would have from pre-release but I’m happy to say I don’t actually have any. I did on the other hand have a game that went: T1 land go, T2 land go, T3 land Jeskai Infiltrator to then have my opponent untap and act of treason it. That went badly. Cheers for reading and I’ll see you next time.