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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 01 2014 11:00am
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  It feels like my articles have been few and far between these days and I always intend to keep a more consistent schedule but end up failing.  I apologise for that but hopefully this will have the content to make up for that.  I will be starting this article with a quick look at the State of Modern now that the bannings/unbannings have been given a chance to shape the format.  Then I will look at the UWR Delver I wanted to discuss in this article and finally I've got a quick story about my experience of the paper Journey into Nyx Prerelease.

The State of Modern

So, as it has been a while since I have written I think it might be worth catching up on recent events.  Big things happened to Modern with the changes to the Banned list.  Deathrite Shaman was banned and Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom were unbanned. 

Wild NacatlBitterblossom
Lift the Banhammer

The fallout of that has now truly settled and it appears that nothing too disastrous has happened.  The return of Nacatl unfortunately has not led to a resurgence for Zoo, it's certainly a deck that people are playing but it hasn't put up any great results.  Equally, Bitterblossom's impact has not been quite as scary as feared (by my at least).  UB Faerie Control decks have seen some play but it certainly isn't breaking the format.  So the unbans seem like they were fine and in some ways are a little disappointing in that they didn't really shake things up all that much.

As for the banning of Deathrite Shaman, I have slightly mixed feelings on the subject.  I think Deathrite probably was a bit too powerful for Modern but at the same time I enjoyed all the stuff you could do with him.  Definitely one of those cards that is great fun to play with but pretty horrible to be playing against.  Deathrite Shaman leaving the format means a couple of things.  Firstly, graveyards are open season again and so graveyard-based combos are a lot better than they were - though likelihood is that a lot of people will be running Relic of Progenitus or some hate in board.  The second consequence, and probably the biggest concern for Modern, is that Deathrite leaving makes Snapcaster Mage much better.

Deathrite ShamanSnapcaster Mage
These guys didn't really get along.

Snapcaster Mage is very good in a post-Deathrite Modern and honestly I think his head could be the next on the chopping block if it comes down to it.  The impact of a potential Snapcaster ban would be very interesting indeed though it seems sad for Modern if it lost its most powerful tools.

Anyway, those were just some thoughts and observations on the State of Modern at the moment.  Let's get back to the deck I'm going to be looking at.

DECK TECH

So here's the decklist I will be working with.  Let's discuss how the deck is set up shall we:

Creatures

Steppe LynxGrim LavamancerDelver of SecretsInsectile Aberration
In the one-drop slot we have a series of powerful and impactful one drops.  These creatures allow us to apply the early pressure that can let us finish up the game early, which is what this deck is looking to do.  I have to say I'm not in love with Steppe Lynx and would be willing to try something different, I don't know whether Goblin Guide would be any good in this deck.  My main problem with Steppe Lynx is that it requires quite a lot of resources to make it good and it's a terrible late draw but it certainly is powerful if unopposed.

Snapcaster Mage
In the two-drop slot we have Snapcaster Mage.  Snapcaster Mage probably doesn't need explaining at this point.  It combines excellently with all your spells to gain serious advantages and gives you a 2/1 beater to boot.

Geist of Saint Traft
In the three-drop slot, we have Geist of Saint Traft.  This card is actually the reason I built the deck having picked these up after Innistrad Block rotated.  I like Geist a lot and it's an excellent top end to our cheap aggressive threats here.  Very difficult to deal with and represents a lot of damage.

Burn

Lightning BoltLightning HelixPillar of FlameElectrolyze
A fairly standard burn suite for a UWR deck.  Bolt is an auto-include.  White gives you access to Helix which is another powerful burn spell and the life gain can help you win races.  Pillar is a random one of, can go to the face or remove irritating creatures such as Kitchen Finks.  Blue gives you access to Electrolyze which is a nice combination of burn and draw, it also helps take out small creatures which might look to chump your Steppe Lynx etc.

Draw

Serum VisionsRemand
Serum Visions is a powerful draw spell and can also set up a Delver flip, which is always nice.  Remand is not strictly a draw spell but it does draw you a card and hurts your opponents tempo.  Often Remand can buy you a whole turn which means you can hit your opponent again with your threats.

The Rest

Path to ExileSpell Snare
Path to Exile is the best straight removal spell in the format and combines excellently with Snapcaster Mage.  Spell Snare is a misers counterspell which works nicely with the low curve of Modern - again it can combine nicely with Snapcaster.

Lands

Eiganjo CastleMoorland Haunt
I'll skip talking through the usual set of lands, however, you should note that we are running a higher than normal amount of fetchlands in order to ensure we can maximise our Steppe Lynx.  The other lands of interest are Eiganjo Castle which combines excellently with Geist of Saint Traft, making him much harder to kill.  Moorland Haunt isn't at its most powerful here but being able to turn your dead creatures into 1/1 flyers is a nice one and can be a surprising source of pressure.

Sideboard
Our sideboard could probably use a bit of work but let's take a look at some of the choices:

  • Molten Rain and Sowing Salt are non-basic land hate.  These are useful against various cards from Tron lands to Celestial Colonnade and other manlands.
  • Spell Pierce and Negate add additional counter magic to your deck.  This is particular useful against Combo and Control decks where your removal is less useful.
  • Relic of Progenitus is your graveyard hate.  With Deathrite Shaman no longer roaming the format, graveyard-based strategies are becoming more popular so this is a powerful sideboard card.
  • Smash to Smithereens and Wear/Tear provide you with artifact and enchantment hate.  Good against decks like Affinity and dealing with Birthing Pods or Swords etc.
  • Grim Lavamancer comes in against weenie and other aggro decks that are susceptible to it.
  • Kor Firewalker is a bit of a stretch for the manabase but it is very powerful against Burn strategies or even decks like UWR Control where they are trying to burn you out.

COST
This deck certainly isn't cheap.  The large number of fetchlands probably make the biggest expense but Geist of Saint Traft is also very expensive and Snapcaster Mage is now quite an expensive card as well.  There are a lot of staples here so if you've been playing Modern for some time chances are you'll have picked some of this up but this probably isn't a deck for a new player to Modern.

Main Deck

4 x Scalding Tarn= 125.80
3 x Geist of Saint Traft= 72.00
4 x Arid Mesa= 62.08
2 x Misty Rainforest= 60.34
4 x Snapcaster Mage= 40.12
4 x Remand= 26.08
4 x Serum Visions= 13.68
1 x Marsh Flats= 11.12
4 x Path to Exile= 9.20
2 x Steam Vents= 7.40
2 x Hallowed Fountain= 7.04
1 x Sacred Foundry= 5.74
1 x Grim Lavamancer= 2.83
1 x Eiganjo Castle= 1.02
4 x Lightning Helix= 1.00
4 x Delver of Secrets= 0.44
1 x Electrolyze= 0.33
4 x Lightning Bolt= 0.32
4 x Steppe Lynx= 0.08
1 x Moorland Haunt= 0.05
1 x Pillar of Flame= 0.04
Total: 446.71 tix

Sideboard
1 x Grim Lavamancer= 2.83
3 x Molten Rain= 1.65
1 x Sowing Salt= 0.41
2 x Relic of Progenitus= 0.16
2 x Spell Pierce= 0.16
2 x Kor Firewalker= 0.12
1 x Wear/Tear= 0.10
1 x Negate= 0.02
Total: 5.45 tix
Grand Total: 452.16 tix

GAMEPLAY
So let's take the deck out for a spin shall we:


In our first match we take on Mono-Blue Tron.  This seems like a pretty good match for UWR Delver.  As Tron takes some time to get going your early creatures are nice and powerful.  Also, your removal spells deal pretty nicely with most of their threats.  In Game 1, I get a killer set of early drops which prompts a quick concession from my opponent.  In Game 2, I use Molten Rain out of the sideboard to see my opponent off Tron.  However, he continues to hit land drops.  A Wurmcoil Engine gets hit with a Path to Exile but a Sundering Titan sticks and makes life a bit difficult.  Fortunately, my opponent is too low on life to start swinging with the Titan and I manage to use a Delver and some burn to take the win.


In our second matchup we take on Affinity.  In Game 1, we have a very removal heavy hand supported by a series of Snapcaster Mages which make it very difficult for our opponent to get anything going.  It does take some time for us to do more than reactively remove creatures but fortunately our opponent doesn't manage to pick up any game breaking cards, such as Etched Champion or Cranial Plating, and we pick up the win.  In Game 2, I get an early Delver flip and then use Smash to Smithereens on my opponent's Cranial PlatingElectrolyze then kills two Vault Skirge and our opponent concedes.  Our plethora of removal plus Snapcaster Mages to reuse that removal are very strong in this matchup.  Post-board the matchup gets even better as you can bring in artifact destruction.


Our third match is against a rogue White Knight/Devotion deck.  As this isn't a deck you'll be running up against often I don't think its worth going into too much depth about the matchup.  I think generally the heavy removal is good against weenie decks like this one.  Unfortunately, in Game 2 and Game 3 I fell victim to a Sword of Fire and Ice and Kor Firewalker which combined to make my life very difficult.  A fun match and it's always nice to see someone doing something a bit different in Modern.


The final match I have for you is against Living End.  In Game 1, we have a nice aggressive start but unfortunately our opponent has the turn 3 cascade into Living End and I don't have the necessary answer.  In Game 2, an early Delver applies pressure to my opponent while I hold up countermagic for Living End.  An Anger of the Gods gets through a Spell Pierce by exiling two Simian Spirit Guides killing Delver and a Beast Within token.  Fortunately, our follow up Geist of Saint Traft sticks and we can finish our opponent off.  In Game 3, I have two Relic of Progenitus in my opener which effectively shuts down his Living End combo.  I'm not able to apply quite as much pressure as I would like but eventually a trio of burn spells manage to finish my opponent off.  This matchup is definitely difficult but the deck certainly has answers to the questions the deck asks and early pressure combined with countermagic works well.

CONCLUSIONS
I enjoyed running this deck and I think it caught a few players off guard who were expecting a UWR Control deck, rather than having the more aggressive elements.  As I mentioned above, I was a little bit disappointed by Steppe Lynx which was certainly underwhelming at times but otherwise the deck seems pretty solid.  I think the only real problem is that this deck doesn't always have what it takes to win in the short-term and things get much more difficult in a long game as top decking Steppe Lynx and Delver of Secrets is a lot less exciting as the game goes on.  However, if you are more into playing aggro than control then this is definitely a version of UWR you want to be looking into.

Journey into Nyx Prerelease
Just as another aside, I attended one of the paper prerelease for Journey into Nyx at the Patriot Games store in Leeds this past weekend.  I don't get to play in paper as much as I'd like but this event was fun and a good introduction to the store, which I hadn't attended before.  I ended up picking Green as my colour of choice (I had wanted White but there were no boxes left unfortunately).  I made a Green/Black deck featuring Nessian Game Warden, Heroes' Bane and Hydra Broodmaster, which did reasonably well. 

Hydra BroodmasterHeroes' Bane
I was all in on the Hyrda plan

My first match was against a Red/Black deck.  My opponent wasn't too happy with their deck but I had some doubts about my own.  I won the first game fairly handily with my opponent not really getting going.  My opponent's luck didn't get much better with a mulligan to 5, however, a Master of the Feast threatened to turn things around.  I took a few shots from the flyer but was able to outrace it for the win.

Master of the Feast

My second match a GW deck which I think was splashing for another colour.  I don't remember the matches all that well but I do remember making my Hydra Broodmaster and activating its monstrous ability to take the win in Game 2, having to beat down my opponent from the high life total they had reached thanks to an early Nyx-Fleece Ram. 

Nyx-Fleece Ram

For my third match, I played against another GW deck.  My opponent had actually picked a Black prerelease box but picking up an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes and a good pool of GW cards he ended up going GW.  In Game 1, I managed to win through an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes having supped up a Grim Guardian with a number of Bestow creatures including a Cavern Lampad which made it unblockable.  In Game 2, things didn't quite go my way.  I ended up piling a number of Bestow creatures onto a Satyr Grovedancer and trying to bash through, unfortunately Cavern Lampad was less effective on my green creature and my opponent was able to chump block long enough to take me down.  In Game 3 I punted with a couple of mistakes.  I failed to use my Feast of Dreams to kill my opponent's Stonewise Fortifier, which was enchanted with Ordeal of Heliod, forgetting that I wouldn't be able to use it once the Ordeal popped.  This left my opponent with a 5/5 which was big trouble.  I could have come back from this as I was able to play a turn 5 Hydra Broodmaster but unfortunately my opponent had a Banishing Light.  The reason this was a punt is that I knew he had the Banishing Light in his deck and could have cleared the way with a Thoughtseize I had in hand.  I ended up losing 2-1 in a match I felt I should have won.

Banishing LightAjani, Mentor of Heroes

My fourth round opponent was playing a rather cool Mono-Blue deck.  The deck was running a lot of flyers and evasive creatures that my deck was struggling to deal with.  I managed to win a tight Game 1, the highlight of which was making a Pheres-Band Thunderhoof big enough to fend off my opponent's lethal Kraken of the Straits, despite my opponent having eight Islands in play, and then attacking in for the rest of my opponent's life in one swing by putting a Cavern Lampad on the Thunderhoof.  In Game 2 and 3, I was overwhelmed by my opponent's flyers, which my deck didn't have many ways to deal with.  My opponent had multiple Cloaked Sirens and couple of Riptide Chimeras that bounced Pin to the Earth and Stratus Walk, which was a nice little synergy.

Kraken of the StraitsRiptide Chimera
 

Overall, I finished sixth with a 2-2 record and probably could have done a bit better had I ironed out a few mistakes but overall it was a very good experience.  I also picked up a foil Thoughtseize which was sweet.  Hopefully I'll be able to attend some more events at the store in the near future.

Well that's all I've got for this article.  I hope to be back in the not too distant future with another article about the marvelous Modern format.  Until next time, you can check back over the previous articles in this series by following this link.

Thanks for reading!
Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)