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By: BlastodermMan, Carl E Wilt
Apr 30 2015 12:00pm
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Some weeks are better than others. This week is definitely one of those that rises to the top. For starters, this is the week that hope springs eternal for those of us who are fans of the lower echelon of NFL football teams.

I make no apologies for being a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. I've loved this team for as far back as I can remember. Sadly, we've not been very good lately. And by lately, I mean since about the mid-to-late 80's. It doesn't help that there has been a revolving door in both the front office and the head coach's office since my beloved team returned to the field in '99. And don't even get me started in a conversation about "He Who Shall Not Be Named", who traitorously stole the original franchise and moved his players to some cesspool named Baltimore. Not that I'm still bitter or anything.

Regardless, every year about this time, I hold out hope. This will be the year we have a good...no great...draft. This will be the year we actually build something and fix the holes on the roster. Hell, this is the third time in four years that we actually have multiple first round picks. After wasting those picks on Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson in 2012, followed by dumping two picks into Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in 2014, I'm really hoping we hit in this first round like we did back in '78, when we took Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews. Wow, talk about two guys who had awesome careers. Once Ozzie finished up his Hall of Fame career with the Browns, he's gone on to become one of the top GM's in the NFL, albeit for a despised and hated franchise. As for Clay, he finally hung it up after 19 seasons and 278 NFL games as a linebacker, and went about his work of spawning future NFL All-Pros himself. 

I can't lie, though. Doesn't matter who we draft. Until the season starts, they'll all be future Pro-Bowlers to me. Because, again, hope springs eternal. Sometimes, you just have to believe, and whether right or wrong, I chose to. 

The thing that really puts this week over the top, though, is the MTGO PPTQ's from the 29th of April through the 1st of May. Why am I so excited about these specifically? Because they are Modern. I simply love Modern as a format, and was an early adopter from the time the format was first announced. I look back on my playing history, and my most successful events have always been that "middle" format between Standard and Legacy. All of my PTQ Top 8's were the old 7-block Extended. A good chunk of my Top 16's have been Modern and old Extended. Even the GenCon Championship Qualifier I Top-8'd was Modern. There is just something about these middle formats that not only appeal to me, but seem to also bring out the best in my abilities. 

That being said, I know what I plan on playing this week. To be honest, I've essentially played the same deck since the beginnings of the format, so it's not really a hard call. Here's my list:  

 

 I have played some version of this deck in every competitive Modern event I've played in. Sure, cards have changed and moved around over the years, and I've come a long way with this deck over the original 7-Moon version I played at the first Modern GP out in Lincoln, NE back in 2012. I've gone through periods where I made it significantly worse in my desire to tweak it to a metagame. Regardless, this is the deck I've painstakingly devoted myself to for the last several years, and barring a significant change in the Modern landscape...some would even call it a change of biblical proportions...I can't see myself seriously considering another deck. 
 
People that are familiar with me, or familiar with things I've written before, are probably well versed in my deck building philosophy as it pertains to this deck, and probably understand the reasons for my card choices. But, as I have a new audience here, I'd like to go over some of these things once more. 
 
As I stated in my last article, I like to attack formats. I like to build decks that attack a known or expected metagame. So, as I've worked my way through piecing this list together, I've done so with the following guidelines and thoughts: 
  • Punish greedy manabases
  • Actively attack the "Elephant in the Room"
  • Punish weenie decks
  • Make my threats difficult to answer and/or uniquely powerful
  • Punish cheap spell decks
Gordon Gekko espoused the idea back in the 80's...Greed is Good. Wall Street seems to live by that philosophy, I will make you pay for that. I am not above the aggressive mulligan to try to hit the turn two Blood Moon. In a format full of fetch lands, man lands, dual lands, and few, in any, non-basic lands, a resolved Blood Moon is simply devastating. Sure, it's better against some decks than others, but the overall impact of the card is second to none in Modern. My general dislike of 2-drops and Moon are just two of the reasons I run an eight-pack of mana dudes.
 
There is little debate, generally, about the current best deck in the format. Some version of Twin seems to always make the top spot on that list. Right now, that is the Elephant in the Room. As bannings happen, and cards get added or removed from the format, that changes and evolves. But right now, Twin is the pachyderm in question. I really dislike running main deck cards that are, or can be, dead more often than not. So, I keep my Damping Matrix in the board to start, but, I do get to run with main Burning-Tree Shaman. This card gets questioned frequently, but it serves so many roles, and helps shore up so much of my list of guidelines. Against Twin, it's great to be able to ping them if they want to make guys. If I can get even a slight advantage in life totals, I can hold them in check, forcing them to be a poor beatdown/control deck. Post board, when I can cut Blood Moon for Damping Matrix, among other things, the matchup is very good for me. Can I still just randomly lose to the turn 4 nut draw? Of course. Just because over 10% of my deck interacts favorably with them doesn't mean I'll draw it, or they won't have that one counter to stop me from shutting them down, or they won't have that fatal Echoing Truth to punish me for my hubris. Still, I like my chances.
 
The power of Burning-Tree Shaman can be seen in the other items on this list as well, as it also punishes weenie based strategies by providing a good sized blocker inexpensively, and becomes difficult to remove, short of Path to Exile, due to the 4-toughness. I will gladly trade 2-for-1 all day with my Shaman if that's what people want to do. In the vein of attacking the smaller creature decks, Bonfire of the Damned does an admirable job of cleaning up the opposing creature rush, and I still have access to Lightning Bolts to knock off guys before they become too much of an issue. 

Besides the little shaman that could, I have other difficult and unique threats that I've adopted. I feel Stormbreath Dragon is one of the most underplayed cards in Modern right now. When you look at the aggregate of being Pro-White, AKA Path proof, and having a toughness greater than 3, and couple that with most fliers seeing play in the format also being White, it appears that the scales tip significantly in favor of the Theros dragon over his bigger cousin, Thundermaw Hellkite. The other unique and powerful threats I use are Phyrexian Metamorph and Hellrider. Not only do those two go together like chocolate and peanut butter, but individually that are also very powerful. It is not unusual for Hellrider to hit the board against a tapped out opponent and immediately do 6-8 points of unexpected damage. Phyrexian Metamorph has proven to be one of the most versatile cards I could play. Besides having copied most of my creatures at one point or another, it has also been a Siege Rhino, a Batterskull, an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and a Baneslayer Angel, among other things. Rarely am I not happy to have it. Also, between the Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, I can even pay the Blue should I chose to do so. 
 
Lastly, I really like to punish decks that play a ton of cheap spells. I briefly mentioned earlier that I tend to avoid 2-drops. In fact, until about a year ago, I completely avoided them at all in this deck. One of my main reasons for that is that there are so many commonly played 2-drops in Green, between Tarmogoyf, and Scavenging Ooze, not to mention Wall of Roots, and Sakura-Tribe Elder, that at least one, if not more, are expected to be in every deck with Forests. In a format with access to Spell Snare, and that regularly has a significant numbers of Blue based decks, it always seemed to me that playing a bunch of 2-drops was a negative thing. Conversely, no Blue deck would side out Spell Snare against a Green opponent, as there is an expectation of those plentiful 2-drop cards. I can't count the number of times I've played against someone who unknowingly mulliganned down to 5 because they kept a hand with double Spell Snare and never had a target. All that changed with Eidolon of the Great Revel. The first two PTQ Top-8's I had were on the back of decks built around Pyrostatic Pillar. As such, I have a particular fondness for the card, and that specific effect. Given the way the Eidolon interacts with the format as a whole, I could no longer eschew the 2-drop slot. Needless to say, I have not been, in any way, disappointed with the end result. 

The sideboard is filled with hate cards that I bring in to shore up my matchups. Given the amount of Burn decks that see play both online and in paper, it is essential that I interact favorably with them. Both Trinisphere and Dragon's Claw can quickly lock down those opponents. In fact, many times, Trinisphere is a complete beating against a lot of decks, and an argument could be made that it could switch positons with Blood Moon and advance to the main deck itself. While I have tested that theory some, I've not been completely convinced with the results to pull the trigger.

Affinity is still a thing. Or Robots. Or whatever we are calling the artifact dude deck currently. Regardless, it has not gone away, which does require some dedicated sideboard hate. I normally cut the Dragons and a Hellrider for the Ancient Grudge and Shatterstorm. Between those four cards, the Bolts and the Bonfires, I can usually keep things under control.
 
Probably my favorite card in the board is Banefire. It comes in against pretty much every deck that runs counters, and it's a burn spell that pretty much no one expects to see. I beat at opponent at an SCG Premier IQ with a 9-point Banefire. Two rounds later, I overhear the guy still lamenting about his bad beat, and how he couldn't believe he lost to that card. Sometimes, you just need to plan on going upstairs. And if you can do it in a way that is not able to be countered by the opponent, all the better. 

I understand that I have a bias towards this deck. This is the deck I tell everyone they should play. I would be remiss if I didn't at least put all my cards on the table. There are a couple decks that this is just horrible against. No matter how I try, I'm usually not able to do anything about Merfolk. It just walks all over me. Maybe I don't draw the Bonfire to wipe the board. Maybe I don't have Red mana because all my red sources decided to dress up as Islands. Sometimes, they just get a bunch of 4/4 or 5/5 Merfolk by turn 4 and there is nothing I can do. The story changes, but the result is always the same. The other deck that just rushes me is U/W or just Mono-U Tron builds. Neither of those decks actually NEED to have Tron to win. It's a nice to have, and it allows them to play bigger and better things, but Blood Moon is surprisingly ineffective against either. Between Talismans and Signets and Gifts Ungiven, they always seem to have the answer to whichever way my deck is playing out. If you play in an area where the local metagame is flooded with these types of decks, as much as it pains me to say it, you may want to play something different. 

As for me, I plan on paying the tickets and taking my chances this week. This should be fun.

And with luck, I'll hit it big, like that '78 Browns draft. 
 
Peace, 
Carl Wilt