Cheerios – The Breakfast of Champions, by Pagan Young

Cheerios has been a pet deck of mine for years, I used to have it proxied to play with friends or to goldfish at home by myself, mostly because the financial investment of Mox Opal for the longest time for me didn’t seem worth it for what might be considered a “Meme” deck. However I bit the bullet to build Urza Thopter Sword, but didn’t end up enjoying the play patterns of that deck as much as I’d hoped to, so the Opals immediately went towards building Cheerios for real. 

Harlequins Preston had our European Modern Series tournament coming up so I got the deck finished and sleeved up ready, expecting to play some fun Modern, maybe get a sweet storm kill or two and have some fun, little did I know that the deck was incredibly consistent in real games, and not just in the goldfish games at my desk. I ended up making the final easily as most of my opponents either didn’t have any tools to fight what I was bringing to the table, or I had the answers to their answers. In the end the death of the deck in the finals was a Spell Pierce on my Mox Opal.

The Modern format at the moment has its problems, it is full of degenerate decks breaking the Turn 4 rule, and Spirits, while being very good at tempoing and disrupting these degenerate decks, feels a little slow and fragile. I would consider playing the deck mostly for the hate pieces the sideboard would provide me for the format, but I didn’t consider this a good enough reason to choose the deck. Cheerios, however, has a pretty decent chance of winning on turn 2 or 3 and can justify completely ignoring everything that the opponent is doing, and because of this the sideboard does not need to cater to every broken thing that a fair deck like Spirits has to, and this really appealed to me. London Mulligan is an incredibly important part of the decision as well, the deck can function on a hard Mulligan as long as it has the combo pieces, and the new rule makes it a lot easier to find them.
Cheerios is a hard deck to stop, it has hate pieces checked even in the main deck. Hand disruption is a problem, however every deck has a weakness, and ultimately I had to accept that I needed to be ok with conceding a few games to a turn 1 Thoughtsieze or Inquisition of Kozilek. Cheap removal spells can also be a problem, but the deck has enough draw power that as long as you can draw a few cards with Sram or Puresteel Paladin before one dies, you can recover.

 

The List

Main:

4 Accorder’s Shield

1 Arid Mesa

4 Bone Saw

4 Cathar’s Shield

4 Flooded Strand

1 Grapeshot

3 Hallowed Fountain

1 Horizon Canopy

1 Hurkyl’s Recall

4 Mox Opal

1 Noxious Revival

4 Paradise Mantle

1 Plains

4 Puresteel Paladin

4 Repeal

4 Retract

1 Seachrome Coast

2 Simian Spirit Guide

4 Spidersilk Net

4 Sram, Senior Edificer

4 Sunbaked Canyon

 

Side:

4 Echoing Truth

4 Giver of Runes

3 Pact of Negation

4 Silence

 

Main Deck

For those who may not be Familiar with the deck, the list looks incredibly stupid but I promise you it’s a sweet combo. Firstly you have your main combo pieces; Sram, Senior Edificer and Puresteel Paladin; Both have an ability to draw cards from playing equipment (Sram draws on cast, Puresteel draws when they enter the Battlefield). So how do we capitalise on this powerful effect? We play a whole stack of 0 mana Equipment, allowing us to draw cards for no mana at all! Secondly we want to be able to keep churning through our deck, if we don’t draw more Equipment to keep going we need something else to fuel us, so we play 4 copies of Retract – an Instant that returns all Artifacts we control to our hand for 1 Blue Mana, this allows us to cast our artifacts again for more cards. Where do the Mox Opals come in that I mentioned earlier? They effectively make Retract a free spell, allowing us to later use multiple Opals to make the Mana needed to cast our finisher – Grapeshot.

More Important cards in the deck that help the combo along:

Repeal – acts as a 1 mana draw 2 when you return your own equipment to your hand, also allows you to bounce your opponents hate cards.

Hurkyll’s Recall – Sometimes 4 copies of Retract isn’t enough, having a 5th copy helps the chance of fizzling your combo, it can be cast through a chalice on 1 unlike retract, gives you resiliency through surgical extraction and also has fringe use in the format to combat decks like Affinity and Saheeli Combo (The Felidar Guardians copies are artifacts). This card is so important to the deck I’ll be adding an additional copy to my deck for the future.

Sunbaked Canyon/Horizon Canopy – More than most decks this deck is reliant on a very specific set up, and being able to draw cards from land drops is incredibly important.

Noxious Revival – Sometimes your combo will start to fizzle, being able to draw a retract by recycling it back to the top of your deck is awesome, and just in case somehow your 1 copy of Grapeshot ends up in the yard it’s nice to be able to rebuy it.

Simian Spirit Guide – This historically busted card allows us to nut draw a win on turn 1, however it’s mostly used by me to grab the extra mana for a repeal on hate cards or to cast Hurkyll’s when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Other decks run these alongside Rugged Prairie to try for the turn 1 win, but I prefer consistency over speed.

The combo itself is pretty self explanatory when it gets off the ground, the difficulty in piloting the deck is threefold; Mulligan decisions, knowing what turn you can go off and sideboarding.

Knowing what turn you can go off to me feels like a learned instinct but generally as long as you have all your pieces and don’t get disrupted you can win on turn 2. If your combo doesn’t work on turn 2 or you require a turn to set up, turn 3 is perfectly fine even in by the current meta’s speed. Don’t be disheartened if you do fizzle on turn two, the deck has so many ways to keep trying again. Puresteel Paladin is my prefered turn 2 combo creature, although the Equipments have to resolve to draw (nod to Chalice of the Void) it allows you to free equip everything to itself to give it a large toughness to beat some aggro and survive Lightning Bolts, and Paradise Mantle allows to to ensure even more mana is available to you for next turn.

 

Keeping Hands.

Generally your opening hands need to contain the two main combo pieces (a creature and an equipment) and 2 lands to be considered keepable at the minimum, but I would like to see an Opal, some more Equipments or some bounce spells on top of that, so I mulligan very aggressively to sculpt this out, there isn’t really such thing as a value hand in this deck, although you can keep Equipment heavy hands as long as they have a castable creature. 

Here’s some example hands to illustrate the decisions I make when choosing whether to mulligan.

((2x Sram, Senior Edificer, Paradise Mantle, Accorder’s Shield, Arid Mesa, Flooded Strand, Sunbaked Canyon.))

This hand has 2 Srams, now he is Legendary so the second copy is often useless, however in cases where the first one is removed it’s nice to have a back up, we also have 2 artifacts to draw some cards and the Lands needed to cast our spells. The third Land is disappointing as we only really need 2, but since the 3rd is a Sunbaked canyon we can cash it in for a card if we need to. I’d keep this hand.

((Sram, Senior Edificer, Puresteel Paladin, 2x Repeal, Accorder’s Shield, Paradise Mantle, Plains))

This Hand is a lot sketchier, we have a nice spread of combo pieces and a back up creature, however we only have 1 Land and it doesn’t produce blue mana, so this is a Mulligan.

((Puresteel Paladin, Grapeshot, Spidersilk Net, Paradise Mantle, Bone Saw, Sunbaked Canyon, Hallowed Fountain.))

This Hand has a creature and a few draws to get through with our artifacts, it has the Mana to cast our cards and the Grapeshot finisher. It’s a good hand and most of the time I would be inclined to keep it, however if it isn’t game 1 and you’re against a removal or hand disruption deck this might be a mulligan to try for a more resilient hand.

 

Sideboarding

Sideboarding is probably the hardest part of playing the deck, but luckily the deck at the moment only has 4 sideboard cards. The deck can board out 3-4 cards but it’s difficult to take more than that out of the main because the combo is so important and requires so many different pieces.

Silence – 4 copies of Silence hoses opposing storm decks, allows you to fight counter spells against control decks, and stops explosive turns from decks in the format such as Izzet Phoenix that rely on a bunch of spells being cast in one turn.

Echoing Truth – 4 copies of this card is the most important piece of the sideboard and never changes no matter what the meta is, it’s integral to fight through the best hate pieces; Damping Sphere, Leyline of Sanctity, Chalice of the Void, Narset Parter of Veils, ect. The trouble with this is knowing when your opponent is bringing in these pieces, which requires a certain format knowledge. Echoing Truth is by far the most boarded-in card of the entire sideboard, it comes in most matches, especially game two when you still need to figure out what your opponents line of attack is for beating the combo.

Giver of Runes – 4 copies for bringing in against removal heavy decks, anything that plays cheap efficient removal like Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push and Path to exile. You want to protect your creatures at all costs, finding a second combo creature is more unlikely than other combo pieces.

Pact of Negation – 3 copies round out the last of the sideboard, they’re helpful for fighting counterspells and removal on the turn you want to storm off. You cannot use Pact of Negation to stop your opponent’s combo (this is the main downside of the sideboard honestly) as you will never be able to pay for the pact trigger and you will lose the game.

Sideboard options that can be important in different metas:

Leyline of Sanctity – Helpful against metas that have more hand disruption decks like Hollow One, Mardu Pyromancer, Death’s Shadow or Jund. Also beats the Mirror if that ever comes up.

Apostle’s Blessing – An alternative to Giver of Runes, I would personally after this event switch the Givers to Apostle’s Blessings for the surprise Factor. Burrenton Forge-Tender is also a good contender but ultimately a bit too niche.

Tormod’s Crypt – If you really fear Graveyard decks and don’t think you can go faster than them uninterrupted then run some crypts, any other hate doesn’t work very well in Cheerios as they’re too slow and cost too much mana, Relic of Progenitus and Grafdigger;s Cage are Ok but the 1 mana investment can matter, Rest in Peace takes a whole turn that you can cast a Puresteel Paladin so is no good either.

Ghirapur Aether Grid – I personally don’t like this choice, but it is an interesting and unexpected line of attack to fight hate like Stony Silence/Collector Ouphe or those strange times when people are playing Runed Halo. Also not bad against hate that targets the storm aspect as you can slowly increment damage over time instead of comboing. Monastery Mentor I like more in this situation.

Thoughtsieze – Beats opposing combo decks and also fringe use to combat opposing Thoughtseize.

What to Sideboard out? It is extremely hard to take more than 4 cards out, the most often boarded out cards are the Simian Spirit Guides, these are cute to speed up your combo but not essential. Secondly, I tend to take out Noxious Revival, the card is helpful against discard and interaction but most matches you can safely board it out. Lastly I would like to take out a Bone Saw or 2, these are categorically the worst Equipment in the deck, the toughness and reach are often more important than power in the situations where you find yourself actually equipping, and Paradise Mantle’s Mana ability is the best of them in the deck, so always keep 4 copies.

 

Conclusion

The deck felt really well positioned for every event I played in, fortunately I had a lot of surprise value in that the deck is relatively uncommon, many of my opponents didn’t know on which axis to attack my combo on, and I was able to capitalise heavily on it. The Modern Meta at the moment also leans towards broken turn 3 combos, and being able to go off a turn faster has proven extremely valuable. I ended up over the weekend at the Magic Fest losing only 2 matches, the first to Goryo’s Vengeance (the match was decided by the die roll and was over on turn 2 all 3 games) and the second to UW Control, their main deck surgical extractions ruined the combo by removing my Retracts.

If I was to go to an event anytime soon, I’d lock in Cheerios, the deck is solid, and the addition of Sunbaked Canyon and the London Mulligan really helped the deck overcome its previous shortcomings.

 

Lastly, allow me to shamelessly plug my twitter – @BantEnchantress, and thank Katherine Bellingham (@FunkyFlump) for helping me edit this article and cut out all my waffling.

Learning about Mono G Tron by Thomas Duffy

Hello there, my name is Thomas Duffy, and I’m a competitive magic grinder based out of Liverpool in the UK.  I have been playing magic since the release of Born of the Gods, roughly 5 years ago, and I’ve had the pleasure of playing with the Harlequins team for just over a yeat now, leading me to travel around the world, making great friends on the team and within the magic community.

I have always enjoyed a ramp strategy – casting big flashy spells is exciting, and because of this, a friend said I should “try Tron in Modern”… and when I did, straight away I was hooked, and I’ve been playing variants of it ever since, to several GP Cashes and many wins in smaller events. I’ve wanted to create a comprehensive guide about it for some time now, and thanks to Harlequins, I finally have the chance. At the end of this, I will show my current list and my sideboard guide for the top decks in modern.

Why would you play this deck?

Mono Green Tron is a powerful mainstay of the modern format since its inception. The consistency and sheer power make it an interesting deck to play. Tron spends the early turns searching for the important UrzaLands, allowing it to cast haymakers like Karn Liberated on turn 3 and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4 – A pretty big deal in Modern! If you like to cast big, powerful and expensive spells, Tron could likely be the deck for you.

How does it work?

Tron plays like a bit of a weird combo deck, where your combo is UrzaLands, and payoffs.  The main objective is to assemble the 3 Urzalands as quickly as possible (A feat made significantly easier now that you can aggressively mulligan to a low number of cards with the London Mulligan) and still win the game with ease, due to your engine, your threats and the overall raw power of your spells. Finding all the Tron pieces should be priority number 1 – your deck is so full of threats, they can always arrive later.

Lands

Unsuprisingly, you need to run a playset of each Tron land,  usually supplemented with 4 basic forests, acting as the green mana required for powerful tutors like Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying, while also acting as a safety net against Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin. A single Sanctum of Ugin is a stock choice (although 2 can be an option) in order to chain threats.  A copy of Ghost Quarter is also stock because of mirror matches, or decks that require some interaction with their manabase. You can also target yourself to fizzle hate cards like Crumble to Dust, or to find important green mana if you have expendable lands.

A single Horizon Canopy sometimes appears as a fifth green source. Playing a deck that revolves around finding colourless lands sometimes means you have a difficult time casting your green spells. The 5th green land  (alongside Chromatic artifacts, that do the same one time) helps to mitigate this problem. The fact the two Chromatic artifacts cantrip is super significant – in the early turns they fix for green mana,  but in the later game it allows you to dig towards another threat that can end the game. A land like Horizon Canopy also offers a very similar benefit.

There’s a few flexible options you can also play in the Canopy Slot:
The fifth Forest allows for a little more of the resilience described above.

Urza’s Factory can provide board presence in the late game when you’ve run out of threats, as you can find it with your tutor effects.

Geier Reach Sanitarium can provide card advantage and dig towards threats. While it does also help your opponent, your average draw is going to offer a more powerful spell than the opponents in the lategame.

Buried Ruin can return a important threat or even Chromatic artifact to you to help you win the game.

Blast Zone is slowly becoming a staple of the archetype as a tutorable Engineered Explosives. I would recommend playing this in the flex slot at this time.

Engine Cards:

Mono Green is the default colour for Tron players, as green as a colour allows you to play 8 tutor cards that will fetch you a Tron piece (Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying) and 4 dig effects that can find Tron pieces or threats in the form of Ancient Stirrings. The Chromatic artifacts (Star and Sphere) also form part of the early game engine – the only differences between the two is Star will always draw a card when it’s put into the graveyard, while Sphere only does so through it’s ability.  Chromatic Sphere draws a card as a part of its mana ability,  meaning it cannot be interrupted or responded to, while Star draws a card with its triggered ability, giving the opponent the chance to respond. This engine enables Tron on turn 3 or 4 extremely consistently, and allows for quick rebuilding through disruption due to its redundancy.

Threats:

Karn Liberated is the poster child for this deck – they don’t call him the KarnFather for nothing! The plus ability makes him enter play with a whopping 10 loyalty while immediately getting to work, making Karn hard to deal with and making it likely you get several activations out of his powerful abilites in the following turn. The second ability acts as permanent spot removal, exiling any problem permanent that the opponent controls. Karn on turn three can begin exiling lands, which can often just prevent your opponent from playing magic.  Karn’s third ability is not used often, but it can restart a hopeless game in a pitch with some tools in play.
When playing against decks that are able to deal 3 damage to a planeswalker, (Burn, Jeskai Control, Jund etc) you have to be careful with activating his second ability right away, as the Karnfather will often die immediately after to some kind of burn spell. It is often correct to just use the plus abilty, and let your advantage snowball.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is your biggest, most poweful endgame card. You can cast it as early as turn 4 if you can pair your UrzaTron with a second Tower.  His cast trigger will always exile any two permanents of your choice, meaning it can deal with any problem, or just skewer your opponents mana. This abilty being a cast trigger makes Ulamog a real haymaker vs Control decks, as they cannot interact with it.
A single attack from Ulamog will probably end the game – taking 10 damage and exiling 20 cards from the library represents a point of no return in most cases. If you get Ulamog to attack, take your time and go through the cards you’ve exiled, you’ll gain valuable, free information about the 60 card deck opposite you.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon serves mainly to clear boards it comes down on, occasionally bolting creatures or opponents with its plus ability when it’s time to win the game. It also reaches its often-game-winning ultimate extremely fast. It is a devastating card that only really loses its luster in match-ups against other colourless decks.

Wurmcoil Engine represents a hard to deal with, stabilising clock. As you spend your early turns assembling Tron, you’ll often take big hits to your life total from the opponent – Wurmcoil helps to recover from that damage and stabilise the game. Against removal heavy opponents, Wurmcoil offers multiple threats in one that quickly swing a race if tokens cannot be dealt with.

World Breaker is a personal favourite card in the archetype as it offers a lot of flexible value. World Breaker having reach makes it an answer to Celestial Colonnade, Inkmoth Nexus and any other pesky flying creatures, and is an often forgotten keyword in the card. The cast trigger is immediately impactful, dealing with problematic artifacts and enchantments such as Blood Moon, Damping Sphere, Alpine Moon, Ensnaring Bridge and Stony Silence, occasionally even dealing with a problematic land/color screwing your opponent. In the late game, you can rebuy this card from your graveyard, making it a resilient, reusable threat.

Karn, the Great Creator is a new addition to the Tron family, offering the powerful Lattice lock and a variety of other powerful artifacts as tutorable tools out of our sideboard. At this time, the general consensus seems to be that Karn, TGC is better left to Eldrazi Tron, and is not a mainstay in the archetype, but it certainly offers another angle of attack and some powerful game ending artifacts.

Utility Cards:

Walking Ballista has become a mainstay of the deck due to its broad range of applications. In the early game, you can cast for 2 mana to chump block big creatures and provide removal against mana dorks or value creatures such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Dark Confidant.
After assembling Tron, Ballista offers a threat you can turn it into a threat as a 3/3, 4/4 or even 5/5 that can continue to grow in the absence of another threat. Ballista offers removal, and a lot of damage very quickly if left unchecked. If you cast it as a 4/4 or more, it will also trigger Sanctum of Ugin.

Oblivion Stone is your other board clear. Its a  reset button that you can press if things get too far out of hand, and it’s great against creature decks, and for buyingyou a lot of time. Sometimes, you even have the time to save powerful permanents you already had in play by putting fate counters on them. Furthermore, the card comes down early enough through both Blood Moon and Dampening Sphere to challenge both those permanents.

Dismember is probably the weakest card in the deck, and doesn’t often see a ton of mainboard play, but having two removal spells can be crucial in a lot of situation, especially since Tron does not pack a lot of early game interaction. At the moment, Relic of Progenitus is a more necessary evil in the world of Hogaak, but Dismember is a powerful tool to have access to in some metagames.

Speaking of Relic of Progenitus, it offers you a  source of graveyard hate in the maindeck of tron, also occasionally protecting your lands against Surgical Extraction. If the meta demands graveyard hate, you can use 2-3 relics in your mainboard. In games where you don’t need to attack the graveyard, you will still have the cantrip effect at your disposal, and you can find it when required with Ancient Stirrings.

Sideboard

Nature’s Claim is your MVP – it’s a cheap, green instant for 1 green mana that can be also cast on your own artifacts if you need the life against decks such as Burn. The life gained by your opponent while dealing with these problematic permanents is rarely an issue for Tron.

Thought-Knot Seer offers disruption against Combo and Control decks, something Tron struggles to do otherwise. Having a card that can tear important peices out of your opponents hand while also offering a low-to-the-ground, body with good stats, a fact that is not to be underestimated.

Thragtusk is one of the best midrange cards in the game. It offers a sticky body and plenty of life to buy you the time you need against more aggressive strategies to win, while also being a resilient threat vs removal heavy decks, or exile based removal such as Path to Exile.

Spatial Contortion acts as extra premium creature removal for the matchups where you want that. You can find it with Ancient Stirrings, and even occasionally use it to buff our creatures in cases where you can get in for lethal.

Warping Wail is a versatile sideboard option. It can be removal against problematic 1 toughness creatures, or ramp you into earlier boardclears from Ugin and Oblivion Stone. In a pinch, it even serves as a counter to powerful sorceies like Scapeshift.

Surgical Extraction is occasionally present in the sideboard of Tron, especially in the current mets. This free spell offers an immediate answer to any problematic card in the opponents graveyard, and sometimes you can even target yourself in response to your opponent’s Surgical Extraction then fail to find any additional copies of the targeted card, which saves you from exiling all of the remaining copies in your deck.

In general, the Tron sideboard needs to adapt to the meta around it, and you should build your sideboard based on the decks that you anticipate to face in a particular metagame. If you face a lot of land destruction, cards like Crucible of Worlds, Life from the Loam or Noxious Revival can help you.
You can diversify your board wipes to mess with Meddling Mage by adding All is Dust. Grafdigger’s Cage is a nice addition if Storm or Collected Company decks harass you in the meta.
Even Spellskite can prove to be a great card against burn, targetted removal, or pesky infect/hexproof decks.

That’s all Folks

So this is a brief introduction to the main framework of Tron. I’ll definately be writing some more detailed information and breakdowns of different lists in the future – there’s a lot of buzz surrounding Karn, TGC to keep track of!

If you want to ask any questions, or keep up with me updating Tron personally, please follow me on Twitter @SkaterDante.
A big thanks to my sponser, Harlequins Games, who continue to help me be at the forefront of competitive magic. If you want to check them out, visit www.harlequins-games.co.uk and use code “Turn3Tron” at checkout for 5% off all singles!

Until next time….
May the KarnFarther watch over you!

Duffy

Diggin’ Holes and Herding Souls: 11-3-1 (21st Place) at GP Birmingham with Bant Soulherder. By Scott Mines

“Interestingly, I will also cast a Soulherder…”

A little bit about me:

Well, hello there. My name is Scott Mines, and I am a magic grinder based in the north of the UK. If I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting you before, let me tell you a little bit about me: I’m a 24 year old filmmaker and scriptwriter, and I’ve been playing card games competitively for most of my life – moving primarily to Magic about 6 years ago. In that time, I’ve put up a few decent results, including a few GP cashes and a few near misses for PT qualifications. I’m also part of the lovely team here at Harlequins Gaming – Blackpool and Preston’s premiere gaming venues – if you’re looking for me at an event, just look for the black and purple shirt and come say hi, I’d love to have a chat with you.

Preparation for the GP: Early testing.

I’ve primarily played Humans in Modern since the deck made its breakout appearance at the SCG Tour – I have a soft spot for tribal decks and enjoy the play patterns the deck presents. As a result, my early testing consisted primarily of Humans and the menace that is Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Based on what I had seen in events around me, I was willing to accept we might be in Hogaak-or-Lose territory, and had to test the deck myself before I felt comfortable not sleeving it up.

There was no doubt Hogaak was ridiculously powerful. The deck played a turn 2 8/8 trampler with frightening consistency. That said, the sideboard games were absolutely MISERABLE. After spending a few leagues playing the “leyline sub game”, I accepted that I personally didn’t feel like Hogaak would allow me to leverage any skill cap I may have in the room, and I didn’t want my GP to live and die with how good I was at drawing Force of Vigor. I put the deck down, and went back to my trusty standby, Humans:

Most of my testing with Humans came in the weeks directly following the Mythic Championship, and as a result, I found myself getting beaten handily by a large amount of Jund players. I just couldn’t seem to buy a win in the matchup, while my record in nearly every other matchup was only middling to slightly favoured. At the time, I firmly believed Jund to be a actively good deck choice, and so I started to look for other deck options for the event. In hindsight, Jund is nowhere near as popular as I thought it would be, and as a result, I think Humans is very possibly a good choice moving forward.

Enter Gabriel Nassif:

That’s where the mastermind that is Magic Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif (@Gabnassif on Twitter and Yellowhat on Twitch, you should follow him if you don’t already) comes in. Gab was streaming a deck he’d been working on for the Mythic Championship, and was going to play in the GP had he not made day 2 – Bant Soulherder.

For those who don’t know, one of the first modern decks I ever played was Shota Yasooka’s Eternal Command list from Worlds 2012 – So all this talk of Eternal Witness value, potentially with Cryptic Command had peaked my interest. I continued enjoy Gab’s content on the deck while beginning work on my own list. I really want to give Gab some serious praise here – I was constantly asking questions in chat and directly to him on Twitter, and he always got back to me promptly with his thoughts and considerations, something I cannot thank him for enough. With these words of wisdom influencing my choices, the final list looked like this just 3 hours before decklists needed to be submitted:

https://my.cfbevents.com/deck/view/65f2d0c3-47dd-48e2-b501-2d42eafedd13

You can find the 1 minute deck tech I did for ChannelFireball right here!

https://twitter.com/ChannelFireball/status/1163088694233972737

So….What does this deck do exactly?

Value. That’s what. The goal is to control the early game though cheap removal, Force of Negation, and 2 drops that draw cards. Once this has been established, you can begin to abuse those ETBs with cards like Ephemerate and Soulherder to gain insurmountable card advantage. Most games end at the hands of a very large Soulherder, pressure from several annoying 1/1s, and occasionally a Jace ultimate.

Unconventional card choices

I wanted to highlight a few cards that I’ve had the most questions about and explain their purpose:

Venser, Shaper Savant: – Venser seems strange when you think about the fact I am not playing Reflector Mage. The truth is, Venser is a much more versatile card in the slot – able to consistently prevent problematic permanents, reset planeswalkers, or hold off Supreme Verdict indefinitely with the help of Ephemerate. Venser is almost as good in the matchups Reflector would be, and shines in spots where it wouldn’t. It pitches to Force, and keeping your opponents off Tron but constantly flickering it to return lands to their hand in the upkeep is a delight. Particularly shines in sideboard games when you can disguise it in the opponents turn with not only Coatl, Force and Path/Ephemerate, but also other countermagic like Rejection and Stroke.

Condemn: – The deck suffers from having no good turn one plays, something that can be a real problem when staring down Monastery Swiftspear. As a result, I wanted a “fifth path” that would also be good in the early game. I initially tested Oust, but unfortunately, putting Hogaak on top of the library is much worse than the bottom. The card really shined against Vengevine, Swiftspear and Arclight Phoenix. It was a solid inclusion, but I would still consider it a flex slot.

No Time Warp:- Those that are familiar with Nassif’s list will know that Time Warp with Eternal Witness and either one of Ephemerate or Soulherder allows you to take infinite turns. While this is obviously powerful, it tends to be a combo you sometimes “stumble into” while enacting your normal gameplan. I found I often had to mulligan hands in which Time Warp was a blank spell, and it was the first spell I often pitched to Force. With all that on board, I chose not to play it. The card might have a place in the deck in the future, but for now, I would still lean toward no Time Warp

Canopy Vista and Prairie Stream:- All the credit for this one needs to go to Nassif. The fetch patterns with this deck are often Tapped Dual/Basic/Basic or Basic/Basic/Dual. In that world, these two lands are often just Tundra and Savannah, and are basically never worse than the shockland counterpart. You have to be mindful that your deck does not contain a Temple Garden, but with that said, the life I saved by not shocking with these lands won me many, many games this weekend. I believe it is a mistake to not play them in your manabase.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk?! :- Ah yes, the big white artillery weapon. In my testing, I was finding Humans and other creature based decks that played well against Path to Exile to be a problem, so I looked for a sideboard card to help sure up those matchups. Flickering this makes me feel all tingly, and it is pretty good vs Humans, Scales, Urza (when they don’t have both foundry and sword already set up) and is even reasonable against Jund. It is definitely a flex slot, and is not required, but I was fairly happy with it – it was especially hilarious in the mirror!

The Tournament:

After collecting my deck from my sponsor, Harlequins Games, and my teammates Thomas Duffy, Pagan Young, Alex Attwaters and Jack Warrington, it was time to get to work:

Round 1/2: BYE

Round 3 – Izzet Phoenix

I had the pleasure of playing this matchup a reasonable amount before the event, and I feel it is a pretty good one. Game 1 involved a massive Soulherder clubbing my opponent to death as he kept attempting to remove my Deputy of Detention, who was very helpfully detaining multiple Things in The Ice. As the Deputy and Things got exiled over and over through Soulherder and Ephemerate flickers, the Soulherder for +4/+4 each time. It did not take long for the 26/26 to close the game.

Game 2 involved 5 castings of the same Celestial Purge. I’ll let you guess who won that one.

3-0

Round 4 – Jund

Ah, Jund. The other fair value deck in the format. This matchup also feels fairly good, as long as you can Force/deal with early copies of the machine that is Wrenn and Six. Game 1 was fairly boring, as my opponent struggled to figure out what was important to discard/remove. Game 2 was a hell of a game however, starting with my opponents expletives when he saw Thragtusk with an IoK. We trade one for one until the swing turns begin, my opponent has a plague engineer naming Snake (which is causing a little bit of a problem) and two 5/6 Tarmogoyfs, who declare their attacks. I path the Engineer, and flash in two Coatls, drawing two cards and trading with both Goyfs. Despite this, my opponent stabilises again with a Bloodbraid into another Engineer. The top of my deck is kind, providing me with an Eternal Witness, which I use to return more witnesses, and pick up my Thragtusk again. My opponent untaps, draws, and sheepishly casts a Leyline of the Void…

… He does not survive the 4th Thragtusk.

4-0

Round 5 – Mono R Prowess

This matchup is fairly difficult, you can steal games by multiple Knight of Autumns/Thragtusks/Celestial Purge effects, but in general, they get out of the gate incredibly fast, and Lava Dart proves to be a real pain in the ass for the deck full of 1/1s. My opponent was a lovely guy, but the few turns the match lasted for are a bit of a blur. The second game involved a creature heavy draw from him, and flipping Lava Dart/Burst Lighting off Light Up the Stage to clear my board as I attempted to stabilize. After a lethal bolt appeared from Bedlam Reveler, I offered the handshake.

4-1

Round 6 – Urza

I think this matchup is favoured, and I didn’t technically lose to it all weekend, but it is tough, long and incredibly grindy. If you’re picking up the deck, and play this matchup, you need to play at an increased pace if you can, you’ll need it. Game 1 involves me using Eternal Witness to recycle Force of Negation, keeping Thopter Foundry off the table. Sai, Master Thopterist buys my opponent a lot of time, but I eventually find the Deputy to deal with the thopters and swing in for lethal. Game 2 was an utter mess – I have a Rest in Peace in play for most of the game, but my opponent continues to generate a mass of card advantage via Urza and Thopter Foundry that I cannot contain. As we reach Turn 3 of Turns, I have my plan in place – Deputy my opponents 14 Thopters on my Turn 4, then Ephemerate the Deputy in turn 5 to not take lethal damage from the thopters he makes EoT. My opponents Urza finds Spine of Ish Sah and destroys all my white sources, resulting in a draw.

4-1-1

Round 6 – Merfolk

I had seen my opponent playing in an earlier round, so knew what was coming – I can’t imagine this matchup is good, as I have islands in my deck. However, I catch a break in Game 1 when my opponent misses their second land after keeping a 1 land and Aether Vial hand. Unfortunately, during this game, I make a block that, during the following turn cycle, my opponent realises I should not have been able to make due to islandwalk being provided by Prairie Stream. The judge tells us too many game actions have taken place and too much information gained since the block happened so we cannot rewind. I am fairly sure that I lose this game if that block doesn’t happen, but do take Game 1 as it plays out. As we shuffle up for sideboarding, both of us make sure the other is okay, and acknowledge that mistakes happen. I write the word “Islandwalk” on the back of the used lifepad paper, placing it in the middle of the battlefield to try to prevent that from happening again. Game 2 is another razor thin affair, which I manage to steal by flickering Deputy of Detention in combat to steal all the islandwalking lords and blocking the rest of the team. My opponent takes the loss extremely well given how the first game played out, and I really want to praise them for that.

5-1-1

Round 7 – Urza

I tend to leave opponents names out of reports like this, in case they wish to remain anonymous, but that’s something I cannot do in this round. Mark Gallacher is a Scottish grinder who came across as an incredibly lovely guy, happy to be doing so well in the GP. The games were a absolute pleasure to play, with a lot of back and forth – but as mentioned in the last Urza match, unreasonably grindy. Games 1 and 2 are largely uneventful, going 1-1 but taking up most of the match clock, and myself and Mark attempted to play game 3 incredibly quickly to avoid knocking us both out of Day 2. Unfortunately, this leads to us both getting sloppy, with me knocking decks over and missing triggers, and Mark accidently cracking a fetch, forgetting he was in his main phase, drawing for turn again, playing an extra land and fetching before realising. As the clock stalled out, I had a Rest in Peace in play but neither player had much going on. Mark graciously acknowledged that his mistake had caused the really long judge call, and he was unsure if he would be able to complete all his day 2 matches before leaving if he had won. As a result of this, Mark concedes to allow me to make Day 2.

Mark Gallacher, sir. You are a gentleman, and a damn good magic player. I still can’t thank you enough for that concession – be on the lookout for this guy, you’ll see him at the top tables soon enough!

6-1-1

Round 8 – Mono G Tron

Big mana is a real problem matchup for this deck, just like most other “fair” decks in modern, and Green Tron is no exception. I steal game 1 by leveraging Venser to keep my opponent of Tron, and land a timely Force of Negation to prevent Ugin from making me a sad panda before attacking for lethal. I feel I’m in fantastic control of Game 2 as well, with my opponent having to Ghost Quarter one of their own Tron lands to find green mana. Sadly, just as I stole game 1, my opponent steals game two by finding the 3rd Karn Liberated, erasing my final white source, and slamming an Ulamog to eat me alive. Game 3 is….not close. I mulligan quite low, and my opponent has a fairly strong hand. It does not take long for my soul to be claimed by the KarnFather once again.

6-2-1

Round 9 – Bant Soulherder

I started my Day 2 off in the best possible fashion. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Morgan Payne (@MorganTheBear32 on Twitter, you should follow him too!) for the last few rounds of Day 1, and we had mutually acknowledged we were the 2 Bant Soulherder players who had made Day 2 on Twitter the night before. So when I saw the pairings and that we’d be the feature match for the round. I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off. You can see a small snippet of the fun we had in this video clip captured by Frank Karsten over on ChannelFireball:

https://twitter.com/ChannelFireball/status/1163017159137792000

This was one of, if not the most fun matchup of the day. I mulliganed to 4 in game one, but due to being under no pressure from my opponent, my two-drops and Soulherders quickly remedied that. The mirrorbreaker proved to be my maindeck Thragtusk, which Morgan did not have. After much grinding and much lifegain, Morgan succumbed to a horde of 3/3 beasts

Game 2, however, Morgan also had Thragtusk. But I had Cataclysmic Gearhulk. And so a game ensued of me clearing the board, Morgan rebuying his Tusk, casting it and flickering it repeatedly. Eventually, I find my own tusk and begin the same process. As our life totals spiral towards 100 and the board becomes overrun by 30-50 feral beasts (in about 4 minutes I’m sure), Morgan agrees he has no way to end the game before time runs out, as his Time Warp is kept in check by Venser. He extends the hand, and we continue laughing. This one, was an absolute blast.

7-2-1

Round 10 – Eldrazi Tron

Seeing an Urza’s Power Plant on Turn 1 is such a rollercoaster affair with this deck – if it’s Green Tron, you have a real uphill battle, but if it’s E-Tron, you’re in very good shape. My heart sinks a little more when the second land is a Mine, but eases up a little when my opponent casts a chalice on 1. The third land is a Ghost Quarter, followed by a Matter Reshaper and I celebrate internally. Knight of autumn quickly mops up the chalice, and then many mind stones as my opponent stumbles on mana. Game 2 ends when my opponent is unable to deal with a large Soulherder early, as his cards are handled by rebought Ceremonious Rejections. A Knight of Autumn is eventually flickered to handle the Ensnaring Bridge, and its lights out.

8-2-1

Round 11 – Hardened Scales.

I had not tested this matchup much, but the games I had played made me feel it has hard, but winnable. You have the lean on Path/Condemn and Knight flickers pretty hard, and Cataclysmic and Rejection help clean up after board. Game 1 is a really close affair. I control my opponent’s aggression through three Path to Exile, but not without taking some poison damage first. As I race to end the game with a Soulherder, My opponents Throne of Geth is proliferating the poison in my bloodstream. Eventually, I fall a little short and succumb to the poison.

Game 2 is less close…I keep a hand that includes my Cataclysmic Gearhulk, and my opponent leads on Ancient Stirrings. He looks at the top card…

…then the second, which he slams on the table.

It’s a Torpor Orb.

My opponent puts three more cards from the top of his library on the bottom without even looking at them as I shake my head in disbelief. My kingdom for a Force of Vigor!

This deck is great, everyone. But you’re not beating a Torpor Orb

8-3-1

Round 12 – Urza

A little disheartened that the Top 8 dream is dead, I attempt to lock my focus back to Magic and focus on making cash. My opponent had lost the last 2 rounds in a row, and that was clearly showing in his mood too. Thankfully, this time this matchup was much easier for me, having the maindeck Knight in my opening hand, and looping disdainful stroke in the second game to keep my opponent of any relevant spells he drew. A Venser on Dead of Winter when my opponent was out of black mana sealed the deal early on in the round.

9-3-1

Round 13- Hogaak

I had somehow dodged the menace that was Hogaak up until this point – I actually think the matchup is reasonable (I would not call you favoured though) – You can set up loops with Path/Ephemerate/Witness to keep pathing Gaak and Carrion Feeder, which gives you a bit of game. That said, game 1 ends on Turn 3 as I take 20 damage after keeping a hand with Paths, but no white on 6.

Game 2 is an interesting affair, I mulligan as my opponent struggles with their 7. I get a read that they are deciding if they should keep a hand that is slow, but heavy on interaction. They do keep, and that leads me to keep a 6 with no graveyard hate, but a proactive start of Wall into Soulherder. I was right, as my opponent double-thoughtseizes my two herders, and tries to beat me down with Gravecrawler and Bloodghast. I land a Jace that I can protect behind two walls, and my opponent decides to Trophy, leaving me to safely resolve the Rest in Peace Jace brainstormed into.

Game 3 is super interesting. I keep a 7 with a Rest in Peace and two drops, and my opponent puts up a turn 2 Gaak, I land a RIP, take a hit, and then Path the Gaak. I begin to stabilize as my opponent topdecks Vengevine in Vengevine to put me under pressure, before Soulherder outgrows them. With 2 cards in hand to my 1, my opponent trophies my RIP, sacs a Stitcher’s Supplier to his Carrion Feeder, untaps and rips a fetch off the top to power out the Gaak that had been stranded in his hand. I look at my in hand Wall of Blossoms.

Draw for turn – land.

Cast Wall – Draw Coatl.

Cast Coatl……

…..Draw Path.

I path the Gaak and push for lethal in a really fun game.

10-3-1

Round 15:- Izzet Phoenix

And we end the day as it started, with Izzet Phoenix. My opponent is in their first GP, and is already overjoyed with his finish. He does not know what I’m on, which my last few opponents had got wind of since the feature match. When he sees the coiling oracle on turn 2, he laughs his ass off too – his friend had wanted to play this deck for the GP and after playing against it he was in love with it too. This was the second, if not the first most enjoyable match of the day – it may not have been close, but my opponent and I laughed and joked all the way through the games, even as I was sealing his fate with Jace. After the match, he asked me to sign his snow-covered basics so he would have a memento to remember the match and GP by – something I was truly honoured to be asked to do. This won’t be the last Day /Cash for this player either, he played great, and our match embodied what magic is all about for me – The Gathering.

11-3-1 – 21st Place – $400.

Sideboarding Information and Tips:

This is something I’ve been asked for a few times now, but I obviously can’t cover every matchup in modern here, I’ll just highlight some of the big ones. If you have questions in the future, feel free to come and contact me in the places at the end of the report and I’ll gladly chat with you.

Gaak –

· In – 2 Purge, 4 RIP, 1 Surgical, 1 Ooze

· Out – 4 Force, 3 Witness, 1 Knight (Can be a Jace if you see Altar)

As I said above, I think the matchup is reasonable. Always side out your witness when you bring in Rest in Peace. As a general rule, try to surgical Vengevine- You have many answers to an in play Gaak, but Vengevine pushes more damage quickly and cannot be celestial purged.

Mono R –

· In – 3 RIP, 2 Purge, 2 Knight, 1 Ooze, 1 Thragtusk

· Out – 4 Force, 3 Witness, 1 Venser, 1 Jace

Prowess and Phoenix are hard. You need RIP vs both versions to turn off Bedlam Reveler and Lava Dart/Looting. Aggressively block with two drops when you don’t have Soulherder, and maximise your Tango-Land manabase in the matchup for the best chance of survival. You can bring in the surgical if you see phoenix, but I’m not sold on that.

Mardu Shadow –

· In – 2 Purge, 1 Ooze, 2 Knight of Autumn, 1 Thragtusk

· Out – 4 Force, 1 Deputy, 1 Venser

I’ve not played this matchup a lot, so more testing is definitely required. I think the extra knights are good because they can shatter Tidehollow Sculler and Hex Parasite, and I feel Ooze is fine to help fight against Unearth. More work to be done here, though.

Humans

· In – 1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk, 1 Purge, 2 Knight, 1 Ooze, 1 Thragtusk

· Out – 4 Force, 2 Jace.

Matchup is slightly favoured for them, but definitely winnable. The one purge helps deal with Mantis Rider, Freebooter and Plague Engineer. Aggressive blocks are fine here when you don’t have Soulherder too, as your goal is just to survive – saving Coatl to block Mantis Riders is defensible in a lot of cases, however.

Urza –

· In – 3 RIP, 2 Stroke, 2 Knight, 1 Ooze, 1 Surgical, 1 Cataclysmic

· Out – 3 Witness, 1 Tusk, 1 Condemn, 1 Path, 4 Wall of Blossoms

This matchup is long but feels favoured, even if only a little. Path needs to deal with Sai or resolved Urza’s, so save them for that – you can always shatter of exile the construct later. RIP is needed to turn off Thopter Foundry, as Thopters blocking your herder forever is how you lose, so lean on Jace and protect it from fliers. Stroke counters all the relevant cards other than Sai and Foundry (Tezz, Urza, and Whir) – Given that RIP is the plan, Gearhulk is the nuts for clearing their board down when they can’t rebuild with sword/foundry. Do not bring in Rejection, it counters nothing that matters.

E-Tron –

· In – 1 Rejection, 2 Stroke, 2 Knight

· Out – 4 Force, 1 Wall of Blossoms

Matchup is good – don’t panic about chalice on 1 much, just shatter it with Knight/Deputy eventually. Shatter mind stones when you can to keep them off mana – Soulherder often outgrows their creatures, and Coatl deals with them well. Be mindful of All is Dust.

Green Tron –

· In – 1 Rejection, 2 Stroke, 2 Knight

· Out – 4 Wall of Blossoms, 1 Jace

Lean of Force of Negation and other countermagic hard while presenting some kind of clock. Otherwise, cross your fingers and pray that the Karnfather doesn’t take you.

Scales –

· In – 1 Cataclysmic, 1 Rejection, 2 Knight, 2 RIP

· Out – 4 Force, 2 Wall of Blossoms.

Wall doesn’t block relevant threats well here, and Force is pretty bad outside of…..you know, Torpor Orb. If you think they have it, leave some in to try and manage it I guess. Matchup feels pretty good otherwise.

Jund –

· In – 2 Purge, 1 Ooze, 1 Thragtusk

· Out – 2 Force, 1 Venser, 1 Deputy

Venser always trades down and Deputy always dies – try to only force on Wrenn or Lily, preferably hardcast to not lose card advantage. Purge the walkers if they resolve, or save them for Plague Engineer if you have pressure. Let Coatl and Path handle Goyf, and rely on your Thragtusks and Jaces to end the game.

Izzet Phoenix:

· In – 2 Purge, 3 RIP, 1 Ooze, 1 Surgical

· Out – 3 Witness, 1 Knight, 1 Wall of Blossoms, 2 Force.

The knights stay in the board because they don’t leave in Aria of Flame. You trim on force, but try to use it on Saheeli or Looting. Wall is a space cut, as it does not block well, but I could see you cutting a Coiling Oracle instead because it dies to Lava Dart/Gut Shot.

Closing Statements

Well, thank you for reading and checking out the deck – I hope you take up the chance to flicker some walls yourself! I just want to say thank you for the overwhelming support over the weekend, it has meant the world, and a huge thank you for my sponsor, Harlequins Games, and my family over there. I wouldn’t be here without their support and sponsorship, so if you want to check them out, head over to www.harlequins-games.co.uk, and because you read this report, I can even let you have 5% off all singles if you use code “HowlingMines1” at Checkout.

If you want chat with me, or ask me any questions about the deck or event, you can follow me over on Twitter at @HowlingMines – feel free to DM or tag me; I’d love to hear your own war stories with the deck. I know I’ll be diggin’ holes and herding souls for some time to come….

Until then, I’ll see you on the battlefield!

Thanks for reading
Scott.

Deck List.
4 Coiling Oracle
1 Deputy of Detention
3 Eternal Witness
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Knight of Autumn
4 Soulherder
1 Thragtusk
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
4 Wall of Blossoms
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Condemn
4 Ephemerate
4 Force of Negation
4 Path to Exile
1 Breeding Pool
1 Canopy Vista
1 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Prairie Stream
3 Prismatic Vista
3 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Windswept Heath

Sideboard:
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
2 Celestial Purge
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Knight of Autumn
4 Rest in Peace
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Thragtusk