Last Chances (Making Them Count)

Posted in Perilous Research on August 14, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Hello and welcome back to Perilous Research! With Pro Tour Magic 2015 in the books, players around the world are clamoring for their opportunity to qualify for the Pro Tour. There are just two weekends remaining in this PTQ season and, with pressure mounting, everyone is trying to tune their decks to perfection. Today, we'll be taking a look at some of the recent PTQ-winning decklists from around the world in an effort to understand what's capable of earning a spot on the Pro Tour!

Earlier this week, I asked social media for PTQ-winning decklists from recent weeks. The response was incredible. Let's take a look at what people used to secure their spot in the competition at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir:

Devin Koepke's Jund

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Devin Koepke managed to take down a PTQ with Jund. Jund uses the format's best removal, disruption, and threats in tandem to win games on the back of its cards superior power level. Jund matches up well against Birthing Pod decks because of Thoughtseize and Anger of the Gods. Abrupt Decay is a nice upgrade to the traditional Jund shell that has become increasingly successful given the popularity of Splinter Twin strategies. Devin Koepke has been grinding his way through various Magic tournaments over the course of the last few years. His Modern Jund deck gave him the opportunity to show what he's capable of at the world's biggest stage in Honolulu last fall.

Todd Anderson's Tarmo-Twin

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Todd Anderson's Tarmo-Twin deck is the perfect middle ground between aggression and combo. Anderson has been piloting this archetype for months and his win percentage with the deck in the few tournaments I'm aware of is staggering (well above 80%). Todd Anderson—Pro Tour regular, multiple-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor, StarCityGames event assassin—applies pressure on the opponent with efficient removal, countermagic, and threats like Tarmogoyf, but it's able to punish opponents for tapping out by winning the game out of nowhere with Splinter Twin combos. Splinter Twin decks have become less popular and much less powerful over the last few weeks as many decks are now including four copies of Abrupt Decay. This deck overloads the opponents' removal and Huntmaster of the Fells punishes opponents for playing the removal spells that can't target it until it's done a huge amount of work. This is likely the best kind of Splinter Twin strategy for the format's final PTQs.

Jeremy Gagne's Tron

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Jeremy Gagne is a New Jersey player who's about to get his first taste of the Pro Tour thanks to his Tron deck. Tron is very well positioned in the current format. The deck performs incredibly well against the format's "fair" decks, but it tends to be weak to combo strategies, especially the most streamlined ones. Wurmcoil Engine is the best possible threat against black-green-based decks like Jund, Junk, and straight black-green. Karn Liberated and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn ensure that the deck will be able to overcome any late-game situation against control strategies. The deck seems to have the best footing for the upcoming weeks PTQs and I wouldn't be surprised to see it emerge victorious in some of the remaining events.

Dan Musser's WBG

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Dan Musser won his PTQ last weekend with Junk, one of the format's up-and-coming powerhouses. Junk is similar to Jund but it trades in Lightning Bolt; Chandra, Pyromaster; and Anger of the Gods for Lingering Souls, a card that's become incredible in the format now that we're seeing a lot fewer Splinter Twin decks. The deck plays similarly to the straight black-green decks we've seen since the beginning of the season, but Lingering Souls gives it a lot of extra power. Garruk Wildspeaker is a personal favorite of mine and Musser was happy to report that casting turn-three Lingering Souls into turn-four Garruk Wildspeaker + flashback was backbreaking for opponents throughout the tournament.

Nicholas Heal's Red Deck Wins

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Nicholas Heal crushed last weekend with Red Deck Wins, winning a PTQ and at least Top 4ing another large event. My friend, Larry Swasey, lost to Heal in both Top 8s and regaled me with stories of Heal's mastery of red spells. The deck aims to reduce the opponent's life total from 20 to 0 as quickly as possible, but there's a lot more play to it than one might imagine. Heal went for the long con last weekend, explaining to Swasey why he wouldn't board in Blood Moon against him on Saturday and then blew him out of the water with Blood Moon to take home victory on Sunday. Red Deck Wins seems like it's in a strong spot now with most players not playing white or combo and I expect it to be one of the biggest decks this coming weekend.

Spencer Garnier's Faeries

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Spencer Garnier broke the mold and won his PTQ with Faeries. Garnier and his friends have been playing the list for a few weeks and they've put up five Top 8s and a win between them. The deck aims to get ahead on the board and race opponents while countering important spells and using removal on key creatures. This decklist breaks the mold of what people expect Faeries to look like. No Remand may seem strange, but it's hard to argue with the incredible success of this list.

Ralph Betesh's Kiki-Pod

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Ralph Betesh took down a PTQ last weekend with Kiki-Pod. He's had a lot of success with the deck in the past, but Conner Rice finally convinced him to include Stonehorn Dignitary somewhere in the 75 and Betesh recognizes it as the card that allowed him to win the PTQ, repeatedly blanking the attack steps of Affinity players using Stonehorn Dignitary with Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Venser, Shaper Savant was also an all-star, bouncing lands to stop opponents paying for Pacts and countering Chord of Callings repeatedly thanks to Restoration Angel. This is some of the best tech we've seen, and I'm expecting Pod decks to adapt and include this new tech in the final weeks of the PTQ season.

Connor Rice's Kiki-Pod

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Speaking of Connor Rice, he also won a PTQ with Kiki-Pod this Summer. Rice's list goes super deep, including the Stonehorn Dignitary in the main deck. This list has tremendous post-board power against decks like Affinity where it can sideboard in Fiery Justice to lay waste to the opponent's whole team. Melira-Pod is still widely considered the best Birthing Pod strategy in Modern, but these new versions of Kiki-Pod are quickly changing that tune. Rice's Stonehorn Dignitary tech seems like a huge boon to the strategy, allowing the deck to win multiple PTQs in a very short span.

Chapman Sim's Black-Green Rock

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Pro Tour regular Chapman Sim won a PTQ with Black-Green Rock in Singapore. According to Sim, the straight black-green version of the deck takes a lot less damage from its lands than Jund or Junk versions of the strategy. These few points of life were key in many of his games at the PTQ. Sim contacted me and described the deck's greatest strengths and weaknesses. Treetop Village usually ends up doing more damage than Raging Ravine because of trample and reduced mana requirements, and it doesn't take up a full turn. Losing Lightning Bolt is a big deal, but replacing it with additional discard and Slaughter Pact makes it not hurt too badly. Slaughter Pact allowed Sim to tap out repeatedly without having to worry about being comboed by Splinter Twin on key turns. Sim quoted Martin Jůza saying, "No one plays around Slaughter Pact."

With the PTQ season ending in less than two weeks, things are down to the wire. Armed with this knowledge, we'll be as well prepared as possible for the upcoming weekend's PTQs. Will you be one of the few to secure your spot at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir?

Knowledge is power!

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