Pro Tour Fate Reforged Deck Diaries: Ari Lax (Part 1)

Posted in NEWS on February 16, 2015

In the weeks leading up to Pro Tour Fate Reforged, the Wizards coverage staff—headlined by Brian David-Marshall—approached a few recognizable pros with an idea.

We asked these pros who to submit a journal entry to us every few days with what's in their Pro Tour deck box for that day. This included one (or sometimes more) decklists, along with some notes that highlight why the deck was currently their pick for the Pro Tour.

One of these candidates—eighth-ranked Ari Lax—was highlighted in a video segment that aired on Saturday of Pro Tour Fate Reforged. You can watch that segment below:

This week, we'll highlight one of the pros approached for the Deck Diary segment, leading up to Grand Prix Vancouver this weekend, which will feature the Pro Tour Fate Reforged Constructed format: Modern.

Today, we're starting off with a look at at the first half of Lax's submissions in his very detailed testing process. Be sure to check back tomorrow at the Magic website's Events section to see his final results!

Eighth-ranked Ari Lax

January 20

Here's the first deck I'm actually attached to, derived from the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kyoto in August:

Ari Lax's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 20

Download Arena Decklist

The natural reaction to the bans is for people to move on to B/G/x variants as they were the best pre-Khans of Tarkir deck and lost one of their worst match-ups in Pod. Burn is a favorite there and has only gotten better as people switch from Jund and Lightning Bolt to Abzan without one-drop removal. Burn is also favored against Tron, the other real anti-midrange deck, and is also ahead against Twin, the now second most relevant deck. The only bad match-up in the top tier is the Jeskai decks, which I don't think will be exceptionally popular as they have really underperformed lately.

List specifics: This decklist is short on Searing Blaze or Searing Blood as it's only really good against Affinity and the mirror out of the top 7ish decks. Leyline of Sanctity is solely for the mirror, but I'm unsure it's actually good enough as I haven't tested it (though that really applies to the entire sideboard now to be fair).

January 23

I'm still super excited about Burn, but progress has stagnated. The sideboard is really the place to focus, but I'm not finding the generic answers I need. Basically, the issue is the same as Legacy Storm where problematic hate permanents exist and there isn't a good general answer analogous to Chain of Vapor that covers Kor Firewalker and Leyline of Sanctity that I have found to hedge sideboard in.

Here's the current deck of the hour, which I think is a little more resilient on the hated out spectrum but still linearly powerful. The draw is that you are basically a Jund/Abzan style deck with an over the top end game for the mirror, the same disruptive cards for the pure combo decks plus Raven's Crime as a back-breaking engine against them, and Seismic Assault and land destruction to cover some of the other engine decks. I really want to try Tasigur here after testing against it, but I don't think Life from the Loam, Flame Jab, and Raven's Crime work too well with that card:

Ari Lax's Assault Loam – PTFRF Deck Diary January 23

Download Arena Decklist

January 25

This Life from the Loam nonsense didn't last long. Casting Loam is horrible in this format as it doesn't actually draw you real cards. I'm basically locked into Burn barring other fringe deck testing drawing me there (Martyr, Merfolk being top options) or a revamp of Jeskai Control being great. I've been straight up smashing everything that doesn't have real hate, and even then a lot of things that people think beat it really don't.

Ari Lax's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 25

Download Arena Decklist

Current focus is the sideboard. Problems are Kor Firewalker, Spellskite, and Leyline of Sanctity. I think the plan against the last one is accept a loss if they catch me not boarding in Wear // Tear, but the first two involve digging a bit deeper. I don't really want to go three color as the low damage mana base has been excellent, but Rain of Gore is certainly an option. I'm not too excited as it's still a brick by itself, meaning I can't play more than 1 or 2 which means the splash is really low payoff, but it's unique and powerful enough that it might be worth it.

The other option against Firewalker is Dismember, but I'm expecting Firewalker mostly out of decks I can't beat anyways (Martyr), decks that punish me for losing life (the mirror), or decks where I'm punished for drawing a brick when they don't have it (Jeskai). I'm currently on the plan of they don't have it and if I play versus Hate Bears then congrats, they did it. Spellskite might just be something I can run straight through, as in the main it only redirects the eight Bolt effects. I've also found it often blocks and dies to a burn spell, meaning that it's basically a two mana gain 4-5 which is very beatable.

As for the cards I have now, Searing Blaze and Slagstorm are concessions to Zoo. Searing Blood is way better as landfall is unreliable, but not dealing 3 is huge. Slagstorm versus Volcanic Fallout is similar, and the ability to go to the face compared to Anger of the Gods is huge as people move away from Kitchen Finks with the Pod ban. The Leylines are gone as my assumption is that if Burn is good it will be because it isn't unexpected and not represented, so the pure hate isn't necessary. I also only have one Flames of the Blood Hand as while the card is great against B/G/x, you can't afford to bring the curve up very far. Similar reasons apply to only having three Molten Rain, which has more of a slot as it is great on the play against control and mana intensive combo like Splinter Twin.

And now, time for the 4,700 card Gatherer dive for other options.

January 27

Two upgrades from Gatherer and after talking to Chris Fennell:

1. Flamebreak hits them AND their creatures. I knew there was a card that did this that I forgot about.

2. Pyrite Spellbomb is the best answer to Kor Firewalker out of decks without other creatures, and Path to Exile is the best answer to it out of decks with creatures.

I've been testing a bit versus some hyper aggressive Zoo lists after one of my teammates ran into Raphaël Lévy in a two-man playing a Monastery Swiftspear, Boros Charm, Mutagenic Growth version. The match-up is really close and skill intensive, but it's taught me to really watch when I have Eidolon of the Great Revel in my deck. It was nothing more than a liability there, and I could easily see boarding it out in some quantity on the draw in a wide variety of match-ups.

Ari Lax's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 27

Download Arena Decklist

Next up: testing versus people with reasonable amounts of hate to see if I need to add more Spellbombs/Paths or if I need a backup deck.

Ari Lax's Deck Diary updates were thorough and plentiful, and we'll visit the ending stretch of updates that he had in tomorrow's segment. 

In the meantime, if you'd like to read up on Modern, the coverage of Pro Tour Fate Reforged highlights the format extensively. And be sure to check back this weekend for live coverage of Grand Prix Vancouver, the first Modern Grand Prix following the Pro Tour.