Double Takes

Posted in Top Decks on March 29, 2012

By Mike Flores

On the heels of last week's Top Decks, which featured a PTQ win by the much-decorated Charles Gindy (aka thekid on Magic Online), I actually got to chat with the National and Pro Tour champion about the innovative deck.

...and on the heels of the previous week's column on Tom Martell's Legacy win with an Esper StoneBlade deck he found on Facebook, we are reminded to keep our eyes—as well as our options—open in terms of where we might identify Magic: The Gathering tech.

Apparently, Gindy noticed Black_Generation with the Red-Green Urzatron deck in a Modern Daily or Premiere while perusing the many Magic Online decklists, and with (presumably) the only other copy of the deck in the tournament, unseated its innovator in the Top 8 along the way to his win.

Yeah, it just looked that sweet.

The look of a PTQ winner:

rizer's Red-Green Urzatron

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What's that?

That PTQ winner is not, in fact, thekid, but rather MOCS standout, rizer?

Sylvan Scrying | Art by Scott M. Fischer

That is because Red-Green Urzatron is apparently now a real thing. Chatting up a number of players who could all be considered threats to win their next PTQs, I can assure you this deck is officially on the short list for many. It's probably the kind of deck you want to be familiar with, or even consider playing yourself.

How does this deck work again?

For his version of the deck, rizer has apparently cut the many Mindslavers!

And upped the land count to nineteen!

So how does the deck work now?

Like many Urzatron decks, the red-green has an Eye of Ugin (not just accessible via Expedition Map but extra accessible via the green touch of Sylvan Scrying) which can fetch Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Wurmcoil Engine. Yeah, that's pretty fancy.

It also has an absolutely stupid turn three:

Turn 1:Urza's Tower
Turn 2:Urza's Mine
Turn 3:Urza's Power Plant

Tap the Mine for two, the Plant for two, and the Tower for three... and there you have the mana for Karn Liberated!

I don't know that there are many more devastating plays to be had on the third turn than Karn Liberated.

Of course, you can mix it up; a cantrip artifact of some stripe on the first turn, a Sylvan Scrying on the second... But you get it. Lots of mana + immediate action.

What's Stupider, and Why Not?

There isn't any particular reason why other Tron decks can't play the four-times-Karn plan (and maybe they will soon try).

Which begs the question: Is a third-turn Karn really that much stupider than other Tron decks' third-turn plays?

Blue-red can play a fast Through the Breach (presumably for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn).

White-blue can go...

Turn 1: Tron piece 1
Turn 2: Tron piece 2 into Azorius Signet
Turn 3: Tron piece 3 into Gifts Ungiven

That is:

Urza's Mine makes two mana.
Urza's Power Plant makes two mana.
Urza's Tower makes three mana.

2 + 2 + 3 = 7

You swap one mana for ; that is, .

plays Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites and some giant (usually Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite). You fail to find the other two. So "unfortunately" you have to put them both in your graveyard. You have left, which is conveniently the cost on the back end of Unburial Rites.

So... is Karn Liberated at dramatically stupider than Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite at ? The white Praetor takes more work (so looks flashier), but with four copies (and no reliance on an additional accelerator), it seems to me that Karn is at least an easier-to-reach Magical Christmas Land.

The deck played by rizer obviously has more of an eye out for beatdown, with Pyroclasm main and Whipflare in the side (as well as Wall of Roots as an alternative accelerator that can block), but it is fundamentally a largely colorless, red-green big mana deck.

How about green and red at a little less mana?

Doug Potter's Modern Jund

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Doug Potter aced a Canadian PTQ last weekend with a proudly not teched-out version of Modern Jund.

Jund rocked the Alberta and Edmonton qualifier landscapes, so, despite his roguish roots (Potter was once upon a time the Goblins-making mastermind who inspired Dirty Kitty), Doug thought it was an easy pick because of cards like Jund Charm, Night of Souls' Betrayal, and Dead // Gone.

Jund Charm | Art by Brandon Kitkouski

Jund Charm. Jund plays all four copies (even if only two are main deck); so what do they do?

"Blow people out," apparently.

Doug's Jund Charms did everything... the "counterspell" on a Lightning Bolt was the most common, but he also screwed up double-blocks and made Geist of Saint Traft look positively easy to kill.

Night of Souls' Betrayal has multiple applications, but in the present case, shutting down Splinter Twin is the most important. Deceiver Exarch can double up (or infinity up), but not in the sense that it can do any damage; Pestermite would theoretically have positive power... But at 0 toughness, actually killing you that way is a non-starter.

The rest of the Jund deck is typical two-for-ones and super-high-utility you have probably come to associate with the word; the deck's two-drops are of a flawless quality, and it can swipe or remove next to anything with Inquisition of Kozilek, Liliana of the Veil, and Maelstrom Pulse. And at the four... Bloodbraid Elf and Huntmaster of the Fells share a defining mana cost; expensive as it gets from the Jund perspective, if teensy weensy when looked at from the previous red-green PTQ winner's lens.

In a stark reversal against some recent trends, Zygonn took down the most recent Magic Online PTQ with a throwback to the first winks of the Modern format, with Blue-Red Storm:

Zygonn's Blue-Red Storm

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Storm is perhaps the most explosive, fastest, and most powerful deck in Modern. It has spent a lot of time outside the winners' circle, though, due to factors like Inquisition of Kozilek and the Raven's Crime engine being played by one of the season's most popular decks.

Where once Storm had Ponder and Preordain (now banned in Modern), this winner has updated (and maybe upgraded) with some one-mana spells from Dark Ascension:

The Storm deck closes out many games with Past in Flames or sets up its critical-mass finishing kill spell with Pyromancer Ascension, so the opportunity to put some cards in the graveyard (especially while drawing cards) can be quite beneficial (more fuel for the former, faster setup for the latter).

Storm has quite a low land count at sub-twenty, but makes up for that with its tremendous count of fast card drawing (Gitaxian Probe, Serum Visions, et al). As the deck is mostly just one-shot ways to net mana and zero- or one-mana ways to look at another card, it can "break even" over and over again while ticking up the Storm count. If it has Pyromancer Ascension in play—certainly Pyromancer Ascension powered up—it will actually net mana, cards, or both. Consider a Manamorphose while sitting on a jazzed Ascension... it costs you two mana, but gets you four back, and you draw two cards!

You take breakeven-or-better actions over and over while the Storm count rises, and you hopefully have left. Did you count high enough? A Grapeshot is meant to get you there.

After sideboards, the deck has Empty the Warrens as a supplemental/incremental way to win. Empty the Warrens is essentially never immediately lethal, but it is also pretty easy to set up a two-to-three-turn clock with one on a very early turn. It is pretty easy to imagine a second turn of:

... and then running back all the previous to jack the Storm count up even higher before making over a dozen Goblins. Or, if you just have Empty the Warrens (over Past in Flames, say), you are still putting the vast majority of opponents on a two-turn clock on turn two.

With the Modern format winding down, I figured I would close out this Top Decks with a few disparately played, heretofore unheralded choices that—whether or not they actually spiked PTQs (yet) (like now-darling Red-Green Tron)—probably aren't on your radar (also "yet").

Steven Stierman's Dredgevine

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This deck has quite a few one-mana starts, and can go in quite a few different directions starting on turn one:

The Birds opening lets the Dredgevine deck play more or less like a regular midrange green creature deck. I might, in fact, elect to clock with a turn-two Shambling Shell!

Hedron Crab—unlike with most decks—targets you when it starts milling. Between it and Faithless Looting, the Dredgevine deck can start to fill up its graveyard with stuff like Stinkweed Imp, which over time (and "time" isn't even very much time) will put Vengevine in the bin.

Play a couple of quick drops and those Vengevines are very quickly up and attacking in the Red Zone.

Gnaw to the Bone out of the sideboard can break the back of another beatdown deck, and Unburial Rites plus a one-of Iona, Shield of Emeria give the deck the opportunity to get particularly lucky while milling itself.

Myles Housman's Esper DelverBlade

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A mishmash of All-Stars from other formats, this deck has the potential to lead off on a Delver of Secrets (the scourge of Standard) and follow up with any number of powerful plays, up to and including a turn-six flashback of Cryptic Command (thanks, Snapcaster Mage!).

Tom Martell, Legacy Grand Prix winner, would undoubtedly approve of Housman's deck choice, as it conforms to his new "Lingering Souls in every format" model.

Jason Simard's Death and Taxes

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A hateful green-white deck, latest in a long tradition, Death and Taxes combines speed, a bit of disruption, and a decent amount of card quality to attack via a multi-dimensional offense.

Aven Mindcensor makes it difficult for opponents to use their Zendikar dual lands.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the bane of decks like Blue-Red Storm (and can even just put a "regular" deck with four-mana plays like Gifts Ungiven or Day of Judgment off by a turn).

Æther Vial is on a short list of the best possible one-mana plays available to an aggressive deck (and can break the rules on Serra Avenger).

Even the singleton Stonecloaker can mess with the opponent on multiple levels... It is an instant-speed solution to many graveyard-based effects, reanimation strategies, or just a milled Vengevine. Once in a while you will even be able to catch and kill a Tarmogoyf by conveniently shrinking it by one.

Flickerwisp lets you do lots of these things over and over (and with Æther Vial, in a particularly annoying way, for the opponent), up to and including the production of extra first-striking 3/3 Golems.

Reid Nishimura's Venser Control

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This Venser/Reveillark deck could be a bit quicker, but once it gets going, it feels awfully card-advantageous.

There are almost no active plays before turn three, but the deck is full of annoying blockers and two-for-ones. It is a maze of Aven Riftwatcher (try getting through that plus a Momentary Blink without a fair bit of work), Mulldrifter two-for-one action, Solemn Simulacrum, and Reveillark.

... and as basically everything in the deck does something when it comes into (or leaves) the battlefield, getting a big Venser online is particularly synergistic.

Just so you know...

The Modern PTQ season still packs its Red Robots, straight Blue Faeries, dominating Seismic Assault decks, and any number of aggressive or good-stuff strategies. But you never know who is going to be the next turn-three Karn deck.

Best be on the lookout.

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