THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

Posted in GRAND PRIX BOSTON-WORCESTER 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on July 26, 2014

By Peter Rawlings

The banning of Deathrite Shaman just prior to Pro Tour Born of the Gods promised seismic shifts to the Modern format. Many a Jund player shelved their Tarmogoyfs and Liliana of the Veils following the loss of the mana-accelerating, all-purpose Elf. But with the Modern PTQ season in full swing, Jund and B/G decks are back on the rise, with large Lhurgoyfs roaming free once more and the format beginning to resemble its pre-banning form.

Through all these changes Patrick Dickmann has stuck to his guns, as he arrived in Boston with—what else—a Splinter Twin-based combo deck, a strategy he took the Grand Prix Antwerp title prior to the Deathrite banning, and to a Top 4 finish in Valencia. Now Dickmann is hoping that tweaks to his Tarmo-Twin strategy designed to combat recent changes to the metagame will help him make a copy of those performances and secure him the two additional pro points he needs to lock up Platinum status.

Patrick Dickmann

 

"At the Pro Tour, many players were discouraged from playing Jund or B/G strategies, despite those decks still being very good," Dickmann said. "Now people have begun to realize that the deck is still playable and powerful. There's a lot of of people picking up their Tarmogoyfs, Dark Confidants and Lilianas again and jamming them," he said. Dickmann is sticking with Tarmo-Twin strategy, because, as it turns out, "the best answer to a Tarmogoyf is still your own Tarmogoyf."

 

He has also adapted the deck to fit the format's return to its pre-Valencia form by making room in his decklist for Huntmaster of the Fells, which is "really good against Jund because it gets around Liliana of the Veil." Since the rugged 4-mana werewolf comes into play with a canine companion, Liliana's edict ability or any of Jund's many removal spells will leave a creature behind, enabling Dickmann to still get value from the card.

"I used to have Thrun instead, but Thrun is a very swingy card," Dickmann said. While the lonesome troll is very strong against any of the format's blue decks, there are other match-ups where its ability to fight through countermagic and targeted removal spells is much less relevant. While Huntmaster may not shine as much as Thrun in any single match-up, it is more consistently strong across-the-board.

"Modern is a super diverse format. There are a lot of different decks, and a lot of different strategies, so I just try to make my deck as solid as possible," he mentioned. In the current format it is very important for players players to choose cards that can provide value against any possibly strategy, Dickmann stressed, rather than potentially higher-impact spells that could prove to be duds in certain match-ups.

The desire for consistency and all-around utility also led Dickmann to trim Gitaxian Probe from his Tarmo-Twin list. "I used to play it to have more sorceries in order to make Tarmogoyf grow a little faster, but today I'm fielding two Izzet Charms in its place because of the different modes." Between the ability to burn a small creature, pierce a spell or loot two cards deeper, there is rarely a match-up or situation in which the U/R instant can't provide some utility.

Beyond the resurgence of Jund, the other biggest change to the metagame since the Pro Tour in Spain is that mono-red and other burn-based strategies have become a lot more viable thanks to the printing of Eidolon of the Great Revel. "Back in the day you used to have to just play turn-one Goblin Guide and then burn spells, but now you have a very powerful follow-up to Goblin Guide." The enchantment creature from Journey Into Nyx now offers red mages a strong repetitive source of damage, Dickmann explained.

While Tron strategies centered around assembling the trifecta of Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant and Urza's Tower weren't prevalent at the Pro Tour, Dickmann thinks they also could be well-positioned given the resurgence of Jund and B/G decks. The R/G Tron decks play main deck Oblivion Stones, which are strong in that match-up, as well as against the ever-popular Birthing Pod decks, and Jund has a very hard time against Wurmcoil Engine, he said. So long as sideboards are well-prepared for the archetype's more difficult match-ups—such as Splinter Twin and Scapeshift—the format could be ripe for the rise of Eldrazi- and Karn Liberated-packed Tron decks.

Dickmann is less keen on the control decks of the format, which are generally found in the White-Blue-Red wedge of the color pie. Since there are so many potential strategies one might face over the course of the tournament, it's difficult to correctly tune a control deck to deal with them all, he said. Control mages are also limited by the absence of Onslaught fetch lands in Modern, which might otherwise enable them to branch out into other color combinations, such as Grixis, he said. "You might want to play a turn one discard spell, but you don't get to play Polluted Delta so you end up taking 3 to 5 damage, and you can't do that because you'll end up killing yourself in certain match-ups."

Modern remains a very wide-ranging format, and as the dust has settles from Valencia, "more or less the metagame is where it used to be before the Pro Tour," said Dickmann, as he prepared once again to sleeve up his Splinter Twins for battle. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.