"No one else seems to be innovating on Splinter Twin anymore," Platinum-level pro Patrick Dickmann complained. "Seems I have to do it all myself."
The German player clearly had made the deck his own. He won a Grand Prix with Twin, he made it to the Top 4 of Pro Tour Born of the Gods with Twin, he was widely considered the premier expert on all things Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin even then, and just last month he added yet another top finish to the list, piloting an updated version of the deck to a ninth place at Grand Prix Madrid.
One thing that played a big part in all of Dickmann's various Twin designs and re-designs was the minimal focus he put on the actual combo. He usually build and played the deck more like a blue-red tempo deck and used Splinter Twin plus Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite almost like a back-up. "I tend to win a lot of my games without ever assembling the combo," Dickmann explained. "A few creatures and burn spells, supplemented by some counterspells, can do wonders—especially when opponents are constantly on the lookout for the combo. They need to play around it, keep up mana for removal spells at all times, and then they simply lose the fair game."
At several points in time, the fair, noncombo part of Dickmann's Twin decks had included a splash of green for Tarmogoyf. Dubbed "Tarmo-Twin," this version of the deck was what brought Dickmann all the way into the semifinals of the Pro Tour for example. More recently, however, Tarmogoyf had fallen out of favor. As of Grand Prix Madrid, Dickmann had considered Tarmogoyf a bad choice because of all the delving done by the Twin deck's own Dig Through Time as well as opponents' Treasure Cruises. But now, something has changed evidently.
"Yesterday morning I looked through my cards, came across Tarmogoyf, and thought to myself, 'Hey why not give the Lhurgoyf another chance.' In Modern, I usually just pick the most fun deck; that has always worked out well for me. To be honest, I do that with every format," Dickmann admitted with a sheepish grin. "But seriously, at Grand Prix Madrid I constantly found myself with a full graveyard, even with all the digging and delving."
And let's not forget that Grand Prix Madrid was won by Immanuel Gerschenson who also went against conventional wisdom and included Tarmogoyf in his Blue-Red Delver deck, despite his full four Treasure Cruises.
"Another reason to pick Tarmo-Twin over straight Blue-Red Splinter Twin is that the deck has more play against Choke, both because of Tarmogoyf itself and because of the lands in the green splash," Dickmann explained. "In Madrid, Choke had easily been the single biggest problem for me."
Green also gave Dickmann access to valuable sideboard cards like Nature's Claim and Ancient Grudge. "Affinity may not be the most popular deck at the moment, but it is insanely powerful," said Dickmann. "I specifically expected a lot of strong players, Justin Robb and Frank Karsten to name but two, to run the deck and wanted to hedge against it."