Shooting the Moon

Posted in Event Coverage on February 22, 2014

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

There are an incredibly large number of viable decks in Modern, spanning every style of play, but many of them have been a part of the fabric of the format for many years now. These decks get tweaked as new cards come out, but it is rare that a new card will enable a completely new archetype or deck, especially one that will be better than other options in the field. Modern already has decks capable of assaulting players on any conceivable axis, and the ones that are at the top of the field are ones that have survived the fairly strong selective pressures that high-level competition places on Modern.

No one is going to break Modern. These words rang over and over again across conversations with many of the top deck-builders in the room. Everyone seemed to be of the opinion that the changes to Modern would certainly cause a shakeup of what people chose to play, but there wasn't going to be anything that was truly going to surprise people.

Well consider me surprised. Team MTG Mint Card, made up of some of Asia's biggest Magic talent, found a new way to attack the format, one that was particularly well suited to deal with the return of Wild Nacatl. Playing a deck called Blue Moon, the team of Asian superstars are tearing the tournament up, with seven of the eight players on the team making it to Day Two (sorry Kuo!). The deck is based off of the deck that Japan's Ken Yukuhiro played in Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. When Yukuhiro began to work with MTG Mint Card, he pitched the idea of playing the deck to them, and the team loved it.

Team MTG Mint Card brought the greatest innovation to Pro Tour Born of the Gods with Blue Moon, a powerful deck that punishes the format's nonbasic mana bases with Blood Moon and controls the game with blue spells.

"We tested a bunch of different decks," Hong Kong's Shi Tian Lee began. "We worked on about a dozen or so, but we realized we weren't really fans of any of them, and they all lost to Blood Moon. Yukuhiro brought us this deck and it was perfect."

The fact that Zoo was expected to be such a large portion of this tournament really helped the argument for the deck, as well.

"I figured that there would be many people playing Zoo now that they could play Wild Nacatl," Yukuhiro explained. "Almost every land in Zoo decks is nonbasic, so Blood Moon is very strong."

Beyond the eponymous Blood Moon, Blue Moon is effectively a mono-blue control deck. Vedalken Shackles, Threads of Disloyalty, and Vapor Snag are incredibly effective against both the aggressive creature decks, as well as the creature-based combo decks. Against the other control decks, a suite of countermagic can be used to help force through a Blood Moon, which severely limits their ability to fight back if it resolves.

"I knew that I needed a deck that would beat the aggressive decks but could also beat the blue decks. I thought about it some and realized that the card I needed to beat them was Blood Moon."

In its initial design, the deck was actually a U/R Delver deck, but Yukuhiro found himself happier with his sideboard than his main deck.

"I was always bringing in Blood Moon," Yukuhiro recalled. "After doing this enough times, I decided that I should probably just be playing them main deck."

This philosophy of attacking vulnerable mana bases has been a staple of Magic since its creation. Cards like Back to Basics, Boil, Wasteland, and Choke have had major impacts on Pro Tours in the past. Blood Moon is just another in a long line of this type of card, but it has one advantage that the others didn't: it is almost universally useful. Magic has come a long way since the early days, and players have been utterly spoiled with good mana due to the profusion of nonbasic lands that have been produced. In a format like Modern, with access to so many of them, the mana bases are laughably reliable. I mean, Domain Zoo is an aggressive creature deck that actually plays four or five colors and can consistently cast its spells whenever it wants! The price for doing so, though, is the heavy reliance on nonbasic lands, and the vulnerability to Blood Moon that comes along with it. Blue Moon is so devoted to disrupting these greedy mana bases that it is running Spreading Seas, as well.

Blood Moon
Spreading Seas
Blood Moon your nonbasics, then Spreading Seas your basics. These two enchantments have proven to be a powerful two-pronged approach for shutting down a player's mana base.

"The Spreading Seas are particularly good after a Blood Moon resolves," Lee said. "You hit them and then don't let them ever recover. Kick them while they're down."

It also serves double duty against the myriad of decks in the field featuring man-lands like Celestial Colonnade. Spreading Seas was an innovation of the great deck-builder Gerry Thompson as a method to deal with the traditionally mana-greedy Jund. He figured that if they couldn't cast their spells, they can't win the game, and his strategy was quite successful.

To win the game, the deck relies on the sheer power offered by Batterskull and Master of Waves. Batterskull is very hard to kill, as it can simply return to hand and dodge most removal spells. It also ends games quickly, often ending games in two or three short attacks. Yet it has nowhere near the raw speed offered by Master of Waves. Even coming down with only one or two devotion, the Master of Waves produces a tremendous amount of power for a minimal mana requirement. The protection from red is not inconsequential, as Lightning Bolt is one of the most played cards in the format. Once Blue Moon has set up its defense, these cards can come down and close things out in a hurry.

The numbers that the team is putting up are quite good and are a testament to the deck's power. As of writing this, Lee is in Top 8 contention, and Yukuhiro and the rest of the team aren't far behind. For those who didn't expect to have any true innovation appearing at this tournament, Blue Moon stands as a glaring example of how there is always room for a little innovation, even in a format as saturated as Modern.

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