Going Rogue

Posted in Event Coverage on February 7, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Coming into this weekend, the new Modern was an unexplored landscape. Players expected and were unsurprised by the presence of Abzan, Burn, Jeskai Control, Splinter Twin, and even more fringe strategies like Amulet of Vigor combo. Few players ventured off the beaten path, but the new Modern opens up a lot of doors for innovation. I had the opportunity to catch up with some of the players that brought the least expected weapons to war this weekend.

Hall of Famer and seventeenth-ranked player in the world Patrick Chapin has, without any doubt, one of the most interesting decks in the room. Chapin has long been known for his ability to innovate in new formats; so much so that many actually refer to him as “The Innovator.” Chapin's latest Modern weapon of choice, Esper Delve, aims to fill its graveyard with free or inexpensive spells to power out a huge early threat, usually on the second turn, that can be protected with disruption like Stubborn Denial and Thoughtseize. When asked what he expected the field to look like, Chapin thought there would be a massive diversity of decks. His deck is very well positioned for midrange and combo match-ups, but it struggles to beat the most aggressive decks in the format.

Brian Braun-Duin is quickly making a name for himself with two Grand Prix victories over the last year and a half. This weekend, Braun-Duin, a member of Revolution, brought an impressive Blue Tron deck to battle. The deck aims to produce more mana than the opponent while controlling the game before it wins by protecting Platinum Angel, Wurmcoil Engine, or an infinite loop of Mindslaver with Academy Ruin. The deck is favored against the Abzan, Splinter Twin, and Jeskai Control decks that Braun-Duin's team expected to show up in force. The deck struggles against the most aggressive strategies like Affinity and Zoo. The biggest draw to playing the deck is obviously Mindslaver, which Braun-Duin considers the most fun Magic card in all of existence.

David Heineman has played in a few Pro Tours, but he didn't have a ton of Constructed experience coming into this event. He did, however, work with the likes of Samuel Black, Matthew Sperling, Paul Rietzl, and friends for this event. While others on the team went different routes, Heineman decided to play his Return of The Aristocrats deck this weekend. The deck plays an awkwardly redundant number of one mana creatures that create more creatures when they die in conjunction with Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, and Return to the Ranks. The deck is nearly unbeatable for most of the fair decks in Modern because all of their creatures are bad and all of their removal spells are bad. However, the deck struggles immensely with combo match-ups where it can't effectively race or disrupt the opponent.

Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy's Zombie Station has been a fan favorite for quite some time. Lévy's deck is a strong candidate for the most difficult to pilot deck in the room. The deck aims to fill its graveyard with cards that allow Lévy to gain incremental value with Life from the Loam and other graveyard interactions. Against creature strategies, Lévy can assemble Golgari Brownscale and Vengeful Pharaoh to make attacking absolutely miserable for the opponent. Against combo strategies, Lévy uses Raven's Crime and other targeted discard to pick apart the opponent's hand and break up key pieces of their plan. The deck has few very good match-ups, but few very bad match-ups too, though graveyard-based combo strategies are close to unbeatable.

In the wake of the latest bannings, Modern is more diverse than ever. We'll continue to watch as new and exciting decks rise to the top of the standings.

David Heineman - Return of The Aristocrats

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Brian Braun-Duin - Blue Tron

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Raphaël Lévy - Loam Pox

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Patrick Chapin - Esper Delve

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