Twinning in Boston and Other Modern Tales – By Phil Leger

Grand Prix Boston (technically Worcester) was last weekend and turned out to be the second largest constructed magic event of all time. When the Grand Prix schedule was announced last year and I saw this one on the schedule (modern no less) I knew for sure this trip was going to happen since Boston is probably the second closest major city for us after Quebec City (though Montreal comes close). I had talked to Josh Breau quite a bit in advance about going down so I knew I had some time to get some practice in with my deck and make sure I was comfortable with the popular matchups and such.

That is not how it happened.

I had made day 2 of both GP Toronto and Montreal, but those being limited format Grand Prix I wanted to prove myself that I could do the same in constructed. Luckily for me, I managed to win The Comic Hunter’s GPT Boston earning myself 2 byes for the event which was certainly a huge plus.

For the months leading up to the event I went back and forth between BG rock and 4C Gifts as my deck of choice, both of which you can find on our YouTube channel here. I settled on Gifts about a month before the event after getting just crushed at the Summerside GPT with BG and played it every Tuesday at our weekly Modern tournament (come down for it, it’s awesome!) as well as on MTGO (thanks Rob!). Gifts is a deck which I find extremely fun to play and after going 4-0 in my first Modern Daily with it I felt that it was a strong deck and wanted to tune it as much as possible to give me the best chance in Boston. Unfortunately, my winning quickly went to losing and I did not cash another daily with the deck after that. I tried desperately to make changes to fix the problems with the deck but basically I think it just comes down to consistency. Being 4 colors and losing Deathrite Shaman to the banning, the deck just throws you too many awkward hands to risk playing it at a 15 round event. You can’t always cast Gifts on turn 4, and even when you do it’s sometimes still not enough.

So naturally I did as I always do and 2 days before leaving I basically randomly decided to switch to UR Tempo Twin after reading Adam Barnello’s article on Channel Fireball about the deck and played his exact recommended 75.

Lands (23)

4 x Scalding Tarn
4 x Misty Rainforest
3 x Steam Vents
1 x Stomping Ground
2 x Sulfur Falls
1 x Cascade Bluffs
1 x Desolate Lighthouse
1 x Tectonic Edge
1 x Mountain
5 x Island

Spells (37)

2 x Spellskite
4 x Snapcaster Mage
4 x Deceiver Exarch
2 x Vendilion Clique
2 x Pestermite
1 x Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker
2 x Twisted Image
4 x Serum Visions
1 x Dispel
4 x Lightning Bolt
4 x Remand
4 Splinter Twin x
1 x Cryptic Command
1 x Electrolyze
1 x Flame Slash

Sideboard (15)

2 x Ancient Grudge
2 x Anger the Gods
2 x Batterskull
2 x Keranos, God of Storms
2 x Blood Moon
1 x Relic of Progenitus
1 x Echoing Truth
2 x Swan Song
1 x Combust

Now, I won’t claim that randomly switching to a deck you have no experience with only 2 days before a Grand Prix is a good idea, but it’s definitely not something out of the ordinary for me. I think one of my strong suites as a player is my ability to adapt to new situations very quickly, though I also have the downside of not having the patience to ever perfect anything.

As for the deck itself, I wanted a deck that had the ability to grind it out in the long games (Batterskull, Keranos, Snapcaster Mage) while also having the ability to just steal the game immediately if the opportunity arises. Having both the Splinter Twin combo as well as access Blood Moon allows you either win on the spot or just take your opponent out of the game completely by making them unable to cast their spells.

On Friday, Alex, Josh, Nick and I ventured out on the half day road trip to New England and arrived at the venue after getting stuck in traffic for hours. The DCU Center was right across the street from out hotel which was really awesome. Since Alex and I already had 2 Byes from winning GPTs we just looked around the vendors and jammed some practice games in for the evening while Josh and Nick tried to win some byes via the last chance trials. Neither of them managed to close out a win but they did comment on how there was quite a bit of UWR control in the field.

Saturday morning we headed down to the event site again after a kick-ass breakfast at the hotel (shout out to the Hilton) and got ready for the player meeting.

Round 1 and 2 – Bye

[2-0]

Alex and I found a table and relaxed during the first two rounds while we waited for our tournament to start. I got 3rd Ed lightning bolts signed and altered by Chris Rush which was awesome. I unfortunately could not find black bordered ones. After waiting for the paint to dry I sleeved them up and found my opponent for round 3.

Round 3 – Ryan Botting playing Junk Pod

I was pretty sure I had seen this guy before and sure enough he was at the 5K in Maine that we went up to last year. In game one he played an early Birthing Pod into Voice of Resurgence. I taped his Pod on upkeep with him at 2 cards in hand hoping to combo him but he had the Shriekmaw in hand already to kill my Exarch and I lost a few turns later to drawing mostly lands.

Game 2 I managed to land an early Blood Moon and then combo shortly thereafter. He only got to play 1 mana dork which I bolted.

In the final game we grinded out for a while where I eventually had twin in hand and just needed a Pestermite/Exarch but unfortunately drew mostly lands and eventually died when he landed a Thrun. That card is quite the beating.

1-2 [2-1]

He was on the Melira-less version of the deck which is definitely a tougher matchup since they get to run some maindeck Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay to hinder your combo plan. I was pretty bummed to lose my first round but I knew I had to just play it out one game at a time and I could still get there.

Round 4 – Ryan Bouchard playing Mono Green Infect

I could tell my opponent didn’t have too much experience since he would just jam his pump spells main phase (including casting apostle’s blessing naming red before I even casted anything) and I was able to take the first game pretty easily just by attacking with Snapcaster Mage after having dealt with all his creatures.

Game 2 was pretty much the same situation, I bolted his first 2 infect dudes and then killed him with the combo on turn 5 with spellskite protection.

2-0 [3-1]

Round 5 – Sean Morse playing UWR Control

He was pretty land light and was unable to really get anything going. I had multiple Exarch’s/Pestermites and I played them repeatedly on his upkeep. Eventually I stuck and Exarch with him having no white mana open and cast Twin for the kill.

Game 2 I kept taping his white on upkeep to prevent verdict and while I never saw Splinter Twin, I was able to kill him before he hit 4 lands with Exarchs/Pestermites.

2-0 [4-1]

Round 6 – Austin Sweeney playing Melira Pod

Luckily for me he was playing the Melira combo version of the deck which offers less disruption than what I played against in round 3. I was able to combo kill him in game 1 without much trouble and follow up that with the Blood Moon + Keranos lock in game 2 to seal the win.

2-0 [5-1]

I was feeling pretty good still being X-1 at this point. I felt like I was playing pretty tight and just needed to go 2-1 from here to make day 2 so I was feeling quite good about that.

Round 7 – Anthony Huynh playing UB Faeries

Faeries was a deck I was definitely not expecting to see since it hadn’t really been putting up much results in paper or online. Game 1 he played turn 2 Bitter Blossom and I was unable to resolve anything relevant through his Mana Leaks and Spellstutter Sprites.

In game 2 he also got the early Bitter Blossom on the board but I was able to turn it around with a timely Echoing Truth to bounce his tokens when he was at 6 life and I had a Blood Moon on the table. I was able to race him from there quite easily.

In game 3 I had the Blood Moon in my opener but was unfortunately in the situation where I had 2 steam vents and a sulphur falls as my only lands and didn’t want to cast Blood Moon until I could get at least 1 basic Island on the table. Sadly by the time I finally got an Island and resolved Moon I was already way too far behind and really needed an Electrolize or Anger of the Gods to stabilize but found neither.

1-2 [5-2]

Round 8 – Josh Blackborow playing Burn

My opponents inexperience was definitely a boon once again this round. In game 1 I resolved the combo while I was sitting at 4 life. Game 2 he played the Eidelon into Shrine of Burning Rage and I drew too many lands to keep up. In game 3 he once again played the Eidelon and the Shrine but actually missed several triggers on both which gave me just enough room to land a Batterskull. I was still dead to a top-decked 3 damage burn spell but luckily for me he did not have it and I was able to start gaining life with the 4/4 Lifelinker and secure my victory.

2-1 [6-2]

This was it, I was now playing for a spot in day 2. I saw that Josh was sitting at 7-1 which meant he was locked and also that Mike Sheng and Chris Brennan were playing their win-and-ins also. Hopefully we could all make it to Sunday.

Round 9 – Max Brown playing Kiki Pod

Game 1 I did not see a single piece of the combo which actually turned out in my favour since I think he assumed I was on Blue Moon. I managed to draw 3 of my remands and all 4 Snapcasters which along with a Vendillion Clique was more than enough tempo to close out the game. I think I bounced one of his creatures at some point before that to prevent him from combo killing me with Kiki + Angel.

I was pretty happy in game 2 to see him pod his 1 drop into Thalia which made it clear he did not know I was on Twin. I landed an early Blood Moon and later played an Exarch taping his only available mana after he cast a Second pod + Birds of Paradise and moved to combat which meant he could not do anything to stop my combo the next turn.

2-0 [7-2]

I was quite happy to pull out a win here, especially since it was my second time knocking out Max Brown from a GP which I found amusing. I walked around to find out how the others were doing, Josh had won his round to finish 8-1 with Scapeshift which was awesome. Chris Brennan managed to finish 7-1-1 to also make day 2 with a very similar Twin list. I stood behind Mike Sheng as he unfortunately failed to topdeck a forest to pull out a win with Scapeshift which would have also put him at 7-2. Alex and Nick were both out of contention a few rounds earlier.

This would be my 3rd time in a row making day 2 of a GP which I was very happy about. This was also my first constructed GP day 2 and I was glad to be able to confirm to myself that I had the ability to do well even without the advantage of opening awesome sealed pools. I went to bed early and make sure I got plenty of rest since I was really hoping to cash the event on Sunday and wanted to be in top shape.

Sunday morning Josh and I went back to the venue and got seated for round 10. I was feeling pretty good after my performance on Saturday and was really hoping to keep it going. Somewhere around 280 players out of 2393 made day 2 so I was fairly confident that going 3-3 or better would be good enough to cash since it was assumed that the prizes would pay down to 150th place. There ended up being less than 2400 players in the event which is the cut off for the final tier of prize payouts but they still went with the full payout I believe which is sweet.

Round 10 – Dan Nelson playing Jund

Game 1 he crushed me with several discard spells into Liliana and I just didn’t have the gas to recover.  I was able to take game 2 with Keranos and Batterskull which Jund can have a hard time dealing with.

Game 3 was interesting, I had my opponent down to 4 life and when he activated his liliana I had to decide between discarding Deceiver Exarch or another card that I can’t remember (though I know it was relevant). I chose to discard the Exarch thinking it was unlikely that I would draw into Twin since I only had 2 left in the deck post-board. I drew the Twin on my next turn and shook my head for a second before realizing that I could simply cast it on the Snapcaster Mage I had in play, make a copy and flashback a Lightning Bolt from my graveyard to then attack for the win.

Jund is not the greatest matchup since it can be very hard to resolve the combo. Luckily I think the sideboard plan of Keranos, Blood Moon and Batterskulls is quite strong since they can have trouble dealing with those cards while also keeping up protection from the combo kill. Still, I was glad to pull out a win from this one with Mike and Josh watching over my shoulder.

2-1 [8-2]

Round 11 – Ryan Botting playing Junk Pod

This was the same guy I had played back in round 3 and I was really hoping to get my revenge this time. Game 1 he played a Voice of Resurgence on turn 2 which is not necessarily the worst. I tried to go for the combo a few times but unfortunately he had the answers and the extra Elemental tokens I let him have made short work of my life total.

In game 2 I managed to resolve a Blood Moon with him on 0 basic lands and was able to easily secure the win a few turns later after I found a Keranos.

In the final game he kept a 2 land hand with 3 Noble Hierarchs. I was able to twisted image the first one, but since he played the other 2 on his second turn and I was on the draw I was unable to kill them with Electrolize before he tapped them to cast Thrun on turn 3 which I don’t really have a good answer for other than going for the combo. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the pieces and died 3 turns later.

1-2 [8-3]

Round 12 – Adam Snook playing BG Midrange

Game 1 I went for the combo kill with him tapping low but he had the Slaughter Pact for my Splinter Twin. It’s quite possible I played too greedy there and should have waited for more protection. I died to Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze beats a few turns later.  In the second game Keranos once again showed his value and I was able to take the game on the back of the Blue/Red god.

Sadly my 4/4 Hexproof arch-nemesis showed his face once again in game 3 and he had all the removal he needed to stop my creatures while he swung in with Thrun.

1-2 [8-4]

Round 13 – Erik Burger playing UWR Control

From this point on my notes are getting a lot more vague as my mood was quickly degrading. I wouldn’t say that I was tilt since I don’t think I ever really let myself get angry, but I was definitely feeling disappointed since I’m sure I could have probably done better plays over the course of the day if I had more experience with the deck.

Game 1 I he drew all 4 of his Mana Leaks and I was never able to really get any presence on the board. Game 2 was much of the same; he hit all his land drops and had an answer for every play I tried to make.

0-2 [8-5]

Round 14 – Case Johnson playing Melira Pod

This was the 5th pod deck I played against in the tournament. Game 1 he flooded out on lands and I took it easily on the back of Vendillion Clique and some Remands. Games 2 and 3 he had the abrupt decays for my Combo and I couldn’t win before being crushed by the Last Troll once more.

1-2 [8-6]

Round 15 – Aharon Verno playing Rug Delver

At this point I was only playing for Planeswalker points since there was no way I could be in the top 150 even if I finished 9-6. I didn’t take notes for this round since I wasn’t really feeling that great from taking 4 losses in a row but I do remember that he used Vedalken Shackles in both games to great effect which definitely spiked my interest in playing the card myself.

0-2 [8-7]

 

So obviously day 2 did not go as well as I had hoped. I finished 247th in the event which is certainly not bad overall but was still a disappointing finish for me after having a similar experience at GP Montreal where I failed to win a single match on day 2 (went 2-4 with byes due to 7 man draft pods). I think my inexperience with the deck definitely made a difference here, but I still don’t regret playing it.

I found that the deck had two major modes of play which I found very appealing. The majority of the time you would win the game via attacking with Snapcaster Mages and Vendilion Cliques backed up by Remands and Lightning Bolts and play this very tempo game which I found to be very powerful. The deck also had the ability to combo kill out of nowhere which forces your opponent to always keep that in mind. I think that the combo aspect of the deck was definitely the worst performing part of it for me. I really enjoyed playing the UR Control game after side boarding where often times several of the combo pieces come out in favour of Keranos, Batterskull and Blood Moons.

I was glad to see that a Blue Moon deck managed to make the top 8. Anxious to try it out for myself, this is what I played yesterday at Tuesday Night Modern:

Spells (38)

4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Vedalken Shackles
1 Battterskull
4 Serum Visions
3 Blood Moon
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Repeal
4 Cryptic Command
1 Think Twice
2 Electrolyze
3 Spell Snare
3 Remand
2 Mana Leak

Lands (22)

4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Sulfur Falls
3 Steam Vents
1 Mountain
9 Island

Sideboard

1 Batterskull
1 Dispel
1 Spellskite
2 Vandalblast
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Magma Spray
1 Shadow of Doubt
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Negate
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Combust
1 Engineered Explosives

I went 3-1 and took down the event via tie-breakers.  I really enjoy the deck and I think Blood Moon is definitely where I want to be in Modern right now. Even though it has gotten more popular and people are more aware of it, many decks simply cannot afford to play around it or cannot deal with multiple copies on the table. I think that Blue Moon is really fun to play and definitely my style of deck. However, going forward I will likely try to go back to some version of Twin but with main deck Blood Moon and an even stronger control/tempo emphasis with the combo kill as a backup plan. The combo can be very awkward against decks such as Jund and Junk Pod where it is quite difficult to resolve it, but I think it is probably necessary in order to beat decks like burn where Blue Moon could otherwise pretty much never win.

Overall I have to say I was really happy with the trip. It was a good time for sure and I got to play lots of modern which is a format I really love. It’s too bad Wizards is canning the Modern Pro Tours but I suppose I can understand their argument from a marketing perspective since the new set is better showcased in Standard. Hopefully Modern continues to be supported by Wizards via printings of staples and competitive play at the Grand Prix and PTQ levels.

I would like to thank you all for making it this far, please do check out our YouTube channel for some sweet video content by our local players and come on down to The Comic Hunter Tuesday nights at 6:30pm for some awesome Modern action!

Cheers,

Phil

 

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