After playing Titanshift to a 2-4 finish in the main event of the SCG Tour Louisville Modern Open, I went back to the tried and true for the Modern Classic.
I started with a list shipped to me via Nick Hansen, and made a few changes due to card availability and the perceived metagame. I ended up registering the following:
U/W/R Geist, by Justin Brickman
Here’s a rundown of the event:
Round 1: 2-0, Breach Titan
The night before, I had played about 10 games against Titanshift. Unsurprisingly, games where they were under pressure by Geist before turn 5 were 100 percent, games where I didn’t draw Geist and my clock was only Queller/Snapcaster/Colonnade + burn spells was 0 percent. I wasn’t fully aware of the level of interaction that the Breach version has in the main deck with Lightning Bolts and Angers, so I was surprised to be able to get game 1 on the back of Queller and a fair amount of counterspells to keep him from comboing off or gaining a significant mana advantage.
Game 2 he had sided in Slaughter Games (I’m not entirely sure if that was the correct play or not) and had it on turn 3 via a turn 2 Farseek. I was almost certain he would name Cryptic Command, as he likely had Anger of the Gods in his deck at this point to deal with Geist and Queller. However, he named Geist, which was slightly problematic as I had far less reach than I did game 1 after siding out a couple Bolts. He was stuck on a single green source after I countered all of his attempts to resolve any ramp spell. I was able to Tectonic Edge his Cinder Glade and he was never able to recover, eventually dying to Snapcaster beats. 1-0
Round 2 1-2, Affinity
This is a surprising one to lose as it’s an incredibly favored matchup for UWR. He did Affinity things game 1 and I made a slight mistake leaving me dead to an instant speed equip of Cranial Plating, but I think that game was still a long shot even if I had played correctly, because my draw was light on interaction.
Game 2 I played a turn 2 Stony Silence on the play and the game basically ended at that point. It shut out all three of his mana sources, so he was resigned to just a Bomat Courier and a Vault Skirge for the entirety of the game. (As the game went on for another several turns he continued to cast useless cards once he has some useable mana sources and, resigned to his fate, threw them in a “nonsense pile” at the edge of his playmat.)
Game 3 was pretty one sided as I had kept the following 7:
Evaluating this hand was difficult but if I remember correctly the math suggests that I had roughly a 67 percent chance to find a second land in the first three draw steps before this game became too far gone. Unfortunately, I never drew a second land and died after dealing with his first couple threats. After talking to several other people, I still stand my decision to keep this hand, as my ideal six would be the same spells, with any colored mana source replacing a Snapcaster or a Path. 1-1
Round 3 2-1, Eldrazi Tron
Game 1 I was able to play turn 3 Geist and counter or answer everything he played for the entirety of the game. Game 2 he led on double Temple, but only had Matter Reshaper as his turn 2 play. I was able to play a turn 4 Geist following a Turn 3 Reality Smasher; this play also tempted him to jam another threat post combat into a turn 4 Dusk. Unfortunately for me, he left in his Warping Wail, which I believe to be incorrect since the more common sorcery-speed sweeper is Supreme Verdict. Game 3, Geist was the key once again. Queller also flexed its muscles this game, “countering” multiple Thought-Knot Seers off of Cavern of Souls. 2-1
Round 4 2-0, UWR Geist
I absolutely love playing control mirrors. Game 1 was the typical trade burn spells for Spell Queller and all that jazz; he was the first to resolve a Geist, with mine following right after. The next combat step is where the “do we both get to have Geist, or does no one get to have Geist?” sub game came up. I used a Snapcaster to block the Geist and flashback an Electrolyze.
He had a Path for the Snapcaster, which was a win on its own since that meant my Colonnades were much safer to start attacking in the coming turns. As I feel I’m advantaged with neither of us having Geist since he doesn’t have a Colonnade in play, I trade and he doesn’t have a follow up. From here I’m able to close the game out with a few Colonnade hits with Cryptic and Logic Knot backup.
Game 2, he shrugged his shoulders and jammed Geist on turn 3 into UU with cards in my yard, so I clearly could have had Logic Knot and Mana Leak as possible counters. I Leak his Geist and slam my own while he’s tapped out and just out tempo him from there. Watching the finals of the Open, I saw quite a bit of tapping out early into open mana to try to sneak Geist into play under Cryptic Command. I’m not huge fan of this play pattern as I feel it opens the door for games to spiral out of control very quickly, rather than waiting to have the counter backup. 3-1
Round 5 2-1, Mono Green Devotion
If someone told me I would play against this deck in round 5 of a Classic, I wouldn’t have believed them. This matchup I believe to be pretty favorable aside from their incredibly explosive starts. Game 1 I was able to win on the back of a bunch of Electrolyzes and Queller to disrupt his development and provide a flying clock. Game 2 I boarded incorrectly and shaved a Path because I hadn’t really seen his top end much and thought he was more all-in on small creatures and a Craterhoof Behemoth. In doing so I died to Dragonlord Dromoka in a quick and horrible fashion. Game 3 was much like game 1, as I was able to use Explosives and the other three removal spells plus Snapcaster to destroy his mana development, then use Cryptic and Queller to keep him from resolving anything of relevance. 4-1
Round 6 1-2, Esper Goryo
This is where the wheels started to fall off. After making a monumental punt in not double Pathing his only two blockers for a Geist while he was at 1, I was dead to an army of Lingering Souls and a flashed back Collective Brutality via Jace, Telepath Unbound. However, some poor sequencing opened the door for me to steal back the game. My opponent had attacked with his eight spirits, putting me to two, and then cast the Brutality into the Logic Knot I had drawn that turn. This allowed me to attack for lethal to steal game 1 after neither of us played our best Magic. Games 2 and 3 I mulliganed and kept reasonable six-card hands, but flooded out both games and only saw one additional spell each game while getting my teeth kicked in by an Obzedat. 4-2, This is where I died for top 8
Round 7 2-1, Death and Taxes
This match was harder than I had anticipated considering UWR usually crushes the small creature decks. Game 1 took about 30-35 minutes due to a combination of us both being flooded at different stages of the game as well as a lengthy judge call from the table next to us. They even stopped our match for a few minutes to ask if we had witnessed anything in the incident.
I started the game somewhat flooding and was only really pressured by a Thraben Inspector, as my opponent had seen more of his color less lands than his white sources somewhat stunting his development. As I started to find some action, I had a choice to Snapcaster back either a Bolt on a Serra Avenger or a Serum Visions. I opted to go with the Serum Visions as I had life points to give and I just needed to make sure I found spells; this line paid off as it found me two Lightning Helix in the top four cards after scrying away another fetchland that I had zero interest in. Meanwhile, my opponent was drawing into lands and Aether Vials in the late game, which opened the door for me to close out the game with Geist despite it being incredibly bad in this matchup.
Games 2 and 3 went by much more quickly. Game 2 he smashed me with triple Restoration Angel, making it nearly impossible to interact with his creatures. Game 3 I had a hand of lands, Snapcasters and removal. His hand wasn’t very aggressive, so he tried to take the mana denial route. That left him dead to me drawing lands as the game went on despite him cutting me out of red mana. I eventually beat him down with a pair of Snapcasters backed by double Path for about 3-4 turns. 5-2
Round 8 1-2, 4c Shadow
The top 8 was going to be a clean cut so this match was playing for Top 16 of the 130 player event. 4c Shadow is a matchup I feel favors the UWR side, as your tempo/burn game plan is fantastic against them. Game 1 I was able to get ahead of his threats and burn him out, with a little help from Colonnade while he was tapped out.
Games 2 and 3 I struggled to draw relevant spells due to a large number of discard spells, as well as being put under pressure by Tarmogoyf/Death’s Shadow and Liliana of the Veil. Game 3 I mulliganed and kept three Islands, Serum Visions, Spell Queller, Lightning Helix in hopes that my draw steps would help me out and the Serum Visions would smooth everything out. Instead, he had the five discard spell draw backed by a huge Tarmogoyf and I died.
Even without the high concentration of discard spells I still would have had an uphill battle with only five cards on the play, so while that keep is loose and somewhat risky, I think between a scry and the Serum Visions makes this hand better than a random five cards. Ultimately it didn’t really matter that much because he had the discard-heavy draw, but that’s Magic. If you want to succeed, especially in a format like Modern, that’s just something you have to accept will happen to you every so often.
All in all, I’m happy with how the deck played out. I would definitely not play Mana Leak in the future as I didn’t feel like it was that good. I’d probably play the 3rd Electrolyze and something else over them (still unsure about that slot as I am also not high on the third Logic Knot).
The Tectonic Edge is likely better as a Desolate Lighthouse, because I could have really used a way to filter my draws in a majority of my games. The sideboard is almost where I want it to be. Runed Halo is good in the combo meta game and I didn’t play it only because I couldn’t find one. I’m also considering cutting the Ceremonious Rejections for a second Disdainful Stroke and Negate, both of which are good against Scapeshift, Eldrazi Tron and Storm.
Justin Brickman is an SCG Tour grinder from suburban Chicago who began playing Magic during Innistrad block. His Magic accomplishments include an SCG Regionals Top 16 and a Super Sunday Series Top 4. He can be reached on Twitter @BrickerclawMyr.