Modern Battleground Winner's Tournament Report - Harry Khoo (HarryMTG)
On the 18th of May I competed in the Modern Battlegrounds tournament. With some tight plays and a bit of luck I managed to come out of it in first place. My deck weapon of choice was UW control. I believe it’s the best deck in modern at the moment by some distance. War of the spark gave the deck some great new additions which allows you to play on many different angles. The list I brought to the tournament was a mixture of old and new tech, and I will explain my card choices in this report.
As you can see straight away, my list has quite a few planeswalkers. I brought 2 Narset, Parter of Veils, 2 Teferi, Time Raveler, 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and 1 Ashiok, Dream Render to the tournament. From my initial testing with the deck I found it was very annoying to have a lot of planeswalkers without having an early creature to protect them after they are in play. This is why I have 2 Wall of Omens in the list. What I believe to be an amazing inclusion in UW, has caused a lot of controversy on twitter.
I personally agree with Gabriel Nassif’s joke that it is secretly the best card in modern, but a lot of people think that the card is poor since in some matchups it is potentially a dead card. I believe it is good as there are many situations I have been in where I cannot protect my 3 mana planeswalker on turn 3, preventing me from playing it. Having the Wall as a turn 2 blocker is great against Midrange and Aggro and it also has great synergy with Restoration Angel in my sideboard. There are also a lot of situations where using Path to Exile on my own Wall to act as a Rampant Growth has become relevant. This happened in the finals of the tournament where I needed a 5th land to cast Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. As UW has so many possible builds you will see a lot of differing opinions on the correct version of the deck.
I also played with 1 Absorb. Many people think this spell is clunky/very slow, but I think it is a great addition. It’s great against burn in particular and since I played against burn in both round 2 and the quarter final, I was rewarded for this card choice. The reason why I am playing absorb is because Timely Reinforcements is a LOT worse with Wall of Omens in the deck. The Wall is often stopping you from getting the 3 1/1’s which is huge in matchups where Timely is needed. The Wall is also why I am only playing 1 Timely in the sideboard instead of 2.
I decided that I would not be playing Terminus at this tournament long before I got there. With non-terminus builds doing a lot better at Mythic Championship London it was the final nail in the coffin to switch build. Often you will find yourself drawing it at the wrong time or just casting it for 6 mana. With the metagame shifting to less creature-based decks, Terminus has gotten worse which lead me to bringing the Verdict – Wrath package. I did not miss Terminus at any point in the tournament.
I’m sure most readers think after a first glance at my list is 2 SURGICAL MAIN?!?! Yes. I thought I would make a big metagame decision that having a surgical in Game 1 would help me more than hurt me in the tournament. I was expecting a lot of Tron, Dredge and Phoenix so wanted to get a bit of an edge against them. You will see in the report if this paid off.
The last thing to note is that Vendillion Clique is a 1 of in the main because of the synergy with Narset, Parter of Veil (playing it in their draw step means they don’t draw a card from its ability). Being a 3 mana 3/1 flash Thoughtseize is amazing but you don’t always have the Narset, leading me to only put one in the list. Playing more may be correct but I haven’t tested it. I find myself sideboarding it out of the deck a lot as a 3/1 flyer is very fragile against a lot of top decks, but it does have game in the midrange matchups and is a quick clock for game 1.
ROUND 1 – UW Control Mirror
To everyone’s surprise this round only took 20 minutes. Yes, you read correctly, a UW mirror took 20 minutes. Both games I had turn 4 Surgical Extraction to act as a Gitaxian Probe to follow that up with Teferi, Time Raveler after I saw the coast was clear. My opponent was very unlucky, game 1 he drew 3 Path to Exile (which isn’t great in the mirror!) and he missed his 3rd land in game 2. With the new planeswalkers the UW mirror is a lot faster now. It is all based on who gets them down first. Then it is miserable for the other player to try and claw back into the game.
W 2-0 Swiss 1-0
ROUND 2 – BURN
I won the die roll – great start. The key cards in my Game 1 opening hand were 3 lands, Opt, Wall of Omens and Absorb. Not knowing what my opponent was on I kept anyways as this is a strong hand in the blind. After my opponent played turn 1 Goblin Guide I knew this match would be an uphill battle. Luckily the Wall saved the day. My opponent had to not only use 1 bolt but 2 on the wall after blockers since I used Absorb on the first one. I eventually got my planewalkers into play, winning the game by attacking with Celestial Colonnade and using Condemn on the damage step to keep me alive from any burn he could top deck.
Game 2 he had a very explosive draw and I could not keep up being on the draw.
W 2-1 Swiss 2-0
Round 2 - Game 1
ROUND 3 – UR Phoenix
This match was very close and came down to turn 5 of turns in game 3. With the Phoenix decks leaning more towards Pyromancer’s Ascension it makes the matchup more awkward but still winnable. The new planeswalkers also make games swing in both directions unless you can stabilise the board quickly.
Game 1 I made a slight punt with my use of Surgical Extraction when my opponent was going off with the Ascension. I should have used Surgical on the first Manamorphose to slow down the Ascension combo but instead decided to wait and see if he would put any Arclight Phoenix’s into his graveyard. I eventually lost to double Bolt + Phoenix attack.
Game 2 I had Rest in Peace turn 2 on the play, making it not even close since my opponent kept a graveyard reliant hand.
Game 3 was very close. He had the turn 2 Ascension; I had the turn 2 Celestial Purge (which I luckily top decked as I didn’t have an answer). My opponent kept playing threats and I followed them up with answers. Eventually time was called, and we had 5 turns left. Luckily in my hand I had 2 Restoration Angel which killed him on turn 5. Nail biter!
W 2-1 Swiss 3-0
ROUND 4 – UR Storm
Storm has historically been a horrible matchup for UW Control. However, with the addition of the new planeswalkers it has become better for UW control making it a closer matchup than it used to be.
The key cards in my hand game 1 were 2 lands, Wall and Narset. Sadly after 3 draw steps I did not hit my third land, allowing my opponent to combo off and kill me.
Game 2 was a lot better for me. I got off a turn 2 Rest in Peace, turn 3 Teferi and turn 4 Narset, holding up Dispel. Teferi was huge as it stopped my opponent from using Remand on his own Grapeshot, saving me and forcing a game 3.
Game 3 was very close. I had the Surgical for his Past in Flames that was put into the graveyard from Pieces of the Puzzle however looking at his hand, it was stacked, but no land. The game stalled out with my opponent being forced to go to discard for the next 3 turns, allowing me to assemble a board of planeswalkers. Ashiok, Dream Render was huge as it milled most of his win conditions, allowing me to steal game 3, putting me at 4-0 in the swiss.
W 2-1 Swiss 4-0
ROUND 5 & 6 ID
Going into the top 8 I was the third seed. This meant that in almost all my matches I would be on the play which is huge in most matchups. Playing Wall of Omens on the play turn 2 essentially locks up the game normally causes them to scoop the match in embarrassment. That’s how it works… Right? #BestCardInModern
The Top 8
QUARTER FINALS – Burn
I didn’t know what my opponent was playing so sadly I kept a very bad hand against Burn game 1, making it a fast loss.
Game 3 was very close. What put me ahead was my opponent making a fatal mistake which lost him the match. This was suspending Rift Bolt instead of casting it for 3 as it allowed me to play Teferi, Time Raveler on my turn, acting as a free counter for the spell as the static ability stops cards being cast off suspend. This followed up with Restoration Angel into Lyra Dawnbringer won me the match. Phew! Onto the Semi’s I go.
SEMI FINALS – Frenzy Affinity
Game 1 was very long and grindy. I managed to get Jace and Baby Teferi into play, but after brainstorming twice and whiffing, it allowed my opponent to kill me with Inkmoth Nexus plus Cranial Plating. Yikes.
Game 2 was very close. I was dead on board and had 1 draw step at a wrath. As they say, better lucky than good. I peeled the Supreme Verdict off the top to wipe the board and clear the way for the Jace and big Teferi in my hand. My opponent quickly scooped it up after that.
Game 3 was incredibly long. After my opponent got me down to 3 life, we were both on top deck mode. I had 3 Celestial Colonnade’s in play against his 3 creature lands, meaning he couldn’t attack. After 4 or 5 draw steps I drew a Restoration Angel into Lyra. This eventually won me the game. Resto Angel is insane. Onto the Finals.
FINALS – Frenzy Affinity
Game 1 I had a very removal heavy draw. Having the turn 2 Wall was huge against his slow draw. Confirmed best card in modern? I got 3 Planeswalkers into play and after my opponent laughing in hysterics, he scooped it up. Wall too good confirmed.
Game 3 we both mulliganed to 6. My opening hand had lands, wall and Resto. Snap keep. I eventually won the game by eating one of his creatures with Resto, drawing a card with wall and using Celestial Purge on his Frenzy. My opponent extends the hand.
Overall, I am very happy with the list I brought. If I were to play the tournament again, I would change the Cataclysmic Gearhulk in the sideboard with another Ashiok, Dream Render. The Gearhulk is not as well positioned as it used to be since the Whir Prison decks are being played less and Restoration Angel does so much work in the creature matchups you just don’t need it. The 2 Surgical Extraction in the main did do a lot of work, however I don’t believe I needed them in the main. I think moving forward, 1 in the main is good enough as the second can be clunky in aggro matchups. The tournament itself was amazing. Great atmosphere, friendly staff and most importantly a great selection of cards for sale. I would recommend attending any Arcane Cards events in the future if you can. If you see me there feel free to come have a chat!
If you have any questions you can contact me on twitter @harrymtg or comment below. You can find all of my other articles here. I am also the co-host of a modern Podcast if you would like to take a listen, you can check it out here (https://soundcloud.com/thebirthingpodcast).
Credit to Reuben Khoo for all photos. Find him on Instagram @reubenkhoo