May 25, 2015

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A Second PPTQ Attempt in a format I don’t play (and don’t like)

My dislike of the Modern format is a matter of public record. JitteDivision was hosting a Modern PPTQ at Multizone in Gatineau, and in the days leading up to the event I complained about the format on the Facebook group. I did, however, approve of the noon start time, and as a result was conflicted about attending. Sleeping in is great. Modern is not. You see my dilemma. My friend Dave asked me to drive him to the event, and in the process encouraged me to attend. I tried to find a way out of it, and said I would consider driving him if he paid my entry. He immediately agreed. I was really hoping he would say no, especially because I don’t even have a modern deck together. The night before the PPTQ I was at FNM at Wizard’s Tower, and tried to weasel out of going to the tournament. I said I would message a few people during FNM to borrow a deck, which I conveniently forgot to do, and explained that I just couldn’t play now because I did not have a deck. Unfortunately, someone showed up to Tower late to pick up some cards for the modern PPTQ, and offered to lend me Affinity. I have never played Affinity before, but I’ve been told it’s an acceptable deck. At this point, the scenario began to look relatively positive: a noon start time, a free entry, and a deck already put together for me. I suppose this was enough to make me stomach playing Modern for an afternoon. Here’s the 75 I registered.

Affinity – Adam Benn

Creatures: (24)
Ornithopter
Memnite
Signal Pest
Vault Skirge
Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Etched Champion
Master of Etherium

Spells: (20)
Mox Opal
Thoughtcast
Galvanic Blast
Springleaf Drum
Ensoul Artifact
Cranial Plating

Lands: (16)
Blinkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Glimmervoid
Island

Sideboard: (15)
Ancient Grudge
Ray of Revelation
Etched Champion
Galvanic Blast
Whipflare
Torpor Orb
Dismember
Illness in the Ranks
Ethersworn Canonist

I don’t know if this build is correct, especially the sideboard. But it’s Modern and you can play against anything, so who knows. There was a Restore Balance deck in the room, for god’s sake. When the list was handed to me, I only made two quick changes. I swapped a 3rd Steel Overseer that was in the deck for the 2nd Ensoul Artifact, which was absolutely great all day, and moved a Welding Jar out of the sideboard for the Illness in the Ranks.

I made sure to complain upon arrival that I was playing Modern, and some locals joked about hoping to play me on Affinity as opposed to the more experienced pilots in the room. Jokes on them because I got the bye in round one, so we were already off to a great start. Free wins are great, especially in a format you don’t want to be playing in the first place. I also realized it was becoming a recent trend of mine to show up to tournaments with decks I have never played before, and maybe that’s not the best plan. Anyway, I decided to put my spare time during the first round to use by getting some reps in with the deck against Dominic, a Gatineau player who was already Q’d for the RPTQ and was there to beat everyone at the GPT side event (he did win).

In round 2, I played against UWR Geist. Game 1 was pretty uneventful as I had a very fast opening and killed my opponent through removal, snapcaster, removal, Restoration Angel on turn 4. Game 2 I boarded in one Ray of Revelation fearing Stoney Silence. I drew the Ray, but got battered by 3 Wear / Tear instead. Game 3 was a bit of a grind, but my opponent made a mistake by playing a mainphase Snapcaster + Lightning Helix on my Ravager (which I just sac’d to prevent lifegain), tapping out instead of blocking it on my turn, and died in the air to a Blinkmoth Nexus + Cranial Plating for exactly lethal.

In round 3, I played against Jund, and was able to win in 2 games after some pretty aggressive starts, despite my opponent Abrupt Decaying most of my serious threats. In this matchup I prioritized playing around Liliana a lot, and I feel like it helped keep my board position strong enough to grind him out. It also helped that I had 4 Etched Champion in the 75 (which is why I tried to play around Lily), and I boarded out 1 Galv Blast for 1 Etched Champion.

In round 4, I played against Montreal Player/Judge Eric Pare, who I’ve known for quite some time from seeing him judge at various events. Eric was playing Tron, and I was on the draw game 1. Natural Tron into Oblivion Stone was enough to kill me that game. Fortunately, I had 3 Arcbound Ravagers in games 2 AND 3 and was able to push through enough damage both times off the back of Nexuses getting counters on them. I boarded out 2 Etched Champion, despite it surviving the Pyroclasms (if things are going well) for 2 Ancient Grudge.

At this point I was x-0 and first seed. There were only going to be 6 rounds, so I could double draw into top 8. I asked Ali, my round 5 opponent, if he would like to draw, so that I could go play Frisbee while waiting for top8. Ali, who was on Tron, wanted to play for position, as the top8 was seeded for play/draw, so we ended up playing. This is a completely reasonable position to take, and I should have played anyway, as being a higher seed is better for me as Affinity. But it was gorgeous outside and playing Frisbee is better than playing Modern. Unfortunately, we ended up unintentionally drawing after 3 great back and forth games. The lack of Frisbee for a draw anyway was pretty tilting, but it did mean that I remained the top seed. Even luckier, the top8 was clear cut and everyone could draw in, meaning I would keep my first seed position.

In the Quarterfinals, I played against Kevin Dixon, who was on the new Collected Company Junk deck, using Kitchen Finks, Anafenza Kin-Tree Spirit and a sacrifice outlet (either Viscera Seer or Varolz) to gain infinite life. The deck can also use Chord of Calling to find a Murderous Redcap to deal infinite damage. In game 1 I mulled to 5 on the play, and kept Blinkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus, Arcbound Ravager, Vault Skirge, Mox Opal. I drew Master of Etherium and played it on turn 2, hoping to start attacking with a huge Master. Unfortunately, Kevin played Birds into Finks into Anafenza, and was able to shut down any serious ground attack. I played out a few more artifacts, hoping to push through enough damage in the air with lands + Ravager. Kevin then tapped his Birds of Paradise for black and played Varolz from his hand. He went to 10000 life and I said “ok, ” trying to show strength, and hoping somehow my Inkmoth Nexus could poison him out. I had no cards in hand, but could make Inkmoth an 8/8 if I went all in. Kevin knew he could take 1 hit, and then have the BOP on defense and use Company to hopefully find either another flier, Melira, or removal. I untapped, and was extremely lucky to draw Ensoul Artifact, put it on my Inkmoth, and serve for lethal infect in the air. In retrospect, I don’t think it was correct to go for the infinite life, risking infect in the air, as the ground was locked up with Finks on blocking duty and Kevin at a healthy life total, but I understand the desire to go for it. In game 2, I boarded in the most cards I boarded in all day: 4. 2 Whipflare, 2 Torpor Orb, and boarded out 2 Steel Overseers, 1 Master of Etherium, and 1 Ensoul Artifact. I kept a 1 lander with only 1 castable creature, which was extremely greedy, but my hand had double torpor orb and whipflare, so I figured if I hit I would be very likely to win, and the Etched Champions in my hand would pretty much guarantee I wasn’t dying to any sort of beatdown plan. I drew Springleaf Drum and was able to cast my spells, and the Whipflare + Torpor Orb were able to completely shut down his deck.

In the Semis, I played against Jon Rowe, an excellent player with a great resume. Jon was on Junk midrange, and it was a very tough matchup for me because of the amount of Lingering Souls and Abrupt Decays in his deck. Jon was very unlucky in games 1 and 3, and I was able to win in game 3 despite having my board completely devastated by a turn 3 Damnation I didn’t see coming (ramped into off a Noble Hierarch). Jon proceeded to flood and I was able to exactly lethal him before he could kill me on the crackback with 2 huge Goyfs and a Scavenging Ooze.

In the finals, I played against Ali, and, unlike our match in the swiss, this one was not very interesting. I kept a god hand on 7 on the play, and played Memnite, Ornithopter, Darksteel Citadel, Vault Skirge, Mox Opal, Thoughtcast on turn 1, then a 2nd land, Ensoul Artifact on my Darksteel, Galv Blast, then untapped for turn 3, played and equipped a Cranial Plating, and attacked for lethal. The next game we both mulliganed very low: Ali went to 4 and I went to 5. My keep at 5 was: Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal, Signal Pest, Memnite, Master of Etherium. I drew Blinkmoth Nexus, and led with that, Pest, Memnite, and Opal. The next turn I was able to play Master and attack for 4 after drawing a Galvanic Blast. Ali played lands and a Chromatic Sphere, but my 5 was essentially perfect, as I was able to untap, activate the Blinkmoth, attack him to 4, and Galvanic Blast him for exactly lethal on turn 3. Those are the kind of starts that make Affinity worth playing, and I hadn’t really had any hands like that all day, so it was quite a relief to have them in the finals. My 7 and 6 card hands were actually acceptable, but I knew I could not give a Tron player time to get to Oblivion Stone or Karn, so I mulliganed aggressively and was rewarded.

There isn’t much I can say about sideboarding or playing with Affinity that hasn’t been said by much more experienced pilots than myself, but I will say that I often sideboarded as little as I can and hoped for the best. It is worth repeating that you do not want to bring in too many reactive cards and be stuck with them in your hand. Be. Aggressive. Be. Be. Aggressive.

After winning, I was pretty relieved to not have to play in anymore PPTQs, especially after losing in the finals the week before. It was actually quite funny to hear the other players tease me about how I didn’t even want to come, how I tried to get out of playing, and had never played the deck before, etc. I definitely deserve to get ripped on a bit for this one. Anyway, I’ll be sure to update everyone about the Sealed RPTQ at the end of June, and hopefully have some other articles up in the meantime. Thanks for reading!

Cheers, 
 Adam.

PS. Still hate Modern.