GP Atlanta Tournament Report
- Jamin Kauf
Modern is always evolving and before heading to the Pro Tour the following weekend, Jamin had one more chance to take Humans to victory. This week, he tells you all about his experience at the Atlanta Grand Prix.
While planning out my journey to Pro Tour "Guilds of Ravnica," I realized there would be a Grand Prix in Atlanta the weekend before. I scheduled my flights accordingly and made sure I had a Humans deck to play. It seems weird to have a Modern GP right before the Pro Tour given that all spotlight is on Standard and its metagame, but I always welcome more competitive Magic.
With the release of Ravnica, Modern had a small shakeup. Creeping Chill gives Dredge serious inevitability against many slow decks and Arclight Phoenix and Runaway Steam-Kin created a whole new archetype. For me that didn't change a lot to my approach because I wanted to spend my time on draft and Standard. Once you know a deck in modern, you will do well by sticking to it, switching to a deck you know less about often punishes you severely. So that's what I did given my previous experience and success with humans.
These are the 75 I registered on Friday evening:
|4Ancient Ziggurat||4Champion of the Parish||4Aether Vial|
|4Cavern of Souls||4Kitesail Freebooter|
|4Horizon Canopy||4Mantis Rider|
|2Seachrome Coast||4Meddling Mage|
|4Unclaimed Territory||4Noble Hierarch|
|3Thalia, Guardian of Thraben|
|1Thalia, Heretic Cathar|
|2Auriok Champion||1Damping Sphere||1Dismember|
|1Anafenza, the Foremost||1Hostage Taker||2Izzet Staticaster|
|1Kambal, Consul of Allocation||1Kataki, War's Wage||2Reclamation Sage|
|1Tormod's Crypt||2Sin Collector|
With Modern becoming faster and faster, some Militia Bugler and Reflector Mages had to make room for more Thalias. Both versions are very playable with the three mana one being especially nice against Tron delaying their mana and delaying blockers in all matchups.
The sideboard has many one-offs that are powerful but bad in multiples, which maximizes the impact each sideboard slot has on your games. Modern is huge as a format and that makes the difference between the "best" sideboard cards and slightly worse ones very small.
My favorite sideboard card is still Hostage Taker as a great tool against the mirror as well as any artifact based list like Lantern Control or KCI.
With the latest developments of Modern out of the way, let's get to the tournament itself. Luckily I have two byes for every Grand Prix so I didn't have to be up early. I still woke up at 6 am due to bad jetlag. Arriving at the convention center slightly tired wasn't the best preposition but I was still excited when sitting down across my first opponent.
The round starts, and my opponent plays a Urza's Power Plant. Facing down a turn three Karn, Liberated, my humans couldn't keep up. During game two, my Kitesail Freebooter was able to take away the seven mana planeswalker from my opponent's hand but couldn't survive after an Ugin came down two turns later. Starting off your tournament with a loss always feels bad but it's what happens sometimes. I bounced back quickly though, ending up 2-1
The Grand Prix was running slowly and after some waiting around, I sat down to play round four. After my opponent opened on Mountain, Lava Spike my hopes went down significantly. Burn was never a great matchup for Humans and it's especially tough when you lose the die roll.
As expected, game one lasted a whole five turns and I quickly put in my Auriok Champions alongside Sin Collector and Kambal, Consul of Allocation. When on the play, the matchup is much easier as you can simply race, forcing Burn to spend their spells on creatures. This exact scenario happened during game two: the game lasted about as long as game one, only this time it was my opponent whose life total dropped to zero. Afraid of my opponent being on the play, we started game three. It started out fast with a Monastery Swiftspear but slowed down once I got a Champion of the Parish big enough to block.
This is where it all went downhill for my opponent: he boarded in multiple Path to Exile to prevent huge Humans running him over too quickly but it prevented him from putting on the pressure he needed to put on. This gave me enough time to build up a board and attack for lethal using a timely Thalia's Lieutenant. 3-1
And the bad beats didn't stop coming: from a bad matchup in burn to a worse one in Bant Spirits.
Spirit lords are more efficient than the Human ones and Collected Company is an incredible tempo swing. You might have guessed it already but winning the die roll was important here once again as it gave me what I needed to finish my opponent before they got to build their own board. Game two was the opposite as I got absolutely crushed. Game three was more interesting as I had to balance a Kitesail Freebooter taking Path to Exile and Meddling Mage keeping Company from getting cast. It was a big house of cards that could have collapsed with a single removal spell from my opponent but it held long enough for me to take the victory. 4-1
After winning two more rather unexciting rounds against Jund and Scapeshift I found myself at 6-1 - already locked for Day Two. My opponent for the final round of day one was on W/U control and while game one was rather boring as my opponent mulliganed and I had a very good disruptive curve, game two was very exciting: my early aggression wasn't met with a sweeper but instead got answered by multiple Paths. When resolving a Freebooter, I saw that my opponent held a Terminus and a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which he was getting close to being able to cast. I took the Teferi and kept an Aether Vial on two counters to be able to flash in a Meddling Mage naming Terminus should my opponent find one off the top of his deck or get close to hardcasting the one stuck in his hand.
Some Snapcaster Mages flashing back Path to Exile later, I had the Terminus exiled by a Freebooter and my opponent down to two life with an empty hand but was out of gas myself too. My opponent his draw step (looking for Terminus or another Path to get back the other one) and slammed the one mana instant to take care of my 1/2 flying creature, then cast Terminus to take care of my board. It was looking grim as starting next turn, Celestial Colonnade could start acting as a blocker and diminish my chances of victory. But luck was on my side in that moment as I found the 3/3 haste Mantis Rider off the top to take the match and advance to 7-1 overnight.
During Day One, I faced a lot of tough matchups with Scapeshift, Burn, Spirits, and Control, and I got lucky multiple times but that's Magic after all. I headed to bed early awaiting Day Two.
The Second Day
The daylight saving time change messed up my sleep schedule even more, I was up and ready for day two fairly early. Sitting down across Hao-shan Huang, a regular GP grinder, I knew things were going to get tough. I kept a strong hand featuring multiple Meddling Mages. Unfortunately, they turned out to be Grizzly Bears after finding out my opponent was also on Humans. Preventing cards from being cast is useless in the mirror.
Given that game one was no fight, game two seemed better: I started the game with Noble Hierarch leading into a turn two Mantis Rider, attacking for 4. The game turned into a tight race between my fliers and my opponent's ever growing Champion of the Parish.
The race got tight but I knew things were gonna get rough when Hao-shan's Vial ticked up to four. As expected, a Whirler Rogue came down mid-combat, pumping the Champions once again. If my opponent was able to give a Champion unblockable next turn, it was game over for me but luckily my Mantis Rider was also lethal, forcing my opponent to chump block.
Unfortunately, Whirler Rogue can tap any sort of artifact and it so happens that the opposing Aether Vial was an artifact. I bricked my draw step and lost the match. 7-2
Rounds 10 and 11 were not super exciting. They featured naturally drawn Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, which are hard to beat as Humans and a revenge match against Tron. 8-3.
At this point, I was out of contention for Top 8, which is sad after starting out 7-1 but I have to continue playing, as cash and pro points are still on the line.
But the bad beats just couldn't stop coming. Next round, I faced another tough matchup in Dredge. Usually, the gameplan against them involves growing creatures bigger than theirs to stabilize and then starting the beatdown. Stalling was hardly punished as you had the better late game at some point. With Creeping Chill, things have changed. Once you're down to twelve life you are on a clock depending on how deep their free Lightning Helixes are buried.
We split games one and two with Anafenza, the Foremost putting in serious work, but my opponent opened game three with Faithless Looting into Cathartic Reunion dredging over three Prized Amalgams and a Narcomoeba, putting ten power onto the board.
I tried my best to stabilize, even landing an Anafenza on turn three but it wasn't early enough to avoid death by Chill later. 8-4
I would like to present a happy ending to the rough start, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be this time:
For rounds 13 and 14, I faced another copy of each Burn and Spirits, which are both bad matchups to begin with and I was not as fortunate as I was on day one. My opponent in the last round did not bother to show up, so I officially ended the tournament 9-6, a very disappointing finish after starting out 7-1.
Randomness giveth and randomness taketh away. I was fortunate to beat many of my opponents during Day One but got the bad side of that during day two. I got pretty unlucky in the matchup lottery, but it also feels like some of the better matchups for Humans (notably Storm) are fading away in Modern.
If you want to change anything to the list I played, I recommend cutting Anafenza and playing another copy of Tormod's Crypt instead. Anafenza is simply too slow if you don't have the Noble Hierarch to go along with her.
Although my finish was bad, I still enjoyed this tournament a lot and will give my best to prepare for the Pro Tour coming up next weekend.
I'll be back soon with a report on how said Pro Tour went and hope I can tell a happier tale next time.
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