Modern for Fun, Profit, and Charity

Hey everyone!

The Relay for Life tournament was a success! Thanks to everyone contributing and attending. I would have been happy with 50 players, but ended up with 66!

We even managed to get enough sweet prizes to support a tournament of this size:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
We were able to raise $1,370 for Relay for Life (($20 per participant plus Rob Havey giving $50).

I was happy to see local stores in the area offered to help advertise for the event. I made a last minute campaign stop at Stadium Cards and Comics the day before the event and they let me make an announcement to promote the event during a Modern PPTQ.

Pam Willoughby, owner of R.I.W Hobbies, continued to be awesome by donating a Savannah. I had to stop her at that because she also wanted to throw a Badlands into the pot. She has been a terrific sponsor throughout the years and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Get Your Game On added $500 store credit and agreed to host the event. 100% of the entry fees were donated to Relay for Life. They were able to run the event smoothly. It was also great advertising for them, so it was a win-win. This is key in securing a venue and keep costs low.

I was able to start the hype train by securing donations for first and second place: Mana Drain from me and Foil Jace, the Mind Sculptor from Ben Magee. This sent a signal to the local community this tournament was going to be a big deal and needed all the help we could get in filling out the prize pool. Carrie Proffer, manager at GYGO, put together the poster so I could share it on every Facebook page I could think of. There are typically local pages that advertise tournaments where many players can see.

Relay for Life is a popular cause as Cancer affects everyone. This can be important because it impacts the amount of support from the community. My employer, Barracuda Networks, formed a team for a local event which gave me the idea to run the tournament in the first place. I wanted this event to prove the model for charity events could work for non-Magic causes. Players were excited to help make this event a reality and it came together quite nicely. It was a very fun tournament where I could win high-end cards, but it still had a low stress atmosphere that can be difficult to replicate.

The format was Modern because it’s currently the path of least resistance when it comes to filling up a store. Legacy is sweet, but the cards are too hard to obtain for everyone. Standard is polarizing. I didn’t want people to skip the event because they think Standard is bad or it’s rotating too soon to care. Since Modern decks are so focused there is often little overlap. This means it’s easier to have multiple decks so they can be lent out to old school players that want to participate. Todd Maddock played this role and helped my friends play and I also loaned some decks as well.

There weren’t too many days I could hold the event, but last Sunday worked very well. The SCG Open in Louisville was about five hours from us and I expected some grinders to go there instead. I wanted to advertise far enough in advance to change some travel plans. Brian Demars would normally attend regional SCG Opens, but chose to skip in favor of the charity event. The same could be said of other teammates Andrew Elenbogen and Max McVety.

The biggest landmines to dodge were the local PPTQs. It was compounded by the fact they were also Modern so it would cannibalize the charity event. Local stores would not be incentivized to promote the event if they had something on the same day. Make it a win-win for every store owner in the area because their help is critical.

Local non-Magic events also need to be considered. Since Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, I needed to dodge football games played at the Big House. There was a home game last Saturday that would have made traffic terrible and some of the local players would have partied that day instead.

I chose to skip decklists because it bogs down the staff and people aren’t going to cheat at a charity event. All it will do is create unnecessary game losses if players mis-register. If the venue doesn’t have a local judge it may be possible to find a volunteer to help the event run smoothly. I got this idea from Rob Havey, a Michigan judge.

Structuring the prizes ahead of time proved to be a challenge because I didn’t know how many players would attend. There were some headliner cards in Mana Drain and foil Jace, but the rest was up in the air until round two of the event. It was important to me to make sure everyone is aware of the prizes before the tournament goes too long because it can impact decisions to play or intentionally draw in the last rounds.

There was also an interesting balance between utility and liquidity regarding the donations. Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil weren’t the most expensive cards donated, but could slot into decks easily. There were many foils thrown into the prize pool because they are harder to trade. These make for fun prizes and increase the overall value of the event significantly. It may be possible that future charity events end up receiving the same prizes as donations. This creates a multiplier effect as the same cards create value multiple times.

Jeskai Geist

I played {W}{U}{R} Geist because it’s my favorite deck. This proved to be a great choice as I finished in 8th place, winning a Liliana of the Veil and foil Marsh Flats.

Gideon of the Trials
Gideon of the Trials continues to impress so I bumped it up to two copies in the sideboard. The double White in the mana makes it awkward to play in the maindeck alongside Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, and Cryptic Command. I won a game using the emblem against Martyr-Proc, a couple of weeks ago, where I had zero cards in my library while the 4/4 dealt lethal. This was an impressive feat given my opponent started at around 70 life using Martyr of Sands recursion.

There have also been three games against Burn where I made the emblem and it survived for a turn. I ticked him up on a random land each turn to keep it out of burn range and it won me the game where I was at a low life total. It’s a threat I can tap out for without dying on the following turn.

Aside from Gideon being great, there wasn’t much else different about my list. The question about Jeskai Geist going forward is Opt vs. Serum Visions. Since I rarely flash back Serum Visions with Snapcaster Mage, I’m inclined to move over to Opt. The value of Scry 2 is low in this deck because there’s so many redundant reactive elements and mana. Celestial Colonnade requires six lands to attack and I wouldn’t mind having Logic Knot as protection which needs even more mana. This means I’m indifferent to what card I draw each turn so I value instant-speed over additional scrying.

The value of Scry 1 on the opponent’s turn might actually be more valuable to me than Scry 2 on my turn. What happens when I see a counter on top of my deck to draw next turn? The opponent resolves a spell I need to deal with and then I draw the counter for maximum awkwardness. Opt mitigates this problem.

There are also eight fetch lands that play poorly with scrying cards to the bottom of my deck. If I don’t want two lands on top of my deck and I break a fetch, my deck is weaker as a result. I don’t want to leave uncracked fetch lands lying around because I want to thin my deck of shock lands.

The only time I want to actually cast Serum Visions in the early turns is to find lands. Opt has a higher chance of finding me a land the turn it is cast which is ideal. I feel greedy casting Serum Visions to find a land I want to tap for mana on the same turn.

Verdict: I’m going to try the same deck going forward and replace four Serum Visions with four Opt. It may be correct to play a mix of the two.

Bant CoCo

I loaned out Bant CoCo to Callum Aldred who also made the top 8. Stu Parnes also played Bant Company and finished in second place. I think it might be one of the best decks in the format, as my friend, Dylan, also made it to the finals of a 50-person PPTQ last Saturday with it.

Here’s my current list:

Moving forward I’m going to play this deck more. It’s very fun and has a lot of room to maneuver as there are so many spells to cast on the opponent’s turn.

The biggest innovation is Geist of Saint Traft in the sideboard. I was trying to beat the fair deck with midrange Green creatures that generated card advantage. There are diminishing returns on effects from Tireless Tracker, Scavenging Ooze, and Duskwatch Recruiter because they all demand mana to activate. Geist is great against the same decks, but let you attack from a different angle. I lost to Stu at the event because he had the Geist + Gavony Township combo.

Geist is also great in this deck because there aren’t many cards that can have a huge impact on the game while still being a hit off Collected Company.

I keep adding additional Voice of Resurgence to the deck because it plays so well with Spell Queller. It’s also a powerful Collected Company hit and makes things very awkward for your opponent because they walk into Spell Queller on their turn.

If Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was tomorrow I would register this 75.

Esper Narset

Francesco Amati is a big proponent of this archetype and is pretty fun to play.

Narset Transcendent
This is another flavor of {W}{U} control to abuse the new planeswalker rule. Geist of Saint Traft is on the rise, so I like having so many answers in Liliana of the Veil and Supreme Verdict. Rather than fill the deck with counters, there are discard spells that synergize with Liliana of the Veil. Since the deck primarily operates at sorcery-speed due to having so many Planeswalkers I prefer the discard approach.

Narset Transcendent can act as a ticking time bomb due to the powerful ultimate. Her +1 requires deck-building concessions because it misses on creatures and lands. That’s all right with me because Snapcaster is a low-impact 3-drop compared to Liliana and Gideon. The flash aspect isn’t worth it because most of the deck is sorcery-speed.

I’m choosing to play Serum Visions over Opt going forward because Narset encourages setup spells. It’s possible to put a spell two from the top to cast Narset on the following turn and put it directly into your hand. Snapcaster casting Opt at instant-speed is the biggest draw and that isn’t relevant in this deck. Since this is primarily a {W}{B} deck scrying counters to the top and then passing the turn isn’t an issue either.

Collective Brutality helps the Burn and Collected Company matchups. It’s often the case that {U}{W}{X} control matches up poorly against Temple Garden midrange. Brutality will help even the scales by killing an early mana dork and discard their Collected Company.

Supreme Verdict works very well with discard. Once the opponent knows about your sweepers, they will hold back threats and that means Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek is useful for a longer amount of time.

The Gideon package is great against Eldrazi Tron which can be a tricky matchup for controlling decks, too. This deck has a great matchup against traditional fair decks because there are so many Planeswalkers.

If you like trying off-the-radar decks this might be something up your alley.

Whew! That’s a lot of Modern and I didn’t even get to the Pauper deck I’m play at the R.I.W. Hobbies 1K next weekend (Mono-Blue Delver).

I plan on continuing charity events in the future and encourage others to as well.

I have spent a lot of time thanking everyone who helped make the event a success, but I want to thank everyone one last time. There are too many people to count, but you know who you are.


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