WNY Invitational Tournament Report

This past weekend was an eventful one here at WNY Gaming, with saturday being the 2nd ever WNY Gaming Invitational, and sunday being the PPTQ for Pro Tour Ravnica Allegiance. Last week, I wrote an article about the importance of preparation for the Invitational’s dual format, highlighted on archetype decisions. Heeding my own advice, I spent a lot of time in making my decision on what to play in each format, and was rewarded. I was able to find a recipe for success, leading to the defense of my title, and becoming a back to back Champion.

 

I knew the deck I’d be most comfortable piloting in standard would be my Abzan Constrictor deck, leaning on it’s strengths of being very interactive as well as my proficiency with small intricacies within it. As it has been ever evolving, which I go in depth here, I knew adjusting just a couple cards would be the only thing needed to succeed with it. This put me into a similar scenario as the first Invitational, so I wanted to play a non-interactive deck in modern, except I knew I didn’t want to be on Titanshift. With 2-3 players playing Titanshift in the store, although it’s a great deck, I didn’t want to be predictable and play something the field would be most certainly prepared for. I looked to my friends in the magic community as I commonly do when I’m unsure of what to play, and settled on Ryan Ferries’ Burn list that he finished 2nd with in the SCG Modern Open in Indianapolis.

Burn

Lands (19)
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills

Creatures (14)
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Goblin Guide
Grim Lavamancer
Monastery Swiftspear

Instants and Sorceries (27)
Boros Charm
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Skullcrack
Sideboard (15)
Deflecting Palm
Destructive Revelry
Ensnaring Bridge
Exquisite Firecraft
Rest in Peace
Searing Blood

Ryan had a fantastic run, and as heartbreaking as it was to see him lose in the finals, I knew he was onto something great. Burn looks very promising in Modern’s current format, and although my experience with it is only minor, I knew it was a deck that I could pilot well enough to catch the field off guard, and take advantage of it’s punishing demeanor. I set out to play Ryan’s exact 75, but having limited resources, I was unable to play the 2nd Grim Lavamancer. I decided on something off the beaten path to replace it, in the form of a one-of Vexing Devil, expecting it to be more times than not, a one mana 4 damage spell.

With my decklists set, I finished 4-1 in the swiss, taking my only loss of the event to Jimmy Wray in round 3, against his Taking Turns standard list. Here’s the breakdown of what I played against throughout the day:

Round 1, Standard, vs Knights 2-1
Game 1 we both struggled on land drops, him with amount, myself on black sources. 2 crucial Fatal Pushes early was enough to set me back to playing the whole game on my heels, culminating in a loss. Game 2 I was able to leverage an on-time Shalai, stranding a Settle the Wreckage in my opponent’s hand, and using Hungering Hydra alongside Verdurous Gearhulk to put pressure on a reactive orientated start for Knights. Game 3 was played mostly from behind, but with the resiliency of Abzan Constrictor, I was able to close out the game in turns.

Round 2, Standard, vs Turbo Fog 0-2
Having to battle through Fog effects with a deck that is centered around combat damage is very difficult, with my only interaction to bypass the effect is with Walking Ballista. Without seeing them early enough, or at all in the game, my opponent was able to stabilize in both games and lock me out completely.

Round 3, Standard, vs Grixis Bolas 2-0
Both games I was able to capitalize on The Eldest Reborn and Vraska, Relic Seeker, along with Vine Mare out of the side to finish the game out before The Scarab God could overtake the game.

Round 4, Modern, vs Zoo 2-1
Very close match, with Game 3 turning into a nailbiter of opponent’s mull to 4 versus my one land for 8 turns, drawing all 4 of my Goblin Guides.

Round 5, Modern, vs Death Shadow 2-1
Being patient and holding cheap costing burn in hand to line up a KO after they cast a Death’s Shadow is the key to victory in this match.

Quarterfinals, Standard, vs Grixis Bolas 2-1
Game 1 things never lined up for me, and opponent had all the removal needed. Game 2 and 3 came down to my resource management, timing Vine Mares, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, and Vraska’s Contempts correctly, and getting better draws than my opponent.

Semifinals, Modern, vs Titanshift 2-1
Although starting on the draw, was able to end my 2nd turn with 3 Goblin Guides attacking, sealing the game. Game 2 came down to having Skullcrack for the first Obstinate Baloth, but not the 2nd. Game 3 I had enough burn combined with timely Skullcracks and my opponent drawing lands to lead me to victory.

Finals, Standard/Modern, vs Goblins,Zoo 1-2, 3-1
This finals was very exciting and full of tension as we alternated wins all the way to game 7, where I had to break the pattern and steal the game on the draw to win it all. Goblins is a very aggressive deck, and in games where I failed to find Walking Ballista, I was unable to stabilize. This resulted in entering modern being down 1 game to 2. Burn vs Zoo was a very nerve racking matchup, as you often would frequently pass turn and be unsure if you’d ever get to untap again. My main game plan throughout the match was, do I have enough burn in hand to close the game out before his creatures can? The answer to this question was the hinge that decided if I bolted his Wild Nacatl, or bolted him. On top of being decisive about my plays, being mana efficient and patient when needed were the tools needed to out race, and win this aggressive finals.

Overall I had a load of fun, and was very pleased with my decisions in deck choices. As a result of my title defense, I also get my likeness on a 2nd token. After much debate, I’ve officially decided that I will continue to rule the skys as my Thopter tokens will now be accompied by 5/5 Dragons! Keep an eye out for them when they hit the store, and start game planing for next season’s invitational if you want to prevent my three-peat victory!

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About The Author: Michael Strianese

Husband, Dad, Electrician by day, Competitive Magic player by weekend, with a resume including a SCG Invitational Top 8 and SCG Cincinnati Classic Top 8