Hello everyone, as we get into the heart of the holiday season, I’m taking a break from my usual strategy content. Instead, I wanted to do something a little more fun. I fielded some questions from the folks that follow me on Twitter and picked some of my favorites. Let’s jump right into them!
If you could make any card Modern legal, what would it be, and why?
There are a couple of ways to answer this question, the first being which card I think would be best to add to Modern. The second would be what card I would personally like to add to Modern the most. I’m going to try and blend those answers with a card that I personally like, that would be a reasonable addition to Modern. With that being said, I think if I had to pick any card not currently in Modern to add to the format, it would be Hymn to Tourach.
Hymn has been one of my favorite cards in Legacy for some time now. Currently sitting on the fringes of Legacy playability, I don’t believe the power level of Hymn to Tourach would be too high, given how much the power level has risen across Modern over the last 18 months. As cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Omnath, Locus of Creation, and Urza, Lord High Artificer have dominated Modern over that period, there has been a trend of high power level cards that generate multiple cards worth of value. This trend leaves decks that are looking to interact lacking as they tend to fall behind every time one of these powerful cards hits the table. Hymn to Tourach is a cheap two-for-one that allows you to possibly deny these resource generating creatures from being cast, allowing black interactive decks to have some additional staying power.
For the folks that might think that Hymn to Tourach would be problematic, there are pretty easy ways to exploit Hymn. First and foremost, Veil of Summer is self-policing of Hymn; if it ever gets too popular, people start blowing it’s doors off with Veil of Summer. Graveyard decks like Dredge also get quite a boost against Hymn to Tourach, as there is some amount of risk of casting it in the dark against someone who may end up discarding Stinkweed Imp. Mono-Red Prowess and other aggressive strategies that force the opponent to play to the board can often make it tough to cast Hymn to Tourach early in the game, and it’s power drops off quickly against decks looking to empty their hand quickly.
What pet card do you wish you could put into a Death’s Shadow deck that you know isn’t good enough?
This is a tricky one because I like a lot of goofy cards that aren’t quite up to snuff when it comes to Death’s Shadow decks in Modern. If I had to pick one, it would be Dreadhorde Arcanist. I think that Dreadhorde Arcanist is a super exciting card that promotes deck building outside of the conventional norms. While I’ve certainly tried to play Arcanist in my decks before, predominantly in versions involving Lurrus of the Dream-Den before the Companion rules change, it hasn’t stuck. On the surface, especially in current versions of Rakdos Shadow, it would seem that Arcanist would fit right in. Unfortunately, while I believe that Rakdos Shadow has enough one mana spells to provide Arcanist with targets, it doesn’t maintain an aggressive enough posture to make the team. The reason Dreadhorde Arcanist is sufficient in Legacy is that it can continue to generate advantage without nearly the same worry about getting into combat, as boards in Legacy tend to have fewer creatures on them. The lack of powerful cantrips in Modern also certainly knocks Dreadhorde Arcanist’s playability down a fair bit.
What is your most memorable punt?
As of writing this piece, my most memorable punt came in a PTQ at GP Montreal. I was playing against Andy Robdrup; you may know him as one of the First Strike podcast hosts. Andy was playing Scapeshift, and I was playing Grixis Death’s Shadow. I’d won the first game and felt bullet-proof going into the second. I had a reasonably large Death’s Shadow in play, with two copies of Stubborn Denial and a Disdainful Stroke in my hand. Andy drew his card for the turn, thought for a moment, and cast Veil of Summer. Thinking I knew how Veil of Summer works, I believed Andy was just cycling it to find a way out of the precarious spot. So I say, “sure, resolves.” Andy then casts Scapeshift, which I tied countering with Stubborn Denial, unaware that it is uncounterable. Andy informed me of my mistake, and embarrassed, I lost the game and eventually the match.
What is your favorite tricky play that you’ve made?
This question got me to do a lot of thinking because often, the decks I play don’t have many flashy lines, and a lot of the plays are based on positioning in the game. However, I remember a match where I played Grixis Phoenix against an opponent who was playing Lands. On my previous turn, I was forced to cast Buried Alive to set up three Arclight Phoenix into my graveyard, hoping to find a cantrip to get the ball rolling to bring them back the following turn. I was safe-ish from Bojuka Bog because I had Force of Will to cover Crop Rotation, but doing so would leave me in a less than ideal situation. However, I had to start moving as my opponent would lock me under a Ghost Quarter loop. On my opponent’s turn, they Ghost Quartered me twice, putting me down to one land. I draw for my turn, find Lightning Bolt, cast Lightning Bolt, hold priority Force of Will my Lightning Bolt, pitching a Delver of Secrets, still holding priority cast Daze targeting my Force of Will, declining to pay for Daze. This choice resulted in the Lightning Bolt resolving and putting three Arclight Phoenix in play, finishing the game on the following turn.
Do you ever experience burnout in Magic? If so, how do you deal with it?
I think at some point, every competitive Magic player has experienced burnout, no matter how much you love the game. Grinding tournaments every weekend eventually grinds down even the most seasoned veterans, especially if you find yourself in the middle of a cold streak. I’ve dealt with burnout a couple of different ways over my years playing Magic. Sometimes I take a break. If there is no demand for me to be at tournaments every weekend, I may skip a week or two and take some time to relax and then come back to things with a fresh outlook. Other times when facing burnout, I may play in lower stakes tournaments of formats I enjoy more. I’ve certainly skipped large standard tournaments to play a moderately sized local Modern or Legacy event. At the end of the day, having fun with Magic is essential to longevity. Finally, I try to reconnect with Magic in a way that reminds me of why I love the game in the first place, and that is playing with my friends. This takes on many forms, whether it be something silly and off the cuff like two-headed giant pack wars or a cube that the community at my LGS has cultivated over the last couple of years. It is useful to realize that while competition is a big draw to Magic and is also fun and exhilarating, not everything needs to be competitive. Sometimes, the best thing is just spending a couple of nights goofing off with your friends instead of grinding away.
I like to write pieces like this semi-annually to connect with the community a little more. I know that I enjoy getting to know the person behind the content I read, so I often enjoy reading pieces like this. I hope that everyone gets to get a little more of a glimpse into what Magic means to me and how I interact with it. I know that I had a lot of fun writing this, and I’d like to thank all of the folks who submitted questions to make it possible. Enjoy the holiday season, and stay safe!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.