Played a PTQ Finals on MODO today, going 7-2 and missing t8 on breakers. I did not really have a chance, as I lost in the first and seventh rounds of the event. My pool was quite poor, so I am happy with the 7-2 results. Check out my recap of the event after the break.
Here's my pool:
I was initially drawn to red, given the Rolling Thunder, 2 Touch of the Void, and Boulder Salvo. In my first build I paired it with white. The first thing I look for when trying to build an aggressive RW deck is the number of 2-drops in my pool. Here, I had 4 2-drops, but I would have gone up to 5, and maybe 6, if I had the right removal to clear the way. The Recruits were a nice top end to the deck, they work pretty well with combat tricks, and I had enough removal to keep their board clear of blockers.
My next build was the GW build above. This deck had less removal spells, but had more synergy. In particular, I was drawn to making Steppe Glider as good as possible, since I think that card is one of the easiest ways to win a match. Here, the bird works well with Harvester Troll, Lead by Example, Undergrowth Champion, Expedition Raptor, and Saddleback Legac.
Black was a nonstarter -- the only card that drew me to black was the Malakir Soothsayer.
There were some pretty solid cards in blue, and I probably should have spent more time looking at the options there. In particular, Cyclone Sire, Roiling Waters, Unity of Purpose, Coastal Discovery, 2 Blinding Drones, and Clutch of Currents are all great cards. I ultimately decided that the rest of the cards weren't powerful enough, and I would otherwise be short of playables if I tried to pair blue with another color. Also, as an aside, I just don't love blue in this format unless it's a streamlined Surge deck.
I ultimately decided to go with GW, but after some reflection and discussion with friends, I realize now that RW was probably the better build for game 1. I just didn't have enough powerful creatures, or enough removal, to warrant playing GW. I won maybe about 3 or 4 of my 9 g1s -- not very good!
I sideboarded into the following deck after every game:
This list was close to but not the exact deck that I boarded into; instead, for most of the matches, I brought in the Toll Collector over the Affa Protector, and a Brute Strength over the Sheer Drop. Sheer Drop and Affa Protector just are not good in aggressive strategies -- you want to be attacking, you want them on their back foot, so their creatures won't be tapped during the relevant parts of the game when Sheer Drop would be most useful.
I think boarding into a new deck is a very under-appreciated, yet highly effective, strategy. While you don't really get much of a read on your opponent on MODO about whether and what they are boarding against you, on paper, you sit across from them and can watch what they do. If they board a lot of cards, then I really like to change the concept of my deck entirely. That way, I can just make several of their cards dead! An obvious example of this is to board into a deck with creatures that have high toughness, like the BW deck, if you think they are bringing in Flaying Tendrils.
Beyond the advantage of weakening the power of their sideboard cards, there is the additional benefit that your opponent will make mulligan decisions based off what they saw in the previous deck. For example, if you are playing the BW mirror, your opponent might take the draw and keep a slow hand with lots of lands. If you board into an aggressive RW/RU deck, you can end games quickly!
To be sure, you don't always have the luxury of having multiple decks in a single pool, especially if you have an unbalanced or weak pool. Then again, I don't think people spend enough time during the deck construction part of a tournament to look at all of the deck possibilities. A lot of the time, people hone in on one deck and spend a majority of their time thinking over 1 or 2 card choices.
In an ideal world, we would look at every single archetype in our pool to see which are viable and which is the best. But because we have limited time, we need to triage -- after sorting the cards and removing the unplayables, figure out which archetypes simply aren't available to you. Sometimes it helps to take notes as you go, to make sure you don't miss anything.
As an aside, sleeve up every playable card in your pool! There are so many good reasons to do this. For one, you don't have to spend precious time in between matches on sleeves. Next, it is much easier to conceal how many cards you are sideboarding. In between matches, I usually take a handful of cards from my sideboard and put them into my deck, even if I don't plan on playing them. I don't want my opponent to know how many cards I am boarding in, and I especially want to hide a transformational sideboard strategy.
Another great reason for boarding into a new deck is that after your opponent realizes that you boarded into a totally new deck, you then have the option to board back into your old deck! This makes for very hard decisions for your opponent, since they have to basically guess what you're doing. I did this several times during the PTQ, when I knew my opponents would probably put me on the draw and keep hands with cards like Fortified Rampart after seeing my aggressive RW build. In those games, they would get blown out by a midrange GW strategy -- I even won a couple of games by boarding into and casting Zendikar Resurgent!
As for the PTQ itself, as I said at the start of this post, my pool was not very good. I didn't have too many high power rares, and the synergies were just barely there. I won a lot of games by just playing a 2- and 3-drop, then using a combat trick or a removal spell (or two, with Boulder Salvo) to clear blockers and finish them off. I had a couple of very close games where I was able to Rolling Thunder for exact damage (to be sure, Rolling Thunder seems a lot worse in OGW than in BFZ; it feels like we're back to a 17 land format for most of the red decks, which are mostly aggressive).
Pulse of Murasa definitely went up in my estimation. I brought it in versus a couple of decks that had non-exile removal, where we would be trading resources and racing in life totals. The 6 life is very relevant, especially at instant speed, when you can bait them into what would have otherwise been a lethal attack, gain the life, and then crack back to get them dead. It's especially great with the Legac, since the card dies/trades very often and will have an instant impact on the board when you recast it!
And finally, I achieved the dream of casting Skyrider Elf for Converge 5: