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  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello again, Saint Tobias.

    It is still legitimate to play your version if you are enjoying it. That's part of the beauty of Magic; there are arguments for everything, and the variance factor built into the game should make your personal satisfaction with the cards you are playing the most important part of the experience.

    That being said, this is a forum looking to optimize competitive advantages, and I do indeed feel that the blue splash is a necessary part of beating the current top tier of Modern consistently. I am more focused on deck construction and cohesive plans than most, so be aware that there are people who will have differing results and alternative conclusions from everything I have discovered over my decade-odd dedication to this shell. As a semi-professional for about three years in the early 2010's, though, I would put my name and reputation behind a recommendation for the following 75 as my most viable candidate for a Grand Prix level event right now; it is the latest version of the recommended list that my sideboard write-ups refer to on the homepage:

    The third Aven Mindcensor in the sideboard is my current frontrunner in a flex slot which can alternatively be a third Celestial Purge, a second Lone Missionary, a Sorcerous Spyglass, a Glen Elendra Archmage, a Stonecloaker, or a Shadowspear depending on your preference and metagame. My choice is a response to the recent dominance of Ramp strategies. The only other card which has not been thoroughly put through its paces is the Forsake the Worldly, which offers a clean and versatile hedge against Gods, specifically Heliod, Sun-crowned. I have beaten the Walking Ballista combo twice without the exile effect, but the third time I faced it I drew a match that I was winning, and the lack of a solid answer to their Indestructible non-creature enchantment was a contributing factor to my disappointing miss on another top 8. The only problem with the card is that every removal spell for noncreature permanents is now a three-mana play, so this may soon return to being the classic Disenchant that has served me so well in multiple other matchups and sideboard plans.

    This build walks an extremely fine line in the format, and takes weeks (if not months, or even years) of experience to master, but maintains the ability to gain percentage points against any matchup by playing as a unit. There are no auto-wins, and you will have to work for every game, but even its worst pairings are not auto-losses, and I feel that I have at least a chance to actually play Magic against every person who sits down across the table from me - no matter what strategy they are piloting. This trade-off of power for consistency is acceptable to me. If you feel motivated by legitimate, hard-fought victories as much as I do, I encourage you to try it out to see whether the same might be true for you.

    If your list makes you happy, though, feel free to ignore all of this.

    Good luck with whatever you decide,

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hey Saint Tobias,

    I gave a few thoughts on your list in the first section of my long post four entries above this one. I would recommend you take a look at it for recommendations, and I would be happy to discuss things if there is anything that you would like to talk about. Good luck in your next event!

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hey Fluff.

    Absolutely. I think that this version of humans would still be among the best matchups for Emeria control. I have an aside for Saint Tobias, which you can skip if you like, and the Bant writeup comes below it with the title in bold.

    Hello Saint Tobias, interesting list! I have always preferred the clean manabase enabled by the mono-white versions, but really feel the lack of blue and Court Hussar against breakout decks and combo; especially in the post-sideboard games. Regardless, I think that it is a quite defensible choice in local metagames, and you have created some compensation for the lack of card advantage with the Ranger-Captain of Eos/Thraben Inspector package being joined by Squadron Hawk.

    If I could offer three strategic pieces of advice, though, I would first say that Giver of Runes and Sword of Fire and Ice both invest in your board state, while Wrath of God demolishes it. This is a very awkward tension to negotiate for optimal play in-game. I would either remove those two sorceries for two more Settle the Wreckage if you wanted to keep your board intact, or take out the two spells I mentioned for a third Stoneforge Mystic and a second Batterskull if you wanted to gain value while blowing it up. I think you may find that the Sword's protection makes it a better sideboard card in any case. The sweeper/blink effect dynamic is another difficult one to manage as well, so try to decide on which angles you wish to push.

    (To illustrate a focused plan, the changes I suggest below should be considered with three copies of Charming Prince instead of the three-card Equipment package which would remain. Either that, or you could imagine they were a Selfless Spirit, a Sanctum Guardian, and a Bottle Gnomes, for the purposes of bringing up ways to "split the difference" when Wrath of God can no longer enable a full graveyard.)

    Next, I think that a fourth Field of Ruin would be a massive upgrade to your manabase over the nineteenth Basic Plains. There are indeed circumstances where the opponent is on all Basics, but these are negligible compared to the value of the disruption against Tron, Scapeshift, and Amulet Titan. I would also consider either going up to three Emeria, the Sky Ruin, or replacing another Plains with a Mistveil Plains because of its synergy with Squadron Hawk and Stoneforge Mystic, but this would be putting in a third tapland, which may not be worth the tempo loss in your 2-drop heavy list. As it stands, though, I suspect your curve may be able to handle the addition of at least one of these - if not both.

    Finally, the Generous Gift in your maindeck is a good catch-all, but it is extremely volatile and single-use at best. You may like the Stone Rain effect it provides more than the recommendations I am about to bring up, but I urge you to consider the fact that Emeria, the Sky Ruin rewards reuseable effects by virtue of its pull in the lategame. If this influence is not being built towards, then you are simply playing a monocoloured tapland in Modern. Not an appealing prospect, I should think. In any case, my replacements would be either the boring but Sun Titan-friendly Oblivion Ring, or the much more significantly Zombify-ed Cavalier of Dawn, which would also allow you to upgrade extra Wall of Omens or Clue tokens into a threat when things were going well. Intriguingly, it can also target itself with its ETB to provide a stream of Golems plus additional card advantage. This may be too cute, but could actually matter when combined with Bottle Gnomes, for instance.

    Where your sideboard is concerned, I have been a big fan of both Burrenton Forge-Tender and Hope of Ghirapur when I know that I can get access to them with Ranger-Captain of Eos, often as a straight substitution where Kami of False Hope is lacklustre. Space for the 1/1 targets would be made by trimming Lone Missionary, assuming more lifegain in the maindeck (such as Charming Prince). With Mox Opal banned, I also think that your Stony Silences could become 2 Phyrexian Revoker and a third Spyglass with little loss of coverage, preventing Clue and other Artifact non-bos.

    Anyway, back to matchups for the title page Fluff. Here is the breakdown :

    Bant Snowblade Bant Snowblade is a strategy currently gaining popularity, ever since the printing of Arcum's Astrolabe opened up an important new paradigm for fixing manabases in Modern. There exist several three and four-colour combinations of a similar shell possible, largely basing themselves in Blue and Green for Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Ice-fang Coatl, then adding white for board control and threats like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Stoneforge Mystic. Due to the wide selection of cards available to the strategy, however, every version is highly likely to display customization, and can therefore be difficult to plan against effectively. The lists are still relatively new as well, and are still refining themselves. Despite this variability there are a few general commonalities to their control plans, and Emeria, the Sky Ruin grants a marked advantage to the player with access to it in complex attrition battles, which this pairing can very often become.

    As a slower defensive strategy in Modern, Bant Snowblade is an excellent home for Planeswalkers, but generally seems to use them as speed bumps to delay aggression for long enough to set itself up for a bigger push in the mid- to late-game. This is both positive and negative for Emeria control, since on the one hand the deck has access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and multiple incarnations of Teferi, but on the other hand it is usually not very well prepared to protect them from pressure by cheap value creatures. The ultimate abilities on Jace and the larger of the Teferis are Bant Snowblade's trump to an active Emeria, the Sky Ruin, but they are often unable to prevent a back-and-forth war over their loyalty due to Emeria control making a more relevant boardstate in the early game. This is another significant edge, because while Bant must weigh its options on holding up countermagic versus committing a planeswalker, Emeria can simply continue tapping out for creatures every turn with the intention of pressuring future planeswalkers if they resolve.

    As an extension of this fact, the games are often determined by the quality of the draws on both parts. Here again, Emeria control has a slight advantage, since the consistency of its draw steps is quite high and very good at ensuring deck velocity and a full hand well into the lategame, but this is paired with the disadvantage of a relatively flat power level. A Court Hussar is generally going to be a consistently good draw, for example, whether it is facing a topdecked Teferi, Time Raveler or a Force of Negation. This is excellent in the second case, but mediocre in the first. The upshot of these considerations, when Mana Leak and Path to Exile are thrown into the mix, is that the midgame is often reached with several creatures in play on Emeria's side, making pressure on Planeswalkers a given. The next important set of cards now begins to become noteworthy: the sweepers.

    Regrettably, Emeria now has another disadvantage in that it contains more of these effects. These are very poor draws, on both sides, and typically irrelevant unless a planeswalker is threatening its ultimate. Using Settle the Wreckage to ramp is an important tactic to turn the card into a contributing piece here, but Supreme Verdict and Wrath of God have no such alternate mode. Their most useful function is likely to re-stock the graveyard if recursion targets are running low, which is a task better suited to Mortarpod in the first place. The presence of lifegain and copious removal on both sides makes winning through combat damage academic, and only a symptom of a losing battle and not the root cause; consecutive relevant draw steps. The key to the matchup lies in punishing Bant for every failure on this front. The most important feature of drawn-out topdeck wars here is that Emeria is perfectly happy to turn its copies of Path to Exile on itself, while Bant is sometimes forced to be the one spending a card providing its opponent with a Rampant Growth to protect its Planeswalkers.

    Speaking of these, Detention Sphere is an important weapon both here and against Uro (who will die if ever released from it due to Escape's wording), and it is important to clear the way for it by baiting Force of Negation with Crucible of Worlds and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. These cards are very strong against Bant when resolved, but less relevant to lose access to when setting up a Sun Titan to turn the corner. Their Ice-Fang Coatl is a moderate concern where the Giant's attacks are concerned, but the threat of it should not prevent attacks in most cases - its value will frequently pale in comparison to an extra recursion trigger. The other significan finisher in the matchup, Batterskull, should not be prioritized over Mortarpod to enable plays around their 1/1 deathtouching flier, or their copy of the lifelinking Germ. It also stands a much better chance of connecting meaningfully when drawn naturally as a surprise after the Mystic sets up a value target for redundant Paths (or an extra point of damage on a faltering Planeswalker). Pilgrim's Eye also shines in both these respects, and like Wall of Omens can eventually serve as fodder for the Mortarpod.

    Crucible of Worlds bears more discussion, as it brings about the third phase of sub-battles in that it is tied to the ability to leverage Field of Ruin. Although Bant's manabase is built on Snow lands, they are typically well short of all the basics they need to keep themselves on certain double-colour combinations. Many Islands (up to 6) can be expected, but Ghost Quarter can be activated on a basic Plains or Forest to cut down their outs if the game begins to tilt in Emeria's favour. Likewise, any dual lands can be downgraded to basics while thinning the deck for Emeria and ticking up towards its namesake card. At some point, sometimes forced by pre-emptive strikes when setting up Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Bant will have to start using its own Field of Ruin to prevent recursion, and will swiftly begin to restrict its own plays in the face of opposing activations. No matter how tempting it may be, though, the presence of Cryptic Command should prevent any momentary illusions of removing Astrolabes with Detention Sphere. Unless tubocharged by a Titan or Crucible, mana disruption comes naturally, or not at all.

    Post-sideboard, the most relevant upgrade is found in their useless Supreme Verdict turning into Ashiok, Dream Render, but the balance of the post-board games goes towards Emeria Control, which can remove its five sweepers for the Pithing Needle effects plus an Aura of Silence, and two Aven Mindcensor (or Glen Elendra Archmage). On top of this, three Path to Exile and a Pilgrim's Eye can be removed on the play to make room for three Remorseful Cleric as extra evasive pressure which disrupts Uro, plus the occasional Snapcaster Mage or Mystic Sanctuary. On the draw, one extra Path to Exile stays in and a second Pilgrim's Eye is removed instead to reduce the chances of Ashiok disrupting early sequencing. Apart from this specific extra wrinkle, the dynamics remain the same as pre-sideboard. Maintain pressure, and punish every Mana Leak, Path to Exile, and Force of Negation they left in, while working up to Emeria. As a final note, be cautious of Archmage's Charm on Germ tokens when declaring attackers. The Batterskull itself will still belong to you, but might suddenly find itself equipped to a very good blocker on the other side of the battlefield if you do not have three mana available to return it to your hand.

    I think that is most of what I was able to tell in my three matches thus far. I hope it helps!
    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff.

    The key is indeed in Dig through Time and Treasure Cruise. If those are ever unbanned, or similar card selection that exiles the graveyard can be innovated or printed, that is when I will be most concerned with Inverter in Modern, because it is otherwise totally non-interactive. Ponza is a deck that can work, but it requires too many cards to line up for its plan to be consistent. If the individual cards are strong, however, it can become a very important safety valve on the format, which is likely why it appeared to be a metagame choice against Ramp. When a single Pillage or Mwonvuli Acid-moss can buy several turns against a popular subset of the format, the strategy is in a good position.

    Where humans is concerned, the winning maindeck is extremely close to the version of the list that was running around when Lantern Control was a bigger part of the metagame. There is a minor upgrade in reach because Kessig Malcontents can steal an additional 5% of games against Emeria, as it was originally designed to do against Ensnaring Bridge, but the card requires overextending into sweepers, so typically it only hurts their chances unless specifically Settle the Wreckage is being set up. Reflector Mage, on the other hand, is almost always a losing bet. It is expensive, slow, weak, and a huge liability against the 2-mana ETB creatures specifically. It can sometimes push tempo, but almost never to any benefit if multiple blockers are available (which Emeria has a wealth of). On the whole, these 3-drops take up space in the opening hand and slow the games down, which is an advantage for Emeria that the increase in resilience just barely compensates for - but only if the draws line up such that that matters.

    I will begin working on the Bant Snowblade write-up soon, and you can expect it to follow this post within the next few hours.

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hey Fluff, sorry for the late response, I have been making sure I can still access my files as the University shuts down.

    As for the Urza decks, they may be a bad matchup but the important cards can be interacted with successfully using Path to Exile, Detention Sphere, and Teferi, Time Raveler, while Emeria's essential shell of lands, cantrip creatures, and sweepers remains at least moderately relevant in the maindeck, and gets more focused post-board. This story is the one that the strategy relies on, and Tron is the deck in Modern that invalidates these angles the best. It is difficult for me to imagine a matchup that could be worse (although the Dimir Inverter deck from Pioneer may one day make me eat my words if the format ever finds a way to make it efficient enough to port it to Modern).

    The next worst matchup is likely Scapeshift, followed an appreciable distance later by Gifts Storm and Ad Grace, which flip-flop position depending on the particular build. The common elements among these four decks are; an effective immunity to creature removal, a tremendous amount of non-interactive explosive potential from any open turn (particularly when threatened before Emeria's key four-mana watermark), an internal reward for patience when not under pressure, and a manabase relatively impervious to meaningful disruption. These factors combine only very rarely, and typically engender some other weakness based on volatility to compensate (as with Neobrand, for instance), so Emeria maintains a very good win-rate across many different metagames unless bannings are imminent. The exception has always remained Tron, whose consistency is more or less limited to colourless spells, and seems thereby to have been mostly judged an acceptably healthy pillar of the Modern metagame.

    In other news, thank you for the breakdown of the Super Qualifier, there are some very interesting results to dig into there. I looked at the top 32 decklists in the link you provided, and I think the metagame would have been a relatively good one for Emeria overall. There were a few big-mana decks, but they seem to have been preyed upon by the Control decks. I am also somewhat surprised by the total lack of fast combo, and at the fact that the top tables were overall light on aggro (7 of 32, but 3 of these appearing in the top 8). The Uro/Stoneforge/Batterskull trifecta from Astrolabe decks seems to be undergoing a serious metagame adjustment by the faster lists at the moment. Perhaps related to this is the fact that Mana Leak effects seem to be making a quiet comeback as well, with Metallic Rebuke providing a functional analogue to it after a turn-1 Arcum's Astrolabe. Also noteworthy is that the Dredge decks seem to have punished Ashiok, Dream Render severely, as many lists had that as their primary graveyard hate, and the only two Stinkweed Imp lists in the top 32 BOTH made the top 8.

    I suspect the winning Humans list might have deliberately planned to take this multi-colour Control challenge on, with an attrition package based on Militia Bugler in the sideboard, and a dedicated plan dovetailing out of it with Magus of the Moon (which also had a good showing over the weekend in several R/g Ponza decks) against Tron and Amulet Titan, plus a way to break through both Germ tokens and Green blockers with Mirran Crusader. Three Auriok Champion may have also helped more against Jund than the Burn lists they might have been hedging against, though the semifinals was probably their time to shine. The maindeck was also designed to punch through blockers, with a committed four-of Reflector Mage, and extra reach in Kessig Malcontents. It seems as if they figured out a way to play Scissors, with a Rock-like sideboard plan, in a Paper-dominated metagame. Very impressive, and quite sophisticated overall. I will continue thinking on this, but I must get back to work now. You can expect the Bant Snowblade write-up either tomorrow afternoon or Friday evening.

    Hoping this finds you well,

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Thank you, I appreciate it.

    I have now played against Bant Snowblade three times (2 wins and 1 loss), and I can offer a tentative breakdown there if you wish, but I will have to preface it with a caveat concerning the level of play and the sample size. The major dynamics seem pretty clear to me now, but the way a good pilot might approach them might be different than my experience so far. Based on this, let me know if you would like me to proceed, and I will follow your advice.

    Since it is such a diverse format, there are many decks still missing. Apart from Uroza, though (which shares a few important elements with Bant Snowblade), none of them comprise over 3% of the Modern metagame going by MTGgoldfish, so I think the primer is in pretty good shape at the moment with just under 50% of expected opponents represented on our home page. If this statement is surprising to make from a board control pilot knowing less than half their field, it is because 3% is roughly the share at which expecting to face any given strategy at least once over the course of a 16-round GP begins to pay off (3x16=48% chance). What irks me here is that I have still not managed to be paired against any Urza deck, and am now unlikely to do so until well into the summer when tournaments might start again. If someone could step up to speak theoretically about their experiences with or against Whirza/Uroza decks, it would go a long way towards giving us some information to work with until we could get relevant match analysis.

    One last note is that the Underworld Breach decks are still being fine-tuned in Modern, and it is entirely possible that they may become a threat if they innovate some new technology or gain a new tool in the coming months, so any experience there would also be valuable to bring forward for discussion. Although I have only briefly seen it in action, I am not very concerned with the deck in its current form. It is (more or less) a three-card combo, and even if it is reasonably consistent and on paper quite resilient, disruption does hurt it and can interact with the board in Artifacts, Enchantments, and Creatures, in addition to the Stack, the Hand, or the Graveyard. This gives opponents a lot of play, and specifically offers many layers of disruption to Emeria. I may be wrong, but I think the deck is waiting on at least one more strong synergy to become a true breakout.

    That is all for now from me, then, and I will hope to hear back from anyone on these subjects.
    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff, good to hear from you.

    I have had three events posted here since I started getting in practice for the larger team trios event which was to come up in April, but it is now likely to be cancelled. Regardless, all of them were very small (3 or 4 rounds) so they never had a chance to establish a real tournament metagame, and as such can't provide more than anecdotal data. If you want to read them, the first two are found next to each other in the bottom three posts of page 67 on this thread, and the third is the first post at the top of this page. These posts provide potentially informative gameplay, but I would not recommend using them for any larger analysis purposes; the stakes are insufficient for them to be treated as serious competitive tournaments.

    I am glad the Tron guide may be helpful, you are most welcome. Did you get a chance to correct the typo on the Infect guide I mentioned?

    Hope everything is going well for you,

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Good to hear, and good job keeping things together with the thread!

    Best of luck with the outbreak, then, it is a stressful time we live in. Keep well.

    Before I go on, I have another typo to report; the word "one" was cut off to "on" in the visible portion of the Infect breakdown, where I mention my loss to the Gitaxian Probe version. If the "e" could be added back in, I would appreciate it. Moving forward, here is my Tron write-up. It is quite long, so I chose not to include too many of the smaller corner cases, but there are many relevant ones:

    Tron- Tron is the cost that is paid for the advantages gained by playing a slow strategy in Modern, and appears to be an irrevocably bad matchup as of 2020. Since its inception, the deck has been composed of an almost unadulterated mixture of lands, card velocity, and enormously powerful topdecks. There are a few rare exceptions in certain metagames where there is a hope that the occasional maindeck Dismember and/or Pyroclasm will grant some small reprieve from the general pattern, but by and large the deck plays the attrition war exceedingly well against Emeria as long as it has its mana. Winning game one is possible, at which point the match is indeed up for contention, but this is a very rare occurrence, and the number of times Tron manages to win both games post-board makes the true count a depressingly lopsided 70-30 matchup in their favour. Every mistake will be punishing for Emeria eventually, and several draw steps must line up in sequence for there to be any real doubt as to the outcome.

    As is the case with other such matchups, a high prevalence of Tron makes the decision of playing W/u Emeria a poor one, but a bittersweet saving grace is that the deck is not enormously popular in the top tier at the moment. Alas, this makes including a targeted sideboard plan for the deck a fool's errand, and one that may not even win regardless, so the best strategy I have found thus far has focused on winning every possible game using overlapping hate from other matchups. In this effort, the game revolves around the axis alluded to by its namesake as phrased by Julez Santana in "The Second Coming": "United we stand, divided we fall, together we form Voltron- And take on all". To clarify; there is a small chance that the deck will draw only their least impressive threat in Wurmcoil Engine after the Urza lands appear, but in every other case the game is next to unwinnable if Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower remain on the battlefield unmolested. This happens a non-zero amount of the time as early as turn three (even without library manipulation), which restricts reliable interaction to just 1 or 2 mana plays, with every other more costly strategy being part of an increasingly precarious tower of dominoes.

    The bad news does not end there, however, because even through multiple copies of the best interactive spells on-colour to prevent this in Spreading Seas, closely followed by Damping Sphere (which are conveniently enough all very neatly countered by their sideboard Nature's Claim), the deck can still play a slower version of their strategy by simply casting Karn Liberated and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon on-curve. It is often only academic whether these are less devastating on turn 7 and 8 than on turn 3 and 4; they will still win many games regardless unless a clock can be established while they are being delayed. Even worse is that Oblivion Stone is a backbreaking play which requires only a three-mana investment, and immediately breaks free of any lock pieces to unleash an immediate horrorshow as of the turn it can be activated. Breaking apart their manabase synergy is still the key, but the fact that they can often win regardless of that fact is what makes this pairing an unavoidable death sentence for Emeria in well over half the games played against it.

    Understanding this humbling disadvantage, and accepting it, leads to finally grasping the tightrope that must be walked to come out victorious by your own hand in an encounter with the colourless monstrosity that is Tron. The matchup is NOT unwinnable, merely close to it, and the greatest care must be taken not to become bitter or discouraged at that fact. They will have more than their fair share of improbable and frustrating wins no matter what, but if you remain diligent and alert your reward will be the fact that you have won a game that you can unequivocally say that you have earned. Daring and cold calculation are required when building a very narrow bridge towards the lategame is the only reliable path forward, and it is the tightrope walk along this tenuous path which should not be compromised; even facing the full fury of the Blind Eternities.

    The threats are consistent and oppressive, and the spells Emeria musters against them are underwhelming, but the key is found in the lands. Not the Tron player's manabase, but its own. The only significant change in the matchup percentages across the seven-year history of my battle against turn-three Karn Liberated was heralded by the printing of Field of Ruin. Ghost Quarter was a longtime temporizing play in the matchup, but unless (and sometimes despite) being backed up by a true desperation play in sideboard Surgical Extraction, the effect was never enough unless it had a chance to become a Strip Mine. This usage became orders of magnitude more viable when manabase disruption could happen before its first activation, and after the thought of recurring it with Sun Titan became more than a vague pipe-dream. Herein lies the secret. Unless it is protecting a chance to deal lethal damage, setting Emeria's curve back by a land is a horrible play. Closing out the game is impossible if a premature Wasteland effect prevents Crucible of Worlds or a Titan from hitting the table. Field of Ruin, Crucible of Worlds, Ghost Quarter, and Sun Titan. These four cards are what every Wall of Omens and Court Hussar should always be seeking to find, pre- and post-sideboard, nearly always in that order.

    Pressure is not unimportant, and the deck-thinning provided by Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull is also not negligible, but it is the chances of drawing the previous four-card package which should always be kept in mind when sequencing. Do everything in your power to avoid wasting the digging potential of the Anticipate trigger on your 1/3 by using as many search effects as you can afford to before you cast it. Life totals are simply a distraction from the true battle in most cases, so do not spend any Path to Exile on speculative offense through a Wurmcoil Engine if you can afford to use them to build up your own manabase towards an early Titan. When you draw the 6/6/ Giant on turn six, be aware that you might at this point have the option of playing a sandbagged Ghost Quarter, tapping five mana, playing and using the search effect on yourself, and tapping the land you searched up to make mana number six, which will return the Quarter to play for immediate usage on a Tron piece. This often goes against what Emeria, the Sky Ruin wants to do, but in this matchup nothing but early and frequent Titan triggers are relevant to our most relevant endgame. The play just described requires true discipline in order to set up, but is rewarded because they might not see the first Ghost Quarter until it is too late to dig for their ubiquitous maindeck copies of Relic of Progenitus until after a 6/6 recursion engine is already gaining relevant value.

    The timing and targeting on the manabase disruption is also very important. Whenever they do not enable the only maindeck instant-speed threat in Oblivion Stone activations, Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter should be used only after they have an additional chance of drawing their last Basic Forest. This is often shortcut to mean "during their draw step" to prevent them from reaching a mainphase with Tron assembled, but every extra percentage point of the best-case Strip Mine scenario should be taken, even though they commonly run at least two to four Basic Forests (and up to seven, in one notable extreme). Pointing these cards at the same named Tron piece is the priority, in order to reduce their odds of drawing them naturally as the game goes long, but try to avoid destroying Urza's Tower unless you have already broken up the set. When Tower is the last land they play to re-connect Tron, it can allow them to resolve a key Oblivion Stone (which will eventually disrupt recursion loops) before they pass the turn. Fetch out Mistveil Pains as early as possible, it can permit victory despite the threat of decking if they are able to attack multiple times with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger before the board is stabilized with the otherwise useless Settle the Wreckage. Nerves of steel are necessary at times, since on the draw it is suicide to use Ghost Quarter against the threat of Karn Liberated off of three consecutive Urza lands; the best hope in such a situation is to pretend they do not have it, or less realistically hoping to use Detention Sphere on it.

    The sideboard is currently a massive improvement, but layered just as precariously as in game one - on the back of Field of Ruin. The only exceptions are Pithing Needle (typically first for Karn Liberated and then for Oblivion Stone) and Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, which sometimes steal a few critical turns of tempo on the draw. Karn, the Great Creator is a very good target for Needle, but unlike its seven-mana incarnation from New Phyrexia it can be beaten by a normal array of creatures. Aura of Silence and Disenchant are important answers to several threats here, can be timed on an ETB to reduce the blowout potential of removal on Detention Sphere, and contribute to locking out access to Karn's often unpredictable wishboard. Sideboarding begins with removing all five of the 4-mana sweepers, and then continues by trimming an Emeria, the Sky Ruin and two Pilgrim's Eye. They make room for every version of Pithing Needle, the two Disenchant effects, the Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, and the crucial copies of Glen Elendra Archmage (or Aven Mindcensor, if these are used instead). All the equipment and copies of Path to Exile remain in place for their deck-thinning value, and to support as much aggression as can be spared around the battle to keep the lands within reach of a semi-fair contest.

    I hope this is informative!

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hey Fluff.

    I am glad to hear that you are okay, and I am sorry to hear of the recent losses in your community. You have probably heard this before, but as you limit your interactions with others you should remember that these precautions are mostly to slow the infection rates for the benefit of people you may never meet. Apart from that, stay safe, wash your hands, and keep them away from your face. I don't know if it helps your anger, but we are in this together now: I have not gone outside the 4 blocks around my home in over 72 hours. In China many people who had nothing to do with this have been in a similar situation for weeks, now. Even if it is the source of this most recent outbreak, this could just as easily have come from Africa during the Ebola outbreak five years ago, and I am grateful that we are a little better prepared than we were at that time.

    Where Emeria control is concerned, I am not so certain that the deck isn't sometimes Tier 1 in the way I have it built. It has almost zero free wins, so it has a big disadvantage against its bad matchups, and it carries a high time-investment barrier to entry at the top levels due to a very flat learning curve, but overall it has the legs to take down a competitive tournament in many metagames. If you divide Modern into seven archetypes, it lines up well against a good portion of them. Against Control, Midrange, Aggro, Tempo, and Prison, the deck is strongly positioned, but loses outright to most Combo, and is generally at a heavy disadvantage to Ramp. Although the distribution of these strategies make this number a touch misleading, I would confidently say that Emeria begins the game with an inherent advantage over 5 out of the 7 Modern strategies, with a fighting chance over many examples of the other two. In addition, Wizards is historically prone to banning the decks that get too far out of control from these two sectors, while Emeria's fair gameplan is relatively immune from such interference.

    With regards to the Tron write-up, I would be happy to contribute there as well. I have played against it for years, now, in many different incarnations, and I am confident in my understanding of the matchup. It is a bad one, but the printing of Field of Ruin has given Emeria a few small chances here. Apart from this landmark addition in conjunction with the maindeck Crucible of Worlds, nothing I have found has ever really made a difference in the win percentages that stem from their overwhelming mana advantage. I am currently trying to finish transferring to an online course, since the University of Saskatchewan has cancelled classes in-person, but I will probably have time to collect my advice over the next few days.

    I will hope to talk to you again very soon, then!
    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff.

    Thank you for your continued work and updates, I am happy to be contributing to a project that feels as though it is going somewhere. Speaking of direction, I had written the Shadow guide with a few direct comparisons to Jund, and so perhaps it makes somewhat less sense to present it first. For the sake of these references, would it be possible to put Jund before GDS in the primer, just after Amulet? In my experience, the combination of discard, removal, and big green threats is a very popular one, and is probably worth putting in a more prominent position overall. Please let me know if you disagree, and I will re-write the Shadow guide to avoid the out-of-context passages.

    Thank you for your well-wishes, by the way, and the same to you. I hope you and yours have the best of luck over the next little while, and invite you to let me know if there is anything a university student can do to help at a distance. I assume there is not much, but for a start I can say that you should have no worries at all if things are a little chaotic over the coming weeks; I completely understand. I actually had a thought that I might go to a PTQ this weekend, but Social Distancing due to the Coronavirus made me think better of it, and the event (as well as many others) was ultimately cancelled. Here in central Canada, the low population density and cold climate provide some amount of natural buffers to the spread of such a virus, but the close-quarters enforced by our winter temperatures make an eventual outbreak a particularly concerning possibility if a first foothold is established before the springtime.

    How is your community doing? How are individuals treating each other? At the moment, for us, there is some amount of tension as people are keeping an eye on the South, mostly towards the United States, to see how our neighbours there deal with the pandemic, but things have mostly gone strangely quiet as no one really knows what to expect. Are there ways of helping other affected areas socially? Are people finding methods of maintaining calm and positive attitudes?

    I hope things keep well enough that you will still find the time to post here for the next few days, this pastime of ours is pretty trivial compared to the real problems at hand, but if it can continue to serve as a diversion I will feel a little better. Failing that, I have always liked the sub-title of the game as a nod to the importance of interpersonal relations for it, and would like to try to keep "The Gathering" in mind through what may be stressful times ahead.

    Be well, I hope everyone here will be able pull together when it counts.

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hey Fluff!

    Things have opened up for me due to the university's closure, so here is the GDS writeup. Also, I would say that Dream Trawler can be included among the 6-mana finishers, but I would be skeptical because a) the fourth Sun Titan is already too awkward on the curve b) double blue is not an insignificant cost c) it plays poorly with wraths and d) there is no immediate value other than the lifelinking body. If I was looking for an extra finisher and wanted to gamble on the blue mana requirement, I might look at Azor, the Lawbringer. Since I generally do not, my best results with an extra finisher have come from Elspeth, Sun's Champion. I find that these cards stabilize the game in more relevant situations for Emeria strategies, but there are obviously always going to be corner cases where the Trawler could shine. On to the write-up!

    Grixis Death's Shadow is another positive matchup for Emeria control in its current form, with several comparisons to Jund being possible, beginning with overall win rate. Other important similarities include a reliance on hand disruption and multiple copies of Fatal Push or other situational removal. These combine with Stubborn Denial to create a clear disadvantage in topdeck wars, but there the similarities end. Being far less versatile, less value-focused, and far less threat-dense, the critical aggressive exchanges of the matchup are often forced much earlier in games than against Jund. Card selection is far more reliable here as well, which allows Grixis to sculpt strong sequences in the midgame. The matchup is consequently much more volatile, and tends more towards emphasizing tempo plays, which Emeria is far less adept at defusing, so break points that would not be game-ending against other decks quickly become pivotal. The win percentage remains relatively high due to Emeria the Sky Ruin attrition being well-suited to throwing up obstacles, but losses are much more convincing overall here.

    Both pre- and post-sideboard, Supreme Verdict is an enormous trump sequence, since nothing other than Snapcaster Mage and the occasional burn spell threaten life totals at anything other than sorcery-speed. The 2/1 Human Wizard is itself vulnerable to Mortarpod and Court Hussar alike, and is difficult to play into Pilgrim's Eye or Wall of Omens if these are present instead. The desperation play of hard-cast Street Wraith is little better as a finisher, and so the only true menace is found in hard-hittig Death's Shadow and Gurmag Angler, which are reasonably well held back in the mid- to late-game by either potential vigilant counterattacks from Batterskull and Sun Titan, or by sweepers. Complications tend to arise, though, whenever the otherwise dead Stubborn Denial and spot removal can be used to push one of these two threats through for a hit with Temur Battle Rage.

    Stabilization which will first force and second invalidate a double-striking Trample attack is therefore at a premium, and the good news on this front is that Shadow is far less likely to punish an extra land from Path to Exile or to be able to remove a Detention Sphere if these can be cast while they are tapped out, but the presence of countermagic is always a possibility requiring delicate risk management. Kolaghan's Command is also a concern anytime Batterskull is involved, though if lethal damage is not presented it can be important to encourage its casting while there are no Shadows/Anglers to return, since running the Grixis player out of significant threats is easier to accomplish when this value is denied. Mistveil Plains can also return dead equipment to the library for re-tutoring later on, so baiting out removal while gaining free value blocking with Germs is an important tactic.

    Since there is generally no lifegain on the Grixis side (and their life totals are necessarily low whenever Shadow is involved), games tend to end quickly in both directions, so the third copy of Emeria, The Sky Ruin is less valuable. Settle the Wreckage is similarly very difficult to successfully cast through both discard and countermagic, so it is also worse, and these two cards therefore make room for two Celestial Purge as extra removal which can interact with potential enchantments or other odd strategies once the board is stable. Crucible of Worlds is too likely to be damaged by either graveyard hate or artifact removal, so it may also be removed for Blessed Alliance, which can prevent an early Death's Shadow from hitting the table with targeted lifegain (just remember to save this for when the card is on the stack, if you can, otherwise Ferocious might enable a crippling hard counter rather than an irritating Force Spike). Removing Wrath of God is also possible to bring in Lavinia, Azorius Renegade as a relevant method of containing Gurmag Angler, but using sweepers as clean 1-for-1 removal on big threats is a useful enough play pattern that it is worth the risk of potential countermagic if game one is already in hand.

    Where countermagic is concerned, Teferi, Time Raveler is a fantastic resource which also happens to line up exceedingly well with the more powerful threats, buying extra turns and card velocity while denying unexpected interaction whenever it can hit play. On the subject of things put into play, be aware that Surgical Extraction will likely have the chance to remove a card or two post-board if your plan is to recur anything with Sun Titan, so be aware of the contents of your hand and/or your outs when you try to accrue value with the 6/6 giant. Mistveil Plains again becomes useful here given time, since its ability can fizzle the Lobotomy effect. Overall, their topdecks are still the important question in terms of finding threats in games 2 and 3, but in these cases it is much more likely that their middling draws will contain a more relevant mixture of spells than their frequent "removal and discard flood" in game one. Temur Battle Rage versus Supreme Verdict is essentially the name of the major battle here, so try to attack their Red mana while they work on buying themselves an open turn to resolve a significant threat. They typically only have three or four sources of that colour, so it is the most vulnerable in any case. Remove their Anglers and Shadows, however, and they are at a severe disadvantage.

    I hope this helps!
    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff, my pleasure!

    Thank you for the extra work on the Jund text, my apologies for taking more of your time with these edits. If it is your choice not to use hyperlinks on the Humans guide, then that seems fine. As long as you added the missing word "not", it should still stand well enough on its own.

    As to your other question, I would be happy to do a write-up on Shadow, I have played against it quite a bit, and even ran one of the early Grixis versions at a GP. I am likely not going to be able to do much over the next few days, however, as I am going to be busy with schoolwork. You can probably expect the detailed breakdown by Monday evening, however.

    With reference to the new results, Fincown's mono-white list has an advantage in his ability to run 9 basic plains, which notably makes his Burn matchup slightly better than mine. His maindeck Charming Prince are another significant advantage there, so I am beginning to suspect that our differences may best be explained as a bias towards our respective metagames (he plays mostly online and I play exclusively paper Magic). Apart from that, we have discussed the relative merits of Brought Back, which he is taking full advantage of with 5 fetchlands plus the Ranger-Captain of Eos and Kami of False Hope plan. The cards are all individually strong, but I have not found success with this strategy. If MTGO is a predominantly Burn and Combo-oriented environment, this would clear up a significant discrepancy in the data for me.

    With respect to Julie Terrats' list, I have far more pressing questions, beginning with the elephant in the room in choosing not to run Wall of Omens?!? Taking up its spots the 3-of Watcher for Tomorrow and the singleton maindeck Venser, Champion, and Sword speak to me of lack of testing, as do the 4 sideboard Leonin Relic-Warder and Deputy of Detention. Speaking of inclusions, the most puzzling one for me is the maindeck Weathered Wayfarer as one of only two targets for the full set of Ranger-Captain of Eos, which requires a very fortunate series of draws indeed to avoid playing a 3/3 beater with no text against some decks. More to the point, Weathered Wayfarer and Emeria, the Sky Ruin work at cross purposes (one wants to make every possible land drop until turn 8, and one wants fewer lands than the opponent), and the manabase includes ZERO copies of either Field of Ruin or Ghost Quarter. What do I know, though; the results bear out that these were all reasonable decisions on the day.

    Most of these issues are probably answered by the fact that the tournament was very small - only 13 players. I would not be surprised to find out that the odd number of players had given Julie's list a boost with a round-one bye. It is certainly possible that the list simply lined up well with the field, though, especially considering that six of the twelve other decks at the tournament went far off the beaten path with sheer abandon. In addition to the moderately interesting Goblins with maindeck Fling and Abzan Rock with maindeck Ashiok, Dream Render, there were two (!) flavours of smallpox builds, an Affinity list fighting a fair game without Mox Opal (which managed to take third place), and a truly original Gruul Dramatic Entrance/Genesis Wave/Progenitus and Elves hybrid. If this eccentric lineup represents a normal metagame, then I want to be there every week - it seems absolutely wild.

    Thanks for the update, I will speak to you soon!

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff!

    Thank you for letting me write the update on Humans, and I once more have a couple of edits to mention. First, I had forgotten the very important word "not" in the opening paragraph, just after the word "desperate". Second, I believe that the formatting error has cropped up again where the hyperlinks are non-functional in the section that starts off hidden.

    In addition to this, I have one minor and one major omission to report in the Jund primer. The minor issue is a missed capital "i" at the beginning of the very last sentence of the guide. The more serious concern is that I forgot to mention a critical piece of advice in playing the matchup. To fit it in, I would add the following two phrases immediately after the sentence ending with the hyperlinked words "Liliana of the Veil" in the second to last paragraph:

    "The card quality that she and Jund's natural draws provide is much more difficult for them to press when lower on resources, and the lack of an overwhelming clock combines with this such that it is vital to be aware of the importance of Mulligans. Keeping any reasonable hand is imperative, and Liliana is also much more frequently beatable if she is made to discard their resources early, which means that choosing to draw against the deck is often a valid choice."

    I am somewhat puzzled that I missed this, since I think it is a big part of my own win percentage against the deck. On the subject of humans, however, yes; things can sometimes turn truly awful for them. The disruptive creatures are very fragile, and often cannot attack into a board containing (for example) a Court Hussar and a Mortarpod. They are therefore stuck making copies of their Meddling Mage to try to lock out sweepers while going wide, and in the meantime Emeria is free to run out self-replacing blockers and Batterskull to maintain parity.

    These board stalls sometimes extend into as long as they can keep topdecking more Phantasmal Image, Gaddock Teeg, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Kitesail Freebooter, but eventually they will either draw a land to let Emeria get ahead on creatures (unlocking 'Pod based removal), or they will hit a string of "power" threats to try to turn the corner. At this point, Emeria usually gets multiple chances to use relevant removal on one of the "lock" creatures, which in turn releases a sweeper to knock down the entire house of cards they have built.

    Once again, I appreciate your attention!
    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    As promised, my thoughts on the Humans matchup:

    Humans is one of the bread-and butter pairings for Emeria control in any variant, and this list is no exception. Because of a combination of playing to the board with multiple x-1's, very little haste or evasion, a near-total lack of card advantage, and a manabase reliant on Gold lands and dreams, this is almost as good a matchup as Infect, and ranks alongside the far less popular B/W tokens in terms of decks that I am hoping to be paired against in any round. Wall of Omens is as good as advertised, and Pilgrim's Eye performs at above-average rates to encourage the overextended boardstates that they are so desperate to be caught in. At this point, the sweepers take over, and can lead to blowouts beginning from a minimum of 3-for-1 rates and going all the way to my current record of 14-for-1.

    Even given all of this, however, it is not impossible to lose. Virtually their only way to achieve a win is to press their disruption with Meddling Mage, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Kitesail Freebooter, but the diversity of board control Emeria presents is a huge obstacle for this strategy to overcome. Around 25% of the time, the deck's draws will afford them a chance to do this, but the problem they then face is that these disruptive creatures are particularly poor at applying significant pressure, so their best sequence is narrowed to a turn-one play followed by two (or more often three) layers of disruption, which must be capped off by either Thalia's Lieutenant or Mantis Rider to deny Emeria draw steps. The reason for this is that the average card quality for W/u is extremely high, and it is virtually impossible for Humans to achieve an actual lock on the 5 relevant sweeper effects through Detention Sphere, Path to Exile, and Mortarpod. The last of these is particularly frustrating for them, since Stoneforge Mystic can simply put it (or Batterskull, for that matter) into play through a Meddling Mage, and the targeting of the Germ's sacrifice is often all that is required to kill a key Phantasmal image.

    Additionally, their primary interactive pieces in Deputy of Detention and Reflector Mage are downright embarrassing in the face of mass removal and ETB creatures, giving W/u supplemental value in the lategame, which then becomes completely backbreaking. From the sideboard Collector Ouphe does virtually nothing, while Sin Collector and Knight of Autumn are slow and weak to Mortarpod at 3 mana, so their most significant upgrade is found in Gaddock Teeg. Unfortunately for them, the card is a Kithkin Advisor, which is almost totally monopolizing on their Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory. This usually leaves them struggling to provide the necessary pressure to follow up, and exposes their manabase even more to Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter. Speaking of which, the basic land count in most Humans lists is sometimes 0, often only 1 or 2, and generally 3 at maximum, so the Jeskai colours needed for the hasty flier that is most important for them to cast post-Wrath of God are highly susceptible to disruption on their Red source.

    Nevertheless, the Mantis Rider and Kitesail Freebooter interactions are important enough that Celestial Purge is a desireable effect to have access to post-sideboard. Crucible of Worlds is unnecessary here, and Teferi, Time Raveler is mediocre in wide board states, while a single Batterskull is all that is needed to win. These three cards therefore come out to make room for the Purges and a single Pithing Needle. The Needle is because Humans makes excellent use of Aether Vial in perfect draws, and the primary angle that tribal decks without reach can use to outmaneuver Emeria is by controlling their exposure to play around Wrath effects. Against Humans the only real threat is their ability to play a "flash" game, and Needle is therefore a very effective card to draw in many midgame situations as insurance that can also disrupt, since if they can choose what to commit and when they can sometimes steal games that would be locked up otherwise.

    Beyond that logic, a turn-one Vial can sometimes grow Champion of the Parish fast enough on the play that a single Meddling Mage or Kitesail Freebooter can be used to put off a sweeper for the one turn they need to win. Their normal goldfish gets pushed back by half a turn or more for every weak soft-lock creature they play, though, which means this is rarely possible unless they accelerate. Aether Vial counts as acceleration for this purpose, since it can essentially tap for 6 mana or more in their best draws, and so access to more than four pieces of 1-mana interaction is important for the greatest operational threat they can leverage.

    One last relevant question is why in normal circumstances only a single copy of this effect is good against them. The answer is because Aether Vial is a poor topdeck, and can be sideboarded out by some opponents. Creature-centric decks are frequently desperate for either pressure or space post-board against Emeria, and they sometimes will conclude that Vial is to be cut, but until this is certain, the Pithing Needle does its job very well. A single card can turn 4 of theirs into completely dead draws unless they choose to slow themselves down again, creating positive strategic dynamics for Emeria. The risk that they might win the staring contest over whether Needle can name Vial profitably leads one copy only being brought in until the presence of their artifact is confirmed, since after the backup target of Horizon Canopy, they may literally have no other activated abilities to prevent.

    Posted in: Control
  • posted a message on Azorius Titan/Emeria Control
    Hello Fluff!

    Thank you, I used some of the credit to get other sideboard cards I might test, notably Cerulean Drake as a poor alternative to Glen Elendra Archmage, but at less than half the cost. Sideboard cards tend to be more effective when cheaper, and this 2-mana flier might prove useful enough to matter.

    The way I have built the deck, Jund is good in the same metagames as this version is, and so I make it my first priority to evaluate every card against the matchup whenever I try to add something new. They can win if they know what to prioritize, but it is a reasonably tall order for them, and the play patterns are quite a bit different than against other decks with Hallowed Fountain, so my record is somewhat inflated here because I typically get at least some amount of blind unintentional value from them in the first three or four turns.

    On the subject of Seal of Cleansing, I was also under the impression that it was last legal in Nemesis, but then my friend told me that it had been printed in a Modern-legal set. I got a copy of the new-bordered version, just to resolve this question if it came up, but I see now after checking your comment that it was from ETERNAL Masters, not MODERN Masters! I will have to tell the store owner what happened, and it is justice that the only time I have sideboarded it in during a sanctioned match so far was during the loss against the U/W opponent that I mentioned above. I will remove it right away, thank you very much for the catch.

    As for humans, I will be happy to post a guide based off of advice I have given previously; it will follow this post directly.

    Posted in: Control
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