This last Saturday I participated, along with eleven other players, in both mine and Game Grid’s very first No Ban-List Modern (further remarked as NBLM) event at which I piloted Green Black Depths to an ostentatious record of 2-2. This event has awoken something deep inside of me that I didn’t know was there. Something that won’t soon be quenched by a weekly NBLM tournament.
Before I proceed I would like to set a precedent. At the beginning of this week, we discussed the event, and I contained zero excitement for it. Based on how the last SCG NBLM open turned out, Eldrazi was the correct deck to play 95% of the time. The other 5% was when there was more Depths players than Eldrazi players. Unfortunately, SCG removed the deck lists from their website so I can’t link them, but 13 out of the top 16 decks were either Eldrazi or Depths.
Granted, there was a fair bit of variance in how each of the top decks were built, but those archetype win percentages are absurd. This gave me the taste of sodium that bade me away from the format for so long, until, Friday morning, I woke up and I wanted to murder somebody with a Marit Lage. So I built the best Depths deck I knew how with the help from some friends with a bit more experience than me, and then everything I thought I knew about the format came crashing down.
I would like to address the metagame in their final standings:
- Colorless Eldrazi
- Izzet Phoenix
- U/W Counter Top
- Mono White Eldrazi
- B/G Depths
- Grixis Control
- Eldrazi Post
- U/W Counter Top
- Blazing Infect
- Rakdos Prison
- Suicide Shoal
I feel obligated to note the diversity, the only deck showing up in multiples being U/W Counter Top. There were three Eldrazi lists, but all three were built very differently. There were also two Infect decks, Blazing Infect, and Suicide Shoal, though Suicide Shoal was perhaps the most unique deck of the tournament.
Skyler Hanks threw the deck together from an old Legacy Shoal and Tell list that he had brewed. Suicide Shoal plays the Blazing Infect package, but opts for more ways to find the combo rather than secondary pump spells. He accomplished this through cards such as Spoils of the Vault and Plunge into Darkness. You can see why he eloquently labeled the deck Suicide Shoal.
Before we go any further, I have to mention the Izzet Phoenix deck. Jordan Hall began the deck on Grixis Delver, but as time passed, he shifted his favor towards an Izzet Phoenix build instead. Between Faithless Looting, Ponder, Preordain, and Treasure Cruise, he discovered that Phoenix was usually just better than Delver in most circumstances. He played other threats in Young Pyromancer and Thing in the Ice, which also proved to be quite good at their job of applying pressure. I happened to play against this deck, and the first game proved impossible to win after I managed to get a Marit Lage, only for him to have infinite chump blockers with his Phoenixes. In our second game I was able to Surgical Extraction his Phoenixes, only to have him murder me with a Young Pyromancer. The deck legitimately seemed absurd.
I was also able to play against the B/R Prison deck, which seemed a cool innovation that I haven’t seen before. Unfortunately no deck lists were submitted so I don’t have the exact list, but it played classic prison cards in Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, and Ensnaring Bridge, and win conditions in Goblin Rabblemaster and Master of Cruelties.
Yes, you read that right, Master of Cruelties.
In our first game he exiled a Simian Spirit Guide to get a turn two Goblin Rabblemaster, followed by a turn three Rabblemaster, which took me down to 5 life by the end of his fourth turn, but only by the skin of my teeth as I was able to sneak in a surprise Marit Lage to block one of the Rabblemasters. Otherwise, I would have died. In our second game he landed an Ensnaring Bridge, followed by no pressure, allowing me to find the combo and Abrupt Decay the Bridge to get in.
In my third match, I stood up to the man itself, Colorless Eldrazi. This was the list that took first, me being his only loss, which should be expected, as Depths is only as good as it is because of its favorable Eldrazi match up. On our first game, my opponent played a Chalice on 0 and on 1, followed by an Eldrazi Mimic into a Thought-Knot Seer, at which point I was able to Abrupt Decay the Mimic, and sneak in a Marit Lage for the win.
Game 2 came down to sequencing. He began with an Eldrazi Temple and a pass of the turn, followed by a Ghost Quarter that hit my turn one Thespian’s Stage. I followed my turn with an Into the North, for my opponent to miss his next land drop and pass. I untapped, played an Urborg and a Vampire Hexmage, passing again, for my opponent to then play a second Ghost Quarter. He couldn’t activate it right away however, lest he wants me to animate the Dark Depths with the Hexmage. So I untapped and played my fifth land, a Thespian’s Stage, allowing me to play a Sorcerous Spyglass, and hold up mana to activate the Stage.
This put me in a position where he has to activate the Ghost Quarter before Spyglass resolves (as I’m obviously going to name Ghost Quarter) but I can sacrifice the Hexmage in response, as well as activate the Stage if I need to. I had him pinned.
My last match of the night was against Zach Lohner on U/W Counter Top. Forgive me if this is not what the deck should be called, as I didn’t see any Miracle spells so I didn’t feel comfortable giving it that name. In our first game I drew the combo and had little pushback, only having to fight through a single Field of Ruin, before getting my Marit Lage and was fortunate enough for my opponent to not have any removal.
Our second game consisted of us drawing and passing for a number of turns that I lost count of. I had a Dark Depths, but there was a Pithing Needle on Thespian’s Stage, so each turn I was manually removing counters from Dark Depths. When I was able to get to my sixth mana, I could remove two counters a turn, which put a real clock on him, and actually managed to get Marit Lage live from it. Unfortunately, he Path to Exiled my Marit Lage, and Surgical Extraction’d my Dark Depths, causing me to move to the scoop phase.
In our last game, I was bale to animate not one, but two Dark Depths, with the first Marit Lage eating a Path to Exile, and the second one eating a Celestial Purge. I then died to a Vendilion Clique over the course of 7 turns.
After feeling the power of this format, I can say without a doubt that I enjoyed myself at this event. There was an amount of diversity that I didn’t think would be there, and the deckbuilding and sideboarding choices that I had to make were so different than anything I’ve played before.
My one and only real complaint that I hold over the format, is Mental Misstep. Now, this is to no fault of the format, but rather to the fault of the design of the card. It is one of the few cards in Magic that I will label as cancerous. It is a card that demands everybody play four of them, as if you don’t, you will be at an inherent disadvantage. If I could work my will, I would have No Ban List Except Mental Misstep Modern. But, I guess it doesn’t have the same ring to it as NBLM does.
Sadly, nobody submitted deck lists, so I will humbly offer my list as our only sample from the tournament. I will gladly do a deck tech on it later on, after I’ve tuned the list a bit more to my liking and understand Sideboarding better.
If I could take one thing away from this event, it would be a reminder to not judge a format based on only what I’ve seen of it. It’s important in this day and age when the Magic card pool grows larger every three months to keep in mind as many different possibilities as we can, and encourage creative thinking wherever we can. That is the only way that we will be able to learn, progress, and innovate our choices. NBLM was appalling to me only seven days ago. Now I’m ecstatic to schedule our next event.