Sunday, 9:45 a.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decks
by Blake Rasmussen
GP Toronto 2012 (Day 1 9-0) – Modern
GP Toronto 2012 (Day 1 9-0) – Modern
GP Toronto 2012 (Day 1 8-0-1) – Modern
GP Toronto 2012 (Day 1 8-0-1) – Modern
GP Toronto 2012 (Day 1 8-0-1) – Modern
Round 10 Feature Match - Alexander Hayne (Melira Pod) vs. Ari Lax (Kiki-Pod)
by Mike Rosenberg
Alexander Hayne and Ari Lax sat down, shuffled up, and then... spoke casually. Both players were open to discussion on their preparation for GP Toronto's Modern matches, both content and calm about their choices for the weekend. Given their records, it was clear why they were so relaxed. Both players finished 8-1 yesterday, with Hayne piloting Melira Pod and Lax piloting his own variation on Kiki-Pod.
With Birthing Pod serving both so well, and with both players having a strong familiarity with their respective decks, this upcoming Pod on Pod matchup should be an interesting one!
Lax won the die roll, took a look at his hand, and said, "This is a fine seven". Hayne nodded that he'd keep his hand as well. Lax led with Birds of Paradise into second-turn Birds of Paradise and Wall of Omens. Hayne was content to go a little slower, playing a second-turn Fauna Shaman.
Lax played a Hallowed Fountain untapped on the third turn, cast Birthing Pod, and he used it twice thanks to upgrading Wall of Omens into Deceiver Exarch (going to 7 all through his own cards). Deceiver Exarch became Murderous Redcap, shutting down Hayne's Fauna Shaman, who rebuilt with Birds of Paradise and Spellskite.
You know someone is familiar with their deck and the matchup when they are willing to go to 7... all through self-inflicted life loss!
Lax thought for a moment, breaking the pattern of fast play in the match, before finally deciding to use Birthing Pod for Qasali Pridemage (sacrificing Birds of Paradise). The Pridemage disposed of Hayne's Spellskite, and Murderous Recap attacked, putting Hayne to 13 (and marking the first damage dealt to another player in the match!).
Hayne played a Birthing Pod of his own, going to 11 and then 9, in order to upgrade his Birds of Paradise into Qasali Pridemage, which broke Lax's Birthing Pod. Lax, however, had another one in wait, going to 3 in order to play it and use it, sacrificing Murderous Redcap for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Murderous Recap persisted back into play, knocking Hayne down to 8, as Lax passed with the legendary Goblin untapped.
Hayne went to 5 in order to turn his newly cast Merlia, Sylvok Outcast into Orzhov Pontiff. Lax responded by making a copy of Murderous Recap, bringing Hayne to 4. When Hayne's only follow-up was Birds of Paradise, Lax revealed Phantasmal Image, copying Orzhov Pontiff and letting Lax Pod the newly copied Pontiff into Restoration Angel to go with his Kiki-Jiki. Hayne nodded that Lax had assembled the kill, and proceeded to the second game.
Hayne 0 – Lax 1
Hayne started off with a mulligan, while Lax was content with his opening seven. Hayne led with Birds of Paradise, while Lax had Avacyn's Pilgrim. "Really?!" Lax asked, as Hayne led with a second-turn Orzhov Pontiff. "Kids these days," Lax joked.
Alexander Hayne, the Pro Tour Avacyn Restored champion, has become quite accustomed to keeping calm in the feature match area.
Lax's next mana producer, Wall of Roots, made an Abrupt Decay after Hayne played a second Birds of Paradise, but Lax answered one-of for one-of with a third turn Izzet Staticaster, eliminating Hayne's Birds and bringing him back to two mana in play. A third land from Hayne let him use Maelstrom Pulse to dispose of the Izzet Staticaster, and Pontiff attacked Lax to 13. Lax then went to 10 with Misty Rainforest into Steam Vents, casting Glen Elendra Archmage.
Lax attacked Hayne to 13 before plaiyng Phantasmal Image, copying Glen Elendra Archmage. Hayne followed up with Qasali Pridemage and an exalted Orzhov Pontiff attack, bringing Lax to 8, as both players broke from the traditional combo in order to beat down.
Hayne rebuilt with Ranger of Eos, finding two Deathrite Shamans, but Lax pressed on with attacks. Ranger of Eos blocked Murderous Redcap, dropping to 4, but when Hayne only had the Deathrite Shamans to follow up, Restoration Angel for the remaining flying damage earned the concession.
Hayne 0 – Lax 2
Sunday, 10:50 a.m. - Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Blake Rasmussen
Jund is, far and away, the most played deck on Day 2. Let's get that out of the way.
It's no secret that Jund would be out in numbers at Grand Prix Toronto. Over the past few months the deck has clearly positioned itself as a reliable, always relevant player in the metagame, no matter what else is being played. Not only are old standbys like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant always powerful, but new additions and innovations such as Deathrite Shaman and Lingering Souls have only added to the deck's capabilities.
So it comes as no surprise that Jund would make up nearly 25 percent of the Day 2 field in Toronto. So unsurprising we won't spend much time on it. Jund is good. Be prepared.
But after that, things get interesting.
Grand Prix Lyon, held last month, was similarly dominated by Jund, with 21 percent of the Day 2 decks piloting the reliable midrange concoction. But immediately on Jund's heels at that tournament were Robots and Infect, at 17 percent and 12 percent respectively.
This weekend, however, those decks have seen marked drop offs. Robots is hanging around with just 8 copies, or about 6 percent of the field. Meanwhile, just three Poison decks made Day 2, barely 2 percent of the decks here on Sunday.
So what took their place?
RG Tron and Scapeshift clocked in at 12 percent and 7 percent, respectively, as the next two decks, up significantly from their levels at Lyon.
RG Tron is the interesting one, as it's a clear-cut second place, putting 16 players onto Day 2. Part of the reason is that, with Jund moving away from Maelstrom Pulse, Karn is more difficult to answer for Jund lists than previous incarnations. The second is that fast combo decks—the kind of lists that prey on Tron—appear to be at an all-time low. Just four copies of Storm, three of poison and two of Eggs made Day 2, with a significant-but-still-low 9 Twin decks making the cut. All told, non-Scapeshift, non-Pod combo decks comprise just 13.4 percent of the field on Day 2.
This has not been a good weekend for players trying to combo off quickly.
Also pay attention to Haunted Zoo. While just six players made Day 2 with the list, it represented a relatively small portion of the field on Day 1. It wouldn't be surprising if this deck became one of the breakouts of the tournament, especially if the deck's designer Reid Duke continues his recent tear and pulls off another Top 8.
But as top heavy as the field is, we still see a great variety of viable decks. A whopping 17 archetypes put multiple players into Day 2, and nine more fringe strategies finished 7-2 or better.
Bottom line? Be ready for Jund, yes. But, also, be ready for just about anything.
Sunday, 11:22 a.m. - Deck Tech: Kiki-Pod with Ari Lax
by Mike Rosenberg
There are two key factors that make Birthing Pod a force in Modern:
-Its versatility at finding the right creature for the right moment
-Its ability to set up a combo kill with very little assistance
For Ari Lax, these two factors, combined with its ability to fight against some of the latest adaptations from Jund, made Kiki-Pod, the variant of the Birthing Pod deck that looks to kill with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and either Deceiver Exarch or Restoration Angel, the deck to play for Grand Prix Toronto.
But after quickly dispatching Alexander Hayne in his round 10 feature match, moving him to 9-1 for the weekend, I had to talk to him about some of his choices, along with why he went with Pod for this weekend. His reasoning had to be strong, as Lax admits to loving Modern, and has spent quite a lot of time preparing for each Modern Grand Prix that he's gone to.
GP Toronto 2012 – Modern
"I wanted to play a powerful deck that was good against Lingering Souls," Lax said, explaining his choice. He prepared for the event for about a week with this specific Pod list on Magic Online, tweaking it a ton. With a solid handle on some of the format's top dogs, finding the right tools for the right situation came easy to him.
Unlike many here this weekend, he ignored Chord of Calling due to its cost to play, and isn't playing Commune with Nature either. The reason being that, in their place, he can simply fine-tune the creature line-up and find more foils for the right matchups.
"I just included small changes with this deck. I found the best deck that could combo with Birthing Pod, and then found that best deck that could kill without the combo. In the end, I chose the deck that has a harder time comboing off, but that had better one-ofs to find and one that could kill without Birthing Pod more often." In Lax's case, Birthing Pod gives him access to the best creatures for the right time.
But what if you don't have Birthing Pod? What if you're just playing a lot of creatures that produce mana, or a lot of one-of cards that may not serve their purpose at the right time.
Well, that's where the Gavony Townships come in.
"You can just have a bunch of Birds of Paradise, some 2/2s, an Izzet Staticaster, and then you can just kill them with Gavony Township, pumping them up," he explained. "Against one of my Jund opponents, I needed a way to kill them, and only had two Birds of Paradise. But after two turns, I used Gavony Township, and I was just attacking for 4 a few times.
In his previous feature match with Alexander Hayne, both players could not say enough good things about Gavony Township in Birthing Pod. It turns Birds of Paradise into an evasive attacker. It gives you a sink for your mana when you don't have an active Birthing Pod. It's a land that lets you cast things while also giving you extra pseudo-spells. Heck, it even resets your persisted creatures, which is far from irrelevant in a deck such as this one.
With a solid understanding of his deck and the format, Ari Lax looks like he's in a great position to finish in the Top 8 by the end of today. Will his success continue, and will we see a lot more Birthing Pod action in the Top 8? It's certainly possible, and would not be surprising if it happens.
Round 11 Feature Match - Willy Edel vs. Maxwell Brown
by Blake Rasmussen
Few players have been on the kind of tear Willy Edel has been riding since his Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. The Brazilian was championing Jund at that tournament as well, though he had clearly updated his list in the months since, sporting a version that looked nothing like any other Jund deck in the room. It included cards such as Lotus Cobra for additional acceleration and Thundermaw Hellkite as an answer to the recent uptick in Lingering Souls. Clearly, Edel knew what he was doing.
Maxwell Brown also seems to know what he's doing. Brown is one of just a few players who managed to take Kiki Pod into Day 2, sitting pretty solidly at 9-1 after 10 rounds. Pod is also one of the decks a number of players have cited as being strong against Jund. But that's for stock Jund lists. Would the same hold true against Edel's Thundermaw Jund?
Matching one-drops kicked off the first game, as Edel's Deathrite Shaman faced off against Noble Hierarch from Brown, enabling a second turn Kitchen Finks for the Brazilian and two Wall of Roots plus a Birds of Paradise (all on turn two) for Brown.
Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek stripped Brown's last two cards—Chord of Calling and Kitchen Finks—and gave Edel plenty of room to work with as Brown sat behind his wall of mana creatures and a newly cast Spellskite.
Bloodbraid Elf flipped a Dark Confidant, and Edel looked to be miles ahead. At least for the moment.
When Edel attacked the next turn with Kitchen Finks, Dark Confidant and Bloodbraid Elf, Brown showed he wasn't out of it yet. Restoration Angel flashed in and ate the Dark Confidant, clearly surprising Edel.
The players passed back and forth for a few turns, not finding any way to break through the logjam. Everything was calm.
Willy Edel's unique take on Jund has carried him this far, but can he break through a deck packed full of value creatures?
Then Brown topdecked Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Combined with Restoration Angel, Brown could combo off right then and there. He even had Spellskite to protect the combo against Edel's two-card hand.
Dismember attempted to kill Restoration Angel, but Spellskite redirected to itself. But Edel, not done just yet, had Lightning Bolt for the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Brown had nearly pulled off the combo out of nowhere, but Edel's pair of removal spells—sequenced the only way that would work—had kept in him in the match.
To make matters even better for the Brazilian, his next draw yielded a Dark Confidant, and the one after that a Tarmogoyf. Thundermaw Hellkite on the subsequent turn was more than enough to take the first game.
Edel 1 – Brown 0
Edel, on the draw this time, again led off with a one-drop in Grim Lavamancer, while Brown started on Wall of Roots.
The Wall of Roots wasn't long for this world, as Lightning Bolt plus a Grim Lavamancer activation stunted Brown's growth. His only follow-up was Ethersworn Canonist, a decent answer to Bloodbraid Elf normally, but less than optimal in the face of Grim Lavamancer.
The next two turns passed without incident until Edel pulled the trigger on a Tarmogoyf. In response, Brown cast Chord of Calling for Spellskite and followed up the next turn with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Once that resolved, Brown had a repeatable lightning rod to keep Edel's removal off his back. It appeared as if Edel had missed his opportunity to start removing creatures, though his hand was missing anything that could kill a creature with more than two toughness. As long as Kiki-Jiki and Spellskite were available, Edel's options would be limited.
Brown then started adding value creatures to his board. Thragtusk and Kitchen Finks were followed by Phyrexian Metamorph copying Thragtusk. When Brown copied Thragtusk with Kiki-Jiki the following turn, that was more than enough for Edel to move on to game three.
Edel 1 – Brown 1
No first turn play for Edel this time, while Brown led with a Birds of Paradise that was immediately, as is custom, hit with Lightning Bolt.
Wall of Roots and Birds of Paradise redoubled Brown's mana creature strategy. Meanwhile, Edel made a Tarmogoyf but started missing land drops. A follow-up Deathrite Shaman could help, but only if he had the time to use it.
Brown missed an opportunity to win with Chord of Calling for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, instead opting to play around the Lightning Bolt Edel was representing but, ultimately, did not have at the time.
Instead, Restoration Angel started to put pressure on Edel before Maelstrom Pulse ended that threat. But Edel would soon be set back dramatically. Chord of Calling for Avalanche Riders followed by Restoration Angel set Edel back to just one land, even as he had looked to be finding his way out of his early game mana screw.
Maxwell Brown has deftly piloted Kiki Pod through a field of Jund, and was now sitting pretty at 10-1 after knocking off Willy Edel.
But while Brown did little more than attack with Restoration Angel, Kitchen Finks and Avalanche Riders, Edel started finding lands. Eventually he landed a Bloodbraid Elf, turning up a Thoughtseize Edel simply declined to cast.
And then, with a Zealous Conscripts plucked from the top of his deck, Brown ended it all. The Conscripts stole Tarmogoyf and let Brown crash in for far more than enough damage to take the game and the match, moving to 10-1.
Brown 2 – Edel 1
Sunday, 12:08 p.m. - Deck Tech: Hellkite Jund with Willy Edel
by Blake Rasmussen
I know what you're thinking.
"Why are you doing a deck tech on Jund? Isn't that pretty much the best known deck in every format ever since the beginning of time? What's the point?"
If that is indeed what you're thinking, clearly you overlooked the "Hellkite" moniker in the title. This is not our daddy's Jund (you know, if your dad played Jund in the last month or so).
Willy Edel, the Brazilian Pro and current South American Pro Points leader, knows his way around Jund. He made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with a version of Jund, and has been piloting it deftly ever since. But that doesn't mean he's stuck by the stock list. Not by a long shot.
First, the similarities. Edel is packing the full four of Tarmogoyf, Lightning Bolt, Deathrite Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf. He has a pretty standard package of discard split between Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. I guess his mana base is pretty similar too.
That's mostly where the similarities end.
Edel opted to trim his Dark Confidants to just two in order to make room for another two drop that hasn't gotten much love in Modern: Lotus Cobra. I'll let Edel explain.
Two two-drops can be too much for many decks to handle.
"My bad matchups are all the combo decks. They can usually finish by like turn 2 or 4, so against those decks, Confidant is good, but not that great. I only want to draw a few cards. Instead, I wanted more speed to play Slaughter Games turn 3 without just relying on Deathrite Shaman," Edel said, noting that, in the mirror, Dark Confidant pretty much always dies, while Lotus Cobra can enable some pretty explosive openings.
Edel also shied away from Liliana of the Veil, choosing instead to go bigger. Much bigger. Dragon bigger.
"Thundermaw Hellkite is very good right now," Edel said, as everyone who has played Standard in the last month can attest. "The way to beat the mirror is to be aggressive. It's not Olivia, it's not Batterskull."
Edel also cited the rise in Lingering Souls as a huge plus in Hellkite's corner. With so many 1/1 Spirits flying around, especially in the ever present Jund mirror, Hellkite gives Edel a huge leg up in those matchups.
Speaking of Lingering Souls, Edel isn't as up on the card as other players are. Lingering Souls, he said, gives an opening for decks like Zoo to make a comeback (or, I suppose, like the Haunted Zoo making the rounds today), and is really only at its best against Poison and Affinity.
So instead of going all in on Sprits, Edel split his main deck and sideboard up with copies of Lingering Souls and Kitchen Finks, two in the main with the rest in the board. Kitchen Finks, he said, has also given him a leg up in the mirror, where they're especially good.
These threes are threats to a variety of decks.
As for Edel's sideboard, he's chosen flexibility over specific hate cards.
"I don't think you should play any narrow cards in this format. The format is too diverse," Edel said.
So every card in his sideboard is chosen to serve multiple purposes. For example, Rakdos Charm can be artifact hate against Affinity or Birthing Pod, or it can be a combo surprise against Twin or, well, Pod.
Edel says his only bad matchup is against RG Tron, which was also his only loss on Day 1. This is due, in part, because he declined to play the matchup specific Fulminator Mages or Sowing Salts that are needed to make that matchup feasible.
"I pretty much concede against Tron," Edel said, adding, "I really like my deck, I think if I don't play against Tron, I'll be fine."
He even considers himself favored against other Jund decks, calling the match "60/40" in his favor. He said his unique sideboard strategy (no, I'm not going to tell you what it is while he's in contention) is part of the reason it works.
The best advice Edel said he could give for other aspiring Jund mages out there was to stop thinking of the deck as a 50/50 deck, and to start innovating.
"People say Jund is 50/50, but it's not," Edel said. "It depends on how you build your deck."
Grand Prix Toronto – Modern
Round 12 Feature Match - Alex Majlaton (Robots) vs. Sam Pardee (Melira Pod)
by Mike Rosenbergo
Alex Majlaton's Robots may have some explosive starts, but he's going up against the man from Berkeley who has been on a tear the whole weekend. Sam Pardee has piloted his Melira Pod to a perfect record for the past eleven rounds, putting him in a near lock for Top 8.
Will the Robots run over Pardee, or will the Melira Pod player pilot his way to continued perfection?
Pardee led with Viscera Seer, but Majlaton had a much speedier start with Vault Skirge, two Ornithopters, and Memnite. Vault Skirge sent for one in the air, and Steel Overseer came down next. Pardee, meanwhile, had Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Wall of Roots on his next two turns.
Majlaton continued his fast start with Cranial Plating and a Steel Overseer activation, putting Pardee to 7... which quickly became irrelevant, as Pardee had Kitchen Finks with Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Viscera Seer. Viscera Seer continued sacrificing Kitchen Finks, which persisted back into play without any -1/-1 counters thanks to Melira, gaining him approximately 900,000,000 life.
Sam Pardee demonstrates just how his Melira Pod deck wins games out of nowhere to his opponent.
Majlaton drew and attempted to gain some life with Vault Skirge, but when Pardee played Birthing Pod on the next turn, revealing Murderous Redcap out of his deck, Majlaton picked up his Robots and moved to the second game.
Majlaton 0 – Pardee 1
Majlaton came out of the gates explosively with a first-turn Vault Skirge and Mox Opal followed by a second-turn Cranial Plating, equip, and attack to put Pardee to 15. Pardee, meanwhile had a first-turn Viscera Seer, and then pointed an Abrupt Decay at the Cranial Plating to stymy Majlaton's start. Majlaton followed up with Steel Overseer.
Pardee had Kitchen Finks to recover some lost life on the third turn, going to 16. But Majlaton's field wasn't done growing, as another Steel Overseer joined the robotic parade, and threatened to grow his Vault Skirge and his Blinkmoth Nexus lands to epic proportions; not something Pardee wanted to see with his army of ground blockers. To make matters worse for Pardee, Majlaton followed with Whipflare, clearing away Viscera Seer and one-half of Kitchen Finks.
Majlaton's Robots are capable of some speedy starts, but a Whipflare or two certainly doesn't harm anything... of his, anyway.
Pardee found Melira, Sylvok Outcast, which came down after Kitchen Finks attacked unhindered. Majlaton added Etched Champion to his field, pumping once again with Steel Overseer and attacking Pardee to 10. While Pardee found Viscera Seer, he was short a non-persisted creature to combo off. When Majlaton sent in the team with Blinkmoth Nexus #1 and #2 this time, Pardee succumbed to the army of flying machines and the unblockable Etched Champion.
Majlaton 1 – Pardee 1
Pardee led with Deathrite Shaman, while Majlaton had a seemingly slower start with Springleaf Drum. Pardee went to 17 off of Misty Rainforest into Temple Garden, which he followed up with a Deathrite Shaman activation to play Lingering Souls. Majlaton countered back with Welding Jar, Steel Overseer, and Vault Skirge. Pardee attacked Majlaton to 15, then flashed back Lingering Souls.
Majlaton had Inkmoth Nexus and Glimmerpost, but no good attacks, so he passed back. Pardee, despite having a fourth turn Qasali Pridemage, had no good attacks or good targets for his Pridemage because of the Welding Jar. He passed back to Majlaton, who added another land to his field. He passed, and used the Welding Jar and a Steel Overseer action for the second time when Pardee attempted to dismantle the Overseer with Pridemage, growing his Inkmoth Nexus and Vault Skirge.
Pardee followed up with Abrupt Decay to shut down anymore Steel Overseer action, and passed back with three open, two Gavony Townships sitting back. Majlaton had to act fast, because the Gavony Townships threatened to put Pardee way ahead in the race to the finish. He played Etched Champion, giving him a way to break through Pardee's defenses.
"You're going to town!" Majlaton said, as Pardee played a third Gavony Township before passing back. Majlaton played Cranial Plating, woke up Inkmoth Nexus for another +1/+0, and attacked with Etched Champion to drop Pardee to 9. Pardee predictably used his Gavony Township, and got ready for his next turn's attacks.
Well, not before casting Kataki, War's Wage and Merlia, Sylvok Outcast, the former of which would devastate Majlaton's board.
Majlaton kept around Vault Skirge, Etched Champion, Cranial Plating, and Mox Opal, but when Pardee activated Gavony Township, he had more than enough damage with his army of formerly small creatures to wrap things up.
Majlaton 1 – Pardee 2
Round 13 Feature Match - Collin Morton vs. Dean Bilz
by Blake Rasmussen
Every tournament there's a deck that catches the eyes of the coverage crew and the audience at home. Sometimes those decks flame out in the late rounds, sometimes they cement themselves as part of the format's permanent metagame. Now deep in Day 2, Collin Morton's unique UW control deck is vying for that title in Toronto.
His opponent, Dean Bilz, has done some blitzing of his own. His nearly mono-Red burn deck has torn through unprepared opponents, running roughshod over opponent after opponent on the way to a 10-2 record. Though he was, admittedly, a little nervous about being in the feature match area.
"I don't want my ridiculous play mistakes documented," Bilz said, mostly joking. I think.
Bilz led with a suspended Rift Bolt, promising a potentially quick game. Ash Zealot sped things up as Morton was down to 15 before playing his second land. And when he fetched up an untapped Hallowed Fountain, that quickly became just 12.
Wall of Omens held back Ash Zealot for a turn before falling to Magma Jet. Hellspark Elemental made that 6 life after Morton sought out another Hallowed Fountain. Tapped this time.
"You want to take two? No? Ok," Bilz deadpanned.
Detentions Sphere took out the Ash Zealot, but Lightning Bolt and the unearthed Hellspark Elemental were exactly enough to take the first game.
Bilz 1 – Morton 0
Both players cheekily showed me their hands prior to starting, and Bilz's was pretty nice. Three Goblin Guides and an Ash Zealot all looked really good on the play.
Morton's was less good, but still keepable. He had just one land, but Leyline of Sanctity would keep all of Bilz's burn in check, and an Oust would be an effective deterrent for creatures. Plus, he had a Talisman of Progress should he find his second land, and plenty of action from there.
Blink and you might miss Dean Bilz burning out his opponents.
Fortunately for him, he did find that second Talisman. Unfortunately, he fell to 11 life after three Goblin Guides successfully hit him on turn two.
Oust hid one of the Goblin Guides temporarily and Spellskite threatened to slow another one down, but Morton had already missed his third land drop.
The next attack yielded two more damage for Bilz and a land from a Goblin Guide trigger for Morton.
Then, post combat, the Blood Moon that Bilz hoped would help him lock up the game.
But the land Morton had revealed the previous turn was a basic Plains and, combined with Talisman of progress, that let him play Elspeth, Knight Errant, making token.
Bilz? He just dropped two Ash Zealot and dropped Morton to four. Morton needed an answer to Bilz's creatures, and he needed it fast.
In a shocking reversal, suddenly it was Bilz who was on the back foot. He couldn't attack and his newly cast Vexing Devil was virtually irrelevant. In fact, he was so far behind, that as soon as Morton jumped his Germ token with Elspeth, Bilz quickly conceded, sandwiched between life gain and Leyline of Sanctity.
Bilz 1 – Morton 0
Back on the play was exactly where Bilz wanted to be, but going to six cards most certainly was not. Every card is precious in the burn decks, and Bilz couldn't really stand to go lower.
Bilz started on Vexing Devil—which Morton allowed to live long enough to send it on a Path to Exile—and followed up with Hellspark Elemental. Ash Zealot joined the party the next turn as Morton fell to 12.
Detention Sphere took out Ash Zealot as Bilz's supply of creatures was finally exhausted. Rift Bolt took Morton to 9 and Magma Jet to 7 as Morton fought to find a way to gain some life before Bilz assembled the last of his burn.
Lightning Bolt put Morton to 3, and as Bilz knocked the top of his deck he drew...
Rakdos Charm, a potential savior without the Black mana to cast it.
Bilz had earlier fetched up a Sacred Foundary and couldn't play the artifact destroying card. With no other choice, Bilz took four from the Germ and watched Morton shoot up to seven life before casting a Gideon Jura to further complicate things.
Could Collin Morton's UW control deck be this week's breakout star?
A Lightning Bolt gave Bilz some game, as he could combine it with a Searing Blaze and Lightning Bolt to knock Morton to three and kill the Germ token. However, Bilz made the play on his own turn rather than during Morton's attack step. That allowed the Esper player to simply animate Gideon Jura and equip the Batterskull to gain 10 life, more than enough for Bilz to offer the concession.
Morton 2 – Bilz 1
Sunday, 2:17 p.m. - Deck tech: UW Spreading Seas control with Collin Morton
by Blake Rasmussen
What if I told you that I had a deck for you? A deck that not just beat Jund, but pretty much crushed it. And what if I told you that deck could handle a good swath of the rest of the Modern metagame as well? And what if that deck was a true control deck that played a four mana Jace?
Is that something you might be interested in?
I thought so.
Enter Collin Morton of Sarnia, Ontario. After 13 rounds, Morton stands at 11-2, leaving trail of Jund players in his wake, including former player of the year Owen Turtenwald. And it all started with Spreading Seas.
"I asked myself 'how did I beat Jund back in the day?" He said. "I played Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas."
Indeed, those were two key components to handling Jund's occasionally shaky mana base back when Bloodbraid Elf was terrorizing Standard. With fetchlands and Ravnica duals, the mana is far better now than it was then, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a weakness that can be attacked—especially when you combine Spreading Seas with Tectonic Edge, as Morton has.
Morton said his first major success at any tournament of note was when he played the old Super Friends deck at a Regionals tournament several years ago, and he wanted to recreate that deck for the modern Modern format. But, he noted, not for a second did he ever consider Spreading Seas in the sideboard.
"I just wanted to be the paper in the room for rock basically," Morton said of being basically pre-boarded against Jund.
The Seas and Edges have advantages in other matchups as well. They let him skip on direct hate for Tron decks, and he said he's even caught Mono Red decks with two lands in play but unable to cast any spells with their mono-Island board.
But it's the combination of Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge that has really put the plan over the top, he said.
"It's been incredible. They play their land, I Spreading Seas, then they have to play more lands, then I get to tech edge," he said.
That very thing was how he beat Turtenwald as well. Turtenwald had been holding back lands to prevent Tectonic Edge from getting active and cutting him off from a color, but when Morton played Spreading Seas, Turtenwald was left with no choice but to play right into the Strip Mine Variant.
Those two centerpieces of the deck informed a number of other choices throughout the list. Morton skimped on Path to Exile as much as he felt he could in order to keep from giving his opponents free lands. Instead, he turned to Oust which, as it happens, can sometimes make mana screw more pronounced.
The two odd mana stones were a split because Azorius Signet is better against Blood Moon and the Talisman of Progress is better at casting Oust or Path to Exile. He split the difference because he wasn't sure which was better.
His trio of Planeswalkers is also something to behold. Elspeth, Knight Errant is a long-forgotten gem of the format and, as far as I can tell, he's the only one playing a card that was formerly considered among the best in the format. Jace, Architect of Thought is also an original and new to the format. It has the bonus of shutting down Deceiver Exarch combos, but still loses to Pestermite and other Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker targets.
To that point, Morton does admit his combo matchups are pretty rough (his two losses were to Scapeshift and Eggs). With no main deck counterspells or ways to force early pressure, decks like Storm and Twin can mostly ignore anything Morton does game one. However, those decks have become increasingly small portions of the metagame as the weekend has gone on.
He's happy, on the other hand, to play against Jund or anything creature based, including Robots, Poison and Mono Red. Considering the metagame has been, as Morton said, "all over the place," that seems like a good place to be.
Grand Prix Toronto—Modern
Round 14 Feature Match - Orrin Beasley (Scapeshift) vs. Ben Moir (Jund)
by Mike Rosenberg
Orrin Beasley and Ben Moir enjoyed a little small talk as they shuffled up for their match. "How are you doing?" Moir asked his opponent. "Well, I'm still playing for the Top 8, so I can't complain much," Beasley replied.
After the two exchanged pleasantries and rolled to see who'd go first, both players quickly got underway.
Both players kept, as Moir led with Inquisition of Kozilek. Beasley revealed a hand of Izzet Charm, Stomping Ground, Misty Rainforest, Farseek, Forest, Steam Vents, and Scapeshift, and Moir was quick to jot down Beasley's hand before discarding Farseek.
Basley led with a tapped Steam Vents, and a second Inquisition of Kozilek left Beasley short of an Izzet Charm, revealing that he drew a Steam Vents. Moir quickly cast Liliana of the Veil, and continued to work away at Beasley's hand, his strategy of getting to a lethal land count quickly being laid to rest.
Ben Moir's Jund deck is well-equipped to attack a combo player's hand.
Bloodbraid Elf didn't cascade into anything useful, but it gave Moir a plan of attack. Beasley, who needed an answer to Liliana of the Veil, found one when Moir attempted to go to 6 loyalty with her +1 effect, and no cards in hand. Cryptic Command bounced the planeswalker, forcing Moir to discard it to its own effect.
Despite that, the race was still on, and while Beasley reached seven lands, he had already discarded Scapeshift and had no way to combo off. Deathrite Shaman gave Moir a faster clock, and left Beasley needing to buy time with Cryptic Command, tapping Moir's field and bouncing a Raging Ravine.
Beasley drew, but when another Scapeshift did not make its way to his hand, he picked up his cards to Moir's lethal Deathrite Shaman activation.
Beasley 0 – Moir 1
Beasley looked at his first hand and quickly chose to mulligan, while Moir was content with his hand full of disruption. His six-card hand was good enough, but it quickly sank when Moir had a first-turn Inquisition of Kozilek, revealing Firespout, Izzet Charm, and three lands. The Izzet Charm quickly hit the graveyard.
Beasley fights hard through discard in order to reach the lands needed for a lethal Scapeshift.
Beasley added Relic of Progenitus to his board, as Moir cast Dark Confidant. Beasley was forced to Firespout the powerful card-drawing creature, giving way for Moir's third-turn Liliana of the Veil to do what she does best.
Beasley fought back in an attempt to hit his land drops, and Search for Tomorrow let him keep even at four lands despite a fourth-turn Fulminator Mage from Moir. However, back-to-back Fulminator Mages after that left Beasley stranded, and Liliana at seven counters.
Beasley kept making land drops, but her ultimate left Beasley stranded on two lands and hurting for colored mana.
Despite finding some Sakura-Tribe Elders to keep Liliana from getting too big, Moir found a Dark Confidant that allowed him to remain way ahead on cards. Beasley kept pushing ahead, trying to stay in the game, but Liliana and Dark Confidant kept Moir in the driver's seat, and with his deck short on basic lands, the Sakura-Tribe Elders he was drawing weren't going to let him draw for a lethal Scapeshift. A few turns later, and Beasley offered the handshake.
Beasley 0 – Moir 2
Round 15 Round-Up - Ben Moir vs. James Vance and Collin Morton vs. Charles Wiper
by Blake Rasmussen
With 37 points the target for Top 8, several matchups drew immediately. Jon Stern and Alon Chitiz—who started the tournament with no byes—drew at the top of the standings. With 40 points, Chitiz will be the top seed in the Top 8.
Sam Pardee also drew with Willy Edel, giving them 38 and 37 points, respectively, while Dan Jordan and Alex Majlaton drew to go to 37 points apiece.
That left four matches with players able to reach the Top 8 with a win, potentially leaving two players with 37 points out in the cold if results didn't fall their way.
The feature match area was brimming with matches that mattered for the Top 8.
Ben Moir vs. James Vance
Vance overran Moir's defenses and outpaced his Cryptic Commands in game one, but Moir was able to hold out long enough in the second game to resolve a lethal Scapeshift.
In the third and final game, Negate countered an early Liliana of the Veil, leaving Vance with mostly air, but a missed land drop and a Liliana of the Veil off the top put him back in the driver's seat. Liliana tore through Moir's hand and disrupted his game plan early on. However, a Threads of Disloyalty on Vance's Tarmogoyf eventually gave him the match.
At 39 points, Vance is a lock for the Top 8.
Collin Morton v. Charles Wiper
Morton dropped Wiper low with Elspeth and Lingering Souls and confounded his mana with Tectonic Edge and Spreading Seas, but couldn't close the deal even as Wiper dodged multiple potentially lethal Dark Confidant triggers. On the last turn, at one life, Wiper turned up...another land. Winning by the skin of his teeth.
"Your Spreading Seas are incredible," Wiper said.
In the second game, Wiper missed some early land drops and was forced to pass without much action for multiple turns. Pretty soon a pair of Spreading Seas effectively cut Wiper off from anything but Green mana as Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Knight Errant teamed up to push Morton ahead and take the second game.
The third game was back and forth as time ticked town on the round. Planeswalkers fell to Maelstrom Pulses and attacks, lands fell under Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edges, and Dark Confidants were met by Supreme Verdicts.
Eventually, the entire match, and the Top 8 fates of both players, came down to extra turns. Eventually it came down to the top of Wiper's deck. If it's a Lighting Bolt, Wiper wins. If not, Morton takes it.
The top card?
Morton makes the top at 39 points.
Melissa DeTora v. Josh Meckes
In the first game, Meckes' horde of undead leapt from the graveyard quickly to overrun DeTora's defenses, but she returned the favor in kind in game three, swarming with a multitude of Spirit tokens. In the decider, Auriok Champion gave DeTora enough life to easily overcome Meckes graveyard-based creature strategy and lift her to 37 points.
Michael Stenborg v. Robert Smith
Only Stenborg was realistically within reach of the Top 8 at 34 points, but there was plenty to play for on Smith's end as well. Stenborg and Smith split the first two games with Smith comboing off with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to force a decider.
In the third game, Izzit Staticaster cleared out Stenborg's Lingering Souls tokens. With two Birthing Pods working, it looked like it was only a matter of time before Smith combed out, but an Aven Mindscensor followed by Gaddock Teeg gave Stenborg enough time to swing for the win.
Stenborg finishes with 37 points.