Back to Modern with a Vengeance

A little over a week after the Modern portion of GP Las Vegas and still, all I can think about is how I wish I had another big Modern tournament coming up.

I loved my deck, had a great start, and if I would have had some more time to work on the list I think I could have a Grand Prix Top 8 under my belt. As it stands, let’s just say that my GP ended with me at 8-1 at the end of the first day feeling great, and for some reason day 2 was cancelled.

It all started a couple weeks ago when I built a rough draft version of a deck that had been floating around on Magic Online, and I quickly 5-0’d a competitive league with it. Here’s the OG list:

Modern Esper, 5-0 MTGO Competitive League

Creatures (8)
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Sorceries (16)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Serum Visions
Thoughtseize
Collecive Brutality
Lingering Souls
Pieces of the Puzzle

Insants (15)
Fatal Push
Path to Exile
Thought Scour
Goryo’s Vengeance
Ultimate Price
Murderous Cut
Lands (21)
Darkslick Shores
Flooded Strand
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Marsh Flats
Plains
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Ceremonious Rejection
Dispel
Fragmentize
Celestial Purge
Devour Flesh
Negate
Stony Silence
Rain of Tears
Damnation

This was a very ugly rough draft. The Ultimate Price was particularly egregious. The mana base wasn’t good and the sideboard was garbage. But that 5-0 didn’t even feel remotely close, this deck was straight gasoline.

The premise of the deck is to use a mix of 1-for-1 removal and discard effects along with  Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Lingering Souls to play some fair magic. We then use Goryo’s Vengeance to get Jace back into play and immediately flip him, getting around the exile at end of turn clause on Goryo’s Vengeance.

This trick also works with Obzedat, Ghost Council as you can choose to exile Obzedat to his own exile trigger instead of Goryo’s Vengeance’s, resulting in the Obzedaddy coming back next turn. Ideally, we Goryo’s Vengeance a Jace, and then flip Jace to flash back Goryo’s Vengeance on an Obzedat. That is a helluva turn.

So a couple buddies and I spent quite a bit of time over the next few weeks getting the archetype to where we wanted it. We never 5-0’d another league, but we did have more 4-1s than any other record. The biggest takeaways from our testing:

  • The deck was very hard to pilot well.  I think this is the biggest reason we haven’t seen the archetype post more results. The average turn involves a lot of difficult decisions that impact your later goals in the game.
  • It takes a long time to win with in paper. The first side event we played involved three draws between my friend and I in a four round event. The deck is hard and we had a lot of people stopping to read all our cards.
  • The Death’s Shadow matchup was unloseable.  This was the core reason we decided to play the deck. Neither of us dropped a match to Death’s Shadow the entire GP.
  • It’s more of a control deck than a combo deck. We were extremely good at playing the one-for-one game until we grinded our opponent to dust and finished with Obzedat.
  • All that being said, the deck is poor against other dedicated combo decks because we are usually a worse version of their deck in those types of matchups.
  • The deck is still capable of very explosive draws. My favorite play in the GP was turn 1 Thoughtseize myself against Storm, into a turn 2 Goryo’s Vengeance on Obzedat, Ghost Council.

This is the list we decided on the GP:

Esper Goryo's Vengeance by Nick Peternell, GP Vegas 2017

Lands (21)
Darkslick Shores
Flooded Strand
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Marsh Flats
Plains
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Watery Grave

Creatures (9)
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Vendilion Clique

Sorceries (16)
Collective Brutality
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Pieces of the Puzzle
Serum Visions
Thoughtseize

Instants (14)
Fatal Push
Goryo’s Vengeance
Path to Exile
Thought Scour
Sideboard (15)
Ceremonious Rejection
Collective Brutality
Damnation
Disenchant
Dispel
Forsake the Worldly
Fragmentize
Liliana of the Veil
Negate
Nihil Spellbomb
Ravenous Trap
Thoughtseize

The first thing of note is the Vendillion Clique was for games where the graveyard was getting attacked in game one. It gave us ways to win games through damage, and on top of that is a Legendary. Against a deck like Through the Breach it’s nice to have an additional form of “discard” that can clock and potentially come back on a critical turn to disrupt a combo.

Everything else was pretty much “stock” as far as this type of deck goes. Earlier lists weren’t playing Path to Exile, but I think that was clearly wrong. Pieces of the Puzzle was okay-to-good but I think I’ve found a much better package for the deck, which I’ll get to in a bit.

As for the GP itself, Day 1 I played against pretty much everything exactly once. That’s the beautiful thing about Modern, you can always expect variety and the unexpected. Off the top of my head I played against; Grixis Shadow, Abzan Shadow, Affinity, Infect, Sultai Control, Eldrazi Tron, Collected Company, Storm, and another archetype I can’t remember.

Day 2 I started off with a win against Abzan Shadow, and then proceeded to get stomped until I gave up at x-4 – dead for money or anything else, and packed up early for our 10 hour drive home.

The takeaway from day 2 was that Damnation isn’t all that good against Eldrazi Tron and I mostly wished I just had more Ceremonious Rejection as it’s so good at fighting hate cards and Eldrazi at the same time.

Going forward with the list I have a really good idea that I think will “revolutionize” the archetype; Gifts Ungiven over Pieces of the Puzzle. We talked briefly about this package before the GP but felt it was too risky, and too late in the testing process. Now that I’ve had time to play around a little bit I’ve arrived at this list:

Esper Goryo Gifts by Nick Peternell

Lands (22)
Darkslick Shores
Flooded Strand
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Marsh Flats
Plains
Polluted Delta
Shambling Vent
Swamp
Watery Grave

Creatures (9)
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Griselbrand
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Snapcaster Mage

Insants (17)
Fatal Push
Gifts Ungiven
Goryo’s Vengeance
Murderous Cut
Path to Exile
Thought to Scour

Sorceries (12)
Collective Brutality
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Serum Visions
Thoughtseize
Unburial Rites
Sideboard (15)
Blessed Alliance
Ceremonious Rejection
Collective Brutality
Damnation
Disenchant
Dispel
Flaying Tendrils
Forsake the Worldly
Fragmentize
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Nihil Spellbomb
Ravenous Trap
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
What’s so good about Gift’s Ungiven in this deck is that it plays so well with what the Goryo’s Vengeance side of the deck is already doing. Gifts can be cast fairly or with the Unburial Rites + Fatty package. The fatties are also legendary so it just works.
Some of the common picks with Gifts Ungiven:

Pecies of the Puzzle was good for us but the raw power level increase in having Gifts Ungiven is tantalizing. I’m really excited to play this list in a tournament, whenever that is.

I hope you enjoyed the read! Sound off in the comment section if you have any thoughts, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

[Goryo’s Vengeance art (c)Wizards of the Coast]

Nick Peternell

Nick has been playing Magic since the 2013 Core Set was released, and grinding since Return to Ravnica. He’s played on the Pro Tour and has multiple high finishes at both the Star City Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s a brewer at heart and excels most in the beginning and middle stages of a format. Finding weaknesses in the metagame and exploiting underplayed cards is just another day in the office for him.

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