The Rock an Underdog Story

 

Hello, my name is Jason Bryant. I am an MTG grinder who currently resides in the Memphis, TN area. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to take down the SCG Regional Championship in Knoxville, TN playing The Rock. Since midnight that Saturday, I have seen a steady stream of questions and comments pour in. The most common questions are about sideboard guides and matchups, so the purpose of this article is to hopefully answer those questions and a few more.

First thing- why did I play this deck instead one of the “best” decks in the format? For the past week or so, all the articles I’ve read stated that if you’re not playing Faithless Looting, Ancient Stirrings or Mox Opal, you should definitely have a good reason why.  Personally, I was either going to play Living End or Rock. After seeing Magic Fest LA and the sheer amount of graveyard hate being added to decks, I knew Living End was going to take way too much collateral damage from the hate against Phoenix and Dredge decks, despite Living End itself having great matchups against them. So that left me with Rock, which ultimately gave me the best answers to the format. I love eternal formats, and one thing that will always hold true is people who put the time and effort into mastering their deck will have a distinct advantage versus those who have just picked a deck up. I feel that, as a guy who specializes in a deck like Rock, I would benefit more from playing what I know than playing a deck like Phoenix.

Spoiler Alert, it worked out.

This is the 75 that I sleeved up for the tournament.

The Rock

By Jason Bryant
Placed 1st at SCG Regionals Knoxville on 3-9-19

Modern

The main deck tends to be pretty stock and set in stone with few minor changes allowed (unless your name is Tom “The Boss” Ross).

The land base is either 24 or 25 lands, and usually the only question is how many creature lands you play, and what the split between Treetop Village and Hissing Quagmire is.

The creature package is typically between 14 and 17.  The biggest debate with the creature count is between Bob AKA Dark Confidant and Tireless Tracker.

The Planeswalker selection is either a 4 Liliana of the Veil or a 3/1 split with Liliana, the Last Hope.

The discard suite is either 4/2 in favor of Inquisition of Kozilek or a 3/3 split with Thoughtseize.

Then the removal package is typically a personal preference made up of some number of Fatal PushAssassin’s TrophyCollective BrutalityAbrupt Decay, and Maelstrom Pulse.

Then on to the sideboard, AKA the Wild Wild West. The number of possible sideboard options is too vast and various to go over individually.  However, with the current metagame of Dredge and Phoenix, I would not sleeve up any less than 2 Surgical Extraction, 2 Nihil Spellbomb and at least 1 Grafdigger’s Cage in my sideboard.

Now here is the breakdown round by round on how my Regionals went and what I played.

 

 

Round 1: BW Small Pox 2-0

Game 1:
I was on the draw.  Opponent went turn 1 swamp into Inquisition of Kozilek. My hand was Bob, Trophy, Push, LOTV and 3 lands. Opponent takes trophy and passed turn.  I play a tapped land and said go, which he followed with a Ravens Crime with retrace to make me pitch lands. This opening confirmed to me that he was on a Pox/The Rack style of deck.  I then went Bob on 2, which I believe is crucial to keep more cards flowing. He followed with turn three Ensnaring Bridge. I followed with a Tarmogoyf into Liliana, the Last Hope, which I was able to ultimate and win the game after Dark Confidant drew me an Abrupt Decay for the Ensnaring Bridge.

Game 2:
I was on the draw again and saw more of the same – except he never saw Bridge and died to early Tracker and Kitchen Finks beats.  Note – I believe Pox and Rack players should almost always be on the draw.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -4 Fatal Push, -1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
IN: 1 Engineered Explosives, 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 1 Kitchen Finks, 1 Nissa, Vital Force

 

Round 2: Jeskai Control 1-1-1 Draw

Game 1:
On the draw, I kept making him have answers after playing Bob on 2, LTLH on 3, and Tarmogoyf plus Scavenging Ooze on 4.  The game ended after he could not answer Liliana, the Last Hope and her ultimate ran away with the game.

Game 2:
On the draw, I had to mull down to 6.  He had answers to my early plays and was able to play an unchecked Teferi on turn 5, which promptly tied up the match.

Game 3:
I was on the play with 21 minutes left in the match.  Unfortunately, this game just dragged out and was a back-and-forth trading of resources.  At one point my opponent was missing land drops and got and was facing my lethal Tireless Tracker.  Instead of tucking the Tracker with his Teferi, he gambles and +1’ed, missing on an answer. However, he was able to activate Azcanta with one mana available and found the Path to Exile to stay alive.  The game ended after turns with the opponent at 3 life.

Side Boarding:
Out: -2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, -3 Fatal Push,
IN: 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 2 Collective Brutality, 1 Nihil Spellbomb, 1 Fulminator Mage

 

Round 3: GW Eldrazi and Taxes 2-0

Game 1:
I land an early Goyf on 2, and his first play is a turn 3 Thought-Knot Seer.  My hand was 2 land, 2 LOTV and a Kalitas, which game him no easy decisions. Soon, LOTV plus Goyf ran away with the game as I used Field of Ruin on his Eldrazi Temple, which stranded two Reality Smasher in his hand.

Game 2:
My opponent unfortunately mulliganed to 5 cards, and his only play was a Thalia, which was no answer for multiple Tarmogoyfs and a Kalitas.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Inquisition of Kozilek, -1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, -1 Scavenging Ooze
IN: 3 Fulminator Mage, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 1 Damnation

 

Round 4: Postmortem Lounge Druid Combo 2-0

Game 1:
On the draw, opponent led on turn 1 bird.  After I spent a Fatal Push on the bird, he followed with a Devoted Druid.  I played Abrupt Decay on the druid, and we proceeded to trade off resources.  I landed a Bob and started taking a lot of splash damage from revealed cards along with my opponent activating Gavony Township with a Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise in play. They then chord for Shalai in response to my Inquisition of Kozilek.  Before I know it, I am at 2 with a Bob on board. I got lucky with Bob revealing multiple lands and a Scavenging Ooze was able to run away with the game.

Game 2:
Turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Inquisition plus Grafdigger’s Cage into turn 3 Goyf plus Fatal Push put me in a commanding position, and ultimately ground the opponent out.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Liliana of the Veil, -2 Tireless Tracker, -1 Maelstrom Pulse
IN: 2 Collective Brutality, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Engineered Explosives, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage

 

Round 5: Dredge 2-1 (My Teammate who finished 13th)

Game 1:
On the play. my hand never came around, and Dredge did what Dredge does.  I played Kalitas on turn four, but it wasn’t enough as I died on the attack back.

Game 2:
I played turn 1 discard into tap land Grafdigger’s Cage on 2.  A turn three Scavenging Ooze, leaving an activation up, prevented him from ever getting his dredge engine going.

Game 3:
This game played very similar to game 2.  Cage and Scavenging Ooze prevented my opponent from ever getting back into the game.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Liliana of the Veil, -1 Tireless Tracker, -3 Thoughtseize
IN: 1 Grafdigger’s Cage, 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Nissa, Vital Force

 

Round 6: UR Phoenix 0-2

Game 1:
On draw I couldn’t stick a Bob or Tracker to keep up with my opponent’s one-for-one plays, and eventually I ran out of cards. After drawing back-to-back blanks, I died to a flipped Thing in the Ice and Crackling Drake.

Game 2:
On play, my opponent drew 3 non-creature spells.  I ran out of creature removal after dealing with 2 Things and an Arclight and proceeded to die to a second Arclight Phoenix and third Thing in the Ice.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Inquisition of Kozilek, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Collective Brutality
IN: 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 1 Damnation

 

Round 7: Burn 2-0

Game 1:
On the draw, I play turn 1 IOK into turn 2 Goyf and Fatal Push his Eidolon.  My opponent decided to race my 5/6 Tarmogoyf by targeting me with double Lightning Bolt, and Tarmogoyf was able to win the race.

Game 2:
My opponent kept a one-land hand and could not answer Inquisition into Goyf into Kitchen Finks, which was eventually enough.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Dark Confidant
IN: 2 Collective Brutality, 1 Kitchen Finks

 

Round 8: Burn 2-1

Game 1:
On the draw, this game went almost the same as my previous game 1, except I was able to draw two Tarmogoyf instead of just the one.

Game 2:
On the draw I was able to stabilize at 3 life with a Goyf plus Ooze on board with 2 green open. I pass the turn knowing my opponent’s hand consists of three lands and a Searing Blaze that I knew about and now his card drawn for turn. This is the moment where I felt most outplayed at this entire event. My opponent tanks and played it so well for what felt like five minutes and then says pass.  I fell for the bait. I had already seen 2 Boros Charm earlier in the game and it wasn’t on my radar. On end step I activated Ooze and promptly died. Had I just waited until my turn, I would have had the extra green mana to get above four life. On to game three.

Game 3:
On the play I played turn one discard to see he kept a one land hand.  I took his turn 1 Goblin Guide, then went tapped land on 2 into LOTV on three before he could play a second land or a creature.  Lilly was munching his hand, but I knew he had Path to Exile in hand, so I didn’t want to expose my Tarmogoyf. However, I soon drew Kalitas and knew Goyf had to take one for the team. So long story short, my opponent never saw a second land and scooped to a resolved Kalitas.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Dark Confidant
IN: 2 Collective Brutality, 1 Kitchen Finks

 

Round 9: Jund 2-1 Win and I was In

Game 1:
This was it- my win-and-in match.  I was on the draw and we traded creatures and removal until my opponent found a Dark Confidant that I could not answer.  I proceeded to lose the game to the card advantage Bob provided.

Game 2:
On the play, I played tapped land into Goyf, forcing an answer from my opponent.  Ooze on 3 into Tracker on 4 finished the game, as they could never find a way to deal with Tracker or the Kalitas that soon followed.

Game 3:
This was just a grind fest of removal, Goyf, planeswalkers and Fulminator Mages. When the dust settled, I was left with 4 lands on board and fetchland in hand facing my opponent’s board of Tarmogoyf, Ooze, and LOTV with 1 loyalty.  I draw for turn and hit Tireless Tracker, getting 2 clues after cracking my fetchland. Opponent bricks on draw pluses lily and holds back both creatures to protect her. I crack clue on end step, and combined with my draw step I hit Fatal Push plus Assassin’s Trophy to clear the blockers and kill LOTV. Opponent then finds no answer and Tracker plus clues puts the game out of reach and sends me into the top 8.

 

Top 8 I am the 6th Seed going in.

 

Quarters: Abzan 2-0

Game 1:
Goyf, Tracker and Bob and removal spells clear the way for a pretty simple game.

Game 2:
I have Goyf and Tracker again onboard and we are in turn 6 or so.  They have Goyf plus 5 Lingering Souls tokens. I crack a clue and draw Ooze with 4 mana open.  I then go to combat and swing both creatures as two spirit tokens are tapped from a previous attack. They chump blocked Tracker with one token and put Goyf and 2 souls in front of my Goyf. With Ooze in hand, I noticed that there was only 1 Planeswalker in the graveyard.  I ordered all 5 damage to their Goyf and passed priority. After combat, I played Ooze and ate the Planeswalker in the graveyard, which stunned my opponent and also took away their best threat. Ooze proceeded to race the tokens and tracker applied pressure and card advantage. The rest of the game I played around triggering revolt on my opponents turn to prevent them from using Fatal Push to kill Tracker and it eventually pays off with a win.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Inquisition of Kozilek, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Collective Brutality
IN: 1 Engineered Explosives, 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 1 Damnation, 2 Fulminator Mage

 

Semis: UR Phoenix 2-0 (Same person I lost to in swiss)

Game 1:
On the play, I have discard into Goyf for turns 1 and 2. I then follow it up with a second Goyf and Push for the Thing in the Ice he plays. Opponent then spins the wheels with cantrips digging for threats, but ultimately draws lands instead and dies to the Goyf.

Game 2:
On draw I play Blooming Marsh and pass turn with Push in hand.  He runs his Thing in the Ice out on 2 and I push it end step, followed by a Spellbomb and tapped land on 2. He plays looting, pitches phoenix and makes land drops and passes, trying to get me to pop spell bomb early. We continue to sculpt our hands until I play a Goyf and start applying pressure, which he follows up with a Crackling Drake. My opponent soon swings with an 8/4 Drake.  I have 2 mana up with Trophy and Decay in hand at 16 life. I know he has boarded in Spell Pierce, and Trophy was pretty much my only out to this Drake. I take the hit and he played a post-combat Thing in the Ice. I just had a feeling he had a Spell Pierce in hand, so I went for an end step play, which he was expecting. I played Decay on the Thing and he hastily flashed out a Spell Pierce and quickly picked it back up. The head judge allowed him to take it back, and I didn’t want to challenge the ruling.  I just said thanks for the info, untapped and played Trophy with open mana to pay for drake. The match ended a few turns later as he couldn’t find another threat and Goyf was a real clock.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Inquisition of Kozilek, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Collective Brutality
IN: 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 1 Damnation

 

FINALS: 2-0 UR Phoenix overall 1 seed.

Game 1:
On draw he plays turn two Thing into my Fatal Push.  I follow up with Goyf and apply pressure and it ends up being a non-game as he was unable to land a threat and died to Tarmogoyf.

Game 2:
On the draw, I have a great hand with push, Goyf, surgical, Ooze and lands. They play looting on one and discard Arclight which I surgical immediately.  They drew back-to-back answers in Lighting Axe and bolt for Goyf and Ooze, but I eventually draw multiple hate pieces in cage and Spellbomb to keep the graveyard locked down.  I play a Liliana of the Veil to put us both in top-deck mode. I continue to use LOTV to edict their threats or empty their hand and fire up Hissing Quagmire for beats. Eventually I find a Scavenging Ooze to present lethal and just needed to dodge a drake. He had a Thing in the Ice and had one turn to chain spells but was only able to play 2 and passed turn and conceded.

Side Boarding:
OUT: -3 Inquisition of Kozilek, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Collective Brutality
IN: 2 Nihil Spellbomb, 2 Surgical Extraction, 1 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Nissa, Vital Force, 1 Damnation

 

There you have it, fellow mages.  This was the story on how Rock took down the Knoxville Regional Championship.

Closing Takes

Yes, I plan on coming out with a complete SB guide with most of the match ups posted on it.  Secondly, before I do that, I have to determine changes I will be making to the deck. I am happy with the main 60 and will most likely keep that the same, but I do think with no banning and the amount of dredge and Phoenix that a third Surgical Extraction is something that probably needs to be squeezed into the 75 somehow.

Lastly, Thanks to all the players who I had the pleasure to play against, my teammates who supported me along the way to this accomplishment, and the tournament organizers and judge staff everywhere that put on these events for us. As always keep the questions, comments and just general conversation going by hitting me up on twitter @SALTLIFEMTG or Facebook. Also be sure to drop a like and follow for my team, Guildpact Gaming.

Click Here to view the sideboard guide.

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