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 draw kept making him have answer for Bob on 2, LTLH on 3, Into Goyf and Scooze on 4, game ended when he couldn’t answer Last Hope which ult’d and lead to him conceding game 1.

Game 2:
On draw had to mull down to 6 and he had answers to my early plays and allowed him to play an unchecked Teferi on 5 and run away with the game.

Game 3:
On play with 21 mins left and this game just dragged out and was a back and forth trading of resources, at one point they were missing land drops and got to a point where I had lethal tracker on board, and instead of tucking with Teferi they plussed missed and with 4 mana left available they activated Azcanta to find a Path to stay alive, and the game continued with some draw goes and ended with them at 3 life and a Teferi in a draw.

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 and my hand was 2 land, 2 LOTV and a Kalitas. So LOTV plus Goyf ran away with the game as I Field of Ruin his temple and strand 2 smashers in his hand.

Game 2:
Opponent mulls to 5 and I keep 7 and for the most part is a no game as his only play was a turn 2 Thalia and I ended up playing 2 Goyf and a Kalitas with removal spells.

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 opp goes turn 1 bird, I play push, they play druid on 2, I play abrupt decay, we trade off resources I land a Bob and start taking a lot of splash damage from Bob along with my opp activating township on their noble and bird. They then chord for Shalai in response to IOK and before I know it, I am at 2 with a BOB on board needless to say got lucky hit running lands off back to back turns and scooze ran away with the game.

Game 2:
Turn one Thoughtseize into turn two IOK plus cage into turn 3 Goyf plus push put me in a commanding position and ultimately ground the opp 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 their thing and by the time I played turn 4 kalitas it wasn’t enough and I died on the crack back.

Game 2:
I played turn 1 discard into tap land cage on 2, followed by turn 3 scooze with activation up and never let them get the dredge engine going.

Game 3:
Played out almost the same as game 2 where a cage followed up by scooze took over the game and by the time they found the natures claim they match was too far out of reach.

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 on the one for ones and eventually was ran out of cards and drew blanks and died to a flipped Thing in the Ice and Crackling Drake.

Game 2:
On play opp drew 3 non creature spells and I ran out of creature removal after dealing with 2 Thing and an Arclight and died to Arclight and the third Thing.

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 push his eidolon and then opp opts to race my 5/6 Goyf instead of double bolting and we got there.

Game 2:
Opp kept a one lander and I was able to play IOK, into Goyf and land a Finks which would eventually be enough.

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

 

Round 8: Burn 2-1

Game 1:
On the draw went almost the exact same as the previous round except I drew a second Goyf and was able to play Goyf and Push on 3 to win the race.

Game 2:
On the draw I stabilize at 3 life and have Goyf plus scooze on board with 2 green open when I pass the turn. Opp has 3 land searing blaze that I knew about and now his card drawn for turn. This is the moment where I was out played at this entire event. My opp tanks and plays it so well for what felt like 5 mins and then says pass, welp I fell for the bait, I had already seen 2 boros charm earlier in the game one cast one discarded and it wasn’t on my radar and I on end step activated scooze and promptly died. Had I just went to my turn untapped my extra green source there was no way for him to do enough damage. Welp on to game 3 we go.

Game 3:
On the play I play turn one discard to see he kept a one lander in which I took his turn 1 goblin guide then went tap land on 2 and LOTV on three as he had yet to play a second land or a creature. Lilly was munching his hand, but I saw path on turn 1 so didn’t want to expose my Goyf put I missed third land and drew Kalitas and knew Goyf had to take one for the team. So long story opp never saw second land and scooped when I resolved Kalitas as he had no answer to him.

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:
On the draw and it was play creature it died, they played creature it died and a trade back and forth top decks until they drew a bob that I could not answer that turn and thus card advantage and overall advantage went to them and game was over very shortly after.

Game 2:
On the play go tap land into Goyf and force the answer into scooze on 3 into Tracker on 4 and they could never find a way to deal with tracker and him with kalitas eventually won the game.

Game 3:
This was just a grind fest of removal, Goyf, planeswalkers and yes Fulminator Mages. When the dust settled I was left with 4 lands on board and fetch in hand with opp having goyf, scooze, and LOTV with 1 loyalty on board I draw for turn and hit tracker plus fetch for 2 clues. Opponent bricks on draw pluses lily and holds back both to protect, I crack clue on end step plus draw step and hit Fatal Push plus Assassin’s Trophy to clear 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:
I saw Goyf, Tracker and Bob and removal spells to clear the way for a pretty simple game.

Game 2:
I have Goyf and Tracker again onboard and we are in like turn 6 or so and they have Goyf plus 5 Lingering Souls tokens. I crack a clue and draw scooze with 4 mana open, I then go to combat and swing both as 2 of the souls are tapped from the previous attach. They chump Tracker with one token and then put Goyf and 2 souls in front of my Goyf. With scooze in hand I had noticed that there was only 1 planeswalker in the graveyard so I ordered all 5 damage to their Goyf and passed priority. After combat played scooze and ate the Lilly which stunned my opponent and also took away their best threat. Scooze could now race the tokens and tracker apply pressure and card advantage. The rest of the game I play around triggering revolt on my opponents turn to not allow them to kill Tracker and it eventually pays off.

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. 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 a lot digging for threats but ultimately draws lands instead and dies to the Goyf.

Game 2:
On draw I play blooming marsh go with Push in hand he runs his Thing out on 2 and I push it end step and play Spellbomb and tap 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 in which he follows up with a Crackling Drake. The next sequence of turns my opp swings drake which is an 8/4 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. So I take the hit and he plays a post combat Thing. I just had a feeling he had pierce so I went for an end step play which he was expecting but I played decay on the Thing and he hastily flashed out a Spell Pierce and quickly picked it back up and the head judge allowed it and I was fine and 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. So needless to say the match ended a few turns later as he couldn’t find another threat and Goyf is 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 to Thing into my push I follow up with Goyf and apply pressure and honestly, it’s pretty much a non-game as I answer all his threats and he succumbed to Goyf beats.

Game 2:
On the draw I have a great hand with push, Goyf, surgical, scooze and lands. They play looting on one and discard Arclight which I surgical immediately. They do draw back to back answers in lighting ax and bolt for Goyf and scooze. I eventually draw multiple hate pieces in cage and Spellbomb to keep the GY locked down and put us in top decks as I play a LOTV and empty their hand. I continue to use LOTV to edict the threats or empty hand and fire up Quagmire for beats and eventually find a scooze to present lethal and just needing to dodge a drake. He had a Thing and had one turn to chain spells and 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 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 the changes 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’s 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 supporting 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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