Shizo, Death's Storehouse is some very nice tech. I presume Gideon is now a Legendary Creature when it animates so it makes sense. Kalitas is an amazing creature, but I do feel it is not as effective in Smallpox. The thing we want to achieve with Smallpox is to minimize the effects it causes to us while maximizing opponent losses. Having only Fatal Push as the only card (and sometimes CB) that can directly trigger the ability also does not bode well. It would be a shame to cast Kalitas, and then force to use Smallpox as a response to an opponent creature afterwards next turn, hopefully after he gives some value. Having said that, it is not that bad. If I were to use Kalitas, I would have Liliana, the Last Hope in the 75 in order to have a way to bring him back. Can also bring back your Fulminators. The life gain and tokens that could be gained from Kalitas should not be underestimated though. I just fear all the creature hate out there.
While I agree that having 4 Thoughtseize main to be difficult, I feel we should always have 4 in the 75, especially if surgicals are in the deck as well. Getting rid of key cards early game is always something we want to be doing, there are times that IoK is not the right tool for the job and we need to have something more powerful. Mana Tithe is a fun card and can punish greedy plays. However, it does not take that much to play around it and loses value as the game plays on. I would say having RiP and Surgicals to be interesting although it is good to keep in mind that RiP turns your surgicals into dead draws until your opponent gets rid of it. Disenchant has value, especially with Blood Moon and Bridges. It would be useful to have at least one board wipe in SB. I used to feel like I did not needed them because I use bridge, but now I make use of them both as they solve different problems. Since you have more mana fixing, perhaps Kaya's Wrath would work?
The deck list of my previous post is what I am taking to GPLA. Probably going to lose a lot but I intend on having a good time. My focus has been on Legacy as of late. I will see if I can get some notes taken during the event and post them here though.
Ya, the idea is that both gideons are legendary creatures and so is kalitas. I'm also very happy to have the 14th turn 1 black source and 20th turn 2 black source. Those numbers make it "ideal" based on that Frank Karsten article. I may have more black sources than needed since I'm playing Urborgs but turn 1 has been rough recently so I'd like to improve that a little bit.
Kalitas is intentionally in the sideboard to get around removal after it's been boarded out. He's only there for aggro and graveyard decks - decks that are light on removal. Against dredge I board out my Smallpox anyway. It's OK to play a few creatures in a smallpox deck especially since we have so many tokens to sacrifice too. And even if I'm forced to sacrifice Kalitas to Smallpox I still get a token from the creature my opponent sacrificed. I'm not sold on him yet but I want to test him out.
I would gladly play the fourth thoughtseize (or perhaps a duress) in the sideboard but I feel like we have more important things to sideboard for. I'm not completely opposed to play 4 TS main but I feel like I board them out a lot so I'll try the surgicals for now. Mana Tithe as a 1 of was always great for me so that will be what I fall back on if Surgical doesn't feel right.
I know that RIP / Surgical isn't the best combo. Hopefully that doesn't hurt me too much. Luckily the only match ups I want both are against something like Dredge - decks that abuse their graveyard to the max. Otherwise I only use one or the other for most match ups.
Back from GPLA and it was really fun. This was my first GP so there was a lot of firsts as well a realization that I do not have the best stamina in the world and was starting to feel exhausted by game 4. I will not make the excuse that that was the reason for the performance of the second half of the tournament, except for one match I will discuss later. For starters, I entered the tournament with this sideboard plan. If it is not on the list, it either means go stock or I sideboard on the fly.
As for the matches themselves, I did not write as many notes as I wanted but I will make note on the things that I noticed in general.
Game 1 vs Phoenix 2-1
Game 2 vs Eldrazi Tron 0-2
Game 3 vs Dredge 2-0
Game 4 vs Phoenix 2-1
Game 5 vs Humans 0-2
Game 6 vs Scales 0-2
Game 7 vs Affinity 1-2 (Draw, let op have win)
Game 8 vs Jund 0-2
My first half of my day started strong. Have good experience against Phoenix so those went well as Mutavault beats in one match and Kaya did short work of the graveyard and ultimate. Turn 1 hand attach and hopefully hitting Faithless Looting is huge although surgical on Phoenix is not bad at all either. Hand attack was big here. Eldrazi Tron was rough as I never played against it. I believe I went with my Tron SB but instead of 2x Stony Silence, I added Bontu and Damnation. Game 2 I started very strong and answers lined up perfectly. I had an overcommitted board with both Gideons, LtLH, BB, Sprits and then a well timed All is Dust ended that game.
Dredge game 1 was won on the back of Vault of the Archangel while game 2 was on the normal game plan. Was able to resolve bridge both times and surgical on Creeping Chill felt like it was the best thing at the time on game 2. I got a warning on this match as I dozed off and was not paying attention to what my opponent is doing, he passed the turn, then said he did not discard two dredgers after I land dropped and cracked a fetch so I can activate vault. Scales completely depended if I drew Stony Silence and if my opponent had a way to remove it. I did feel like I was not doing my lines correctly as I underestimated just how big a creature can get with Hardened Scales on game 1 and I incorrectly casted Smallpox with a Hangarback Walker on the field which at the time I had GotT preventing its damage on game 2. This deck does not do well on opponent decks that have tokens as well. Perhaps my sideboard strategy was wrong and I should have brought in Engineered Explosives.
My affinity match I had Stony Silence on my opening hands which were really good. I was jokingly taking with my opponent saying how Blood Moon works very well against my deck only to soon after IoK showing a Blood Moon on hand. Dodged that bullet. On game 3, we got in a lock where I had LotV, BB, and Kaya and he had enough artifacts to ping them to not ult with Ghirapur Aether Grid. It did not help that I missed a few BB triggers. At this point I was hoping I could draw into more token generators as I was at 20 life while my opponent was at 3. Ran out of time so it ended in a draw. My opponent is grinding PW points so considering the circumstances, I gave him the win. It was an enjoyable match. My last match was against Jund. Lightning Bolt and Kolaghan's Command are always bad. Was able to get Bridges out but could not get tokens out to deal with Liliana.
It was a bit of shame that I did not face off against decks that I felt would be popular but that is the way it goes. I am happy with my strong start of the event, taking out 2x Phoenix and one Dredge deck. Most of my opponents were very pleasant and I had a good time. I definitely need to build up my stamina if I am to attend another big event like this one or just in general. Looking after one's health is always the best play.
I'm getting ready for SCG regionals next weekend and it's good to see what the meta is looking like. I feel like both versions of affinity are pretty tough. Both versions are very fast and edicts are pretty weak against them unless you have a lot of Push / Brutality. I will be sure to bring Stony Silence even though I've been debating cutting it in my local meta.
Eldrazi Tron is a tough one ya. Not a very common deck these days either. Edicts are good but we need a lot of them.
I have also felt like Pheonix is a good match up. We are good at emptying their hand and then we just need to kill a few creatures and they have a clear board.
My current version of my deck feels pretty solid in the current metagame, having good matchups against Phoenix, Dredge, Storm, GDS, and Rock. Humans and Spirits usually depend on removal lining up but Knight of Autumn can make things difficult if pushing for Bridge. UB can be difficult but I feel I do not have much experience with it. Jund... Lighting Bolt and KC are rough. Other things would need more testing but I am thinking I am happy with the 75 so long as sideboard strategy is further refined. The only card that feels like its too specific is my singleton Dismember. As for replacements, I could go for an additional Collective Brutality for improved burn matchup or Lost Legacy to get rid of problematic cards, like aforementioned KoA. I may just go with CB as I want to remain low to the ground as possible. Ensnaring Bridge has been working out very well but since Whirl has been a thing, there is a noticeable increase of artifact removal. So far things are fine though.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to SCG regionals due to bad weather. Instead I've been able to do a lot of testing at my lgs. Still trying to figure out the right cards to put in the flex slots of my deck.
You have a good dredge match up? that's pretty surprising. I guess Kaya and Ensnaring Bridge must help a lot.
We have had a lot of discussion about removal spells in the discord. Starting with 4 push / 4 smallpox / 4 liliana / X Brutality it's sometimes nice to have an instant speed way to deal with large creatures like Gurmag Angler or Primeval Titan. Cast Down and Dismember miss some key creatures so I would advise against them. Murderous Cut seems like a good choice if you aren't running RIP (which I do so). But you could figure that you don't want RIP against the decks you want Cut so that just depends on your SB plan. Other options include Condemn, Oust, Path to Exile all of which have their own issues.
I've been testing Path and I actually really like it. I bring it in when I don't want to play the mana denial game or when it's important for the match up. I use it against Aggro / Graveyard based decks / Amulet Titan / etc. It's definitely not a main board card but it has been worth the sideboard slot so far.
Lost Legacy is an interesting card. Unfortunately it can't hit Ensnaring Bridge (I would prefer a card that could hit all 3 of: Bloodmoon / Bridge / Liliana the Last Hope). But it seems very powerful against the right decks.
Now I'll talk about the testing I've been doing. Here's my list with the flex slots removed:
For spells I've been testing a lot of things but I've been focusing on alternate win cons. I tried Kaya for a little bit but she seemed pretty low impact. Gideon of the Trials has been amazing for me and I'm probably going to stick with at least 1 in the main from now on. I've been testing Smuggler's Copter which is fine but I feel like I need more creatures for it to be very effective. Currently I'm testing Adorned Pouncer which is fun but honestly a 1/1 double strike is way too weak. It should be "discard fodder" but I don't always have a need to discard it so it ends up being pretty weak until very late game. Not very impressed so far.
As far as Lands I used to play a lot of Mutavault but it never felt like I needed the fifth man land. 2 power usually can't win us the game anyway. I also wanted the 14th turn one black source since too often I was forced to lead on Shambling Vent or Fetid Heath and missed the turn 1 discard. Colorless lands were a bit of an issue because I've had to mulligan a lot of hands with 1 Fetid Heath and 1 Colorless land which would have been a keep otherwise. Maybe I'm just getting unlucky but I think I want another black producing land. Shizo, Death's Storehouse is OK but not the most useful. I also wanted to test Ifnir Deadlands. Might be useful against go wide creature decks. Tomb of Urami has also been considered but that seems like more of a joke. There's also just adding another swamp which would help with Bloodmoon a little.
For the sideboard I've mostly just been running Path to Exile. I tried Kalitas but really 4 drops aren't what this deck wants they are sometimes just too hard to cast. Like you said, we want the deck to stay very low to the ground. Asylum Visitor was fun but useful mostly against decks where we are already favored. Didn't get to play with it much but I figured I should focus on other match ups.
In order to maximize Kaya, you have to protect her. Obviously she does not have self protection and the minus can never be considered protection. If protected, she becomes a wincon that interacts with the graveyard. I cannot imagine her in a deck that does not have a source of blockers or specially bridge. I think part of the charm of when she was first spoiled was that my current version of the deck was already doing the things which Kaya needs to be successful. I find her very impactful and usually never sideboard her out.
It is not much of Kaya/Bridge helps with Dredge/Phoenix, it is just that the whole deck is incredibly hateful in general. The opening hand always decides on which part of those decks you would attack, but hand attack usually go after enablers like Faithless Looting. If surgical is on hand, it would be worthwhile to get rid of them turn 1. The point is to slow them down enough while reducing you hand towards hopefully a bridge. At this point, future hand attacks go after things that impact you even if you have bridge like chill, conflagrate, or things that can blow up the bridge and then surgical them. The bigger the creatures, the safer you can keep cards in hand when landing bridge, so Thing in the Ice can be ignored if successfully get a bridge out. Luckily, Lingering Souls or 1/1s in general are not popular so we are in a good spot since those makes the bridge plan stupid hard. At this point you can have Kaya/Liliana do their thing while you can go on the attack with tokens. If Phoenix are out, then vault can give your tokens death touch/lifelink. If they block, then Kaya can exile them. By this point there should be plenty of cards that have been exiled for Kaya's ult to be significant or even game winning.
I think the reason why I took Dismember out was because on the matchups that I brought it in for I never really drew it and I still felt like I had a very strong matchup. As mentioned above, the first couple turns is spent slowing down the opponent. If anything, I found Gideon of the Trials to be amazing on this game plan. Murderous Cut is an option still though. For right now, I am bringing in the second Collective Brutality in the sideboard but I will be testing other ideas in this last flex slot. Maybe a single Path to Exile would not be bad either or even Sword of Fire and Ice when bridge is boarded out. Mirran Crusader is an option to improve Rock/Jund (get rid of the bolts though!) There are a lot of options. Pithing Needle may be fine too. I just hate Teferi... lots.
I try to not use actual creatures if I can help it. Considering how creature heavy decks in Modern are, I want to make those creature removal cards as weak as possible. I also want to keep the use of the graveyard minimal as possible as well. It is interesting when people see Lingering Souls and they bring in Rest in Peace... which makes Kaya even stronger.
For lands, I still hold strongly that no lands on this deck can enter tapped. It it incredibly important to be able to hit untapped lands for the first 3 turns. Everything after that more of if you want go for the 4 CMC sideboard cards or the 4 mana + Vault of the Archangel. At the moment, I feel like I really want to have a second vault in exchange of a mutavault. There has many games where I feel I could have recovered if I simply drew my vault. A singleton Fetid Heath is sufficient and rarely had issues hitting double white or double black by turn 3. This deck should never have more than 4 colorless/utility mana sources that enter untapped. The only true generic solution to Bloodmoon is to increase the fetch count. Fast Lands in my deck are the obvious targets to replace with additional fetches. While Bloodmoon does a serious blow, I do not see it enough to warrant that kind of change. Shambling Vents lost me games when I used them and gradually went from 4 to 0. Yeah, Mutavault is still valuable though. If you are ahead, it animates cheaply while leaving Mana open for other things. While behind, it can defend a Planeswalker. Shambling Vents is too expensive to animate.
I agree on not wanting creatures in the deck but certain creatures are OK. As long as it's good against most removal it's OK to run. Lingering Souls is good against removal because one removal spell only hits 1/4 of it's power. Along the same line Pouncer is good against (non-path) removal because it can come back in the late game. That said, I wasn't impressed with Pouncer overall. It just ended up being a weak creature most of the time. 5 mana is probably too expensive also.
I've been disappointed in just about everything asking for 5 mana including vault of the archangel and ifnir deadlands. I don't think it's a matter of adding more land to the deck either, the deck feels like it's meant to sit around 3 lands in play for a while until it finds the fourth off the top of the deck. Saccing and discard lands is important to keep the pressure on with pox / liliana / brutality. Vault was very powerful but wasn't necessary most of the time. That could just be my meta though. I also don't like colorless lands in the deck as I said in my last comment. The deck is very color hungry so I'm OK not playing mutavaults / Vault of the Archangels / Ghost Quarters. These lands can also mess up curving out.
As for tap lands, I agree we don't want a lot of these. They are tough on the curve in the first 3 turns. I'm not worried about them slowing down 4 drops though since usually we end up drawing into these late game. Usually we don't curve into them. As a counter to your anecdote, Shambing Vent has won me a ton of games. They lose a lot of value behind a bridge so I understand you valuing them less. Late game they are a good blocker or even a decent attacker. One of my favorite things about them is that they make sorin a viable win con. You can play sorin, make a vampire token, and next turn start attacking for 6 with lifelink. Not as fast as Gideon but if our opponent has 2 fetches or a shock it's still a 3 turn kill. Vents is also what I think really seals the burn match up. We already have a good match up and Vents makes it great.
I think it's good to discuss the merits of each utility land but I think we have very different metas (seems like you have a lot of aggro where I have almost no aggro) so I think it's important to talk a bit more general.
The whole reason to run utility lands is that Smallpox is only a 4 of. If we sacced our own lands consistently once per game it would be easier to come to a conclusion on a good number of lands to run but 4 smallpox is not consistent. You have a 40% chance to see it in your opening hand. You also have to figure in flagstones which is like not saccing a land at all. So some games we end up at 4 lands and some we end up at 3. Since the deck has a fail rate (roughly 25% chance you have a pox and no flagstones in your opening hand) we need to be sure our deck can do something when we flood or when we have very few lands. Most lists tend toward the "do something when we flood" side since we rely on 4 drops to win the game (similar to how UW control plays a bunch of utility lands). We also are color hungry with gideon of the trials, smallpox, and honestly flagstones makes our mana base a little weird.
So it ends up being pick 2 of: untapped, colored, utility. Worded another way it's pick 1 of: colorless lands, tap lands (vents), or no utility lands (more basics maybe). We can't run colorless lands because the deck is color hungry. We can't run tap lands because we need to have a low curve. We can't cut all utility lands because then when we end up flooding we have nothing to do.
Since there's very few options that cover all three of untapped, colored, utility you just have to decide what works best in your meta. In an aggro meta tap lands mean death so I would say cutting vents is right for you. In a slower meta where I want to play more color hungry planeswalkers (like gideon of the trials) I can't play colorless sources. Really it just depends on the meta.
This thought process is the reason I wanted to try Ifnir Deadlands, Shizo Death's Storehouse, and Tomb of Urami. All three are untapped, colored, utility lands (specifically black which we want a lot of). The issue is that they are all much weaker than vault of the archangel or mutavault or shambling vent.
Anyone else try Pack Rat in the sideboard? I wanted something that was an easy 4out for 4 pushes against combo or control that would provide a clock. Worked fairly well last night in our local store tournament.
I've never used Pack rat. It seems too slow I think. We already have a good late game plan. Control can be tough if you don't have a fast start but pack rat is not great against control decks. I'm not sure what combo deck you are talking about specifically but I feel that we have a good match up against most combo decks already. We aren't like 8rack where we need a plan B.
Spoiler season isn't over just yet but there's already been a lot of sweet cards spoiled that I wanted to bring up.
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage: This card will probably be good in 8rack and I think we could leverage it too. We tend to get our opponent's empty handed. 2 damage a turn isn't the most relevant thing though. But 3 mana discard 3 could be useful. Not sure about this guy but he's worth some testing.
Liliana's Triumph: This is probably the card I'm most excited for. It's sometimes a 2-for-1 and always a diabolic edict. I could see this replacing collective brutality in non-burn metas and potentially cast down. It makes us weaker to go-wide decks though. Going all-in on edicts may be a mistake. Not sure.
Gideon Blackblade: May just be worse than Gideon of the Trials but giving out life link is relevant. Being weak to our own smallpox is a problem.
Spark Harvest: Bonesplinters isn't great but hitting planeswalkers and having an alternate cost to saccing a creature seems good. Probably too weak.
Ashiok Dream Render: Lot's of hate in one card. Doesn't 1-for-1 but maybe that's OK. This may be a sideboard card. It also might be too slow.
There's a lot of ways to build the deck but it seems like the core is pretty similar. I think it shows that Smallpox and Thoughtseize are both very well positioned in the meta. There are lots of decks that can get dismantled by stripping the right card and lots of single threat decks.
There is probably a lot of personal preference in these lists but the win cons are all at least a little different. Planeswalkers seem to be the go to since they utilize the ramp from flagstones so well but you want to support them with tokens / bloodghasts / utility creatures and there isn't much consensus on which you should be using.
There was also a legacy list with main deck Ashiok Dream Render that 5-0'd I'd like to put in work before GP August, but modern only set will be released prior to that so I sit and wait. Congrats on the 5-0. Pox seems to be in a good spot right now for sure.
Ashiok is good in legacy because fetches are very widely used and you can play ashiok turn 1 with dark ritual. In modern playing ashiok on turn 3 is usually too slow. I've found it's only ever really good against Primeval Titan decks and that's too narrow to deserve a sideboard slot to me. The Graveyard hate aspect of ashiok is probably too slow and too low impact.
I think Ashiok has the same issue as Kaya does in our deck. 3 mana isn't cheap for us due to smallpox so we want our cards to have big impacts on the game. Kaya and Ashiok don't affect the board in a meaningful way and are just incidental hate cards.
I got to play on a draft with Watcher for Tomorrow and I started wondering if there could be any deck that he could be played in. Could he be the reason for making an esper pox build? Alongside with him if we splashed blue we could have mana leak which would be a good counter on a land destruction build and other counters like condescend. Another card I would like to try would be cabal therapist in a build that has creatures that have powerul effects when they die. In the past decks would play mana tithe so why not mana leak? Do you think a Dimir splash white deck would work and if yes what would you cut to use the cards mentioned above?