Louis reports on his experience hitting top 4 at Axion's Mega Modern.

On Sunday March 8th, I ended up playing Axion’s Mega Modern event at the Jury’s Inn in Milton Keynes. It was a large event that managed exceeded over 130 players for the main event. It was a 7 round event with a cut to the top 8. My intention was simple; I just wanted to have a grand day out with some of my favourite people. However I never thought in a million years I’d reach the top tables never mind a top 4 finish. The least I want to do is to provide some insight to how the matches went.

Grixis Death’s Shadow


Round 1: Bant Control

From the offset I was expecting to have a bad results day purely because I considered this one of the worst match-ups for me in the room. Plus I had to play against one of Axion’s team members so it would definitely be a challenge to win. Game one I got lucky by sneaking in a win with a second Snapcaster Mage totaling exactly lethal damage. Game two didn’t go as well however, my opponent was able to swiftly dispatch any threat I put onto the battlefield with cards such as Ice-Fang Coatl, Path to Exile and even an Archmage’s charm to remove a Deaths Shadow at one point. I had even started to make mistakes like casting a Thought Scour in my opponent’s turn when he had a Teferi, Time Raveler in play! Game three was more a battle of attrition with my opponent having fewer resources. In the end I was able to get there after he cast Supreme Verdict to answer a Death’s Shadow, only for me to immediately cast two more and swiftly win the game.

Ice-Fang Coatl

Round 2: Dredge

This match was a bit of an unfortunate experience for my opponent. Not to say that the games weren’t close as they definitely were. The unfortunate experience for my opponent were their opening hands, having to mulligan to 4 in game one and again to 5 in games two and three. Despite this unfortunate situation, the games still ended up being really close due to the nature of my opponent’s deck. Regardless of discard effects from my side, all my opponent really needed to do was find one enabler to get their dredge engine going. The games eventually came down to key sideboard choices in Nihil Spellbomb and Anger of the Gods, which forced them to rebuild their graveyard engine and then remove their board permanently when they did.

Nihil Spellbomb

Round 3: Mono Red Blitz

I found this one to be quite an interesting match. I dropped game one incredibly early after fetching and shocking to 17 life then casting Thoughtseize, putting me to 15. I suddenly realised I had just killed myself when looking at my opponents hand. In game two I adjusted to a more conservative play style from past experiences with burn and other aggressive match-ups. With my opponent’s aggressive strategy, I could make them do most of the work for me in reducing my life total for me to have a sizable Death’s Shadow in play. I was also able to lean on the power of Collective Brutality, which had the power to potentially be a 3 for 1 in the match-up. I took down games two and three by putting this conservative strategy into action. However I have to admit I got lucky in game three as my opponent was not able to find a lethal burn spell for four consecutive turns, allowing me to close out the final game.

Collective Brutality

Round 4: Amulet Titan

I knew that I’d hit this match-up eventually seeing as it’s one of the most represented decks in the online meta-game. After having learned from a previous event that I was favored in this match-up, I also understood I had to win quickly. I knew with the nature of this deck, they would able to find the final piece of the combo at any time in the form of Primeval Titan and the 8 cards that find Primeval Titan. Game one was relatively quick. After my opponent’s mulligan, I stripped his hand of the important combo pieces. I then stuck a threat to swiftly end the game. Game two was a different story. I played a similar line as game one, however this time without the threat. By the time I found a threat, my opponent was able to eventually find the missing pieces again and ended the game on the spot. Game three ended up playing out in a similar way to game one, except I was able to lock down his combo with hate cards such as Damping Sphere and Ashiok, Dream Render allowing me to win the final game with little pressure from my opponent.

Primeval Titan

Round 5: Jund Shadow

I understand that Death’s Shadow has been a rather unpopular archetype in the last couple of months. There are a lot of hateful cards in the meta-game that make it especially hard to play the archetype at the moment. That being said I never expected to get paired against one in the event! Game one ended rather quickly as my opponent is in a bit of disadvantaged position. His deck didn’t allow him to interact with removal the same way I can with cards like Stubborn Denial. His deck has removal spells that miss half of my threats, making them feel somewhat narrow and in contrast my removal usually hits all of his threats. Game two also ended in a rather similar fashion where I could interact with my opponent’s removal whereas they could not with mine. That being said there is definitely an argument for playing the deck. Its tutor effects feel a lot more consistent than with the wheel spins I take with all the cantripping action.

Stubborn Denial

Round 6: Temur Whirza

Going into this match I remembered my opponent’s match from the table next to mine from the previous round. This was a deck I had never seen before and so I didn’t know how it was really going to play out. I did expect I’d need to rely on key hate pieces like Kolaghan’s Commands by the nature of other Whirza decks. This deck however had an extra game plan in mind by being able to utilize the power of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. The opponent was able to take down the middle game by using Uro. The third game came down to a timely Kolaghan’s Command with my opponent having a Thopter Foundry with one mana available and an Emry, Lurker of the Loch to block my lethal Death’s Shadow. I cast Kolaghan’s Command to kill the Thopter token and the Emry before my opponent could declare blocks and dealt them lethal damage to close out the match.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Round 7: U/G Taking Turns

The further into the Swiss portion of the tournament I got, the stranger the match-ups became. This was another match I saw from a previous seat, however I couldn’t see much and at first thought they were on Bant Snowblade. Having thought this, I decided to play, even though I could concede and put us both in the top 8. I considered Bant Snowblade a hard match-up so if I could beat my opponent in this round I wouldn’t have to play him in the top 8. Throughout game one I quickly realised that this wasn’t the match-up that I expected. I won the first game with my opponent not having the resources he needs for his loop to work. Game two started in a similar fashion but gradually slipped away from me after I failed to stick an early threat. I ended up simply losing to Uro rather than the actual combo itself. Game three was the one that showed me how powerful Uro truly is. From a very early point, Uro was easily able to dominate the game and kill me very quickly. So came my only loss in the Swiss.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Quarter-finals: Jund

This was definitely a deck I expected to face at some point today. This deck has been a mainstay in the Modern format virtually since its inception. Game one ended up heavily in my opponents favor due to the discard effects like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek that were able to easily take my threats away leaving me with no way to win the game. Games two and three started in a surprising fashion however, as my opponent didn’t start with those same discard effects. Granted they have a lot of good removal it does miss half of my threats save for Liliana of the Veil, whereas mine hits the majority of theirs. Their threats are relatively small compared to mine plus interacting to their removal is what lead me to ultimately winning those games.

Liliana of the Veil

Semi-finals: 4c Shadow

I was delighted that I got to play against my second shadow match-up of the day as it gave me some real hope that the deck is still alive! Unfortunately for me, this is where my play started to get a lot sloppier and I made a few critical mistakes. I do have to admit that I got a little unlucky in seeing so few threats, though it’s hard to make excuses when you miss two Mishra’s Bauble triggers in the same game. The games ended relatively quickly allowing my opponent to advance to the Finals.

Death’s Shadow

Conclusion

In the end I still felt ecstatic with my top 4 finish. There was absolutely no chance I could’ve achieved this without the love and support of my friends at the event. It really hit home how many friends I’ve made in this community when my top 8 announcement was called out and I had a large portion of the room cheering for me. My semi-finals finish awarded me 3 booster boxes of Theros Beyond Death, which I felt was quite a hefty prize, so I was happy with the whole thing. I have to again thank my team mates and friends at the event for all their love and support, hopefully this leads to even bigger results in the future.