My name is Branco Neirynck and together with my 2 Belgian teammates Thomas Van Der Paelt and Christophe Gregoir I recently finished top 4 at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Because of this result, I reached Gold status which is an amazing feeling after trying so hard this year.
Left to Right: Me, Christophe Gregoir and Thomas Van Der Paelt
(Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast)
After the RPTQ we had lengthy discussions about who was going to play what format. In the end we settled with Thomas playing Standard, Christophe Legacy and me playing Modern; I actually like to play Modern and my best constructed results thus far were in that format as well.
For Standard, Thomas decided to play UW Gift pretty fast. Both Thomas and I love the deck and we played it many times before at PT’s and GP’s. We figured RB would be the most popular deck and UW Gift is favored in that matchup. The Magic Online results were promising as well, getting 3 Trophies out of 4 leagues at some point. Going forward, I wouldn’t recommend the deck though; the matchup vs control, Turbo Fog and Mono Blue Artifact isn’t the best and those decks are rising in popularity.
After the bannings in Legacy we decided to give Christophe carte blanche. He explored the format on his own; there was a high chance he was going to play Elves but 4 days before the PT he switched to Eldrazi as the results with Elves were getting a lot worse compared to the start of the PT testing.
Back to Modern; last year I played 5c Humans for the first time in a Team Unified Grand Prix. Back then I didn’t have a positive opinion of the deck as it seemed little bit boring and non-interactive at first sight but the more I played with the deck the more I enjoyed playing the deck. Even though the deck mainly features creatures, you still have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to certain cards and combat. After playing some leagues what the deck I was basically locked playing the deck at the PT.
I made some interesting observations during testing on Magic Online;
1) My Testing Record
My results in the last 15 leagues were 1x 2-3, 11x 3-2, 2x 4-1 and 1x 5-0. These weren’t the best results but very consistent, which is important in a team tournament. You don’t have to go 12-2 to go top 4, you have to go 12-2 as team. If you have 10-4 individual records, statistically you’ll have a better result than 10-4 as a team.
2) About 《Militia Bugler》
《Militia Bugler》 is an awesome card. You don’t always have the choice between multiple cards but the idea is that it searches for the cards that matter. Preboard, it searches for 《Thalia's Lieutenant》 and 《Reflector Mage》 in creature matchups but also for hate cards against combo. Postboard, when your deck is more focused, it’s almost a guaranteed hit on an impactful card! The games where you start with a turn 1 《AEther Vial》, 《Militia Bugler》 is unmatched in power. This means 《AEther Vial》 stays in the deck more often in postboard games compared to before.
3) Against UW/Jeskai Control
UW control was getting more popular and I almost didn’t play vs Jeskai control. Jeskai has a lot of spot removal so it’s harder to get value from cards like 《Meddling Mage》 and 《Kitesail Freebooter》 vs that deck. UW control has less spot removal, plays more expensive spells and is playing 3 or 4 《Terminus》 most of the time, which are easier to handle with the cards named above.
4) Against KCI
I only played one time against KCI in +- 30 leagues, which made it very hard to prepare for that matchup. Since I knew the deck was going to be popular at the PT, I searched for videos from real life tournaments to get more knowhow about that matchup.
5) Against Mirror Match
The matchup I encountered the most was the mirror. My initial decklist didn’t feature any 4 drops and I felt I was missing out on them as a lot of the games were decided through a well-timed 《Restoration Angel》, 《Hostage Taker》 or 《Riders of Gavony》. In the end, my test group convinced me to play 1 《Riders of Gavony》 in the sideboard; although it’s a very specific card for a very specific matchup, the turn you play it often is the turn you win the game. Without that card I wouldn’t be writing this article.
6) Terrible Matchups
In the last week of testing, I played a decent amount of time vs Jund 《Vengevine》 and 《Hardened Scales》 Affinity. Both matchups are terrible but it was too late to change deck, I just had to hope to dodge them.
In the end, I settled for this decklist:
4 《Ancient Ziggurat》
4 《Cavern of Souls》
4 《Unclaimed Territory》
4 《Horizon Canopy》
1 《Seachrome Coast》
-Land (19)- 4 《Noble Hierarch》
4 《Champion of the Parish》
4 《Thalia's Lieutenant》
4 《Kitesail Freebooter》
4 《Meddling Mage》
3 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》
3 《Phantasmal Image》
4 《Mantis Rider》
4 《Reflector Mage》
3 《Militia Bugler》
This is my sideboard plan & some extra information about matchups:
Even though 《Kitesail Freebooter》 often doesn’t hit in the mirror, it’s better than 《Meddling Mage》 and 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》. Flying creatures break the ground stall which happens quite often when both players have multiple 《Champion of the Parish》 and 《Thalia's Lieutenant》. Keep in mind that opponents are able to copy 《Riders of Gavony》 with 《Phantasmal Image》.
Tron has a lot of threatening cards; especially 《Oblivion Stone》, 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 and 《Walking Ballista》. These are the cards you are looking for to name or choose with 《Meddling Mage》 & 《Kitesail Freebooter》.
This is a matchup that I love to play. It’s very skill intensive from the Humans side. You never tick your 《AEther Vial》 up to 3 counters unless you need to 《Reflector Mage》 a 《Celestial Colonnade》. Using 《Vial》 with 2 counters at instant speed gives you the following opportunities: 《Meddling Mage》 / 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》 when your opponent plays 《Snapcaster Mage》; 《Kitesail Freebooter》 end of drawstep; use 《Meddling Mage》 or 《Kitesail Freebooter》 after your opponent revealed a 《Terminus》.
I side in 《Dismember》 because most decks have 《Baneslayer Angel》 in the sideboard and because attacking through 《Celestial Colonnade》 is very hard. 《Reclamation Sage》 hits 《Detention Sphere》 & 《Search for Azcanta》.
When you have an 《AEther Vial》, 《Eidolon of the Great Revel》 is more threatening to them than to you. 《Reclamation Sage》 is decent; it kills 《Eidolon》《Ensnaring Bridge》 in the sideboard, you have an answer.
Another interesting matchup to play, but a very tough one. Preboard 《Reflector Mage》 is your only way of dealing with 《Young Pyromancer》. Postboard you have better answers but your opponent has access to cards like 《Anger of the Gods》. In case your opponent has 《Blood Moon》 in game 2, you put all the 《AEther Vial》 back in the deck for game 3.
This deck has 3 or 4 《Engineered Explosives》 maindeck, which destroys all your hate cards. It is your goal to keep it off the table. Postboard your opponent has different ways of the dealing with your 2 drops; 《Pyrite Spellbomb》, 《Lightning Bolt》 & 《Galvanic Blast》. It is often correct to name 《Engineered Explosives》 multiple times with 《Meddling Mage》 instead of naming 《Engineered Explosives》 & 《Lightning Bolt》 for example.
Naming 《Gifts Ungiven》 with 《Meddling Mage》 is key here. I don’t like to name 《Grapeshot》 because it’s just too big of a gamble. It doesn’t stop them from actually comboing so if your opponent has a maindeck answer for the 《Mage》, you just lose. Postboard they often try to win through 《Empty the Warrens》, so make sure your 《Izzet Staticaster》 is ready to win the game for you.
As stated earlier in this article, this matchup is tough. Your best chance is to have a turn 2 《Reflector Mage》 on a 《Vengevine》 and hope your opponent isn’t able to put 《Bridge from Below》 in his graveyard.
I like 《Riders of Gavony》 as it makes a big 《Champion of the Parish》 or 《Thalia's Lieutenant》 unblockable postboard versus all those Zombie tokens. Another way of winning is through 2 《Izzet Staticaster》 (《Izzet Staticaster》 + 《Phantasmal Image》) to kill all Zombie tokens. 《Gut Shot》 kills 《Viscera Seer》 and own 《Noble Hierarch》 to get rid of 《Bridge》.
He joined Hareruya Hopes by public offering in June 2017.
In 2015, he finished in the Top 8 of three European Grand Prix events, claimed the captaincy of the Belgian World Magic Cup team.
At the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary which is his 11th PT, his team achieved 4th place and he became a Gold Level Pro with the impressive record.