About Adam Koska
Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:
- 9th at Worlds 2009
- 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
- 45 Lifetime Pro Points
- Top 32 GP Vienna 2008
- Top 64 GP Krakow 2007
- Three times Czech Nationals Top 8
Angry Beetles and Minotaurs - A GP Prague Report
Hey everyone! The Modern GP Prague took place this past
weekend and since I participated in this tournament (with it being held almost in my
backyard), today, I would like to share my tournament report, talking about the
deck that I played and how I fared with it.
Modern is quite an interesting format. The range of
playable decks is pretty wide, but the pool of „potentially playable“ decks is
even bigger – every time the metagame changes, it hurts some tier 2 or 3
decks, but also benefits some others, so a deck that seemed to be weak one day
can suddenly be a great choice for a tournament the week after. Last time, for
example, I talked about devotion in Modern, Petr Brožek piloted a Gw Devotion
deck (clearly a tier 2 deck at best) to ay 2 at GP Prague. He didn’t
finish in the money, but he still had some pretty epic games, like the one in
the last round of day 1 on 6-2. His opponent was playing Soul Sisters and
climbed to well over 40 life, with two Serra Ascendants in play – he had a
reason to feel safe and in the driver’s seat. That is, until Petr tapped
Nykthos for nine mana, cast Tooth and Nail with entwine, searched his library
for two Craterhoof Behemoths and attacked for 85+ trample damage. That’s
I was fooling around with the idea of running Devotion
myself, but in the end, I decided to go with Living End – a deck that I almost
played at the Extended GP Oakland almost four years ago and that I’ve always
felt didn’t get the credit it deserved. The average draw is very powerful and
you should reliably be able to sweep the opponent’s board by turn 3 or 4 and at
the same time put creatures with power 12-15 on the board, putting the opponent
into a very difficult situation. Decks with creatures and little disruption are
very good matchups, but even slower matchups are actually pretty good – you
have four Fulminator Mages and four Beast Withins, so typically, you’re able to
harass the opponent’s mana and then force thorugh a Living End, with one
cascade at the end of the opponent’s turn and one in your own turn (or one from
suspend and the other with a cascade spell). The problem is when the opponent
has a fast clock AND counterspells or disruption for your manabase / hand. Living End usually doesn’t win before turn 5 or 6 and decks that win faster and don’t
fold to a resolved Living End or Beast Within can be really tough to beat.
Was I happy with the deck? To some extent yes, but not
completely. The biggest problem is the consistency of the deck. On
paper, it looks just fine – you have between 12 and 14 creatures with cycling,
some fetches and landcyclers to thin your deck and some cards to hold the fort
before you set up the perfect Living End situation. But in reality, there are many
things that can – and will – go wrong, costing you games. Even though you play
eight cascade spells in an essentially 47-card deck (thanks to cycling), you
can still fail to draw one. You only play 19 lands, so naturally, sometimes you
won’t draw the second land. Or you will draw all three of your Living Ends, or
not any cycling creatures. This won’t happen all the time, but from time to
time, it’s going to cost you a game – and these losses add up. Also, the deck
mulligans a lot, since there are cards that you don’t want to draw in multiples
or don’t even want to draw at all. Simply put, when the deck is not in the
right mood, you can just fizzle in every other game without being able to do
anything about it.
Still, if you don’t mind a bit of gambling, the raw power
of the deck is quite high and it can definitely deliver. For the GP, I thought
that the rewards were worth the risk and I registered the following decklist:
|Converted Mana Cost|
Most of the deck is fairly straightforward. There isn’t too
much room for changes – you can decide between running more or less Twisted Abominations or Pale Recluses or whether or not to include Simian Spirit Guides
or Shriekmaws, but that’s pretty much it. I chose to run the full set of Pale Recluses, mostly because they can fetch Dryad Arbor if you need to fire off
Demonic Dread and don’t have any target in play. Simian Spirit Guide is a card
that can get you out of tight spots sometimes, but you almost never want to
draw multiples, so I chose to run one and was happy with the decision. The two
Leyline of the Void in the main deck might look strange, but again, I still
think that’s actually the correct place for them. Leylines are great in many
matchups where you probably wouldn’t expect them to be. Apart from the Living End mirror match (which I expected a lot of), they are also really crucial
against Merfolk and other creature decks with a really strong board presence,
where you usually need to „wrath“ the opponent twice and can hardly afford the
first wave to come back after your second Living End, and also against
Affinity, where a single Arcbound Ravager can ensure that you’re actually not wrathing
anything and the opponent might have a better board post-Living End than you. Leyline of the Void singlehandedly solves both of these problems.
I’ve always liked traditional round-by-round reports, as
long as they also contained some general information on the matchups, so that’s
what I’m going to go for.
After my two byes, I played against Andrea Borsari. I
started the game with two copies of Leyline of the Void in play, only to learn that my
opponent was playing R/G Tron. Well, at least he couldn’t cycle his Chromatic Stars (yay!). Nevertheless, I had enough Fulminator Mages to keep him off Tron
and after the first Violent Outburst brought the Fulminators back,
the game was over. Game two, Andrea started with a Pithing Needle on Fulminator Mage, but I had a lot of cycling creatures and a fast Living End, which even
his completed Tron couldn’t handle.
Round four, Philip Gollmann from Austria was my opponent. He
played Jund, which should be probably my best matchup. He did have three Jund Charms AND three Rakdos Charms in the board to remove my graveyard – and he won
game two on the back of these – but game three, he couldn’t remove my yard and
the beasts got him.
Philip Messow from Germany faced me with Tempo Twin in the
next round. Game one, I started with a Grove of the Burnwillows and let him go
– he played Serum Visions and kept Spell Snare on top, thinking I was R/G Tron.
Unfortunately for him, I don’t even play a single target for Spell Snare in my
75 and thanks to some land destruction, I was able to force through a Living End and
win. Game two, he had an important Molten Rain on turn three, then played a
Relic of Progenitus on turn four and tapped out in my upkeep to cast Vendilion Clique. However, I had both Damping Matrix and Violent Outburst in my hand, two
problem cards he couldn’t solve (being tapped out and not able to pop the Relic
that turn). He decided to let me have my cascade spell, but there were simply
too many fatties for him to handle and on his next turn, I had again mana up for
Beast Within to disrupt his combo.
In round six, I lost to Robert Rettenbacher from Austria,
with monoblue Tron. This matchup is a bit of an uphill battle, because they
have relatively quick threats, countermagic and usually also Relics in the
maindeck. In the end, game one came down to too many Wurmcoil Engines on his
side of the board (a great card against Living End, since it can partially live
through the „wrath“ part of End) and game two to more or less the same, plus me
drawing all three Living Ends.
Round seven was anticlimactic. Michale Fischer with Merfolk
(how appropriate) dismantled me in two games. In the first one, I had to pull
the cascade trigger early, but he reloaded and then drew simply too many
Merfolk lords. Game two, he mulliganed to four, I kept a one-lander with two
one-mana cyclers and a landcycler, but despite cycling twice, I never drew the
second land. Well, this sometimes happens with such a low land-count. But it
was especially painful as my opponent went down to four cards and thus had a
very slow start, giving me plenty of time to recover, but I never got past land
In rounds eight and nine, I played against Tijmen
Blankevoort from the Netherlands and Luigi Moscatelli from Italy, both with RUW
control. They took some mulligans that made it more difficult for them to keep
up (and to hit their land drops, which is essential when playing against
Fulminator Mage and Beast Within), but I think that in the games that were „fair“,
it was clearly visible what this matchup looks like: with the constraints that
I put on their mana, it’s very difficult for them to control everything and
when a single Living End slips through, they can only get back into the game
with a Supreme Verdict, otherwise they’re dead. Also, in the second game
against Luigi, he played Surgical Extraction on my Living End very early on
(since I had to cast one on turn three basically only to get rid of Geist of Saint Traft), but I simply hardcast all my dudes and won limited-style. This is
something that gets a lot of bad rap, but it’s actually a completely viable
route to victory. Cards like Twisted Abomination, Pale Recluse or Monstrous Carabid are quite huge in the world of Snapcaster Mages, Vendilion Cliques and
the like and each single one of them can seal the deal quite quickly. And so my
round 9 opponent was another person on the list of players eaten by a hard-cast
six-mana Pale Recluse.
Day two started very well for me. My first two opponents – Bartlomie
Lewandowski and Oliver Rausch – were on Junk and Jund respectively, and even
though I stumbled in one game against Bartlomie, in the end, I was able to win
both rounds (also because Oliver’s mana didn’t exactly cooperate with him).
Then after this round, the wheels fell off. In
round twelve, I played against Christian Rothen with Pyromancer Ascension.
This is usually a horrible matchup for Living End, but at least I had the
Leylines – which in theory could make it very difficult for him to win, since
he relies so much on the Ascension and Past in Flames. I tried to mulligan
aggressively into the Leylines, but in the end, I kept my six cards both games,
since they contained some lands, cyclers, Fulminator Mages and Beast Withins.
However, that didn’t turn out to be the winning strategy against Storm and I
lost both games relatively quickly. Maybe I should have mulliganed down to
five to find the Leylines...
Gabor Kocsis of Hungary was my opponent for round thirteen,
playing G/W Hatebears. Game one, I managed to force through a Living End
through his Thalia (thanks to a Spirit Guide) and won from there. Game two, he
started turn 1 Birds of Paradise and then went into Strip Mine mode with
turn two Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter, turn 3 Ghost Quarter. I didn’t win
that game. The decider was close and tense, but in the end Gabor got me. The
matchup is actually pretty bad for Living End – hatebears have a quick clock
and a lot of disruption, aimed at one of Living End's soft spots – the
manabase. Thalia is very hard to beat and so is Leonin Arbiter, if it enters
play before you’re able to cycle your landcyclers. Scavenging Ooze and Rest in Peace also don’t help.
In round fourteen, I faced Jani-Petteri Huttunen from
Finland and I lost 2-0, despite the weather conditions being on my side: the
sun was shining directly through the glass wall of the hall on Jani-Petteri
from the back, which made it very difficult for him to operate his foil-rich
deck. At first, I thought I had the worse side, since I was sitting against the
sun, but in the end it turned out that that was not the case. The fact that
Jani was dressed in a heavy black leather jacket also didn’t help him feel
comfortable. Jani was running Scapeshift, which is not a great matchup, since
my Living Ends can help his mana thanks to Sakura-Tribe Elders and he can make
my Fulminators worse by fetching basics with his land-searching spells and
fetchlands. It’s still a passable matchup, but in the second game, my deck
completely fizzled, as I tore through half of my library without finding a
single cascade spell or a Living End to suspend. Well, that also sometimes
In the last round, I was only playing for a very
theoretical possibility to finish in the money. Despite Andre Luff – my
opponent from that round – playing a Jund deck without a single
graveyard-sweeper in his sideboard, he crushed me in games two and three when
my deck malfunctioned and provided me with one or two (or five) too many lands.
Despite losing my last four rounds in the GP, I still think
that Living End is a viable deck in Modern and one that likely doesn’t get
enough credit, which can continuously help the archetype fly under the radar.
The deck does have some consistency issues, which I think were clearly visible
in those last four rounds – I mulliganed a lot, for example, but this will
happen with Living End, since it mulligans much more than some more consistent
decks. The Leylines weren’t exactly great, but helped sometimes and in the
right metagame (more Affinity and Living End), they could be crucial. I’d
definitely play the full playset somewhere between the maindeck and the
What I like about the deck is how strong its „plan B“ is.
When any other combo deck fizzles, it just rolls over and dies. In Living End,
hardcasting your creatures and playing cascade spells without the intention of casting Living End looks like a horrible proposition, but it’s actually fairly
strong. Both Demonic Dread and Violent Outburst can help deal the last few
points of damage once you get a few creatures on the board and start attacking.
Also, many people tend to forget or not realize what the cards do – having
people caught off guard by Street Wraith’s swampwalk ability is not too uncommon, for
example. During the GP, my round 9 opponent passed his turn when I was tapped
out, having cast Twisted Abomination on my previous turn, and then he wanted to
Lightning Bolt it during my next attack phase, only to learn that it
regenerates. This is one of the big advantages of playing a deck that’s still
relatively unknown, compared to all the tier 1 decks.
Well, that’s it from me for today. I didn’t exactly win GP
Prague, but I had a lot of fun playing and felt that the deck was fairly powerful.
I’ll definitely try to tune it a bit more and I think that I’ll play it in
Modern for some more time. And so should you, if you’re looking for a fun and
not really mainstream Modern deck.
As always thanks for reading and see you next time!