Duration: Swiss Rounds based on attendance, cut to appropriate playoff
1st: $200 Store Credit
2nd: $100 Store Credit
3rd-4th: $50 Store Credit
5th-8th: $25 Store Credit
Winner receives a 2-round bye for Grand Prix Dallas 2016.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize something about Toronto’s competitive Magic scene. It’s incredibly paranoid about new archetypes gaining popularity. This is especially prevalent in Modern, where new archetypes are constantly being developed. For example, when Eldrazi took the stage, it had a few weeks of success before Toronto devolved into the “join them or build to beat them” mentality it had back when Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin were both legal.
Players would take sideboard cards that would normally take 1-2 slots and jam a full set in the maindeck. Worships, Blood Moons, and even Ensnaring Bridge were all seen as maindeck cards because of this thinking, and even after Eye of Ugin was banned these paranoid players simply moved on to hating out the next big thing. When Dredge finally became not only playable, but a tiered archetype, people all across Toronto started jamming as many Grafdigger’s Cages into their decks as they could.
Suffice to say, as someone who revels in degenerate decks, this pisses me off. I’ve been playing Modern Dredge since Prized Amalgam came out. I’ve written thousands of words about the deck. But these days, if you want to play Dredge in Toronto, you have to be prepared for the swath of hate, disdain, and scorn that’s coming your way. I’ve tried to deal with these types. I really have. But over the years I’ve found that the easiest way of handling this level of severe hatred for my decks is to simply switch things up and keep them off guard.
One of the biggest problems about trying to play Dredge in Toronto is that Grafdigger’s Cage is everywhere. It goes into every deck, and people can just jam it on turn 1 and let it sit there while you dig and dig for your answer. Some people even get a little bold by bringing in a Surgical Extraction to exile all the Prized Amalgams, which shuts off any semblance of a clock. It’s gotten to the point where other forms of graveyard hate, such as Relic of Progenitus, have been left at the wayside in favour of these two. But happens when we play a graveyard-based combo deck that doesn’t really care about either of these cards? We get Living End.
Living End is unique in that, in addition to an incredible amount of card draw, the deck doesn’t really care about those two types of graveyard hate. Surgical Extraction is considerably less effective as there are so many different threats being thrown into the graveyard that removing all copies of one isn’t nearly as backbreaking as it is against Dredge. As well, Living End is unique in that it completely circumvents Grafdigger’s Cage. The Cage prevents creatures from entering the battlefield from the graveyard, but Living End has that little extra step of exiling the creatures in your graveyard first, thus putting them into play from a zone that Grafdigger’s Cage doesn’t affect.
One other aspect of Living End that’s particularly appealing right now is that between Fulminator Mage and Beast Within, the deck does a tremendous job of playing the land destruction game. Seeing how RG Ponza is a deck, and Stone Rain is a thing in Modern now, it speaks volumes to the viability of land destruction as a strategy. Fulminator Mage acts as both an attacker and a blocker that can be recurred with Living End, while Beast Within destroys everything from lands to Scavenging Ooze to Leyline of the Void, and while your creatures dwarf the 3/3 token they get, you can also just sweep it away with Living End. As well, since the opponent gets a token, it gives them a target for you to cast Demonic Dread on so you can cascade into the Living End. When used in tandem, you can very easily keep an opponent from casting spells after turn 3.
The sideboard for Living End is tricky since you can’t play any spells that cost less than your cascade cards. As such, effects that have cheaper alternate casting costs are a godsend. For example, evoke creatures like Shriekmaw and Ingot Chewer can be cast for a cheaper cost while getting value from their enter triggers. More importantly, these creatures get put into the graveyard once they’re evoked, which is perfect for bringing them back later with Living End. One other type of spell with an alternate casting cost are traps. Traps are instants that can be cast at a cheaper cost when a specific trigger is met, typically when the opponent does something. Of these traps, there is no better one for this deck than Ricochet Trap. Remand on our Living End is a colossal pain, so having a way to spend a Red mana and redirect any counterspell away from our Living Ends is important in matchups like Blue Tron and UWR Nahiri.
The final slots in the sideboard are dedicated to answering some of the decks that are growing in popularity. For example, Slaughter Games is a fantastic answer to the Nahiri decks and Valakut decks, as they rely on a single card to really close out the game. Removing them from the opponent’s deck can shut off their game plan long enough to secure a kill. Since Dredge is still being played by a brave few, I’ve opted to include a pair of Loaming Shaman to shuffle the opponent’s graveyard back into their deck. This also works well before casting a cascade spell since it can ensure that the opponent won’t get any creatures back after Living End.
In addition, and this is a personal favourite as far as utility goes, you can use Loaming Shaman to shuffle your spent Living Ends back into your deck to fuel further cascades. This is particularly effective against counterspell-heavy decks which can often run you out of Living Ends fairly quickly. Lastly, Gnaw to the Bone is pretty much game over against aggressive decks like Burn and Affinity since you can go back to your starting life total several times over the course of a game. As long as you keep cycling and don’t cascade until you absolutely have to, your stocked graveyard will net you more than enough life to lock the opponent out of the game.
I’d say that Living End is pretty well positioned in the current Toronto metagame. Despite all the hatred towards graveyard decks, the ability to completely ignore two of the most common hate cards in the meta is nothing to laugh at. As Modern becomes more and more creature-oriented, being able to get a one-sided board wipe, sometimes at instant-speed, is an asset that I look forward to abusing time and again. If you’re looking for a degenerate deck that laughs in the face of the traditional means of stopping graveyards, I wholeheartedly recommend sleeving up Living End.