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About the Author
@Chosler88     -     Email     -     Articles Corbin is a sports reporter at the Norman Transcript and MTG enthusiast from the Magic hotbed that is Oklahoma. He writes a weekly finance column for Quiet Speculation. When asked for an expanded bio, Corbin responded, “Yeah, I’ll do it later.”

Taking All the Turns – A Modern Extra Turns Primer

If you ask a typical Magic player what their favorite thing is in the game, one of the common answers you’ll hear is “drawing cards.” It’s why cards like Howling Mine have been in the game since it was created, and why that effect has stuck around since.

Ask a typical Magic player what the most powerful thing you can do in the game, and one of the common answers you’ll hear is “making mana.” After all, you have to make mana to play your spells, and this is why effects like Turnabout or Sword of Feast and Famine have always been so strong. Those two cards have been, at different times, key parts of the most powerful deck in their respective format.

But ask the typical Magic player how to combine both of those things into a competitive deck, and you’ll probably not get much more than a shrug or head scratch.

Well, we have the technology to do just that, and do it very well. As a sample, I’ve gone 12-3 in my last 15 Magic Online two-man queues with this deck. While these are by no means the defining measure of a deck, it’s assuredly a good sign for the deck’s competitiveness.

I present, Mono-Blue Turns.

(Remember you can subscribe to my YouTube channel for more Modern videos).

 

The Deck

As you saw in the videos, Turns (seems like the easiest way to refer to it), has a very consistent and surprisingly resilient game plan: survive until Turn 5 and then begin taking all the turns available in the game. With a Howling Mine effect in play (Dictate of Kruphix is preferred), every turn nets you one card or more and allows you to chain turns until you eventually win with an awakened Part the Waterveil land.

I’m a big fan of Modern, and I’ve always followed the fringes of the format for new decks. For a long time, that’s where Turns existed. It ran downright weird cards like Savor the Moment to try and piece together extra turns. While the deck would often string together a lot of turns, it would mostly fail to string together a lot of wins. Sometimes it would draw the engine, sometimes it would draw the extra turns, sometimes it would draw the win conditions, but it had a very hard time consistently doing them together.

Part the Waterveil changes all that.

partthewaterveil

No longer does the deck have to split slots between ways to win and ways to take extra turns. Part the Waterveil isn’t a four-of in the deck, but it is vital in combining win condition and extra turn all into one, allowing the deck to cut more situational cards and function more smoothly.

It’s a formula that has carried players to some success. Joshua Bova navigated to third place at a StarCityGames Premier IQ, and Eli Kassis and friends found Day 2 success with the deck at Grand Prix Pittsburgh. When I found out that Zac Elsik (of Lantern Control fame/infamy) had also put work into the Turns deck, I knew there had to be something here, and that led to a fevered run with the deck on Magic Online.

And I’ve learned quite a bit about the deck in that time. For starters, the good and bad matchups, as well as the cards that over and underperform. In general, two types of decks give Turns trouble: extremely aggressive decks, and slower-but-still-aggressive decks that also pack disruption. In practical terms, that means Burn and Zoo and Affinity are hard matchups, and tempo decks like Merfolk or Bant-flavored aggro builds are nearly impossible to beat. While the pure aggro decks can be sideboarded against and raced, the other decks that represent a solid clock plus counterspells are a nightmare for the deck.

Luckily, those are only a part of the metagame. The rest is full of decks I consider good matchups for the deck: “fair decks.” Splinter Twin, Abzan, Grixis, Scapeshift, “big” Zoo are all favorable. Tron feels like a bye. Other combo decks are beatable, and even Jund must combine their hand disruption with a fast clock to defeat you. Basically, any deck trying to play “fair” midrange Magic has a tough time preventing you from completing your plan.

The Game Plan

Let’s talk about what makes the deck “work.” It’s no surprise that in a deck full of Time Walk effects, taking turns is the basis of its success. But what that means in practice may surprise you: it’s not all about taking extra turns yourself, it’s about denying your opponent a turn. From Spreading Seas to to Gigadrowse to Cryptic Command, the deck is full of virtual Time Walk effects long before it ever takes an extra turn. Seas can take your opponent off a key spell, buying you another turn. Cryptic Command is obviously great, oftentimes denying an attack step or countering a key spell.

Image

Gigadrowse is the best of the bunch, and probably the best card in the deck. It’s just so flexible, I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t see more play in Modern. It steals attack steps. It taps down opponents on their end step to set you up to go off. It taps down combo or Tron decks in their upkeep to steal a turn away from them. Better yet, due to how Replicate works (the copies go on the stack individually and resolve individually), counterspells are useless against it. A blue player can be sitting on all the counters in the world, but they’ll never get to use them when you Gigadrowse their mana before starting your turn. I even won a game against a Twin player by casting two of my three copies of Gigadrowse on their Deceiver Exarch when they cast Splinter Twin with counterspell backup. I tapped down the Exarch as well as one of their lands, used Cryptic Command to bounce the creature on my main phase, and went on to win the game. No other card does so much in that spot.

The deck is pretty straightforward in theory. Use the cantrips to set up your early turns (and occasionally plan out a timely Miracle Temporal Mastery), Spreading Seas to slow them down, hopefully flash in Dictate of Kruphix on their end step, untap and hold up Cryptic Command or Gigadrowse, and then cast Time Warp on Turn 5 and never pass the turn back to them.

The different Time Walk effects all have a purpose. Time Warp is the best for its mana cost, Temporal Mastery makes your early game more explosive and is fine late, Walk the Aeons allows you to chain together multiple turns off one card when you need it, Temporal Trespass can be absolutely clutch when you need to both Time Walk and play another Howling Mine effect, and Part the Waterveil is your win condition. Each one is good in its own way, and understanding how to sequence them will increase your win percentage with the deck.

The Cards

While many of the cards in the list are locked in, there are some flex spots. For instance, many lists run Thassa, God of the Sea. While it certainly has its advantages, I found that after a dozen or so matches with the deck I never once won with Thassa. While Scrying every turn is nice, the card serves to make your good matchups better, and does nothing in the difficult aggro matches that give you trouble. I went to Repeal to try and add a flexible spell that was good against both aggro and control, I’ve come around to Elixir of Immortality since it buys you a turn against aggro while also serving to prevent you from decking yourself, which is sometimes a concern.

There is a cost to cutting Thassa, and that is the fact that you have to be very careful with your Part the Waterveil. While you can freely cast the first, the second must be saved to win the game since the card exiles itself as part of its resolution. While in theory this can cause you to lose the game (as you saw in my match against Merfolk), the truth is it can almost always be played around, unless you run into the very rare situation where you have only the second Part the Waterveil left in hand and nothing to buy another turn, whether real or virtual. This hasn’t yet come up for me, and I suspect it’s a corner case that is more than offset by replacing Thassa with a card that helps in other places. And, in the match against Merfolk, I punted that game by forgetting about Harbinger and not Gigadrowsing his lands before I began to attack.

Because your deck has to get to nine mana to make a creature, you almost always have complete control of the game by the time you even present a creature for them to target. Whether it’s with Gigadrowse or Cryptic, by the time you’re ready to Awaken a land you’re ready to protect it as well.

Jace Beleren is something I’m not currently running but could find a home. It can buy you life against the aggro decks if they go for it, and it can theoretically present an alternate win condition. If you’re going to put a secondary win condition in the deck, this is the one I’d go with.

15543

The Lands

This is another subject I want to touch on. I’ve seen several lists that run colorless sources like Dreadship Reef, Ghost Quarter or Mikokoro, Center of the Sea. While there is some merit to the effect each of those offers, I’m not sold. The deck has heavy need of blue

For starters, storage lands seem to hurt you more than they help. Yes, if you charge it twice it can speed you up by a turn, but if you’re playing a deck that allows you to charge it up twice you’re not going to need that extra mana as often as you’re going to need colored mana in the first few turns of the game. Testing with storage lands and Mikokoro, I’ve lost games to not being able to fully Replicate a Gigadrowse or cast Cryptic Command on the fourth turn. The deck can afford only a few colorless sources, and I prefer the straight lifegain of Radiant Fountain to those. I’ve even considered Skyline Cascade as another hedge against aggro, though I suspect it’s too risky to be worth it.

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds and Minamo, School at Water’s Edge weren’t in my list when I made the videos but there’s not much reason to not run them as small insurance against Choke.

The List

I’ve made you wait for the updated list because I know how these articles go. You find the list, cut a few cards you don’t like, and go to town. Feel free to do that, but at least this way you’ve hopefully read the reasons why the deck looks like it does.

[deck title=Mono-Blue Extra Turns]

 

[spells]

*1 Elixir of Immortality

*2 Howling Mine

*2 Gigadrowse

*4 Serum Visions

*3 Sleight of Hand

*4 Spreading Seas

*4 Dictate of Kruphix

*4 Cryptic Command

*4 Time Warp

*2 Part the Waterveil

*2 Walk the Aeons

*4 Temporal Mastery

*1 Temporal Trespass

[/spells]

[land]

*19 Island

*1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

*1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

*2 Radiant Fountain

[/land]

[/deck]

The Sideboard

There are several directions to go with the sideboard, and I’ll caution that mine is currently very experimental.

[deck title=Sideboard]

[spells]

*3 Dispel

*3 Dragon’s Claw

*3 Sun Droplet

*2 Whiplash Trap

*1 Laboratory Maniac

*1 Gigadrowse

*1 Boomerang

*1 Hibernation

[/spells]

[/deck]

Basically, you have to decide how you want to handle the aggro decks. The Dragon’s Claw/Sun Droplet give a chance against Burn, but they also eat up a ton of sideboard slots while not always even being that great, not to mention mediocre against creature-based aggro. While I did go 2-0 against Zoo in that 12-3 Magic Online run, it’s entirely possible you’re supposed to cut these cards and free up spots.

One of the things I’m testing in those spots is a few Traps. Whiplash Trap and Lethargy Trap accomplish some of the same things you’re looking for from the Claws and Droplets, while also being better mid-game topdecks. There’s a ton of room for experimentation here (Exhaustion and Aetherize come to mind), and I don’t want to presume to tell you what is best for your local metgame.

If you’re only running the Part the Waterveils to win in the main deck, I suggest Laboratory Maniac for the sideboard. It gives you a win condition that beats infinite life or Ensnaring Bridge, and can be protected late, even if it’s a bad draw early. Whether it’s Lab Maniac or Thassa or Jace Beleren, a secondary win condition is key to be able to beat Surgical Extraction.

Everything else is fairly generic, and should be localized to your expected metagame. Dispel and additional Gigadrowse are clutch against blue-based control or combo decks, while Hurkyl’s Recall or Hibernation give you additional game against the green decks.

When it comes to what to board out, I typically cut the Spreading Seas first. After that goes one of the Howling Mines, as well as the Elixir if I’m against a deck I’m bringing in Laboratory Maniac against. You can also cut a Walk the Aeons if need be.

Image

Tips and tricks

  • Prioritize hands with early game over hands with late game. Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand are more important than Dictates, and both are more important than Time Walks.
  • Learn all your uses of Gigadrowse. Against the blue decks you generally want to save it for their end step, against the aggro decks you want to combat step it, while against the midrange decks it’s often best used in the upkeep just to tap down lands (Tron literally can’t interact at anything other than Sorcery speed). Don’t be scared to burn it to just tap down two of their lands on Turn 2 or 3 if the rest of your game plan is in place.
  • Always be aware of how many turns you have. If you can stack up turns with a miracle Temporal Mastery or cheap Temporal Trespass, make sure to keep a die to remind yourself.
  • Similarly, know how many turns it will take you to kill. Decking yourself is a real concern with the deck, and don’t be afraid to use your Cryptic Command to bounce your own Howling Mines once you’re in control.
  • Remember that Dictate of Kruphix has Flash. Obviously you want to end-step it against opponents, but sometimes when you’re going off you can flash it in during your upkeep to net an extra card before casting a Time Walk effect.
  • Don’t be afraid to Explore. There are definitely times when it’s okay to just cast a fifth-turn Time Warp to get an extra land into play before passing.
  • Once you start taking turns, don’t drain yourself to keep doing. There are plenty of times I take even a few turns before just passing back to the opponent with Cryptic Command up. It’s often better to pass with seven mana for Cryptic Command and Dictate of Kruphix up than it is to burn a Time Walk for marginal value.
  • Generally, this is a deck where you’ll want to wait until the last minute to go off. I’d rather play around as many things as possible than start going off too early — with Gigadrowse in the deck you are always live to give yourself an opportunity to off risk-free rather than take a chance. In practice, this means passing with mana open rather than tapping out to cast a Time Warp against an opponent who could possibly prevent it.

Have all the turns

I think that covers everything you’ll need to know. I strongly urge you to give this deck a shot, because it’s legitimately very competitive in the current Modern meta. It has play against almost all the field, and many opponents won’t know how to interact with your deck. While my absurd rate in two-mans is obviously a good run against average competition, this deck is proven to have play at any level of competition.

Let me know if you have any questions. I feel like this deck is very much a work in progress, and there are a lot of changes — large and small — worth testing. From tweaking cards in the mono-blue version to maybe going crazy and playing Green for Explore and Rites of Flourishing, Turns has a bright future in Modern.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/Youtube

A Modern Merfolk Primer from Fish’s Biggest Fan

It’s not a secret to anyone who knows me that I love Merfolk. Or that anyone who may have heard me say anything in passing knows that I love Merfolk. Or that anyone who has ever had a single limited interaction with me knows I love Merfolk.

I have a good reason, after all. I’ve won several thousands dollars with the deck, from splitting the finals of an SCG Open at my first-ever Legacy tournament and an SCG Invitational after that.

Most people know me as a finance guy, and while that’s true, I like to think I also have some playing chops. The last major tournament I played in was Grand Prix Las Vegas, where I finished in the top 32 of a 4,500-person tournament in which I had zero byes. I’ve made top eight of a few PTQs and had a rating that earned me two byes (back when the system used an ELO score and I played competitively).

I’ve also played Merfolk since the day Modern was announced, so I like to think I know a thing or two about the deck. So for the rest of the article, at least pretend that I’m not a complete idiot.

Merfolk in Modern

Since Modern was created, I’ve been telling people that Merfolk was the best deck, and even though I knew it was a lie, I kept working to improve it. Thanks to the bannings and the new tools we’ve gotten for Fish, it’s actually a little less of a lie these days. Don’t believe me? A Merfolk deck made top 16 of Grand Prix Prague, just missing top eight in the last round.

There’s more. Every week, it seems a new “big name” is talking about it, and the results of this recent Premier Event on Magic Online also lend credence to the deck.

Merfolk also happens to be one of the more budget-friendly decks in the format, which doesn’t hurt it. Yes, [card]Mutavault[/card] is expensive, but most players have it in their Standard decks already, and even if they don’t, it is at least available for trade in many binders. Any deck that doesn’t need [card]Misty Rainforest[/card], [card]Scalding Tarn[/card], or [card]Verdant Catacombs[/card] to play will typically qualify as “budget” in Modern, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

So Why Would Someone Play Merfolk?

Several reasons. First of all, the deck is pretty flexible. You can adapt it based on the matchup: for aggro, add [card]Vapor Snag[/card]s; for Pod/Jund, add [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card]; and for combo, play more copies of [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. There’s also [card]Dismember[/card], which helps against most creature-based decks.

But why is Merfolk just now making a splash? The biggest reason has to be [card]Master of Waves[/card]. I wasn’t a fan of it on paper when it was spoiled, but it happens to do something extremely important for Merfolk that no card has done before: it beats Jund.

It’s not a stretch to say that the card can actually “solo” Jund. I’ve had unimpressive board states, like a single [card]Cursecather[/card] and [card]Spreading Seas[/card], and then slammed this guy and pretty much won on the spot.

The reason it’s so good is because it’s really just in the sweet spot. Making tokens means it can’t really be killed by [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card],  a converted mana cost of four means it can’t be [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]ed, and protection from red means nothing in the typical Jund deck (outside of [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]) can touch it. Throw in the [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] banning from a while back, and suddenly what was your worst matchup is completely winnable.

It’s basically impossible to say that your Modern deck is good these days if it can’t handle Jund or just [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. Well, Merfolk can. It also presents a fast enough clock with just enough disruption to handle value decks like Pod or RWU.

You also have the distinct advantage of being an aggro deck that happens to be blue. This means you get access to counterspells that other aggro decks don’t. There’s also that whole islandwalk thing that is relevant in every single game thanks to [card]Spreading Seas[/card], a quirky card that happens to do everything you want it to while also serving as maindeckable hate for the Tron decks.

If you ask somebody who’s not familiar with Merfolk what the best card in the deck is, you’ll stump them for a few minutes before they eventually decide the right answer has to be [card]Aether Vial[/card].

But that’s wrong. The best card, by a mile, is [card]Silvergill Adept[/card]. It does everything you could possibly want to do. It costs two mana for your Vial, doesn’t take double blue to cast, is a Merfolk, and draws you a card. As we know, that last part is one of the most important things any Magic card can have on it, and every time your opponent has to trade a card for your Adept, you’re winning. I feel confident in saying that if Adept wasn’t a card, Merfolk wouldn’t be a deck. Of course, this is coming from the guy with this playmat:

Silvergill Playmat

The final piece of the puzzle to Merfolk’s new place in the world is [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]. Another advantage Merfolk has over the other “turn dudes sideways” decks (besides the obvious [card]Aether Vial[/card] benefits) is that Thassa really helps you control your draws in the late game and prevent you from running out of gas.

The List

Before we go any further, here’s my current list:

[deck title=Modern Merfolk]

[creatures]

*4 Cursecatcher

*4 Master of the Pearl Trident

*4 Lord of Atlantis

*4 Silvergill Adept

*1 Sygg, River Cutthroat

*2 Phantasmal Image

*2 Master of Waves

*4 Merrow Reejery

*2 Thassa, God of the Sea

*1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

[/creatures]

[Spells]

*2 Spreading Seas

*4 Aether Vial

*4 Vapor Snag

*2 Spell Pierce

[/spells]

[Lands]

*3 Mutavault

*3 Cavern of Souls

*14 Island

[/lands]

[Sideboard]

*2 Spreading Seas

*1 Master of Waves

*1 Spell Pierce

*2 Hurkyl’s Recall

*2 Annul

*2 Threads of Disloyalty

*2 Relic of Progenitus

*1 Tidebinder Mage

*1 Unified Will

*1 Grafdigger’s Cage

[/sideboard]

[/deck]

The sideboard is obviously dependent on the metagame you’re facing, and mine varies regularly. I don’t play Magic Online, but I’ve tested extensively with this list in paper. For the last three weeks, I’ve taken first or second in a local weekly Modern tournament that averages 15 to 20 players.

Okay, let’s talk some specifics to my list, and I’ll touch on the sideboard at the end.

3 [card]Mutavault[/card]s

I’ll start with what’s probably the biggest head scratcher: the fact I only run three [card]Mutavault[/card]s right now.

Early in playtesting, I found that I would lose way too many games to simply not having access to double blue on turn two. [card]Mutavault[/card] is sweet, but if you can’t cast a lord on turn two, you’re just going to lose the game. I’ve gone up to 20 land from 19 since those games, so it’s possible the fourth would be okay, but I think the theory still holds. Over the course of a long tournament like a Grand Prix, you can’t really afford to lose any games to color screw in your one-color deck.

Here’s another way to look at it: there is a certain percentage of games you’re going to win by having a fourth [card]Mutavault[/card] in the deck; I just think that number is smaller than the games you’re going to lose because you don’t have access to two blue mana on turn two.

3 [card]Cavern of Souls[/card]/0 [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]/0 [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]

This is a metagame call for me. I get that you want a bunch of land destruction if Tron is rampant, but if it’s not, you get a ton more value out of Cavern.

There was one Tron deck in the top eight of GP Prague. There were 21 counterspells in that same top eight, and the winning deck ran eight of them. Extend that down to the top 16 and things become even more skewed toward counterspells.

I’ve tested the RWU matchup extensively, and having access to Cavern means there’s seven cards in your deck that can almost completely blank their counters. If you open on an [card]Aether Vial[/card] or a [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], a lot of the time you’ve effectively made them mulligan to six or even five cards. When their counterspells can’t stop you from developing your board, their point removal just doesn’t go far enough. Add in the fact that [card]Vapor Snag[/card] can allow you to save a lord from a removal spell or the fact that you can sometimes blow them out with a [card]Spell Pierce[/card], and suddenly the matchup is not all that scary.

And it’s not just RWU that runs counters. A lot of the combo decks rely on slowing you down for a turn with them, and the ability to fearlessly cast guys goes a long way toward accomplishing what Merfolk wants to do, which is overload the board quickly and throw in a timely piece of disruption.

1 [card]Sygg, River Cutthroat[/card]

Lists doing well seem to be split 50/50 on this right now, but I’ve been running it for around 18 months and will never cut it. It checks every major checkbox for Merfolk: it’s a two-drop, it has double blue for devotion, and it draws you cards. Since I can’t ignore the financial aspect, I’ll tell you that this could easily be the next Merfolk card to spike, especially since it’s from Shadowmoor.

I’ve heard the argument that Merfolk just wants to be as streamlined as possible and this card doesn’t help with that. I don’t buy it, though, because the point of streamlining your deck is to draw your best cards every game. Well, were I given the option, I would draw Sygg every single game. The problem is that you never, ever want to draw two of them, because it only has one power and is legendary. But I promise you will never be sad to draw this card. It punishes opponents for bolting themselves with lands, it makes their blocking awkward, it blocks plenty of relevant creatures early, and like Silvergill Adept, it keeps the gas coming.

2 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]

Spell Pierce is another one of those cards you don’t really want to see more than one of in a game. It’s great in the right situations or against the right decks, but it’s completely dead against others and can also be really clunky. I’m happy running two along with [card]Cursecatcher[/card] as a disruption suite against combo and control decks.

4 [card]Merrow Reejery[/card]

I include this card just so I can address all the tricks it enables. Remember, its ability triggers on casting, not on entering. So you can cast a Merfolk and get the trigger before it resolves, but you won’t get one from Vialing in a guy. If you have multiple copies on the field, you can actually generate mana with this by stacking the triggers to untap the same land and then tapping it for mana in between the resolution of the triggers. It also allows you to untap Vial or tap down one of your opponent’s blockers.

1 [card]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/card]

As the deck tech at the GP talked about, ticking your Vial up to four mana for [card]Master of Waves[/card] can sometimes leave you with a turn where it’s on three mana and it doesn’t do anything. The singleton Kira is a concession to that. With this card, we have seven three-drops that we can drop into play.

2 [card]Master of Waves[/card]

I don’t understand lists that play this as a four-of. It’s a good card, but there are a bunch of matchups where it’s completely irrelevant. You are happy drawing one Master in most matchups to close out the game, but you definitely don’t want to put yourself in a position where you see two of these in the first three turns of the game. How miserable is it to play against [card]Splinter Twin[/card] and see a Master in your first draw step? Two in the main and another in the board for Jund or other midrange decks is where I want to be.

2 [card]Spreading Seas[/card]

I know a lot of people run this as a four-of, and I can’t blame them. If Tron were more prevalent in my area, I could see myself doing that. But to me, this is another card you’re happy seeing one of in a game but don’t always need. It’s too good to not play, but most of the time I’d rather play more dudes in the place of Seas.

0 Two-Mana Counters

I’ve been saying since day one of Modern that [card]Remand[/card] is not where you want to be with Merfolk, and it’s nice to see that people are finally coming around.

Cards like [card]Remand[/card] or [card]Mana Leak[/card] are awesome in Magical Christmasland where you have a turn-one [card]Aether Vial[/card] every game and then just sit back on counterspells, but that’s not how it works in the real world. A lot of the time you have to play hands without Vials, and two-mana counters are about the worst thing imaginable. You’re faced with the decision on turn two of playing a lord or holding up a counterspell, and I’m sure we’d all agree that playing the guy there is correct almost every time.

The problem is turn three. What are you going to do then? You’re either tapping out for a three-drop or playing another two-drop. That’s when Spell Pierce and Vapor Snag are at their best, because that’s the turn where you pull ahead of your opponent by stopping their play while advancing your board. [card]Remand[/card] doesn’t let you do that. You just end up sitting there with an open Island and nothing to do.

Turn four is when your [card]Remand[/card]s would theoretically become good, except that we’re playing a 20- to 21-land deck and hitting four lands by turn four is by no means guaranteed. There’s a huge number of games where you’ll still be staring at a two-drop, a [card]Remand[/card] and three lands on turn four, and you’re going to hate yourself.

So, please, save yourself the trouble and just play [card]Vapor Snag[/card] and [card]Spell Pierce[/card] instead. The one time we actually want two-mana counters is when we need a hard counter against combo decks, and that’s what a sideboard is for.

Sideboarding

As I said, this varies quite a bit, and my sideboard is by no means as tight as it could be. I love the [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card], but I used to have more and it’s probably on the way to being cut. It’s a nice card against mono-red or Pod or sometimes Jund, but it’s not really a maindeckable card and a lot of the time you have plenty of other stuff to bring in anyway. I think I’ll end up cutting it for another [card]Unified Will[/card] or [card]Spellskite[/card] or something.

I’m not going to detail every matchup, but I will note that Affinity is very difficult. You can’t really have too much hate for it. [card]Hurkyl’s Recall[/card] is obviously the best, but it can eat up a lot of slots. I started last year with [card]Steel Sabotage[/card], which a lot of people are going back to, but I’ve moved recently to [card]Annul[/card] because you can also bring it in against Splinter Twin to give yourself another one-mana counterspell. Just know that no matter what you do, Affinity is going to be tough.

[card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] is your all-star here, and I’d like to find room for a third, probably by cutting the Cage. Relic is insane against Jund, RWU, Living End, Pod, and probably several other decks I’m forgetting right now. It’s a must-include. Spreading Seas is obviously there for your Tron matchup. The rest should be pretty obvious as well.

 Fear the Fish

So there you go, the long-overdue Merfolk primer by the world’s biggest fan of Fish. The deck is powerful, adaptable, affordable, and fun to play. In Modern, that’s all you can ask for, and more than you can say about most decks. It’s a great deck for anyone looking to get into the format, and it scales with the skill of the player playing the deck, since there’s way more thought than just the “turn dudes sideways” approach you may see at first glance.

Any questions, or anything I missed? Let me know!

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

 

P.S. [card]Cosi’s Trickster[/card] is not a real card, nor is [card]Mothdust Changeling[/card] or [card]Aquitect’s Will[/card]. Of these, the most common one people ask about is Trickster. Tell me this: if you open with a hand of [card]Aether Vial[/card] and Trickster, which one are you playing first? I don’t think there’s any way the answer isn’t Vial, but Trickster on turn two is about the most miserable thing you can do. Stick with [card]Cursecatcher[/card] and disruption at one mana and you won’t regret it.

Corbin Hosler – Building A Brand

Today I want to do something a little different. With a Standard metagame that’s offering fewer and fewer opportunities for the next month or two and Modern still a long way off, I’d rather not look at the minutia of Magic finance at the moment.

 

My Story

I know we have a lot of people new to the Magic finance reading this right now, and I know that the whole “Magic finance” thing can be a little intimidating at first. A few days ago I was battling against somebody with my (nearly) foiled out Modern merfolk deck, when he started to ask me the prices of several of the cards. Understandably, he was a little taken aback by some of the answers, like [card]Cursecatcher[/card] at $15 (and sold out at $6 regular on SCG, by the way. Thanks True-Name Nemesis!) or [card]Aether Vial[/card] at $25.

While talking about the deck, his friend asked him if he had any plans to foil out his Goblin deck. His response?

“Maybe if I was born into money.”

I let the comment slide, but the first thought that went through my head was that it doesn’t take money, it just takes time and hard work.

I’ve written about it before in several places, but the fact is that I was in his position just a few years ago – a broke college student losing to [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card]s because he couldn’t afford $50 mythics. Playing Magic was hard and keeping up with Magic was even harder.

Fast forward a few years. Today I write Magic finance articles, I co-host a popular podcast that is sponsored, I run a Magic singles store out of my LGS, and I’m able to foil out my merfolk deck without breaking the bank.

 

You Get What You Put In

You cannot have a defeatist attitude about this stuff. Rather than look at my merfolk and lament that you won’t ever get there because you didn’t have the same opportunities I did, make those opportunities yourself. I didn’t sit around being upset that I didn’t play when Power 9 was readily available. Instead, I worked hard and took advantage of good opportunities, to the point where I’ve used money from Magic to buy a fancy fridge as a housewarming gift for my wife as well as her engagement ring.

I know you can’t have a defeatist attitude because I went through that same process. I started just before Shards of Alara and was disappointed that I couldn’t have all those fancy, expensive Lorwyn cards like everyone else. Seeing prices on dual lands made me cry. But like I always advocate, where others see risk, find the opportunity.

I found my opportunity. The first big one was Zendikar fetchlands, and I accumulated more than 100 through trade when they began to bottom out in price.

The saying is opportunity looks a lot like hard work, and it’s absolutely true. I’m in a pretty good place in terms of Magic finance right now, both in terms of the passive income I make from it and the fortunate position I’m in being given a place to write, but it’s taken thousands of hours of work to get here. I think that’s the most important lesson for anyone looking to get into Magic finance, or really whatever else it is that interests you. There is no “easy flip.” No “I have $100, tell me where to put it right now so I have $500 a month from now.” Things aren’t that simple. They take time. They take research and dedication. They take work.

 

Building Your Brand

Most of you already know of this though, right? If you’ve been around the MTG finance game for a while, you certainly do. You know that scouring collections for those 50-cent cards is just as important as predicting the next [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] like we did in this column a few months back. The difference between success and failure in MTG finance and life is made in the margins. If not for those small victories like grinding collections that are more hard work than any particular brilliance, it would be much more difficult to get through the missed calls like [card]Splinterfright[/card] or [card]Master of the Pearl Trident[/card].

But there’s more to it than that, if you want there to be. If you are content just making your money and moving on, that’s fine. But I know that many of us want more than that, and I have something to share on the subject: no one is more important in making that happen than you are.

Let me explain: yes, I’m very lucky that someone I know bought one of the local Magic stores here and yet didn’t want to run a singles business so he hired me to do so. But that’s just the end result, the opportunity, the product of the hard work that went into it.

So what was that work? For me, it was about building a brand: myself. A fair number of local players and dealers in the region know who I am or recognize my name. But everyone recognizes Bernie Madoff’s name too. The important thing is that they recognize what I represent – a small-time dealer who is easy to work with and above all trustworthy.

Someone walked into my shop a few days ago hoping to buy a playset of [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] from me. I had several that are in the mail but hadn’t arrived yet. I started to tell the guy that I didn’t have any for him right then, but then someone from a table next to me handed me his playset to sell. I told him I’d be happy to trade for them or buy them from him, but he just told me to not worry about it and I could replace them when mine came in.

I’ve told stories like this in the past and gotten the typical “must be nice, people are dumb, etc…” responses. Some value traders or grinders just can’t comprehend someone passing up an opportunity to “make value” at any cost. But the fact is we’re all surrounded by generous people like this, you just have to earn that respect.

I can’t offer you a step-by-step roadmap of how to get there, I just know that it’s something I’ve seen far too many people bypass in order to extract maximum value from a situation, whether that’s a trade or a friendly storeowner or whatever.

For me, I try to keep it simple. When I trade I don’t scumbag the other person or lie to them, and I’m as friendly as possible. I’ve met some great friends this way. Likewise, I go out of my way to help other players whenever possible. I freely loan away my cards and I’ll sometimes tell people just to keep stuff later on. I was lucky enough to meet several people who did the same for me when I started, and I want to pass that on.

“Being a good guy” is a great start, but it goes further than that. Here are a few things I consider instrumental to my journey to where I’m at today.

 

  • Creating a Twitter account. Why? Because it gives you access to a bunch of people you wouldn’t have otherwise. One of the best early things that happened to me when I was new to Magic finance and Twitter was getting into a public disagreement with Jonathan Medina over Venser, the Sojourner. He was convinced it was going to be a $40 card a few months out, and I thought it would be below $15. Interacting with a known commodity in the MTG Finance community (and beating him on that bet) was a great start.
  • Asking for a shot. This is absolutely the most important thing. How did I get my start writing Magic finance (for DoublingSeason.com, a short-lived website that was the precursor to any Magic finance site on the internet)? I asked. Then I wrote an article. Then I wrote another. Before too long, I got the hang of it and people kept coming back.
  • Conducting myself professionally. This is something that people overlook simply because they don’t realize how far it extends. I don’t curse on social media and very rarely on the podcast, I don’t speak in slang, I approach every email professionally. Basically, you have to be on your guard to put your best foot forward at all times, because you never know who is reading. And they are reading.
  • Be consistent. Nothing is more important to building a brand than consistency. Good-but-not-great content produced consistently is statistically more important to building a readership than producing something great every two months. You have to be there, week after week, if you want your readers to come back.
  • Staying up-to-date and accessible. I may not love all of Reddit, but I have an account and I try to be active on the forums I enjoy, like the MTGFinance subreddit. I stay active in the Quiet Speculation forums. I go out of my way to give every person I meet or trade with my full attention, and if they ask me for advice I try to give detailed answers instead of blowing people off with a quick response. After all, the very first thing I ever wrote about Magic finance was “It’s about making friendships, not matching dollar signs,” and I firmly believe that to be true.
  • As you’re building your brand, don’t forget where you came from. Think about it in comparison to competitive Magic players. Many people don’t want to go to PTQs because of all the “jerks and rules-lawyers there.” You don’t hear these stories about the pros like Brian Kibler or LSV, you hear them about the mid-level player who’s had a taste of success and is so desperate for more he’s willing to compromise his own ideals to get there. Don’t ever begin to think you’re entitled to something because you wrote an article for a website or because you’re a well-respected player or trader in your area.
  • You’re only as good as your next piece. I’ve made some nice calls in the past and hopefully written some good articles, but remember that there is always someone to whom you have no history at all. They don’t care that you called Stoneforge Mystic two years ago, and they don’t care that you played on the Pro Tour that one time. Don’t forget that.

 

So that’s my spiel. I’m incredibly lucky to be writing to you from a website titled after my own podcast, but there’s been a lot of work that’s gone into it. None of us got here through purely through luck, though there was certainly some of that involved. Jason will try to tell you he hit the lottery by becoming a podcast regular after coming in 10 or so episodes in, but it’s not true. He worked hard to get there and is responsible for many of the steps forward we’ve taken since then. That’s not luck, it’s hard work.

So I’ll leave you with this. What’s your goal in Magic? If you don’t have one, get one. Write it down, write the steps you need to get there, and make it happen. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it. And figure out why you want to reach that goal. Is it to play whatever you want without budget concerns? Is it to make a name for yourself in the Magic community? Everything you want to do is possible, but it’s up to you to get there. Maybe then, when someone comes up to you and looks over your expensive Legacy deck and makes a comment about how they wish they could have the same opportunity, you’ll smile a little because you know just how wrong they are.

A wise man once said that people insist on calling it luck. I still have big goals for my career in Magic. Do they have my name on them? I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter