(Modern) GW Valuetown Primer

I am not Todd Stevens.

Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, welcome to Valuetown™! On the left, you’ll see the township of Gavony, where the Tireless Tracker hangs out when she’s not busy traversing the Horizon Canopy. Feel free to hang out with all of our friends. They’re pretty cool for the most part. Courser doesn’t like comments about the size of her hooves, and don’t mind if Azusa seems a little lost. Oh!…and be sure to stay out of the Ghost Quarter of town.

All terrible jokes aside, this deck is great. I’ve played a handful of different decks in Modern, and after 6 years in the format, I decided to unpack my bags and take up residence in Valuetown.  My love for resource denial began with my experiences piloting UW Control in which I had the joy of playing 4 strip mine effects and 4 spreading seas. UW was boring, however…so I sleeved up Ponza. I did pretty well with the deck. Slamming Blood Moon on turn 2 felt great and having Courser of Kurphix/Tireless Tracker in play at the same time felt like a dream come true…but the deck was too inconsistent.

I had looked several times at the GW Company deck, longing to play it, but I had recently sold my playset of Collected Companys after they rotated from Standard, and didn’t own any of the mana dorks, so it didn’t seem worthwhile to buy into the deck at that point. Fast forward a few months pass and Storm has become significantly more popular and the format has slowed down a bit. Enough is enough. I want to play a deck that can combo kill or have a backup plan. I end up on Counters Company, play it for a couple months, and realize I’m only a few cards away from my dream deck…so here I am now. I’ve been “valuing it up” for quite a while now and I have never been happier with any other deck. There is never a dull moment with the “GW Valuetown”.


Zach Goldman’s “GW Valuetown” Decklist


This is the same decklist I took to a top 8 finish at the Star City Games IQ in December 2017.

Link to Star City Games Invitational Qualifier Dec 2017

Value Engine

This is, at its core, a Courser of Kruphix deck. Todd Stevens said when he built the deck, the first thing he started with was a playset of Courser. A 3-mana 2/4 is a hard-to remove creature that provides card advantage, information, and incidental life gain.

    

Tireless Tracker converts each land drop into a clue token, which means more cards and more power on board. Azusa, lost but Seeking lets us play three lands per turn (Yay! More triggers!). Knight of the Reliquary allows us to manipulate the top of our deck, allowing us to find lands to play with Courser or better cards to draw into. It also provides extra landfall triggers for Tireless Tracker and can grab our toolbox lands like Horizon Canopy, Gavony Township, and Ghost Quarter. Ramunap Excavator lets us play lands from the graveyard.  If we can pair it with an Azusa, we can activate Ghost Quarter three times every turn, and against most Modern decks, this will soon equate to a Strip Mine effect as there are typically only a few basic lands to search for.

That’s a lot of three drops, won’t this deck be clunky and slow?

Nope. Eight mana dorks. Mulligan aggressively to find them. Don’t keep hands with 1 land + 1 dork, or 1-2 lands, no dork. Our ideal hand involves 2 lands and a mana dork. We want the consistency of casting a 3-mana creature on turn two, or playing one of our few two drops with a Path to Exile or Ghost Quarter at the ready.

Beyond the curve provided by a turn one mana dork, other advantages to running a large number of three-drops is the ability to maximize the value provided by a Collected Company.  This is an amazing card. As someone who is typically a blue mage, this is my favorite honorary “blue card”. Four mana for two three-drop creatures at instant speed? Are you kidding me? Yes please. Against decks that don’t play counterspells or sweepers, we want to typically cast “CoCo” during our turn before we play our land. For the counterspell and sweeper decks, CoCo on end step is pretty great. If they counter it, then sweet, they’ve just given us a free turn to do whatever we want. 

You typically want to lead on Knight, then either Tracker or Courser, depending on the matchup. If you’re playing against an aggro deck, you probably want Courser first (for the big butt and the life gain). If you’re playing against a Lightning Bolt deck, you want to be sure that Knight enters the battlefield as a 4/4. The point here, is that the turn we are playing something like Tireless Tracker or Courser, we want to get immediate value out of it. Obviously, its better to play your fetch land after you play the Tracker. With Courser in play, play the land off the top of the deck first (typically). It’s also often fine to Ghost Quarter yourself to get more lands in the yard for Knight, reshuffle if you don’t like the top card that Courser has revealed, or get extra landfall trigger for Tireless Tracker.

The Rest of the Deck

Scavenging Ooze is amazing. It’s a two mana creature (which our deck is otherwise lacking in) that can eat binned spells against Snapcaster Mage or Tarmogoyf decks and can hose decks like Dredge or Goryo’s Vengeance.

Voice of Resurgence makes control players tremble. There’s so much value to be had here. If it eats a Path to Exile, but that’s totally fine because that land will likely either trigger your value creatures or ramp you into an earlier Collected Company to find them.

Aven Mindcensor is currently filling two of our flex spots. Flying isn’t a keyword on many creatures in Modern at the moment, so a 2/1 with flying is often a very fast clock, especially when we are playing exalted creatures (Noble Hierarch). Most importantly, Mindcensor turns our Ghost Quarters into functional Strip Mines 90% of the time. There are a lot of big mana decks and a lot of fetch lands going around in modern right now, so having two creatures (with flash) that shut those off in our mainboard is very powerful.  It’s also very good against Gifts Ungiven and Chord of Calling decks like Vizier Company.

Eternal Witness gets us any card back from our graveyard and is insane if it hits off Collected Company because it allows us to pick CoCo up out of the graveyard to repeat (which is usually backbreaking for most decks).

Path to Exile is the best removal in our colors and pairs well with our Mindcensors or can reduce the number of basics left in our opponents deck to blank their search after being Ghost Quartered.

Horizon Canopy allows us to draw a card which is usually best when we have a Courser in play and have information about the top of our deck. Crack your clues before you crack your Canopy as a general rule of thumb. Playing a Canopy with a Tracker in play is just extra value.

Gavony Township is an absolute monster in decks where we end up in board stalls, against decks whose removal is all based on damage (lookin at you Anger of the Gods), or can turn otherwise harmless mana dorks into an aggressive army.

Sideboarding

  

Will this plan work for everyone? No. Does it work for me? Absolutely. Should you keep an open mind and give it a show? Yeah, probably.

Jund

+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Eldritch Evolution

-2 Path to Exile

This is already a very favorable matchup. You could probably resubmit your main 60 and be fine; however, we’re going to cut two Paths to bring in an absolute bomb, Sigarda, Host of Herons. Jund cannot beat Sigarda without Damnation…period. We can pretty easily find a turn three Sigarda. If the match somehow goes to game three and we end up on the play, we can board out a Voice for an Elspeth as it is just another tough threat for them to beat, and Voice isn’t really at peak performance in this matchup, though it is quite good. They play a lot of Lightning Bolts and Fatal Pushes, which just generally have a hard time against all of our three-drops. Collected Company just ends the game since they try to one-for-one to death and CoCo provides a natural two-for-one plus value. Eldritch Evolution gives us a more reliable way to find our “toolbox” creatures (or dig out Sigarda)…it’s also nuts with Voice. Keep in mind, an active Scooze can hose a Tarmogoyf.

Abzan/GB midrange

+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

-1 Voice of Resurgence
-1 Tireless Tracker
-1 Path to Exile

This is a free win matchup. We crush fair decks (hence being favored vs. Jund). The only difference here is that Abzan tends to play more creatures, so Path is a little more useful. Elspeth can tick down and wrath them with ease. Sigarda just crushes them because, again, they have major difficulties dealing with it. It also chump blocks for days. They usually are recurring their threats a bit more often than Jund so Scooze is an all-star in this matchup. We’re taking out one Path because there are still plenty of times where it’s going to just rot in our hand and our creatures are often big enough to just get in front of theirs. I like taking a Tracker out on the draw because we need to have a land drop the turn we are casting it or it’s just very low impact and eats a Fatal Push/Abrupt Decay.

CoCo Counters/Elves

+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+2 Engineered Explosives

-2 Voice of Resurgence
-1 Collected Company
-1 Ramunap Excavator

Okay, hear me out on this one. These matchups are awful. We will lose game one. Good news: we get to be on the play in game two. Mulligan aggressively to your hate cards. Linvala and EE are INSANE here. Voice and the snake are very weak. They’re two/three-mana do-nothings in a matchup where we’ll tap out for them and then just die. We are cutting a CoCo because we’re bringing in four non-hits. Also, CoCo can’t hit our important hate pieces. Again, mulligan to EE and/or Linvala/Evolution or lose. You could bring in Surgical Extraction vs. Counters to try and break up the Kitchen Finks/Viscera Seer combo, or you can bring in Eidolon of Rhetoric on the play vs. Elves…but neither route is highly advisable. 

Grixis Death’s Shadow

+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Worship
+1 Eldritch Evolution

-1 Tireless Tracker
-1 Aven Mindcensor
-1 Birds of Paradise

Congratulations! You get a free win! Crush your opponents dreams and enjoy the time you have to go get lunch before your next round.

Expect to win game one 90% of the time or more. Play smart and don’t walk into Stubborn Denial. We board out Tireless Tracker on the draw for the reasons previously mentioned. Aven Mindcensor isn’t great vs Shadow because they only play two basics anyway; however, the flying clock can be good…just be mindful of when to chip shot them and when not to.  Due to the low basic land count, GQ is insane.  Birds of Paradise eats a fatal push on turn one every time. Just board one out, you don’t need to have a super fast start anyway. Sigarda is lights out. Death’s Shadow cannot beat a resolved Worship…they just can’t.

Storm

+2 Eidolon of Rhetoric
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+2 Surgical Extraction
+1 Worship

-4 Voice of Resurgence
-2 Collected Company

Congratulations! You’ve been paired against storm! Enjoy the free time you have after you promptly lose and go for lunch. You basically can’t win the matchup. Bring in Surgical for their Past in Flames, Eidolon (do I need to explain this one?) to slow them down, and Worship to make sure they’ve got a Wipe Away or Echoing Truth. This matchup is abysmal. We are just too slow. Mulligan aggressively to Eidolon and hope for the best. Aven Mindcensor is very good in this matchup in response to a Gifts Ungiven. It’ll be a four mana “look at the top four and hope there are four cards with different names” as well as providing you a clock. Seriously. This matchup is bad.

Affinity

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+2 Engineered Explosives
+3 Stony Silence
+1 Worship

-4 Collected Company
-2 Tireless Tracker
-2 Voice of Resurgence
-1 Scavenging Ooze

You might be able to squeak out a win in game one. We become much more ‘midrangey’ and ‘grindy’ in game 2. MULLIGAN AGGRESSIVELY. We board out all our CoCos because they don’t find our hate pieces. We board out Tireless Trackers because with Stony Silence, it’s just a three mana 3/2. We board out Voice because it does nothing…can’t even block because they all fly. Scooze doesn’t really do much either. Reclamation Sage provides obvious application. Linvala shuts off Ravager and Steel Overseer…and flies. EE and Stony Silence is great hosers. Worship is insane because they cant wipe away your creatures (but make sure you can Ghost Quarter them off of their backup poison plan if you go this route…it’s a little risky). I’m aware of the “legendary combo” of Engineered Explosives with Stony Silence…but you have to bring in both to give yourself a better shot to find these types of answers. We’re going to basically throttle them and beat them to death with one or two creatures.

Jeskai Tempo/Control/Geist

+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Eldritch Evolution

-1 Birds of Paradise
-1 Path to Exile
-1 Tireless Tracker

Birds dies to all of their removal. Path doesn’t have many worthwhile targets. Tracker is bad on the draw vs a Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze deck.

Any questions? Ok good.

This is a favorable matchup, don’t mess it up. Linvala is INSANE as a 3/4 flying ‘beatstick’. Spell Queller can’t block it favorably and it can’t be killed with just one burn spell. Sigarda is just a house. They probably don’t have Supreme Verdict, and if they do, that means you don’t have to worry about Spell Queller! Just be wary of Settle the Wreckage. Eldritch Evolution looks a little strange here, but it is useful for finding your most powerful creatures (like Sigarda). Just be careful not to blow yourself out by walking into a counterspell. Collected Company should always be cast during their turn unless they are tapped out and you have a window.

Eldrazi Tron

+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Reclamation Sage
+2 Surgical Extraction
+1 Eldritch Evolution

-1 Scavenging Ooze
-4 Voice of Resurgence
-1 Collected Company

I hate this matchup. I hate Eldrazi. I hate Tron. I hate Eldrazi Tron.

I don’t think two mana 2/2s do anything in this matchup. Voice can’t even really effectively chump block since some of their big threats (okay just Smasher) have trample.  This is a matchup where we are going to slide in a little bit of hate and we’re going to try and get them with a few big creatures rather than a wide board.

THEY PLAY MAINBOARD ALL IS DUST. DON’T WALK INTO IT. We are cutting five CoCo hits and only bringing one in. Linvala shuts off most of what’s really good vs us, which is Endbringer and Walking Ballista (plus Hangarback Walker if they side it in), plus, she provides a flying clock. Sigarda is usually game over vs E-Tron. They can’t do anything with All is Dust, they can’t target it with Karn, and it just provides a huge, difficult to block clock, which is usually enough on its own. Eldritch Evolution acts as functional copies of Sigarda…as is its typical target. Surgical Extraction can exile their lands after we Ghost Quarter them. As always, remember you want to activate GQ on their draw step to minimize their chances of having a land left in their deck to fetch. The thing that makes the E-Tron matchup so frustrating (and frankly, makes the deck so good) is that it can either be a “herp derp me play big thing!” deck, or it can just be an aggressive Eldrazi deck.  They can switch plans pretty easily so just be careful about which land you’re going after. We’re going to lean HEAVILY on Knight, Mindcensor (it’s a flying clock and shuts off their Expedition Map if we can play it in response to the activation), and Ghost Quarter in this matchup. Deny their resources and establish a clock. Elspeth is really insane on the play vs them but I wouldn’t bring it in on the draw, as the chance of it getting taken with Thought-Knot Seer is higher.

Gx Tron

+3 Stony Silence
+1 Reclamation Sage
+2 Surgical Extraction

-2 Path to Exile
-1 Scavenging Ooze
-1 Voice of Resurgence
-2 Tireless Tracker

Stony Silence and Tireless Tracker are a “c-c-c-combo”. Board the Trackers out, you won’t miss them when your clues are just smelly rocks that do nothing. Stony Silence is WAY better vs regular Tron than Eldrazi Tron since they play so much air (Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, Expedition Map). Stony also shuts off their Wraths, which come in the form of Oblivion Stone. Some Tron players are starting to get smart to Stony Silence and are bringing in All is Dust as well. If you suspect this, then bring in the Sigarda package. Path is usually pretty weak, as they only play four creatures or so. If we’re denying their resources, they’re never going to cast an Ulamog. If they cast a Wurmcoil, we should have one of two Paths left for it. This is a matchup where we want to AGGRESSIVELY attack their manabase. Mulligan to Ghost Quarter, Surgical, Stony Silence, and/or Knight of the Reliquary. Any combination is going to be solid. We might win game one if we assemble our lock, however, knowing what hand to keep is going to be more difficult since we will probably be in the dark unless we know our opponent is on Tron. Game one is probably 55/45 on the play, 40/60 on the draw. If you have Ghost Quarter and Surgical at your disposal on turn one with a green source and mana dork in you hand, attack their land first. I got blown out once by not doing this. If you go land, dork, pass, as opposed to GQ and Surgical, it gives them the time to either Pithing Needle your GQ, or play a Relic to Protect themselves from Surgical. Be smart. Blow your opponent out, don’t get blown out. Will you be starting your second turn with zero permanents in play? Yes. Will you catch back up with land+dork? Also yes. Will your opponent end up being insanely slow because they don’t have their cheaty mana? Yes. Resource denial is the name of the game here, friendos.

Humans

+2 Engineered Explosives
+1 Worship

-2 Tireless tracker
-1 Ramunap Excavator

This is a good matchup. We are favored against other creature decks, since all of our dudes are just bigger. Humans can’t really beat Worship. I shouldn’t have to explain why EE is good. Tracker is slow in aggro matchups and, even though GQ is very good against their greedy manabase, they play four Aether Vials and four Noble Hierarchs so it’s not really the end of the world for them. We aren’t going to be all in on the resource-denial plan, so boarding out a three mana 2/3 do-nothing is fine.

UW Control/UWish

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

-1 Scavenging Ooze
-2 Path to Exile

The UW control decks play a lot of enchantments, giving our Rec Sage plenty of targets. Sigarda gives us a clock that can’t be chump blocked by Gideon/Elspeth tokens, Snapcaster Mage, or Wall of Omens and the only way they can kill it is with a wrath effect. They play 3-4 sweepers in their 75. DON’T GET BLOWN OUT BY THEM. Hold your CoCos and don’t overcommit to the board. Lean on your Voices in this matchup. Path is pretty weak as it will usually just rot in your hand. I love Scavenging Ooze vs Jeskai and Grixis, however, UW only plays 2-3 Snapcaster Mages, and they are likely to even board in Rest In Peace against us anyways because Knight of the Reliquary is a very fast clock. They also don’t want to get GQ’ed out of the game even though they play a high number of basics. Elspeth is insane. I’ve played her on turn four (on the draw, even) frequently, and they just usually aren’t prepared to handle it. She wins the game on her own because they’ll usually just give you enough time to ultimate her, or just pressure them with the 1/1 soldier beatdown. Verdict crushes us, but Elpseth doesn’t care about it.

Titanshift

+1 Worship
+2 Surgical Extraction

-2 Path to Exile
-1 Scavenging Ooze

This matchup is kind of our Bogeyman. In theory, an Aven Mindcensor and Ghost Quarter deck should be good against a “lands matter” deck, right? The problem is that Aven Mindcensor isn’t always as good as we want it to be. For one, they play 27 lands, usually 8-9 of which are basics. Two; they play Lightning Bolt and sweepers in their mainboard. You don’t really want to windmill slam your Mindcensor in response to a Farseek. It just doesn’t do anything. Establish a board, pressure your opponent, and sandbag your Mindcensor for when they cast one of their finishers. I’ve tested this matchup extensively, and usually what I’ve found is that the turn they are casting a Titan/Scapeshift, we’re one attack away from killing them. Mindcensor is usually a blowout if your opponent taps out for Titan since they’re not able to hold up a Bolt for it. If they play an early Valakut, you want to immediately GQ and Surgical it if possible. This gives you a lot of time, just be wary of the 6/6 beatdown that looms. I managed to GQ and Surgical my opponent’s Valakut a few weeks ago, and then she drew three consecutive Primeval Titans while I couldn’t draw any creatures or CoCos over three games. Sometimes, this just happens.

Worship is almost an “oops, guess you can’t win” card, if they didn’t bring in enchantment removal (which is very likely the case), however, since we play four Coursers, sometimes they bring in Rec Sage, since it can represent a blocker on board and snipe a Courser which is otherwise difficult for them to remove. It’s also possible for us to just get out of Scapeshift range by gaining a bunch of life with Courser.

An important footnote for this match is that Scapeshift doesn’t mean we lose. Let’s look at the math:

If there’s a Prismatic Omen in play, we lose anyway. Don’t dip below 18 life if you can help it. We can also blow our opponent out after their Scapeshift resolves. Shift players play 6-7 basic mountains. Hold up Ghost Quarter if you don’t have an opportunity to hit Valakut. It goes like this: opponent resolves Scapeshift, sacs 7 lands, puts a Valakut and six mountains into play, every mountain enters and Valakut checks them and puts six triggers on the stack. If you respond to these triggers by ghost quartering one of their mountains (not the Valakut) and they fail to find a basic mountain, only one of their triggers will resolve, and the other five will fizzle! Don’t ever just concede. PLAY TO YOUR OUTS.

Burn

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Worship

-1 Path to Exile
-1 Ramunap Excavator

This matchup is fine. Courser is an absolute house. Never block with it unless you have to. If your opponent is swinging into it, it’s probably a trap. We can shave a Path since putting your opponent ahead on lands is generally ill-advised. GQ is very good against Burn, but if we’re firing them off, we’re probably winning anyway. Boarding out a three mana 2/3 is fine. Rec Sage is great here. It can hit a Rest in Peace or a Shrine if they’re playing that version. The most important thing about Rec Sage is that burn is a 4x Eidolon of the Great Revel deck and Rec Sage can kill this nuisance. Nekrataal for three mana is very powerful. Usually, they don’t bring in enchantment removal. I have had many burn players just scoop upon seeing a Worship.

Lantern Control

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+2 Engineered Explosives
+3 Stony Silence

-4 Path to Exile
-2 Tireless Tracker
-1 Voice of Resurgence

Again, Tracker (or EE) + Stony is not the greatest situation. This matchup is pretty good since we can just beat them to death with Noble Hierarch through their Ensnaring Bridges. Path does nothing. Voice of Resurgence is low or no impact in this matchup. We want to shut off all their artifacts and make them be just a pile of smelly rocks. I think the game plan against Lantern doesn’t really need explaining. We can use Knight to manipulate our draws (as in any other match) so our important cards don’t get milled.

8 Rack

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+2 Engineered Explosives

-4 Path to Exile
-1 Aven Mindcensor

People play this deck sometimes…I guess? Pretty straightforward. Their win conditions are artifacts and enchantments. Blow them up and its pretty hard to lose. Sigarda gives us protection from Smallpox and Liliana. EE is great. Path does nothing and Aven Mindcensor isn’t particularly useful since it is primarily going to just be a 2/1 flying creature.

Eldrazi Taxes

+1 Reclamation Sage
+1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
+1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
+1 Eldritch Evolution
+1 Worship

-1 Scavenging Ooze
-3 Voice of Resurgence
-1 Aven Mindcensor

They play a lot of artifacts and enchantments after boarding. Rec Sage has a lot of targets. Linvala shuts off Eldrazi Displacer which is extremely annoying for us and it can profitably block a Flickerwisp). Sigarda has hexproof and is a 5/5 flyer.  Again, this is a great clock and fine blocker for Flickerwisp. Eldritch Evolution isn’t getting another explanation. Worship can’t usually be answered in this match-up. Scooze does nothing. We don’t want to be putting creatures into exile because it gives their processor effects more targets. Voice of Resurgence is very low impact and they can just Displacer or Flicker our token away, making it just a two mana 2/2. Aven Mindcensor isn’t great against a deck playing four Leonin Arbiter, however, we’re going to keep one in because flyers are very good. I think we’re pretty favored in this matchup. Just Path the Displacer and we’re usually fine. All of our creatures tend to be bigger than theirs.

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-Zach Goldman

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