Back with a Vengeance

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Back with a Vengeance: TJ Poole Reflects Upon the Resurgence of Vengevine Decks in Modern



          Hogaak Vengevine is a very powerful deck, showing up nearly everywhere in Modern. Its fast, aggressive, storm – like, combomills your opponent out, while still maintaining an alternative win condition of resilient creature beat down. The combination of the twoare proving extremely difficult for the Modern metagame to deal with. This past weekend, 5 of the top 16 decks in the SCG ModernClassic, 3 of the top 8 teams in the SCG Team Modern, and 2 of the top 8 at Magic Fest Dallas were all variations of Vengevine. This isthe list piloted by Tom Ross to a top 8 finish in Dallas:

Main Board

4 Bloodghast

4 Carrion Feeder

4 Gravecrawler

4 Insolent Neonate

4 Stitcher's Supplier

4 Vengevine

4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

4 Altar of Dementia

1 Darkblast

1 Lightning Axe

4 Faithless Looting

4 Bridge from Below

1 Swamp

4 Blackcleave Cliffs

3 Blood Crypt

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Overgrown Tomb

4 Polluted Delta



2 Ingot Chewer

4 Leyline of the Void

2 Fatal Push

4 Nature's Claim

3 Thoughtseize




          I'm pretty much known for playing Bogles, but my first deck I ever put a lot of time into was a home-brewed Vengevine list back in2016. It was absolutley great in a local metagame full of control decks. It even took me to a Top 16 at SCG Regionals in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Modern format became too fast for the deck, and I found myself always one turn too slow, so I eventually switched to Bogles since it was a good meta choice at the time. This is the list I ran back then:


Main Board

4 Bloodghast

4 Gravecrawler

4 Vengevine

4 Lotleth Troll

4 Death's Shadow

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Varolz, The Scar-Striped

4 Faithless Looting

4 Grisley Salvage

3 Kolaghan's Command

2 Collective Brutality

4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Forest

2 Swamp

3 Overgrown Tomb

3 Blood Crypt

2 Stomping Ground



2 Spellskite

2 Jund Charm

2 Golgari Charm

2 Rakdos Charm

2 Terminate

2 Abrubt Decay

3 Crumble to Dust



      This list has a lot of similarities with the current Hogaak list. There is synergy everywhere. It can have fast, combo – oriented turnsinvolving Vengevine recurring from the graveyard, or by using Varolz to scavenge a Death's Shadow onto a creature with some evasionand attacking in. It can also give control decks trouble since it has so many ways to bring back threats. The deck usually did really well wherever I played it, since no one was usually prepared to combat a deck that could be both resilient and aggressive. That's what the new list with Hogaak does. I've been playing it for a few weeks now online and at my local game store, and if someone has an answer to one win condition, you just use a different strategy to win. It's definitely not unheard of to just win by casting 2/1s and attacking every turn.  



         A lot of people are calling for a ban on something from the new list since it's taking up so much of the current meta. The question is: what should be, if anything is? Faithless looting is the card that's been around the longest and people have been wanting it banned for years since it fuels a lot of other graveyard strategies. They could ban Hogaak, but that would mean banning a card that was just released not even a month ago. Alter of Dementia is also a candidate. There are lots of other discard outlets though.  I feel that a ban is unnecessary. The meta will eventually adapt and overcome the new graveyard deck just like it did when I played my homebrew.  Until then I'll be putting the Bogles away and trying to mill my opponent on turn 2.  



The RUG Revival

Robert Benson 


The RUG Revival: How Wrenn and Six Turned Temur Delver from Zero to Hero

            Once feared as the bully deck of Legacy, Temur Delver experienced a huge decline in play with the printing of Deathrite Shaman. For years thereafter, Grixis became the Delver shard of choice, only increasing in popularity with the printing of Gurmag Angler. However, with the simultaneous banning of Gitaxian Probe and Deathrite Shaman, Temur Delver was thought to be back as the de facto best tempo deck of the format, and the ‘goose was loose yet again.

            Within the past year, Legacy has become increasingly more hostile to aggressive manabases, with decks like Death and Taxes, Lands, and Izzet Delver emerging to punish a format full of non-basic lands. Even control decks like Miracles and Stoneblade began to run tech choices like maindeck Back to Basics, to punish players seeking to exploit the near-perfect mana that Legacy has to offer. Temur Delver, unfortunately, became a fringe-playable strategy lost to time…until Modern Horizons. The printing of Wrenn and Six, a new, two-mana, Gruul planeswalker, has completely revolutionized the toolkit that RUG has to work with, providing both a source of land-recursion, as well as a “pinger”, while still threatening to win the game on its own.


Temur Delver has traditionally always been a deck looking to operate as efficiently as possible, while controlling opponents on the axis of resource-denial, through the use of cards like Stifle, Wasteland, and assorted soft – permission spells. Wrenn and Six provides Temur Delver with a way to consistently recur Wastelands, or recur multicolor lands to cast its permission spells. Long gone are the days of sideboarding Life from the Loam, in an attempt to both protect its own manabase, or punish an opponent’s. By utilizing Wrenn and Six’s powerful recursion effect, a skilled RUG Pilot can produce card advantage, and eventually grind his opponent out of the game.

Alternatively, if a card-advantage engine is not enough reasoning to sleeve up Nimble Mongoose this upcoming weekend, then surely a 2-mana “pinger” will be. As an archetype, Temur Delver has always experienced difficulty against chump-style creatures like Baleful Strix, Young Pyromancer, and the assorted repertoire of Death and Taxes creatures. The -1 ability of Wrenn and Six gives Temur Delver the ability to dispatch these annoying blockers, and conserve spells like Tarfire, Lightning Bolt, and Dismember for more justified targets. Notably, Wrenn and Six gives a RUG Pilot a significant advantage in the Delver mirrors as well, as the planeswalker is capable of sniping opposing Delvers on-curve before they are able to flip.

Although an extremely difficult deck to pilot, Temur Delver has become increasingly more well-positioned with the release of Modern Horizons. I hope this brief overview inspires you to step out of your comfort zone, and experience one of the most flavorful color combinations a Delver deck can have. The ‘goose is definitely loose once again!

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Rob Benson Team TSG

Another week, means another Team Tapstart announcement! This week, we'd like to announce our inaugural member, and team captain, Robert James Benson!

Name: Robert James Benson

Hometown: Manalapan, New Jersey

Favorite Format: Legacy

Favorite Deck: Jeskai Control / Show and Tell

Most Memorable Magic Moment: When I won my first SCG Classic, surrounded by my friends and mentors. Still the best day of my life.

Notable Achievements: SCG Standard Regional Championships Top 16, SCG Louisville Modern Classic Top 16, SCG Atlanta Modern Classic Champion, 1 Pro Point


New TSG Team Member

In December, we told you that we had some exciting plans for 2019! It is our pleasure to announce the 2019 roster for Team Tapstart Games! Each week, we will announce a new member, until the complete lineup has been revealed.

Please give a warm welcome to our newest member, William 'Dex' Oglesby!

Name: William 'Dex' Oglesby

Hometown: Seneca, SC

Favorite Format: Modern

Favorite Deck: Abzan Midrange

Most Memorable Magic Moment: When both my Team Unified RPTQ teammates and I took 1st, 3rd, and 7th place at a PPTQ,


the day before the event with our Team Unified Standard decklists.









Mono Blue run through


An Analysis of the Most Successful Standard Decks at Pro Tour Atlanta
By: Robert James Benson
With the recent success of Boros Aggro at the recent Pro Tour, it is safe to say that linear, aggressive strategies are extremely well positioned for success in the current Standard format. But while most players had their attentions drawn to powerful Red-White cards like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice and Heroic Reinforcements, the decks with the highest win rate were, in fact, Pascal Vieren’s Izzet Drakes and Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono Blue Tempo. Although a Pro Tour Championship is extremely prestigious, and is justifiably commendable, a 10-0 Constructed Pro Tour record is nothing to scoff at.


Andrew Elenbogen’s Pro Tour – Winning Decklist: RW Aggro
Andrew Elenbogen’s winning decklist opted to pass up the option of playing any red – colored cards in the mainboard, and instead focus on reinforcing his sideboard plan with the extra color. It is important to note, however, that Heroic Reinforcements was well – known tech throughout the event, and Andrew may have had opponents playing around it even though he did not choose to play the card himself.
Magnus Lantto’s 9-1 Contructed Decklist: Red – White Aggro


Magnus Lantto, however, vied to play a full playset of the archetype – defining card, surely to break the mirror. He also decided to fill his sideboard with the powerful Midrange threat, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. There were many matches where Aurelia would change the advantage of the game, putting the caster into the aggressor’s position, and thoroughly shifting the whole dynamic of the board.
Pascal Vieren’s 10-0 Constructed Decklist: Izzet Drakes


Pascal Vieren’s take on Izzet Drakes is probably the most interesting variant we’ve seen so far. His utilization of cards like The Mirari Conjecture to generate mid – game card advantage gives him the ability to assume the role of a control player against aggressive decks, while also being able to out – grind decks like Golgari Midrange. When discussing the deck in a post – event tournament report, he mentions the importance of being able to assume the control role in a lot of matchups, and his sideboard plan definitely compliments that strategy. With cards like Entrancing Melody, Shivan Fire, and Star of Extinction, he ensures his ability to control a board, and chip in for damage with Arclight Phoenix and tokens generated by Murmuring Mystic. Definitely keep an eye out for future success from this deck.
Guillaume Gauthier’s 10-0 Constructed Decklist: Mono – Blue Tempo


Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono – Blue Tempo deck might seem extremely underpowered on paper, but don’t let its cheap price tag fool you – this deck is LEGIT. With 8 1 – converted mana cost threats, and cheap interaction like Spell Pierce, Dive Down, and Wizard’s Retort, this deck is here to take your lunch money, and leave you wondering exactly “How did that just happen!?”. For those of you who do not play Standard, or have never seen this deck before, I would compare it most to a Delver-esque style of play. An early 1-Drop, evasive, threat, complimented by Curious Obsession and cheap countermagic, can be a lethal combination for decks poorly equipped to deal with efficient creature protection.
Last night, I decided to take Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono Blue Tempo list for a spin in some MTG Arena Competitive Constructed events. Throughout the 2 events I played in, I saw a wide variety of decks, ranging from Mono Red Aggro, to Golgari Midrange, all the way up to Jeskai Control. Although in my first league, I dropped a tight match against Mono Red due to a loose 1-land keep in a crucial game 3, I was able to successfully navigate my second league through a field of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s, Goblin Chainwhirler’s, and Doom Whisperer’s, and achieve a perfect 5-0, bringing my record for the night to a strong 9-1.


All in all, I believe that this fast, linear, archetype is a great choice to crush events, from your local FNM, all the way to the Pro Tour level. Stay tuned until next week, where I will discuss the archetype more in-depth, as well as provide strategies to combat popular matchups. Until then, good luck, have fun, and God bless, friends.


Mentality makes the Magic


Competitive Magic has an immense level of depth to the skills and strategies that are viable paths to success. One of if not the most important of these is very seldomly talked about because of hard it is to get into words because it is an incredibly abstract concept, and that is the mentality it takes to be a successful Magic player. This subject is something that I’m very passionate about and I believe it is a great topic to write my first article about. Before we get started, I should introduce myself. My name is Joseph Stargel I am a new addition to the Team Tapstart competitive Magic team. However, I am no stranger to competitive Magic, I’ve been playing competitive Magic since Return to Ravnica. In that time, I’ve had an abundance of SCG Open Series top 16 and top 32 finishes, as well as several IQ, PPTQ, and PTQ top 8 finishes as well as a lot of local event victories. I haven’t had my breakout performance yet, but I grind day in and day out to become a better student of the game and to try to become the best Magic player that I can possibly be. I generally specialize in aggro, tempo, and combo decks, such as delver, affinity, and storm.   


I believe there is one thing that separates the great Magic players from the good ones, and that is the mentality that the greats approach Magic as a whole. People say “Believe you have the best 75 in the room” or “Believe that you’re the best Magic player you can be” these are adequate mentalities to have but they do not breed the mindset that I think makes truly great players. I believe that the mentality to have comes down to two very simple things. 


First, that you can always improve in some way. Secondly, and the most important, is to have the confidence in your decision making and plays to be able to play your best game no matter who or what matchup sits down across from you. This is a concept that was reinforced for me this weekend at a local PPTQ in which I had a top 4 finish. I lost in the swiss and in the top 4 to the same person. However, I had extremely close quality games of Magic in a matchup that was supposed to be almost unwinnable and I stand by the fact that this was because I approached the matchup confident in my preparation for the tournament and had the confidence in my decision making throughout the games. This brings us to the first step in achieving a positive and confident competitive mentality, and that is preparation. Being prepared for a tournament means knowing the ins and outs of your deck and the key pieces of your matchups and having a quality understanding of the meta that you are expecting. For me on Mono-blue Tempo this meant preparing for UR Pheonix, Jeskai control, BG midrange, RW aggro, and the mirror. In the weeks leading up to the event I was playing as many quality games of Magic as I could. I was not just playing to play, I was constantly looking for new ways to approach matchups and crafting new sideboard plans. I did this by making notes about all the matches I played and trying to find places where I could improve my play as much as possible, however this doesn’t stop when the tournament begins you can learn things about matchups even in the tournament you were preparing for, no two games of Magic are the same that’s part of the reason we love this game so much.  


The second and final thing to concentrate on to improve your competitive mentality is realizing certain things are out of your control. This game has an element of randomness to it that is why we play the matches and are not assigned wins and losses in tournaments based on matchup percentages. However, this should not be used as a crutch or an excuse for plateauing in your improvement, especially because of how easy it is to make that excuse. If your opponent draws the nuts, they draw the nuts, but that’s not the end all be all because you can always adapt and adjust in any given game. When you are in a bad position in a game never just give up, start thinking about how you can play to the situations that lead to you turning the game around. For example, think about how you can optimize your plays so that you are milking your cards for every ounce of value you can get out of them, how can you force you’re your opponents to use their cards in the least optimal ways possible. Maximizing your cards and minimizing your opponents is the both the best way to create leads in games and claw your way back into them. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to be a more competitive Magic player is to play your game as much as possible and to focus on your and only your play. Look for the small ways that you can improve and optimize, become comfortable in your own Magic skin, find the strategies you are comfortable playing and optimize them even if they aren’t the best strategy in that format. More can be gained from playing your style as optimally as possible than can be gained from playing the “best” deck and second guessing your instincts. 


Bottom line BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR INSTINCTS, the more you trust yourself and commit and learn from the situations that go bad, the better your instincts will become and the more confident you will become which will improve your game in the most significant and concrete way possible.  Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my first article, this is the first of many and I look forward to not only improving my play in my own ways but also improving my quality of content for the community. 


Joseph Stargel.


TapStart Games Standard PPTQ

TapStart Games Standard PPTQ

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Brad Weekend · Hosted by Tapstart Games

Everyone, meet Brad! Brad is a delightful seventeen year old Walhalla High School student and a great part of our Magic community! Brad was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and when we know there is a need, we do what we can to help!! So for Brad Weekend all tournament entry for Friday night's Modern FNM and Saturday's Standard Showdown will go to help Brad's family with medical bills. If you don't play Magic but want to help, we will also have a donation box set up at the shop! Make plans to be there!!

Here are the Top 8 Decklists from Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica:

Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica Top 8 Decklists




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