You may be asking yourself, "What is Premodern?" If only some handsome gentleman had already written an article on the greatest of formats, and posted it on the greatest of Magic card trading websites! Oh wait, here it is.
The creators of the Showdown Series, Flint Espil and Michael Heup, chose eight Premodern players that have made significant contributions to the Premodern community. They pitted us against each other in seven rounds of Swiss play, then a cut to single elimination top-four format. Each week of round robin play, your opponent had the opportunity to ban one of your decks, so you had to choose which of the remaining two decks to bring to battle. This setup has led to some incredibly fun and interesting matchups that produced dozens of hours of content.
Every match of that content was commentated by the very knowledgeable and entertaining creators. Flint Espil and Michael Heup are skilled Premodern players that are also good friends, and this really comes through. Michael streamed every match to his Twitch channel (twitch.tv/cloudgoatranger) then later uploaded the matches to his YouTube channel (The Cloudgoat Ranger), so you can binge watch all 14 episodes of Swiss play and the top four matches. Please do, they were some amazing matches with awesome commentary from Flint and Michael. Not to mention, you'll get to watch all of your favorite old cards that haven't seen a lot of play since their heyday in the late 90's and early 2000's.
The three decks that I decided to wield for the Premodern Showdown Series were Reanimator, Stasis, and Landstill. Reanimator is a pretty straightforward strategy: Get a fatty in the graveyard, then play
Animate Dead to bring it back on turn one or turn two (hopefully). It puts intense pressure on the opponent by keeping them on the back foot right from the get-go.
Stasis attacks the game from a different angle as a prison deck. Containing roughly 1.3 Jillion counterspells, it looks to prevent your opponent from playing anything meaningful, then prevent them from playing anything at all after landing a
Stasis. Then it's only a matter of time until they die to a
Black Vise since they can't cast any of their spells.
Landstill is your typical Blue/White control deck with
counterspells, Wraths, spot removal in the form of
Swords to Plowshares and card advantage. It takes advantage of the interaction between the card
Standstill, manlands, and a cycled
Decree of Justice to force the opponent to give you three cards off of your
Standstill while you apply some pressure.
I felt like the variety across these decks gave me a good way to attack my opponents, regardless of what they were playing.
In week one, I squared off against Andrew Walker. Andrew has been a pillar of the Premodern community, organizing the monthly Premodern online tournaments and being one of the three members of the Premodcast show. Andrew is well known as a peddler of green and white enchantments, especially those of the Enchantress variety. His three decks were an
Oath of Druids deck with a
Land Tax and
Scroll Rack engine, a combo Enchantress deck with a
Words of Wind engine, and a Squeebind deck that uses
Horn of Greed to generate card advantage, and follows it up with
Squee, Goblin Nabob to kill you and your creatures. I chose to ban his Enchantress deck since I felt that I was a little soft to combo decks. He banned
Stasis, because nobody wants to play against
Stasis. I brought Landstill with me because it gave me the most answers to his harem of enchantresses. He played his Oath deck. Both decks were very good at making games go long. I made a miscalculation late in game 1, and had to hurry up to win game two. We ran out of time in the round, so I started with a draw.
Cumulative record: 0-0-1
In week two, I was faced with the challenge of David Daniel. David has been the pioneer of multiple decks, and he used his creation of Draco-blast in Machinehead to win one of the monthly online tournaments. He registered Draco-blast, Early Harvest Combo, and Blue-Green Madness/
Opposition. I banned Draco-blast, because who wants to be domed for 16 in one shot? He banned Reanimator. I believe it was because he felt that
Stasis and Landstill were similar enough that he wanted to ban my only non-control deck and just prepare himself to play against control. He chose to play his
Early Harvest Combo and I battled with
Stasis. In game one, he built up a crazy amount of lands, but I countered every meaningful spell he played. Eventually, I locked him up with a
Stasis and a
Black Vise to watch him squirm. Game 2, I drew a hand that let me play aggro
Stasis. I played a turn 1
Dazed a turn three
Mana Flare, and played my own turn 3
Stasis to really put the pressure on. From that point I just prevented anything meaningful coming down from David and let the Vise do what it does.
Cumulative record: 1-0-1
In week three, I faced Mike Harris. Mike is the second of the three members of the Premodcast. Mike is known as the creator of WUGNought, a Stiflenought deck that also plays the additional scary monsters of
Nimble Mongoose, just in case a 12/12 trampler isn't bad enough. His other two decks were
Cognivore Oath and Jund Gro Zoo. I chose to ban his WUGNought because that's his bread and butter. He banned Landstill from me. I found out after our match that he expected me to play Reanimator since I hadn't yet played it, so he wanted the Oath vs. Reanimator matchup. In the first game, I played a turn 1
Careful Study into a
Cabal Therapy off of a
Lotus Petal. I saw that the coast was clear with my
Cabal Therapy, so on turn 2, I cast a
Reanimate targeting the discarded
Petradon to exile both of my opponent's lands. After that play, he only had pain lands in play, so I pumped
Petradon each turn to put more pressure on his life total to minimize the total number of spells he was able to play in the game.
Petradon was able to go the distance with his stinky little
Putrid Imp friend that joined him later. In game two, he was able to land an early
Oath of Druids while preventing me from executing my game plan effectively. I was never able to get out from under the Oath, so
Cognivore was able to take me down. Game three was a grindy one. I took a mulligan down to five cards, but I was able to lead off with a first turn
Duress to take his only Oath. That cleared the way for me to play a second turn
Careful Study into a third turn
Animate Dead to bring back a big, angry ghost kitty. Another
Careful Study let me discard a
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer. He cast a
Cunning Wish for a
Naturalize to destroy my
Animate Dead on the
Phantom Nishoba, but a follow up
Animate Dead brought back Multani to protect against
Swords to Plowshares and
Rushing River that I knew he could
Cunning Wish for. Multani was joined by a
Putrid Imp, and he got a hit for eight damage in before Mike Wished for the
Rushing River to bounce the
Animate Dead. I recast the
Animate Dead on Nishoba for the trample ability since Mike's life total was low. Nishoba was able to close out the game with the help of his smelly flying imp friend. His ban plan worked out, but he didn't end up with the result that he was hoping for from the match.
Cumulative record: 2-0-1
Week four, I had to battle Jared Doucette. This match was especially great. Jared is the third member of the Premodcast, and possibly the best Goblins player in Premodern. His other two decks were Esper Nought and Angry Ghoul. As I said before, I felt that my three decks were a little soft to combo, so I decided to ban his Angry Ghoul. He believes that Landstill is the best deck in the format, so that was his ban of choice. Jared chose to bring his Esper Dreadnought deck and I chose to wield
Stasis again. First game, Jared came out swinging with a peek to see that the coast was clear to land his early
Phyrexian Dreadnought and smack me down to eight life. I had to
Impulse to find a
Chain of Vapor, but it got the job done. Jared didn't have much gas left after that, so it gave me time to build up my lands and get a better position to counter his combo cards. Eventually,
Black Vise backed up by a million counterspells was able to lock it up. The second game was a bit quicker due to my flooding out. A few counterspells back and forth got them out of my hand and a Dreadnought was able to connect twice to finish off the game. In game three, Jared cast
Duress to take my
Stasis, but saw my hand with multiple
Arcane Denials and Chains of Vapor, so he knew he had to slow his roll. I played a turn three
Powder Keg to get a little additional protection.
Mesmeric Fiend and
Meddling Mage took some chip shots to reduce my life total. A lot of back and forth ensued with bounce spells, countermagic, and way too many Dreadnoughts. Jared was finally able to land a Dreadnought, but I was able to resolve a
Stasis and tap his 12/12 with a zero mana
Ensnare. A while later, a
Black Vise came down, followed by a second one, telling Jared "Tick, Tock my friend!" He
Duressed me to see and fist full of counter magic and he knew that he wasn't going to be able to resolve anything meaningful in time to escape the Vise damage.
Cumulative record: 3-0-1
In week 5, I faced Patrick Burt. Patrick hails from Ottawa, Canada just like Cardsphere, and has had a bit of success with his own Oath Tron deck. At the time of the match, we were battling for sole possession of the top slot. His other two weapons were Artifact Burn and Blue/Black
Zombie Infestation. My decks were deathly afraid of
Ankh of Mishra, so I promptly banned his Artifact Burn. He banned
Stasis because it contains the card
Stasis. I played Landstill to give me the best answers to Patrick's two remaining decks, and Patrick brought Oath Tron. I knew that I needed to stay ahead of him on mana since he had Tron lands with more Decrees of Justice than I was playing. I was able to
Impulse into a
Dust Bowl and started getting aggressive in destroying his lands under the protection of a
standstill. A couple
Fact or Fiction, a
Standstill, and a kicked
Dismantling Blow got me far enough on cards and land count, that I was able to cycle a big
Decree of Justice while shielded by another
Standstill. Soldier tokens and
Mishra's Factory started getting turned sideways and the game was over soon after. The second game, I did not find
Dust Bowl, so Patrick easily made Tron and cycled a bunch of big ol' Decrees to easily win the game. Game three started out with lots of land drops, a
Fact or Fiction to get ahead on cards, and a
Standstill with a few manlands to get an advantage. Patrick didn't do much for fear of giving me three cards other than trading his Decree tokens with my Decree tokens. I drew into a
Dust Bowl and went to town with the mana denial much like the first game. Eventually after two cracked
Fact or Fiction, and a handful of
Dust Bowl activations, I had enough of an advantage to cycle a Decree and start jamming with Factories. Patrick eventually made Tron, but it was too late to be meaningful.
Cumulative record: 4-0-1
My opponent for Week 6 was Robin Lundh. Robin is a Swedish-born player now living in the US. He loves his discard spells, so all three of his decks contained some combination of
Cabal Therapy, and
Mesmeric Fiend. He brought with him Full English Breakfast, The Rock, and Zombies. I banned Full English Breakfast because it's absolutely terrifying what that deck can do with someone that's good at playing it. He and I also have a friendly feud over
Stasis. Due to our personal history, I knew that
Stasis would be banned by Robin. I decided that Reanimator would be a good matchup for me against both of his remaining decks, and he chose Zombies. I opened game one with a
Careful Study pitching an
Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and a
Visara the Dreadful. Robin came back with a
Dark Ritual to power out a
Withered Wretch and used his leftover mana to exile Akroma. I played a second land and cast
Exhume to bring back Visara, which he had forgotten was discarded along with Akroma. He worked on filling up the board with creatures and two
Lord of the Undead, and actually got himself into a position where he could race me. That is, until I reanimated a second fatty, and used Visara to start picking off his Lords. Game two, I mulliganed down to four whole cards. He played a first turn threat, but I dropped a land and a
Lotus Petal, and turned those into a first turn
Oath of Druids that came in from the sideboard. The Oath quickly took over the game, bringing in fatty after fatty and Robin couldn't handle them.
Cumulative record: 5-0-1
The final week of Swiss play brought me Michael Arnold as my foe. I know the least about Michael out of any of my opponents. Michael had at his disposal Angry Ghoul, Landstill, and Elves. Since
Tangle Wire eats me alive, I banned the little green dudes and dudettes. He banned Reanimator from me and braced himself to face a flurry of counterspells. He decided on Angry Ghoul and I wanted my
Stasis (I always want my
Stasis). I had some lucky topdecks and was able to counter all the
Hermit Druids that Michael threw at me. I played out a couple
Black Vise, but he was able to stay under them. Michael came to an opportunity where he cast a
Reanimate to bring back his
Hermit Druid, put a
Dragon Breath on it to give it haste, then dump his library into his graveyard. He used
Krosan Reclamation to return two cards to his empty library, but a
Stasis was down and he was tapped out. He played lands two turns in a row, then tried to cast
Shallow Grave on his
Sutured Ghoul for the win, but it was met with a
Thwart, and he lost to drawing from an empty library. Game two was a bit slow. I was able to hold his combo off and put down a couple of
Cursed Totems to shut off his
Hermit Druid. Not much happened for a long time after that. I eventually got down a
Black Vise and a
Stasis, but he was able to stay under the Vise until I decked myself. We were very low on time, and were going to take a draw, but we decided to shuffle quickly and go for it. I led off with an
Island and a
Tormod's Crypt, but the Crypt was promptly
Crumbled. Michael got a
Hermit Druid down while I was just making land drops. Time was called, so we went to turns. On my end step, he activated
Hermit Druid to dump his library, then flashed back one of his two
Krosan Reclamations. I hard cast a
Foil to prevent him from getting cards back into his library. He untapped and attempted to flash back the second Reclamation, which I
Thwarted as quickly as I could.
Amazingly, I got there.
Cumulative record: 6-0-1
After the round 1 draw, I was amazed that I was able to put together an undefeated run throughout Swiss play. This gave me the top seed going into top 4 play, and after a roller coaster of other matches played out, I was facing off against Robin Lundh again. I knew that Robin was going to ban Reanimator based off of our post-match discussion from our last match. I still didn't feel comfortable against Full English Breakfast, so that was my choice for ban. Due to his unnatural aversion to
Stasis, I brought that with me since I felt it had a decent matchup against both of his remaining decks, and to try to rattle him. Regardless of my intentions, my deck just did not cooperate. I had poor draws in both games, and Robin took advantage of his opportunities to put me away.
I took a quick exit in the elimination rounds, which meant I would be watching the finals from the cheap seats. I couldn't possibly leave out the finals coverage, so enjoy it here on Twitch.
Robin Lundh faced off against Patrick Burt for the finals with two separate matches, but Robin handled it very quickly to become crowned as the first ever Premodern Showdown Series champion. This series was a load of fun, and there are plans to do another series after the holiday season. To learn more about the incredibly diverse Premodern format, find me on the Cardsphere Discord channel, visit premodernmagic.com, or join the Premodern Facebook group, and come play some games with us.
Until next time, dust off your old (but not too old) cards from your binder for cards that haven't seen play since Extended was a format, and enjoy the Premodern format.