RCQ 1st Place Tournament Report on 5c Creativity: Is Mana Leak in Modern Legit?


Card: Indomitable Creativity | Art: Deruchenko Alexander

Hey all!


Cody here. For those who don't know, I'm the owner and lead editor here at Bolt the Bird. I was fortunate enough to take down a Modern RCQ over the weekend, qualifying for the Regional Championship in Anaheim next year (2023).


The event was a blast and I felt that my deck was a strong choice. I also felt that I piloted it well, navigating a few tricky matchups to pull out the wins.


Though nothing compared to some pros and grinders, this win adds to my previous top finish at my LGS Store Championship in July as well as placing fourth overall and losing in the semis of the Store Championship that took place earlier this month. Not bad for taking competitive play seriously for less than a year.



I'm also a Standard junkie (yeah, I know, not many people agree) so I am super hyped to go compete in Anaheim in my favorite format.


So, without further ado, let's get into the deck, my choices, and an overview of the tournament.


Deck Overview

After playing the Grixis version of Creativity earlier this year, I was quite excited about its resurgence with the additions of Leyline Binding and Fable of the Mirror Breaker. Both cards add a lot to the archetype.


This deck is also my favorite style to pilot. A strong combo plan that can win games on the spot and is backed up by the ability to close out the game without the combo or lean in the hard control direction post board.


I deviated in a few ways from the stock lists running around, which we'll look at shortly.


For those that aren't familiar, this deck revolves around its namesake card, Indomitable Creativity, and to a lesser extent both Transmogrify and Persist. It harnesses the power of fetching Dwarven Mine as well as token generation from both Fable and Prismari Command to cheat out a massive threat as early as turn four.


For me, the threat of choice in the main board is Archon of Cruelty. This 6/6 flier does everything you could ask, creating a six-point life swing, forcing your opponent to sac and discard, and drawing you a card. Doing it on both ETB and attacking is absurd. It also gets incredibly broken if you ever have a chance to copy it with Fable's back side, Reflection of Kiki-Jiki.


My list also ran an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in the board to help hedge against decks with Necromentia effects, mill, and to serve as a basically unbeatable threat to decks like Rakdos Scam (which turned out quite well). Other lists choose a secondary target like Sundering Titan (which I hate given the prevalence of Solitude), Iona, or Serra's Emissary.


I also want to point out the presence of two new cards aside from Fable. Leyline Binding is a house, essentially giving you a get-out-of-jail-free card. You can deal with any problematic threat on the board, whether that's a T3feri or a Murktide Regent. It also keeps you alive in aggressive creature-based matchups and has saved me more times than I can count. Playing Leyline for one on turn two with this deck is laughably easy after fetching Raugrin Triome followed by Ziatora's Proving Ground.


I was iffy on Shadow Prophecy for a while. You can now count me as a believer. Given the ease of arriving at full Domain, you essentially pay three to look at five cards, draw two, and dump the others into your graveyard. This card is a powerhouse and had a major influence on how I built the deck. It allowed me to lean more heavily into counterspells in the main deck and also include a dedicated Persist reanimator package that doesn't just rely on the slower Fable or a few copies of Prismari Command.


With that said, if you want to learn more about the basics of 5c Creativity, I'd highly recommend Andrea Mengucci's article here.


This article from Luis Scott-Vargas is also excellent.


In the meantime, here is a link to my deck. You can also view it in the graphic below.





Interesting Choices

Before diving into the report I want to touch on a few choices from my deck that I'm sure will draw some questions.


First, why not four copies of Wrenn and Six?


Let me say that I think this could (if not should) definitely be a four-of. Wrenn is huge for this deck. I had three copies and didn't particularly feel like buying a fourth on short notice before heading to this tournament so I decided to sleeve up three. If you have four, play them. However, I'll also say that three has also felt good. I rarely draw doubles but still feel like I have Wrenn more often than not.


Next, is that Mana Leak?? In Modern 2022??


Yep. And it was clutch. No one comes ready to play around a Mana Leak. From Blood Moons to lords and Teferis to Griefs, Mana Leak came up huge in so many spots. Let me explain why I think it deserves a role in this deck.


First off, getting two blue mana up for Counterspell quickly is a challenge. It's possible but hurts a lot in aggro matchups. Mana Leak requires just one blue source, which you already want on turn one in Raugrin Triome. Next, your goal is to combo as early as turn four. The idea here is to get yourself into a good position and not die before then. Mana Leak, as mentioned, is extremely versatile and hits just about anything you care about in those first few turns. It also works well in longer games as a backup for your combo, especially when combined with an Ice or Spell Pierce.



To be fair, Mana Leak isn't great in a few matchups and gets worse the longer the game goes on. However, it has been a huge overperformer for me and I'll happily defend it.


Okay, but what about T3feri in the main? One word: Protection.


There is a ton of disruption right now that hurts Creativity. This includes both countermagic and instant-speed board interaction that can deal with your tokens. Teferi shuts it all down, allowing you to flip into a turn-four Archon safely and essentially win the game. I can directly attribute at least three game wins at this tournament to a resolved Teferi. It also doesn't hurt that he is a silver bullet against Cascade decks, which I anticipated seeing a lot of, and synergizes well with what your deck wants to do by drawing cards and bouncing threats.


Why is Inquisition in the board? To be honest, this could (see also: should) probably be another Veil of Summer. I slid Inquisition in because I thrive on knowing information about my opponent's hand. I also thrive on those little plays that take your opponent off guard. We can also chalk this up to a callback to my Grixis days. This is simply a personal choice and me living on the unpredictable side.


No Hallowed Moonlight? It's all the rage against Creativity, Living End, and Rhinos. That also means all you spikes bought it out everywhere. I planned on playing this in place of my two Dovin's Veto but couldn't get my copies in time. However, I'm debating this moving forward as Dovin's Veto was quite handy and works well against all the aforementioned decks plus offers flexibility in control matches.


Now that we've covered my unconventional deckbuilding, let's dive in!


(W) Round 1: On the draw against Rakdos Scam (2-1)

I opened the tournament against what looked like a pretty stock version of Rakdos Scam. Game one went smoothly. My opponent Thoughtseized on one and took my Wrenn and proceeded to follow it with a Dauthi Voidwalker the next turn. Interesting sequence as I had a Creativity in my opener as well and showed no removal for Dauthi. I went on to draw a fetch, find a Mine on turn four and Creativity for one, flipping an Archon and winning the next turn thanks to a top-decked Bolt. Interestingly, my opponent was unfamiliar with Archon and had never seen the combo before. This explained the opening sequence.


Sideboard

In: 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, 2 Blossoming Calm


Out: 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Teferi, Time Raveler, 1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, 1 Fire//Ice


Game two my opponent had another turn-two Dauthi Voidwalker, which negated the Wrenn I had in hand as my only fetch was exiled to it on my second turn. I had trouble finding a third land. I did take Mana Leak for its first spin, countering his third turn Blood Moon. I failed to find any action before my opponent could resolve a hard-cast Fury and swing for lethal into my empty board.


In game three, I once again had Mana Leak up to counter a third turn Blood Moon. He foiled my first Transmogrify by bolting an unprotected dwarf token. However, the next turn I resolved a Creativity, flipping into an Emrakul. My opponent took one more draw and then conceded facing lethal the next turn.


Record: 1-0


(L) Round 2: On the play against UW (Leyline Kaheera) Control (1-2)

This was an absolute gut punch of a round.


In game one, my opponent rained down counterspells for days. I attempted three Creativities, including one with a Spell Pierce backup. All of which were countered. I eventually died to a Wandering Emperor and army of Samurai.


Sideboard

In: 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, 1 Flusterstorm, 1 Mystical Dispute, 2 Dovin's Veto


Out: 3 Lightning Bolt, 1 Mana Leak, 1 Leyline Binding, 2 Prismari Command


Game two went much better. Though I was unable to resolve a turn three Teferi, I had a Creativity for two on turn four. This was answered at a steep cost as one token was exiled to a pitched Solitude and a treasure token was swept up by Leyline Binding. With my opponent down on cards, I was able to resolve my second Creativity for one a few turns later. After swinging with Archon and my opponent empty-handed, I used a Transmogrify on my Archon to get a second Archon trigger and cast an in-hand Lightning Bolt for lethal.


Sideboard

In: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn


Out: Inquisition of Kozilek


Yes, this sideboard was a mistake. No reason for Emrakul to come in without protection from Leyline or Solitude. However, I was inexperienced with this matchup and didn't realize that protection wouldn't apply. It became extremely relevant as I resolved a Creativity cast on two but and flipped into an Emrakul. It was immediately hit with a Leyline.


As we went to time, my opponent had one card in hand and I thought I had the game locked down based on my hand. I held a Leyline Binding, a Creativity, and a Persist (with an Archon in the graveyard). With three ways to get either Emrakul or at least one Archon on board and mana to cast them all, I felt confident. I led the turn with Leyline Binding to try and free my Emrakul. My heart sank as my opponent cast Hallowed Moonlight, not only negating this plan but also shutting down my other two routes to a win. I died the next turn to a Celestial Colonnade. Sad face.


Record: 1-1


(W) Round 3: On the draw against Mono Red Goblins (2-0)

I shook off the tough loss by immediately diving into round three. In game one here on turn four, my opponent called a judge over. I then found out he mistakenly left in his sideboard copies of Smash to Smithereens and reported it to the judge. Huge props to him for this as I wouldn't have thought twice or even known if he didn't play it. He ended up with a game loss, immediately moving us to game two. Regardless, I did have a Creativity in hand with two targets and a tapped-out opponent on the next turn.

Sideboard

No changes


Game two I kept a highly unconventional hand that I would 100% mulligan had I not known the matchup. It had three Dwarven Mine, two Lightning Bolt, one fetch, and one Prismari Command. On the draw with no turn-one play from my opponent, I led with my fetch, taking a few points of damage from a Goblin Guide (that got me another fetch) and grabbing a triome. I then drew a Mana Leak and proceeded to completely control my opponent's board. I ended up resolving a turn-five Creativity for two with 15 life remaining, which drew a concession.


Record: 2-1


(W) Round 4: On the draw against Boros Burn (2-1)

On the draw against Burn? Disgusting. I need to learn how to roll better.


Game one was a cluster. I opened with a fetch, another land, an Archon, a Persist, and three other cards. I tried to pull off something clever a la Legacy, skipping my first land drop to discard Archon, hoping for a turn three Persist. Instead, I died before it could happen. After all, that "fetch" turned out to be a Stomping Ground. It was time for another energy drink.


Sideboard

In: 3 Blossoming Calm, 1 Boseiju, Who Endures, 2 Flusterstorm


Out: 2 Shadow Prophecy, 2 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, 2 Teferi, Time Raveler


In game two, my sideboard came up huge. I saw two copies of Blossoming Calm, including one in my opening hand. This buoyed my life total while I found Creativity. With my opponent tapped out, this resolved. He then used his last two cards to deal six damage to the Archon. I cast Persist on my turn and got a scoop.



Game three came down to the wire. I kept a sketchy hand with three fetches but felt strongly about opening with a Bolt and Blossoming Calm. I almost ended up paying for it as Bolt never found a target. My opponent came out strong with burn spells to the face, getting me down to six life after patient waiting through the Blossoming Calm.


Fortunately, Calm bought me enough time to fetch my lands untapped to minimize damage. He eventually cast a Swiftspear, which I bolted, holding up a Leyline in case of Eidolon. Down to three life, I found both Mana Leak and Flusterstorm and we had a tense few turns of nothing happening. Finally, I drew a Creativity, fetched down to three, holding up interaction for a burn spell. None came and I flipped an Archon, putting me back up to six with Flusterstorm mana still up. This was enough to win the game as my opponent conceded.


Phew. Dodged Burn.


Record: 3-1


(W) Round 5: On the play against Dimir Mill (2-1)

At this point, I anticipated an intentional draw into the top 8 as my placement had already been locked with my third win. My mouth was already watering for lunch and a quick break. Unfortunately, I got paired down with an opponent at 2-2 who needed to win.


Given that he was playing Mill (insert puke emoji) I decided to play it out as best I could and try for higher seeding. Also, on principle, I hate Mill and will always try to screw it over.


Game one saw my Creativity hit with Surgical Extraction on turn one. After a slow game where I found Mana Leak to counter Tasha's Hideous Laughter, I was eventually able to Persist an Archon into play. This forced a discard of my opponent's last card in hand, which was a mill spell. Thanks to chip damage from dwarf tokens, I closed out the game with one swing and a hearty 12 cards in my library. We moved on.


Sideboard

In: 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, 2 Dovin's Veto, 1 Mystical Dispute, 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn


Out: 2 Shadow Prophecy, 1 Indomitable Creativity, 3 Leyline Binding, 1 Fire//Ice


Have I mentioned that I hate Mill? I lost game two to a pair of Archive Traps as well as two other quick mill spells that I couldn't counter. I also drew into Emrakul without a discard outlet. Both my Scalding Tarn and Archon were hit with Extirpate.


Sideboard:

Back In: 1 Indomitable Creativity, 1 Fire//Ice


This game ended up going to turns and was super grindy. Both my opponent and I stared at each other and didn't do much. I bolted a resolved crab as it came down. He pulled my Wooded Foothills, Creativity, and Archon with both Surgical and Extirpate. I found a Wrenn and started upticking, eventually creating two dwarf tokens. These chipped away while I resolved a Fable.


Finally, I had my opponent at 13 life in turns on turn four. I swung with my goblin and two dwarfs, bringing him to 9. I ulted my Wrenn, using Retrace to cast Lightning Bolt from my graveyard three times with three sandbagged lands in hand. I assure you, this felt almost as good as winning the tournament.


Record: 4-1


To the top 8 we go with a first-place seed! (And yes, I did get to eat in the break before top 8.)


Top 8

This wasn't my first time playing in a top 8 so nerves weren't a huge issue. However, I was super excited to get back to the table after about a 45-minute break.


For those not familiar, in the top 8, the player with the higher seed gets to choose whether they start on the play or draw in game one. This is a pretty big advantage and was cool to have given what happened in round five of the swiss.


(W) Round 6: On the play against UW (Leyline Kaheera) Control (2-0)

I'll start by mentioning that this wasn't the same opponent I had played in the swiss, though he had also made the top 8. Seeing two copies of UW control in the top 8 wasn't ideal. But I guess I have Spike to thank for that. You can see me getting wrecked by Spike in this video with a deck very close to what my opponent was playing.


I started game one with a stellar hand, including three lands, a Wrenn, a Shadow Prophecy, Creativity, and a Mana Leak. Much like my UW matchup in the swiss, I had to jam my opening Wrenn and Creativity as well as a Transmogrify into counter magic. My opponent played draw-go for the first five or six turns, leaving me no choice but to try and resolve something.



My first spell to resolve was a Shadow Prophecy, which drew me into a Fable and another Creativity. With my opponent down to two cards in hand and no board presence thanks to a Leyline hitting his Teferi, I resolved the Fable. I used its second chapter to discard an Archon and find... more land. With Mana Leak in hand, I went for a Creativity for one. My opponent tapped out for a hard-cast Solitude, leaving two mana up. Mana Leak for the win.


He hadn't seen Mana Leak yet, so I can't blame him for hard casting the Solitude and not playing around it as his play offered the most upside. Though I do suspect he held a white card in hand based on his reaction to the counter.


Sideboard

In: 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, 2 Flusterstorm, 1 Mystical Dispute, 2 Dovin's Veto


Out: 3 Lightning Bolt, 1 Leyline Binding, 3 Prismari Command, 1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker


Boarding out of almost all my removal in game two almost came at a cost. I was feeling extremely threatened by a 1/1 shark token for several turns. I eventually found a Teferi and resolved it, but chose to uptick, hoping for a better bounce target than the shark. We played another slow game in which I resolved another Shadow Prophecy and another Fable. My life total slowly dwindled to four thanks to the flying shark. The turn before I was ready to cave and downtick Teferi to bounce the shark, he got hit with Leyline. I couldn't answer this and was feeling rough with three cards in my opponent's hand.


I decided to go for the win with a Creativity and Spell pierce in hand after drawing Dovin's Veto. I also had a goblin on board and a treasure token. With Wandering Emperor mana up, I decided to avoid swinging the goblin and cast Creativity during my main phase for two. My opponent attempted to counterspell this, which I tapped my two remaining lands to counter with Dovin's Veto. He then responded to my Creativity again with Archmage's Charm. With only one land up on his side, I cracked my targeted treasure for blue to cast Spell Pierce. This was enough to resolve Creativity and flip into an Archon. Its trigger forced my opponent to discard a Supreme Verdict and go empty-handed into his next turn. He failed to draw an answer to Archon and scooped facing lethal on my next turn.


Sigh of relief.

Record: 5-1 (1-0 in Top 8)


(W) Round 7: On the play against Mono Blue Merfolk (2-1)

Interestingly, I had seen quite a bit of this deck throughout the day. Not because others were playing it. Rather, I had sat next to my opponent at the same table during three rounds of the swiss. I watched her deck run hot all day, taking down Hammer, Dredge, and Burn with ease. I'm not too familiar with Merfolk, which led to a costly misplay. I also had not had a chance to test my deck against it so I was unsure of what my matchup looked like.


I couldn't have asked for a better hand in game one. That quickly turned to shambles as my Wrenn was hit by Force of Negation on turn two and followed by an Aether Vial on my opponent's turn. A few uneventful turns passed, which saw a Fable counter by a flashed Voldarian Hexcatcher. With Vial on two, I went for what I thought would be a decisive play, casting Prismari Command to deal two damage to Lord of Atlantis and blow up the Vial.


As Prof says, reading the card explains the card. My opponent pointed out that Lord of Atlantis gave itself +1/+1 and I nodded in acceptance. Indeed it does. Chalk it up to inexperience with the match and being blinded by the potential for a huge play. This misplay ended up being extremely relevant as my opponent cast another Hexcatcher on her turn, leaving me one mana short of being able to resolve a Creativity before dying to her board.


Needless to say, after a day of crisp play I was pretty shaken by the misplay costing me a game in the semi-finals. I did my best to shake it off and took my time sideboarding.


Sideboard

In: 2 Veil of Summer, 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, 1 Mystical Dispute, 1 Boseiju, Who Endures


Out: 2 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, 1 Spell Pierce, 1 Shadow Prophecy, 1 Persist


Game two came with lots of back-and-forth interaction and went for what felt like hours but was really about 35 minutes. The first big play was my Teferi getting forced, leaving me with just two cards in hand. I had a choice next turn to bolt either a Mutavault or a Silvergill. I chose to hit the Mutavault, thinking I'd be able to force a sac of Silvergill if I could flip an Archon. I didn't want to end up dying to Islandwalk from a lord.


After a few unlucky draws from both of us, I found another Creativity with two dwarf tokens. My opponent blew me out with Echoing Truth, bouncing both tokens to fizzle Creativity and leave me with nothing but an Archon in hand and six lands.


Ultimately, this game came down to a "make them have it" scenario. I had six lands, including three of my Dwarven Mines, plus an uncracked fetch that had been sitting for about four turns. I was waiting to crack it for either a Blood Crypt to hard cast my Archon or find my fourth Mine for another Creativity. Sitting at five life, I drew a Sacred Foundry, giving me access to eight mana. I fetch-shocked my Blood Crypt to three and shocked the Foundry to one. I cast Archon and stared at four open mana. It resolved. The Archon trigger led to my opponent sacrificing her only creature, discarding to three, and putting my life back up to four.


On her turn, she bounced the Archon after some deliberation and passed. I cast Archon again and it resolved, leading to a scoop. Genuinely one of the best games of Magic I've ever played.


Sideboard

In: 1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, 1 Shadow Prophecy


Out: 2 Boseiju, Who Endures


Note: I had a sneaking suspicion that my opponent had boarded out of at least some of her Vial package as I saw a good portion of her deck without seeing one. I later learned that this was true as she brought in Grafdigger to counter Persist as well as Dismember, more Forces, and a few other spells. This was not a typical Merfolk list.


Game three was the best I felt in any of the games. I bolted her first merfolk and drew into a Mana Leak to counter the second. Next turn, she dropped a Tide Shaper, targeting my Raugrin Triome. I cracked my third fetch for a Ziatora's Proving Ground and floated a white from the Triome to hit it with Leyline. This was absolutely ideal.


I needed my white mana to cast a Teferi on my own turn after failing to find my fourth land. Teferi once again got forced. My opponent played another Silvergill and passed. I drew my second copy of Teferi and cast it. This time it resolved, allowing me to bounce the Silvergill and draw my fourth land.


A few turns passed before anything meaningful when my opponent eventually found a Mutavault. This led to me sacrificing one of my dwarf tokens on a block to keep Teferi alive, hoping to find a Creativity or Transmogrify that I could cast with protection.



A turn or two later, I found a Shadow Prophecy, which dug up a Fable and Veil of Summer along with three lands. I debated taking the Veil of Summer or another fetch to make a dwarf. Feeling some pressure from her creatures, I opted to grab Veil as backup if Teferi died. On my next turn, I found Creativity but played slow, dropping Fable to try and Creativity for two the following turn. I once again used a dwarf token to block Mutavault with Teferi sitting at two loyalty. She dropped a Syulven of Sea and Sky and passed.


Going to my turn I felt confident in the win. I upticked Teferi and swung with the goblin from Fable to make another treasure. Before damage, I cast Creativity at instant speed for two, targeting both the goblin and treasure. I flipped two Archons, leaving my opponent with an empty board and an empty hand. She drew a land and I swung for lethal the following turn.


This was an absolutely wild match that I wish I had a recording of. Probably the closest game of Magic I've ever played.


Record: 6-1 (Top 8 2-0)


(Intentional Draw) Round 8: Split double invite with 2nd place finisher on Amulet Titan

With this RCQ offering two spots for Anaheim, my finals opponent and I decided to split the two copies of foil Selfless Spirit. The store credit payout had already been split among the top 8. There wasn't really much to play for and neither of us felt like playing it out for fun.


He was running Amulet, which I feel is a pretty 50/50 matchup if we would have had to play it out.


Final Record: 6-1-1 (finished in first place on record with my opponent at 5-2-1)


Conclusion

This was a wild tournament. I felt as though I played very well outside of a few isolated displays. The raw power of Creativity and Archon is hard to understate. I expect this deck to stay perched comfortably in the top tier of the meta moving forward unless we see a ban or major shake-up.


I also expect players to continue innovating. My counter-heavy version felt really strong, though I'm sure it isn't the perfect build. I look forward to continuing to brew with it in the coming months.


For now, I plan on taking a break for a few days and then continuing to grind in preparation for Anaheim.


Cheers, all!


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