There were mixed reviews. On one hand, the deck performed well in the first week of PTQs considering it was in its infancy and is incredibly difficult to play. On the other hand, people didn't seem excited after the article. I got few comments and likes on the article, and other than people I was in direct contact with, I saw almost no one playing the deck.
In this day and age, there are plenty of ideas out there, and people only seem to be interested in the ones that are good. The only way that ideas can be proven good is with results to back them up. What results matter though? Playtesting? Magic Online Daily Events? PTQs? Grand Prix?
At some point, one person decides that a certain result is enough to convince them the deck is good, and they start playing it. That might be the problem in Modern. If it ever explodes in popularity (and I think Modern Masters will help, but it will just be a start), then the format runs the risk of a Pro Tour Philadelphia level disaster where the format is infused with ten new combo decks.
Would you be ready for that?
I would hope not because those decks "don't exist." However, with a field full of turn 3 combo decks, some of those decks are bound to do well regardless of how unstable they are. Jund can't hold them all off by itself. If such a tournament were to occur, another round of bannings would likely take place.
My point is that Modern is still relatively unexplored because there isn't nearly enough people trying new things. There's no incentive to try to "break it" when they can play Jund and finish in the money. Somehow, Modern is going to have to work out the kinks or else there's always going to be another combo deck waiting for the right time to pop up. Basically, there's no reason Birthing Pod should be winning Grand Prix when there are a lot of unfair decks out there that people aren't playing.
Otherwise, I guess we could just form the Modern version of the Gentlemen's Agreement?
Anyway, this article is the beginning of a series in which I talk a little about some Modern decks I like a lot but won't necessarily have the chance to play in a tournament anytime soon.
As far as bucket list items go, this one's rather tame. It's been around for a while, so everyone knows the deal. However, not many people have attempted to innovate the archetype. Last season, I saw versions with Thirst for Knowledge, sideboard Timely Reinforcements, and Slaughter Games and/or Negate for the mirror and combo. Tendo Ice Bridge, Chromatic Star, and Chromatic Sphere brought it all together. Other than that, most lists look exactly the same.
The real unsung hero of the Tron archetype is UNPOPIN, who's been playing his version for over a year. No one else has really copied his build despite him doing relatively well with it.
What's so different about his deck? He effectively shrinks his deck size by playing Gitaxian Probe and Mishra's Bauble. There are a few important things to note about using his strategy. First of all, this strategy isn't generally used because it affects your mulligan decisions.
Imagine this hand:
Do you keep or not?
I would, but in a couple turns I have no idea what my hand is going to be. Formulating a plan can be quite difficult when you don't know what's in your hand.
What about a deck that doesn't care about its life total? Shouldn't it play Gitaxian Probe or something like Street Wraith? That would ensure that you draw your good cards more often. Then again, you'll get a hand like the above and have no idea what the hand you're actually keeping is.
The moral is that playing cards that just cycle are fine in some decks, like Legacy Charbelcher, but it's not without its risks. Charbelcher consists of 50-ish mana sources and some threats, so the risk of playing Gitaxian Probe or Street Wraith in that deck is much lower. Sometimes you end up with a hand of all Charbelchers and Burning Wishes, but most of the time it allows you to cut garbage like Pyretic Ritual from your deck. From then on, every mana source you draw into should make two extra mana.
Tron is similar. You have your obligatory twelve Tron lands, a basic Forest to fetch if they Ghost Quarter or Path to Exile you, a Grove of the Burnwillows and/or other dual land to cast your splash cards, an Eye of Ugin for the late game, and potentially a Ghost Quarter of your own.
Any land you draw past that is likely a dead card. Cedric Phillips and I disagreed about this a little last weekend. He noted that drawing a Grove of the Burnwillows early to be able to cast Pyroclasm is nice, which I can mostly agree with. However, you don't need or want four Grove of the Burnwillows in your deck, even if you do have Pyroclasms.
Without further ado:
This is a relatively old list featuring maindeck Wurmcoil Engines. UNPOPIN has since cut those for Mindslavers. Although he doesn't have an Academy Ruins to go infinite, a Mindslaver typically disrupts them enough to let you win later.
When testing for Grand Prix Portland, I went back to Pyroclasm and Relic of Progenitus, but I can certainly respect his choice to play all "big" sweepers like All Is Dust and Oblivion Stone. Cedric likes Oblivion Stone because it's better against Affinity (and a few other decks) plus you can play it early or sit on it later.
If you want to play Tron, I heavily recommend the version with Gitaxian Probe and Mishra's Bauble. I've played against it before, and unless you have dedicated hate like Sowing Salt, you're going to have a difficult time. I was casting Spreading Seas, using Ghost Quarters, and Remanding his spells, but he'd just go through a bunch of cantrips, eventually find what he needed, and bury me.
That's a huge upgrade from the older versions of Tron that are stuck drawing one card per turn and hoping it's good enough.
As I said earlier, I think this deck is pretty good. Since I've already written an article about it, I won't say much except that I have an updated list.
I was concerned with sideboarding in too many Slaughter Pacts against Aven Mindcensor decks and having them be dead or too slow. Gut Shot solves that problem, and it's a card I've used to solve lots of problems in the past, so I'm not sure why I didn't think of it sooner.
I want to play this deck very soon.
Is it strange that I mentioned this deck might still be viable and then someone made Top 16 of a Grand Prix with it?
Even though that person was Jon Finkel, I don't think this is another one of those "ham sandwich" theories. If Finkel is playing well, which he likely was, his deck would still have to be able to function. There is only so much edge you can gain by being a good player with Storm assuming you know how to goldfish your deck.
I'd say that Storm is a playable deck that is well positioned.
There's not much to say. Things like Pyromancer Ascension and Increasing Vengeance have stepped up to give the deck a little more power. Without Rite of Flame and Seething Song, Storm can't rely on redundancy anymore. It needs to adapt and pick some sort of engine to work side by side the storm mechanic.
For instance, I'd much prefer a list that looks like this:
The combo for those who are unaware:
Let the copy of Manamorphose resolve, adding G and R, and draw a card.
Noxious Revival is a fine card on its own, especially when your entire strategy hinges on finding and resolving a Pyromancer Ascension. There are cards like Thoughtseize, Spell Snare, and Abrupt Decay that can thwart your plans, but Revival gives you access multiple copies of Pyromancer Ascension assuming you are able to find the first copy.
Simian Spirit Guide plays a similar role to Noxious Revival in that it allows you to get a Pyromancer Ascension into play despite those cards. Against Jund or B/G/W, a turn 1 Ascension is going to make you feel pretty safe. Rite of Flame used to play the same role, but we can no longer have nice things.
Note that, like Jon, I much prefer Shivan Reef to Sulfur Falls in Storm decks. Being able to start cantripping on turn 1 is far more important than the miniscule amount of life you'd save by playing Sulfur Falls. Most one-land hands are keepable, so being able to play a Sulfur Falls untapped doesn't happen all that often.
You could even play something a little more controlling, like the Ascension decks from the Pro Tour Amsterdam era.
This is a relatively new deck, and it basically can't ever beat a Ghost Quarter.*
That said, it's pretty sweet.
I saw Kajarn play this against Conley Woods on Magic Online and beat the crap out of him while Conley complained about not drawing one of his four Ghost Quarters. It was a delight.
His deck is probably more resilient than you'd think. It might also be better than Storm post-bannings.
This is the payoff for the article. When this card was spoiled, others were talking about Elf Combo, but I wanted to go in a different direction. I knew that token generators would be incredibly good with it, and the two best options I found were Empty the Warrens and Genesis Chamber.
Of those, I thought Genesis Chamber was likely the best option. Empty the Warrens requires mana accelerants to be good, whereas Genesis Chamber needs creatures. Since your goal is casting Beck followed by some creatures, going the Chamber route seemed better than casting Beck followed by Empty the Warrens.
More people were working on Empty the Warrens though, so it was easier for me to find information and build a decklist.
The combo starts with a Beck. You play as many free creatures as possible and generate mana with Simian Spirit Guide followed by Infernal Plunge followed by Desperate Ritual followed by Empty the Warrens. Goblin Bushwhacker should finish it.
Spoils of the Vault finds Beck, but not without a cost.** A little over 10% of the time, you'll lose the game on the spot. However, if you're winning the other 90%, that should be fine, right? Well, this deck doesn't automatically win when it starts comboing. When it does start doing its thing, it will generate a large enough advantage that winning should be easy.
If you could win the turn you started going off every single time, things like Pact of the Titan and Pact of Negation would end up being quite good. It's possible such a build exists, but I haven't found it.
- 4 Frogmite
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 2 Salvage Titan
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Wild Cantor
I like this list more. While it doesn't necessarily kill them the turn you start going off, you will often end up with a board position that demands an answer. Instead of relying on rituals and Empty the Warrens, this build gets to play like the old Kuldotha Red decks and beat down. Whenever you resolve Beck, that's probably game, but it's not your main game plan.
One last thing to note is that Forbidden Orchard should be in basically all of the combo-oriented versions of Beck. This one doesn't have it because it's a beatdown deck and it doesn't like its opponent having blockers.
There are several other decks I'd like to talk about, but it's looking like this is going to be at least a three part series until I cover everything. I'm a little busy right now, but after Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, you can find me in the Modern queues on Magic Online.
*Fine. You can Dream's Grip it and then go off, but that's a lot of work.
**Note that this is currently bugged on Magic Online. If you Spoils for Beck, you'll die, which I found out the hard way.