I'll let you in on a little secret. In the past, I haven't been so fond of Modern. The last Modern tournament I participated in was Pro Tour Fate Reforged, where the only real change in the format was an influx of dedicated Abzan decks to replace Birthing Pod. Maybe I just needed a step back, but I've been playing and scouring decklists lately, and I have to say that I'm enjoying the format again. Granted, I haven't missed getting my face melted in the last three months, but so it goes.
A major culprit for this seemingly new taste of diversity is the card Collected Company. Further, the printing of Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Kolaghan's Command have helped to put Jund back in the spotlight and give new life to Grixis, whereas previously the two favored wedges of these respective strategies were Abzan and Jeskai.
I'm going to be honest. Instead of discussing a tuned decklist that I have meticulously groomed for the Season Two Invitational and Grand Prix Charlotte, I'm going to be sharing some brews. The truth of the matter is that I don't know what I will be playing in the next several weeks, but I have discovered some basic rules of the format.
- Tasigur, Snapcaster Mage, and Tarmogoyf are the premier threats of the format.
- Collected Company is not just a means to constructing a new "Birthing Pod" deck, it is a completely different strategy.
- Scavenging Ooze and Olivia Voldaren are incredibly well-positioned now against both the influx of creature decks and incidental "graveyard matters" strategies.
- Blue is at its best when your deck is making a bad Legacy impression. The velocity cards available in the format certainly aren't exciting, but they are still just enough in a format without Wasteland to shave heavily on land counts and play a super low to the ground strategy.
- The hybrid strategies of the format have merit. Diversifying against the powerful sideboard hate that is widely available to decks is critical for winning post board games.
- Goldfish and combo decks are powerful only if they are both capable of competing in sideboard games and through interaction like Thoughtseize.
Onto the decklists:
This list is almost more of a thought experiment than a functional 60, but it does a good job of illustrating how it may be possible to take what was a creature deck with an incidental combo, and instead, just turn it into a combo deck.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 2 Flickerwisp
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
I certainly don't mean to downplay my bias towards Rally the Ancestors strategies, but let's be real, it does everything here! Not only is it a one-card combo piece, but it is a built in attrition trump that lets us do a whole lot of rebuying with Kitchen Finks, Eternal Witness, and Flickerwisp, but in conjunction with even just Viscera Seer, we have the potential to dig deep into our deck or get a boatload of Anafenza triggers. The Chord of Calling engine almost feels like an archaic nod to the past. Sure, it made sense in Birthing Pod strategies considering the deck was constructed to have bullets up and down the curve, but we are focused on a very specific subset of casting costs now; why do we need to fill our deck with singletons?
Satyr Wayfinder may be a tad weak for Modern, but it satisfies our main requirements of helping to fill our graveyard and being a hit for Collected Company. It can also help us find Gavony Township to jump start our plan B.
The nice part of the package is that we essentially get to play no "bad" cards and get to operate almost entirely on redundancy.
Another fringe strategy in Modern that may be able to utilize Collected Company is hatebears:
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 2 Wilt-Leaf Liege
In the past, this type of strategy lacked the lategame power to compete with most decks if they couldn't establish a stranglehold on the game with their mana denial package, but with Collected Company, it may be possible to alleviate that issue. Perhaps a better direction to go with this list is just to abandon the Wilt-Leaf Lieges and instead opt towards the more value oriented Eternal Witness/Flickerwisp combination that can provide repeatable Ghost Quarter effects in the mid to lategame.
One of my favorite decks that lacks enough raw power to compete is Mono-Blue Tron. While G/R Tron has the benefit of having an incredibly explosive goldfish, it is rather weak to opposing combo decks or anyone willing to interact. Now that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exists, in theory, Mono-Blue Tron has a trump that they can accelerate into quickly that both wins the game and cleans up any mess left behind by the more midrange-based strategies. It may be possible to bridge the gap between the two.
There are clearly some concerns here in basic construction, and frankly, our game 1 matchup against Burn is probably rather pitiful, but any major resurgence in Jund or other midrange creature decks makes it appealing to ramp into giant planeswalkers (like Ugin or Karn) that those decks have little chance of dealing with. I much prefer G/R Tron's approach to finding a handful of important cards and closing out the game rather than messing around card draw spells like Thirst for Knowledge and Gifts Ungiven from Blue Tron's arsenal.
As I noted previously, Grixis is the current popular flavor of Delver now that Treasure Cruise is long gone. A mix of delve threats, access to hard removal, and Kolaghan's Command in conjunction with Snapcaster Mage creates a potent package. Typically, however, the best way to beat these Delver strategies is just to go a little bit over the top of them.
You'll be hard pressed not to notice many similarities between this more control-slanted version of Grixis and Delver variants. Most of the appeal here is actually getting to abuse Tasigur, The Golden Fang as a lategame option to bury our opponents in card advantage. As I touched upon at the beginning, Olivia Voldaren is in an excellent position right now as the metagame becomes more small creature-oriented, and being able to play both Electrolyze and Terminate covers many of our bases in regards to the mana accelerant Company decks, winning Snapcaster Mage wars, and being able to handle big threats like Tarmogoyf, opposing Tasigurs, and Deceiver Exarchs.
The removal suite available to Grixis is excellent, and going up the spectrum is highly appealing, although it is unclear as to what the optimal shell to be in right now is. It wouldn't surprise me if an even more controlling variation was well-suited to this metagame, but losing the ability to play a more velocity-oriented game to fuel Tasigur is certainly a huge loss, as it is one of your best routes to victory against combo decks and burn.
This current movement towards Kolaghan's Command has made it more difficult to build sideboards. In the past, there was a lot of appeal towards including incidental artifacts in decks like Spellskite, Dragon's Claw, and Batterskulls. Now this is far more difficult to do when several decks inadvertently have artifact destruction in their maindeck. However, those cards in particular are often most decks' plan against Burn. That notion, coupled with the general power level of Tasigur, has me interested in a different approach to a traditional burn deck.
This may be a bit out there, but in a similar vein to how B/G/X decks can use a few one-for-ones to set up a quick Tasigur, it makes sense that Burn would be able to do it too. This not only gives you a powerful and resilient threat, but it also gives great flood insurance. You're not going to have a bad flip, Tasigur will just keep feeding you burn spells until your opponent dies, so they have to get the game over with as soon as possible. Further, he is an incredibly potent tool against Kor Firewalker and other traditional hate. Another appeal to Tasigur and a firm mana sink is that Burn can not only traditionally have problems with flooding, but they can also get stuck on lands and are unable to deploy their spells in a timely fashion, a prime opportunity for blue decks to tempo them out with what would typically be their poorly-positioned countermagic. This increase in lands and being able to play a grade A threat are all nice bonuses against those problems while also giving you a plan of protect the queen and kill all their creatures against Collected Company creature decks.
What may actually be the case is that Eidolon of the Great Revel should be back in the maindeck, and Tasigur is a great sideboard plan to fight longer games out of the sideboard when facing hate, as Eidolon is what gives the deck some highly unbeatable draws in the first game, especially on the play.
I mentioned working on a Jeskai control deck using Dragonlord Ojutai the last time I wrote about Modern. It has evolved a bit.
This deck is almost cut from the same cloth as Grixis Twin, moreso than the old Restoration Angel-based Jeskai Twin decks. It is difficult for your opponents to tap out or do anything meaningful early in the game for fear of falling to the combo, only giving you time to slam Ojutai and begin the subgame. Conveniently, Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite are exceptional at protecting an attacking Ojutai from removal, making him a particularly potent plan B in this strategy. It's also nice that he is heavily insulated from Liliana of the Veil by your Twin combo pieces. Being proactive is the key to blue decks in this format, and I feel this may be the best home for the powerful Elder Dragon while also giving you the ability to outrace other combo and force them to play from difficult spots to beat both sides of your coin.
While Jund may be the level 0 best deck moving into the Season Two Invitational and Grand Prix Charlotte, it would not surprise me if I were to eschew the raw power of the B/G/x strategies for a more tuned version of one of these brews I've been working on.