Preview season is over. As I write this, the SCG Tour®'s elite are descending upon Columbus (and North Market) for #SCGCOL with their best guesses in hand for the Week One metagame. Cat Beasts will be everywhere, no doubt, but the question of what else we will see (if anything) remains to be answered.
I fully intend to talk about Standard later this week (foreshadowing!), but for today I want to show off some of the Modern brews I've hit upon thanks to Aether Revolt. I was pleasantly surprised to see the “this set is sweet” refrain extending to the older format.
A Different Kind of Token Deck
B/W Tokens has been the go-to build for anyone who wanted to go extremely wide in Modern. White was a given as the king of token-making, but black was included for cards like Zealous Persecution and Bitterblossom. Hard to argue with that sort of power level.
Bitterblossom is undeniably powerful, but what if we could cut out the second color entirely? White was already providing a huge power spike to the deck, and Sram's Expertise might be what we needed to push the deck over the top.
Shrine of Loyal Legions is a little on the expensive and slow side, but once it gets going, it can make a huge battlefield presence that particularly enjoys a Tempered Steel. I am not convinced on Midnight Haunting (it is mostly inferior to Lingering Souls, after all), but the instant speed does carry a certain appeal.
One thing to remember is that Spectral Procession cannot be cast off Sram's Expertise. Most of the rest of the deck can be, however, so the loss there is not a huge one. The only other card in the maindeck that does not work with Sram's Expertise is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and I can't see many people arguing against that inclusion.
The biggest additions to the list are Sram's Expertise and Master Trinketeer, which not only work well together but also play nicely with the rest of the deck. Trinketeer in particular is an army in a can and demands removal on its own. I did consider Hangarback Walker in this list because of the sweet, sweet synergies with Tempered Steel and Master Trinketeer, but with Path to Exile being so prevalent in Modern, that would require a different deck with sacrifice outlets:
I wanted to avoid easily-removed sacrifice outlets like Nantuko Husk in favor of more flexibility and security. Phyrexia's Core is a reach, but it's cheaper to activate than Miren, the Moaning Well. I am open to other options here, though.
Reinventing Living End
Several of my friends have had dalliances with the Living End deck in Modern, and I know from their cries that there is little they dislike more than drawing their copies of Living End. That makes sense; the deck draws a lot of cards by design with all the cycling creatures, and waiting three turns for the spell to come off suspend seems highly unlikely. So much do players of the archetype dislike the possibility of drawing the eponymous spell that people innovated a 90-card version with more cycling creatures and extra cascade spells in order to lower the chances of doing so.
What if we changed all that? What if we played creatures we actually want to reanimate instead of a ragtag collection of solid draft cards? What if, instead of dreading seeing that empty top-right corner in our draw step, we actually relished it?
The Expertise cycle lets us cast any Living Ends we happen to draw. While I will admit that needing to draw two specific cards instead of one is more challenging, we do gain access to both better card draw spells and more flexibility in other cards we can play, as we no longer have to worry about cascading into one of them. No longer tying our card draw to our creatures also means we can play the likes of Griselbrand and Iona, Shield of Emeria. We can also include the “I win” combo of Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Triskelion. Here's where I would start:
- 2 Triskelion
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 3 Sire of Insanity
- 4 Griselbrand
- 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
- 2 Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
- 3 Urabrask the Hidden
- 2 Xenagos, God of Revels
We might not need the Breaking//Entering in here, but the interaction with Kari Zev's Expertise is too sweet to omit. We could look at changing the manabase slightly to give us access to some enchantment removal in the sideboard, or we could just play Engineered Explosives.
Forbidden Orchard ensures we have a target for the Expertise as well as fixing our mana. The downside is not really a concern when we plan on killing everything within a few turns. I would love to find room for one or two Yahenni's Expertise in here as well as an additional way to cast Living End and a way to slow down the opponent, but I am not sure where the cuts should come. It's definitely a consideration for the future though.
Changing the Tax System
Surprise revelation of the day: I love Death and Taxes decks. While Mono-White is my preferred method in Legacy, I am partial to a second color in Modern where we don't have Wasteland and Rishadan Port to dictate our manabase. Up until now I have liked both blue (for Reflector Mage and Spell Queller) and black (for the Eldrazi Taxes build with Wasteland Strangler and Tidehollow Sculler) in the format, but G/W Hatebears has been on my radar for some time.
Enter Renegade Rallier.
The card seems innocuous on its face, and I have already talked about the value it can offer, but its addition to the format is just what I needed to convert to the natural side of things:
- 1 Eldrazi Displacer
- 1 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Leonin Arbiter
- 2 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Renegade Rallier
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Wilt-Leaf Liege
- 1 Saffi Eriksdotter
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Oof. This list is making me tingly just reading it over. Let's start with the “I win” button to which we now have access: Saffi Eriksdotter plus Blasting Station plus Renegade Rallier. Sacrifice Saffi, targeting Rallier, and then activate Blasting Station and sacrifice Rallier. Saffi's ability brings back Rallier, which then brings back Saffi...and so we continue. Having an “I win” button in a deck like this greatly increases the power level against decks that would normally cause it difficulty.
That's just one of the bonuses we get from Rallier. It also brings back Voice of Resurgence, Scavenging Ooze, Thalia, Qasali Pridemage, Ghost Quarter, Horizon Canopy, Selfless Spirit, and Martyr of Sands. Not too shabby a list! I guess attacking for three is pretty okay too.
Let's Start a Revolution
Remember when Stanislav Cifka put thousands of viewers to sleep while winning a Pro Tour with Eggs? Remember when Brian Kibler literally pressed a real-life F6 on camera against an Eggs opponent and left the feature match area while said opponent continued to cycle through his deck? Well, if you didn't before reading that, I apologize for reminding you.
Eggs decks have had two problems as long as I can remember: consistency and a kill condition that was fast and hard to counter. Not only do the Implements provide the former, but Pia's Revolution does a great job of being the latter. Either your opponent takes three damage, or you get to replay your artifacts for fun and profit. There is no good choice for the opponent while you are going off. Even if you need to crack a couple for value, they will not want you to get back the artifacts. As Eggs is prone to fizzling, the opponent will never know if it's safe to leave the artifacts in the graveyard and risk you cycling them all, so the decision is made harder.
The deck is still pretty cold to both Stony Silence and Rest in Peace, hence the prevalence of sideboard hate for those cards. There's also a degree of drawback to Pia's Revolution in that a savvy player will let you get your Lotus Blooms back in your hand, so some form of looting might help there. Faith's Reward still won't return them, but Open the Vaults will. The interaction is a bit of a worry, but by the time we are ready to cast Revolution, it's possible that we no longer need the Blooms. Testing will tell.
Implement of Improvement is not a good card by and large, but in decks like Eggs that need to just stay alive a turn or two more, it can be a bonus. That the card draw trigger will work even when we sacrifice it to Krark-Clan Ironworks is another bonus. The blue version, Implement of Examination, is clearly a better card but the three-mana initial investment might be too steep.
Pia's Revolution also has the potential to grind value with a pair of Myr Retrievers and KCI, but I am less excited about that potential combination. Workshop Assistant and Scrap Trawler also do similar things, and are both searchable with Trophy Mage. We can use the Chromatic artifacts to keep drawing cards, but the possibility of recurring both Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista to make tokens and/or shoot the face is what really attracts me to this second possibility. A rough list might look something like this:
Like I said, a very rough list, but it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Perhaps the deck wants Ornithopters and Memnites? Maybe Arcbound Ravager as an additional sacrifice outlet? Heck, maybe we want to try Thopter Foundry?
I think Pia's Revolution, punisher card though it may be, has a lot of combo potential in the older formats. Legacy and Vintage in particular would appear to be best-positioned to use it with all the dirt-cheap artifacts they have available to them. Maybe Affinity can even play it as insurance against sweepers.
Scratching the Surface
It's been a long time since a small set provided so many brewing avenues. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of potential Modern nonsense, and I've given you half a dozen decklists here. We didn't even talk about Yahenni, Undying Partisan in Vampires, or Gifted Aetherborn in both Vampires and Mono-Black Devotion. Rishkar, Peema Renegade probably has some crazy interactions beyond the obvious “slots into Elves” one. Indomitable Creativity is asking to be broken too. So many cards, so little brain bandwidth!
Okay, before I get carried away, I am going to call it for today. I will be back later this week to talk about some Standard applications in the light of the weekend's results. As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB, where Lansdell's Always Brewing. Until next time...Brew On!