I guess this is a pretty good place to start.
Decent second turn... pic.twitter.com/soyoLlWf83— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) February 21, 2017
Yes, I have a red mana floating.
Yes, I attacked my opponent for sixteen on turn 2.
Yes, my opponent conceded on their second turn of the game.
When I began testing for Grand Prix Vancouver last week, I tried a lot of what Ari Lax, Mark Jacobson, Matt McCullough, and I discussed on CEDTalks this week. I began preparing for the Grand Prix by playing some games with Eldrazi Tron. I've always been drawn to big mana strategies in Modern, and given my history with Eldrazi Tron at GP Detroit last year, I was hoping to recreate a little magic.
Unfortunately that didn't turn out to be the case.
It's not that Eldrazi Tron was bad during the games that I played. It's just that, ignoring a turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer, I wasn't impressed by anything that was really going on. The addition of Walking Ballista and Basilisk Collar was a fun new dimension to the deck, but in this world of Death's Shadow, normal Urzatron decks, and a bevy of other decks that were looking to kill me by turn 3, I was having a hard time being convinced that Endbringer and Matter Reshaper were going to take me to the promised land. I totally understand why people played Eldrazi Tron this past weekend, because when it's good, it's great. It was just never great for me.
Going 1-4 in a League on Magic Online was not!
Losses happen. Truthfully, I don't care about my win/loss record when testing for a tournament. During the testing stage, I'm just trying to figure out if what my deck is trying to do is even good. And I can safely say that while I was playing G/B Tron, everything that I was doing felt incredibly underwhelming.
World Breaker was garbage every single time I cast it. Most decks I played against didn't care about Wurmcoil Engine. And unless I had Karn Liberated on turn 3, I was so far behind that The Karnfather couldn't catch me back up.
Most importantly, I was being attacked from a lot of different angles and I couldn't cover them all because my deck wasn't proactive enough.
W/R Prison would go after my lands with Blood Moon. Eldrazi Tron would slow me down with Chalice of the Void on one. Storm would just kill me on turn 3 with the greatest of ease. Hell, I even lost a few times to the B/G Thoughtseize decks, an archetype that Tron is designed to prey upon. Perhaps the sample size was too small and I was overreacting, but I decided that big mana decks were not where I wanted to be for GP Vancouver.
Now it was time for me to find out if Goryo's Vengeance was for real.
The short answer is "Not really." The longer answer is a bit more complicated.
This Goryo's Vengeance deck is absurdly powerful. It does some of the most broken stuff I've ever seen when it's firing on all cylinders. From returning Emrakul, The Aeons Torn with the Entering part of Breaking//Entering (thanks Kari Zev's Expertise!) to beating graveyard hate with Through the Breach, this deck does its absolute best to get both Goryo's Vengeance and Simian Spirit Guide banned.
The problem? If the wind blows, the house of cards comes crumbling down. Badly.
People already pack plenty of graveyard hate in Modern due to Dredge's existence and Abzan Company's use of the graveyard, so any hate cards that did show up to combat those two decks – Rest in Peace, Grafdigger's Cage, Surgical Extraction, etc. – work here as well. Through the Breach and discard/permission help combat that stuff, but it's important to remember that your opponent is doing other things while also attempting to stop you from going off. And because we're talking Modern here, that “other thing” that they're doing is likely trying to killing you as quickly as possible.
As such, you don't really have a lot of time to fool around. You need to find your pieces to combo, hope to have it go undisrupted, and, if it does get broken up, you need to be able to reload and fire the gun again quickly. If not, you'll be reaching for the sideboard or, even worse, the match slip.
But there's also something else worth noting here. And I didn't realize this initially, but Ari did a nice job of driving it home on our ride home from the GP:
Griselbrand isn't even good in this deck. Remember the Grishoalbrand decks that did well last year?
Now that is a deck that abuses Griselbrand!
In Dan Ward's iteration of Goryo's Vengeance, Griselbrand is a draw-seven and not much more than that. It's easy to say that Griselbrand sets you up to fire your next bullet, but if reanimating Griselbrand isn't a primary bullet, what the hell are you even doing in the first place?!
And that's the question I kept asking myself when I was playing this take on Goryo's Vengeance. So many games ended with me getting Griselbrand onto the battlefield and it not being even close to good enough. Every game was Emrakul or bust, and if I didn't have it, I got overrun or outclassed.
Last, when your Reanimator deck is drawing dead to these…
…it might be time to find another deck.
As I settled on waving the white flag on the GP by selecting Eldrazi Tron as my weapon of choice, recent close orbiter of the sun, Anand Khare, sent me a screenshot of a deck he had been working on:
This immediately interested me. Having access to eight Burning-Tree Emissary effects was very appealing, and even though Hidden Herbalists added GG instead of the RG necessary to surge-cast Reckless Bushwhacker, it still allowed for broken turns if the deck was built right.
First things first, I had to get those copies of Dismember out of here. We're trying to kill our opponent, not interact with them. Lightning Bolt is a card, and if I'm playing Wild Nacatl, I'm damn sure playing Lightning Bolt with it.
Next up, I cut the copies of Manamorphose. Look, I get it. Sometimes Hidden Herbalists gives you the wrong mana. The solution? Put more green cards in your deck. Manamorphose is broken in Storm. It's a mana fixer in Zoo. No thanks!
I played in a few Leagues on Magic Online without a sideboard because it was late and I'm lazy, but I had some truly crazy draws that my opponents had no shot on catching up with. Further, my opponents didn't really have any way to kill all my creatures at once except for a few stray copies of Anger of the Gods, and I was actually coming out quicker than Chalice of the Void on the draw, thanks to Simian Spirit Guide.
It didn't take much to sell me at that point, and if I could play GP Vancouver over again, I would've registered the following decklist:
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Hidden Herbalists
- 4 Kird Ape
- 4 Narnam Renegade
- 4 Reckless Bushwhacker
- 2 Simian Spirit Guide
- 2 Vexing Devil
- 4 Wild Nacatl
I say I would have registered this version because my sideboard is a lot better now. At GP Vancouver, I played a lot of white sideboard cards – Rest in Peace, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stony Silence – that did virtually nothing all weekend long. I like this version of the deck a ton for SCG Indianapolis this weekend and I'll take a few moments to explain why.
For a while, I wasn't sure what card to play between these two. After playing a lot with Revolt Zoo over the past week, it's no longer a discussion. Narnam Renegade having deathtouch is so random but so important for being able to keep attacking against Tarmogoyf decks that it wins the slot almost entirely for that reason. Toss in how good it is with Rancor (deathtouch and trample are one helluva combo), that it can roadblock Death's Shadow (pretty important, given the results of last weekend), and can be cast off both Burning-Tree Emissary and Hidden Herbalists, and you've got yourself a 2/3 that's miles better than Experiment One.
These two play very friendly with each other. If you have both of these in your hand, the rest of the cards in your hand will dictate which one you want to lead with, but you'll always be able to play both unless something weird happens. The goal of this deck is to, more or less, dump your entire hand by turn 2, and Burning-Tree Emissary and Hidden Herbalists make that incredibly easy to do.
Always a part of your best draws, Reckless Bushwhacker is absurd in this deck as it either lets you press your advantage so much that there's no catching up for your opponent or lets you steal games out of nowhere. Never cut one. Never sideboard one out. Always hope to draw at least one.
Kyle Boggemes told me to play a few of these and I'm very glad that he did. I've already covered how well Rancor combos with Narnam Renegade, but the fact that it can be played off of Burning-Tree Emissary and/or Hidden Herbalists matters quite a bit. But the most important part of Rancor is that it makes all of your creatures a real threat against fair decks. It's not fast enough against combo decks to matter, but the fact that Rancor allows you to trade up with a card like Thought-Knot Seer is a really big deal.
Welcome to Modern! Where no one should ever attempt to play fair and that includes Zoo decks. The first time you cast a Burning-Tree Emissary or Hidden Herbalists along with two other creatures on the first turn of the game will sell you on this soon-to-be-banned Ape Spirit. You can't play more than two – trust me, I've tried – but the two that you do play are really good.
Vexing Devil is solely for combo decks and I think it does a nice job there. It's weird to see a 2/2 split of a card that isn't very good in a general sense, but it plays a role here and I think it does so nicely. If you want to cut it for something else, feel free, but I've been happy enough with it thus far.
Another recommendation by Kyle Boggemes, I was much more skeptical of this one than Rancor, but it actually makes a lot of sense. For starters, you can play it off Hidden Herbalists. Second, it's very good against decks that load up on Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt. I wouldn't be surprised if there's something better than Strangleroot Geist available, but it has been surprisingly good for me over the past week.
Patrick Sullivan would disown me if I didn't play a few copies.
A few things to note before I go:
1. The sideboard is totally up in the air. You have access to so many different haymakers across this color combination that you can play basically anything. Decide what decks you want to beat and play the best sideboard card you can against them. If you want to destroy Affinity, play Ancient Grudge and/or Stony Silence. If you want to destroy Dredge, play Grafdigger's Cage and/or Rest in Peace. If you want to destroy Storm, play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and/or Thorn of Amethyst. The world is your oyster.
2. Revolt Zoo mulligans very poorly. I keep one-landers a lot with this deck, as you don't have a lot of lands to begin with and Simian Spirit Guide is pretty bad on less than seven cards. Your deck is fairly all-in to begin with, but it only needs two lands to operate in most instances.
3. Figure out how you want to sequence your one-drops. The number of Burning-Tree Emissaries and Hidden Herbalists will dictate which one-drop you want to start the game with.
4. Draw Atarka's Command a lot. It's really good, so I recommend drawing it a lot.
5. Tarmogoyf is basically impossible to beat. Fortunately a lot of people aren't playing it right now.
I started 6-1 at GP Vancouver before taking a very tough loss to Burn (I think I made a mistake in Game 3, but I've talked to a lot of people about it and no one's sure) and then I got trashed by Eldrazi Tron in Round 9 (my draws were horrible) before dropping at 6-3 to play in the Sunday PTQ. Since I've gotten back from GP Vancouver, my worst finish in an MTGO League is 4-1 and I've got a few 5-0s at this stage. This deck is very much all-in, but most decks in Modern are. I've liked this deck's all-in approach, and I think it's a good choice for SCG Indianapolis until people decide they want to beat it (assuming people ever care enough to do so).
Just remember – attacking for sixteen on turn 2 is cool. And you want to be cool, don't you?