Modern is a sweet format, particularly if you like to brew.
Unrelated, here's the U/R Control list I played last weekend at Pro Tour Amonkhet:
I already knew I was going to be unable to attend the final Pro Tour of the year in Kyoto, making this less good of a year to try to make a run. That said, you never know when you'll spike a qualifier. Despite ending up a very middling 9-7, I was overjoyed to see my brother from another mother, GerryT, ascend to Pro Tour Champion Gerry Thompson.
While the format turned out basically exactly the same as MTGO the week before the event, there's no denying how excellent of a Top 8 this was. Christian Calcano breaking through? Eric Froehlich and Yuuya Watanabe continuing to pad their Hall of Fame careers? Chris Fennell, Martin Muller, Ken Yukuhiro, and Marc Tobiasch? Talk about a sick Top 8!
As for my list, Kefnet the Mindful didn't work well for me. I would have liked more Essence Scatter and generally just a little more for Aetherworks Marvel. Overall, however, I was definitely satisfied with my list and wasn't surprised it did so well in the Standard portion of the SCG Louisville Team Open, as it's actually a pretty solid choice for the Aetherworks/Zombies/Mardu metagame.
Today, however, I want to get into brewing Modern decks with Amonkhet. On top of my list?
Not only do you get draw-threes and Balances (hopefully not in that order), but you also end up with an As Foretold on the battlefield, giving you an incredible mana advantage. It's not just that you can make +1 mana next turn, +2 mana the next turn, and so on. It's not just that you can cast cards on your opponent's turn for even more mana utilization. As Foretold doesn't need to play spells with the exact cost (unlike Aether Vial or Brain in a Jar, for instance). As such, you can just cast future Ancestral Visions or Restore Balances without delay.
Here's an attempt:
Sram's Expertise doesn't work for us, as the tokens would only get in the way. Brain in a Jar won't work either, as it starts with one-cost spells.
Gideon is a very interesting card in Modern, particularly in decks with sweepers. It comes down and immediately contains Tarmogoyf or Death's Shadow or Gurmag Angler. Then, after you sweep the battlefield, you'll have a potentially game-winning threat that's ready to defend you the next time your opponent casts a threat. It dodges our opponent's Abrupt Decays and Lightning Bolts while dodging our own Restore Balance and Supreme Verdict.
Finally, the icing on top is its versatility as a form of disruption. I'm not just talking about the emblem, though that can occasionally be game-winning against some combo decks, like some Ad Nauseam builds. More importantly, Gideon can target any permanent, not just creatures. For instance, target a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and you'll frequently buy yourself a lot of time.
- 2 Ajani Vengeant
- 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 2 Gideon of the Trials
- 4 Nahiri, the Harbinger
Gideon is an excellent upgrade for W/R Prison, if only because it costs three. This strategy is notoriously glutted at the four-spot. Being able to scale back on stuff like Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Koth of the Hammer for cards that cost three is very welcome, particularly since there's a good chance we want Cast Out anyway.
While Cast Out does cost four, cycling for W makes it less likely that we'll actually end up with nothing but fours in our hand. We were already using Oblivion Ring, and flash and cycling are very useful additions in a deck like this.
Realistically, we probably just have too many fours to make Gideon's Intervention attractive enough. That said, I'm at least going to take it out for a spin. The potential to lock out combo decks with a card that also provides respectable defense against Tarmogoyf or Death's Shadow is pretty interesting.
It always makes me smile to see decks with Lightning Helix (or Incinerate) instead of Lightning Bolt. Obviously gaining three life factors into the equation, but the spots where the removal is good are almost always spots where we're planning to Chalice of the Void for one.
Sort of sideways related, could it finally be time to take Lightning Helix out of Burn?
Maybe Harsh Mentor is more of a sideboard card, but it is interesting how effectively it disrupts opposing fetchlands (which doesn't inherently make us want to cut Helix and Boros Charm; it's just that we're further on the way to having enough good cards to not need them). Here are a few other applications:
Here's an example:
There is some very real value in saving the life points from not fetching and shocking ourselves (every extra turn we survive, we have another chance to draw a Lightning Bolt). Nevertheless, I think the above approach is flawed. For starters, without fetchlands, our Searing Blazes are much weaker, and we're already resorting to Searing Blood instead of more Searing Blazes.
I mean, it would be one thing if we were getting more out of resource row in exchange. Unfortunately, there are very few ways to spend colorless mana in this strategy, making Sunscorched Desert kind of a non-starter.
If there was a red Piranha Marsh, I could easily imagine us being interested. Unfortunately, colorless mana just doesn't do enough.
While the fetchland trade-off might be close maindeck, I think the superiority of the white sideboard cards makes it really not much of a competition.
At least in Modern. In Legacy, there's always Price of Progress...
If I were going to play Burn this weekend, I think I might try:
Another option I'd consider in Burn is Soul-Scar Mage. It's mostly just a Monastery Swiftspear without haste, but it does have utility against Tarmogoyf, shrinking it with a Lightning Bolt after it blocks the Soul-Scar Mage.
At first, I looked at just slotting Soul-Scar Mage into some kind of a U/R Delver of Secrets deck, but those decks already have more good creatures than they can afford to play in order to maintain a critical mass of sorceries and instants to flip the Delver. Instead, we can take advantage of Soul-Scar Mage's actual prowess, including Seal of Fire and Mishra's Bauble.
Of course, whenever I see decks like this, it makes me want to go back to Traverse the Ulvenwald (a card that screams to be abused and has to be one of the most underplayed cards in the format despite its popularity in the most popular deck).
So, is there anything in the new set for a Jund Death's Shadow deck?
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Noose Constrictor
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Vengevine
Oh, I see.
A little different take on "Jund Shadow."Sure.
You don't think Flameblade Adept might not have quite enough enablers in here?
Yeah, of course, but is it even that good here? Obviously, it's cute, the turn 1 Flameblade Adept into turn 2 Noose Constrictor or Lotleth Troll into turn 3 Shadow of the Grave for the win. However, when you're not doing that, how much are you even accomplishing by getting back the cards you discarded? It's really that great to put the Bloodghasts, Prized Amalgams, and Vengevines back into your hand? What if you just played with Bridge from Below and Stinkweed Imp like normal human beings?
Dear God. What has the world come to, that normal human beings and Bridge from Below belong together...
Sure, that's definitely a nice one to get back with Shadow of the Grave, but that would also be true if you put it in a deck for people not currently legally describable as "deranged."
Umm, I'm having trouble seeing the connection between Faith of the Devoted and being not deranged. Is it an ironic one?
Okay, I gotta give you that one. That is pretty sweet. In addition to each land dealing four and gaining two, Faith of the Devoted could give an Assault/Loam deck a pretty reasonable backup plan, fueled with cycling lands and Raven's Crime.
It is nice having a victory condition we can dredge into, but is it really better than Worm Harvest?
While Shadow of the Grave is merely a cute tactical weapon in the Assault/Loam deck, it could be so much more. Discarding to Seismic Assault can be cool, but once we have it and a bunch of land in hand, are those really the games where we need the help? As for combining it with cycling cards, isn't that really slow? What we really need is a way to discard a lot of cards without spending a lot of mana.
There we go.
While we have to do some serious acrobatics with the manabase, this approach is kind of exciting. One of the challenges, however, is that we're only regaining the cards we discarded, not the spells we cast. As such, an awful lot of those cards are going to be land and creatures. It does give us a basically unlimited supply of cards to discard to further Ascendancy activations and red looting spells, I suppose.
Yeah, that is another possible way to use Shadow of the Grave, but I haven't figured out how to make a list that makes sense yet. Here's where I'm at, so far:
The use of Resounding Thunder basically assures us of victory when we drop New Perspectives without having to play lots of mediocre kill condition cards. A single Shadow of the Grave and we should generally be able to draw our whole deck. Since we cycled the Resounding Thunders, each Shadow of the Grave gets them all back. Kind of makes me want to just build around trying to exploit that combo, rather than drawing our whole deck. If we can drop a New Perspectives and discard two Resounding Thunders and two cyclers that untap mana, we can cast Shadow of the Grave and win without having to go all the way through our deck.
Vizier of Remedies has been one of the most-hyped cards of Amonkhet for Modern, and with good reason. It instantly goes into Abzan Company, doing the same thing Melira, Sylvok Outcast and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit can do, but also combining with Devoted Druid for arbitrarily large mana (which can fuel things like Chord of Calling, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Walking Ballista).
Here's an example:
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Renegade Rallier
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
- 2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
This approach looks pretty good to me, but it doesn't exactly call for a revolution in deck design. I am curious if there's any way Dusk//Dawn does good stuff for us, though.
On the front side, it kills opposing Tarmogoyfs and Death's Shadows without collateral damage to our creatures. Then, on the back side, it returns to our hand every single creature, instantly overpowering any removal-heavy attrition strategies. In fact, if we had a bunch of self-mill, like Satyr Wayfinder, we could actually "dredge" up our combos and the Dusk//Dawn to get them back.
I wanted to break Harvest Season.
I still do, really. It's just not easy (and could easily be a fool's errand trying).
The interaction I'm most interested in is with this OG.
Heritage Druid makes it trivial to play a Harvest Season for three on turn 2, ramping straight to eight mana, even if we don't have another land. It's also worth noting Nettle Sentinel's untap trigger is optional, so you won't get stuck with it untapped when Harvest Season resolves. That said, if you have the Elves, you can just Heritage Druid after the trigger resolves.
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Shaman of the Pack
- 3 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
At least we get to try Throne of the God-Pharaoh!
On the other hand, Elves wasn't the tribe getting the biggest boost from Amonkhet.
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 3 Lord of the Accursed
- 2 Lord of the Undead
- 4 Wayward Servant
Golly, there are a lot of aggressive Zombies in Modern. That is so many one-drops.
Even with this many one-drops, I think it's unlikely we're going to ever be in the market for In Oketra's Name in Modern. It just doesn't actually lead to a faster clock often enough for how low the floor is. I think we'd generally just prefer more three-drop lords...
...or two-drop lords.
While Wayward Servant is a big strain on Standard manabases, it's relatively trivial in Modern, particularly when we want to use Cavern of Souls anyway.
Of course, despite so many new additions, Zombies isn't even the biggest winner among Amonkhet tribes…
Yes. It is time.
- 4 Adaptive Automaton
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Loam Lion
- 3 Regal Caracal
- 4 Savannah Lions
- 4 Scythe Leopard
- 4 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Wild Nacatl
You can't win 'em all.
Most of the deck is pretty self-explanatory. The only really tricky one is one of the most skill-testing Cats of all-time.
The one copy of Brimaz is for matchups where you're serious and you want to make sure that your opponent understands this. While Brimaz does most of his coaching from the sidelines, when your back is to the wall, Brimaz will always be there for you.