The Baltimore Modern Open starts tomorrow. Counters Company had a great showing last weekend in Louisville, finishing second in the Open in the hands of Andrew Maine, and crushing the Classic, finishing first, second and fourth with Brad Carpenter taking home the gold.
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 2 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Viscera Seer
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Such a breakout performance by any deck should be alarming. In this case, Counters Company is another turn 3 combo deck that people weren't yet ready for. I expect #SCGBALT to have a significant number of Counters Company pilots. While Modern is quite the wide format, it would behoove you to at least become familiar with how Counters Company operates and adjust your deck slightly in response to it.
How Does It Work?
Counters Company combines Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies. The cost of activating Devoted Druid is reduced to...nothing once you have Vizier of Remedies on the battlefield. The result is infinite green mana.
Wait, what's that? I can't say infinite anymore? [Copy Editor's Note: No.]
But… I love me some infinite. "I go inf." "Make infy mana."
Sorry, Tom, now it's an Arbitrarily Large Amount Of Mana. That's eleven syllables! More than I can count on my fingers. I have to go to my toes. I know it's not "literally" infinite. Maybe we can shorten "Arbitrarily Large Amount Of Mana" to something reasonable. Alaom? That's close to Alamo which would be a cool acronym. Arb? Arby?
"I make arby mana. Then you die. Eat it."
Vizier of Remedies replaces Melira, Sylvok Outcast and, to a lesser extent, some number of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. Placing a -1/-1 counter on Devoted Druid is a cost that Melira, Sylvok Outcast didn't allow. Vizier of Remedies simply reduces the cost to zero. Think of it as previously costing one mana and now it costs zero.
Vizier of Remedies works with Kitchen Finks to persist back with no -1/-1 counter. This allows the traditional pairing with Viscera Seer to gain your arby life while scrying your deck. Murderous Redcap is eschewed for win conditions that go well with a ton of mana, like Walking Ballista.
- Counters Company must untap with Devoted Druid before using its activated ability. This usually leaves a window to remove it.
- Removing Vizier of Remedies in the middle of the opponent going off with Devoted Druid won't work, even with an untap of Devoted Druid on the stack. They can stack a bunch of untaps at no cost, all to resolve once the Vizier of Remedies eventually gets removed.
- Vizier of Remedies does stack. Two Vizier of Remedies prevent two -1/-1 counters from being placed onto a creature. This is relevant for cards with wither or infect. This likely will only affect me and no one else in the world.
So what's the best way to attack Counters Company? Let's look at some decks I'm considering for #SCGBALT.
It was up in the air whether Modern Burn would have room for Harsh Mentor. It takes up some of the space that Eidolon of the Great Revel occupies. Still, in Modern, where fetchlands are so prevalent, Harsh Mentor ought to do at least something in any matchup. The tipping point may just be Counters Company and its reliance on either Devoted Druid or Viscera Seer to go off. Harsh Mentor is only a temporary fix to arby life from Kitchen Finks, Viscera Seer, and Vizier of Remedies, as it's a net neutral exchange of two damage for two life, but that's something.
Of course, Harsh Mentor is doing other things, like affecting Ghoulcaller's Bell or Arcbound Ravager. It's all about getting reasonable mileage of Harsh Mentor. How Modern looks at any given time determines its playability. But, at the end of the day, you still have a 2/2 for two to attack with.
As the old saying goes: "There's no fail rate on Grizzly Bears."
Searing Blaze is just awesome when one of the decks to beat is full of creatures with three or less toughness. I've always felt the Searing effects to be one of the biggest draws to Modern Burn. When they're good, I'm interested in the deck; otherwise it's a slower, but consistent combo deck.
If I wanted a combo deck with creatures, I know where to look...
Infect has been largely dismissed as being Modern-unplayable. This is a function of Fatal Push being so good and the popularity of Death's Shadow decks. It can be annoying seeing an opponent put themselves to four life and your creatures not be able to punish them for it.
Infect likes to play against decks with very little interaction. Counters Company is packed with moving parts and doesn't have room for much creature removal.
It also may seem intuitive that the deck packing four Vizier of Remedies would naturally roadblock Infect creatures. In truth, an attacking Glistener Elf will be backed up with a pump spell of some sort and will kill off whatever is blocking it. Vizier of Remedies isn't nearly as bad as Melira, Sylvok Outcast was. Infecting players is what you need to be doing.
The main draw of Infect for me right now is how good Twisted Image is against Counters Company.
Every Counters Company deck plays at least ten creatures with zero power. Some even have a Spellskite too. Twisted Image was secretly one of the best cards against the old Abzan Company decks just to remove mana creatures, including Wall of Roots, and of course the problematic Spellskite.
Twisted Image is an awesome two-for-one for a deck that very rarely has access to any kind of card advantage like that. It may be strange for two maindeck copies of a card that "only" really kills a mana creature to get me back on board with the consensus-unplayable Infect strategy. Any excuse is good for me.
If the Modern metagame shakes out in a certain way, Infect could be great again, like if Tron rises to squish these G/W decks or Ad Nauseam picks up.
Speaking of Tron...
G/R Tron is dialing it back several steps… years, even. Lately, G/W Tron and G/B Tron, packing Path to Exile and Fatal Push, respectively, have been favored over access to red sweepers like Pyroclasm and Kozilek's Return. Now, with Counters Company having a "go-wide" nature to it, I can see G/R Tron being a good choice.
Much of the appeal to splashing red is Grove of the Burnwillows. It will always enter the battlefield untapped and always produce the mana you need. Giving the opponent life rarely matters when you're winning with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or getting them to submit under Karn Father or Uncle Ugin.
Grove of the Burnwillows is actually beneficial to fighting off Death's Shadow. The lifegain is attached to a mana ability, too, so they can't even fetch or Tarfire themselves or whatever if they're at twelve life with a 1/1 Death's Shadow on the battlefield.
Pyroclasm wants to get any two creatures, really. Don't be greedy. Just Devoted Druid is probably enough, but great if it nabs a Birds of Paradise too. Combined with Relic of Progenitus, Pyroclasm can get more creatures like Tarmogoyf, Kitchen Finks, or Knight of the Reliquary.
If you want to be in the "join 'em" rather than "beat 'em" camp, this is what I'd do.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 1 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 3 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Counters Company has a small problem of overloading its deck with mopey creatures like Walking Ballista, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Viscera Seer. Moving into Naya over Abzan brings two big cards: Nahiri, the Harbinger and Kessig Wolf Run.
With Nahiri, the Harbinger comes Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as the finisher. It can eventually be found with Duskwatch Recruiter and ought to end the game on the spot like Walking Ballista or Rhonas the Indomitable would. Nahiri also does work as some portion of a removal spell with her -2 exile ability. The filtering with the +2 can pitch lands (for Knight of the Reliquary) or redundant combo pieces for more gas.
Knight of the Reliquary is a great hit off Collected Company that can bring Kessig Wolf Run to dump mana into. It also comes with some value lands like Horizon Canopy, Ghost Quarter, and Gavony Township. Three colorless lands may be a lot, but 23 lands is a touch more than other builds. It's also higher on four-drops, so there are more generic mana symbols overall in this deck.
The Linvala, Keeper of Silence shuts off opposing creature-combo decks while just being a good card in general. It's tough to fetch up with Chord of Calling and isn't a hit from Collected Company, but it's pretty good to naturally draw. A Harsh Mentor in the sideboard is cheaper and comes off Collected Company as another card that's good in the mirror.
Maybe I'm overestimating the threat of Counters Company going into Baltimore. It does look like a perfect storm to be the breakout deck of the weekend. It performed great last weekend, looks fun to play, and wins games quickly. Most people still won't see it coming.
Devoted Druid, a common, now being priced at $10 is also a red flag. I don't know about you, but I'm coming prepared.