Oh, how a month can change things.
Aetherworks Marvel got banned and people are catching up in Modern. I might be in trouble.
Zombies isn't the worst deck in Standard, but I'm a little more lukewarm on it than I was a week ago. Zombies isn't great against Temur Energy. The Mono-White Oketra's Monument deck doesn't look like a great matchup either.
That said, I might play it anyway.
I mean, what are my other options? Temur Energy doesn't look great because of the inherent clunkiness of a "Monsters" deck. Grinding out the day with B/G Delirium isn't where I want to be. B/G Energy is horrendous against Zombies but might actually be what I should play.
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Relentless Dead
- 24 Swamp
The maindeck is mostly set, although I wouldn't mind getting the third Fatal Push in the deck. I'm not cutting a creature, land, or Liliana's Mastery for it, though, so that means it's on the sidelines. I do think it's a good maindeck card in this format, but Grasp of Darkness edges it out.
I finally cut the Westvale Abbeys for good. Josh Cho has been liking them, though. They are one of the few things capable of beating Bristling Hydra in theory. Realistically, they'll have more power on the battlefield than just Bristling Hydra and you probably won't be able to race anyway.
The most important thing is to figure out how to function against Temur's plan of Magma Spray and Radiant Flames. Those cards on their own aren't game over, but when backed up by pressure, you won't have enough time to recover.
One way to approach it is to kill all their threats, which makes Radiant Flames a non-issue. Given enough time, you can rebuild. However, Bristling Hydra is nearly impossible to kill and clocks you quickly.
Trial of Ambition is what I'm currently looking at. To the Slaughter has more applications, but three mana is too much to ask. Trying to tag a Bristling Hydra with an Edict effect against the deck with 30 creatures is already ambitious enough. In order to set it up, you'll probably have to use a removal spell and Trial of Ambition in the same turn, making To the Slaughter's price tag too prohibitive.
Trying to kill Bristling Hydra with a narrow, direct answer isn't a good way to go about things, but since the other answer is probably "I lose," this is what I'm going to try.
Glorybringer is also difficult to beat, but it's much more doable. Overall, the matchup isn't great and maybe there's just not much you can do about it. I'm fine with taking that route, but there are still some sideboard slots to play with, so I might as well try. I'm confident with Zombies against everything else, although I wouldn't be surprised if there's a much better way to be doing things.
Modern should be easy, right? Register Death's Shadow!
Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
At Grand Prix Las Vegas, several players played solid decks with great Grixis Death's Shadow matchups, like Mono-White Hatebears and Affinity, and did quite well. If that trend continues, then things are going to get worse before they get better.
Grixis Death's Shadow is still great, but it's much weaker than it was. It makes me wonder if playing good old Jund Death's Shadow isn't better at this point. When Grixis Death's Shadow has a great draw, it's nearly unbeatable, and the same can't really be said of Jund. Despite that, Jund has more answers to the current threats that Grixis is otherwise weak to.
Playing Sultai is tempting, as the red cards never seemed great. In a vacuum, that might be true, but Tarfire and Kolaghan's Command both seem exceptional right now, at least against the decks people were playing to beat Grixis.
At Grand Prix Las Vegas, I believed the field would be wide open, and that proved to be true. For the Invitational, I think the format is going to be narrower. We can shift our focus from hedging to actually fighting the big threats.
I like Jund because it's threat-dense and has Liliana of the Veil as a grindy plan instead of Snapcaster Mage. While Jund and Grixis have roughly the same threat base, they aren't competing for graveyard resources like they are in Grixis. If you have two Tarmogoyfs, you get to cast them, but the same can't be said for Grixis and its Gurmag Anglers or Snapcaster Mages.
There is no Temur Battle Rages, Collective Brutality, or other nonsense in my deck. Yes, that might cost me some percentage points in some matchups, but I'm willing to take that risk if it means I get to beat up on Dredge, Affinity, Eldrazi Tron, and Grixis Death's Shadow. Dismember and a pile of Liliana of the Veils? That looks great to me, unlike Stubborn Denial out of the Grixis decks.
You might think that Tasigur, the Golden Fang doesn't belong in Jund because of the negative synergy with Traverse the Ulvenwald, but I mildly disagree. For starters, it's not like you're constantly delving your entire graveyard with multiple delve threats. Tasigur is simply an additional threat that makes for a reasonable Traverse target himself. There may be times where you have to delve yourself off delirium, but as long as you get to keep one or two of the more difficult card types, you should be able to rebuild in a turn or two if necessary.
Much like the maindeck, my sideboard isn't messing around. I'm playing mostly narrow cards in the hope of beating up the tough matchups while still having some game against the good matchups.
With five dedicated graveyard hate cards, I feel less inclined to stretch the manabase of Jund to include Anger of the Gods. Instead, I have Kozilek's Return for Mirran Crusader and Etched Champion, while Flaying Tendrils is fine against those but a little better against Dredge. Night of Souls' Betrayal is sweet. It might not be good enough to play, considering it costs four mana, but it does solve some problems.
Beating up on small creatures is a small hedge I'm willing to make, but only because I'm worried that people will continue to play Affinity. At the very least, it's more likely that people will play Affinity over something like TitanShift.
I actively love Serum Visions and what it does for these low-land-count decks, but I could take or leave Thought Scour. You couldn't play Grixis Death's Shadow without it due to the reliance on the delve fatties as additional threats, but if I had a reason to play without it, I would. Right now, that reason is Jund and Liliana of the Veil.
How much better is Serum Visions than Mishra's Bauble? The answer is "a lot," but they still perform similar tasks. Bauble costing zero is huge! It all comes down to how much filtering you need, and that's where Grixis fails.
Neither deck is interested in playing long games, so why are we trying to? Sure, Snapcaster Mage enables you to fight Jund or Esper Control, but do those decks actually exist? As often as I've played mirror matches, you'd think that eventually someone would Snapcaster a Kolaghan's Command, but it just doesn't happen.
It also wouldn't surprise me if I register Burn.
I've Burned people before, and while it's not nearly as good now as it was then, it's still solid.
In reality, this decklist is nothing special. Also, Burn hasn't gotten any real upgrades, whereas other decks have. Even decks that Burn used to claim as positive matchups are now much tougher. Everyone seems focused on beating Dredge, Affinity, Eldrazi Tron, and Death's Shadow, so Burn is mostly in the clear. Similarly to Affinity, that's what Burn needs to be competitive.
For the time being, I'm ignoring Leyline of Sanctity. Playing a Stomping Ground is a small price to pay, but Destructive Revelry is much worse against Affinity than Smash to Smithereens or Shattering Spree. If all you're trying to kill are Cranial Plating and Chalice of the Void, those are the spells you should play.
My sideboard isn't perfect, but one thing it is good against is Grixis Death's Shadow. The best way to beat Death's Shadow with aggressive decks is by understanding how their deck functions, how your deck interacts with their Death's Shadows, and what you can to mitigate that.
There are games where their best plan is to take early damage in order to cast a Death's Shadow and get their clock started. In other games, they may take a more conservative route and fetch basics because they don't have a Death's Shadow yet.
In most cases, they're relying on you dealing some damage to enable an early Death's Shadow. Your goal is to not play into their gameplan. If you can invalidate or even just delay their threats, you're basically going to have an easy time. Grixis Death's Shadow is great at presenting a threat and protecting it for a few turns. Once you take that out of the equation, they have little resistance and will eventually die to your Lava Spikes.
I wouldn't go so far as to sideboard in Path to Exile in the matchup, but I do like Relic of Progenitus and Ensnaring Bridge as a way to slow them down. You have inevitability, so figure out how to work that.
My lists are good, despite the sideboards needing work, but that'll work itself out. I'm more concerned with the fact that I see that both formats are ripe for someone to show up with a perfect metagame call and crush it. With my deck choices, I don't think I'm doing that, but playing "the best decks" in a field where you have a target on your head is completely fine if you know how to react to how they're going to try to fight you.
I think I'm ready.