With Grand Prix Minneapolis out of the way and seemingly a stable set of Tier 1 and Tier 2 decks emerging, I figured we could shift our attention back to Modern this week. Specifically, there has been a particular card in Hour of Devastation that has caught my eye, but I have not had the time to explore it, and today feels like a great time to do just that. I will also have an updated list of my Intruder Alarm combo deck for anyone interested in that.
Hour of Devastation has plenty of powerful cards within it for Standard. Even many uncommons from the set are playing key roles in Tier 1 strategies. But to me, the set also has a big impact on Modern, perhaps not in the way that a multicolored set might with Abrupt Decay or Lightning Helix, but Hour of Devastation certainly contains plenty of Modern-possible cards. Cards like Champion of Wits could easily transition over into some fringe play and cards like Oketra's Last Mercy and Bontu's Last Reckoning are probably much better in Modern than they are in Standard.
As I try to do every time a new set comes out, I wanted to skim Hour of Devastation for any cards that might be able to update some of the Modern decks I have been working on. Usually this is a bit of a long shot, as a new set adds only a few hundred cards to a format with thousands, but as I said, Hour of Devastation seemed deeper than most sets. Surely one of my decks would enjoy a Nimble Obstructionist or Abrade, right?
As I am prone to do, though, I went in looking for touch-ups and left with a new body kit. Such is brewing.
For the past few months, I have had this As Foretold combo deck on the back burner. It uses Wheel of Fate alongside Waste Not and Dream Salvage to generate massive amounts of card advantage and mana and then eventually either decks the opponent or sends a lethal burn spell to the face (Cerebral Vortex). While the deck is pretty awesome when it works, I was struggling with increasing the consistency of the deck. As Foretold is such a unique effect that finding other cards that can occupy a similar space is difficult, let alone finding one that actually works within this shell. One card from Hour of Devastation might be able to do just that, though: Wildfire Eternal.
Wildfire Eternal excites me because, assuming you can get it through in combat, it is another means of casting Wheel of Fate while also just offering to save you mana on your more expensive spells. It costs four, which isn't ideal, but we are already a deck running a bunch of Signets and Simian Spirit Guides, so a turn 3 or even turn 2 Eternal is certainly possible. It has four toughness and avoids Lightning Bolt, while costing four actually pushes it out of Abrupt Decay range as well. Let's see if we can put this thing to use.
Now, admittedly, Wildfire Eternal is not the star of this shell. This is still very much a deck built around As Foretold and Waste Not, but Wildfire Eternal provides a legitimate backup plan and deserves some credit there. We are not going out of our way to make sure Wildfire Eternal connects with the enemy player. We have a few removal spells, sure, but for the most part, we are relying on the fact that Modern is a little light on interaction and creature combat at the moment, so there is just a good chance this gets through naturally. Even in the world where they are taking four from afflict instead, we can leverage that by going off sooner and that much more easily.
This list has evolved not only to fit in Wildfire Eternal but also to pick up consistency in other areas as well. Tolaria West gives us some more access to Wheel of Fate and we have also added a single copy of Ancestral Vision to grab when desired. We have added more Signets where there used to be Desperate Rituals, which I found to be lacking anyway. And we now have some interesting adaptations we can make with our sideboard.
Against decks without creatures, such as Tron or Storm, we can actually increase our Eternal count and bring in Hall of the Bandit Lord to assist in its trip to the red zone.
Against decks with creatures, we can bring in our three sweepers and look to slow down the game before comboing off. And we still have the tools necessary to keep a control deck or combo deck from having free rein over us after we bring in Thoughtseize effects, Nihil Spellbomb, or Defense Grid.
The fact that Wildfire Eternal casts the spell during combat does mean you won't be able to use mana made from Waste Not on any sorcery-speed options, but I think having seven new cards plus whatever Waste Not provided makes this play still really solid. Eternal even gives us a warm body to throw Whispering Madness onto as a small perk.
This list is still going to need work, but I am excited by the possibilities that Wildfire Eternal brings to the list. Still, I wanted to explore a list where Wildfire Eternal truly gets to have the spotlight on it, where we have tools to get it onto the battlefield and tools to get it through unblocked, where we are cheating on mana in a big way rather than just for Wheel of Fate.
Exploring Wildfire Eternal
Wildfire Eternal asks two things out of your dec building. It asks that you find a way to get it into the red zone unblocked, and it asks that you have some reward waiting in your hand when it does. Eternal itself is a four-drop, so looking at instants or sorceries in the five- or six-cost range is not as exciting as it could be. We could just find other ways to get to that mana point. The Wildfire Eternal in me wants to get greedier. After doing some searching, here are some of the instants and sorceries that give you the most potential value.
Each of these offers you a huge return in mana for whatever work you put into getting Eternal unblocked. Biorhythm will kill a creatureless or single-creature opponent, thanks to the damage from Eternal coming through. Conflux and Enter the Infinite likely set up some elaborate combo that you win with immediately after. Primal Surge, Sway of the Stars, and Dragonstorm all likely win on the spot, with the latter allowing you to up your storm count using all of your traditional mana. All of these sound pretty sweet, but of course the card that got me most excited is Time Stretch.
There actually is already a combo-ish deck in Modern that utilizes the concept of taking a ton of extra turns before killing you with Part the Waterveil or whatever else. The concept always intrigued me, but I have also always perceived it as not being unfair enough for a format like Modern. Other decks are beating you on turn 3 or locking you out of the game, so relying on Exhaustion as your primary source of interaction before turn 4 just never excited me.
That said, there is some real appeal in utilizing the many Time Walk effects of the format. I think you can all see where this is going. You see, Mono-Blue Turns doesn't get to use a sweet card like Time Stretch, because, well, it costs ten mana. Ten! But what if we weren't paying for that cost? What if Wildfire Eternal were doing that for us?
The concept here is actually rather simple: If you can get your Wildfire Eternal into the red zone unblocked and then take an extra turn with that trigger, on said extra turn, your Wildfire Eternal is going to be unblocked again. This means you can keep chaining together Time Walks without needing to spend any mana. This means you can very quickly get to a point where you have two or three turns stacked, during which you can essentially set up any end-game you want. Mono-Blue Turns needs Howling Mine effects to ensure it keeps drawing more and more lands as well as more and more Time Walks because it has to tap down for the first few turns to even stay afloat. With a Wildfire Eternal at the helm, you can spend your mana tutoring for more Time Walks or casting a draw-seven, so you don't necessarily need to run a card that provides your opponent with any extra cards.
Some of the common cards in Mono-Blue Turns actually work perfectly to support Wildfire Eternal. Untapping with Eternal and then casting Gigadrowse or Cryptic Command will tap your opponent out, allowing the Zombie Jackal Cleric to attack unopposed and then to continue doing so for as many turns as you have. We will discuss interactions a little more in a second, but first let's get a list out there so this all makes a little more sense.
So right away, you can see the obvious influence from the Mono-Blue Turns deck, but we have picked up a lot of cool toys that red allows us. Anger of the Gods is just a really solid card in the format and another easy way to get Wildfire Eternal in without being blocked. Izzet Charm is another solid utility spell that provides us some much-needed interaction. Remand loses some appeal when you begin running Signets as you often tap down on turn 2, but Izzet Charm maintains its value into the mid- and late-game.
Beyond those pieces of utility, we also have cards specifically in the list to aid Wildfire Eternal in its quest to cast Time Stretch. Hall of the Bandit Lord is a huge pick up in this regard. Being able to grant haste to a creature that only needs to get in one attack to win the game is crucial to competing against the wide variety of decks in Modern. We have two copies of Hall while also having three copies of Tolaria West to go find it. Those same Tolaria Wests can also find Slaughter Pact or Wheel of Fate, should you be at that point in the game.
Clutch of the Undercity and Razaketh's Rite are some tutors that serve important roles in the list. Clutch can find Wildfire Eternal on-curve or clear a path for one should you already have drawn it. Rite is a card that you can cycle away early and later on allows you to tutor up specific cards like your Time Stretch or Army of the Damned. Even if you don't have access to double black, Eternal will help you with that. Usually you will want to find Army of the Damned after you have stacked up a couple of extra turns, just to put things away quickly, but Part the Waterveil and Eternal can do enough damage with enough turns that Army may just be an unnecessary piece of the puzzle. We will pay attention to this during testing.
In the sideboard, I want to call out Break Through the Line, which comes in against creature-heavy decks and provides your Wildfire Eternal with literally everything it wants. Haste and unblockable is the perfect marriage and allows you to sneak past an army of Elves or a cluttered Collected Company battlefield with ease.
This list is certainly not in fighting shape just yet, but I am very excited to get in some testing with it. It both looks like a blast and I think adds some real value to a deck that is already fringe playable in the format.
Before we go, I have one more update for the Modern combo lovers out there!
For the People in the Back!
I am sure some of you are looking for a deck with a little more testing and some more confidence behind its engine. Fear not! For the past month I have been heavily invested in an Intruder Alarm combo deck in Modern that uses Beck // Call, Chord of Calling, and a huge toolbox to attack the format in a unique way. The list has been coming together nicely, and the results I have been getting back that up.
Recently, I have made a few notable changes. The first was a decision to remove Sprout Swarm from the list and add Zealous Conscripts in its stead. Sprout Swarm was sweet and an alternate way to win the game in the face of Linvala or the like, but a single copy with no way to tutor it made this less than reliable. Conscripts allows us to steal Linvala or any annoying card from our opponent while having the benefit of being a creature that we can easily go find. Zealous Conscripts plus Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker also goes arbitrarily large, so we didn't give up much in our combo department.
Our sideboard now contains Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, which I concluded was our best option against control. Stopping them from interacting on our turn is a job many creatures can accomplish, like Grand Abolisher, but Teferi is the only one who came with its own protection when tutored up or Vialed in on our opponent's end step. Four toughness is also a nice touch for whenever we have to pass the turn. I am also experimenting with a Selfless Spirit for these very same matchups.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Bonded Fetch
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Hunted Phantasm
- 1 Izzet Staticaster
- 4 Nest Invader
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 2 Steward of Solidarity
- 1 Thraben Doomsayer
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 The Locust God
- 1 Dryad Arbor
I will have a full write-up and breakdown of this list sometime soon, including detailed matchup analysis and strategic lines you can take. If I were playing in a Modern tournament tomorrow, though, this is definitely the list I would be taking.