At the time of writing, I don't know the results of the SCG Tour® stop in Dallas this past weekend, so I don't want to speculate too much on a Standard format that's known information by now. Instead, I'll go over a bit of what I've discovered this past week regarding Ixalan Limited and some cool Modern decks that piqued my interest.
The Tricks of Ixalan Limited
Every Limited format will have combat tricks for people to get used to. These include pump spells like Giant Growth, removal spells, and flash creatures…basically anything that's useful after either attackers or blockers are declared.
I won't go down the entire Ixalan card list saying, "Remember this!" Instead these are some instances you should pay attention to.
You can always see the cards on the battlefield. Drafting more and more proficiently takes time. Learning the initial important tricks is always my first step for improving in a format.
Leaving one white mana up:
These all cost one white mana, meaning it's likely the opponent has a combat trick if they're leaving up a single white mana. Vampire's Zeal is the most likely. I believe it to be the strongest of the three because it wins more combat scenarios than the others.
I wouldn't go too far out there trying to play around a one-mana combat trick. It's likely going to trade up on mana for whatever creature you're losing in combat.
I try to seed the idea into my opponent's head that I have a one-white-mana trick when I don't, like leaving the Plains untapped when I'm casting a three-mana spell and four total lands.
Not activating a Duskborne Skymarcher and purposely missing a point could pay off as an investment. Tradeoffs like this are hard to quantify and even harder to gather the courage to pull off. After all, it looks pretty foolish if it doesn't work out. These are the plays I play Magic for.
The opponent passing with five mana up is always suspicious. In Ixalan there are several at five, meaning the likelihood that a trick is lurking is higher than usual. Most of these punish attacking too.
Running a 3/3 headfirst into Snapping Sailback and then having to deal with a 5/5 is a huge tempo swing. If a green deck leaves up five mana, you're better off not attacking your single small creature into the possibility of Snapping Sailback. Chances are they have it or the few points won't matter. The opponent will cast Snapping Sailback almost assuredly at the end of your turn.
If they don't cast the Sailback and have that mana, then they had Bright Reprisal. Dark Nourishment and Unfriendly Fire will be cast if there's a reasonable target. Wind Strider will be cast just like the Snapping Sailback.
Don't get wrecked:
You really gotta run headfirst into Settle to Wreckage once to learn how hot fire really is. It's the card that will singlehandedly take the wind out of your sails. Going from attacking for lethal to no battlefield presence is catastrophic.
The good news is Settle the Wreckage is much worse after you've seen it once or are playing your Ixalan Limited matches while mindful of it. If you don't make an attack worthwhile of the opponent casting Settle the Wreckage then they don't have much choice other than to not cast it and repeat the process next turn.
Coughing Up Modern Treats
Endless Horizons can take every land out of your deck, since they're all Plains. Afterwards, Goblin Charbelcher will flip you deck, leaving your opponent a splat on the wall. Turns out that approximately 30 damage is usually enough.
The rest of the deck is your basic W/U Control deck with a few "pillow fort" elements.
Endless Horizons is an enchantment that's not only part of your win condition but also a source of card advantage and even color fixing. After you're leaning on enchantments, it's not hard to add a few more and move all the way up to Sphere of Safety.
Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety really lock down anything resembling a go-wide strategy, while Journey to Nowhere is knocking off creatures more directly. Spreading Seas is a great card in Modern as-is and helps buy time against decks like Tron or Titanshift. Luminarch Ascension is another sweet win condition to start activating once you're safe and snug in your pillow fort.
U/W Charbelcher looks great against a creature-heavy field, at least the way it's built now. It's durdly like G/W Company and preys on the same decks. Having a combo kill, not relying on creatures, and having access to countermagic are all appealing features here.
What's That Little Metal Bug Morphing Into?
We've seen Polymorph decks before. They play creature-lands or spells that create creatures like Raise the Alarm. This leaves your deck with only one creature to get, in this case the biggest and baddest of them all: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Sadly, the Polymorph decks ran into an issue of consistency. Without Ponder and Preordain, the deck had to spend too much time spinning its wheels. Mass Polymorph was too expensive. A side plan of countermagic and planeswalkers is fine an all, but not really why you're playing the deck in the first place.
The combination of Umbral Mantle and Training Grounds with a creature that can tap to add mana creates a loop. You now have an arbitrarily large creature to pound the opponent with. Fortunately, all of the creature-lands you want to use naturally tap for mana. You can't "go off" this way the turn you play the creature-land due to summoning sickness, and you couldn't attack with said creature anyway if you wanted to.
Being a mono-blue deck has its perks, particularly mana consistency. You can run eight colorless lands with little worry. You don't have to play painful fetchlands. I wonder how often this deck just beats down with those lands for the win? A reckless Death's Shadow opponent, perhaps? Definitely non-zero.
Thalia's Lancers and Legendary Planeswalkers
The new rules change making all planeswalkers legendary has some cool ramifications. For Modern, the card that's gotten the most attention has been Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper.
Thalia's Lancers now has the ability to search up planeswalkers too. If Thalia's Lancers weren't rotating out of Standard the same time as the rules change, I think we'd see more wheels turning to make planeswalker fetch happen. A brewer that goes by dschidi from Magic-League has been working diligently to slot Thalia's Lancers into Modern.
You've heard of Mono-Green Tron. Now get ready for…
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Thalia's Lancers
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
This deck has a lot of the same power of a typical Tron deck with a huge toolbox package. Thalia's Lancers can bring forth any number of big unbeatable threats to take care of the given situation. In a pinch, Thalia's Lancers can even get a land like Geier Reach Sanitarium or Eiganjo Castle, since they're both legendary too.
You won't be assembling Tron as quickly or as often as the green-based Tron decks do, since you don't have Ancient Stirrings or Sylvan Scrying. This hasn't been a problem with Eldrazi Tron, and Mono-White Tron takes a page out of their book by playing more midrange cards like Solemn Simulacrum and Thalia's Lancers.
A little rough around the edges, but I like the direction this deck is going.
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 2 Boros Reckoner
- 2 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Thalia's Lancers
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Linvala, the Preserver
- 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Gideon of the Trials
- 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 2 Karn Liberated
- 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
This Mono-White Devotion deck is making the most out of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx by running tons of white permanents. including Fieldmist Borderpost, Wildfield Borderpost, and four maindeck Leyline of Sanctity.
Leyline of Sanctity already colds a significant portion of Modern and this deck looks to get a big bang for its buck on the investment. Those Borderposts work great with Knight of the White Orchid, keeping your land count low for its trigger.
The rest of the deck is filled with midrange elements and a tutor package of planeswalkers and legendary creatures. When you already have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, your Thalia's Lancers finds the threat you need. Without Nykthos, you go ahead and search that up instead.
The artifact package could put you into the crosshairs of Affinity splash damage, but with so many two-for-ones loaded into the deck, I don't know if you even care.
"Tom, Are Any of These Decks Playable?"
As they stand, they can all use a little elbow grease before they could take down a tournament like the Modern Open in Charlotte next month. They're all using unique strategies that your opponents assuredly won't have much experience playing against.
Of them, I like the Mono-Blue Polymorph deck and the Mono-White Tron decks the most. I have a soft spot for the single-color strategies that play a huge pile of basic lands.
With two weeks to go, I think I can figure out something. That is, unless I want to register a pile of basic Swamps again.