New year, new cards, same old tricks, but hey, new deck!
It should come as no surprise that Journey to Eternity caught my eye the moment I saw it.
Unless we see a surprise reprint of Viscera Seer, maybe alongside some kind of bloodthirsty pirate that wants to eat all its friends, we won't likely find a home for this card in Standard, but with the right support, Journey to Eternity could be powerful enough to create any entirely new Modern deck.
Journey to Eternity is extremely easy to trigger, if you build your deck around it. In fact, if your opponent can ever kill your Journey to Eternity, I'd say you're doing it wrong. This card is like Recurring Nightmare, an enchantment that your opponent should almost never be able to interact with using enchantment removal because you should always be ready to sacrifice the creature in response. All you need to find Atzal, Cave of Eternity is to resolve Journey to Eternity on a creature you can immediately sacrifice. Bonus points for additional effects you can generate from sacrificing your creature or from it returning to the battlefield.
There are creatures you can sacrifice in Standard, but nothing that makes it easy to get Atzal, Cave of Eternity onto the battlefield on turn 3. In Modern, however, there are a wealth of options, from reliable ways to sacrifice any creature to creatures that are excellent at sacrificing themselves.
What we're looking for is a sequence that can let us flip Journey to Eternity on turn 3, and we'd like to avoid simply throwing away another card to do it. Casting Viscera Seer and then casting Journey to Eternity on Viscera Seer and sacrificing the Viscera Seer is pretty bad. Casting Viscera Seer, then Voice of Resurgence, then Journey to Eternity on Voice of Resurgence and sacrificing the Voice of Resurgence is quite a bit better, because we're up a 3/3 (for the moment) token. Sakura-Tribe Elder is another great creature to send on a Journey, since the extra land it finds will help activate Atzal, Cave of Eternity, but it's not really clear what the rest of that deck would look like. Another interesting direction is using Insolent Neonate to discard some huge Griselbrand style creature to return with Atzal, Cave of Eternity, but again, you'd need to find a way to make the rest of the deck support this when you don't have all the right pieces.
Okay, so, it might start to sound like we're looking at a deck that's fundamentally trying to pull off Splinter Twin - sticking an enchantment on the right kind of creature, except instead of winning the game on the spot, we get a pretty sweet land. Is that really worth all the trouble? Well, despite bringing it up myself, I don't really think that's a great comparison. First of all, a really wide variety of reasonably costed, independently useful creatures will do, and second, three mana is a lot less than four.
Atzal, Cave of Eternity doesn't exactly win the game itself for you, but it asks so much less - Viscera Seer, and even Cartel Aristocrat, are more playable cards on their own than Pestermite. The idea here is to build a deck that doesn't rely on Journey to Eternity to win the game, it's just another powerful thing your G/B/x value deck can do.
In a way, this card is competing with Collected Company - any noncreature spell that works well in a deck with a lot of cheap creatures is fundamentally competing with Collected Company in Modern, because that card allows you to play so few other noncreatures. Compared to a Collected Company deck, a Journey to Eternity deck should have more interaction and a lower curve; there's a strong incentive to play creatures that cost less than three rather than exactly three, and you'll want interactive spells to prolong the game to give you time to get as much value out of Atzal, Cave of Eternity as possible.
Given that we want value creatures and sacrifice outlets, I figure there's a very good chance that we're looking at a Melira combo deck, but that's not required.
So, the baseline I'm looking at is a relatively high interaction Abzan value deck. The interactive instants and sorceries will be some combination of Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, Path to Exile, Abrupt Decay, and Maelstrom Pulse, with sideboard options like Dromoka's Command. Our remaining noncreature spells will be Journey to Eternity and likely Chord of Calling. As for creatures, we have a lot of options:
This isn't a comprehensive list of creatures to consider. Some metagames might call for a Spellskite or something if we're playing a lot copies of Chord of Calling, and there are a wide range of three+ mana creatures we might want for specific purposes, especially in small numbers, but these are the kinds of creatures I'm imagining - fairly standard Abzan Value creatures fare.
As for a specific decklist:
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Cartel Aristocrat
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 3 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 2 Renegade Rallier
- 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
This is a very conservative approach to building a deck around Journey to Eternity. We're playing a bunch of cards that have been successful in Modern. This is a disruptive aggro/combo deck that's built to play a fair game with outs to win the game out of nowhere. The combos should be familiar, but just to cover what's going on here, we have:
Viscera Seer or Cartel Aristocrat with Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap: one from each of those pairs allows us to infinitely sacrifice a persist creature, which will either gain infinite life or deal infinite damage, possibly while scrying infinitely.
Saffi Eriksdotter with Renegade Rallier and Viscera Seer or Cartel Aristocrat: This will allow us to sacrifice Saffi to itself targeting Renegade Rallier, then Sacrifice Renegade Rallier, which will be brought back to the battlefield by Saffi's ability, which will allow the Renegade Rallier to return Saffi, which allows you to do it all again. This will either let you scry 1 each time or give your Cartel Aristocrat protection from a color. If you add Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit to the mix, you actually accomplish something, in that you can stack infinite bolster triggers and then resolve them all when you've finished your loop to make all of your creatures infinitely large.
Chord of Calling allows you to find the missing pieces of these combos, and Eternal Witness, Renegade Rallier, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Atzal, Cave of Eternity allow you to consistently threaten to reassemble your combos despite your opponent killing your creatures.
One of the more exciting things going on here is actually the Fulminator Mage sideboard plan, particularly if you can pull off putting Journey to Eternity on Fulminator Mage, which will allow you to kill two of your opponent's lands and then you can start using Atzal, Cave of Eternity to return Fulminator Mage every turn to lock them out of the game. It's actually possible that that should be a maindeck plan in another kind of Journey to Eternity deck.
Abzan Value decks like this are pretty well explored, so what if we go another direction. How does Jund Reanimator sound?
- 3 Fulminator Mage
- 2 Grave Titan
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Griselbrand
Sakura-Tribe Elder into Journey to Eternity allows you to hardcast a titan on turn 4 even if you don't play a fourth land, and Insolent Neonate into turn 3 Journey to Eternity gets you to five mana on turn 4 from Atzal, allowing you to cast Liliana, Death's Majesty to return whatever you discarded. In this way, it's really helpful that the titans are huge threats to reanimate that can also be realistically cast, which is why I'm leaning toward them rather than Griselbrand, who may slightly underperform in this deck that can't immediately convert the cards to winning on the spot.
This is an interactive deck with a reanimator backup plan and a versatile sideboard. You have a lot of the core Jund elements like Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil, but instead of Tarmogoyf you have Sakura-Tribe Elder and big finishers, with Journey to Eternity to allow you to go over other midrange decks, and Fulminator Mage maindeck is like presideboarding against big mana decks. Your clock is slower, so it's easier for small creatures to go under you, but the sideboard offers cards like Anger of the Gods to address that and you potentially enjoy a large edge in the midrange "mirrors."
The real question is whether Insolent Neonate is too large a cost when you don't draw Journey to Eternity, and I'd suggest that one thing to be careful with is considering holding it to discard to Liliana of the Veil if you have one and you don't have Journey to Eternity, because outside of that, it really isn't good in this deck. It's possible that it's not worth playing or that we want a smaller number, since we can afford to not have many discard outlets because our creatures can just be cast from our hand, but I'd still want to experiment with the reanimation strategy.
Journey to Eternity is definitely powerful, the question is whether it has the right kind of power for Modern; the slow value engine of Atzal, Cave of Eternity is definitely not the kind of game I'm generally looking to play, but if you can create the right kind of game, it's a great finisher. I think a big part of using this card is going to be making sure that Journey to Eternity does something immediately, by going on a creature that offers an immediate payoff for dying to coming back. The other trick is just going to be figuring out how many ways you need to sacrifice the creature you enchant to be able to support Atzal, Cave of Eternity. Another issue with it is that it's the kind of card you'd like to play in small numbers because it can get stuck in your hand and doesn't really do anything you're interested in in multiples, but once you go through the deck building hoops of being able to use it, you probably want to be sure you draw it most games.