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The last time we had a Modern Pro Tour, Eldrazi ruled the roost. Eye of Ugin being legal with the medium-costed Eldrazi out of Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch made for some quick games, and the colorless tribe effortlessly chewed through the tournament. Because Eldrazi nearly ruined the format, and with players on the professional circuit complaining about how it lacked skill to perform well in the format, Wizards of the Coast decided to axe Modern from the Pro Tour in favor of Standard.
Well, with a handful of bannings and Standard turnout lacking, Wizards of the Coast ultimately decided it would be a good idea, both for viewership and to take some of the pressure off Standard, to reinstate Modern as a Pro Tour format. Personally, I'm very glad that was the case. I like Modern a lot, even if some games or matchups don't really feel "fair." I like trying new strategies, and I also very much enjoy trying to figure out the puzzle of the format even before the tournament begins.
At the Pro Tour, we saw a variety of archetypes, ranging from B/G/x Midrange all the way down to Lantern and B/R Hollow One. But for the most part, these were all decks we've seen before. Aside from Ken Yukuhiro's B/R Hollow One deck, nothing really stood out as something we haven't seen consistently. The Top 8 had the normal fare of B/G/x Midrange, Death's Shadow, Humans, Lantern, and a little spice of Mardu Pyromancer tossed in. Overall, this Pro Tour was a big win for Wizards of the Coast, Modern, and Magic as a whole.
But despite the variety in the format, people are still clamoring for bans. I don't want to get bogged down on the topic, but not every deck deserves to get knocked out for winning a tournament. Yes, Lantern can be frustrating to play against and to watch, but I think it gets a bad rap. It's no more annoying than Blood Moon or Chalice of the Void, given the right circumstances. And on top of that, like every other Modern deck, it has a few nightmare matchups from decks that see regular play.
Even though Modern is like having a thousand different dangerous animals all caged together, it seems mostly balanced at the moment. Most decks have the tools to interact if they want to. Most decks have ways to win virtually any matchup. And above all else, you get to play just about whatever you want. And people love it. So shut up about it.
With that said, there are some details from the Pro Tour that we need to go over. Specifically, there are two decks that I think deserve a lot more recognition, but I'm sure Gerry Thompson will cover one of them (congrats, buddy!), so I'll just go over the sweet B/R Hollow One deck I mentioned before.
- 4 Hollow One
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 3 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
I was quite surprised to see zero copies of Vengevine in this deck. But if I'm being honest with myself, Vengevine was the least reliable part of the original version of this deck. Of course, saying something isn't reliable in a Burning Inquiry / Goblin Lore deck sounds ridiculous, but it's just true. While you could put Vengevine into the graveyard pretty easily, getting it back was anything but. You needed to make sure you hit your first three or so land drops, and you needed enough creatures to cast afterward to bring them back.
Vengevine also made cards like Gurmag Angler a little more difficult to cast because you didn't always have enough cards to delve, but that was way back when I was using Cathartic Reunion and fewer overall discard outlets. This version of the deck looks way sweeter, both in execution and power level, even if it is a bit erratic at times. I think Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix are both more consistent and function on a similar wavelength. Both are easier to cast and reasonable threats without having to jump through a lot of hoops. And while Vengevine hits hard, I'm more than fine cutting it from the deck completely.
The start of the deck, and the sole reason to play both Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore, Hollow One is the card that gives you your most explosive draws. A 4/4 creature on the first turn isn't always going to end the game on the spot, but two of them should be more than adequate.
Personally, I'm a fan of playing four copies of Gurmag Angler here, but I assume the only reason to play Tasigur, the Golden Fang is because it costs one less card to delve. And, in some situations (especially when you draw two of them), that one card could make all the difference. I'm willing to give Yukuhiro the benefit of the doubt.
Delve creatures seem like a no-brainer here. They're big and come down pretty quickly with all your looting effects in the early game, and they're big enough to turn on Flamewake Phoenix, so that's a plus. While you don't have a lot of discard spells to take away the spot removal from your opponent that could potentially kill these big creatures, this deck does a great job of overloading your opponent's removal. If they have to deal with Hollow One, Gurmag Angler, Bloodghast, and Flamewake Phoenix, they will rarely draw enough copies of Path to Exile or whatever to kill them all. That means at least one, and probably more, will make it through to start attacking. And since your creatures are all relatively cheap (or free), you should be able to put more pressure on the battlefield than they're able to deal with.
I always wanted to try these cards in the archetype, but never had the guts to pull the trigger. Randomly discarding has never been something I've wanted to do, but discarding three is just the right number to turn on Hollow One. I suppose I should have given them both a shot, because Yukihiro's deck looked smooth as silk whenever it was on camera.