This week I decided to dip my toe into Modern. Since the release of Dark Ascension Dan Unwin's been talking about evolving his U/B Delver deck by splashing white for Lingering Souls. This addition makes a ton of sense whichever way you slice it. One of the problems with the initial list is that it wasn't fast enough to outmatch the dedicated midgame decks. Jund could kill your active Delver or Bob and outmatch your Spell Snares and Smothers with Bloodbraid Elves and Kitchen Finks. The U/W/R Delver decks that sprung up also had plenty of burn-based answers and asked some difficult questions between Isochron Scepter and Geist of Saint Traft.
It turns out Lingering Souls is exactly what you need in the battle for midgame supremacy. It's the trump in the mirror or quasi-mirror—any deck that runs Delver and a bunch of efficient answers struggles with the inherent two-for-one. It lets you actually beat Jund in a fair fight. I've had multiple games where Lingering Souls + Creeping Tar Pit outraced solid Jund draws even when I cast only one or two other spells. It's also great against Affinity otherwise a very difficult matchup typically trading for two or three of their spells.
I've been playing the following brew on Magic Online with very good initial results:
(I like the name Soulfish. It sounds like a blues band with hit singles like "Since You Left Me Baby (I've Just Been Swimmin' Round.)")
Let's break it down with the card-by-card:
4 Delver of Secrets 4 Dark Confidant – These are the core of the deck. You're trying to land one of these bad boys protect it and ride it all the way to victory. With a suite of discard removal and counterspells that's usually not that hard and your nut draws will generally involve a combination of these two and Inquisition of Kozilek by turn 2.
Speaking of which...
4 Inquisition of Kozilek – I love this card. I would play five if they let me. (Yeah there could be one Thoughtseize but that's a lot worse in this style of deck—your life total is a resource. Also Thoughtseize is worse to double cast off Snapcaster.) This plus Snapcaster Mage rips their hand apart and Inquisition into Dark Confidant is a classic one-two punch that puts you way ahead.
4 Path to Exile – This is the other reason to want white cards in your deck. Path to Exile is so much better than the removal black has to offer (Disfigure and Smother.) It's cheap and it kills everything cleanly—Tombstalker Kitchen Finks Vengevine Strangleroot Geist you name it. Path to Exile and Mana Leak is a nonbo but often you'll side out one or the other anyway.
4 Lingering Souls – These straight up replaced Vendilion Clique. In general they're worse in the matchups where this deck is good like Storm and much better where you struggle like Jund. Lingering Souls is unreal good whenever you get into a midgame grind. Since you run so much removal and few actual threats you get to turn 5s where neither player has a nonland permanent. Lingering Souls is your all-star here. It's not the fastest of clocks but it is the surest.
4 Mana Leak – These are ok. I could take them or leave them. Mana Leak is great in Standard but Modern decks are more streamlined and efficient. Path and Inquisition deal with everything for a single mana so why pay twice as much? That said it does have its place mostly against combo. Leak is fantastic against Twin and Storm struggles to go off through it. I side them out against any deck that's as fast or faster than me.
4 Cryptic Command – This card does a lot of stuff. It's good when you're ahead as a Lost in the Mist; it's good when the board's even as a Dismiss; it's good when you're behind as a Fog; and it's good when you're racing as a Time Walk. Four mana is a lot and four Cryptics might be a one too many but I do want to draw one in most matchups.
3 Snapcaster Mage – As always Tiago Chan is sweet. Snapcastering Inquisition to do a Tidehollow Sculler impression is my favorite thing to do with him but targeting Path to Exile is not far behind. Sometimes you get to Snapcaster a Cryptic Command late in the game. Along with Lingering Souls Snapcaster Mage is your source of value/raw card advantage. I wouldn't run more than three because he's expensive and not always awesome but I wouldn't run less either.
2 Spell Snare – A cheap tempo counterspell for a tempo-based deck full of cheap cards. Spell Snare is not great against Twin because they have a hole in their curve at the two-slot but it's fine-to-good pretty much anywhere else. Do target the first thing you can with it because it will sit in your hand from time to time.
2 Sword of Feast and Famine – For when you need to go over the top. Sword is expensive and can be awkward if they remove your dude in response. That said it's a beatdown any time it gets equipped and with manlands and Lingering Souls it gets equipped more often than not. I like it better than Sword of Fire and Ice because of manlands/Cryptic Command. You do side it out against decks with lots of removal or decks that plan to kill you before turn 5.
1 Smother – The fifth spot removal spell. Path is better but with Snapcasters in the deck the extra creature kill doesn't hurt.
4 Creeping Tar Pit – The best land in the deck. I would never consider cutting any. Racing them midgame with this and Lingering Souls is one of the main ways you win games particularly backed up with a Cryptic Command or two. Three unblockable is an awful lot of damage to come from a land—I've literally dealt an opponent twenty with nothing but Tar Pits.
The rest of the lands – Pretty self-explanatory. We did have two Scalding Tarns over one Tarn one Misty but then we realized that if you crack one and they Inquisition you and see the other they can Surgical Extraction you for value. High-percentage stuff. The one Mutavault isn't really needed but your mana is good enough that you can afford it and it's better than Tectonic Edge.
3 Threads of Disloyalty – This card has been nothing but awesome for me. You side it against Jund Zoo Delver even a couple copies against Twin—they'll typically have four Spellskites and a Grim Lavamancer or two. Stealing a Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant is an enormous tempo swing in your favor. It's thanks to Threads that you don't have to worry about running extra removal in your board for the aggro matchups; this card does everything Smother does but so much better.
3 Spell Pierce – This card is ok; it's not great and it's possible we should just run Thoughtseize. Pierce is better against Storm for the reason counterspells are generally better than discard—it makes them tap mana for their spell before you deal with it. It's worse against Twin and Melira though because it isn't always the right answer for a given threat. You need something against combo and Spell Pierce is currently in that slot.
2 Spellskite – Really good against Twin reasonable against Jund quite good against decks with a lot of Lightning Bolts/Helixes.
2 Engineered Explosives – I haven't sided this one in very often although I do like having access to it. It's important against Affinity and then there are a few decks it randomly hoses like Eggs B/W Tokens and anything with Empty the Warrens.
2 Surgical Extraction/1 Nihil Spellbomb – Each has its pluses and minuses. Surgical Extraction fits better with Delver and Snapcaster and it's great against Gifts piles and opposing Snapcasters. Spellbomb is better against the heavy-hitting graveyard decks like Living End Past in Flames and Dredge. This split has been working for me.
1 Smother/1 Disenchant – Generic stuff that's useful a lot of places. I like having cards like these in the board because you'll always have something to side in regardless of how unexpected the matchup is.
I have yet to lose to Jund and I've played it quite a few times. The typical game will go something like this:
- Each player trades early. They Bolt your Delver you Inquisition their Dark Confidant Kitchen Finks get Pathed.
- Eventually they'll manage to stick something. They have more threats than you have answers.
- You play Lingering Souls or Creeping Tar Pit + Sword of Feast and Famine. Usually they have the lead on you in tempo at this point.
- Their tempo lead gradually slips away as you make tons of fliers they can't block while chumping or otherwise dealing with their most relevant dudes.
- Fliers/Tar Pit/their own Bob kills them usually with you at five life or so.
Play tip: They'll often underestimate how quickly Lingering Souls kills them and be reluctant to trade Bob for a Spirit. By the time they've figured out they should be swinging you should probably not block.
You should expect them to take out Lilianas and bring in Jund Charms.
You gain more from sideboarding than they do. They have another answer to your Spirits but you have a huge trump for Tarmogoyf. Games 2 and 3 you're even more favored if the game goes long thanks to Threads giving you that extra edge.
Lingering Souls is pretty bad here; you'd much rather have Vendilion Clique. That said the matchup is ok. You have the combination of early pressure and disruption that combo decks fear most. A few of your cards are awkward (Lingering Souls Cryptic Command Sword) so try to draw the right half of your deck game 1.
I like siding out a land here as you're taking out all your expensive cards—you don't need to hit your fourth land drop post-board. Cryptic and Swords all cost too much; you might be dead by the time you can cast them. The combination of cheaper disruption and efficient dudes puts you ahead post board.
Play tip: Consider Blood Moon. It's not a huge hassle if you're aware of it and get basics with early fetches but leave up Spell Pierce if you can't beat it otherwise.
This matchup can be a grind. You're both playing decks that aim to win the game fairly fast but you're also both playing a ton of discard counterspells and removal far more so than actual threats. Luckily you have Lingering Souls which is huge in the midgame. If they have Remand over Mana Leak that's annoying because it can counter flashback on a Souls or even stop a Cryptic and cantrip in a pinch. That said I'd rather play the side that has Souls than the side that doesn't.
It doesn't change substantially post-board. Mana Leak is bad if the game goes past turn 6 which it often does. Yes taking it out makes Geist of Saint Traft a little bit harder to deal with but you still have plenty of blockers and Inquisition to stop it before it starts. Threads is again sweet. Spell Snare shines here more than in any other matchup because Snapcaster is one of the best cards and you can stop it for one mana.
I haven't played enough against Melira Dredge or Affinity to be certain how to play and board. At the moment I'm trying this:
If I were to play a Modern tournament tomorrow I'd play this deck. It's still in its initial stages and there's room for improvement but it has a ton of potential.
Until next time
tux_the_penguin on Magic Online