This weekend is Grand Prix Columbus, also known as the second Modern Grand Prix since Restoration Angel has been legal. Decks that were already good like U/W Aggro-Control and Birthing Pod make good use of it, but I'm more interested in another AVR card.
You've heard me drone on and on about this guy in Legacy, but what about Modern? They can't even play Karakas against me in that format! Yes, the deck is a little rough around the edges, and there aren't things like Entomb that make your job super easy. However, in a format where it's almost impossible to prepare for everyone, going over the top is viable option.
Last time I posted a decklist prototype featuring Griselbrand; now I have a finely tuned machine.
Most of the time, you're going to use one of your discard outlets to put Griselbrand in the graveyard and then bring it back with Goryo's Vengeance. You won't kill them that turn, but you can Lightning Axe some of their dudes or make them discard some cards and then hopefully set up for the kill next turn. Barring that, you can discard Emrakul and Goryo's it with the trigger on the stack.
You can also Through the Breach one of those fatties, usually accelerated by Simian Spirit Guide or Seething Song. Post-board, once they bring in the graveyard hate, you rely on Through the Breach more.
Maindeck Boseiju may seem a little out of the ordinary, but it's the card that allows you to consistently beat blue control decks. You should treat it more like a functional Thoughtseize than a land. In a pinch, it can act as a land against an aggressive deck, but most of the time you're pitching it to Faithless Looting.
Time of Need might look strange over the fourth Emrakul, but there's a method to my madness. First of all, too many Emrakuls can get awkward. Maybe you pitched a Griselbrand on turn 1 that you might want to Goryo's Vengeance, so discarding an Emrakul would mess up those plans. It's also possible that you don't want to discard Emrakul to your Looting because you want to flash it back. There are also situations where you don't want them to Thoughtseize your Emrakul because your graveyard has a Griselbrand in it.
Most of the time, either Griselbrand or Emrakul would do the trick so it doesn't matter which one you draw. That's not the case all the time though. For example, against a deck like Splinter Twin, Emrakul does close to nothing since they have six or more ways to tap it down. You desperately need Griselbrand against them, hence the Time of Needs.
Also, having more than eight fatties is pretty nice. This is one of those combo decks where you don't have a ton of Tutoring or draw power so you need to rely on drawing the right mix of the right pieces. In that regard, Faithless Looting and Wild Guess are your Brainstorms that allow you to sculpt the perfect hand. I'd rather draw an excess number of lands, discard outlets, fatties, or enablers than too few.
Seething Song is a card that basically only works with Through the Breach. However, there have been turns where I've last-ditched Seething Song into Faithless Looting plus flashback, hoping to hit a fatty for my Goryo's Vengeance.
Typically, you're using Seething to Breach them on turn 3. Still, there are situations where you've already put Griselbrand into play and need to kill them that turn. A Seething Song cast off some Simian Spirit Guides can fuel a same turn Through the Breach, which otherwise wouldn't be possible.
Lightning Axe is fantastic in Modern, especially since it's a discard outlet. Most of the combo decks rely on creatures, so this is a great way to disrupt them while still carrying out your game plan. The fact that it kills basically everything, including Tarmogoyf, is a huge bonus.
Discard spells are typically used to disrupt your opponent, either by taking their only two-drop, removal spell, or combo piece. I'm beginning to hate discard spells. Not only do they suffer from having huge diminishing returns, but the decks are so focused these days (especially in formats with large card pools, like Modern or Legacy) that it's nearly impossible to deny them of a single resource.
There are times when you get to Time Walk your opponent by taking their only two-drop, but even if they're only playing eight, they're still over 10% to draw one. Over one in ten times you cast a Thoughtseize or Inquisition, you are spending a precious mana to cast what effectively amounts to Raven's Crime.
You can complain about them being lucky every single time that happens, but over the course of a fifteen-round Grand Prix are you going to cast a discard spell on your opponent? It's probably in the neighborhood of three times per match, so that gives them a lot of chances to "peel" out of it.
Do you have any idea how many times I've Thoughtseized my Storm opponent, taken his only Ritual, and died two turns later? It's a lot. I hate discard spells with a passion. There are a lot of times they don't do anything, and I wouldn't be surprised if I decide to play zero in Columbus.
Initially, I started with four Thoughtseize since you can use it on yourself to discard a fatty in a pinch. In roughly 200 Magic Online two-mans, that situation came up one or two times. In my mind, that wasn't often enough to justify the life loss in a deck with Griselbrand.
Since switching to Inquisition, I've regretted not being able to take cards like Gifts Ungiven and Splinter Twin enough times (and been so disappointed with discard in general) that I changed four Inquisition down to just two. I'm not sure which number of each is correct, although it could very easily be zero.
The mana base isn't set in stone, but it's almost pain-free and allows you to cast your spells. There is such a thing as having a mana base be "too good" though. There are so many dual lands available that you can just play all of them and be able to cast your spells. Sometimes that opens you up to things like Blood Moon that you wouldn't have otherwise had a problem with if you showed a little restraint.
For the most part, you don't care about Blood Moon though. The other non-basic hate, like Tectonic Edge and Fulminator Mage, are going to destroy a land regardless of if you added a few basics. In other decks, I might be wary of facing Blood Moon, but since we're mostly mono-red, it has little impact.
I've had situations where I needed to topdeck a fifth mana source to cast Through the Breach but drew a Copperline Gorge. Just because you have access to all the dual lands in the world doesn't mean you should run them. While you are killing them with damage, it's often in huge chunks, so the life you give them off Grove of the Burnwillows is largely irrelevant. Overall, it's a huge upgrade over Copperline Gorge.
The Arid Mesas used to be Verdant Catacombs (and I didn't play basic Mountain), but basic Swamp really sucks when you're trying to cast Wild Guess on turn 2. Overgrown Tomb is similarly lacking. I tried to solve that problem by playing more Graven Cairns, but that just created scenarios where I couldn't keep my one land/Faithless Looting hands.
I'm guessing the weirdest thing about my decklist is the Wurm/Shoal package in the sideboard. Well, back in the day, there were some Internet tough guys who played that combination in basically every Standard deck so that they wouldn't lose to Zoo. Some played it in decks like Owling Mine, which had a terrible Zoo matchup, but coincidentally happened to play Twincast.
Well, I don't have any Reverberates in my Reanimator deck. I don't even have Increasing Vengeance. However, I do have Griselbrand, and that guy likes to gain life. I've tried stuff like Fury of the Horde, but nothing beats the Shoal. I'm not sure on the mathematics involved, but I'm pretty sure that with three Shoal and three Wurm in your deck and fourteen life to spend, you should be a favorite to draw your deck.
At that point, you can kill them with three Simian Spirit Guides and a Conflagrate (one to cast it for zero, two to flash it back) or three Spirit Guides, Seething Song, Through the Breach, and Emrakul.
Basically, you want to side in the package against the obvious decks like Burn and sometimes Affinity or Storm. If Cedric has his way and people take Living End to the top, that would be another matchup where you'd want to Shoal them. It just so happens that if you discard a pair of Autochthon Wurms to Faithless Looting, their Living End probably kills them. You better find your Faerie Macabre, buddy!
It might be cute, but it's been pretty good. If you don't want to go that deep, I'd propose this alternate sideboard:
Noxious Revival is another odd one, but it's easier to justify. Against a deck like Jund, they are going to try and trip you up with Thoughtseizes. As I mentioned earlier, discard isn't very effective against a deck with nine fatties and eight ways to put them into play, but people still try. Even if their Thoughtseizes have no good targets from time to time, I don't want to make it any easier on them.
Usually that type of effect (skip your draw step and Regrowth something) isn't worth being down a card, but when you're using it to kill them, card advantage is irrelevant. I've also used it as pseudo graveyard hate against Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites and to make them draw a useless fetchland instead of a lethal Lightning Bolt, so it does have other applications.
There are decks in Modern that are fast and require you to deal with their early hordes, and for that I have Volcanic Fallout and Pyroclasm. Some decks are able to put enough pressure into play where you expend all your resources putting Griselbrand in play, attack and gain seven life, but can't draw seven cards because you'd die on the swing back. That's another situation where Nourishing Shoal would be good, but sometimes you just have to settle for Pyroclasm.
Those same decks also end up having a bunch of permanents, so Emrakul doesn't always wipe their board clean. At that point, you're exhausted and they have a couple guys left over that can finish you off.
I like the mix of Fallout and Pyroclasm because any deck with Geist of Saint Traft or Vendilion Clique deserves to have Volcanic Fallout cast against them. Sometimes Pyroclasm isn't good enough against them, and sometimes they have the Spell Pierce or Spell Snare. Even though Fallout is usually worse against creature decks, it's so much better than Pyroclasm against the tempo decks that you can afford to play a mix.
The last card in the sideboard, Torpor Orb, is for decks that play creatures with enters the battlefield effects. Surprising, right? More specifically, they're for Twin and Birthing Pod, although Pod is a pretty good matchup already.
Some of this is going to be fast and loose, with a lot of "maybes" and "it depends." Typically, I sideboard differently against different opponents even if they're playing the same 75. Since Modern clocks in at over 50 playable decks, I'm only going to cover the main ones, and hopefully from those you can get a baseline to figure out the rest yourselves.
As I said earlier, this can be a difficult matchup. Emrakul is mostly useless, so you're relying on Griseldad. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to draw into it at some point and the sooner the better.
+ 2 Torpor Orb
- 2 Seething Song
Against blue decks, Seething Song is usually a pretty bad gamble. If you're trying to Seeth a Through the Breach, there's no way to do it with Boseiju that won't just run into a Boseiju. Most of the time, you don't need the speed either.
This is one of those decks that is super fast and spews out a bunch of permanents. Overall, that's not a good combination for you.
While you would prefer to have time to cast Wild Guess and Time of Need, you don't. Even though Shoal is good and gives you time, you don't have the luxury of durdling around. Volcanic Fallout can also be too slow, and doesn't interact with all types of their draws. Also keep in mind that it doesn't matter what life you're at if Inkmoth Nexus has a Cranial Plating.
This should be a pretty easy matchup. Turn 3 Karn might be good, but Wurmcoil Engine is almost always an embarrassment. There have been some games I've lost where I annihilated them but succumbed to a couple of Wurm tokens though.
Ideally, you'd be bringing in something a little more impactful than the Shoal package. Their deck can be fast though and you have some dead cards, so might as well.
Hate expected: Maindeck Relic of Progenitus
U/W or Mono-Blue Faeries
If you draw Boseiju, this one should be easy. If you don't and they have Geist or Vendilion Clique, you could lose. Both of your dudes are phenomenal outside of Cryptic Command. Watch out for Vendilion Clique in response to your Through the Breach.
+ 2 Volcanic Fallout
- 2 Seething Song
If they show you Geist or Delver, I'd happily bring in the Pyroclasm.
U/B, RUG, or U/W/R Delver
These matchups are similar to the Faerie decks, so the same sideboarding applies.
This can be a tough one since it's all about racing and several of your cards are dead. Post-board, they typically don't mess with you much, which is a pretty nice feeling. They're still a turn 3.5 deck with consistency, where you're a variance minefield between turns 2-6.
You still need a few Breaches in your deck to combo kill them on your Griselbrand turn, but you can afford to shave one. Time of Need is also too slow. Boseiju is also dead or insane depending on their board plan, so you might not even know if it's good until game 3.
They are slow and creature-based with little disruption, aka the dream matchup.
I enjoy this matchup a lot. It's one of those decks where even connecting with Griselbrand to go up to eleven life feels good. They can easily beat you through an Emrakul, and this is one of the only matchups where I don't consistently have to pay four life against Vexing Devil.
This matchup is similar to the Pod matchup, except they have a little discard. Overall, it's not that much worse.
+ 2 Noxious Revival
Other Reanimator Builds
Another option for building the deck is a more combo-oriented version with the Shoal package maindeck.
That maindeck is one heavy. I would likely cut a Time of Need or Wild Guess. Also, over the course of writing the article, I think I've sold myself on playing without the basic Swamp, hence the mana base change, but you could play it either way.
This deck would be a little better against the super fast decks in the format, but you would probably suffer against the blue decks. Depending on what kind of metagame you're looking at, this version might be best.
I had Enclave Cryptologist (which was actually awesome), Peer through Depths (which, with Time of Need, can dig for all of your combo pieces except for land), and Serum Visions. Desolate Lighthouse was another solid but slow option. Forbidden Alchemy would be super awesome, but three mana is too much. Strategic Planning would probably be perfect.
All those cards were pretty sweet, but Wild Guess makes those mostly irrelevant.
These lists focus on Lingering Souls, Unburial Rites, and the interaction between Zombie Infestation and Squee, Goblin Nabob. Overall, it wasn't a bad deck, but I wanted something a little more explosive and where I could dodge graveyard hate.
Other Cards to Consider
Here are a few other cards I tried in various lists:
This is a pretty sweet one if you're on the Shoal plan.
Despite liking Beseech a lot in Dark Depths, it's very lacking here. The format is arguably faster, and while Beseech can find Boseiju, they don't work very well together. A four mana Demonic Tutor is not what you're looking for.
This could be my answer to discard spells and burn, but those matchups are usually pretty good.
Plunge into Darkness
Again, despite being close to a Demonic Tutor, paying a bunch of life isn't something I'm very interested in doing.
I like Seething Song a lot better since it requires no setup the turn before.
Fold into Aether
Now this is a spicy one. With Gitaxian Probe and a Simian Spirit Guide, you could build your own Show and Tell! Honestly, it might be powerful enough to see play, but I'm not crazy enough to try that...yet.
My plan for now is to play a Grand Prix Trial on Friday before GP Columbus and see if I like the deck. If not, I'll probably end up playing Merfolk or a Delver deck. Here's hoping I win the GPT so I can have some fun in the Grand Prix!