Death and Taxes
By littledarwin, 9th Place in the MOCS
This week’s Pick of the Week for the Modern format is littledarwin’s take on Death and Taxes. Aether Vial is a card that is so powerful it effectively breaks the rules of Magic. It costs 1 mana, and if you use it to put a 1-, 2-, and two 3-casting-cost creatures into play its investment cost is 1 and it will have produced 9 mana for you by the fifth turn of the game. That’s totally insane! It works like a psuedo-Sol Ring that also makes the cards you put into play with it uncounterable and at instant speed.
Given all this, it’s surprising that this card doesn’t make its way into more decks, but the constraint is that you have to construct your deck such that you have all creatures that cost 1, 2, or 3 mana. Most decks in Modern are either combo decks or want to disrupt combo decks.
Leonin Arbiter has picked up in popularity as a result of the rise of Amulet Bloom. The engine of Aether Vial, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter, and Path to Exile was fringe playable before—it was competitive, but not quite top tier, so all it took was one deck that’s weak to Leonin Arbiter being added to the top of the format. This would’ve happened all the same if Scapeshift were equally as popular as Amulet is now and Amulet didn’t exist. Aether Vial alongside Leonin Arbiter can lead to some pretty busted starts. All it takes is for the opponent to tap out and you can use Path to Exiles to exile all their creatures and Ghost Quarters to destroy all their lands.
Thalia further enhances the mana disruption element of the deck. Kolaghan’s Command is incredibly problematic, and even the deck I wrote about last week was up to 4 copies of the card in the main deck. Kolaghan’s Command is extremely popular and this deck has all the makings of a poor choice in such an environment—a small number of artifacts alongside low toughness creatures. Yet, it’s not totally uncommon for this deck to assemble a combination of cards that makes it so your opponent is incapable of casting the card in the first place.
Thalia is such an important piece of the puzzle to make this deck competitive that I’m surprised to see no attempt at making Vryn Wingmare work.
The fact that Vryn Wingmare costs 3 instead of 2 is what makes it clearly worse than Thalia, but it isn’t legendary so you can have multiple in play at a time and it’s awesome to curve Thalia into Vryn Wingmare into even more copies of Vryn Wingmare. It would be ideal to pair that kind of hand alongside some Ghost Quarters and Tectonic Edges to lock the opponent out of the game.
I’ve talked at length about the importance of stable mana bases and maindecking Kitchen Finks, and here are both in action. It’s surprising to see Kitchen Finks shoehorned into a deck where it has no obvious synergy with the exception of Restoration Angel and Flickerwisp, but here he is in all his fair and natural glory hoping to attack for 3 seven times uncontested.
This deck should be advantaged against a combo deck with the 4 maindeck Thalias, so you can take some liberties with your flexible slots in the deck and play a card like Kitchen Finks which is problematic for an aggro or control deck.
While I’ve never been the type of player to recommend a white weenie deck, I have always been a huge proponent of Stony Silence and Rest in Peace. I’ve had some success with Aether Vial in the past and I’m a firm believer in its power.
Judge’s Familiar in Modern on the other hand? That’s going to be a tougher sell. Dryad Militant is similarly weak but I can see the merits against cards like Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage. I still don’t think it’s optimal, but I like where the deck is headed with beatdown creatures that provide some disruptive element.