If there’s one thing that Magic players can’t get over their love-hate relationship with, it’s variance. Many have said that variance is the reason that we play the game, for without it we are merely reciting memorized lines as we would in chess. It’s also one of the highest hurdles that new players must clear, as the variance built into the functioning of the game can lead to non-games where one player was not reasonably allowed to participate. This can be an obvious turn off, as the main reason to play the game is to actually play the game. For those like me who might have a slight addiction to the tremendous highs and devastating lows that Magic’s variance can provide, there’s no deck better than today’s topic. Let’s spin the wheel with Budget Modern Hollow One.
Budget Modern Hollow One by Darren Magnotti
Each Modern deck covered in this series is built at the time of writing to a $150 budget. This is in attempt to keep things reasonable for those who are actually looking to buy into the format on the cheap while not skimping so much that the deck is completely without the power to keep up. Every deck showcased in this series has been personally tested and is being shown off for a reason, whether its the decks competitive aptitude, it’s ability to transition easily into a nonbudget version or its capacity to teach a newer player a vital skill required to keep up in todays competitive meta game.
Hollow One is an unconventional aggro deck that tries to combine the explosive synergy of random discarding with cards that like to be discarded. It uses some traditionally bad hand filtering spells to rip through its deck and fill the graveyard, and getting paid off by drastically reducing the cost on some sizable creatures.
The deck’s main gimmick is its element of randomness, which it tries to capitalize on with its density of recursive and redundant creatures. Its competitive advantage stems from that same redundancy into the late game backing up its explosive starts with the ability to put eight to 12 power on the board as early as turn two.
It is made up primarily of two parts – the discard engine and the beaters which act as a reward for said discard. It mitigates its wild randomness by packing many cards with similar effects to turn the high variance engine pieces into huge bursts of advantage.
Starting things off is of course the namesake of the deck. Hollow One gets cheaper as cards are discarded, and discarding three cards in one turn makes it into a zero-mana 4/4. To mesh with that plan is Vengevine, another effective zero-mana 4/3 that can come back from the graveyard after being discarded.
Casting two creature spells in one turn isn’t particularly difficult, as after a lucky Burning Inquiry, the deck has access to eight zero-mana creatures and 11 one-mana creatures. Some combination of creatures is typically in hand after one of these random discards, which frequently enables the Vengevine’s return. Blazing Rootwalla, Flameblade Adept and Asmo-we’re-not-typing-that can all come down and act as high power aggressors in the early turns as well, rewarding discarding in some form or fashion while applying that consistent pressure. Ox of Agonas rounds out the creature package with its late game application, acting as a means to refill the hand with gas, throw away some cards that have lived past their use from the hand and even trigger some Vengevines along the way if we’re lucky.
In general, the creatures in this deck are all chosen for their capacity to interact favorably with the discard package while applying tremendous pressure right out of the gate. They can be interchanged at will, and their similar function serves as a backbone for the wild variance provided by the engine of the deck.
Hollow One looks to capitalize on the tremendous variance offered by the likes of Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore to pull pieces out of the deck and put them into a position of creating advantage. Goblin Lore is the worse of the two, even though the numbers on the card are slightly higher. Though they act similarly, Burning Inquiry provides some additional utility in messing up an opponents’ hand as well, assuming that they aren’t also a deck that can capitalize on the randomness.
Both cards’ main focus though is to put each card where it needs to be. To aid in this endeavor, Street Wraith is included primarily as a means to make Hollow One cheaper should push come to shove. It also acts as a deck smoothing tool, which here means that it helps to generate additional consistency by turning the 60-card deck into a 56-card deck at little cost. The ability to quell a rambunctious mulligan by cycling a Street Wraith is definitely something that comes up frequently.
Insolent Neonate fills a similar role, being all a creature to trigger Vengevine, a means to discard some cards for Hollow One and a way to smooth draws to help dig out of a less than favorable hand situation. The Underworld Cookbook wraps it all up, providing it’s typical removal value with Asmo and Ovalchase Daredevil, on top of being a repeatable discard outlet to help pitch those oxen and Vengevines.
You may have picked up the sense that there isn’t particularly a lot to talk about in the previous sections, and that’s because there sort of isn’t. Hollow One is the absolute epitome of “let’s spin the Wheel,” as about 80 to 90 percent of the game play is predicated on the opening hand and the initial Burning Inquiry/Goblin Lore. Until turns three and four, how the deck plays out is entirely based on that while it tries to rebuild its hand. Sometimes you hit the nuts and put two Hollow Ones, a Rootwalla and a Vengevine into play for free, other times you completely miss by drawing three lands and discarding all of the Hollow Ones. The deck is fairly well equipped to bounce back from an initial critical failure like this should the opponent also be stumbling, but with the speed and consistency of some other decks in the format, that may not always be an option available.
In terms of actual gameplay however, I have mixed feelings. I may have run extremely hot, or the deck is just genuinely better than I’m giving it credit for. Complete transparency, I didn’t have the time this week to do a thorough investigation of the impact on this wild variance on performance overall over time, so all I have to work with is my 4-1 record where, for five games straight, I was able to put at least eight power into play on turn two, which lead to an opponent’s concession. Most of the games were over more quickly than when I play Burn, which is saying something because I scoop early and often while playing Burn.
The deck honestly feels a lot like it’s playing one of the Elementals decks or Charbelcher where you can just put your opening hand down on the table, reveal the top three cards of your library and figure out if you win or lose the game. This isn’t my preferred play style to be sure, but with the prevalence of this type of deck over the years, it’s surely capable of being a popular way to play.
Some of the problem matchups were, expectedly, from the decks that are able to match the creatures being put out here toe-to-toe such as the Rhinos decks and the Junds with their Tarmogoyfs and Death’s Shadows. As there’s no realistic way around a larger threat than to try and outnumber it, the deck can be severely crippled by a free 4/4 or a cheap 5/5. That said, the games were some of the most exciting I’ve had in the Modern format in quite a while. The deck is fully capable of winning off of a mulligan to two and also losing in spectacular fashion as cards eight through 15 turn over to be mono-Mountains after putting three Blazing Rootwallas into play off of a Goblin Lore. If you’re truly an agent of chaos, this is absolutely a deck to try out.
Modern Hollow One by SnovvDrop
Fetches of course, like in every budget list, will help to thin the deck out and improve quality of life, and also more reliably enable the backup plan of hard casting a Vengevine. They also allow for one of my favorite additions to these graveyard-based aggro decks in Wonder, which can simply be discarded after fetching a Steam Vents to give all of your creatures flying.
Ultimately, the deck is relatively straightforward in its construction with slight wiggle room for innovation. It’s consistently inconsistent, and that’s why we love it. In searching for a nonbudget list, I actually found someone running the exact same non-land suite as this build card for card – they had the Steam Vents to fetch with zero copies of Wonder in the 75, and they were on a 12-card sideboard, because who even needs it? This deck sincerely embodies all things random, and is an absolute delight to test out.
That’s all for this one! I’m hopeful that you’re all enjoying the series, as there will be plenty more coming soon. As long as evoke Elementals reign the Modern format, I’ll be there every day to fight against their expensive tyranny. And finally as always, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.