Valuable Lessons – Modern Death and Taxes

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons! The Modern PTQ season is finally here. Today, we’ll be talking about an exciting new Modern deck. The format has become stable enough for us to make a deck that attacks the metagame.

Over the last week, I’ve seen a lot of players doing very well on Magic Online with Modern White Weenie variants. I had most of the cards necessary to build the deck, so I figured I would try my hand in a couple Daily Events.

Initially, I started with a mono-white version of the deck. Let’s start by discussing the core of Modern White Weenie:

And 3-4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

This is the core of the strategy. This combination of cards gives us an aggressive strategy with a lot of hoops for our opponent to jump through.

Leonin Arbiter makes our Path to Exile into the best removal spell ever and turns our Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine. The effect is particularly strong with Aether Vial. We can Vial in our Arbiter when our opponent goes to sacrifice a fetchland, activates Expedition Map, casts Gifts Ungiven, etc.

Path to Exile may be the best card in Modern right now. It’s a strong card against anything with creatures, and it gets a lot better when we have Leonin Arbiter.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben makes our deck a nightmare for a lot of the combo decks. Just in general, the format is pretty soft to Thalia. Our opponent will always have to spend at least two mana to get her off the table, often more, and it puts a tight squeeze on people in the meantime so we can beat down with some efficient creatures.

Blade Splicer is great on offense and defense. It’s obviously very good against other creature decks, but it’s fine everywhere else as 4 power for three mana. The card gets a lot better when it’s featured alongside Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel.

Flickerwisp has a lot of applications in Modern: We can use it to blink Blade Spicer for an extra token. We can exile one of our lands to leave open Path to Exile mana on the opponent’s turn. We can get a blocker out of the way. We can interact with storage lands and creatures that get +1/+1 counters. Things get really interesting when we have Flickerwisp alonside Aether Vial. With Vial on 3, we can deny our opponent one of their lands on a key turn. We can break up combos like Pyromancer Ascension or Splinter Twin by exiling the key permanent. We can save our creatures from opposing removal.

Restoration Angel is another tremendously powerful card. It combos very nicely with Blade Splicer and Flickerwisp while making our deck more resilient to removal and giving us a better control matchup.

Ghost Quarter is a necessary piece to this puzzle. This card is great on its own as an effective answer to Tron pieces, Celestial Colonnade, and any other problematic lands we might run into. When combined with Leonin Arbiter, this becomes a card that’s far above the curve in terms of power level.

I had the base of my deck. Initially, I decided that I could try a mono-white version of the deck. This is what I came up with:

Modern White Weenie
by Jacob Van Lunen

Spirit of the Labyrinth proved to be reasonably strong right away. I had many opponents cast Serum Visions, Spreading Seas, and other cantrips before realizing that they wouldn’t be drawing an extra card. The card also combos nicely with Mikokoro, Center of the Sea. My friend, Ashok Gandhi Chitturi, suggested Mikokoro as a card that normally does well alongside Aether Vial and pointed out how it comboed with Spirit of the Labyrinth. With Spirit of the Labyrinth in play, we can activate Mikokoro on our opponent’s turn and draw a free card without giving them the same luxury. This has proven to be a very powerful tactic on Magic Online; But in real life, it’s likely to give our opponents a lot of game losses for drawing extra cards. Let’s act like reasonable humans and explain Spirit of the Labyrinth when we cast it, let’s not bait our opponents into drawing the extra cards by saying things like, “both draw,” when we activate our Mikokoro. If they happen to draw an extra card anyway, and a lot of them will, then we can call a judge and get our free game win.

Mangara of Corondor gives this deck another way to pick apart the opponent’s board, attacking key permanents. The card combos with Restoration Angel and Flickerwisp when we have a Vial on three. We can activate Mangara of Corondor, flicker it, and exile our opponent’s permanent and still have another Mangara for the next turn. This can be especially strong when our draw involves Leonin Arbiter. We can often engineer a gamestate where our opponent has no actual mana producing lands in play.

Reveillark may seem a bit expensive here, but the deck needed more of a top end and this seemed like the best available five-drop, especially with Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel available for shenanigans.

The deck seemed very strong, I found myself having a lot of trouble against Cranial Plating, though, and I felt like the deck could be a lot more powerful if we played a second color.

Qasali Pridemage is the missing necessary two-drop for this deck. The ability to kill opposing Cranial Plating, Oblivion Stone, etc is extremely important here.

Reveillark was reasonable, but I often found myself in situations where I had nothing to return after Anger of the Gods. Thragtusk is a tremendously powerful card, especially when our deck has Flickerwisp and Restoration Angel. If you’re unfamiliar with the Thragtusk/Flicker interaction then take a second to read Thragtusk. Yep, it actually does that.

The deck had some trouble against Jund. Thragtusk would certainly help, but I wanted a card in my sideboard that could be brought in against Jund and decks with countermagic/burn spells. These seemed to be the places where I had too many cards to take out of my deck and not enough cards to bring in. Loxodon Smiter seemed like the perfect choice. Against Jund, it can be cast off Liliana’s +1, it dodges Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods, and it can fearlessly attack into Courser of Kruphix. Against the control decks it can’t be countered, Bolted, helixed, or Angered off the table, and it presents a very quick clock with four power.

Here’s what the deck looks like now:

Modern Death and Taxes
by Jacob Van Lunen

Before you bash the Temple of Plenty, I really like using it as a Flickerwisp target when we’re developing. The deck has enough redundancy/bullets that the scry is pretty relevant.

It may seem odd that I’m playing such excessive red hate in my sideboard, but Burrenton Forge-Tender is a legitimate card for the matchups that have Anger of the Gods after sideboard against me. Kor Firewalker has proven to be the best card against the burn and red/blue Delver lists. Burn makes up a huge part of the Modern metagame because it’s cheap and easy to play. A lot of people like rolling the dice with red spells and I like punishing those people and never losing with a few copies of Kor Firewalker.

Next week, we’ll continue our exploration of hateful white strategies in Modern. We’ll discuss sideboarding plans and experiment with different builds. Stay tuned!


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