With a big rotation coming up, it doesn’t make much sense to me to talk about Standard or Limited. That leaves my favorite format ever—Modern!
There have been a couple of high profile Modern tournaments since I last talked about it, so I’m going to highlight a couple of interesting choices (cards and decks) that you might have missed.
I think this deck is quite good and here to stay, though I pray to God that I’m wrong and it doesn’t become popular, because it’s about as unfun as Magic can get. It consists of playing Lantern of Insight and then using Ghoulcaller’s Bell and Codex Shredder to mill any good cards your opponent might be drawing, while using Ensnaring Bridge to protect yourself from creatures and effectively lock them out of the game (if they don’t have the removal for Bridge in their opening hand, you can make sure they never draw it).
The key to this deck is that while it’s vulnerable to a bunch of hate cards, it also has ways to stop people from drawing them. Stony Silence is a beating against you, Kolaghan’s Command is good, Creeping Corrosion is excellent, but the thing with all those cards is that you have to draw them either in your opening hand or in the early turns of the game, because they can just stop you from drawing certain cards once they get their lock going.
That said, there are ways to go around it. Ancient Grudge, for example, is very good against them, because you can cast it even if they mill it. Another way to beat it is by playing 0-power creatures from decks like Affinity and Infect. If I have an Ornithopter, I can attack through Ensnaring Bridge and then either sacrifice Arcbound Ravager or move Cranial Plating (though Spellskite stops Ravager and Needle stops both). With Infect, I can attack with Hierarch and then cast a bunch of pump spells.
Dragonlord Dromoka in Amulet Bloom
Here’s the Amulet Bloom list that Top 8’d Grand Prix Oklahoma City:
The list is fairly standard, with the exception of a maindeck Dragonlord Dromoka. Dromoka plays two roles: the first is that of a gigantic creature that has to be dealt with. The problem with this role is that most decks that have to deal with it can. Junk has Path, Jund and Grixis have Terminate. If you’re playing against Burn, then you might as well just go get Titan, get a couple of life-gain lands, and win next turn.
The second role is that of a 6-mana uncounterable Silence (since they can’t cast spells the turn you play Dromoka). 6 mana is a lot, though, and I can’t imagine this plan working very often in a spot where getting a second Titan (or a Pact of Negation if you’re using Tolaria West) wouldn’t. All in all, I fail to see the advantages of playing Dromoka and do not recommend it.
Ghirapur Aether Grid and Hangarback Walker in Affinity
Ghirapur Aether Grid is an innovation that I originally saw in Paul Rietzl and Sam Black’s Affinity deck at Worlds, and one that I quite liked. Hangarback Walker is a choice that I hadn’t seen before, but that looks intriguing. Here’s the build Joseph Reiter played in GP OKC:
Aether Grid is very straightforward—it’s good against small creatures. The deck has no shortage of artifacts, so you can usually deal at least 2 or 3 damage a turn, which is more than enough against decks like the mirror, Infect, and decks with Lingering Souls. I think it’s a great card and would expect to see more of it.
Hangarback is… different. It’s a slow but powerful card in a deck that tries to go for quick and powerful plays. It works really well with Ravager and Overseer, since you can put counters on it and those counters become more creatures, and the ability to get flying tokens is very important in some matchups (such as the mirror), but it’s also a bit expensive and clunky. I think that in game 1 it’s not necessarily what you want, because game 1 is about being faster in a lot of matchups—the same reason that some people play Master of Etherium instead of Etched Champion, for example.
Out of the sideboard, games slow down a bit and it’s more important to be resilient, so, like Etched Champion, the card gets better. Joseph played both Champion and Hangarback in his main deck, so I think it’s safe to say he’s going for a more resilient approach as opposed to explosive, which I think is a fine strategy but not the one I would choose when playing Affinity. I think you just want to be explosive game 1 and then slow down game 2.
Chameleon Colossus in Elves
This is Andrew Sullano’s Elves deck from the Top 8:
I’ve seen Elves decks that focus on the combo with Cloudstone Curio and even Evolutionary Leap, but Andrew’s seems to have more of a beatdown style, with Lead the Stampede and fewer dead draws. The card that caught my attention from his sideboard was Chameleon Colossus.
By almost any metric, Chameleon Colossus is not a Modern playable card. In this deck, however, it plays a big role—it’s an often-uncounterable, unkillable threat against Grixis. Since it’s an Elf, you can play it with Cavern of Souls, and since it has pro-black, they can’t Terminate or Dismember it. It’s comparable to Thrun, but works with your Elves synergies, is not legendary, and can grow bigger and kill them in one attack. A very interesting piece of technology. It’s basically only good against Grixis, I think, but if that deck is a big part of the metagame then I think it might be exactly what you want.
Olivia Voldaren in Jund
Brad Nelson got 12th place with Jund. This is his list:
Here you see 1 Olivia Voldaren. Olivia is not exactly a new piece of technology—people have been playing her for ages, and Gerry Thompson is particularly vocal about her—but it’s one I’ve never covered.
Honestly, I think Olivia is bad.
I know people hate the phrase “dies to Doom Blade,” but it exists for a reason, and I think the reason applies here. Olivia is a 4-mana card that just “dies to Doom Blade” (though in this case Doom Blade is Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Dismember, Path, Go for the Throat—anything that is not Doom Blade, basically. It won’t actually die to Doom Blade itself). Four mana is a lot in Modern, and when I play my 4-mana card, I don’t want it to trade with their 1-mana card. I am not a fan of Huntmaster of the Fells either, but at least you get 2 life and a token.
Honestly, if it was me, that slot would be a Tasigur. Tasigur is a fantastic card that is cheaper to cast and harder to kill (doesn’t die to Bolt or Galvanic Blast), and, though the ability is not as powerful (Olivia can win the game against a creature deck by herself if unchecked), it’s often powerful enough. I think it has a lower ceiling but a much higher floor, and that’s more important.
Abbot of Keral Keep in RUG/Jund/Grixis
Patrick Chapin played the GP with this Innovative build:
I think this build is fascinating. Abbot is probably at its best here, since if you have 4 mana you can cast everything, but there are enough 0- and 1-mana spells that you have to be unlucky to brick on turn 3. On top of that, since this deck is more aggressive than most Grixis builds, the 2/1 body is better appreciated, and all the cheap cards make it easy to trigger prowess. I think I’d very much enjoy playing this deck (even if I would have to test a couple cards in it to see if I like them) and Abbot is a great fit here.
Abbot also happened to be better than I expected in Jund. If you expect a lot of control, then I think Dark Confidant is better, but Abbot is better against most aggressive decks. Jund bricks with Abbot a bit more than the previous deck (has more 2- and 3-drops), but it can also make better use of the extra mana, and playing it on turn three will hit over half the time (land or 1-drops), whereas playing it on turn four will only not hit Liliana or any 4-drop/Tasigur that you play. If your metagame punishes you for taking damage, then I recommend you try Abbot in place of Dark Confidant.
One deck that Abbot was not a great fit for, however, was Grixis. I thought it was going to be very good in it, since you have a lot of ways to trigger prowess and a lot of cheap spells, but in practice, when I played it, the mana turned out to be quite awkward. Since I couldn’t play counterspells (they are bad with Abbot), I decided to play discard. Since I had discard, I wanted Liliana. This put me in a spot where I wanted to have BB, UU for Snapcaster/Visions and RR for Abbot/Bolt. Even with a bunch of duals, it was hard to have the correct sources all the time, and more than once I played Abbot with one dual up and hit a 1-mana card I couldn’t cast. The card wasn’t bad, but it felt to me like it wasn’t worth the sacrifices—it wasn’t as good in the deck because it didn’t have enough of an aggressive angle. It’s possible that you want to play a more conventional build and just throw Abbott in there (still playing counterspells and not a lot of discard or Lilianas), but I don’t think it’s very good there.
That’s what I have for today! See you next week,