Today is Christmas. What always made Christmas great to me as a little kid was the idea of waking up in the morning and coming outside where everything is covered in snow. Everything is different. The world becomes our playground. Now, that never really happened to our house by the water in Seattle, and as of the writing of this it is crisp and dry. But, I remember the idea of a white Christmas regardless.
Today is Christmas. The landscape has changed. [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is banned. [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] are unbanned. Everything is different. The world is our playground.
I am incredibly pleased, and from what I’ve seen, most are. All everyone really wanted was a change. Modern is an incredibly diverse format, but that isn’t enough of a reason to keep playing. As deckbuilders it takes more than diversity to make a great format—it takes change, shakeups, opportunities to reinvent the wheel. And that’s what we have been given.
The Pro Tour is in less than 3 weeks and I am leaving for Spain in 7 days. Things are beginning to happen. Let’s get to work!
The first big loser here is [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. I’m glad this card is going. First of all, it’s too good. It’s great in the early game and late game. It’s a mana accelerator, a great racing creature, a great stalling creature, and a great graveyard hate option. It just does too much, and it does it for both black and green. There’s not much reason to play other black and green one-drops, or arguably even other colors.
The big loser along with Deathrite Shaman is Jund. Is Jund dead? Well, it can still be a deck, but how many people are going to want to play it now? Not that many I’d bet. I believe Deathrite Shaman is the best card in the deck. It does everything a Jund deck wants to do—provides tempo and interaction without giving up late game trade value. So you could play Jund, but previously you got to play the best green/black one-drop, and now you can’t. So people are going to play this guy instead.
[card]Wild Nacatl[/card] is a big winner by coming off the banned list. This Cat is going to be immediately popular. It’s immediately the best one-drop creature in aggro, and perhaps the best one-drop in the format. Now, the card is probably not too good, but we can expect people to make moves back to Wild Nacatl from Deathrite Shaman. There isn’t another competitive one-drop anymore.
The winner along with Wild Nacatl is Zoo. In order to make Nacatl good, we are going to have to play a fetch/shock-heavy mana base to get the Plains and Mountains to power our one-mana 3/3. We are going to see the return of fast Zoo, big Zoo, Junk zoo, and blue Zoo. I suspect this will immediately become the most popular green strategy AND the most popular aggro strategy. That’s the way it’s been before.
[card]Bitterblossom[/card] coming off the list is a big win for Faeries. Faeries has been a good deck before, and it will immediately be a good and popular deck again. The deck has always been a bit fair, even while annoying to play against, so I guess I don’t mind this one too much. Faeries is a good deck, but there are more winners here.
See, Bitterblossom is a brew card. The card can fit into decks that play completely differently—from UB Polymorph to WB tokens. I for one am excited about the idea of playing Bitterblossom next to [card]Liliana of the Vei[/card]l, because we have never had the chance to do that in Modern before.
Here is my first new Bitterblossom brew:
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Pack Rat
4 Dark Confidant
4 Bile Blight
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Turn 1 [card]Thoughtseize[/card], turn 2 [card]Bitterblossom[/card], turn 3 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] seems like a potential for a pretty good start.
I have been wanting to try [card]Pack Rat[/card] in Modern for a while and this deck seems like the perfect home. It allows us to play extra discard spells and extra lands and still get value out of them later in a low-resource game.
And then we have the devotion theme of the deck—[card]Bitterblossom[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Phyrexian Arena[/card], and [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is way too much life to be paying without any kind of gain life. A [ccProd]Nykthos[/ccProd] powered [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] is a good place to start for draining life back and finishing the opponent.
Obviously this deck is completely untested. [card]Bile Blight[/card] might not be what we want and we might have too much life payment and too few game-enders. I like it as a start though.
Now let’s keep moving.
It seems that everyone’s initial first impression is that [card]Birthing Pod[/card] was a big winner from the bannings. The main thing is that it dodged the bannings, so it is still a deck, but in addition to getting around opposing Deathrites, the deck seems like it would play well against either Wild Nacatl-type strategies or Bitterblossom strategies. I’d say this has a lot to do with the support cards in the deck.
[ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd] was a huge winner from the bannings. Deathrite Shaman has really held the card back, and Kitchen Finks has been historically competitive against Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl. In the past I’ve boarded Kitchen Finks against both Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl.
Finks is obviously great with Birthing Pod, so again, I’d say Birthing Pod would be a solid place to run to right now. I’m interested in doing the same, but I am a brewer, and brewers gonna brew.
[ccDeck]4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Strangleroot Geist
3 Voice of Resurgence
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Eternal Witness
3 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Restoration Angel
2 Acidic Slime
4 Birthing Pod
4 Primal Command
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Gavony Township
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Horizon Canopy
3 Razorverge Thicket
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Temple Garden[/ccDeck]
This is a pretty weird one I admit, but I really like the idea of it. I like how it would play against both Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom strategies. It’s a deck that is great at grinding and interacting with 3/3s or a steady stream of 1/1s.
First of all, let’s talk about the Nykthos component of the deck. We are powering Nykthos through devotion in cards like [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], [card]Kitchen Finks[/card], [card]Eternal Witness[/card], Pod, and mana dorks. We can find Nykthos with [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], which is much better now that Deathrite is gone. This will lead to some amount of mana boost from Nykthos, but not a crazy amount. What to spend it on?
I figured I wanted a Nykthos mana sink that would be good even if we don’t get Nykthos out or if we fail to get devotion. The [card]Primal Command[/card]/[card]Eternal Witness[/card] combo seems like the best option for a deck like this, because Primal Command is a passable top end even stopping at 5 mana, and if we hit 8+ mana things can get really crazy.
From there, I wanted to get value from these persist creatures, and Birthing Pod obviously fits right in here. The way I am currently using Pod in this build is as a ramp toward [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. Kitchen Finks turns into [card]Restoration Angel[/card], and resets Kitchen Finks. [card]Restoration Angel[/card] finds Pod and blows up a non-creature. Finks turns into [card]Restoration Angel[/card] which resets [card]Acidic Slime[/card]. Kitchen Finks turns into Restoration Angel which resets Acidic Slime. Restoration Angel turns into Acidic Slime.
I think blowing up a non-creature turn after turn is good enough when we have the board locked up. We could squeeze in [card]Spike Feeder[/card] and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card], definitely, but I dislike how these cards play on their own and with the Nykthos aspect of the deck.
The deck is also designed from a perspective of having a good interactive deck in general. It has cheap value creatures and big late game creatures to hang with Nacatl decks, good early pressure, fliers, and plays on [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] turns against Bitterblossom decks.
[draft]Life from the Loam
Graveyard decks are also big winners. With Deathrite in main decks it was hard to justify playing a strategy that relied on keeping an individual card in the graveyard, and now I imagine we can. Perhaps the graveyard hate will be even fiercer, but that’s okay because we get to dodge for at least game 1s.
I’m not sure of the best place to start for a new graveyard brew, but we don’t necessarily need a new brew to get going. My first thought is returning to an [card]Unburial Rites[/card]-powered [card]Life from the Loam[/card]-type deck. Perhaps something like the Complex Dredge deck I was running previously.
[ccDeck]4 Raven’s Crime
4 Faithless Looting
4 Life from the Loam
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
4 Unburial Rites
4 Necrotic Ooze
4 Borborygmos, Enraged
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Marsh Flats
1 Arid Mesa
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Dakmor Salvage
1 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Copperline Gorge[/ccDeck]
Speaking of graveyard strategies, [card]Living End[/card] wins out with these bannings. Living End is a deck that could win through [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], but would much prefer winning through [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]. Living End has also historically been competitive with Faeries decks.
I would be concerned with graveyard hate in sideboards picking up, as graveyard hate in main decks fades with Deathrite Shaman. I’m not sure what would really be too scary other than [card]Rest in Peace[/card], which will continue to be one of the best sideboard cards in the format.
A big question mark for me right now is whether Splinter Twin decks came up or not. Splinter Twin decks were one of the best strategies pre-bannings, and I don’t expect things will change too much. [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] decks with [card]Path to Exile[/card] and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] would be an okay place against Twin, and Faeries with hefty turn-1 discard plays would be as well.
A Whole New Modern
I am very excited about and pleased with these changes. There is legitimately an opportunity for new decks to appear at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. I suspect we are going to see all of the old suspects, but I can’t wait to see all of the crazier options, as well.
I know that I am going to be working hard on breaking the format at best and solving the format at worst, and that means lots of brewing between now and then.
Before I go I’d like to ask y’all what you think. What else is a big winner? What else is a big loser? What kind of never-before-seen-brews can finally break out now?
<3 Travis facebook.com/Travisdwoo twitter.com/travisdwoo twitchtv.com/traviswoo [Editor’s note: This article originally included Urborg in one deck list instead of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth]