The Value of Maindeck Graveyard Hate – and the Decks that Can Pull It Off

Despite how good Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is, it’s incredibly unlikely to be banned before the next B&R announcement. The card is oppressive and widely considered too good for Modern, but the simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t warrant an emergency ban. We’ve only seen a handful of emergency bans throughout history, and Hogaak isn’t going to prompt another one.

Further, I don’t think it’s a fait accompli that it’ll be banned at the end of the month as part of the next announcement. I think it’s probable–likely, even–but it’s not inconceivable that other cards hit the chopping block instead (my favorite argument is that Leyline of the Void should be banned: with almost 850 total copies at the most recent MC, the card is clearly over-represented).

In the short-term, however, discussion of a Hogaak ban is immaterial. If you want to win in Modern, then you’ve got to be ready to beat graveyard decks. It’s not just Hogaak, either. Arclight Phoenix is still one of the best decks in the format, and dedicated graveyard hate does splash damage against other decks such as Jund, Urza, Snapcaster decks, and the like.

There are a few high-tier decks that don’t rely on the graveyard and can sneak maindeck graveyard hate into their starting 60. Mono-Green Tron is probably the best example of this, with Relic of Progenitus, and other less-represented decks like Scapeshift can do the same. Today, however, I want to highlight a few sweet lists that have brought out the big guns, maindecking heavy hitters like Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace to fight off the Hogaak menace.

Decks That Main Deck Graveyard Hate in Modern

Martyr No-Proc

Martyr Proc has been a fringe Modern deck for a long, long time, using Proclamation of Rebirth to recur one-drops such as Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendant. The Ranger-Captain of Eos offers another tutor effect to go with Ranger of Eos, and Giver of Runes is the perfect inclusion in a creature-focused white deck.

Rather than recurring creatures with Proclamation of Rebirth, however, how about maindecking Rest in Peace? After all, your graveyard-based game isn’t as strong as theirs, or as necessary. It’s time for some Proc-less Martyr Proc!

Martyr No Proc by DoubleB_33

1 Cavern of Souls
19 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Field of Ruin
4 Giver of Runes
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
3 Serra Ascendant
4 Squadron Hawk
1 Walking Ballista
2 Rest in Peace
2 Mind Stone
2 On Thin Ice
1 Ajani, Strength of the Pride
1 Banishing Light
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Path to Exile

1 Archangel Avacyn/Avacyn, the Purifier
1 Celestial Purge
2 Damping Sphere
1 Disenchant
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Hex Parasite
2 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence

There will be games where you draw Rest in Peace against decks like Tron and feel like a total idiot. But these will be more than balanced out with the games where the Hogaaks and Phoenixes of the world can’t answer your enchantment and you cruise to victory.

Obviously, this decision comes at a cost–Proclamation of Rebirth was a cornerstone of the deck strategy–but how steep, really, is the cost? You can still gain heaps of life with Martyr of Sands and Squadron Hawk, you can still search up Serra Ascendants with your Rangers and race effortlessly.

Additionally, adding extra exile-based interactive elements such as On Thin Ice is a terrific call in a field where exile effects are at a premium. I’m not sure I want the first On Thin Ice before the fourth Path to Exile, but I think going up to six one-mana exile effects (maybe shaving the eighth Ranger?) would be an excellent call.

A deck that offers speed and consistency alongside powerful and relevant disruption is always going to be a good choice in a field like the current Modern metagame. Besides, in terms of Modern decks, this list comes in pretty cheap. Cavern of Souls isn’t strictly necessary for the deck to function, and still leaves you with a perfectly viable Modern deck for around $300 or so.

Five-Color Elementals

We’ve seen Five-Color Humans dominate aggressive tribal strategies in Modern for a long time now, but with both Modern Horizons and Core Set 2020 bringing a raft of new Elemental cards, it might be time to start playing around with a different tribe. Many Elemental creatures still offer disruptive, spell-like effects, and that’s on top of some incredible value-oriented, grindy cards as well.

Five-Color Elementals by perseel

2 Waterlogged Grove
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Copperline Gorge
3 Unclaimed Territory
4 Primal Beyond
1 Mountain (343)
2 Fiery Islet
2 Sunbaked Canyon
3 Creeping Trailblazer
4 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Flickerwisp
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Healer of the Glade
1 Omnath, Locus of the Roil
4 Risen Reef
4 Smokebraider
4 Thunderkin Awakener
4 Vesperlark
3 Voice of Resurgence
4 Leyline of the Void
4 AEther Vial

2 Alpine Moon
1 Collector Ouphe
2 Fulminator Mage
3 Healer of the Glade
2 Ingot Chewer
2 Jaddi Lifestrider
1 Shriekmaw
2 Weather the Storm

First things first: a playset of maindeck Leyline of the Void! This deck is gunning hard for the degenerate graveyard strategies that dominate Modern and backs up maindeck Leylines with an ability to grind out just about any opposing deck. Risen Reef, Vesperlark, Thunderkin Awakener–these cards will run roughshod over any deck that isn’t equipped to contest the lategame.

You can recur Fulminator Mage against Tron, paralyzes White-Blue Control with Voice of Resurgence, and use old Elemental classics such as Flamekin Harbinger and Smokebraider to find and ramp out game-ending threats like Omnath, Locus of the Roil. Aether Vial, of course, threatens to make gameplans like this even more broken by letting you “cheat” on mana.

The mana is sweet, too. Humans must make do with Ancient Ziggurat, which is not very good when you’re hoping to cast turn-one Aether Vials as often as possible. Primal Beyond is a clear upgrade in that regard! Additionally, playing six “Canopy lands” (we need a better name for this cycle. Horizons lands?) is exactly what a low-to-the-ground deck like this wants to do in order to mitigate flooding.

Boros Swans

Here’s a weird one. You might have seen an old, off-the-wall deck that involves Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault, where you’d discard lands to damage your Swans and draw cards. This deck dispenses with Seismic Assault (its mana base breathes a grateful sigh of relief), and instead looks for ways to abuse doing damage to its own creatures.

Boros Swans by Jarad Carroll

4 Inspiring Vantage
1 Clifftop Retreat
2 Sacred Foundry
1 Bloodstained Mire
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Marsh Flats
2 Mountain (343)
6 Plains (331)
4 Auriok Champion
1 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Spiteful Sliver
2 Swans of Bryn Argoll
2 Volcano Hellion
4 Wall of Omens
4 Boros Reckoner
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Faithless Looting
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Path to Exile
2 Pyroclasm
2 Rest in Peace
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Blessed Alliance
2 Worship

2 Anger of the Gods
3 Blood Moon
1 Boil
2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Wear/Tear

The old Blasphemous Act/Boros Reckoner combo did some work in Standard, many years ago, and here it also combos with Swans of Bryn Argoll to draw ridiculous amounts of cards. Spiteful Sliver also gets in on the action, and Pyroclasm provides another way to manage the board and get those Reckoner/Swans/Sliver triggers (Lightning Bolt, with Swans, becomes Ancestral Recall!).

Again, we see maindeck Rest in Peace as a hugely powerful tool in fighting off Hogaak et al., but it’s not the only one. Worship was a popular piece of technology during “Eldrazi Winter,” where decks laden with Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer had a lot of trouble dealing with the enchantment.

This list is actually incredibly well set-up to make use of Worship, as it’s filled with sticky, difficult-to-kill threats. Auriok Champion, Swans, Hazoret–none die easily, and all help to buy time as you drive towards a big Blasphemous Act finish. Failing that, Volcano Hellion can also be the deathknell alongside a Reckoner, assuming you’re on a higher life total than your opponent.

Not many decks will survive an Act with a Reckoner out, let alone multiple, and with six such effects, this deck can set up its one-two punch reasonably consistently. With no graveyard reliance outside the (slightly questionable) Faithless Looting, Rest in Peace is also set to do work against unsuspecting graveyard decks!

I’m curious to see if the Hogaak deck is meaningfully nerfed as part of the next B&R announcement, and won’t be surprised if another card ends up dying for Hogaak’s sins. In the meantime, however, you’ve got to fight the battles in front of you, and finding ways to maindeck cards such as Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void, as these decks have, is one way to get a real edge against the format!

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