Ancestral Vision Or Seasons Past?

Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin is ready to get you geared up for the return of Modern at #SCGINDY! He’s working on tons of new decks for the format that aim to put opponents away with control, counterspells, and card draw. Let the new era of Modern begin!

With #SCGINDY this weekend and #GPCharlotte/#GPLA coming next, Modern is the format of the week. My starting point for this weekend is a general interest in Ancestral Vision.

Ancestral Vision isn’t particularly stronger than Painful Truths, but it may be better suited to some strategies. I’m particularly interested in how well Ancestral Vision matches up against Jund and Abzan, often coming down before Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize could grab it, and then propelling us forward with enough card advantage to win the attrition battle.

As you may have guessed, the first deck I looked at for LA was Grixis:

I like the low converted mana costs this style of Grixis gets to play. When your plan is Thing in the Ice, you already have a way to go over the top without spending much mana.

Thing in the Ice works great with all these Serum Visions, Remands, Kolaghan’s Commands, and so on. It also just plays right into the Ancestral Vision approach of “play a cheap card, just hang out for four turns interacting as best you can, and then get a big payoff.”

This approach is probably fine, but I’m a little concerned that it’s not disruptive enough to stop the combo decks, nor proactive enough to generate enough advantage against the decks that happen to not be beaten by this mix of interaction. For instance, Knight of the Reliquary would be annoying, even with the Terminates. Geist of Saint Traft would be very problematic. G/W Hexproof? Trouble. Burn? Trouble.

In looking at other gameplans for Grixis, I then turned to Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

Goblin Dark-Dwellers is a powerful Magic card in its own right, flashing back Kolaghan’s Command and Electrolyze and Terminate nicely. However, flashing back Ancestral Vision is just pure bliss. There’s a little bit of a Win-More experience, but Ancestral Vision resolving doesn’t lock up the game, so flashing it back can be a big deal (a trick Snapcaster Mage can’t do).

There’s something here, and this list is a little more proactive, but I’m still not sold. I just feel like the format is going to be extremely wide-open, so I’m not thrilled at the prospect of playing so much fair interaction that doesn’t exactly cover every base.

It is worth noting that Inquisition of Kozilek makes cards like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Tasigur, the Golden Fang better, since you can clear a path for them some of the time. By contrast, a card like Pia and Kiran Nalaar is often more appropriate for lists like the first, since it doesn’t need to be protected.

How about if we switch our colors up a little?

Ajani Vengeant and Jace, Architect of Thought are both a little underrated in Modern, in my opinion.

They are strong cards on their own, add versatility (such as extra lifegain and extra answers to Lingering Souls), and are resilient threats, well-suited for the grindy midrange battles that are so common in the format at the moment.

Restoration Angel is so attractive with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, it kind of makes me want to play more Dark-Dwellers action, and really mean it.

By contrast, here’s a Jeskai take on the Thing in the Ice style of blue decks:

If we’re not going to play Inquisition of Kozilek or black creatures like Tasigur or Kalitas, we might as well play white instead of black. We even get awesome sideboard cards like Wear // Tear, Stony Silence, and Timely Reinforcements!

Both Grixis and Jeskai are pretty conservative, and I could see myself playing either color combination, but let’s take a little bit of a stroll outside the box to see what else we might find that could tempt us from the beaten path.

Yeah, Keiga!

While Keiga, the Tide Star is sweet, it’s not exactly a natural fit into the Modern format. Getting to play Silumgar’s Scorn is a big game, though. Who knows? Maybe we can get away with just Dragonlord Ojutai? After all, we’ve got Serum Visions to help find him, and we’ve got Mutavault as a backup plan.

It isn’t flashy, but spending a mana to activate Mutavault means we can turn our Silumgar’s Scorns into Cancels (assuming our Mutavault doesn’t get Lightning Bolted). It’s also nice that we might Force Spike something early with our Scorn and then flash it back later with Snapcaster Mage when we find a Dragon.

There’s something appealing about staying two colors and playing strong cards that the format isn’t used to. For instance, Detention Sphere is an underrated interactive card that has wide-reaching applications.

That it hits planeswalkers and Lingering Souls tokens, among other juicy targets, is just the beginning. If we want to get really fancy, we can Cryptic Command our Detention Sphere with the trigger on the stack. Now the original target is gone for good, and we’ve got a Detention Sphere back in hand we can use for whatever may come next (not to mention drawing a card from the Cryptic).

Are you really just going to try Dragonlord Ojutai, but not Monastery Mentor? What happened to you?

I was going to! Give a mage a minute!

There are getting to be a lot of good creatures for midrange blue decks. The more copies of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy we play, the more our Tasigur lives. The more copies of Monastery Mentor we play, the more our Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet lives.

Are we taking too much damage from our lands, though? Do we really need a third color?

Yes! Now we’re talking! My body is ready. I need this in my life!

For the first time in Modern history, the Fix is legal!

Now that’s a proactive game plan. We’ve even got Sword of Feast and Famine and Mistbind Clique for added dimensions of attack. Abrupt Decay could be potentially annoying for a Bitterblossom-dependent strategy, but that’s part of why I like Scion of Oona right now. Getting to protect our Bitterblossom is awesome, and we really will get to protect Mistbind Clique some of the time.

Turn 1: Suspend Ancestral Vision

Turn 2: Bitterblossom

Turn 3: Scion of Oona on their end step

Turn 4: Mistbind Clique on their upkeep

Oh, Faeries! How I’ve missed ye!

We probably have to play more interaction than the old Faeries decks did, but it’s not like our interaction is narrow or underpowered. I could even see looking at cards like Damnation or Engineered Explosives (with a single Hallowed Fountain or something, along with the Pendelhaven, for extra counters).

If we do want more proactive threats, we might consider a couple of planeswalkers. I did consider Jace Beleren, but I think Jace, Architect of Thought is just better in the format at the moment.

Batterskull is also nice for providing some inevitability, though I worry about how often we can really tap out on turn 5. That said, it is a pretty important sideboard option against Burn and against midrange decks like Jund and Abzan.

I could also imagine some number of Snapcaster Mages being right, though it’s a card that has historically underperformed in Faeries. It’s not just the above-average number of permanents and Ancestral Vision. Faeries is all about the airborne attack, so it gets less value out of the non-flying body, which is often just brick-walled.

Pack Rat may seem to immediately violate that whole “non-flying” thing, but once you start Pack Ratting, you generally aren’t at risk of being held back for long. Pack Rat out of the sideboard can be a particularly effective threat against someone without a ton of removal. Besides, one-cost discard spells are still a great way to lead into a Rat.

As attractive as Bitterblossom, black removal, and discard are, it’s not necessarily the only way to take advantage of the power of Spellstutter Sprite.

It’s a little fancy, but Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker lets us turn mild-mannered Pestermite into an extremely threatening card. However, it’s Aether Vial that really gets the party started.

Aether Vial can provide a big mana advantage, playing right into the Faeries tempo game. It’s particularly fun to Vial down a Pestermite and untap your Vial! It’s also a nice way to offset Kiki-Jiki’s typically challenging casting cost.

It’s possible that they’re supposed to be maindeck, but Blood Moon is generally a great tool to have in the sideboard of U/R combo decks.

I considered Blue Moon for this event, but it’s the poster child of overly interactive strategy that hopes it lines up well. I’d rather just play a combo, like Kiki-Jiki, or something aggressive, like a Monastery Swiftspear deck.

Ancestral Vision does a pretty mean Treasure Cruise impression, and Vapor Snag goes well in a deck that just needs tempo however it can get it.

While I am playing a full four Delver of Secrets here, I just want to note that it is okay to play less than four. It really is. It isn’t like Delver of Secrets is just the best creature in this deck or anything, and we’ve got plenty to do with our first turn now, thanks to Ancestral Vision.

That said, the format seems to have diversified, and Delver does well in a wide-open field. It’s powerful and proactive, and there are only so many cheap interactive cards that can trade with it well. If the format is diverse, it kind of has to involve an above-average amount of opponents that aren’t loaded up on one-cost red spells.

I love Electrolyze, I really do. Saving mana is a really big deal, for such a tempo-oriented deck, though. That said, Seal of Fire is a totally legit choice and still chronically underrated, despite recent success in the hands of Michael Majors. One spot where Seal of Fire really shines is in Temur decks.

Adding enchantments to the graveyard really is super-sweet with Tarmogoyf. Besides, it’s nice to be able to play some cards out of our hand sometimes so that we don’t have to discard to Ancestral Vision.

I do worry about the number of answers getting played, but Vedalken Shackles is a great example of a powerful, potentially game-winning dimension to our interaction that the format isn’t already set up against.

If we want to take Seal of Fire even further, it’s interesting to consider how easy delirium is to achieve in Modern. What can we do with Traverse the Ulvenwald?

Traverse the Ulvenwald was already good in Standard, but what in a format with Mishra’s Bauble, Thought Scour, and fetchlands, making it consistently full strength by turn 3?

I would guess that this list is too fiddly, spending too much time cantripping, but there are some interesting things going on here. For instance, Snapcaster Mage and Traverse the Ulvenwald are a perfect match. Maybe we need to Traverse for mana early, but then when we flash it back, it’s Demonic Tutor.

One nice feature of Traverse the Ulvenwald is the ability to set up the Goblin Dark-Dwellers plus Boom // Bust combo. Early on, we hope to Boom // Bust our fetchland (and then crack it in response) to get a Stone Rain out of it. Once we get set up, though, we can find ourselves a Dark-Dwellers, flash it back, and just call Armageddon. Weirdly, Goblin Dark-Dwellers can play the spell, since its casting cost looks like two to it (thanks to Boom), but then we announce Bust and just destroy every land on the battlefield.

Thinking about the possibilities of Traverse the Ulvenwald has me wanting to try pushing it a little harder. What about in a Seasons Past deck?

This list is kind of exciting to me. We’ve probably got too many Traverse targets at the moment, and I didn’t even include fun stuff like Phyrexian Obliterator (which might actually be good). The main thing is that setting up Dark Petition plus Seasons Past is super-appealing.

This combination has already made a splash in Standard, and I think there are chances it’s good enough for Modern. It’s kind of sweet that you can get back fetchlands or Mishra’s Bauble (which also turns on Traverse, of course). You also get to play with a variety of “expensive” cards that really aren’t, so that you can consistently draw five or more cards with each Seasons Past.

Shriekmaw in particular is awesome, since it’s such a good Traverse target. Another option to consider for our toolbox is Sidisi, Undead Vizier.

I left Sidisi out initially, as we’re already a bit too fancy; however, there is something very attractive about Traverse to go get Sidisi, which lets you go get anything. Yes, Dark Petition does that too, but Dark Petition can’t be tutored up by Traverse. We could potentially play less expensive cards while still finding them more often. Sadly, I think the threat of Path to Exile or Terminate in response to the exploit trigger might be too much to overcome.

Another possibility is splashing blue for Snapcaster Mage. It’s a natural fit anyway, and the splash would be quite easy. In fact, if we were so inclined, we could also consider Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, or even Time Warp.

A single Time Warp in the deck goes a long way towards setting up full-on loops with Seasons Past. That said, we might need Walk the Aeons, since we’re ideally choosing Dark Petition as the five we get back.

Yes, that takes a lot of mana. The thing is, we don’t necessarily need to take all the turns to win. Sometimes just casting Walk the Aeons every other turn is enough!

I’m probably going to end up playing Grixis, Jeskai, or Temur, but I would love to live in the world where I can sleeve up something like this come Saturday morning.

The Eldrazi menace artificially limited the format earlier this year, and as a result, there are a lot of new cards that could have Modern implications that haven’t been explored much, yet. That brings us to the metaphorical $64,000 question:

What will be the biggest new breakout card this weekend?