Cannons Or Rocket Boosters?

SCG Players’ Champion Jim Davis has put together four lists that have one goal in mind: win #SCGINDY. Read Jim’s decklists and his analysis of Modern here!

Modern is tough.

More than any other format, Modern really feels like the Wild West. You can never really be sure what to expect, it’s very dangerous, and the rules are subject to change at any time. Even if you think you’ve planned for everything, there’s always something unexpected waiting around the corner to get you. There are a million possible decks, and many of them will have you dead on turn 4 if you can’t interact with them properly.

This leaves someone preparing for a Modern event left with a very important question:

Do I want to try to interact or not?

Each answer brings with it another question:

If I’m going to interact, what forms of interaction am I going to choose?

If I’m not going to interact, what do I think is the best linear strategy that will be hardest to interact with?

Detractors have often described Modern as the format of two ships passing in the night. The question is, do you want to install cannons or rocket boosters on your ship?

We will be looking at four brews today, two of each variety. Our first two decks will look to interact in different ways, while our second two decks will be looking to blaze by their opponents at any cost.

Ready the Cannons, Prepare to Fight

For those looking to ready the cannons and fight the good fight, here are two interesting options.

Last week we talked about my B/W Eldrazi and Taxes deck, and how it was a decent deck with many flaws. To recap: Aether Vial bad, Wasteland Strangler inconsistent, and the whole Leonin Arbiter / Ghost Quarter package more trouble than it was worth.

What did work in the deck was the light disruption of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Thought-Knot Seer backed up with quick beats, Path to Exile, and the interaction of Eldrazi Displacer. Looking to speed the deck up, add better two-drops, and give the deck another angle of attack, we turn to green instead of black.

The most important thing that green brings to the deck is the mana acceleration of Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch. Aether Vial lets you cheat on mana a little but doesn’t really accelerate you, and having seven turn 1 mana creatures puts you a leg up almost every game. Casting Thought-Knot Seer on turn 2 is not terribly uncommon, and turn 3 will happen almost any time you draw it. Turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer, turn 3 Reality Smasher is just as good as it was when Eldrazi was fully legal, and this deck allows you to do that with reasonable regularity.

Green also helps to fill the two-drop hole vacated by Tidehollow Sculler and Leonin Arbiter. Voice of Resurgence is a powerful card against more grindy midrange and control decks, while still being a reasonable beater otherwise. Scavenging Ooze is another great card that provides a good body, good utility, and a lot of incidental hate against anyone trying to use their graveyard profitably.

The biggest revelation for the deck is Gavony Township. Filling a dual purpose as both a colorless land for your Eldrazi while also being insane in concert with all your mana creatures, Gavony Township started as just a supplemental piece but has ended up one of the major reasons to play the deck.

Of course, one of the biggest draws to playing white in Modern is having access to all the best sideboard cards in the format. White is such a huge draw that even if a deck is a little weaker overall than some other decks, the percentage points you gain from having such a good sideboard can more than make up for it.

Our next deck is another Kevin Jones original brew that I spent some time tweaking on my stream. Kevin was a disciple of the school of Splinter Twin and it’s not surprising he would want to replicate that in the post-banning world.

Make no mistake, though; this is a Traverse the Ulvenwald deck through and through.

The extremely powerful Shadows over Innistrad sorcery hasn’t really made waves in Eternal formats yet, but this seems to be more a product of not knowing what to do with the card than it not being good enough. In this deck, we can see the card pulling double duty to allow the deck a combo finish with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and also a nice toolbox of maindeck creatures that are backbreaking in certain matchups.

Spellskite, Scavenging Ooze, Izzet Staticaster – all of these cards are not always worth maindecking based on power level alone, but they can completely hose entire strategies. Between Traverse the Ulvenwald and Snapcaster Mage, this deck can see pretty much any creature in the deck it wants over the course of a game, and having access to cards like these can swing entire matchups in your favor.

Aside from all the tricky stuff, this is also still just a great Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, and Lightning Bolt deck as well. There’s no denying the power of all of these cards, and like the TarmoTwin deck of old, this deck is able to attack you on numerous angles.

The one drawback to this deck is how difficult it is to build. The creatures you play in your maindeck and sideboard can completely change how the deck operates, and a lot of matches are going to be won or lost in the deckbuilding process, before the tournament even starts. This deck is going to require an insane amount of tuning.

Rocket Power, Full Speed Ahead

Of course, sometimes you don’t want your matchups to hinge on having the right answers. Sometimes you just want to present lethal damage on turn 4 every game and make them figure out how to stop you.

For a long time, “dredge” was a dirty word when it came to Magic. The deck brutalized Extended for a long time and was eventually put out of its misery once Modern was announced. But with the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll and the printing of Prized Amalgam and Insolent Neonate, dredge once again looks to rear its ugly head.

While the dredge decks of old were pure combo decks with cards like Dread Return, Bridge from Below, and Narcomoeba, this is much more of a Vengevine / recursion deck. Prized Amalgam was the final piece of the puzzle, giving you an excellent way to recur your Gravecrawlers while also being a good threat on its own.

Typically you are going to get a dredge card into the graveyard, dredge a bunch of cards, and then start the chain with Bloodghast. Play a land to return Bloodghast, which will return all of your Prized Amalgams in your end step. On the following turn, you cast your Gravecrawlers from the graveyard, bring back your Vengevines, and attack for a ton.

It’s not uncommon for this deck to put eight to ten power on the battlefield on turn 2 or 3, and it only gets worse from there.

The deck’s two main issues are consistency and dealing with graveyard hate. The first has been difficult to solve; sometimes the deck feels completely broken and you attack for eight on turn 2, and sometimes you just mulligan into oblivion and don’t do anything.

Also, anyone who really wants to beat you is going to beat you. The number of potential graveyard hate cards available to players is astounding, and this is going to make a lot of your matchups very volatile.

When the deck works, it is fantastic, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Our last deck for the day is also interested in killing people on turn 3 or 4, but does so in a fairly unique way. This one is a Jim Davis original, and while it probably needs some work, it is quite explosive.

We’ve definitely seen various “8-Whack” Goblin decks before, but they often end up playing a ton of marginal Goblins to go along with the very powerful tandem of Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker. They completely ignore perhaps one of the most powerful Goblin token-makers ever printed in Kuldotha Rebirth.

Of course, Kuldotha Rebirth is not a freeroll and requires quite a bit of deckbuilding work to make happen.

If you’re looking for an explosive core, Affinity has you covered. This deck takes a cue from Affinity’s explosive artifact starts powered by Mox Opal but chooses a different path when it comes to the payoff. More uncommon artifacts like Mishra’s Bauble, Chromatic Star, and even the lowly Myr Moonvessel round out the somewhat surprising cast of characters, but they all work in concert with the usual Affinity cards to create the artifact base for the deck.

While Affinity turns to more expensive cards like Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, and Etched Champion for its payoff, this deck instead takes a page from the Burn playbook with Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, and one of the best burn spells ever in Shrapnel Blast. These elements meld together with the eight Goblin Bushwhacker effects to make the deck extremely aggressive and explosive.

With only fifteen lands and an average mana cost of around one, decks don’t get much more aggressive than this. It’s also nice that, aside from Mox Opal and Goblin Guide, this deck is extremely cheap to build. If you love going all-out, you could do much worse than this deck.

Whichever side of the fence you choose for #SCGINDY, make sure that you know what side of the boat you are on. If you are going to interact, make sure you know what you are going to want to interact with, and if you are not going to interact make sure you know how your opponent will be trying to interact with you.

Challenge Thursday

Last week we took a shot at “Hive Mind in Modern” thanks to @G_Lavamancer’s winning vote, and I tried to do something different from the usual Desperate Ritual plan. I’ve been wanting to try Thing in the Ice for a while, and adding another element to a combo deck is usually reasonable.

The deck was honestly pretty bad, and we ended up going 2-3 with it. Thing in the Ice was also seriously underwhelming.

But as they say, there’s always next week!

As always, the poll will end at 6:00pm Eastern time, which will give me one hour to construct my deck. Then you can tune in at 7:00pm for the start of the stream. I will be playing an entire League with the challenge deck, tweaking it a bit, and then playing another League right after.

How many wins can I get? Cast your vote and tune in to my stream at 7:00pm to see how it goes!