From Psychic Puppetry To Coretapper: This Week’s Peak Modern Nonsense

Hogaak decks may be oppressive and boring in Modern, but these successful brews sure aren’t! Ari Lax takes you on a whirlwind tour of Modern’s wildest ahead of SCG Richmond!

Normally we see weird stuff pop up in Modern every month or so, but it’s just one deck. Maybe two. With Modern Horizons and some assists from Core Set 2020, there’ve been dozens of wild ideas bouncing off the walls. The last week or two has been a real gold mine for these decks. Here are the ones I think are the most promising.

Twiddle Storm

What the Heck Does It Do?

If you weren’t around sixteen years ago when Twiddle Storm was last a hyped deck, you’re in for a treat. To put things in context, the last Twiddle Storm deck got to play four Tinker.

After leaving the 1990s era of Time Vault, Twiddle eventually found a use untapping Gilded Lotus to build blue Dark Ritual. This is obviously very broken. Lotus Field lets you do the same thing.

The other overlapping engine is Arcane draw spells plus Psychic Puppetry. By stapling a Twiddle onto every Peer Through Depths, Ideas Unbound, and Reach Through Mists you cast, you’re building a critical mass of free card draw to be able to churn through your deck, find Past in Flames, cast it, and churn the rest of the way into a Grapeshot.

What It Does Well:

Since all the Seething Song and Rite of Flame “Rituals” that make two mana per cast are banned, Storm has always had to jump through hoops to be fast. That usually involves some engine permanent to net extra mana, with Pyromancer Ascension and Goblin Electromancer being the most obvious.

Lotus Field is a unique engine permanent due to being a hexproof land. You can’t Thoughtseize or Thought-Knot Seer it. You can’t Field of Ruin it. You can’t do a lot of things to it you would expect to use to interact.

The other part of Twiddle Storm that is exciting is that it’s very good at being the combo deck that goes off exactly one turn before it dies.

If you give Twiddle Storm time, it has a lot of card selection. It can spend turns burning time to make a combo turn almost deterministic. If you don’t give it time, it can push on Turn 3 and see where the chips fall.

My first instinct was to add Sylvan Scrying to this deck because it does require a Lotus Field to go off, but after some play the deck is fairly good at just finding the card with cantrips or Tolaria West. If the deck is a bit short in more practice, the solution is almost surely more blue cards and not adding a clunky Expedition Map or green spells.

What It Doesn’t Do Well:

Even if Lotus Field isn’t something you can hit with discard, Psychic Puppetry is. You really need to find a copy of this card while going off to really go off, because your deck is a bunch of two-mana card draw with only a few Twiddles otherwise.

Psychic Puppetry and Lotus Field are also both a bit awkward as combo pieces in a chain combo deck that are noticeably worse in multiples. The second Psychic Puppetry is just an expensive Twiddle, as you can’t tap Lotus Field between the splice effects. Well, unless you drew the second Lotus Field, which isn’t even good until you hit Turn 6 and have four other lands to sacrifice to both.

Another weakness of the deck is it has to hit the first two non-Lotus Field lands to function. This might seem fairly easy, but you only have sixteen or seventeen non-Field lands and you don’t have nearly as many selective cantrips as Izzet Phoenix.

But really, my issue with Twiddle Storm is the sheer range of hate cards that are effective against it. Blood Moon shuts off Lotus Fields. Leyline of the Void forces you to find a new kill engine over Past in Flames. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is back to live where normal Storm can just stack another Goblin Electromancer on the pile. Even Chalice of the Void for one hurts.

Suggested Fixes and List:

I was really unimpressed with Precognition Field as the sideboard win condition, but you need something that lets you bypass a hate card. Aria of Flame and Empty the Warrens are the two obvious options.

You can’t find Aria of Flame with Peer Through Depths and must draw it before comboing. Yet I can’t actually imagine an opponent surviving if you cast Aria of Flame and then untap Lotus Field in any way.

Empty the Warrens naturally fits as a backup full combo win condition and plays better if you start from blue spells and are looking to short-combo into something, but without Manamorphose I’m concerned your turbo Empty hands are a bit short. You can Turn 2 with multiple Twiddles, but you’re only making six or eight Goblins when ten or twelve tends to be the critical number. Of the two, I think Empty the Warrens is slightly more exciting, but I think you need to play the maximum number of Twiddles to support this plan.

I’m fairly sure some amount of the bounce spells in this deck should be Eye of Nowhere. Arcane is a huge bonus when that means your bounce spell is effectively free, and I really just want to snap off the “Turn 2, hit your land” like it’s Champions of Kamigawa Standard all over again.

The one card I’m unsure what to think of is Vizier of Tumbling Sands. I don’t generally find card density to be a huge issue when going off enough to need a cantrip Twiddle, and the fact it only nets one mana relative to two from a true Twiddle isn’t great, but I don’t think I would mind playing a copy or two. My list doesn’t have any, but it’s worth trying some if you go deeper on this deck.

Charge Tron

What the Heck Does It Do?

This deck is brought to you by absurd colorless mana engine number four, or five, or thirteen in Modern. I’ve really lost track.

The general idea is you spend a bit of time loading up Everflowing Chalice or Astral Cornucopia with charge counters, and then use the mana to do a bunch of stuff. Often some of that stuff is putting even more charge counters on your mana rock, so your next turn is a bunch of stuff plus a bunch of other stuff, and so on.

From there, you play some stupid colorless card that wins the game. Karn, the Great Creator; Mystic Forge; Walking Ballista; it’s all about the same thing.

What It Does Well:

We’ve seen Coretapper nonsense for years; it hasn’t worked. To give you an idea of how long I mean by “years,” the first time I saw it was in a Sam Black article that also mentioned this newfangled thing called “streaming Magic Online.”

But we’ve also seen the Tron / Chalice of the Void / Karn, the Great Creator combo in the last couple of months, and that really does work.

Charge Tron is just grafting a different engine over the Eldrazi part of Eldrazi Tron. And honestly, that’s the worst part of Eldrazi Tron. Every time someone makes fun of Eldrazi Tron, they make comparisons of spending Tron mana on Matter Reshaper instead of Karn Liberated. They aren’t wrong, but really Eldrazi Tron is a Chalice of the Void and Karn, the Great Creator deck that wins with that other thing if its opponent is just messing around. If you want “that other thing” to be some wild Coretapper engine instead of not very fast Thought-Knot Seer, be my guest and give it a try.

The thing that Charge Tron does noticeably better than Eldrazi Tron or Mono-Green Tron is Ensnaring Bridge. Both of the other Tron decks have the same issue with really emptying their hand, which tends to happen when your opening seven can have a total converted mana cost of 37. This on the other hand is a Mox Opal deck.

Most of the “big” spells in Charge Tron are also castable for zero. You might get some stuff backed up in hand, but you can reasonably go fully unloaded the next turn.

Your deck has the best draws of Eldrazi Tron and the best draws of Artifact Prison. What’s not to like?

What It Doesn’t Do Well:

Being a Mox Opal deck is a power-to-weakness tradeoff in post-Modern Horizons Modern. The new artifact hate cards are rough.

This is a pretty good Karn, the Great Creator deck. But it isn’t the only one, and wow do I not want to play against opposing Karns with this deck.

Suggested Fixes and List:

Just play the updated list tangrams Top 4’ed an MCQ with on Saturday. Everything I was wondering about updating, it turns out he did: the Thought-Knot Seers, the Surge Nodes, none of this Crucible of Worlds garbage. The only thing I’m skeptical of is only playing three copies of Expedition Map.


What the Heck Does It Do?

Some typical Modern creature midrange nonsense: cast some medium creatures, accumulate some medium value, and lay down some medium beats.

Enough of the ways to this medium accumulation nonsense revolve-around-enters the battlefield effects, making the efficient Modern Horizons ways to retrigger those into an engine. Ephemerate approximates one-mana Divination in a worse scenario with Ice-Fang Coatl, one-mana Dig Through Time with Watcher for Tomorrow, and one-mana game over with a lot of other cards.

The Bant version specifically has a fairly straightforward combo kill with Ephemerate, Eternal Witness, and Time Warp. Ephemerate gives you two rebuys, one of which is Ephemerate and the other Time Warp. Take an extra turn, flicker Eternal Witness again, and there you go.

What It Does Well:

Okay, that was a really horrible sales pitch. The word “medium” was used a lot. Why would you even play this deck?

Of all the decks I posted, this shell feels the least refined, but I also think there are extremely promising elements here.

Teferi, Time Raveler plus Spell Queller is messed up. Spell Queller something, bounce it with Teferi, they can’t recast their spell, you draw a card, and you still have Spell Queller back. Ephemerate lets you further extend these counter-lock chains.

The other thing I really like about this archetype is how well it can extend powerful sideboard cards. You can obviously look at enters-the-battlefield effects like Knight of Autumn’s Naturalize to crush artifact decks, but you can also loop Eternal Witness if you’d like.

Seeing the exile part of Force of Negation getting used to set up the “processor” Eldrazi effect on Wasteland Strangler and Ulamog’s Nullifier is awesome. I’m unsure what matchup you want to Force of Negation and kill a small creature (maybe Devoted Druid combo?), but it’s still awesome.

What It Doesn’t Do Well:

Did you see how many times I used the word “medium” in describing this deck? It is not inherently overpowering.

If you want to play this deck, you really need to nail down exactly what interaction you want for the format. I don’t know if you can quite do that with so much Hogaak, but in two weeks it might be time to start putting together the puzzle.

There’s also a fairly odd weakness to one-toughness stuff that punishes this deck, and Plague Engineer is oddly oppressive. It clears Noble Hierarch, Watcher for Tomorrow (before the hideaway trigger), and Eternal Witness.

Suggested Fixes and List:

Among the three-drop disruption, I think I don’t want to heavily to commit to any of them. Reflector Mage seems underwhelming when you can just show up with Eternal Witness plus Path to Exile, so I’m definitely shorter on that one than the others.

And I’m fairly sure I want all of these over Soulherder. That card seems slow and fragile.

I kinda wish there was an alternative to Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch that doesn’t get Wrenn and Six pinged, but I don’t think there is. I would lean extremely hard on Coiling Oracle as a result.

And Even More



Listen, I’m going to leave this one for Tom to dive into, but this is just where Modern is.

I make no promises all of these decks are going to reliably take down Arclight Phoenix or Champion of the Parish, but any time you can discuss Psychic Puppetry or Cascade Sliver Combo as close to the Modern-playable line, it shows that we’re in a weird and great place for the format.

(Well, except Hogaak. Only two more weeks!)