There’s a little bit of everything this week. Except for Brawl, although I expect that to change a bit once we have more results following the rules changes. Vintage is still a mess of Mishra’s Workshops and Force of Wills, but thankfully there’s always Pauper.
Oh, yeah, and a new Standard format.
10: Pure Control
At seemingly the last minute, R/B Aggro grew immensely popular in the blink of an eye. This lead to a lot of late scrambling by yours truly, trying to find a deck I liked for Grand Prix Birmingham. I ended up on W/B Aggro, which was a solid choice, but apparently I should have been listening to my podcast co-host, Bryan Gottlieb.
He’s long been championing a version of U/W Control that mostly eschews win conditions in favor of an unbeatable late game in Pull from Tomorrow and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. There are some time concern issues when playing such a deck, but realistically, it should be fine if you play fast enough. While you might pick up an unintentional draw here or there, your matchup against R/B Aggro, likely the most popular deck in Standard, is incredible.
Standard is basically never solved. There’s always a new direction to take, and while the metagame at GP Birmingham might look awful and unfun, I assume it will be anything other than that in the coming weeks.
9: Ah, Yes, the Classic “Fog Tron” Strategy
I give Pauper a lot of crap for being a busted Legacy lite, and this deck is part of the problem, yet it still makes me happy.
If all you want to do is prevent all the combat damage while also having a three-to-one mana advantage over your opponent, this is the perfect deck. Killing your opponent is something that’ll happen eventually with Mulldrifter beats, but you can also induce a maximum tilt factor by Capsize locking your opponent out of the game.
“Magic, the way Richard Garfield intended.”
8: Soul Sister Infinite Elf Graveyard Shenanigans
- 3 Prismatic Strands
- 4 Battle Screech
- 4 Presence of Gond
- 1 Cenn's Enlistment
- 2 Rally the Peasants
- 4 Faithless Looting
- 3 Commune with the Gods
This deck has some stuff going on.
You have the typical Soul Sisters stuff going on with Prismatic Strands to help beat up on the aggressive decks (and Inside Out combo decks), plus there’s some Faithless Lootings to assist with the engine. Commune with the Gods can find Midnight Guard or Presence of Gond for the combo or Benevolent Bodyguard to protect it. Rally the Peasants is another part of the Flashback engine that can help facilitate quick combo kills.
As always, the mana in a three-color deck is a touch on the awkward side, but thankfully this deck is mostly white with a couple splashes. Having cards like Faithless Looting also helps to a large degree.
Ideally, this is what Pauper would look like to me — a fair creature beatdown deck with some defensive tools and a cool combo.
7: When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong
- 1 Wirewood Guardian
- 4 Tinder Wall
- 1 Anarchist
- 2 Dimir House Guard
- 4 Wild Cantor
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Balustrade Spy
- 1 Forest
I get it. There’s a way to emulate a combo deck from Eternal formats, so let’s go ahead and try, right? What is the fail rate on a deck like this, though?
You need either a Lotus Petal, Simian Spirit Guide, or Land Grant to get started. From there, you have various ritual effects to power out Balustrade Spy. From there, you mill your deck, cast Songs of the Damned (another necessary piece of the puzzle), Morgue Theft an Anarchist, and give your opponent some Haunting Misery.
Realistically, you need a Land Grant or the basic Forest regardless since you need to mill your entire deck. You could potentially hit the Forest, Songs of the Damned for a lot, and Flashback Morgue Theft on Balustrade Spy to do it all over again, but so much could go wrong in that scenario.
I appreciate the effort, but c’mon.
6: Thraben Inspector Is Lifetime MVP
One of the things that upsets me the most about Modern isn’t that the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo isn’t playable (because it certainly is); it’s that if you want to use that combo, you’re almost always better off slotting into a Whir of Invention deck rather than a traditional U/W Control shell.
While this is just another example of that, it manages to do some rather cool things, like utilize Thraben Inspector as a cheap artifact that can cycle later and block in the short term. Overall, I’m a fan, although this might be the second time in the history of the universe I’ve wanted Thraben Inspector to be a 1/1. Not being able to pump with Pendelhaven has been a minor tilt, and the same can be said here with Sword of the Meek.
In addition to Thraben Inspector, playing white instead of the more traditional black gives you access to Dispatch, a rarely seen yet immensely powerful removal spell in Modern. This deck looks quite good, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it were well-positioned against the top threats in the format, such as Humans and Hollow One. The Time Sieve adds an infinite combo that gives you a clock against the faster combo decks in the format too. What’s not to love?
5: What Color Goes Best With Heart of Kiran?
Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran are a match made in heaven, but the black splash is easy, especially with Spire of Industry. What are the best colors to surround Heart of Kiran with?
After last weekend, red and black have made a large stake to that claim, but W/B isn’t too far behind. Rather than play Lyra Dawnbringer or Angel of Sanctions, I could see a build splashing for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but what if Teferi was the main focus? How much do you need those Fatal Pushes and Knights of Malice? Honestly, not much.
What else would blue give you? Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp is a powerful card, but how good it is has yet to really be seen. It’s shown up in some winning decklists here and there, but that leads to me believe it’s merely good, not great. If you can bleed out your opponent’s removal, a 5/6 flier is going to end the game quickly, but that’s easier said than done.
I would get some Glint-Nest Cranes in the deck ASAP. Other than that, it looks great.
4: The Possibilities Are Endless
What’s the best U/R combo deck? Through the Breach and Madcap Experiment have each performed quite well at various points, but the Possibility Storm combo hasn’t seen as much press. In some ways, it’s more compact than either combo, even if the combo itself is more unwieldy.
U/R is quite good at staving off aggression but has trouble closing, so a combo finish is all but necessary. They don’t get much better than getting to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for full value. You need to draw the singleton Endless One, but that’s easy enough with four copies of Tolaria West and a pile of cantrips.
Remand is basically at the worst its been since Modern’s inception. Maybe it’s a necessity to fight opposing combo decks, but I like the idea of cutting them all for Izzet Charms. This deck makes a move in that direction but doesn’t entirely pull the trigger.
Maybe we’ve all been sleeping on this one.
3: How to Make Hazoret Even More Fervent
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Because what Hazoret the Fervent really needed was hexproof, right?
I mean, the idea behind this deck isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Mono-Red has a major issue winning games where Hazoret isn’t involved, and while Shalai, Voice of Plenty giving it hexproof isn’t exactly going to solve your problems, maybe having some extra beef in the deck will.
History of Benalia looks great as an aggressive card and as a midrange card, but it would be a totally sick Mono-Red card too. The mana requirements in Mono-Red aren’t that strict, so moving into white is totally doable if you don’t want access to Goblin Chainwhirler. Path of Mettle is another strong card that hasn’t gotten its time to shine, but as we add sets, more creatures that fit the criteria will be legal, so it’s only a matter of time.
I’m actually fine with trying History of Benalia in Mono-Red, and while this might not be the exact shell, it’s a step in the right direction.
2: A Better Burn Deck or Better Death’s Shadow?
- 3 Dark Confidant
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Death's Shadow
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
I’m a big fan of decks like these, and it wouldn’t shock me if they become the future to some degree. Burn is easily defeated by hate cards, and Death’s Shadow suffers to some degree by not being as proactive as it should be. A mashup featuring Abbot of Keral Keep could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Dark Confidant in a Burn shell is excellent because you’re already drawing fire with your Goblin Guides, so it’s more likely to stick around. The Death’s Shadows aren’t quite as explosive in this deck, especially considering the Blackcleave Cliffs, but as a Turn 3 play, it seems just fine. Having some additional heavy hitters for Claim is necessary anyway. I’ve been waiting for Claim to break out, and it’s a perfect fit here. Previous versions have rocked Vexing Devils alongside it, which is a fine route to take, but maybe not a perfect one.
As lifegain and cheap removal hold Burn down, a different approach is necessary, and so far, I really like this one. Given the overall strategy has deviated somewhat, playing Lava Spike doesn’t excite me, and I’d also like to try Bomat Couriers, but this deck has promise.
1: Likely a Trap
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Veteran Explorer
- 1 Gaddock Teeg
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
- 1 Thragtusk
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 1 Siege Rhino
- 1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
- 1 Dragonlord Dromoka
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Swords to Plowshares
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 3 Pernicious Deed
- 4 Green Sun's Zenith
- 2 Lingering Souls
- 2 Abrupt Decay
Is this one of those decks that Bahra actually thinks is good, or one that ends up being a deep troll? Even as you spew off countless tickets trying to recreate his success on Magic Online, you may never figure it out.
Veteran Explorer and basic lands are dope right now, as is Pernicious Deed. The metagame could be in such a specific spot that the Veteran Explorer archetype is well-positioned, maybe for the first time in its existence. Still, it’s underpowered and lacking in most of the ways you traditionally want to interact in Legacy, so I’m not sure if that will play out as much in practice.
The toolbox features some cool Abzan creatures including Tireless Tracker, which is criminally underplayed in Legacy. Some sweet things like Meren of Clan Nel Toth are missing, but that leads me to believe that the deck has cut most of the superfluous cards. Primeval Titan doesn’t seem worth playing, but other than that, I like the bullets.
Apparently a flurry of discard spells was enough to defeat Sneak and Show in the finals, which is fairly impressive.