No, I didn’t put Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis into Modern Horizons just so I could Top 8 a Grand Prix.
I didn’t play a game with Bridgevine before the tournament. I knew Bridgevine was the best deck. The results from Magic Online were quite telling. I did play a lot with Dredge with Bridge from Below so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I also like watching Twitch streamers and got to view about ten hours of Bridgevine being played.
Bridgevine tends to play on its own pretty often. You’re doing your own thing on Turn 3 or so and sequencing up to that point is very important. I told myself I would solitaire out 100 hands during my byes before I played a match. I completed about 50.
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Austin Yost won the Mythic Championship Qualifier on Friday with this build, earning his first trip to a Pro Tour / Mythic Championship. I heard about Bridgevine being the deck to beat so I thought I might as well be on the right part of history. I didn’t want to put much thought into it. I didn’t want to change numbers due to preference. This is probably a bad time to get those “Tom Ross one-ofs” in there. Bread and butter it was.
For the first time in a long time I decided I should just play the best deck. I’m glad it paid off.
I really liked the green mana. Sure, Wear // Tear and Wispmare are slightly better than Nature’s Claim generally, especially when Wispmare nabs something with a Bridge from Below in the graveyard, but I valued the consistency. I cast Vengevine four times in the tournament, and twice on camera, something I couldn’t have done with a white splash instead of green.
My tournament progression:
Rd1: Bye 1-0
Rd2: Bye 2-0
Rd3: Bye 3-0
Rd4: Izzet Phoenix WW 4-0
Rd5: Orzhov Midrange WW 5-0
Rd6: Azorius Control WLW 6-0
Rd7: Grixis Urza LWL 6-1
Rd8: Bridgevine WW 7-1
Rd9: Devoted Devastation WLL 7-2
Rd10: Mardu Control WW 8-2
Rd11: Burn WLW 9-2
Rd12: Azorius Control WW 10-2
Rd13: Izzet Phoenix WW 11-2
Rd14: Jund WLW 12-2
Rd15: ID 12-2-1
Top8: Eldrazi Tron LL – 8th place
I got whooped in the Top 8 in about ten minutes. Beats.
I didn’t win by comboing out with Altar of Dementia very often during the tournament. My ideal starts were just discarding Vengevine and bringing it back or making a few Zombies from Bridge from Below and beating down. My favorite games were the tough ones when I was under a Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void and had to cobble together a win with 1/1s and 2/1s. The small-creature scrappiness really fit my playstyle.
I did win a game against Burn when I was on the play and mulliganed to six. I cast a Stitcher’s Supplier, milling two Bridges from Below and a Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Opponent suspended a Rift Bolt. I cast Altar of Dementia on Turn 2, sacrificed my Stitcher, and made two Zombies. I then cast Hogaak and start milling myself while making two Zombies each time. After 50 or so game actions my opponent conceded and I was like “Wait… was that Turn 2?” That’s when I knew that my relationship with Hogaak wasn’t long for this world.
Yesterday I watched Hogaak Intentionally Draw round 15 of GP Dallas to selfishly lock top 8. I want to say on behalf of Hogaak that they are deeply sorry. While myself and Hogaak were teammates at the time I want to publically state that we are going our separate ways.
— Tom Ross (@Boss_MTG) July 1, 2019
Top 8 Ban-Worthy Cards from Bridgevine Power Rankings
Bloodghast has been an integral part to graveyard decks like Dredge and various Smallpox decks for years. I even played Bloodghast in Standard Vampires when that was a thing.
Along with fetchlands and a sacrifice outlet, you can get multiple activations of Carrion Feeder or Altar of Dementia. It’s a black creature that you don’t have to pay mana or a card for to convoke out Hogaak. Banning Bloodghast would significantly ding both Bridgevine and Dredge… at least for a while. I imagine Bridgevine would survive and just add more Zombies maindeck like Cryptbreaker.
Vengevine is quite suspicious when many of the Bridgevine decks are cutting their green sources. If the only means to getting Vengevine onto the battlefield is casting two creatures, it starts to look like “not a real Magic card.” Back in my day I’d cast Vengevine for four mana, attacked and blocked with it until it died in combat, and then cast a Ranger of Eos for a Wild Nacatl to get it back. Now all it takes is a Faithless Looting.
Vengevine also sees Gravecrawler and Hogaak being cast from the graveyard, so it’s even easier to assemble and doesn’t necessitate sandbagging creatures.
Thing is, without Vengevine, Bridgevine might actually get stronger and more consistent. Vengevine has always been a little weird-looking to me in the deck. It’s hard or impossible to cast, making it a poor topdeck, and is especially bad after sideboard (or even Game 1) facing graveyard hate.
I’m a fan of Hogaak as a card. It’s a build-around that showcases a combination of mechanics in convoke and delve in a unique way. Hogaak can be an interesting commander if that’s your jam. Perhaps the stats are a touch too high, but the juice ought to be worth the squeeze.
However, the squeeze is a bit too easy. Filling your graveyard is usually the easy part; it’s getting two black or green creatures onto the battlefield that should be tough. Bridge from Below conveniently makes black Zombie tokens and Vengevine, Bloodghast, and Gravecrawler can be summoned without needing to cast them from your hand.
Banning Hogaak would certainly nuke the deck. That’s something I’d be sad to see. Hogaak has the potential to be a fun fringe card in Modern… it’s just not meant to be in a Tier 1 and arguably best deck in Modern. Also, WotC is hesitant to ban a card from the newest set, and a rare at that. I’d expect a different target for action and to give Hogaak a little breathing room to find a home in a less powerful deck.
Stitcher’s Supplier is subtly one of the strongest cards in Bridgevine. It’s a one-drop Zombie that enables Gravecrawler and Vengevine while getting the ball rolling with three flips. Depending on the strength of those flips often determines how strong of a start the Bridgevine deck has. Bridge from Below, Vengevine, Hogaak, Gravecrawler, and Bloodghast are all huge hits. Later on, it does it again when it dies to Carrion Feeder or Altar of Dementia… or of natural causes like combat. I often lead on Stitcher’s Supplier over Faithless Looting Turn 1 so I have more information.
Stitcher’s Supplier doesn’t currently go into any other Modern decks, so I could see it getting the axe if Wizards of the Coast really has a pulse on the inner workings of the Bridgevine deck and wants to solely target it. It’s not from Modern Horizons and will likely only lead to future degeneracy when a new graveyard deck inevitably pops up. I don’t believe Stitcher’s Supplier would ever be banned by itself and would have to come in a package deal with another one of the main offenders.
One problem with how Modern Horizons was injected into the format was printing two free sacrifice outlets at once. Carrion Feeder plus Altar of Dementia enables too many possibilities to really predict. Before, Modern only had Viscera Seer to freely sacrifice creatures to for combo purposes. It’s even the same casting cost as Viscera Seer, which may be an error too.
If there’s a fair Zombie deck in Modern, there’s a good chance that it would want Carrion Feeder. Modern Horizons has a lot of shots in it and one was aimed towards making Modern Zombies a possibility. Sacrifice Outlet Tribal deck wasn’t on the radar. Getting rid of Carrion Feeder would certainly hurt Bridgevine without needing to ban a rare, which is preferable for people who have invested into said rare.
Altar of Dementia barely flew under the caution bar for release of Modern Horizons. We kept a watchful eye on it, mostly putting it alongside Kitchen Finks and friends for some infinite combo shenanigans.
The fact that Altar of Dementia is an enabler that also acts as a win condition is what makes it outrageous. Dredge mostly still has to win through combat until it can assemble a healthy Conflagrate. Bridgevine just wins on the spot when it goes off. Even if it bricks off the Altar, it’s left with something like sixteen power on the battlefield on Turn 3.
Again, printing Altar of Dementia alongside Carrion Feeder was the only real glaring flaw of Modern Horizons that I’ve heard feedback about. It’s more manageable to shift the metagame by adding another of the same effect (think Baral, Chief of Compliance or Sram, Senior Edificer) without throwing it all into chaos.
Altar is a rare from the newest set that goes for like five bucks. It’s not the worst thing in the world to ban, but not the most publicly appealing either. However, there’s enough clamoring and expectation of a ban from Bridgevine that it’s easier to get away with than for a typical freshly printed rare.
I quite like what Faithless Looting does for Modern. It’s basically Modern’s version of Brainstorm. Faithless Looting smooths out draws, allows for more keepable opening hands, enables various strategies, and gives the player something to do in the late-game to mitigate mana flooding. It’s too bad that so often the cards getting discarded are so powerful and the strategies that Faithless Looting enables are too strong.
I believe Faithless Looting to be similar to Deathrite Shaman as well. Bloodbraid Elf died for Deathrite’s sins earlier in the Modern format. Deathrite Shaman became too ubiquitous in Legacy as well, where it took quite a long time to identify it as a problem. After all, Deathrite did a lot of good things, right? It suppressed graveyard decks, gave some lifegain which everyone likes, closed the door on games with the drain, and fixed you mana. What’s not to like? Deathrite was just too strong and went in too many decks. It had to go.
People have been expecting a Faithless Looting ban for years. Few will bat an eye seeing Bridgevine as the straw to break the camel’s back to finally get Wizards of the Coast to pull the trigger on the banhammer. I totally expect it to go, but not as much as I expect the next card to go…
1. Bridge From Below
Not. A. Magic. Card.
Bridge from Below is from Future Sight, a set aimed at jamming as many off-the-wall mechanics and ideas as possible. The good ones came back in future sets, like the Horizon Canopy lands in Modern Horizons. Other ideas like gravestorm and fortify didn’t shake out as well.
Bridge from Below is the only card that does nothing on the battlefield yet something in the graveyard. The BBB casting cost is just there to mock you. The only thing that Bridge from Below does is promote degenerate decks and plays. Again, why is this even a card?
Triggers stack strangely sometimes with Bridge. If two creatures die in combat, you have to announce how you’re stacking so you can generate a Zombie. Bridge from Below awkwardly sits in a non-battlefield zone, triggering away. It’s easy to miss it needing to get exiled or for a player creating a Zombie. Just headache nonsense.
The Banned and Restricted announcement is Monday. Bridgevine was 18.6% of the Day 2 metagame (the most-played deck by a good margin) while having a 33% conversion rate from Day 1 or Day 2. Only 15.6% of players made the jump from Day 1 to Day 2. Bridgevine was over double on rate.
It’s clear that Bridgevine is winning at a higher clip than what is healthy. Heck, I made a ton of mistakes during the tournament, just to have my powerful deck bail me out. Bridgevine gives too many free wins, while having too much resiliency and too high of a win rate.
How WotC addresses the issue is something that we’ll find out Monday. I’ll be refreshing the page to find out what the new Modern world will look like. If nothing changes, I’m 100% taking back Bridgevine to Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona.
“Nothing” is pretty unlikely, though. I’ll miss you, Hogaak.