Before I share my thoughts on B/R Hollow One, I’d like to take a second and congratulate Jessica Estephan, Ryan Lewis Jonns, and Lachlan Saunders on their with at Grand Prix Sydney this past weekend. This marks the first time in the history of Magic that a female player has won a Grand Prix and I couldn’t be happier to hear the news.
I’ve been playing major live tournament Magic for a long time and I’ve met countless female players who almost universally say the same thing: treatment of women in Magic is horrendous. I don’t want to delve too deep on that subject today, but I will say that in my experiences female players are as motivated and talented as male players and I admire their dedication to the game despite receiving poor treatment from the community.
I also want to highlight Lachlan Saunders, who played 74 of the 75 cards I recommended for Mono-Green Tron after Grand Prix Phoenix. He tweeted at me and said he used my exact sideboard guide during the event too. It took me a moment to overcome my disappointment that he had changed even one card and that my hard work didn’t directly translate into him mastering the Urzatron cards in Modern…until I realized they were playing Unified Modern and the only reason he changed a sideboard Grafdigger’s Cage into a Relic of Progenitus was because his teammate Ryan needed the Grafdigger’s Cage for his Five-Color Humans sideboard and the rules don’t allow for splitting Cages.
It was a product of the format that Saunders had to change things and I’d like to assume he would’ve had the Grafdigger’s Cage if the rules allowed it. I’m comfortable enough calling 74/75 where the one change is a Grafdigger’s Cage to a Relic of Progenitus “the same decklist,” since in my eyes it’s like rounding 99.99% to 100%.
This isn’t the first time this has happened either:
For those curious about the list I played at #GPNJ to a t16 finish. The best version of the best deck in standard. pic.twitter.com/OgfOQh9sTZ
— Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) March 15, 2017
This tweet was posted on March 14th, 2017 and on March 19, 2017, Ryohei Kirino copied my exact list, played in his first ever Grand Prix, and won Grand Prix Shizuoka.
So just to recap:
- April 15th, 2018: Lachlan Saunders copies my exact Mono-Green Tron list and wins Grand Prix Sydney.
- March 11th, 2018: Christoph Greene copies my exact Grixis Energy list and wins Grand Prix Madrid.
- March 19th, 2017: Ryohei Kirino copies my exact Mardu Vehicles list during my writing hiatus and wins Grand Prix Shizuoka.
I’m not trying to diminish the accomplishments of these players and claim they owe me anything or somehow these accomplishments are mine. Additionally, I’m sure they’re all quite strong players in their own right. What I am saying is that the decklists I put in my articles each week have my stamp of approval, and if you’re a hardcore tournament player and you don’t read my article each week before a PTQ, Grand Prix, or Pro Tour, are you even trying? It’s like not checking the weather before you decide what to wear that day.
Although my own personal results haven’t been as satisfying lately, I will say that I love the fact that my deckbuilding is internationally respected. I’m at a phase in my life where I’ve basically accomplished everything there is to accomplish in Magic, and once I’ve beaten everyone badly, all that’s left to do is beat everyone again and again or help others feel the enjoyment of succeeding. I’m glad people who love Magic can use me as a resource to find their own enjoyment and love of Magic.
“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” – Muhammad Ali
I guess some might argue a more apt Ali quote is this one, but I beg to differ.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
Back to Hollow One. I love this deck. It’s ridiculously powerful and it’s relatively hard to play. I’ll start by showing you the decklist played by William Jensen, Mike Sigrist, and me, where we all finished 11-4.
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Bloodghast
- 2 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Hollow One
Hollow One was the third-most-played deck in Day 2 of GP Hartford, with one copy making the elimination rounds. I played the deck mostly because I felt like I had reasonable matchups against the field and things mostly played out that way.
The biggest change we made to the deck was including Lingering Souls. This was an idea that Gabriel Nassif and I had considered but never actually invested much time into trying. However, once it made its way into the maindeck, I was an immediate believer.
I’d had a prior belief that Mardu Pyromancer was probably the second-best deck in Modern after Hollow One and that Faithless Looting was one of the more offensive cards in Modern. I also thought that Mardu Pyromancer was an entire successful strategy in its own right because of the synergy of using Faithless Looting to discard Lingering Souls. I’ve seen plenty of games where the Mardu Pyromancer deck never even gets white mana and can still make good use of Souls, so I saw no reason why this wouldn’t remain true for Hollow One.
I had a prior belief that Lingering Souls was outright one of the best cards in Modern. I used to play Jund with Deathrite Shaman and it was obvious that you should splash for Lingering Souls to have an edge in the mirror match. If you’re bored, go ahead and tweet at Tom Martell if you want more evidence that Lingering Souls is a good card, as he won a Standard Pro Tour and a Legacy Grand Prix with it. If it’s good enough for Legacy, then for my money it’s good enough for Modern.
I’ve been deeply unsatisfied with the flex slots in Hollow One for quite some time and that’s even after I tried basically everything. Call to the Netherworld, Collective Brutality, Fatal Push, Grim Lavamancer, Dismember, and Lightning Axe never quite seemed to fit. I was drawn to extra removal in the maindeck, since Hollow One’s biggest weakness is a huge creature. Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Mantis Rider all cause me nightmares. It’s also true that the list of matchups that are problematic for the deck all contain a high density of creatures, like Jund, Infect, Affinity, Humans, Elves, and Merfolk.
Rather than add a card that doesn’t facilitate my deck’s core gameplan like Fatal Push, I played Lingering Souls which interacts with the graveyard beautifully by giving me card advantage and a great plan against Tarmogoyf. If the game only lasts two more turns, chumping a Tarmogoyf twice is as good as killing it. Additionally, people used to put Lingering Souls in their sideboard specifically to beat Affinity and Infect, so in that vein I was basically presideboarding against my worst matchups.
That’s about the highest-percentage gain I could imagine getting from any new card I add to my deck and swinging bad matchups into good ones in Game 1 is a dream come true. Hollow One is a graveyard deck notorious for how poor it is at blocking, and there’s the best graveyard-themed blocking card in history staring me in the face?
I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m playing it.
Sometimes I’m nervous in the mirror match about having too many Lightning Bolts after sideboarding, since it’s only good against Flameblade Adept, but when you begin to trim Bolts, you make yourself weaker against Adept. It’s always a dangerous game you play when you have a situational reactive card and you always feel lucky when you get to use it and you and your opponent each draw exactly one of the cards that can trade for each other. Lingering Souls gave me the ability to produce card advantage and still have adequate answers to Flameblade Adept.
Let’s talk about Burning Inquiry. Burning Inquiry is an awful Magic card. At face value it operates as card disadvantage, and as games go on, the cost of the card disadvantage only snowballs. The reason Hollow One is a great deck is because it uses Burning Inquiry as a form of disruption like a very unreliable version of Thoughtseize or Hymn to Tourach, uses fast mana as a way to fuel early copies of Hollow One, it tries to generate card advantage with Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix.
When cards like Bloodghast, Flamewake Phoenix, and Lingering Souls are in your hand, the first thing you want to do is discard them because they’re so inefficient to cast. If you cast a Burning Inquiry and discard two Bloodghasts, not only are you trading bad cards for new cards, but you’re also turning “discard three” into effectively “discard one.” Some of my best Burning Inquiries, even ones that don’t hand me free Hollow Ones, feel a lot like I just got to Brainstorm and shuffle with a fetchland simultaneously on Turn 1.
The winning team from Grand Prix Sydney played Humans, Hollow One, and Mono-Green Tron, and I’m impressed, since that seems like the best possible option for Unified Modern play. They’re literally the three best decks and they all rock-paper-scissors each other. Personally, I believe Humans isn’t the best choice for me, since I’m a much stronger player than my opponent; if my deck is all creatures, I’m very easy to sideboard against and the games are quite easy to play.
It’s entirely possible that a supercomputer might demonstrate that Humans wins a fraction of a percentage more than the other decks if they’re all played perfectly and the opponents played perfectly, but I feel Mono-Green Tron and Hollow One are still better options, because these decks historically underperform since they’re tough to play, my opponents regularly make errors in sideboarding, and I feel heavily advantaged in the post-sideboard games. I just can’t imagine how my Humans deck improves more than a random opponent after sideboarding, since they always take out all their bad cards and add whatever they have that’s anti-creature.
I want to close by including a link to a tweet from sometimes teammate on the Pantheon, Logan Nettles:
I did a metagame breakdown and mini-analysis of today's Modern MOCS pic.twitter.com/GiLSeNX2np
— Logan Nettles (@Jaberwocki) April 2, 2018
Logan went through and combed the MOCS Monthly, and his conclusion was essentially, “Math says Hollow One.” After Pro Tour Ixalan, I saw an article which basically also said, “Math says Hollow One.”
I find the MOCS Monthly to be a strong indicator of the truth behind Modern since the level of competition is much higher than your average PTQ, SCG Tour Open, or Grand Prix. The field is elite and composed of Hall of Fame, Platinum, and Gold players together with Magic Online grinders who earned 35 QPs during that month. You’ve got the best of all time, the best currently available, and the most dedicated, high-volume, and skilled Magic Online players. It’s possible you can make a metagame where Hollow One is a bad choice, but it would need to be somewhat extreme circumstances, and as it sits, I’d be surprised if another deck could be considered the best deck in Modern.
Cast those Burning Inquiries with confidence.