Hot Takes On Cool Modern Decks

Jace, the Mind Sculptor this. Bloodbraid Elf that. You know what? Shaun McLaren just wants to brew! Today he shows the out-there decks he’s played over the last month to get your mind working!

I’ve been streaming a bunch of Modern in the past 30 days, and while I’ve played my fair share of Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks and Bloodbraid Elf decks, I’ve also tried out a bunch of unique rogue decks. Today I’ll share my lists and thoughts on them.

I don’t claim that these are the best decks in Modern, but some do have staying power and will hopefully at least be interesting and inspire some cool ideas. Taking time to explore off the beaten path and muck about in the deep end of what Modern has to offer can be rewarding and fun, so join me as we dive into the ocean of brews!

You’ve probably seen this deck by now, and it has some surprising strength to it, evidenced by Jordan Boisvert winning the Worcester Modern Classic with it.

Serum Powder acts as a way to find your explosive starting hands, which almost always involve Eldrazi Temple, and it also conveniently exiles Eternal Scourge for you to recast it later when you use it to find a new opening hand. The synergies with Eternal Scourge don’t stop there, though, since you also have Scavenger Grounds, Gemstone Caverns, and Relic of Progenitus to get “free” exiles.

One of the strengths of the deck is the creature-lands, which are great for winning races and pressuring planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. One of the major weaknesses is that reliance on Eldrazi Temple and the fact that Serum Powder is not the greatest card to just draw in the middle of a game.

So what about my take on the deck?

Distended Mindbender is a card I love that never really managed to make a huge impact, but it complements your cheap Eldrazi here and gives you a way to plow through your opponent’s hand quickly.

The extra benefits of adding the black and white are Wasteland Strangler and Eldrazi Displacer. Eldrazi Displacer is a great card on its own, but you also get the added synergies of blinking Wasteland Strangler and Thought-Knot Seer. Wasteland Strangler is also a powerhouse of a card, assuming you manage to get one of your opponent’s cards into exile, but you have plenty of ways to do that with Thought-Knot Seer, Relic of Progenitus, or Scavenger Grounds.

The deck really punishes graveyard-focused decks but still relies very heavily on Eldrazi Temple and otherwise provides clunky draws.

This deck was brewed while I was under the influence of “Jace Madness,” which is the strange affliction where you just add Jace, the Mind Sculptor to every deck.

One of the weaknesses of All-In Red is that it doesn’t have enough sticky threats to ramp into that both dodge removal, ignore Ensnaring Bridge, and provide a way to run away with the game before your opponent can catch their breath (or even take their first turn, ideally). Chandra, Torch of Defiance is great, but not quite enough to carry the deck by herself.

Splashing for Jace, the Mind Sculptor might seem like a bit of a leap to solve this problem, probably because it is, but it kind of works. Manamorphose and Cascade Bluffs help to make sure you have double blue to cast Jace early on, and the mana works quite well for being so strange. All of Jace’s modes work especially well if you’re ramping into Jace before your opponent has much of a battlefield. You can bounce an opposing creature, draw cards to find Ensnaring Bridge, or just use Jace’s fateseal to lock up a game where you’re ahead.

I prefer the real Affinity, the one which actually has cards with the word “affinity” on them.

Frogmite and Myr Enforcer are back in action and ready to take revenge on the format that has scorned and ignored them.

You gotta fight for your right to Contested War Zone! Games where you empty your hand and flood the battlefield with a bunch of creatures and follow up with Contested War Zone are no contest. When you’re already going all-in, why not commit?

With this version of Affinity, you’re usually steamrolling your opponent or losing spectacularly. Some games you empty your entire hand on Turn 1, and in others you empty your entire hand to mulligans. The deck doesn’t mulligan well, and you’re probably better off just playing normal Modern Affinity decks. Don’t tell Myr Enforcer.

Jace fever strikes again, but Jace, the Mind Sculptor really does fit right in here, even though I think less is more in Jace’s case for Restore Balance decks. Jace is essentially more copies of Nahiri, the Harbinger, acting as a win condition after you’ve cast Restore Balance, but he is harder to cast and is less sturdy than Nahiri. Jace does have the added bonus of using his Brainstorm ability put copies of Restore Balance back in your deck to cascade into.

Four copies of Restore Balance might seem like too many, but occasionally you do need to cast the fourth. The other bonus is how As Foretold acts as an excellent way to cast Restore Balance if you have one in hand and then gives you a way to cast your other cards as the game progresses.

Curious Obsession is the hottest new card to tutor for with Tallowisp and it fits nicely in the deck. You have plenty of evasive creatures and ways to protect them, which means you can just snowball card draw while also beefing up your creatures.

The other nice thing about Curious Obsession is that now you almost never run out of enchantments to tutor up with Tallowisp, whereas before you didn’t have that one truly amazing enchant creature card, just a smattering of silver bullets. Before, I’d often find myself with a Tallowisp ready to go, yet had already emptied my deck of enchant creature cards to tutor up.

Let’s be honest; Steel of the Godhead on Geist of Saint Traft wasn’t degenerate enough. Clearly we needed to add Curious Obsession to the mix as well so we can draw cards while gaining a bunch of life a turn.

This deck not only has heart, it has soul…Soulflayer, that is. This deck really is all about Soulflayer. You live by the Soulflayer, and die by the Soulflayer.

The idea is to fill up your graveyard with creatures and then cast Soulflayer and delve Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, which gives your Soulflayer the essence of the Zetalpa in the form of flying, double strike, vigilance, trample, and indestructible. Ideally you’re also delving some combination of Drogskol Reaver for lifelink, Bomat Courier or Flamewake Phoenix for haste, and Sylvan Caryatid for hexproof to creature the perfect monster.

Games like that are a breeze, and you do have some great cards to enable it. Grisly Salvage and Faithless Looting fill up your graveyard with goodies and Traverse the Ulvenwald helps make sure you find a Soulflayer, but you’re still far from consistently assembling your Voltron.

Finally, we have perhaps the most promising new list for the day.

Finding the right U/W Control list that crushes the Modern format is kind of like the quest for the Holy Grail, and Restoration Angel and Wall of Omens are both in a nice spot right now thanks to being solid against Bloodbraid Elf. Drawing a bunch of cards has never been easier, more profitable, and safer than when you’re doing so with Wall of Omens. Restoration Angel also plays nicely in the deck, since you can just leave up countermagic and removal and then pounce with Restoration Angel when the time is right. The deck grinds hard, plenty of the cards cantrip, lots of the lands have utility, and you can easily sling threats until your opponent runs out of resources.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is great in the deck, but we don’t need to lean on him heavily because we have Restoration Angel. If you see an opportunity to slam Jace, great! If not, just wait and deploy the rest of your gameplan.

The tools to beat any deck in Modern all exist for U/W Control. You might run into the issue of drawing the wrong portion of your deck in Game 1, but post-sideboard you should feel confident against pretty much everything you came wanting to beat.

That’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed reading about these decks as much as I enjoyed playing them, and that this exploration of the brews Modern has to offer has some new ideas percolating!