Obviously, Hogaak is a completely broken Magic card. Obviously, just banning Bridge from Below wasn’t going to neuter the deck in a meaningful way. Obviously, Wizards of the Coast couldn’t just ban a freshly printed card, one that was driving a lot of the hype surrounding their latest set release. This super-broken flagship event was a perfect storm waiting to happen.
So when it came time to figure out what deck we were going to play at Mythic Championship IV, we set out to find the best possible version of the most broken deck in Modern since fully powered Eldrazi was around. And this time, we succeeded, at least by the raw numbers of metagame win percentage.
Team “People Who Want to Win the Mythic Championship as Bad as They Want to Breathe,” my little aggregation of sickos, grinders, nut-highs, young guns, and washed-up old pros, actually found success by blending the smooth, creamy peanut butter of the now-stock Dredge list with the rich, dark chocolate flavor of the broken Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.
Here’s where we ended up:
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 2 Narcomoeba
- 4 Bloodghast
- 3 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 3 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
The voyage wasn’t quite straightforward. Of course, we knew that Hogaak was unfair and likely too good not to play from the moment that the ban announcement only hit Bridge from Below. But the choices for the other cards in the deck are not the most obvious in the world.
We started with the Hedron Crab version of the deck, with a list that originally hit Twitter about two weeks before the Mythic Championship. (This was the list that Team ChannelFireball eventually played, but no one on their team did especially well.)
The manabase was a bit painful and inconsistent, and Hedron Crab was vulnerable to removal, which made some of the draws beatable with normal interaction from an opponent. We moved towards Satyr Wayfinder and a slightly slower build that increased its ability to interact with the opponent via multiple Lightning Axe and Fatal Push.
We tried Prized Amalgam, more creatures with Dredge, fewer creatures with Dredge, maindeck Leylines, Lotleth Troll, sideboard Hexdrinker, sideboard Rotting Regisaur, and Cryptbreaker. More Insolent Neonate, no Insolent Neonate, Life from the Loam, sideboard Force of Vigor, and even Shriekhorn.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we winnowed the Hogaak metagame into a few different major sub-archetypes. The full spectrum went like this:
- DredgeGaak was Dredge with three Hogaaks, Stitcher’s Suppliers over Shriekhorns, and Dryad Arbors to cast Hogaaks off a land.
- Leyline DredgeGaak was DredgeGaak that cut the Narcomoebas, a single land, and either a dredger or a Stitcher’s Supplier for four maindeck Leylines, opening up the sideboard for more counter-hate.
- AggroGaak looked like this:
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 3 Golgari Thug
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 3 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
- LoamGaak was fairly similar, but with Life from the Loam over Golgari Thug to increase the ability of the deck to keep hitting land drops to fuel Bloodghast and Carrion Feeder / Gravecrawler loops.
Because of the additional green spells in the Loam version, we also went up to the full four Force of Vigor, which we eventually identified as the absolute best way to beat the massive amount of hate spells we anticipated post-sideboard. The first time I Force of Vigor’ed a Chalice of the Void and a Leyline of the Void from Eldrazi Tron, I knew this was a sideboard card I wanted in my life.
I hadn’t anticipated the possibility of playing maindeck Leyline of the Void in the AggroGaak version of the deck, which the Ultimate Guard team and a few others ended up doing. In the Dredge version, however, it seemed a lot more natural, since we didn’t care very much about the text on any of our cards after the first three turns and actually needed more dead cards in our graveyards to safely delve away to feed Hogaak.
The main reasons to play DredgeGaak over AggroGaak, in our eyes, were threefold. First, we had improved matchups against Humans, Burn, and Izzet Phoenix (where Creeping Chill and Conflagrate made a world of difference). Then, the way that our deck operated as a Burn deck to beat Ensnaring Bridge (and incidentally, offered us an edge in the AggroGaak semi-mirror) meant we were better-suited to combat Eldrazi Tron and AggroGaak. Last, on a structural level, it was impossible to ignore the way that DredgeGaak abused the London mulligan because of cards like Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill, which were free cards to put on the bottom for our mulligans. Essentially, when you play DredgeGaak, you get to look at three hands and choose one. The first two mulligans are basically free, which is pretty offensive by any traditional metric of “fairness” in Magic.
On the other hand, AggroGaak was way better at getting Hogaak out there on Turn 2, and it was way better against a portion of the expected graveyard hate. Nihil Spellbomb, Tormod’s Crypt, Ravenous Trap, and Relic of Progenitus are pretty strong hate spells against DredgeGaak, nuking a graveyard in response to multiple Narcomoeba triggers or Creeping Chill triggers and forcing us to start over. Against AggroGaak, however, there is often no good opportunity to use a card like Ravenous Trap for backbreaking effect. Imagine an opponent casts a Stitcher’s Supplier, milling over a Bloodghast, a Satyr Wayfinder, and a land. You’re not going to burn your hate card on that, are you?
Then on the next turn, they play a fetchland, triggering Bloodghast. You can’t even Ravenous Trap here! They put the Bloodghast on the battlefield and then cast Satyr Wayfinder. The trigger resolves, and they place Hogaak and two random cards in their graveyard. They then tap three creatures, exile four cards from the ‘yard, and make a Hogaak. You had no opportunity to stop any of this with your hate card! What gives?
So with improved theoretical matchups against a wide swath of the metagame on one side, and a near-invulnerability to many commonly played hate cards (and more consistent early Hogaak percentage) on the other, we picked our spot and rolled with it.
And I went 0-3.
All my dredges came up pretty dry, I lost a lot of die rolls, and I mulliganed more than I would have liked. It’s not the worst way to exit a tournament, feeling like you can’t catch a break and watching everything go about as wrong as it possibly could. At least the pressure is off, and it’s way easier to put that kind of performance behind you compared to messing up in a key match and blowing the whole tournament as a result. But it did feel a bit embarrassing to have what ended up being the best deck in the tournament and weigh it down with my demoralizing performance. Despite that, Marcus Luong and Roshen Eapen crushed it with 8-2 records in Modern to blast our seven-man squad’s win percentage into the stratosphere.
And then, to ease the sting of my miserable performance, Team Legion snuck into the Top 4 of the Team Series by a single point, with no flagship performance by any single member anchoring us. It was just good old-fashioned nickel-and-diming with 11-5 finishes across the board. We only had a single 12-4 across the whole team over four Mythic Championships, too! Spiking a Top 8 finish is obviously an impressive way to gain massive ground quickly, but consistency wins over the long run. It’s unfortunate that the Team Series is going away in the wake of the big esports push by Wizards of the Coast, because I had a blast sweating my teammates down the stretch. I’d love to assemble another ragtag team and give it another go against the obvious powerhouses next year, but c’est la vie.
Also, I got to represent a great product in the iconic Magic trucker hat, my personal Legion Supplies favorite.
Regardless, either version of Hogaak is an excellent choice going forward, and despite the fact that it’s highly likely to get hit with a ban shortly, I do have a small sideboard guide to help those of you who want to try to get in a tournament or two with DredgeGaak before the banhammer falls.
VS Regular Hogaak
If they have Leyline of the Void, bring in 3 Nature’s Claim for 3 more Stitcher’s Supplier.
VS Azorius Control
VS Izzet Phoenix
VS Eldrazi Tron
VS Mono-Green Tron
VS Urza Decks
If people are packing six or more cards along multiple axes of graveyard hate, I would advise against trying to fight through it with this deck (AggroGaak is better at that), but if the metagame stabilizes in such a way where you want Creeping Chill and Conflagrate, this is the best place to be. Good luck playing this broken nonsense until it’s banned!