Every time I attend a Modern event, I find myself loving just how open the format is. There are so many viable decks that can realistically win any event, and I think there are many more that just haven’t been discovered yet. This past weekend at #GPINDY I was once again in the thick of things, watching all sorts of fun and innovative ideas comes to light. Some may have been a little more successful than others, but that’s the other great thing about Modern: two identical decks could play the same event, one could win the whole thing, and the other could drop at 0-4. Matchups and sideboard cards really do make all the difference here.
That’s No Moon
In case you weren’t able to catch coverage this weekend, I was on camera a fair bit on Day 1. As a result I got to see some of the fun decks up close and personal, including this one from John Pellman:
- 2 Ajani Vengeant
- 2 Gideon Jura
- 2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 3 Nahiri, the Harbinger
Unlike a lot of W/R Prison decks that rely on a suite of enchantments to lock the opponent out of doing anything meaningful, this deck plays just three cards to perform that task: Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, and Leyline of Sanctity. However, with the Modern metagame being positioned where it is, those three cards are enough to put a serious cramp in most of the top-tier decks. Chalice on one alone makes it very hard for Elves, Infect, Death’s Shadow Zoo, Burn, or any of the U/R/x cantrip / Lightning Bolt decks to get going. Blood Moon…well, we all know how good that card is. Every so often, Modern gets into this spot where people forget Blood Moon exists and they get super-greedy with their manabases. Then someone does this, and people stop trying to jam a fourth color in their decks. Leyline of Sanctity is a perennial sideboard favorite, but with Burn and Valakut decks doing so well right now, it’s in a great spot. John also pointed out that it can help against Lantern Control and Liliana of the Veil as well as hand disruption spells.
The win conditions here are what really got me interested in the deck. Modern as a format still has not really adopted planeswalkers as a card type, with really only Nahiri, the Harbinger and Liliana of the Veil seeing any sort of regular play. As a result, people have been slow to adopt cards like Oblivion Ring, Dreadbore, and Hero’s Downfall, hoping to rely on Maelstrom Pulse and damage to take care of the rare planeswalker that makes it onto the battlefield.
John is taking advantage of that with a suite of planeswalkers that can all win the game on their own…a full ten planeswalkers, all of which are immune to Abrupt Decay. The ability to use those planeswalkers to go wide should not be underestimated. Neither should the fact that all but one of them can also act as removal. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion against Eldrazi, for example? That’s going to make a much cleaner battlefield.
The only thing I can see changing slightly is the manabase. Four Rugged Prairie feels like a recipe for not being able to cast anything, and we have no way to fetch up a Plains before casting Blood Moon. I would also like to see a couple more Mountains in the deck. While I understand the desire to not play basic Mountains in a deck built around Blood Moon, I am thinking about Chained to the Rocks in the sideboard. While true that it works against Chalice on one, the decks against which we want both are few and far between.
Almost Twelve Moons…
John wasn’t the only person working with the power of lunar sanguinity this weekend. Sam Tharmaratnam piloted Temur Evolution to an 8-1 Day 1 record before falling off the rails a little on Day 2.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 2 Pestermite
- 3 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Spellskite
- 4 Deceiver Exarch
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Izzet Staticaster
Sammy T didn’t play the full suite of Moons, but we have eight, and Eight Is Enough. I adore this list and almost everything about it. The maindeck is somewhat all-in on the Kiki plan, but it’s a very good plan. I am a little confused about the playset of Spellskite in the maindeck. Maybe a couple of these could be cut for another aggressive or game-winning threat like Tireless Tracker, Savage Knuckleblade, or even maindeck Magus of the Moon? That said, I may be misreading how the deck wins.
The sideboard is a toolbox with the incredibly cool play of casting Eldritch Evolution to get a Keranos, God of Storms. More than any other card in the deck, it makes me want to build and run this tomorrow. I’ve been a fan of toolbox decks since the original Recurring Nightmare decks, and Eldritch Evolution brings me back to the heady days of Birthing Pod.
The “two plus the sacrificed creature’s converted mana cost” rider on Eldritch Evolution makes the ideal curve for Evolution decks 1-3-5-7. With that in mind, what other utility creatures could we plug-and-play into this shell to account for different metagames? Acidic Slime was the first one that came to mind, but Aether Adept, Zealous Conscripts, Reclamation Sage, and Mulldrifter also have potential.
As always, I saw more things on the floor than I could possibly jam in to one or even two articles. I also saw a bunch of things that were just interesting. Delve with me into my world…
· What is with people picking up half their deck to search for something? Is the time saved when you find it in that half worth the extra time in double-checking it before picking up the second half?
- I saw someone playing Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. In Modern. I asked him to ship me the list but time before my deadline was short. When I do get the list I’ll gladly share it, but suffice it to say that it also ran Village Bell-Ringer and Phantasmal Image. It’s capable of a sequence that can go from three lands, Birds of Paradise to “I win,” as follows: tap Birds of Paradise for G, activate Yisan. Find a one-drop. Cast Village Bell-Ringer, untap team. Activate Yisan, find Phantasmal Image, copy Bell-Ringer. Untap team. Activate Yisan (using the Birds again), get second Bell-Ringer, untap team. Activate Yisan, get Restoration Angel, blink Bell-Ringer, untap team. Then of course we go and get Kiki-Jiki. I don’t know if it’s better than Eldritch Evolution and Yisan is definitely vulnerable to removal, but it sure looked fun.
- Wizard tribal. I heard about someone playing Wizard tribal, complete with a set of Vedalken Aethermage to fetch up any of the toolbox options: Reflector Mage, Meddling Mage, Aven Mindcensor, and so on. Unfortunately I did not get the list or see the deck myself, but if you are the person who played it (or if you know them), please get in touch.
- The Prized Amalgam trigger that lets it return to the battlefield is certainly an interesting one. As it stands, the Dredge player can forget to bring the Amalgam back at end step, remember in the oppponent’s turn, and still get it. The trigger is similar to Aetherling and Obzedat, Ghost Council in that it is a delayed trigger that changes the zone of a card, but unlike those cards, this is a one-way zone change. Setting aside accusations of cheating and the possibility thereof, forgetting this trigger is currently not penalized in any meaningful way. That might need to be looked at. Several players this weekend were unhappy to be on the wrong side of this call, and it was a topic of discussion among pros and judges alike. Remembering your triggers is a skill we want to test, and this should not be an exception.
- The Extra Turns deck has been around for a while, but this weekend I got to see a version with Thing in the Ice and maindeck Turnabout. I don’t know if that’s better, but it looked pretty much unbeatable once it started going off.
- A U/W Control deck with maindeck Sunlance and zero Sphinx’s Revelation made Top 32 in Indianapolis. Maybe control is viable in Modern after all?
- While working coverage at the event, I was lucky enough to watch Sam Black pilot Lantern Control in a somewhat unfavorable matchup against Jeskai Control. When the coverage guys asked to look at Sam’s deck, he flashed them Lantern of Insight. They then asked to see his opponent’s deck. The opponent also flashed one card (which I could not see as I was on the opposite side of the table.) “I think this card says it all,” said the opponent. For a moment I had nightmares of having to stay awake through a Lantern mirror on coverage.
- Speaking of decks on coverage, how sweet was Kalvin Orrmons’s Five-Color Ziggurat deck? I love the concept and most of the creatures I saw, but it felt a little underpowered in some places. Also, I guess it just scoops to Blood Moon?
- This is rapidly becoming Grim Flayer’s world, as the card is now showing up in Abzan in Modern as well. It’s only a matter of time before Abzan Company adopts it too. The natural interaction with Eternal Witness and Liliana, the Last Hope make a G/B deck in this vein very appealing.
- I saw an updated version of the mostly-black Phyrexian Obliterator deck at the event. In addition to the green splash for Scavenging Ooze and Pit Fight, it ran Grim Flayer. I still love this deck and I think Obliterator matches up very well with Reality Smasher. I know Bant Eldrazi has Path to Exile, Eldrazi Displacer, and Drowner of Hope to avoid that conflict but Fight Club also has discard and removal spells.
- Indianapolis is now near the top of my favorite cities to visit. So many restaurants, plus a barcade. I will definitely be back.
- Brandon Burton, man. Brandon Burton. I’ve been to a lot of Magic tournaments, and I have never heard an ovation like the one he got when his win was announced. What a great story.
Comments from Last Week
I really do love interacting with you, the readers. Especially when it seems like the brews I see at events are written by people who read my articles. Brewers unite!
Journey of Discovery costs less than 4, and is not a creature for Amulet decks.
– Evan Scott Golden
Yes, I forgot this card existed and actually saw someone playing it this weekend. I don’t know how good it is as a ramp spell but it certainly works well one you have started going off and can pay the entwine cost.
– John Zylstra
Thanks John! I love the look of this list and cannot wait to give it a run. Any changes to it since the last post?
Woo! I assume that was my KCI deck. Was 6-1 in the Open before losing two win-and-ins.
– Max Dee
That’s rough. I played Eggs before the ban and always thought the problem wasn’t the deck but the people playing it. The Pyrite Spellbomb kill was excruciating and really only mattered in one situation (infinite life), while Banefire / Kaervek’s Torch and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn were much faster. I also tried Disciple of the Vault to deal with the infinite life people. Keep up the good fight, my man!
Honestly, I think Herald of the Pantheon needs a spot in the Enchantress deck. I played around with it when Theros was legal with it for a couple of months. Not only can it speed the deck up, but it also gains you life as well.
– Joshua Dupkoski
I like Herald a lot, but so many of the enchantments in the deck already cost one mana, making it less effective. The decks against which the lifegain would help can also easily remove Herald before it can gain enough life to make a difference.
Well, folks, that’s about all we have time for. My crazy stretch of four events in four weekends comes to an end this weekend in Richmond, so as always come out and say hi if you see me! As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB and until next time…Brew On!