I will never claim to be a true fan of Modern because I view myself as more of a fair-weather fan. Modern and I have had a rough relationship over the years, but I think right now we’re pretty chummy. While I’m sure people will think I am now happy with the format because I did well at one Modern Open, the picture isn’t all what it might be painted to be.
The real story here is that we have a brand-new format on our hands and we’ve had a lot of information to make the Open debut of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Dallas this weekend a doozy.
The go-to move as of late has been looking at the results from the decks that have gone 5-0 on Magic Online, but this past weekend we had something a bit more to peruse: the Magic Online World Championship!
This will be the Bloodbraid Elf deck of choice for many this weekend. In the past, we saw these kinds of decks exist much like they do in this version of Jund prior to the printing of Deathrite Shaman, which we all know was the real culprit in the deck, not Bloodbraid Elf.
The newest interaction this deck wields is with Kolaghan’s Command. Here it acts at the grindiest spell in the Jund colors, giving the deck what feels like an endless supply of Bloodbraid Elves and the ability to win with whatever is left over after the onslaught of 3/2 haste creatures.
While this combination is obvious and it’s the interaction most people were worried most about prior to the release of Bloodbraid Elf from her wrongful stay on the banned list, I believe it will ultimately prove no more dangerous than Ancestral Vision ended up being.
The rest of the deck is about as stock as they come, with a smattering of removal and hand disruption and everyone’s favorite three-mana planeswalker, Liliana of the Veil. It’s no shock that this deck got a huge upgrade and will be widely accepted as the go-to deck for those who’ve enjoyed Modern’s G/B/x decks over the years.
One of the more dangerous ideas that came to mind when the unbannings were announced was the potential for a deck to utilize both Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and of all the decks I’ve seen come down the pipeline, this spicy number has caught my eye.
This has all the tools necessary to lock out an opponent from almost any angle of your choosing. Want them to get buried by card advantage? Ancestral Vision is your card. Want to stop an opponent from casting spells? Why not throw Blood Moon into the mix? Care to beat down with the best blocker for Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Tarmogoyf is back, baby!
This deck is a fierce one, using the best the Temur colors have to offer while able to remain flexible with a card such as Izzet Charm! Izzet Charm in particular can kill opposing Bloodbraid Elves if cascaded into with your own Bloodbraid Elf while still keeping some defense rolled up against the big spell decks like Scapeshift or Tron. I expect Izzet Charm to pick up in popularity over the coming weeks.
As Foretold plays an interesting role here, as this deck isn’t as all-in on the card as we’ve seen other decks in the format be, but it makes good use of it casting Ancestral Vision immediately as well as a pseudo-Aether Vial for whatever else you happen to want to cast.
The deck could go as far as to have a slightly transformational sideboard where you bring in additional copies of As Foretold and potentially some copies of Living End to help fight some of the sticky creature threats, such as those in the deck we saw take down the Magic Online Championship this past weekend, a deck that should certainly be on your radar!
No longer is this a deck of memes where the idea of suiting up a Slippery Bogle gets laughed at by those looking to take the format seriously. It’s now time for us to laugh at those who don’t take the Slippery Bogle seriously!
For a long time, G/W Hexproof was good in various metagames, and as soon as we saw its resurgence, it fell right out of favor. This go-around, with wins at a Grand Prix win and the Magic Online Championship, it’s a force to be reckoned with and should be on your mind when building your sideboard for this weekend.
Previously a major issue for this deck was another we all know and love – Tron. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon hitting the battlefield was lights-out, no matter how big your Slippery Bogle was. Further, a popular sideboard card, Engineered Explosives, always gave this deck fits, as it cleaned up all the enchantments you could throw on your creatures, setting you back to square one.
With the addition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to the format, a card like Gaddock Teeg seems poised to shine, since sideboarding out a majority of the spot removal many people play is a good strategy against the all-hexproof deck, but now there’s the threat of Gaddock Teeg just shutting you out of the game with little to no risk on their side.
Might it be time to dedicate some hate? The issue here is that you need a high density of hate cards to really be effective against this type of deck, and some of the cards that are particularly good against them are way too narrow to actually register in your 75, considering you might only play against the deck once or twice.
The key, as many will tell you, is to remain flexible but effective. A card like Blessed Alliance not only is a great answer to a lot of what G/W Hexproof does but can also be used against Burn and potentially Grixis Death’s Shadow. Since the lifegain is targeted, having an unsuspecting Death’s Shadow opponent gain some life at an inopportune time can break a game.
Speaking of Grixis Death’s Shadow, should you just ignore all that’s happened in the past few weeks, do what I did, and play what was arguably the best deck in the format? Maybe. The format has changed a lot, but playing highly undercosted threats backed up by the best disruption that Modern can offer could never be a bad thing.
That all being said, with the addition of Bloodbraid Elf and the rise of Jund, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot more to contain than there was a few weeks ago, since the deck plays best at shortening the length of the game, stopping the one or two key pieces of interaction your opponent has, and capitalizing on that.
Where that all goes wrong: suppose you’re in a situation where you cast a Thoughtseize and see a Liliana of the Veil and Bloodbraid Elf and you’re about to cast your Death’s Shadow on Turn 2, thanks to some Street Wraiths and shocklands. You have to take the Liliana of the Veil there, but you’re then at the mercy of the Bloodbraid Elf, which has no shortage of relevant spells to cascade into and can pressure your already low life total.
While that situation is relatively-corner case and you as the Death’s Shadow player likely have more spells to interact with, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, with the rise of Jund, the days of Grixis Death’s Shadow are numbered.
So where does that leave me? Has the deck that earned me my first Modern trophy already become obsolete? Do I have to revert back to the drawing board? Not necessarily! While the deck might have gotten a little bit worse against some of the grindy decks in the format, that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt!
While not a ton has changed since a few weeks ago, there are some subtle differences that make a huge impact.
One card that has fallen off with the return of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is Temur Battle Rage. While it was good before to help cheese wins from decks not playing maximum interaction, with the addition of those two powerhouse four-drops, that kind of interaction is only encouraged, making those “free wins” Temur Battle Rage gave you all but a distant memory.
I’ve long wanted Liliana, the Last Hope to be great in Modern. While she carried me to many victories alongside Grim Flayer in Standard last year, her impact in older formats has just started to show. Rebuying a threat looks great in a deck with such powerful ones, but there’s the added bonus of picking off early creatures such as Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Eldrazi Obligator, Young Pyromancer, and so on.
Liliana, the Last Hope gives Grixis Death’s Shadow the staying power to go toe-to-toe with the more midrange decks that we’ve seen lately.
There’s no telling how much the metagame will have changed for the SCG Tour; while there are always similarities between paper Magic and Magic Online, people will play what they want to at any given tournament, meaning there’s no telling what to expect sometimes. With the cap to the tournament having been increased, I’m expecting a full house of players and countless new strategies to grace the tournament as well as the regular stalwarts.
Welcome back, Modern! You underwent a massive facelift, but we’re back to the Wild Wild West of things! See you all there!