Necrotic Ooze Is On The Verge Of Breaking In Modern

Look out! There’s going to come a time soon where you won’t lose with the Ooze! Friedman counts all the ways it could happen and which new card is the secret to its inevitable breaking point!

Bryan Gottlieb, in his
recent article
about the strategic principles behind Doom Whisperer and how to maximize
the card in Standard, let drop a spicy little number for Modern, almost as
a footnote. Though we could have let this gem get lost under piles of
decklists and discussion of Modern’s newest fair midrange card (Assassin’s
Trophy), I’m a little too excited about how close Necrotic Ooze has become
to a completely busted one-card combo.

I refuse to let this idea get buried. There’s too much potential here!

In Magic, there’s a phenomenon where certain cards just get better and
better as more and more synergistic cards are printed to interact favorably
with them. Stoneforge Mystic broke once Sword of Feast and Famine and
Batterskull came around. Birthing Pod broke once a critical mass of
miscellaneously-costed value creatures saw print. Rakdos Vengevine, a
breakout deck from Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, got pushed over the line once
Stitcher’s Supplier saw the light of day. It only takes a single new
offering to push these “breakables” over the line. Cards like this quickly
move from “marginal” to “bannable” with a few choice interactions. Bryan’s
list unequivocally shows that Doom Whisperer offers one of those
potentially game-winning interactions with Necrotic Ooze.

There are so many cool combos with this deck, it’s hard to know where to
start. Of course, we have the classic Devoted Druid with Vizier of Remedies
combo, but that’s old hat at this point. If Modern shifts towards
low-removal strategies, Druid + Vizier becomes one of the format’s premier
combos. Think Dredge, Ad Nauseam, or Amulet Titan. Hell, even Tron is weak
to this interaction. Decks without removal will fold on the third turn
without much of a fight. We’ve seen this before, though. Counters Company
has been a Modern deck since Vizier of Remedies saw print and it hasn’t
quite broken through the barrier of the heavy-removal decks, like Jeskai.
What’s changed?

Necrotic Ooze has just gone nuclear, is what. Doom Whisperer made it
happen. Here’s how things work now:

You lead off with a Birds of Paradise, following it up with a Grisly
Salvage. Dump a Doom Whisperer into the graveyard and pick up a Necrotic
Ooze. Here’s where things get exciting. Repeatable surveil gets Devoted
Druid and Morselhoarder in the graveyard, which immediately generates
infinite mana. A Duskwatch Recruiter stacks the deck, enabling you to use
one more surveil ability to mill a Walking Ballista into the graveyard. The
Ballista in the graveyard alongside infinite mana makes for a swift mass of
+1/+1 counters on Necrotic Ooze and instant death for the opponent. This
happens as early as turn 3, and with Chord of Calling it can even happen at
instant speed.

This is a synergy worth building around. This is synergy that could, in
theory, boost Necrotic Ooze to a $30 card. This is synergy that could break
a format. We’re so very close to something completely busted. But it’s not
perfected yet, not by any means. Let’s go over what Bryan included and try
to figure out if there’s anything we can be doing better.

These two are the core of any green creature-combo deck. Whether it’s with
Collected Company or Chord of Calling + Eldritch Evolution, these are
shoe-ins. I might consider including a fourth Noble Hierarch, but the
double-black casting costs in Doom Whisperer and Necrotic Ooze dissuade me
from making that leap. In this deck, at least, the mana is quite a bit more
demanding than previous Abzan Company builds.

This combo offers some free win equity, but the card Vizier of Remedies is
a bit weak on its own. If it weren’t for the combo with Necrotic Ooze and a
Morselhoarder, I’d be inclined to ditch these two altogether and try for
some other multi-activated ability combo.

This is a game-winner on its own, unkillable by Lightning Bolt, Abrupt
Decay, or Fatal Push. In addition, it gives you the most powerful route to
a quick win, offering the whole combo worth of set-up in a single card. It
finds you other combo pieces. It comes down as early as turn 3, which means
against most non-interactive decks you can guarantee a win the subsequent
turn no matter what. It’s possible (even probable) that this should be a

The penultimate piece of the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo as well
as the Necrotic Ooze combo, Recruiter also offers the kind of card
advantage that allows decks like this to keep fighting through multiple
removal spells. Three copies is more than we’ve seen in the past, but it
seems well worth it.

These are the singletons that allow you to fully execute the one-card Ooze
combo without needing an untap step. I’d be willing to play a second
Morselhoarder, seeing as how it needs to be in the graveyard to get the
instant-speed kill with Ooze. The card is weak on its own, but the ability
to go infinite with Devoted Druid’s “add a -1/-1 counter” ability and
Morselhoarder’s mana generation is just so incredibly potent. The one
Ballista, of course, is sacrosanct and will likely stay that way for as
long as there is a Devoted Druid infinite mana combo.

The Poppet is a bit sketchy for me, but the Fauna Shaman makes perfect
sense as an outlet for discarding important creatures, and the Finks/Seer
combo allows you to gain infinite life with a Vizier of Remedies. I’d be
more than willing to shave Poppet, Seer, and Finks to streamline the deck
and make it better at executing its combo. We’re trying to be as broken as
possible, and none of these cards really seem to pull their weight in a
format as fast as Modern.

Note: I recognize that in a deck looking to pay a lot of life to quickly
mill over a bunch of combo pieces, a card like Kitchen Finks can come in
mighty handy. If you’re looking for a few extra life points here and there,
though, Scavenging Ooze is the card to use in the maindeck. Not only does
any excess mana during a combo turn allow you to buy yourself extra surveil
uses, but the card is a huge beating against the resurging Dredge strategy.
Ross Merriam wrote about
how Creeping Chill will bring Dredge back to the realm of respectability,
and it pays to hedge your bets with a flexible card like Scavenging Ooze.
We’re looking for activated abilities in a Necrotic Ooze deck, not
triggered ones, and if that’s the case, it makes sense to play both Oozes
in this archetype.

Plus, you can irk your opponents with any number of ooze-related puns. I’ll
leave that particular type of creativity as an exercise for the reader.

This card is going to break at some point. I suspect that Doom Whisperer
will be a part of it, but even if not, we can easily bide our time and wait
for some other creature with a narrow, non-mana-gated activated ability to
push it over the edge. I’m not sure if there should be a fourth, but it
seems like one of the better things to try out. This card is just itching
to break the rules of the game. We’re pushing its limits in this deck, and
I’m excited to see if we’ve pushed them too far.

Now this is an oft-underrated spell that really ties the room together.
Dumping a bunch of creatures with activated abilities into your graveyard
is just what a Necrotic Ooze deck wants to do. Combine that with the
ability to dig deep to find the Ooze itself, and you have the perfect card.
This could easily be a four-of, and I will start four copies until and
unless I see it underperforming.

It grabs a Necrotic Ooze to win at instant speed without requiring an untap
step. It gets other stuff, too, but this is the biggest draw. Chord of
Calling is a fundamentally busted card, and though it’s played second
fiddle to Birthing Pod and Collected Company for many years, this is the
deck to make it a true star.

This one, on the other hand, has me a little bit skeptical. Without juicy
creatures to sacrifice (such as Voice of Resurgence) I’m not sure that
Eldritch Evolution is worth the cost. Depending on how good the various
hate creatures are (things like Obstinate Baloth, Eidolon of Rhetoric,
Wickerbough Elder, and the like) it might still be valid, but for now this
card is on my watchlist of underperformers.

With a third Doom Whisperer, a second Morselhoarder, and a fourth Grisly
Salvage as our additions for Grim Poppet, Kitchen Finks, and Viscera Seer,
Necrotic Ooze combo looks quite a bit more direct and to-the-point.

As for the sideboard, this is where things get interesting. As a creature
combo deck, you need to maintain a certain density of your own linear
effects while properly mixing in some disruption or lock pieces. Navigating
this balance is one of the more exciting pieces of Magic strategy.

There are a few oddballs in Bryan’s sideboard, to be sure. Thoughtseize is
likely worse than some mix of Sin Collector, Gaddock Teeg, Tidehollow
Sculler, or other disruptive creatures. Wickerbough Elder is excellent with
Necrotic Ooze, and Obstinate Baloth plays a great role in fighting Burn and
Liliana of the Veil decks, but Knight of Autumn is just an incredible card
and deserves consideration. The one Liliana, the Last Hope is also an
oddball choice. Would an Orzhov Pontiff not get the job done better?

Assassin’s Trophy, of course, is an understandable inclusion. Tron is an
annoying deck, and flexible removal is always desirable against a wide
range of matchups. Is this doing a job we need? Is it worth playing a
noncreature spell for that utility? It’s unclear, but the card is a useful
catchall in an unsteady Modern metagame. I’m willing to tentatively keep
them in, but it’s by no means a sacred cow.

But enough about Assassin’s Trophy. There’s a secret card that I don’t
think folks have been giving due consideration.

I’d like to see Dusk//Dawn in a deck with Grisly Salvage. If we’re
grinding, then let’s grind. I can’t wait to mill over one of those
with a surveil ability or a Salvage hit and just watch my opponent contort
to try and not get destroyed by it. In addition, the front half of the card
does incredible work against a number of grindy midrange (i.e. Tarmogoyf)
decks, and even hits against certain Humans draws. There are several
playable aftermath cards, but this one looks to be one of the best possible
inclusions in a green creature deck without the Eternal Witness/Collected
Company engine. Try it out!

I don’t promise that this exact deck is going to take over Modern. I don’t
promise you a trophy if you bring it to your next Modern Open. This
particular build of a Necrotic Ooze deck might not be the proverbial “it.”
But mark my words: I don’t know when, I don’t know exactly how, but
sometime soon, Necrotic Ooze is going to be a very potent and
groan-inducing Magic card. It’s simply offering too much potential on a
single creature. The one who figures out exactly how to activate said
potential is going to be handsomely rewarded, indeed.