Standard has been my main focus over the last few months, and for good
reason. Guilds of Ravnica changed the landscape and has led to
some of the most fun games of Standard I’ve played in quite some time. But
there’s been something on my mind the last few days and I can’t seem to get
it out of my head.
A few weeks ago, I played my first Magic Online Vintage League. One of my
opponents had a curious brew featuring one particularly interesting
combination of cards.
If you’ve been playing Magic for a while, you’ll know that Caleb Durward
broke Survival of the Fittest in Legacy at Grand Prix Columbus a little
under a decade ago, ultimately leading to it being banned. When paired with
Vengevine, Survival of the Fittest was one of the most disgusting cards
I’ve ever seen!
If you follow Vintage closely, you should already know about the Survival
of the Fittest deck. It put up a solid finish recently in a Vintage event
on Magic Online, and is one of those decks that doesn’t fit the current
- Mishra’s Workshop
- Paradoxical Outcome
- Young Pyromancer Control
Naturally, not being one of those decks should garner some amount of hype.
And I must admit, when my opponent searched up a Hollow One after
discarding a Vengevines and a few Basking Rootwallas, I was sold!
“But Todd, we don’t care about Vintage. Can you get to the point already?”
Sure thing, chief.
What I know is that Vengevine, Hollow One, and Fauna Shaman are all Modern
legal. And one thing I’ve noticed is that people are playing fewer removal
spells than normal in the Modern format. While traditional builds of Hollow
One are quite resilient to normal removal spells, the fact that they don’t
exist means we can play some enablers that give us more consistency without
much fear of our creatures dying.
My plan with today’s build of Hollow One is to explore multiple iterations
of the archetype, presenting ideas that I want to try out. This is all
theory-crafting, but one of my favorite things to do in Modern is to
explore existing archetypes to see if there’s something we’re missing. And
it could very well be metagame dependent on what cards we want to play.
My first test will be to see if Fauna Shaman is worthwhile. Unlike Survival
of the Fittest, we need Fauna Shaman to untap and we can only really use it
once a turn. Outside of something like Deceiver Exarch to untap it, chances
are we’re just using Fauna Shaman to give us some longevity and
consistency. Let’s start with a more traditional looking version of the
- 1 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Hooting Mandrills
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 1 Noose Constrictor
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Hollow One
As a super rough draft, I’ll just say that this version is likely
worse than the traditional versions of Hollow One, but we must start
somewhere. After all, the original iterations of Hollow One almost
ubiquitously contained Vengevine, and now very few versions play it at all.
Goblin Lore and Burning Inquiry, as random discards, weren’t adopted until
Ken Yukuhiro took his version into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.
With graveyard related strategies, finding the right build is often
incredibly difficult because you must think about all these Magic cards in
an abnormal context. Not only do you have to figure out if casting the card
is worthwhile (if your deck can even cast it!), but you also need to
understand how changing cards in any graveyard-related deck could be
damaging to the overarching strategy. Since you naturally see more cards in
a deck featuring Faithless Looting, and cards will often have uses in the
graveyard, you must treat those cards like they’re still in your hand. And the larger your hand is, the more
difficult it becomes to assess each situation.
Of all the possible builds of Hollow One featuring Fauna Shaman, this is
definitely one of the “easier” ways to put it together. And if I’m being
honest, the more tutor targets you add to your deck, the wackier your draws
will become over time. Every time we add a Goblin Bushwhacker or whatever,
we need to make sure those cards are okay to actually cast on their own if
we do randomly draw them. We see a lot of cards and our Faithless Lootings
are stretched thin with us trying to discard so many graveyard-related
things. The old adage of “we can just Brainstorm it away or pitch it to
Force of Will” doesn’t really play here because we’re trying to use these
discard effects wisely.
The fact that we can tutor up the following cards in order to enable some
busted turns is pretty cool. And trying out all these options is going to
take a very long time!
While I don’t think we can fit all these into one deck, I could potentially
see some builds that want to incorporate a few of these cards. And I’m sure
there’s still a few others I’m missing! The problem with being too gimmicky
is that your deck starts to have a high fail rate. The weirder the pieces
you add, the more likely your deck doesn’t do the same type of thing every
game. Plus, you could just draw a lot of off-color pieces that don’t
actually work well together.
The other thing you must ask yourself is: is your version of the deck
actually better than something that currently exists? The Bridge from Below
version of Vengevine is already a pretty sweet deck and is arguably more
powerful than a Hollow One strategy featuring Fauna Shaman. Additionally,
is making yourself more dependent on the graveyard worth the risk? At some
point, shouldn’t you just go all-in and play Dredge? These are all
important questions to ask when making drastic changes to any given
archetype. Sometimes you strike gold, but the other hundred times you just
Rata (@RANK10YGO) November
If you want to get a little more wacky, why don’t we try adding a color?
Here’s a little gem I’ve been wanting to try out.
Yes, Magus of the Bazaar has the same problem as Fauna Shaman: you need to
untap with it. However, the explosive nature of Magus of the Bazaar is
potentially more powerful than Fauna Shaman and could ultimately give the
Hollow One decks access to a card that helps them match the more degenerate
decks in overall power level. The trick? Getting Magus of the Bazaar onto
the battlefield quickly.
The strength of Magus of the Bazaar is evident, as Bazaar of Baghdad is one
of the most powerful cards in Vintage. And while we don’t have Basking
Rootwalla to throw onto the battlefield to trigger Vengevine, you get to choose which cards you discard and that’s pretty friggin’ sweet if
you ask me. If we’re able to get it onto the battlefield quickly, Modern
has some pretty disgusting stuff we can use to go off!
Magus of the Bazaar was nightmare fuel for one of the first iterations of
Standard Dredge back in the day, acting as one of the better discard
outlets while also allowing you to mill over ten or more cards per turn.
While there weren’t as many busted things to do from the graveyard back
then as there are now, there was a point where Bridge from Below,
Narcomoeba, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Dread Return were all legal at the
- 2 Flame-Kin Zealot
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Drowned Rusalka
- 1 Sky Hussar
- 1 Bogardan Hellkite
- 4 Magus of the Bazaar
- 3 Bonded Fetch
- 4 Llanowar Mentor
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Street Wraith
While Magus of the Bazaar is a significantly different animal for Standard,
there’s a pretty good chance your two-drop creature is safer in Modern than
it ever is in Standard. When people are trying to play linear, powerful
strategies, the total number of interactive spells they can fit is limited.
On top of that, the odds of them playing removal spells over something like
protection or discard effects is small. Of course, there are plenty of
Modern decks designed to go hard on creature strategies. Jund, Jeskai
Control, and Mardu Pyromancer are all packed with removal, ultimately
making something like Magus of the Bazaar or Fauna Shaman worthless. But
right now, the stock of those three decks is at an all-time low because
they tend to falter against big-mana strategies.
So why not go hard?
- 4 Golgari Thug
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Magus of the Bazaar
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Prized Amalgam
Again, we’re moving away from the traditional Dredge that we’ve grown
accustomed to over the last few weeks. No Creeping Chill, Life from the
Loam, or Conflagrate, instead focusing on trying to get the most bang for
our buck out of Magus of the Bazaar. Having as many graveyard-related cards
as possible is the goal, which means an emphasis on Bridge from Below and
Greater Gargadon. Creeping Chill would go pretty well with the Magus of the
Bazaar plan, but I think it suffers from a lack of Conflagrate and Life
from the Loam package. Without the ability to burn your opponent out
completely, neither of these packages is desirable.
Magus of the Bazaar and powerful creatures like it often go overlooked in
Modern because the format is usually full of decks featuring a swath of
removal. Either that or adding something like Magus of the Moon or Fauna
Shaman just gives you a big target for their Lightning Bolt or similar when
they wouldn’t have a good target otherwise. Decks that do play creatures
tend to overload removal by having too many creatures for them to deal with
in a reasonable time frame. So, when you have cards like Magus of the
Bazaar or even Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, that don’t fit well alongside other
creatures, you get this weird dynamic where you’re creating a positive
outlet for their otherwise dead removal spells.
And that’s the trick to building your deck, in Modern or otherwise: Find
the holes in the metagame and do your best to exploit them. While these
builds of Dredge and Hollow One aren’t necessarily better than the ones
that currently exist, they’re just tools to show you that something else is
possible. And when your opponents aren’t playing much removal in Modern,
having some sort of busted creature is basically a freeroll. And hey, even
if you do get matched up against Jeskai Control or whatever, your only bad
card against them is that two-drop creature. Against everything else, these
types of cards can give you more explosive draws or a bit more consistency.
Before we go, it’s important to understand that, when removal and
creature-removal interaction is on a downswing, certain cards (and decks)
start to get a lot better. For example, there’s a good chance that a
Devoted Druid or Infect deck is an insanely good choice right now. If your
opponent isn’t killing your creatures, your goal should be to exploit that
But how you do that is completely up to you!