Restoring Balance To Modern

John talks about a M14 Limited PTQ he attended and the Restore Balance deck he’s been testing and tuning in Modern. Check it out before Grand Prix Detroit!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, gather ’round! I have for you today quite the treat. Put your hands together for the majestic, the wonderful, the powerful . . . The Great Dustini!

. . .

. . .

Okay, maybe he’s not here. But I did meet the guy. Twice, actually. The first time was earlier this year at a Grand Prix. He recognized me by my name and immediately as my Magic Online handle. I didn’t recognize him, but I did know his handle.


Dustini and I are much the same, as he cashed his last Pro Tour and qualified for it with a Magic Online PTQ victory. Why do I bring up this mysterious Magician? Well, I ran into the man this past weekend at a PTQ. It was quite unexpected, as you might imagine. The PTQ was in Miami, and I took the four-hour trip down from Sarasota, FL with my girlfriend. Upon arrival I was greeted by the usual friends I expect to see at such events.

About a half an hour before the event, I was approached by Dustini. Dustini is not a local of the Florida scene. Apparently he was on vacation and just so happened to be close enough to attend the PTQ. We caught up and reminisced of our Magic years, talking about tough draft picks and what have you. Before our conversation ended and the tournament began, he brought up to me a deck he had been working on for Modern, a rogue list that has been putting up good results for him.

He presented me with the following:


The basic concept of the deck for those who are unfamiliar is you spend the first few turns of the game suspending creatures. Then you simply cast a cascade spell, either Ardent Plea or Violent Outburst, and cascade into your only target, which is Restore Balance. The idea is that you resolve a Restore Balance with no creatures in play and a very small hand thanks to the cheap suspend cards. The Restore Balance wipes your opponent’s board, hand, and sometimes even land if you have a Greater Gargadon suspended. The next turn or two after you have cascaded into the Restore Balance, the creatures you have suspended in the prior turns start coming into play, while your opponent can’t really do much about it. Sounds fun, right?

I built the deck when I got home using the information Dustini had given me. After playing for a couple of hours, I began to confirm what I had assumed in that any deck that doesn’t have countermagic or hand disruption is generally just straight dead. You’re playing a combo deck that can go off occasionally on turn 2 and consistently on turns 3 or 4. The decks that give us a problem are those that can interact with our "combo."

The sideboard does a fantastic job of addressing some of the problems. If you keep a hand with say three mana, three suspend cards, and a cascade spell and your opponent casts a Thoughtseize, you’re going to be in trouble. Leyline of Sanctity is the perfect answer to hand disruption and coincidently other popular decks like Burn.

The other decks that give us a hard time are those with countermagic like U/W/R. For them we get both Ricochet Trap and Boom // Bust. Ricochet Trap allows us to fight countermagic to resolve a Restore Balance or Boom // Bust. Both are game-breaking and are generally followed by a "good game" or rage quit (both work for me). The deck is by no means perfect, and I’m still trying to work out the kinks. The major issue I was having was the mana base and consistently having the colors I needed at all times. I did some tinkering around, and this is my current list:

I added a few notable lands in City of Brass and Horizon Canopy. They help smooth out the mana, and the Canopy even gives us a little more digging capability. With the added fixing, I opted to run a couple copies of Ith, High Arcanist instead of two Errant Ephemerons since they can serve as very good defensive creature if needed. Besides that the only change was to the sideboard, with Ajani Vengeant replacing Faerie Macabre. Graveyard-based strategies are practically non-existent in Modern, so I wanted to change that slot to something to help against a wide variety of decks. As planeswalkers are both hard for some decks to deal with and avoid, our own Restore Balance, it fits perfectly. 


The PTQ itself was a seven-rounder at exactly 128 players. This meant that no one with an X-1-1 record would make the cut unless something extremely bizarre happened. After registering card pools for both myself and my slow neighbor, I was given the following pool:

1 Barrage of Expendables
1 Smelt
1 Striking Sliver
1 Wild Guess
1 Blur Sliver
1 Burning Earth
1 Demolish
1 Dragon Hatchling
2 Cyclops Tyrant
1 Young Pyromancer
1 Thunder Strike
2 Regathan Firecat
1 Academy Raider
2 Chandra’s Outrage
2 Volcanic Geyser
1 Divine Favor
1 Brave The Elements
1 Pillarfield Ox
2 Solemn Offering
1 Soulmender
1 Stonehorn Chanter
1 Wall of Swords
1 Angelic Wall
1 Auramancer
1 Celestial Flare
1 Congregate
1 Hive Stirrings
1 Master of Diversion
1 Sentinel Sliver
1 Show of Valor
3 Advocate of the Beast (1 foil)
1 Bramblecrush
1 Briarpack Alpha
1 Brindle Boar
1 Giant Spider
1 Howl of the Nightpack
1 Hunt the Weak
1 Manaweft Sliver
1 Predatory Sliver
1 Plummet
1 Glimpse The Future
1 Spell Blast
1 Armored Cancrix
1 Cancel
1 Trained Condor
2 Scroll Thief
1 Coral Merfolk
1 Seacoast Drake
1 Messenger Drake
1 Opportunity
1 Sensory Deprivation
2 Negate
2 Frost Breath
2 Sliver Construct
1 Pyromancer’s Gauntlet
1 Accorder’s Shield
1 Syphon Sliver
1 Sanguine Bond
1 Dark Favor
1 Shrivel
1 Grim Return
1 Wring Flesh
1 Gnawing Zombie
1 Child Of Night
1 Corpse Hauler
3 Quag Sickness
1 Blood Bairn
1 Blightcaster
1 Deathgaze Cockatrice
1 Liliana’s Reaver
1 Accursed Spirit

Analyzing the rares, we see five between black and red but only one that stands out in Liliana’s Reaver. Going through the colors, black, red, and blue have the most playable and most powerful cards. Green and white are both short on playables to really be considered playing. After going through as many variations as I could between the remaining colors, I decided the only version that really gave me enough threats was B/R. Here’s what I registered:

Clearly this deck has some really good removal, but it is truly lacking real threats. I had to play cards like Regathan Firecat and Cyclops Tyrant, and it made me quite sad. But my thought process was if I could just play a few creatures early, I should be able to clear the path with the large quantity of removal I had. If my opponent stabilizes before I can push through enough damage, I have two Volcanic Geysers to give me the extra reach I need.

The bad news came to me fairly quickly in this PTQ. The first couple of rounds I played against friends and got a win and an unintentional draw. In the third round, I obtained my first loss, and the 128-player event meant I was already drawing dead for Top 8 with a record of 1-1-1. I don’t think I could have done much differently, and I’m okay with how the event went overall.

GP Detroit

With Grand Prix Detroit just a week away, the Magic world turns its eyes towards Modern. The format is diverse and still open to innovation. If you’re going, make sure you test out Restore Balance. If you’re not going, don’t be surprised to see a few pop up in the later rounds in the feature match area.

John Cuvelier
Gosu. on Magic Online
@JCuvelier on Twitter