I… I guess I wasn’t expecting that.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of completing in Grand Prix Oklahoma City with a new Modern deck, Temur Prowess. The deck originated in a conversation I had with Michael Flores about Abbot of Keral Keep in Modern. The card is
the true completion of The Cycle.
In a format like Modern, it’s easy to have the costs so low in your deck that Abbot is a big favorite to draw a card on turn 3 or later. That it also has
prowess is particularly abusive with cantrips. In particular, the synergy with Mishra’s Bauble is deceptively strong.
While Mishra’s Bauble was already underrated in Modern because of how subtle and hard to notice the advantage is, the interaction with Abbot is undeniable
by anyone that ever tries the two cards together.
It’s a zero-cost cantrip with basically the only opportunity cost being waiting half a turn on the card (which can impact mulligan decisions, too).
However, it gives you a “free” scry when combined with a fetchland (since you can shuffle now or later, depending on whether you want to draw the top card
of your deck or not). It can also give you valuable information for knowing how to play your first turn or what to play around later in the game.
Even without Abbot of Keral Keep, Mishra’s Bauble is worth considering, depending on how many delve cards you play. The above reasons combined with being a
Lotus Petal for delve is solid. However, Abbot of Keral Keep’s synergy with the Bauble is in a totally different league.
To start with, you can Mishra’s Bauble on turn 3. If the top card of your deck costs one or less, you can play your Abbot. If the top card costs two or
more, play Tarmogoyf or Snapcaster Mage instead!
Serum Visions can also help set up Abbot in a sort of similar way. You can cast it on turn 2, and then if you keep both cards, draw one next turn and then
have the card on top that you want the Abbot to reveal. Even a turn 1 Serum Visions will set things up a surprising amount of the time. If you see a
Gitaxian Probe or Mishra’s Bauble, you can play Abbot on turn 2 knowing you are 100% to hit! Even without setting things up with a Serum Visions, it’s nice
to have eight hits for when you have to play an Abbot on turn 2 just to get some beatdown going.
Mishra’s Bauble is also just great with prowess anyway. Having a zero-cost way to give each Abbot and Swiftspear +1/+1 until end of turn is free extra
damage early. It’s not just one damage either since some of the time you can attack with a 4/5 Swiftspear when a 3/4 would have been stuck at home. In
addition to the prowess creatures, the first Bauble you draw usually gives Tarmogoyf +1/+1 permanently.
Let’s take a look at the list, then get into how some of the specific card choices got made, and then where we can go from here.
I initially considered U/R, just looking for the most straightforward execution of the concept; however, the third color is just so easy, and every color
has something exciting to offer. I eventually settled on green after some brainstorming with Team Ultra Pro and sharing the list with GerryT, who played it
in a local tournament.
I was primarily interested in just Tarmogoyf maindeck, but I am a big fan of Ancient Grudge and Feed the Clan out of the sideboard. Ancient Grudge is the
nuts against Affinity, of course, but it’s also quite good against G/R Tron and Lantern Control. Feed the Clan doesn’t really have other applications than
just Burn, but it’s a killer there, particularly since prowess makes it so easy to trigger ferocious. I ended up facing zero Burn decks, but I think my
Burn matchup is probably pretty solid anyway, given how fast my clock is. I would probably replace at least one with a Negate.
Rancor is a powerful Magic card in its own right, but it’s particularly fun with 6/7 Tarmogoyfs and prowess triggers stacked through the roof; it’s not
just getting in there for two extra damage and trample (three the turn you cast it!). There’s also extra prowess triggers that go along with Rancor
returning to your hand each time the creature it’s on dies. Each time you replay it, that’s one or more extra damage if you have any prowess. As an added
bonus, you can discard it to Izzet Charm to surprise pump a Goyf bigger than your opponent thought possible!
The power level of Seal of Fire is not that far from Burst Lightning, Forked Bolt, and Pillar of Flame. At the end of the day, shocks are shocks, and yeah,
they all have advantages and disadvantages, but they mostly deal two damage for one mana.
Seal of Fire’s “upside” is that it gets cast proactively and then sits on the battlefield until use. You lose the “surprise,” but you gain the ability to
threaten it for zero mana from here on out. The proactive nature of it is a huge advantage for Abbot of Keral Keep. If it was one of those other burn
spells, you’d often just have to deal two damage to their face, while Seal of Fire can get put onto the battlefield on turn 3 from an Abbot reveal and get
saved for a good target.
The proactive nature of Seal of Fire is also nice for prowess triggers in general. If you have an extra mana, you can get the Seal of Fire down while you
have the mana to spare and will get extra damage from prowess.
Seal of Fire’s boosting of Tarmogoyf was great for me all weekend. It’s not just extra damage (though I did win several games that way). It’s also just how
much better it is for Tarmogoyf to get up to 5/6 than 4/5. Then, it lives through Roast and Dismember, and can attack through Siege Rhino and Tasigur.
There is some amount of nonbo between Seal of Fire and Snapcaster Mage, but Snapcaster Mage isn’t usually short on good targets. A lot of people seemed
amused by the use of four Abbots and just three Snapcasters, given the implications of such a similar card being “better” than another one. They are
different, though, and this deck makes particularly good use of Abbot of Keral Keep. In general, Snapcaster Mage is a little stronger of a card (perhaps
more versatile is the better way to put it).
I had started with four of both, but I cut one to trim a little on the creature count (wanting more spells). In retrospect, I think the card to cut is the
second Rancor, adding the fourth Snapcaster back. Rancor was good, but there are just too many Jund/Grixis decks now to maindeck the second Rancor, I
think. Besides, Snapcaster is just too good, particularly after sideboarding, letting you get extra mileage out of your Counterspells. Besides, we’ve even
got a playset of Vapor Snags!
Vapor Snag is a great card for aggressive tempo-based creature decks, but there’s an above average number of enemy targets in the format at the moment,
plus it’s awesome to be able to “cycle” it on our Abbots and Snapcasters. They were great for me, and I would play the full four again, particularly since
Dismember and Roast are less reliable for helping me kill Tarmogoyf (since I am growing Goyfs too big).
I wanted at least a little interaction maindeck, and the nice thing about both Izzet Charm and Remand is that they play well with Abbot. Izzet Charm is
often cast for two damage to a creature, but even if you just draw two and discard two, at least you’re furthering your game. Remand is a little trickier,
but it can be cast on a Mishra’s Bauble or Gitaxian Probe to cycle and add three prowess triggers (and of course if you have any more mana, you can just
Remand anything else).
I had considered Cryptic Command, since it also works well with Abbot (albeit needing lots of mana), but the deck ended up aggressive enough that we
weren’t reliably going to be getting up to four mana in time to take advantage of it. Besides, it’s nice to be able to fetch Stomping Ground and Mountain
and not be stuck because of not having triple blue.
I originally had a Forest as well, but Gerry said he found the Forest to be kind of bad. It casts relatively few of your spells, so replacing it with a
Copperline Gorge seems reasonable. That said, it did end up hurting me, not having a land I could fetch with Misty Rainforest to give me a second mana
source under Choke once I already had Stomping Ground on the battlefield.
Part of my removing the Forest was taking Blood Moon out of the sideboard, but I am not so sure that’s right, at least not moving forward. I lost a match
to G/R Tron, sure, but I also expect those sort of decks (G/R Tron and Amulet Bloom) to increase in popularity a little, with less people aiming at them.
Day 1 of the GP, my only loss was against G/R Tron, which included discarding to handsize three times after keeping a one-lander on the draw with multiple
cantrips, but it seems like a bad matchup anyway. I defeated Temur Twin, Grixis Twin, Affinity, Infect, and U/B Faeries (all of which seemed like good
Day 2 began with a very unfortunate draw against Jund. Not only was I in an advantaged position, but it put me in the draw bracket with all of the other
Jund decks. I think Jund has a slight advantage, as a turn 3 Liliana is actually quite annoying.
Once I was in the draw bracket, my next four opponents all played Liliana on turn 3 against me, three more Junds and one Grixis with Liliana and Lingering
Souls. I managed to go 2-2 against them, but the damage was done. Finally, to close out the day, I got smashed by a Naya Company deck. Them having Path to
Exile, while I don’t have that many good answers to Knight of the Reliquary and Tarmogoyf, is a big deal.
If I were playing Temur Prowess this weekend, here’s the list I would start with:
I considered sideboarding an Encase in Ice, but too many of the people I’d want it against have Dromoka’s Command. What we really need are more answers to
big green creatures. However, I think the best way to get those are to play white or black instead of green.
Lightning Helix is a pretty good card at the moment, and Boros Charm is more than just four damage sometimes, thanks to tons of prowess triggers. If I were
to play Jeskai, I think it would look something like this:
The addition of Lightning Helix and Boros Charm pushes us in a substantially more aggressive, almost Burn-like direction. If we wanted, we could also
consider a Grim Lavamancer in order to more frequently curve out. I really like Grim Lavamancer, at the moment anyway. There are so many creature decks,
like Merfolk, Elves, Affinity, and so on. Grim Lavamancer even fights through Ensnaring Bridge!
The problem with white is that the burn eats into the space we used to be able to use on permission. Additionally, none of the individual white cards are
as high impact as Tarmogoyf or Tasigur, the Golden Fang. As a result, I think going forward, I want to get back to my roots.
- 4 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 1 Gurmag Angler
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Abbot of Keral Keep
This list is set up very similar to the Temur Prowess deck, swapping in black delve creatures for Tarmogoyfs, Kolaghan’s Command instead of Izzet Charm,
and Terminate instead of Rancor and some of the Vapor Snags.
I love the incidental damage cards when we are this aggressive. Vapor Snag is well-known, but Countersquall, Smash to Smithereens, and Molten Rain also fit
into this plan quite well. I would have jammed Geth’s Verdict, but the mana is unnecessarily risky.
I am also very interested in exploring more Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy-type Grixis decks, but he doesn’t exactly push the same direction as Monastery Swiftspear.
I considered just cutting the Swiftspears for Jaces, but I am not sure what that list would look like yet since Jace pushes you more towards control, while
Abbot is at its best when being aggressive. If I were building around Jace, I think I’d want to try to make it a Liliana of the Veil deck.
I am really loving Modern right now. The format is just so sweet for brewing. I am curious about the impact Battle for Zendikar will have on the