The talk of the town has been Standard in the wake of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, but with Modern events on the horizon, it’s time for me to switch gears.
Claim // Fame will reshape what we know Grixis Death’s Shadow to look like… just as soon as someone figures out the right list. I think Claim // Fame will take away the need for Temur Battle Rage, since you now have huge burst damage for just three mana. Combined with Young Pyromancer or Snapcaster Mage to chain them off, things start to get silly. Check out Jim Davis’s new take on Grixis Death’s Shadow in his article this week.
We saw Ramunap Excavator in Todd Stevens’s G/W Company deck that won SCG Atlanta. I see more potential in Ramunap Excavator that just in a Value Town. Crucible of Worlds was, and still is a popular card. Sure, you need access to green mana, but the ability to affect combat is real, even at the cost of creature removal vulnerability. Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Explore are fine cards to play alongside Ramunap Excavator in a variety of different decks, especially ones that care about their own manabase getting destroyed like G/W Tron and Titan Shift.
Hour of Promise does a lot of what Primeval Titan does at a mana cheaper. It’s not as good as Primeval Titan, as the Giant demands an immediate answer or the game is certainly over. If TitanShift does well this weekend, I expect it to be a build playing Hour of Promise for more consistency of that particular effect and not running Through the Breach.
Fraying Sanity may not be strictly better than anything that’s already in U/B Mill in Modern, but I’m sure people will give it a shot. Outside of established shells, it’s just too hard to pass up on the two-card combo of Fraying Sanity and Traumatize. If Fraying Sanity ends up being good, then it can really shake up the format, since it significantly punishes decks that rely on having a full library like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Ad Nauseam.
Solemnity works well with Phyrexian Unlife and is a solid card against many commonly played cards. Anything with +1/+1 counters, charge counters (Chalice of the Void or Engineered Explosives), or a poison counter victory plan gets hosed. Both parts can be found with Zur the Enchanter or Idyllic Tutor.
Five mana is a lot in Modern, especially for a deck that aims for a turn 4 win. Still, in certain builds, Ramunap Ruins can be closer to a freeroll than not. You’d have to abandon green and its sideboard utility of Destructive Revelry in favor of Wear // Tear or dedicated artifact removal like Smash to Smithereens.
Now, on to the sweet decks!
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Trinket Mage
- 4 Pili-Pala
- 4 Grand Architect
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Walking Ballista
Turn 1: Mausoleum Wanderer
Turn 2: Pili-Pala
Turn 3: Grand Architect. Attack with Pili-Pala. Tap Grand Architect with its own ability to generate two colorless artifact mana. Untap Pili-Pala, generating blue. Turn Pili-Pala blue with Grand Architect. Tap Pili-Pala for two colorless artifact mana and then untap itself for a colored mana. Repeat arbitrarily.
Collected Company finds your combo pieces, including surprise Mausoleum Wanderers to counter spells. You’re going to win with the Pili-Pala combo most often, but rare 3/3 and 4/4 Trinket Mage beats happen with some Walking Ballista burn-outs.
Trinket Mage brings a host of options out of the sideboard. Basilisk Collar is great with Walking Ballista. Engineered Explosives, Chalice of the Void, and Pithing Needle come in their various spots that are too long to list. The sideboard could manage with only one of either Relic of Progenitus or Tormod’s Crypt, but I figure there are enough spots that I want access to both. A Noble Hierarch into Trinket Mage on turn 2, landing a Tormod’s Crypt, is a heck of a lot faster against dredge than having your interaction on turn 3.
Training Grounds is one of the most appealing cards blue has to offer. It halves the price of ticking up Walking Ballista and cuts Duskwatch Recruiter to a third, meaning you’re way more likely to activate it the turn that you cast it, often multiple times. It’s also pretty good with both Kefnet the Mindful and Rhonas the Indomitable.
Much like Rhonas, you can hit Kefnet off Collected Company or Chord of Calling it up. Kefnet can catch you up from a pretty low base as long as you aren’t under a ton of pressure. Combined with Training Grounds, you can draw cards as a rate fast enough to warrant the initial extra card of investment. Also, Kefnet unconditionally enables Rhonas for attacking purposes.
Mindshrieker is an alternative win condition that has the added benefit of being a blue card with Grand Architect. Mindshrieker is useful for times when Walking Ballista gets hit by a Stony Silence or Pithing Needle or something similar. It, of course, is buffed as well when you have Training Grounds on the battlefield.
Smuggler’s Copter worked well for Zac Elsik in his Mono-Blue artifact beatdown deck affectionately named Blue Steel, and it could very well work here too. After all, Smuggler’s Copter works nicely with Grand Architect, both to cast and to crew. You have no shortage of small creatures running around that don’t always fare well in combat. After sideboarding, you can expect the opponent to come with sweepers against your creature combo deck. Filtering draw steps goes a long way too when you’re trying to assemble a few moving parts.
Phyrexian Metamorph could be an option if the deck wants a critical mass of lords like Grand Architect. If the deck takes a direction of bigger artifacts like Wurmcoil Engine, I can see it being worth a few copies. As it stands, a one-of Phyrexian Metamorph to Chord of Calling for isn’t the worst against an opposing card like Linvala, Keeper of Silence or Fiend Hunter.
Another Chord of Calling target that serves a similar function to Mausoleum Wanderer or Spellskite. Glen Elendra Archmage is more expensive and can’t be hit off of Collected Company but is definitely a stronger card than the others, especially against heavy control like Jeskai. I consider Glen Elendra Archmage to be a post-sideboard consideration when you can rely on the combo as much.
I played the following version of Pili-Pala Combo in a Versus Video due for publication next week, so stay tuned for that! I played more of the pieces I went over and I just shaved the deck down to more of the necessities.
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Trinket Mage
- 4 Pili-Pala
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Grand Architect
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Mindshrieker
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 3 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 1 Kefnet the Mindful
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
Up Next: A Pair of Standard Favorites!
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Vendilion Clique
- 4 Wall of Omens
- 2 Sun Titan
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Felidar Guardian
Jeskai Saheeli is a Jeskai Control deck in disguise. Everything is fun and games until you cast Restoration Angel at the end of turn 4 into Felidar Guardian, creating a loop of creatures that results in as many Seraph Sanctuary triggers as you want.
It’s a mix of the Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Restoration Angel. Conveniently enough, the pieces interlock rather well. To completely pair Felidar Guardian and Restoration Angel, Seraph Sanctuary makes a low-cost combo piece.
Sun Titan is outrageous with even a single copy of Saheeli Rai in the graveyard, and obviously a decent blink with a Cat or Angel. It may look like Nahiri, the Harbinger would want Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to get, but Sun Titan does most of the work there. If Sun Titan doesn’t, then Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker ought to.
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 3 Worldspine Wurm
- 1 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Rogue Refiner
“The Original Finisher”
This build of Temur Marvel is part energy, part Through the Breach ramp, part midrange, and all fun!
You can’t run as many energy generators as in Standard, mostly because Harnessed Lightning doesn’t have enough targets. Instead Greater Gargadon rears its head as a means to put permanents into your graveyard at will to energize Aetherworks Marvel. Greater Gargadon is also a non-embarrassing hit off Aetherworks Marvel or a big attacker from Through the Breach. It also just sometimes eats your battlefield and comes off suspend naturally. Along with a few Rogue Refiner chip shots, that’s often good enough.
Through the Breach and Worldspine Wurm as an additional fatty round out the heavy-hitting package of Temur Energy. Greater Gargadon also protects Worldspine Wurm from Path to Exile or other exile effects, ensuring that you’ll be left with three 5/5 Wurm tokens for your efforts.
Wall of Roots blocks well against the aggressive decks and plays well with the sideboard Anger of the Gods. Servant of the Conduit just isn’t cut out for Modern. Attune with Aether, however, is as good as ever.
I like any deck that can maindeck Grove of the Burnwillows. The free utility against Death’s Shadow can never be understated. The criteria is not needing a bunch of basic land types (like Valakut) and being able to grossly go over the top of your opponents where racing is a non-issue. “Annihilator 6” fits that description well.
SCG Syracuse This Weekend
This weekend’s Modern Open in Syracuse will be the biggest solely Modern tournament since the release of Hour of Devastation. I don’t really count the Team Tournament, where it’s advised to play something safe and established and count on your teammates to do the same. For this individual Modern Open, if you want to win, you need to get a jump on the new format.
Will any of these sweet decks win Syracuse? I wouldn’t hold my breath, although I do see potential in all three. I do believe that cards Hour of Devastation will come out in full force and those people who quickly recognize how it shifts the format will be the most rewarded.