The Brewer Mailbag

Chris Lansdell is the most reliable source of brewing insanity in the Magic world! He’s living up to his reputation by finding the most extreme Modern decks the world has to offer him in his latest piece!

Sometimes I get to write about fun brews in Standard. Although the card pool is the smallest we regularly get to work with, the metagame also tends to be the most-defined and therefore the easiest to target. It’s often a fun process but can get frustrating when certain effects aren’t present or when two of the best decks in the format occupy opposite ends of the spectrum, making it harder to attack them.

Other times I get to brew for Modern. With both a diverse metagame and a broad card pool, we can abandon any pretense of trying to beat the metagame and either just target a few decks or do our own crazy, powerful nonsense and ignore everything the opponent is doing.

The great thing about both of these approaches is that they are both fun and both appeal to different parts of my psyche, helping me keep things fresh. If every week I had to write about the same things, I would have grown tired of it long before now. There is, however, a third thing I get to write about: decklists sent to me by others. Although I am not and have never claimed to be a professional-caliber player, I do have a somewhat scary knowledge of obscure cards and love tinkering. This week, I have the pleasure to bring you some decks that were sent to me. I was also given another challenge in last week’s article to build around Indomitable Creativity, which seems like a fun plan.

Fog City

St. John’s, Newfoundland is known as Fog City to its inhabitants. The foggiest place in the world, for example, is only a couple of hours down the road. London, where I was born, is also well known as being prone to a foggy day or two. Given that I have spent almost 30 years living in those two places combined (yes, I am old), it is little wonder that I have a propensity for TurboFog decks. I would love to sit here and talk to you about the Modern TurboFog deck that I watched frustrate the living daylights out of a Bant Eldrazi player, but the pilot of said deck declined to have it included in the article. Not to worry! During one of our between-rounds judge chats (judges do like to chat), my friend, mentor, and member of the Commander Rules Committee Gavin Duggan mentioned that he had been playing TurboFog…in Standard.

Jeskai TurboFog. No, that is not a typo.

I love the concept here. All three of the best decks right now need a combat phase to win, and this particular deck is well set up to neutralize as many combat phases as possible. We have plenty of ways to dig to our twelve Fog effects, plus mass removal in the form of Quarantine Field and the forgotten Planar Outburst. I asked Gavin why he ran that over Fumigate, as it seemed like the lifegain might be relevant. Evidently the 4/4 you can get late in the game is actually more important more often, which I can see. Winning is mostly achieved through a combination of Fevered Visions chip damage, the occasional land beatdown, and of course Torrential Gearhulk face-smackings.

There are a couple of things I might try to change in this list after some testing. Roilmage’s Trick sometimes feels like the best card in the deck (especially because it cantrips), but against G/B decks it often does not do enough. -3/-0 to the team is great against Mardu and shuts down the combo entirely, but a five-power Gearhulk is still going to kill you very quickly. With only seven Islands in the deck (including Prairie Stream), I am loath to include Engulf the Shore, but maybe a Baral’s Expertise or even Fumigate would be okay here? Another option, which is better in the G/B matchup, would be Consulate Surveillance. Yes, I am serious.

Repel the Abominable has the potential to be a dead card, but the Humans deck is currently not a thing in Standard and so I am comfortable leaving it in the deck. One thing that does kind of stick out is some of the numbers. Two Torrential Gearhulk seems a bit off, and Nahiri, the Harbinger over Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is also something I want to switch for a bit. Dovin Baan is one of my favorite “I am seeing no play but probably should” cards, so I love the inclusion here. That it can shut down opposing attackers is definitely a plus.

The sideboard does what you would expect, allowing the deck to switch gears against decks that don’t do much attacking. Sphinx of the Final Word is great in those matchups, ensuring that all your spells will resolve while also being very difficult to kill. Although Gavin raved about the possibility of Fall of the Titans kills, I would much rather use this slot (and preferably one or two others) for Dynavolt Tower. That card synergizes remarkable well with Consulate Surveillance (if we end up playing it) and can keep smaller threats off the battlefield so that we don’t have to spend Fog effects on a bunch of two-power threats.

And as if by Magic, as I wrote this, I saw Roy van der Oever on the GP Utrecht stream playing a four-color TurboFog deck with green for Attune with Aether and Commencement of Festivities. Gavin did mention that option (he also suggested Tamiyo, Field Researcher as a possibility), but he thought the Jeskai version was better. I have not tested the four-color version, but the stable mana certainly would be a selling point for me to play Jeskai.

If It Can Beat Cedric, It’s Good Enough for Me!

On his drive-time podcast on the way back from GP Vancouver, Cedric Phillips mentioned a G/R Collected Company deck in Modern that ran both Ball Lightning and Groundbreaker. Well, that’s certainly aggressive. As fate would have it, a gentleman by the name of Tom Beith reached out to me on Twitter to ask me if I had seen the deck, which he himself played in Vancouver to a 7-5 finish. Although falling short of the money, Tom did say that some of his losses were due to variance and that he felt he had a shot in every matchup he faced. Here’s the list he sent:

The idea that you can just Company into twelve damage is very appealing to me. Doing it in the opponent’s end step appeals to me even more. The word “explosive” is one I have used a fair amount, but it is definitely appropriate here.

The first thing I look at with any Collected Company deck is the number of misses and soft misses. The deck is two-thirds spells, which is better than we used to do in Standard. The first Collected Company has twenty lands and eleven non-creatures it can see, so just over 50% misses. However, eight-mana creatures are essentially misses, putting us up to 39 of 60 cards that we really don’t want to see. That in my mind is too many, so we need to make some changes.

Atarka’s Command is I think fine in the maindeck, and we would be silly to cut Lightning Bolt. Vines of Vastwood can easily take a seat in the sideboard, as I cannot see us needing to pump a single creature too often and the hexproof is less important when almost half our creatures do not stay on the battlefield. I also want to cut Noble Hierarch, as the “attacking alone” clause seems unlikely and the Birds can tap for red mana, which seems important as well when we want to cast a spell costing RRR.

So what do we play instead? With six slots freed up, I would like to find a way to get another aggressive creature in here, plus hopefully one that can make some mana for us. In terms of aggression, we are hurting for a good creature with both trample and haste to match the others we already have. Yasova Dragonclaw has trample and can steal us some creatures (which would also be opposing blockers) but needs a turn to get ready. Arc Runner hits hard and fast but is easy to chump block. I even considered Cosmic Larva until I realised how very, very bad it is. The best options I could find were Boggart Ram-Gang, Boon Satyr, and Burning-Tree Shaman. I would likely try two each of Shaman and Satyr first, just to get a feel for which one we like better.

As for the Hierarch replacement, if ever there were a deck for Gyre Sage, it would be this one. Not only can it tap for mana fairly consistently, it also grows pretty quickly in this deck and becomes a solid threat on its own. While it won’t often accelerate us into turn 3 Collected Company, the ability to attack for meaningful damage later in the game makes it worth considering. The only other card I looked at was Rattleclaw Mystic, which has the bonus of always making mana and also tapping for red mana. It might be a better call in terms of consistency, but Gyre Sage is way more fun.

Tom mentioned that he really missed having a Shatterstorm effect in the sideboard, and G/R conveniently offers us two of those (Creeping Corrosion being the other). The only other thing I would want is the third and fourth Magus of the Moon, just because that card out of nowhere can end games. In fact I might consider playing all four in the sideboard and freeing up two more main-deck slots for aggressive creatures, but that does sacrifice some number of free wins in game one.

Challenge Accepted: Indomitable Creativity

Level 2 judge and burger aficionado Abeed Bendall challenged me to do something with Indomitable Creativity in Modern. Although I have been brewing with it casually in Standard, I hadn’t really considered its Modern applications. It does demand quite a bit from us in terms of how we build our deck, as it has RRR in its mana cost and wants us to play no creatures or artifacts except the ones into which we want to “Polymorph” when we go off.

There are a couple of ways we can generate artifacts and creatures without using actual artifacts and creatures. Making Clue tokens would be the obvious one, along with token-producing spells, lands or enchantments. We also want ways to draw cards so that we can actually find Indomitable Creativity, and ways to keep ourselves alive while we set up. Red is not exactly known for its potent token-generating instants and sorceries, but they do exist. White is a much better choice, but R/W is notoriously poor at drawing cards. That means we probably need blue, the undisputed king of card draw and, conveniently, the home of See Beyond. Nothing is worse than drawing huge, uncastable spells, and we need a way to get those out of our hand and back into our deck.

So what are we using to make our sacrifice fodder? Well, that word “fodder” itself is a hint, as Dragon Fodder is probably our most efficient choice. Raise the Alarm and Midnight Haunting are both instants, but I am not sure how much white we are going to want. If we do go heavier on the white mana, we have access to any of the Elspeths and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to make tokens for us.

One card I definitely want to play is Assemble the Legion, another Lansdell pet card that can just take over games. Hammer of Purphoros is an interesting idea that can both make tokens and make our big creatures hasty, but sadly it is an artifact. Martial Coup is a card I really want to play as a one-of that can both make tokens and, later in the game, clean up dangerous battlefields. Of course with access to Supreme Verdict and Wrath of God that might not make the cut. Secure the Wastes, Sacred Mesa, and White Sun’s Zenith are all possible, while Timely Reinforcements is an excellent plan out of the sideboard.

What do we want to hit with our Indomitable Creativity? Well, the fact that we are not going to cast the spell makes me less excited about things like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End. I do like both Blightsteel Colossus and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as cards that are hard to remove but both capable of ending the game in a hurry. I’m also interested in something that gives haste: Dragonlord Kolaghan or Xenagos, God of Revels would be ideal, but Urabrask the Hidden is worth considering too.

I think the best way to build the deck is with as much removal as possible with exactly one copy of the three creatures we want to play. We need to make sure we not only hit our land drops but also can reach six mana on turn 6. Our only ramp is likely to come from Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and I am not even sure we want that in our 75. For card draw, we can look at See Beyond plus Sphinx’s Revelation, Serum Visions, Electrolyze, and possibly Think Twice. Nahiri, the Harbinger seems like an auto-include here.

This seems like a reasonable starting point. In the sideboard, I like taking out the Creativity and bringing in Geist of Saint Traft to completely throw the oppponent off. We could also cut two of the three big creatures in order to play Snapcaster Mage or Torrential Gearhulk, though they both have less utility against an opponent brining Grafidgger’s Cage in from their sideboard. Although this deck won’t win with blinding speed and is lacking in any countermagic (I tried to fit Remand in here, but we really need all those lands), the ability to just win on the turn we get Indomitable Creativity is valuable. We can play Pact of Negation because resolving Creativity will win the game, so the upkeep clause shouldn’t matter.

That’s all we have for this week, folks. As always, thanks for stopping by. Next week I will be looking at some of the delicious decklists from Grand Prix Utrecht, which, at least on Day 1, looked to be a brewer’s paradise. Until next time…Brew On!