The Case For Chalice Of The Void In Modern

Dredge and Izzet Phoenix are two of Modern’s toughest, most popular decks. What beats them both? Dylan Hand thinks Chalice of the Void is the answer for SCG Philadelphia and highlights several potential decks!

Somehow, Modern continues to push the boundaries of degeneracy with each passing week. The banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks did little to push the format back to a fairer state. While it arguably slowed the format down by a tiny fraction in terms of average turns per game, some decks that struggled against Ironworks have since moved to dominate the format unimpeded.

As it stands, there are two decks in Modern that sit above the rest: Izzet Phoenix and Dredge.

Neither deck is particularly interested in playing a fair game of Magic, instead trying their hardest to abuse Faithless Looting to cheat creatures like the ones pictured above onto the battlefield for the low, low cost of free. Both decks also boast consistently fast kill rates, frequently being able to close the door on the game by Turn 4 or Turn 5.

The rest of the format is warping around these two decks, as we see the rise of typically poorly positioned / lower powered decks like Ad Nauseam in the metagame due to boasting strong matchups against the aforementioned. Additionally, the degenerate nature of the format has given life to what can be best described as the spiritual successor to Lantern Control, Whir Prison:

While Whir Prison is similar in many ways to the older Lantern Control decks, it utilizes very different lock pieces to attempt to pierce the Achilles’ heel of the opposition, rather than try to manipulate their library using Lantern of Insight and Codex Shredder.

A big standout here is a card that has seen little sunlight in the Modern format until recently:

Cards like Chalice of the Void tend to see spikes in play when formats push themselves to their limits in terms of efficiency and play an overabundance of zero- to two-mana spells. A fantastic example of this is the entirety of the Legacy format. A format dominated primarily by blue cantrips like Brainstorm, Preordain, and Ponder, as well as hyper-efficient threats like Delver of Secrets, makes decks utilizing prison elements like Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, and friends much more enticing.

In Modern, this phenomenon is less common, since the hoops you must jump through to power out Chalice of the Void on Turn 1 of the game frequently aren’t worth it, and the list is woefully short.

No Ancient Tombs or City of Traitors to be found in Modern (fingers crossed for Modern Horizons), and Chrome Mox and Rite of Flame are hanging out with Krark-Clan Ironworks on the Banned List.

But this doesn’t mean that Chalice of the Void and the decks that support them in Modern aren’t worth looking at! As I mentioned before, the format’s current state has brought some unorthodox strategies from out of the woodwork and popping up in Modern results. The list of powerful one- and two-mana cards littering the format is quite extensive:

Eldrazi Decks

Eldrazi Tron, for the most part, is well-positioned in a metagame aiming to beat Dredge and Izzet Phoenix. For Dredge, Eldrazi Tron is typically able to find room for maindeck inclusions of cards like Relic of Progenitus and has access to a bunch of powerful anti-graveyard measures out of the sideboard to lock the graveyard down even farther like Grafdigger’s Cage and Silent Gravestone. All Is Dust can help clear the way of pesky Narcomoebas and Stinkweed Imps that are holding back your Thought-Knot Seers, and Reality Smasher does a great job of trampling through said creatures. The list above even includes maindeck copies of Batterskull and Basilisk Collar to help win races.

Against Izzet Phoenix, Chalice of the Void goes very far towards crippling their primary gameplan of casting cantrips and Thought-Knot Seer lets you poke holes in their hand while presenting a powerful clock that can attack through Thing in the Ice. A transformed Thing in the Ice can still be challenging to beat, but a well-timed Dismember or a quick Karn Liberated can take care of this issue, no problem.

The other take on Eldrazi eschews the big mana plan and aims for a much more aggressive and degenerate fast mana approach:

I follow Kellen on Twitter and they have been posting frequently as of late about the Colorless Eldrazi and how they believe it to be well-positioned. This version of the deck means business; the trifecta of Gemstone Caverns, Simian Spirit Guide, and Serum Powder all aim to sculpt a hand capable of powering out the colorless haymakers – Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher – incredibly early.

At SCG Regionals this past Saturday, in Round 9, I sat next to a poor fellow who had to witness their opponent exile a Serum Powder, keep a new seven-card hand, place Gemstone Caverns onto the battlefield as they were on the draw, then on their Turn 1, play an Eldrazi Temple, exile two Simian Spirit Guides, and play a Reality Smasher. For those keeping track, that requires six of the eight total cards they had seen at that point!

Refocusing on Chalice of the Void itself, this deck simply does the Turn 1 Chalice plan the best. The aforementioned fast mana producers give you eight ways to produce two mana for this play on the first turn of the game, which can leave most Modern decks struggling to enact their gameplan before they even draw their first card. This deck is trying to do its best impression of its Legacy counterpart, as it must make up for the lack of Eye of Ugin somehow. On that note, the deck is an Ancient Tomb printing in Modern Horizons away from becoming an unbeatable force in Modern (and I’m also probably the only person on the planet rooting for it to be in the set).

Before I wrap up on the Eldrazi decks, I happened to play against fellow Massachusetts Magic mainstay and longtime grinder Adam Snook in Round 8 of Regionals this past Saturday, and he was gracious enough to send me his list over to include in this article:

Adam took the base of Colorless Eldrazi and added white to make room for some powerful and well-positioned cards in Modern. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is one of the best ways to slow down Izzet Phoenix and buy the time needed to push to the mid-game where Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and Eldrazi Displacer can dominate the battlefield. Displacer specifically does a great job at resetting Thing in the Ice or tapping down Stinkweed Imps to push through damage. Some of the best benefits of playing white come from everyone’s favorite duo of haymaker enchantments in the sideboard:

Snook’s entire sideboard, save for one Ratchet Bomb, features white cards, essentially turning this deck into a two-color deck across the entire 75-card deck. While there’s a cost to stretching the colorless manabase some, the deck still has access to lands like Caves of Koilos and Shefet Dunes that do a reasonable dual land impression.

The Eldrazi decks are a relic of a Modern format long gone by. From the banning of Eye of Ugin to the rise and fall of Eldrazi Tron and the sporadic success of the Serum Powder versions of Colorless Eldrazi, Thought-Knot Seer and friends have had an interesting relationship with Modern since their printing. The Eldrazi are the only tribe in Modern to benefit from their own personal two-mana land, but the aforementioned metagame shifts and bannings led to a drop-off in their playability. That might change in the current Modern metagame.

Other Options

While the decks above are likely the best shells for Chalice of the Void, a couple of other decks in Modern can make use of them.

  • Humans has occasionally played the card in the sideboard to help stop efficient removal spells like Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt from decimating their creatures. Thanks to Cavern of Souls, casting creatures through your own Chalice becomes a reasonable option.
  • While Chalice of the Void can actually be strong against Affinity and Hardened Scales, the deck could, in theory, play Chalice to help lock out problematic spells from the other side of the table. This is slightly more of a stretch than Humans, but the power of Mox Opal being able to theoretically power out a Chalice on one on Turn 1 makes this worth looking at. In practice, the card would most likely fit better into Hardened Scales, as the threats in the deck mostly cost two mana.

As long as Faithless Looting remains legal, many players in Modern will feel the pressure to push their decks to be as hyper-efficient as possible to combat the current two juggernauts of Modern. The more one-mana spells people are playing, the more powerful Chalice of the Void, and the shells that support it, become.