It’s been a wonderful (and wonderfully brief) dip into the world of Hogaak this summer, but the time has come to say goodbye to an offensively powerful design mistake. I was blessed to play the stock Jund version of Hogaak at GP Las Vegas this past weekend to a smooth Top 16 finish, and I can say without reservation that I’m more than ready for it to disappear. Special congratulations to Simon Nielsen, who won the tournament after falling in the finals of GP Birmingham just last week. What a monster!
- 4 Carrion Feeder
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 1 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 1 Glowspore Shaman
- 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
For posterity’s sake, I’ll share the list that struck me as the most powerful way to build Hogaak, a list I would have loved to play in future weeks, were it not for the fact that Hogaak was the most obvious ban candidate since Flash Hulk 2007.
This was Michael Graham’s list from GP Las Vegas, subscribing to his philosophy that “Most Hogaak players are being too conservative with their lists. Make it less consistent to increase raw power!”
- 3 Carrion Feeder
- 3 Bloodghast
- 4 Hedron Crab
- 4 Vengevine
- 3 Gravecrawler
- 3 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Crab ‘N’ Chill Hogaak, the greediest Hogaak deck in the format, would have made things quite interesting going forward. After all, Mono-Red Prowess provided two of my three losses at the tournament (hint, hint), and one of the ways to absolutely clown that deck was by playing maindeck Creeping Chills.
Interesting thought process, of course. Maybe there’s something to be gleaned from this nugget of wisdom for Modern going forward, especially since the London mulligan is sticking around. I’d be interested to see what extra greed we can pack into our decks that we weren’t properly accounting for previously. Fewer lands? Narrower one-ofs? The world is our oyster.
But now things are different. There’s been a disturbance in Modern. We’ve lost the obvious centerpiece of the broken deck, but two other changes came along for the ride. Now things get interesting.
As for the best decks after the dust settles, there are a whole mess of candidates. A few are obvious, but some are a bit less intuitive:
Both the banning of Faithless Looting and the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic push the format to be significantly slower. There will be more small-ball spot removal and fewer non-interactive graveyard-oriented “assemble my power play and ignore you” decks. In effect, we’ll see more Fatal Pushes, and fewer cantrips. More interaction, and less “set up my nonsense.”
This leads to more “Elvish Visionary”-type cards seeing play – I’m talking Stoneforge Mystic and Snapcaster Mage, and to a lesser extent Bloodbraid Elf and even Wrenn and Six – and quite a bit fewer “removal doesn’t do anything” decks – chief among them Hogaak and Izzet Phoenix.
What decks that survive unscathed from the banning exploit a shift towards small-ball interaction? Tron! Mono-Green Tron goes over the top of everything else. Other people play
Tarmogoyf, Wrenn and Six, or Stoneforge Mystic, while Mono-Green Tron just goldfishes hard, overwhelming them quickly and consistently.
In addition, the London mulligan benefits Mono-Green Tron much more than Stoneforge or Jund decks.
This is the new apex in Modern. I’m not excited to lose to this one again, I tell you what! But I’ll keep tinkering with my nonsense and hoping it’s good enough, and maybe Wizards of the Coast will print an Alpine Moon that cantrips and finally makes all my dreams come true.
Until then, we’ll probably get demolished by this beast:
This deck was poised to beat up on Hogaak, right before every Hogaak deck started packing four Force of Vigor in the sideboard. Chalice of the Void and Leyline of the Void were just too soft to a massive Force of Vigor-induced swing, and suddenly a formerly good matchup slipped away. But now that Hogaak is no more, Force of Vigor is likely way down in prevalence, and with Jund and Stoneblade picking up, it seems like the perfect time to move back in on Eldrazi Tron.
It even put a couple of copies into the Top 8 of GP Las Vegas this past weekend, so it’s clear that the power level is high enough to keep it on top of the format. We’ll just see how it preys on the rest of the decks in Modern. It’s a safe pick to be a top-tier deck for some time, and it’s probably the best Karn, the Great Creator deck out there.
My only concern is that it might be too weak against Mono-Green Tron, or perhaps a blend that incorporates Karn, the Great Creator in Mono-Green Tron.
We’re going to take a look at cutting Leyline of the Void now that graveyard decks aren’t super-popular, but other than that it’s going to be pretty much the same deck as always. Nothing too fancy, just big mana, big creatures, and a planeswalker to tie the room together.
Wrenn and Six! Wrenn and Six! Wrenn and Six! Classic Jund gets a massive shot in the arm with Hogaak and Izzet Phoenix falling to the wayside, as now the metagame will contract, people will go back to playing Humans (which I don’t love in a Wrenn and Six / Plague Engineer format, I’ll have you know!), and it’ll be easy pickings for the fairest deck in the format.
I’m picking up Logan Nettles’s old deck and immediately jamming games with an updated list, because if Jund can beat Azorius Stoneblade, it’s going to be a mighty fine call to turn the format back towards a fair and balanced place.
I’ve slept on Hardened Scales for a long, long time. And I still think the deck is a bit less powerful and a bit less consistent than the top tier of Modern decks. But I have to put a Mox Opal deck in the list, and I believe that Scales is the last archetype to play the two most broken cards in the format: Opal and Ancient Stirrings. I could be wrong, but Hardened Scales seems like it’s got the potential to break out in a big way, depending on the prevalence of Karn. Half-aggro, half-combo, all math, Scales is way more resilient to spot removal than most other aggro decks, it’s highly consistent, and it’s got a ton of reach. It even made it all the way to the finals of the most recent Mythic Championship.
We’ll use Gal Schlesinger’s latest list as a starting point, of course. Here’s the deck I’m likely to lose to in the latter half of the year:
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Arcbound Worker
- 2 Steel Overseer
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Scrapyard Recombiner
I personally would shy away from Steel Overseer in a metagame likely to include more spot removal than before, but the core of the deck is still as exciting as ever.
Of course, the fair Modern format wouldn’t be complete without the bumbling misadventures of Jace and Stoneforge! In theory, Azorius has the tools to fend off the aggro decks and Mono-Green Tron while keeping enough raw topdeck power to beat the midrange decks like Jund. Stabilizing on Turns 3-5 is a lot more doable now, and you can bet your bottom dollar old SCG Tour grinders like Shaheen Soorani will amble up to the table at the next Modern event with something looking sort of like this:
I almost want a third Spell Snare in there. Absolutely love that card in a Wrenn and Six / Stoneforge format!
Now it’s time for the first of two mashup archetypes. The Stoneforge package is delightful enough to make its way into the Four-Color Urza archetype, turning it into UrzaBlade. I love, love, love decks with a midrange or control frame grafted onto a combo. Whether it ends up being Jeskai, Esper, or four colors, this is likely one of the decks that gets the most additional power from the changes to Modern.
It’s unclear whether we want to include Goblin Engineer alongside Stoneforge Mystic or just replace it wholesale. I’d try both, making this list the most appealing to me right now:
Now the last card in the sideboard is certainly a blast from the past. Everyone loves getting freaky with Manriki!
Of course, we have to make an attempt to resurrect TwinBlade with Four-Color Saheeli. Here’s where my miniature cabal of Saheeli aficionados ended up, though with four colors there’s basically no reason not to go as buck-wild as you want. Got a neat card? Put it in there! Value-Combo is the most fun archetype in all of Magic.
Mardu Death’s Shadow
Now, as for Death’s Shadow, I am fairly sold on playing white over blue. Ranger-Captain of Eos is just such an important card for the deck, and I want to play Kolaghan’s Command in the Stoneforge metagame. I’m a bit skeptical of playing Death’s Shadow in general when Path to Exile just leaped to the top of the format thanks to Stoneforge’s help, but here’s what I’d play if someone demanded that I break out the old 13/13s.
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 4 Death's Shadow
- 1 Hex Parasite
- 1 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
Of course, one could play Stoneforge Mystic over Tidehollow Sculler in the Mardu Death’s Shadow deck, but something doesn’t feel quite right about Batterskull and Death’s Shadow in the same sentence. Hey, I’ve been wrong before, though!
The big takeaway here is that without Hogaak mashing the format, we’re going to let some of the other impactful additions from Modern Horizons breathe a bit, and that all points to small creature decks being significantly worse. Wrenn and Six, Plague Engineer, and Lava Dart all mean big moves away from Noble Hierarch. If that points to a general midrange-ification of the format, it means that Mono-Green Tron becomes very well-positioned again (sigh). But Arcum’s Astrolabe opens up manabases to the point where I’m very ready to start going crazy with off-the-wall four-color brews, so it’s not all gloom-and-doom Tron time.
After all, we did just get a new cat at my house, which makes number four. I’m no judge, but I think that demonstrates an infinite loop…