The Elements Of Modern

Allies had their chance. Slivers made a bit of an appearance. I suppose you could say the Eldrazi have done well for themselves. Chris Lansdell’s brewing side ain’t satisfied! See the tribe he thinks deserves more respect at #SCGLOU!

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<p>Have you recovered yet? </p>
<p>Despite a week off from The SCG Tour<sup>®</sup> after the adrenaline rush of Pro Tour <i>Oath of the Gatewatch</i>, I’m still not sure I am back down to earth. Whether it was the incredible Limited match between Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Martin Muller, the topdeck battle between Frank Lepore and Luis Scott-Vargas, the tension of the Top 8 announcement, the “draft commons” deck that won the event, or any combination of those, the event was a thriller. It has also made me all the more excited for this weekend’s stop at #SCGLOU.</p>
<p>While it’s almost a given that both the U/R and Colorless flavors of Eldrazi Aggro will be heavily played, I expect a large portion of the field will be trying to play something to beat the new <a href=Terrors of the Top Tier. Whether it’s Blue Moon (with Spreading Seas), a G/W Hatebears build, Affinity, or some new Boom // Bust concoction, the brewing is already happening with fervor. Whereas we had a wide-open metagame going into the Pro Tour, we now have an open one with a target at the end.

It’s been suggested that combo decks might be well-suited to attacking the alien menace, which is right up my alley. I’ve been playing Grishoalbrand for a while, and although I think it’s in a decent spot in the meta right now, it’s not particularly interesting to write about for a column centered on brewing. Fortunately I do have two ideas that are a little more on the fun side that might just be good enough to play this weekend. At the very least they could attract the attention of Nick Miller for a deck tech. And really, isn’t that what we all want anyway? He’s so dreamy!

It’s Elemental, My Dear Fumarole

When Modern Masters 2015 came out, I saw many of the Elemental tribal cards for the first time. The Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks were during my longest and deepest break from Magic, and since very few of those cards have been relevant after the fact, I never bothered to look at most of them. Smokebraider was the card that most caught my eye, as a two-drop that could tap for two mana seemed busted to me.

Elementals have been around forever, and there are some very powerful cards in the tribe that people love to cast (I’m looking at you, Mulldrifter) and that see consistent tournament play now (Voice of Resurgence). Why was nobody doing this? My bewilderment was by no means lessened by the revelation that Primal Beyond existed. Have you read that card? I know. I did a double-take too. There has to be a catch, right?

There wasn’t so much a catch as there was a deck. With no strong removal to beat Splinter Twin, the Elemental deck could not be considered. It also lacked a real way to win the game, with most of the best cards in the deck being utility creatures and not really game-winners. Sure everyone loves drawing two cards or killing a creature, but how do we actually win? Are we really playing Nova Chaser? (Hint: no.) Incandescent Soulstoke is a pretty solid lord and Horde of Notions is powerful, but alone they aren’t enough to make the deck good.

Enter Oath of the Gatewatch and the completion of the creature land cycle. Specifically, enter Wandering Fumarole. Why are we so concerned about a seemingly innocuous, middle-of-the-road-for-power-level card? Well, the secret here lies in the power-and-toughness-switching ability. You know, the one that costs zero to activate and doesn’t save the land from a Bolt if your opponent is smart? How is that going to win us the game, you ask?

I hear draft chaff is overpowered in Modern right now, so I figured I’d stretch that theory to its breaking point. With a Ceaseless Searblades on the battlefield, we animate Wandering Fumarole to become a 1 / 4 Elemental creature. Then, we switch the power and toughness. Then we do it again. And again. Repeat until your Searblades has power greater than or equal to the life total of your opponent. Smash face.

If you have the mana, you can activate Soulbright Flamekin to give the Searblades trample. With the Searblades being immune to Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay and Rending Volley, it is actually pretty difficult to remove for many decks, and removing the Fumarole won’t actually help.

So we have a two-card combo that is actually very resilient and can provide you with an unbounded amount of power on your creature. These cards are in only two colors. The question then is how we fill out the remainder of the deck. Do we stick to U/R and go with some counter-burn elements plus a few more Elementals, or do we go whole hog and play a broad selection of the best of the 300 Modern-legal Elemental creatures?

The cards we most want to support the deck are in red and blue. Flamekin Harbinger searches up the Searblades or Soulbright Flamekin, as well as support cards like Aethersnipe or Spitebellows and sideboard cards like Fulminator Mage and Ingot Chewer. Smokebraider is one of the most important cards in the deck, as it allows us to win a couple of turns earlier than we should normally expect to. Mulldrifter…well, it’s Mulldrifter. We also get Incandescent Soulstoke as a way to win in case the combo doesn’t come together. To this we can add the usual U/R suite of things like Remand, Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak and Serum Visions to round us out.

I am quite fond of my sideboard plan. The hosing effect of Painter’s Servant is hilarious, and I hope that plus Fulminator shenanigans will be enough to slow the Eldrazi menace. Ingot Chewer helps against Pithing Needles and Ensnaring Bridges, while Roast is just good quality removal. There’s an argument for cutting Roast in favor of more Spitebellows, but the one-mana discount could be crucial on the turn we look to go off. Echoing Truth is primarily for Blood Moon but also has the upside of clearing out multiple Spirit tokens or other annoying blockers.

This feels fine. It’s possible we want Dispel more than Mana Leak, but that will require more testing. I might also want a Sleight of Hand or two in here, perhaps in place of some of the countermagic. Generator Servant was suggested by good friend and fellow brewmaster Elliot and is an excellent addition that can help me win in a hurry. As we’re only two colors, there’s no real need to play Primal Beyond, and in fact it could be a hindrance.

The biggest stumbling block so far has been getting the right mana quickly enough. If they have blockers, we’re going to need six mana plus two specific creatures on the battlefield to win on the spot unless we’ve found a Slip Through Space. Not impossible by any stretch, but some effort will be required. Aethersnipe is a possibility to remove a blocker temporarily and possibly be a threat in the later game, but as Spitebellows can remove most things permanently, it’s a better choice if we limit ourselves to the slots we’re using for removal in the main deck. One potential change would be Glarewielder instead of the Slip. We pay an extra mana and lose the cantrip but gain the ability to cast it off Smokebraider.

Taking the Rainbow Road

Going with the rainbow approach means we can recur everything with Horde of Notions, we have a great selection of utility cards like Shriekmaw and Nameless Inversion, and we have access to sideboard cards like Wispmare and the plethora of white hate cards that exist in the format. We also get Voice of Resurgence, which we know can win games on its own, and weird enchantments like Hoofprints of the Stag and Eyes of the Wisent (which might both be unplayable, but I get a kick out of knowing they exist). The manabase isn’t as terrible as you might think, with Primal Beyond being joined by Cavern of Souls and the oft-forgotten Reflecting Pool. It is, however, weak to Blood Moon.

This looks like way more fun, and also way riskier. Please be aware that I have not yet tested this enough to know if it is viable, but the few games I did play were very enjoyable. Woodland Wanderer might be a bit of a stretch for a card that just dies to most removal, but it hits hard when it sticks. I wish we could make Chord of Calling work here, but even my madness has a limit.

It’s perhaps a problem that adding three colors has necessarily cost us our Slip Through Space. We do gain Shriekmaw though, which can get an early blocker or two out of the way, plus the strong removal of Nameless Inversion. We also get to play the aforementioned Glarewielder here, which works better with Primal Beyond.

Lavaclaw Reaches is in here to take advantage of the copious Elemental-specific mana we can generate and to trigger Ceaseless Searblades. Lavaclaw Reaches also goes infinite with the Searblades but in general is not as good as the Fumarole. Raging Ravine can also do work with extra mana, though with less utility than the Reaches has.

With this sideboard we get the benefit of Wispmare to take out Blood Moon. Although white mana can be challenging to get under the Moon, we do have the ability to generate it with Smokebraider, which can be cast under the Moon. Fulminator Mage gets even better in a deck with Horde of Notions, although the same could be said for basically the whole deck. Finally, we have Batterskull in the sideboard as a hedge against mana issues and a way to combat some of the more aggressive decks.

Making Adjustments

It remains to be seen how the Modern metagame adjusts to the new Eldrazi menaces. A very wise and talented writer had some suggestions in the most recent StarCityGames.com Newsletter (to which you should all be subscribed, it’s great and free), and who knows what people can come up with given the time. I’ve chosen to focus here on something a little more wacky and off-the-wall, because sometimes we all need a break from top-tier decks to do something funny. The Eldrazi decks ask a lot of difficult questions, and I guess we’ll find out this weekend what the best answer is.

As always, thanks for stopping by and until next time…

Brew On!

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