Not to be confused with Ren and Stimpy…
…nor Ren and Rey…
…nor Blossom and Six…
…and certainly not Ten and Six…
…today’s Modern Horizons spotlight is on Wrenn and Six:
While there sure have been a lot of new planeswalkers recently, Wrenn and Six is a fairly different sort, to say nothing of the whole “two-cost” thing. Tom Ross, one of the designers of Modern Horizons, does a good job examining the top-level functionality here.
Normally, when trying to break down a new planeswalker, I like to start with the minus ability, which is generally the highest-impact way to use the card the turn you cast it. However, occasionally, there will be ‘walkers that have a situational minus ability alongside a more powerful zero or plus ability.
For instance, Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s -1 ability is important, but it’s a lot more situational than his zero ability. What’s more, Brainstorm is generally more powerful than Unsummon, even setting aside the difference in loyalty costs.
Likewise, I suspect Wrenn and Six is best analyzed by starting with their +1 ability, which seems to me to be a much stronger ability than their -1 (at least in Modern).
This ability is pretty crazy on a two-cost ‘walker. Even just looking at the lowest-hanging fruit, fetchlands, this ability lets you draw an extra card each turn. Compare this to Jace Beleren, who can’t even draw you a card every turn despite costing three. Yeah, you’re just getting back land, but if you try a little, it really doesn’t take all that much to make that at least somewhat comparable to a card. This ability is both the strongest on the card and the most impactful to the deck design of strategies that would use it.
Sure, I guess. I mean, the card is so loudly about the +1 ability, a lot of decks might be interested without any other text. That said, the option to pick off one-toughness creatures, combine it with Lightning Bolt to kill bigger threats, suppress opposing planeswalker loyalty gain, or even serve as a backup victory condition goes well in decks built to utilize the +1.
This is a pretty potent effect, particularly if you still have Wrenn and Six around putting extra land into your hand every turn. You don’t have to retrace very many Lightning Bolts to end most games. What’s more, getting to seven loyalty might happen a little quicker than it appears, you know, because of that whole “the card only costs two” thing.
So what sorts of Modern decks can really take advantage of Wrenn and Six’s +1?
Well, for starters, you don’t need to wait to ultimate Wrenn and Six to get your Seismic Assault on.
You could just build around the classic. Besides, basically every land that is good to get back with Wrenn and Six is going to pair well with Life from the Loam anyway.
At the end of the day, if you’re in the market to get back lands from your graveyard, Life from the Loam is on-message as it gets.
I think we can generally divide Loam decks into three camps.
- Seismic Assault control/lock decks (whether two, three, or more colors)
- Aggro Loam decks with creatures like Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher, or whatever
- Dredge decks
The above is an example of the first, an archetype that will likely burst into the conversation, if only because of the addition of the Onslaught cycling lands to Modern.
The difference between cycling for one versus cycling for two is enormous when you consider just how many times Loam decks are looking to cycle in a turn. I mean, just a single Life from the Loam can mean saving three mana a turn, to say nothing of the possibility of getting the Loam back that same turn.
Wrenn and Six works great with cycling lands, and remember, it isn’t giving you just a third of a Loam per turn. Loaming back three lands costs you a draw step, whereas Wrenn and Six gives you a land back on top of your draw step. Not only are you getting two cards to Loam’s three, you’re spending one mana at most. For Life from the Loam to actually draw you three new cards would cost five mana (two for Loam, plus one for each cycling card).
Ghost Quarter is an interesting card to replay every turn (as occasionally seen with Crucible of Worlds), but it’s important to remember that Wrenn and Six don’t actually play the land they get, so you’re actually setting yourself behind every turn, as long as your opponent has more basics in their deck.
While the answer could potentially be other forms of land destruction, Ghost Quarter is just so much easier to operate turn after turn. Maybe there’s some way to marry this concept with some sort of Death and Taxes strategy?
I mean, nobody loves Ghost Quarter as much as Leonin Arbiter. The tricky thing is, can you really support a full-on three-color deck without being overly reliant on fetchlands? Of course, how good is our Wrenn and Six anyway if we don’t have many fetchlands? I mean, what would it even look like to try to incorporate Wrenn and Six in a Hatebears or Death and Taxes list, like the following?
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 4 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
- 4 Collector Ouphe
- 4 Hexdrinker
Normally, these decks are built with Aether Vial, of course, but that doesn’t really help us with Wrenn and Six. Besides, this way, we get to try Collector Ouphe, a card I’m pretty interested in.
Of course, I might just be enough of a maniac to run Collector Ouphe in a dedicated Mycosynth Lattice deck, for games where you don’t draw Karn, the Great Creator…
On the topic of Mycosynth Lattice, I just can’t get over how wasted of an opportunity Force of Vigor is. Doesn’t it seem like it should be able to destroy the artifact that is mana-locking you? And yet, Mycosynth Lattice just sort of randomly makes everything colorless. Le sigh…
Horizon Canopy and potentially the newly printed
Hot Flatplace Sunbaked Canyon are reasonable cards to want to get back in a “fair” deck, though they also have the same problem about needing to use your land drop for the turn.
Creature-lands like Stirring Wildwood, Mutavault, or Inkmoth Nexus are all reasonable lands to get back, too. I mean, basically, any land that naturally ends up in the graveyard is sort of in-bounds.
At the end of the day, however, I’m not sure you even really need to try in some decks. Like, just drawing an extra fetchland every turn can be pretty attractive for some decks, like TitanShift.
Just fetching another land every turn is already something, and anything that lets you cheat the one-land-per-turn rule is going to pair great with Wrenn and Six.
I actually sort of wonder how low-tech we could actually get away with. Like, is it reasonable to play Wrenn and Six in one of those Gruul Land Destruction decks with very few combos to abuse with it?
- 2 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 2 Inferno Titan
- 1 Stormbreath Dragon
- 1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 4 Tireless Tracker
Likewise, would it be crazy to use Wrenn and Six in a Dredge deck that doesn’t really play anything besides fetchlands? Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, and the like mean we’ve still got plenty of ways to put those extra lands to use, to say nothing of hitting our land drops.
While we’re on the topic, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis sure is an interesting option for Dredge decks with Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam to help get the party started.
It’ll probably work even better if we can find a way to work Bridge from Below and Gravecrawler into the mix.
Once we’re dredging lots of lands into our graveyard, it’s not out of the question to consider something like Ruination Rioter. It’s mostly a combo kill card, but I could imagine a world where you could use it in something as “fair” as a Dredge deck.
Could Seasoned Pyromancer play a role in Dredge? It certainly works well with Wrenn and Six, just in terms of giving you another thing to do with those extra lands you’re drawing.
There’s really so much you could do with Seasoned Pyromancer, and generally just exploring the “things you can do with those extra lands” space. For instance, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is all about putting those extra lands in your hand to good use. Maybe Wrenn and Six and Jace could be buddies?
Okay, admittedly, this one’s manabase is ambitious, to say the least. However, Wrenn and Six rebuying fetchlands turn after turn could potentially help tie the room together. Besides, Wrenn and Six is an excellent way to get a planeswalker in your yard to pump your Tarmogoyf!
Yeah, okay, this one is a stretch with Wrenn and Six, maybe. It’s just that Bloodbraid Elf doesn’t exactly play well with most counterspells, so it’s pretty exciting how great it plays with this one. Besides, I’m so into this card, I kind of want to try it everywhere, not just in Azorius decks…
Okay, I can’t resist. Gerry can tell ya all about it here. What can I say? In my heart, I’m a blue mage. That said, Wrenn and Six sure does punish fair decks that can’t attack early, and pinging Snapcaster Mages is no joke. I think we’d see at least a little bit of Wrenn and Six regardless, but the post-Modern Horizons format might be shaping up to be a little bit better of a world for the greatest two-cost planeswalker ever.
Besides, wouldn’t you just love to follow-up an opposing Thalia with Wrenn and Six, and help educate them on just how different of a format Modern is in this new world?