The Wildest Modern And Standard Decks From Last Weekend

Now things are just getting weird! From Surge Node in Tron decks to Diligent Excavator-fueled Standard combo, last weekend was a triumph for the rogues, and Ben Friedman has all the highlights!

Okay, yeah, we get it. It’s Hogaak season, and there’s not much point in discussing Modern until after its inevitable banning on August 26, because it’s just so much better than everything else that…


Slap me in the face. Did Surge NodeCoretapper Tron Top 4 SCG Richmond this past weekend? And did Jacob Wilson’s baby, Mardu Death’s Shadow, put up a solid finish in the hands of Gerard Fabiano while also winning the GP in Birmingham? And with Oren Lagziel making good on his prediction, playing the very same Four-Color Snowheeli deck we hyped up last week, it seems like Hot Gaak Summer is ending, and Winter Is Coming.

Far be it from me to call this Modern format completely dead, though I still wouldn’t play anything that wasn’t Hogaak, and I will give my personal favorite Hogaak list for anyone playing in Las Vegas this weekend. I guess we’ll have to start with this wild Charge Tron deck, something I never thought I’d be saying during the reign of The Gaak.

Congratulations to Lee McLeod for putting up the best result I’ve ever seen with Surge Node in a deck. I know Sam Black had a soft spot for Surge Node years ago, but I suppose that the additions of Mystic Forge and Karn, the Great Creator make this deck a powerful and unexpected alternative to traditional Mono-Green Tron and Eldrazi Tron.

The sick thing about Charge Tron is that because of the artifact mana engine, you can do wild stuff like Mox Opal, Surge Node, Chalice of the Void on zero, and use Surge Node to put the Chalice to one. That’s kind of sweet, being able to run out a Turn 1 Chalice.

Ditto with Everflowing Chalice (maybe this deck should be called Chalice Tron?), where you can get a lot of mana quickly by charging it up on Turn 1 and again on two, having access to four mana on Turn 2 and potentially seven or more on Turn 3 depending on whatever else you have going on.

There are two separate mana-boosting engines in this deck, Tron and charge counters, and with Karn to bring it all together, there’s quite a bit of power behind this archetype.

Oh, and the synergy with Blast Zone is quite cute. The Zone is actually an incredible sweeper when you can charge it up with Coretappers and Surge Nodes, and it makes the Humans matchup fairly good, which can’t necessarily be said for regular Tron.

But by far the most powerful card in the deck is Mystic Forge, which is quickly turning into the centerpiece of several broken artifact decks across Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage. The turns where you get to chain off with this card barely resemble Magic. You dump somewhere between five and ten cards off the top of your deck, gather somewhere around fifteen or twenty mana, and lock your opponent out of attacking or casting spells. Experimental Frenzy for artifacts (but with no nasty “can’t cast cards in your hand” drawback) is absolutely worth getting excited about, and Charge Tron is only the first of what should be a long line of decks to exploit the explosive power of this busted engine.

Once Hogaak gets exiled permanently, expect exciting things out of Mystic Forge and company. Whether it’s a new Forge Affinity build (think Frenzy Affinity, but with Mystic Forge) or Charge Tron, this is the new wave for aggro-combo in Modern.

If only Hogaak with four Force of Vigor could stick around to police this nonsense…

Speaking of police, Mardu Death’s Shadow is poised to be a big new part of the Modern fun police, as Rory Kear-Smith won GP Birmingham and Gerard Fabiano made Top 16 of the Open with the archetype. It’s going to be interesting to see how the new metagame shapes up, because if Izzet Phoenix (with attendant Aria of Flame) gets back in the top tier of the format, things will be rough for Death’s Shadow.

But if the big Faithless Looting archetype winds up being Mono-Red Phoenix or Mono-Red Prowess, it’s possible that Death’s Shadow can do the dance where it drops down to a certain low life total, locks out the opponent from casting spells with Ranger-Captain of Eos, and then one-shots them with Temur Battle Rage. Generally, this plan works a lot better against weaker players, people who tend to blow their Lava Spikes at inopportune times and open up windows to resolve sizable Death’s Shadows. It’s important to hold as much burn as possible until one big blowout turn whenever you play against Death’s Shadow, folks!

Should be interesting to see, regardless. If Mystic Forge becomes the big player in Modern, it might be necessary to play significantly more artifact hate and fewer Celestial Purges, but I’m intrigued. One nitpick with the winning list, though. Play four Marsh Flats. You’ve got basic Plains and basic Swamp in the deck. I’ll chalk it up to card availability issues for Rory, but don’t blindly copy his list!

Of course, this wild deck must be at the top of the list when it comes time for me to turn in my Hogaaks to the proper authorities. Arcum’s Astrolabe is quickly proving itself to be a secretly broken card, one that basically makes manabases do whatever the heck you want them to do. Four colors doesn’t seem like a problem anymore in Legacy or Modern, where people are playing stretched manabases in decks like Daryl Ayers’s Four-Color Control and Brian Braun-Duin’s Four-Color Urza. It’s about as undisciplined as it was during Deathrite Shaman’s heyday, to be frank.

I still have nothing but excitement to play this crazy pile of synergy chock-full of Modern Horizons goodness, with Wrenn and Six, Ice-Fang Coatl, Seasoned Pyromancer, and Arcum’s Astrolabe. I think it might play more Modern Horizons cards than any other deck I’ve seen!

Now, as for Core Set 2020 Standard, it seems like there’s nothing to see here, right? We’ve got a smattering of Scapeshift decks, some that pass on Scapeshift and just play straight ramp, a handful of Vampires decks, and Ali Aintrazi doing something I barely even understand:

But that’s just par for the course, right?


Stanislav Cifka, Ondrej Strasky, and Ivan Floch absolutely murdered Core Set 2020 Standard. They broke this format clean in two, and for the next week, we’re going to see this crazy combo engine deck all over the place, at least until people get their bearings and get a handle on how it works and how to beat it.

Okay. So the way I see it, this deck basically uses Diligent Excavator and various Historic spells to churn deep into the deck, looking to assemble the following:

Once you activate Kethis, you can loop your Mox Ambers, milling your opponent for two each time. And of course, Lazav, the Multifarious counts because it can copy milled copies of Kethis. Fblthp, Oath of Kaya, and Teferi, Time Raveler are excellent ways to buy a bit of time, while Tamiyo, Collector of Tales offers excess redundancy by way of milling yourself and bringing back copies of whatever you’re missing. Ashiok hates on enemy Scapeshift decks, of course.

Urza’s Ruinous Blast is the powerful alternate gameplan that just sweeps up most opponents and buys loads of time to execute the combo, and the sideboard brings a healthy mix of disparate threats, most of which are completely out of left field and hard to expect or prepare for (what with the deck being completely rogue and packing a full four colors.)

And yes, we finally have a deck that exploits Mox Amber to the fullest. In this deck, Mox Amber is a completely broken mana accelerant and an enabler of the combo and an easy card to exile an excess copy of to Kethis to rebuy other threats and an eventual win condition.

When your engine deck gets to leverage its acceleration piece as redundancy and a win condition, you have Ironworks alarm bells start to go off. I won’t go so far as to call this deck Standard Ironworks, but it’s a disgusting (and disgustingly fun) full engine deck that showcases the full power of some under-the-radar cards from across two years of Standard printings.

My highest praise goes out to the people who figured this one out. Way to go! It won’t be legal for that much longer, but if you have a chance to play with this deck, you would be foolish not to give it a go. It’s broken, it’s fun, and it’s only available for a limited time. What’s not to like?

Now, I promised my own Hogaak list that I’m looking to play at Grand Prix Las Vegas this weekend. It’s fairly similar to Simon Nielsen’s list from Grand Prix Birmingham (which is similar to Oliver Tomajko’s list from the Open, and basically every other Jund Hogaak list out there). I loathe Shriekhorn, and love Force of Vigor, so this is where I ended up.

Force of Vigor is broken. You have to play four. It makes Eldrazi Tron, Hardened Scales, and Four-Color Urza actually good matchups. Assassin’s Trophy is the next-best answer to Leyline of the Void, because it’s actually a real card when your Jund or Mardu Death’s Shadow opponent doesn’t have Leyline in their opening hand.

Lotleth Troll doesn’t seem like it’s particularly good, but it pleasantly surprises me more often than not. It’s particularly good against Jund in the sideboard games, for example. The same is true with Collective Brutality. It’s a huge blowout against Burn, Infect, and Devoted Druid combo decks. I’d be willing to cut the Glowspore Shamans, which are good but not overwhelmingly impressive (as they’re basically really bad Satyr Wayfinder) for two Brutalities maindeck and open up the sideboard for more Thoughtseize and Assassin’s Trophy.

Let’s enjoy our last hurrah with these broken combo decks while we still can, as we look forward to a few months down the road, when both Standard and Modern will look completely different. It’s going to be an exciting rest of the year.