As is typically the case after Standard has gone unchanged for a while, people get a little bummed out.
This is fairly normal; we’ve all seen it before. Either one deck dominates the metagame in such a fashion that rogue decks can’t succeed (or, perhaps, they
can only succeed against the deck-to-beat,) or the format has become awash with similar feeling decks with slight variations where nothing feels
solid or improvable. I believe we’re currently in the latter; there are mono-colored decks, two-colored decks, and tri-color decks all performing at the
top echelons of the format, each giving and taking a little bit each week as people adjust and shift. Looking at a long list of “B/W Midrange” or “G/W
Aggro” or “Mono-Black Devotion Splashing Blue/White/Green” gets old, but I think things are fairly healthy right now. Thoughtseize is potentially the most
busted card in the format, but if that’s where we are, I think we’re doing fine.
Nevertheless, I understand the need to shift your sights sometimes. Maybe you’re on the other side of the spectrum, with the tried and true Legacy players.
I know that (insert top Legacy deck here) has gotten you down, or the prevalence of (Legacy staple here) stifles creativity. Maybe even (insert Conley
Woods rogue Legacy deck) has a chance at the next big event?
Whichever format’s got you down, you can always turn to Modern.
Yes, that magical world of wonder and adventure where aggro and control decks both cast 15-drops for fun. Oh, rapture!
I’m surprised by how frequently I attend an event at a local shop and ask to battle with a Modern deck when people say “I’m sorry, I don’t play Modern.”
This, I believe, is a criminal offense. Although I love Standard, Block, Limited, and every other format north of Legacy, Modern has become my very
favorite place to brew.
But those same folks who lack a Modern deck often follow it up by saying, “but I’ve wanted to get into it.” Some of them already have lists in mind, but
they’re having difficulty obtaining key pieces and they don’t want to trade their Standard cards for something older. Thankfully, the mothership has had
the interesting, although risky, idea to introduce the Modern Event Deck.
The first one to be released follows a B/W token theme, using such favorites as Lingering Souls, Soul Warden, and Elspeth, Knight Errant to do its dirty
work. This deck is built and ready, and it includes a sideboard and even a set of special sleeves. In other words, it’s the perfect purchase for someone
who wants to test drive Modern without dropping a grand on parts and labor.
The concept of an Event Deck in an older format is a bit weird, and it begs the same question as its Standard counterparts; are they really event-worthy?
The $74.99 price tag of the new deck is really reasonable to get into a format where a single card can cost more than the deck and sleeves and
combined, but if you’re not winning games with it, are you really getting a deal?
Don’t worry; I’ve got a brew planned, but first, I wanted to test this deck and its viability in a real Modern setting, with players playing to win and
with combo pieces flying every which way.
First things first: I believe that an Event Deck is ineffective unless it can win five games out of four matches, with at least one match win. This means
you can lose three out of the four matches, but it will have given you enough of a taste that you can understand how your deck works and, more importantly,
how your deck wins.
With this threshold in mind, I slotted up the exact 75 present in the Event Deck and tried it out in four Modern matches. There were a lot of cards I
questioned, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I tried it out.
Match 1 – Esper Reanimator
For my first match, I
fired against Glenn Jones, one of our own. His deck, a brew in training, utilized a tricky system to reanimate big fatties like Terastadon and Elesh Norn,
Grand Cenobite. As you could expect, the Cenobite was a huge problem for a token-based strategy. I beat down in game 1, but after resolving his combo, I
couldn’t recover. I outpaced him in game 2, but the same Phyrexian honey waited for me on the other side of an Unburial Rites. I attempted to Path to Exile
his 4/7, but a Restoration Angel kept her safe, and with only a worthless Elspeth on my side of the board, I packed it in.
I lost this one fair and square, but it was fairly close. Alternatively, it might have just been fairly close from my seat.
Match 2 – Affinity
Affinity is a deck with which I’m fairly familiar, having made several lists of it myself and seeing it played in dozens of Modern matches. My opponent’s
list looked fairly typical, and I wasn’t able to cut down both an Arcbound Ravager and a Master of Etherium. In game 2, triple Kataki, War’s Wage subbed in
for my three artifacts, and they packed a wallop. I resolved one on-time in game two, and although he struggled to resolve relevant threats, tapping down
his Steel Overseer every turn to pump his Ornithopter, he soon realized he couldn’t get ahead. I figured he didn’t find his Galvanic Blast or he doesn’t
play them. In game 3, we got to turn 2 with another on-time Kataki and the game was over (though admittedly, it appeared he disconnected, so I might never
know if he played a Blast.)
Match 3 – Tooth and Nail
After a turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek revealed the old standard Tooth and Nail, I knew I was in for a rough ride. Lucky for me, Zealous Persecution wipes
out mana Elves, and it let me push through very effectively. On his big turn, when he resolved his Primeval Titan, a quick Path to Exile undid my
opponents’ efforts. After board, a convenient Ghost Quarter from the board smashed his triple Fertile-Ground on a Forest, and he never produced enough mana
to resolve anything large.
Match 4 – Eggs
Things were looking up when I went toe-to-toe with a good old-fashioned combo deck. I wasn’t quite sure what I was playing until the first Faith’s Reward
rebought half his graveyard. Despite dipping to three life, he cast Grapeshot for an exact twenty, and I was done for. In game 2, an early Relic of
Progenitus messed with his graveyard and a pair of 2/2 Soldiers with vigilance battered away. He drew deeper and deeper into his deck, but as my growing
army of Spirits and Soldiers knocked on the gates, he couldn’t find the answer.
The last match proved the usefulness of a card that I severely underestimated at first glance: Tidehollow Sculler. This modified Mesmeric Fiend (or Brain
Maggot, for the Standard junkies) snags any non-land card for as long as it hangs around. You can’t respond to it by removing it, or it will take its ward
with it into oblivion. For this match, it grabbed the essential Faith’s Reward from my opponent twice, leaving them unable to get the momentum
needed to cast an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. A wimpy Grapeshot for five damage smashed up a freshly-played Spectral Procession, but I hustled in with the
team and won.
I must say, I was actually pretty surprised. I thought this deck would struggle and flounder through every match, but it excelled in almost all of them.
Even Glenn was sweating. The deck provided reliable, flexible pressure with tokens, something a Standard deck can’t do. In Standard, Anger of the Gods,
Supreme Verdict, and Detention Sphere keep token decks at bay, but the likes of those sweepers are all but absent from most Modern lists. Spot removal á la
Dismember, Lightning Bolt, and Path to Exile are all the rage instead. This gives the deck a unique advantage in the current metagame.
Zealous Persecution and Windbrisk Heights turned out to be the deck’s all-stars. I thought four Windbrisk Heights was too many, but it provided tangible
draw power, often at an advantage. Casting an Honor of the Pure or a Path to Exile during combat was a riotous occasion, and it was really quite easy to
trigger, especially when you can ease the treacherousness of the attack with one of the aforementioned spells. Zealous Persecution is a freakin’ bulldozer,
man. Note that today’s Profit // Loss costs two and a half times this amount to get both effects.
Some cards failed the test, though, and I sided them out in even favorable matches due to their inefficiency and/or lack of synergy. Shrine of Loyal
Legions was far too slow to be effective, as was Sword of Feast and Famine. Even shiny little Elspeth, Knight-Errant was underwhelming in practice.
If I were to make this deck now, I could make several economical adjustments, and you’d end up paying less for what you get.
In exchange for the Shrines, I included two copies of Teysa, Orzhov Scion. In a deck that can easily produce bunches of Spirits and Soldiers, the ability
to exile any creature at a moment’s notice at no mana cost seemed important. It’s a particularly cute way to kill Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, who otherwise
can’t be targeted by most spells. Moreover, it provides nice token generation when your Tidehollow Scullers inevitably meet their fate. I also shifted out
the Sword and one Path to Exile for a pair of Devouring Light. The ability to cast a removal spell for free with little downside is always
exciting, and it can effectively reduce the cost if you don’t have all three creatures. Because tokens are vigilant with Intangible Virtue, you can even
use the attacking Spirits to exile a potential defender.
You’ll notice that the flagship planeswalker of the deck has tagged out for a much cheaper, more effective model. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, was a
powerhouse in Standard a couple years ago, and his ability to create a noninteractive anthem immediately is very powerful. Moreover, his lifelink tokens
can be quite large with some pumping, and the black creature death gives Teysa more Unmake fodder.
In the land area, I just smoothed it out. City of Brass was pretty painful, and I found most of the time I wanted a color, it was white. I still kept the
Swamp count up so that you could cast Inquisition of Kozilek on one and follow it up with a Sculler, but this is primarily a white deck.
From the sideboard, I bumped up the number of Forge-Tenders. This is potentially unnecessary, as I didn’t encounter any red removal, but it’s a nice sub
against an aggro deck, as there isn’t a red creature that can get past it. Moreover, it gets Honor of the Pure bonuses, making it an effective wall against
Burning-Tree Emissary or a Goblin Guide. Sundering Growth replaces Duress, which I found mostly removed an artifact or enchantment. This handles it on the
spot for WW and also doubles up a token as needed, potentially granting you a critical mass of tokens. Rest in Peace, in my mind, is much better than Relic
of Progenitus in this build. Except for losing out on a second Lingering Souls activation, you don’t care what happens to your graveyard. It would have
been a handy tool in nearly every matchup. Finally, a third Path to Exile and a fourth Zealous Persecution can come in when creatures prove to be the real
problem. It’s funny how many of the format’s decks can be undone with a single white mana.
Modern PTQ season is rolling down the way, and if you’re looking to pick up something fun, this list is a great start. Naturally, as money allows, slotting
in Marsh Flats, Thoughtseize and Godless Shrine will help keep you more consistent.
In conclusion, this deck was really fun to play. Like, really fun. It did everything that an Event deck should: it gave you a good taste of the
environment, it gave you the thrill of success, but it also taught you how to play good Magic. Playing this deck in a couple dozen games helped make me a
better player. Sequencing is very important with this deck, as is combat math and knowing what cards beat you. This deck did have the pleasant advantage of
being able to bypass most creatures and spells, ignoring backswings and potential sweeper effects, but it required careful planning nonetheless. It’s a
rewarding deck in every way.
Don’t worry; if this isn’t your fancy, we’ll be looking at a deck next week that hovers around the same price point, and it caters to the controlling
player in us all.
What was your first Modern deck? What event opened your eyes to the joy of Eighth Edition onwards?