Video Daily Digest: The Pain Train

The power-packed combination of Painful Truths and Glory-Bound Initiate has broken through in Modern! Ross Merriam gives his words-and-gameplay treatment to Akio Chiba’s innovative Esper list from the Grand Prix Kobe Top 8 ahead of SCG Charlotte!

Modern can be a strange format sometimes. And when you have three major Modern tournaments on the same weekend, you’re bound to find some new decks breaking through to solid finishes. That’s great for me, since I have plenty of material for the Daily Digests, so I expected this week was going to be a little easier than most.

The tournaments did not disappoint. There was an Affinity deck with Collected Company (Ornithopter versus Arcbound Ravager is quite the swing) and a host of unique control variants. Today I’m going to highlight one from the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kobe that is reminiscent of a Standard deck from the season following the release of Battle for Zendikar.

Remember that fall? The best deck turned out to be Rally the Ancestors (pre-Reflector Mage, even), but it took until the very end of the season for us to admit it, so the season was flush with diversity. Siege Rhino may have been maligned at the time, but now we pine for those days.

One of the unique decks from that era was an Esper Midrange variant that used Seeker of the Way to enable Painful Truths along with various planeswalkers (read: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar) and efficient removal. The deck could be aggressive or defensive, depending on its opponent, and all its cards were powerful as well as efficient, compensating for their lack of synergy.

Port that style into Modern, where Painful Truths is certainly playable if you have a source of lifegain, and you get to play a veritable smorgasbord of all-stars from Fatal Push, Snapcaster Mage, and Cryptic Command to Lingering Souls, Thoughtseize, and Serum Visions.

But rather than Seeker of the Way, the designer has opted for the newly printed Glory-Bound Initiate. It’s vulnerable to Liliana, the Last Hope, but will always attack with lifelink when you want it to without requiring that you tap mana on your own turn. In a deck with plenty of cheap spells, that requirement may not seem like much, but when you have lots of counters and instant-speed removal, you’ll be passing with mana up quite often.

I think this is a control deck first, so don’t be too worried about establishing a clock unless your opponent is on a combo deck, but you never know exactly how decks that leverage flexibility as much as this one will play out, so if this one tickles your fancy, get some reps in.