Video Daily Digest: Zero Tolerance

Eventually, Modern always seems to gravitate toward going under the competition, and what goes under one-drops? Zero-drops! Ross Merriam locks the competition away with a truly degenerate strategy!

Mono-Red Prison decks have been around in Magic for years now. They all combine various lock pieces, typically Blood Moon, Ensnaring Bridge, and Chalice of the Void among them with the red mana acceleration, throwing in enough win conditions to prevent the opponent from drawing out of an early lock.

In Modern, this archetype hasn’t been particularly successful, and that’s because the quality of red acceleration isn’t nearly as good as it is in other formats or as it has been in formats past. Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual are fine for Storm because of the cost-reducing creatures, but as one shot accelerants they aren’t that good. Simian Spirit Guide is better since it can work on turn one, but it’s still a one shot, which leaves the deck often casting one early spell then flailing around trying to hit land drops naturally until it can start casting other threats.

The strange part of all of this is that one of the most powerful cards in Modern, Mox Opal, is a perfect mana accelerant for a deck like this, so long as it can consistently activate it. Darksteel Citadel does some work on that front, but not enough, hence the presence of Welding Jar. Not only does it help turn on your Mox in the early turns, it protects key lock pieces in Ensnaring Bridge and Chalice of the Void. It’s the perfect role-player here.

With the additional artifacts in this deck, Karn, Scion of Urza becomes an attractive win condition that also provides card advantage if you haven’t quite established enough of a lock on the opponent. If you have, you can simply create Constructs and have a significant clock and a planeswalker still on the battlefield.

I also like Ghirapur Aether Grid as another win condition that also serves as disruption against creature decks, especially Humans. When things are going well a couple points a turn from Grid will be enough to close the game, but clearing out the threats that landed underneath lock pieces, especially a card like Noble Hierarch that can cast spells through Blood Moon and attack through Ensnaring Bridge.

The last innovation here is the inclusion of Blood Sun. Its main purpose is to lock out fetchlands, stunting the opponent’s mana development and preventing them from finding basic lands to play through Blood Moon. It’s not as powerful an effect as the other lock pieces, but having a cantrip in a deck that has very little velocity is not to be underestimated. Any early turn you take off opens a window for the opponent to establish a battlefield that you can’t answer, so coming out fast and not giving them a chance to get into the game is important.

The lock pieces of this deck are certainly the strength, and the win conditions are fine, so the weakness has always been in acceleration and consistency. This version of the deck looks to solve those problems and looks to me like it’s taking significant steps in the right direction.