Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger is changing the balance of power in Modern, a format in upheaval. For starters, there’s just a lot of craziness going on right now. The recent bannings of Oko, Thief of Crowns, Mox Opal, and Mycosynth Lattice have thrown the format into chaos…
And with so much focus on Pioneer, recently, Modern has just been getting weirder and weirder.
The format has grown extremely warped around combo decks, and even the aggro decks are kind of combo-esque linear strategies, like colorless Eldrazi aggro and Mono-Red Burn.
So far, there’s basically been two champions with what it takes to give interactive decks enough power to stand up to these combo decks. If you want to argue that Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath belongs up there with Stoneforge Mystic and Tarmogoyf, I’m sympathetic to the argument.
While Uro frequently keeps pretty good company, you can definitely find a lot of examples of Uro propping up decks that don’t even use Tarmogoyf or Stoneforge Mystic, so I’ll give you that. Uro isn’t the only Titan starting to make a case for itself as a new pillar of the format, however.
While Kroxa hasn’t enjoyed the level of success Uro has in Theros From Beyond Standard and Pioneer, it has definitely done alright for itself. Modern is a particularly exciting opportunity for the card, however. For starters, the existence of fetchlands makes it so easy to rebuy Kroxa early and often.
Obviously Uro benefits from fetchlands, too (and of course, Uro is great too); but Uro is also the color as Snapcaster Mage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It’s not like there aren’t other amazing blue card advantage options. It’s also the same color as Tarmogoyf and Primeval Titan. It’s not like there aren’t other options for powerful green fatties.
Kroxa gives black and red a powerful and proactive form of card advantage fused seamlessly with low opportunity cost late-gate inevitability. It’s also a 6/6 in a color combination that already thought Gurmag Angler was a big game, while also being easier to use without blue cantrips.
There are even ways to get Kroxa into your graveyard without having to actually cast it the first time. It’s not like it’s “bad” to spend two mana that way, of course. It’s just that, everything being equal, it’s nice to not have to; and discarding it to Liliana turns what would normally be a cost into upside.
This past weekend’s Modern Classic in Indianapolis was a tournament largely dominated by combo decks, including six of the Top 8. These included four Primeval Titan decks that are probably the defining combo decks of the format, and a scary new take on Urza decks that will probably eventually lead to one or more bannings, when perfected.
Despite all this, it was the two Jund decks that met in the finals, with the trophy going to the classic style of Jund full of top-notch card quality, supported with an uncommon amount of discard-centric disruption.
It’s not just the usual Inquisitions and Thoughtseizes, though those are important. This new take builds on the raw quantity of discard that’s possible when Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana of the Veil are used as such on top of the one-cost options, and takes it even further.
When Kroxa is stacked with all of these other discard options, the Jund player is able to wear down opposing hands quickly, leaving players needing to just play off the top of their deck. A few timely pieces of interaction for permanents can often be enough to allow a single threat to win the game while the other player is struggling to build resources.
Here’s Michael Farrell’s tournament winning list:
This list isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, using a balance mix of all-stars, with a couple of Kroxas an important part of that balance. It’s a little more discard, a little more reach, a little more card advantage, and a little more inevitability.
Notice how smart and realistic his sideboard is.
Ashiok, Dream Render has grown to be one of the most important sideboard cards in the format. The ability to shut down deck searching makes it one of the best cards you can have against Primeval Titan decks (disrupting Summoner’s Pact, Search for Tomorrow, Scapeshift, Tolaria West, and more, in addition to Primeval Titan, itself).
Additionally, the -2 ability is a meaningful form of graveyard hate, making it slot efficient. Yes, there are more powerful forms of graveyard hate (and here, we see a pair of Grafdigger’s Cages, some folks play Leyline of the Void), but sideboard slots are hard to come by, so having the versatility, being slot-efficient in that way is a big plus.
Yes, because this is a deck that actually shows the proper respect to Primeval Titans and the incredibly warping impact they have on the format.
Some Jund decks are back to using Blood Moon, and I can’t blame them. JKNECHT 5-0’ed a MTGO league with a Jund Delirium deck that not only packed Blood Moons in the sideboard alongside Ashioks, it also featured a maindeck Magus of the Moon accessible by Traverse the Ulvenwald.
Here’s their list full:
- 1 Magus of the Moon
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Seasoned Pyromancer
- 1 Klothys, God of Destiny
- 2 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
Rather than filling the list with a ton of ultra-specialized one-ofs, this build has only two true “silver bullets” to find with Traverse, and runs only Grim Flayer for additional Delirium action.
Klothys, God of Destiny is another form of inevitability, while also functioning as an important form of graveyard hate and maindeck repeated lifegain. It’s kind of a Scavenging Ooze that doesn’t die so easily.
As for actually achieving Delirium, it’s not like we have to bend over backwards, or anything.
Yeah, because somehow, these cards are all just legal, normal, totally reasonable things that exist and there’s nothing weird about that…
Lightning Skelemental is extremely on-plan for Kroxa, stacking more damage and more disruption. It also capitalizes on just how many people are running combo decks with little to no removal.
While there’s a lot to like about Michael’s list, it still looks very heavily descended from traditional Jund Death’s Shadow decks. What if we take this whole Kroxa/Lightning Skelemental thing a bit further?
When you Lightning Skelemental somebody on Turn 3, Unearth is a really nice thing to do to kick off your Turn 4 (and that’s just getting you started, as you can easily follow it up with another big play in the same turn).
Seasoned Pyromancer is extremely strong on rate, giving us more ability to “play fair”, without depending on green for card quality. When you get to discard Kroxa to it? Well, now you’re not playing fair anymore…
What if we went further, though?
Once we’re so good at playing fair and gaining card advantage that we are starting to look like the best parts of traditional Jund, without needing a third color, what if we leaned all the way into it?
Without further adieu, my recommendation for SCG Regionals next weekend, for anybody not looking to play a combo deck that isn’t already locked into some crazy Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck (I could never forsake you, Jace):
For starters, the use of Dark Confidant instead of Death’s Shadow is definitely a statement. Like Lightning Skelemental, Dark Confidant is extremely effective at punishing combo players without much removal, and we can even Unearth him back, no problem.
Ransack the Lab is absolutely incredible, here. The selection really helps make up for the lack of Traverse the Ulvenwalds, and the ability to dump stuff into your graveyard is just awesome with both Kroxa and Seasoned Pyromancer.
I love the use of Castles here, and think these cards should be getting played in Modern a fair bit more. They really are quite low opportunity cost for how powerful of a dimension they can add. Castle Lochtwain is very on message with the whole Dark Confidant/Liliana of the Veil thing; and Castle Embereth is especially stellar in conjunction with Seasoned Pyromancer.
This deck is truly inspired, I’m excited to see it’s evolution, and looks like a great choice for this week. It’s well set up for combating combo decks, and with how this past weekend went, anybody not joining the dark side is going to need everything they can get to help fight back against the rising combo menace. It’s one thing to have to bend over backwards to fight a variety of Primeval Titan decks, but now things are spiraling out of control thanks to a combo that there’s no way is ok.
Because some people are evil.