Is This The Last Chance To Play Arcum’s Astrolabe In Modern?

With a ban looming in Modern, is this the last hurrah for Arcum’s Astrolabe? Four SCG creators share their picks for the weekend!

Arcum’s Astrolabe, illustrated by Igor Kieryluk

Welcome to What We’d Play! With Core Set 2021 shaking things up, many are unsure what they’d play in Modern. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making over the next handful of days! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Autumn Burchett — Yorion Sultai Reclamation

The short answer is that I would register Mystic Sanctuary; Arcum’s Astrolabe; Archmage’s Charm; Cryptic Command; Ice-Fang Coatl; and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Taken in context, Mystic Sanctuary might be the strongest card in Modern, and these cards form a core that naturally synergises very well with Mystic Sanctuary. There are a large number of different ways to build around this core, and I don’t think you can go too wrong with any of them.

That said, my preferred way of exploiting this core is still with Wilderness Reclamation strategies. You already have so many powerful instants which makes Reclamation work incredibly well in your deck, and it gives your deck a quasi-combo angle of attack that is particularly effective in the Mystic Sanctuary pseudo-mirrors.

Before the companion rules change I felt like Yorion Sultai Reclamation was just clearly the best way of building the deck, as starting with access to Yorion, Sky Nomad was just so powerful. Since the downgrade to Yorion, I think it is less clear what the right way to build Sultai Reclamation is. Whilst Yorion is still a good tool to have access to, it’s not clear whether it is or isn’t worth the cost of having less flexibility in sideboarding and I intend to experiment a lot with 60-card builds over the next couple of weeks with this in mind. That said, I’ve still been having a lot of personal success with my Yorion build of the deck, with an 85% win-rate across my first twenty matches since the rules change hit, so this is absolutely what I’d register until I find a 60-card build I like.

Shaheen Soorani — Grinding Breach

Whenever I prepare to tackle the metagame in a premier Modern event, I am hard-pressed to sleeve up something fair.  The format still has busted card combinations that lead to quick wins, especially in Game 1.  It’s tough for the reactive and aggro decks of the format to disrupt combos without help from the sideboard, giving a natural advantage to those that can pull off a high level of consistency.  After multiple bannings, people are comfortable declaring combo dead, but they are incorrect.

Even with Mox Opal gone, Grinding Breach stretches the boundaries of Modern, offering a Turn 3 kill without disruption, entering the Turn 4 and Turn 5 range if the opponent puts up barriers.  I easily won SCG Regionals earlier this year, winning most rounds in a decisive fashion, with very little experience with the deck.  Now with some games under my belt, I can confidently say Grinding Breach offers the punch required to knock out most decks in the format.  The addition of Lurrus of the Dream-Den provides easy rebounds from disruption, as well as a natural card advantage engine that must be answered.  It has created a subgame where it can run away with the game on its own and pushes this combo deck to an easy first choice for me in Modern.

Dom Harvey — Grinding Breach

After early fanfare (and success in the hands of our own Shaheen Soorani), Grinding Breach didn’t earn a permanent place in the big leagues of Modern. However, I think the time is ripe for Underworld Breach to try to get itself banned in another format. The talk of the town right now is Goblins powered by Conspicuous Snoop, which can win as early as Turn 3 while out-grinding the slower decks. Grinding Breach fits the same description but benefits from the move towards creature removal for Goblins and the lack of artifact or graveyard hate.

After Lurrus of the Dream-Den showed that a Cat is a man’s actual best friend, players wondered when it would appear in maindecks. Lurrus may have found its forever home in Grinding Breach where it can set up a soft-lock with Engineered Explosives or Spellbombs, buy back either namesake combo card, or exploit the familiar synergy with Mishra’s Bauble. Some sideboard choices are made with a nod to Lurrus — Seal of Fire is a flexible answer to Conspicuous Snoop and other cheap creatures that lets Lurrus control the battlefield while Burrenton Forge-Tender buys time to resolve and protect Lurrus, which can then recast it every turn. These interactions help to make Grinding Breach much more flexible and difficult to fight than the typical Card A + Card B combo deck. 

As Shaheen’s article (and analysis above) shows, the Grinding Breach shell is highly flexible. As the shape of this new Modern becomes clearer and we learn if Goblins can stand the test of time, you can easily modify this deck to attack the new top dogs.

Cedric Phillips — Rakdos Goblins

In Gerry T, I continue to trust. I’ve been playing Rakdos Goblins on Magic Online and have achieved quite a few 4-1s in Modern Leagues (who on earth ever goes 5-0 in those things?). Along the way, I have won very few of my games with the Conspicuous Snoop combo, simply because I haven’t drawn Snoop Gobby Gob all that often. I see this as a good sign for the deck, not a bad one, because if I was only winning games with the combo and losing all the others, it would give the deck a glass cannon label (and deservedly so).

As Gerry mentioned in his article about the deck last week, Boggart Harbinger does suck, but it’s a necessary evil in order to have access to a Turn 3 win, so the trade-off is worth it. It’s smart to not get too creative with your silver bullets, though I would recommend a Stingscourger somewhere in the 75 just to have a better way to manage Stormwing Entity as well as a few other large threats. I’ve certainly found Izzet Prowess to be my most difficult matchup, but if midrange/control decks can handle Izzet Prowess for us, Rakdos Goblins will shred those and just about everything else.

As your resident Goblin token, it feels good to be sleeving up Auntie’s Hovel again.

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