Ox Of Agonas Is Better Than Bedlam Reveler Ever Was: Six Modern Decklists For SCG Richmond

Ahead of SCG Richmond this weekend, Gerry Thompson takes a look at six decklists that he thinks could be strong contenders.

Ox of Agonas, illustrated by Lie Setiawan

No other card from Theros Beyond Death had me as excited as Ox of Agonas. Sure, there were some Standard standouts but I was looking at Ox of Agonas as it pertained to older formats. If a card wants you to fill your graveyard and rewards you with drawing cards and clocking your opponent on the cheap, it will typically perform better in older formats where meeting the conditions isn’t nearly as difficult. 

I suppose I need to defend my title. Bedlam Reveler is a phenomenal card and one I’ve supported for a very long time. However, Ox of Agonas might be the Greatest Of All Time. 

Bedlam Reveler Ox of Agonas

Ox of Agonas doesn’t pigeon-hole you into playing a massive amount of instants and sorceries and only cares about filling your graveyard. That opens up the possibility of having this mid-game refuel option in basically any sort of deck that can fill it’s graveyard. You get bonus points if those methods of filling your graveyard can also deposit an Ox. The possibilities are nearly endless. 

Oddly, my journey with Ox of Agonas began by trying to revive Hollow One.

Sixteen land and all gas is a fine place to be, although this version is likely stronger in slower Modern metagames. The various Primeval Titan decks can go over the top of this deck quite easily and your average goldfish is slower than the turn they’re able to stabilize. 

Once Upon a Time is incredible here, as it finds the enablers, the payoffs, and allows you to maintain a low land count. A mid-game Once Upon a Time isn’t the worst thing in the world, although this deck really does care about maximizing its mana on each turn. 

There’s gotta be something with Ox of Agonas and Reckless Charge too, maybe with Burning-Tree Emissary and Reckless Bushwhacker

Try to cram as many fetchlands into your Ox of Agonas deck as possible. Street Wraith is great for similar reasons, although I wouldn’t play it without reason. 

Street Wraith Cathartic Reunion

Cathartic Reunion is another fine option. Conveniently, red has enough discard enablers on its own that you don’t have to stray too far. Nothing comes close to Faithless Looting, so I found this deck to be a little too slow for what I wanted. In a grindier metagame, this could be a good choice. 

The age-old adage of “Don’t play a bad version of something else” rings true here. If we’re going through all this trouble of powering out Goblin Lores with Simian Spirit Guide, should we just be Dredging instead of making 4/4s?

This isn’t exactly Dredge but it’s closer to what I wanted. 

From the old Vengevine decks, you trade Stitcher’s Supplier and Glimpse the Unthinkable for Insolent Neonate, so Creeping Chill gets slightly worse. We have Memory Sluice subbing in somewhat but it’s not as reliable without black creatures to conspire it. 

Stitchwing Skaab might be superfluous. These decks always wanted a way to discard from the graveyard in case they had Vengevines stuck in hand with no discard outlet but now Ox does that for us. I was somewhat worried about an Ox getting stuck in our hand but there are three other copies that could end up in the graveyard.

Memory Sluice Stitchwing Skaab

Building the manabases for these decks is interesting. You’re primarily red and blue but have uses for other colors of mana, such as casting Once Upon a Time, Vengevine, or Prized Amalgam. Having access to a few multi-colored sources of mana is a luxury, but one we can afford. It could also open the door for different sideboard options, such as Ancient Grudge, Thoughtseize, and Driven//Despair

You could trade blue for black, which would make your Vengevines more reliable thanks to Gravecrawler. However, losing out on the blue enablers isn’t ideal. Lotleth Troll is a cute pickup if you want to stretch your mana a bit. 

It was only a matter of time before I tried to combine Ox with Stinkweed Imp and friends. 

If something similar is among the winner’s metagame this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised. People aren’t going hard enough on Ox of Agonas in Dredge. You shouldn’t simply add it to your Life from the Loam / Conflagrate Dredge deck. Instead, you should try to build as broken of a shell as possible. 

When you’re trying to Dredge with reckless abandon, Burning Inquiry makes sense. It’s not a great enabler but it’s incredible once you already have some dredge cards in the graveyard. Slow dredging doesn’t beat everyone and speed is important right now. I considered Street Wraith instead of Burning Inquiry but three draws is way more than one, even if Street Wraith is able to be hit with Once Upon a Time

Burning Inquiry Once Upon a Time

Both sides of your enablers (the discard outlets and the Dredge cards) are creatures, so playing Once Upon a Time makes sense. Why aren’t more people doing this yet? 

Bloodghast and Shriekhorn aren’t what you want in a deck like this. Fewer Life from the Loams and fewer lands in general makes Bloodghast a tough sell. Plus, you’ll hopefully be tearing through your deck faster, which means you’ll still be able to put the same amount of bodies onto the battlefield as before. Ox of Agonas still triggers Prized Amalgam, so you can afford to trim on some of those effects anyway. 

One of the things I’m working on is how to build around Shriekhorn and Emry, Lurker of the Loch, but that might take a while. 

This deck is volatile, almost completely dead to hard graveyard hate, but potentially broken. What about the more fair stuff?

Are Lava Spikes or large creatures a better plan in Modern right now? I would argue heavily in favor of Lava Spike. Removal will always be a constant in Modern, as will decks that are able to ignore a Turn 2 4/4 and go over the top. Oko, Thief of Crown’s dominance over the last few months has lead to an overall decline in Burn and a decline in Burn hate overall. People didn’t need it when they had Oko and it seems like people are forgetting that.

I’m sure this specific list could be less fancy. Ox of Agonas is a card you’re going to want in your graveyard, which isn’t necessarily easier than casting Bedlam Reveler. The upsides are that Ox is reusable and is excellent if you can discard it for value. You could even kill it yourself if you wanted to use it again. 

Runaway Steam-Kin Risk Factor

Runaway Steam-Kin might be necessary in this version. With Risk Factor and Ox of Agonas, you can often go off just like any combo deck. It’s one of the few cards in the deck that your opponents can use spot removal on for a positive or neutral trade on mana, so it’s not usually what you want to be doing. Modern is mostly light on removal at the moment, so I’m willing to take that risk. 

This is one of the decks where you can use Mishra’s Bauble to help fill your graveyard, which I’m completely fine with. Light up the Stage has always been awkward in Prowess decks, so getting to cut it entirely makes me happy. We’re slower as a result but still have the combo-ish mid-game that allows you to beat up on ramp and Urza before they do their thing. 

Ox of Agonas plays very well with Arclight Phoenix, enough to where Izzet Phoenix could see a resurgence. 

The greedy Ox is going to be utilizing the vast majority of your graveyard, so there’s little reason to play Magmatic Sinkhole, Set Adrift, Pyromancer Ascension, Finale of Promise, or something similar. 

Arclight Phoenix

Although playing Ox alongside Arclight Phoenix seems worse against graveyard hate than Thing in the Ice, keep in mind that you can cast Ox from your hand and still draw three in the process. Escaping it is more beneficial overall but having that avenue cut off from you isn’t the end of the world. 

Aether Gust is the Disdainful Stroke of choice against Simic Ramp and Amulet Titan due to the prevalence of Cavern of Souls

Finally, the coup de grace. 

Mardu is back!

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger is a solid card for this archetype but it doesn’t solve any of your bad matchups whereas Ox of Agonas actually does. 

Burn and ramp are the two strategies I’m most worried about. Maindeck Blood Moon is a necessity. Incidental graveyard would be nice to have as well but I’m not about to play something like Kaya’s Guile

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger Blood Moon Kaya's Guile

Veil of Summer is trending downward but it’s still quite good against these sorts of decks. In sideboard games, focus more on curving out with Pyromancers rather than trying to attack your opponent’s hand, at least until they tap out or you know the coast is clear. 

This is another potential home for Mishra’s Bauble, even if it doesn’t play nice with Young Pyromancer. Even something as simple as having cantrips instead of lands could be helpful with Seasoned Pyromancer

Castle Embereth is a nice pickup from Throne of Eldraine since it’s a low opportunity cost way to speed up your clock. Other than that, this is the Mardu that you all love (to lose with).

These decks all have potential (except for Mardu) but since SCG Richmond is a team tournament, I’m playing something I know can win some matches. I don’t want to let my teammates down by playing some brew that’s off by a few cards and loses some matches as a result of it. That said, if we don’t make Day 2, you can probably find me unleashing some Oxen from the underworld in the Sunday Modern Classic.