I suppose this is a long time coming…
While I haven’t had the most time to play Modern recently (check out Dominaria’s Judgment, d00mwake, or aspiringspike if that’s what you’re looking for), when it is time to do battle, there’s really only one choice for me — equipping Colossus Hammer on some horrible creatures on the cheap. As my Tweets above suggest, I believe Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus) is the best deck in Modern and has been for some time. I understand that Modern has numerous compelling options, which is why the format is incredible right now, but I’m still not tired of beating someone’s brains in with a 10/12 Ornithopter after all these months. Call me old-fashioned, I guess.
If you’re here for a sideboard guide, it’s at the bottom of this article just like all of our other “Everything I Know…” primers. But if you want to learn the way of the Hammer, you must first realize that…
Splashing Black in This Deck Sucks
I’m sure one could make an argument that it was correct at one point to splash Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, and Knight of Malice, but only one of those cards is actually still good in 2021 and it’s the one that costs one mana (shocking, I know). Knight of Malice I get, since it’s a sideboard card against Azorius Control decks that were reliant on Prismatic Ending; Teferi, Time Raveler; and Solitude to buy time, but Dark Confidant I’ll never get because Hammer decks aren’t especially interested in playing the attrition-based games that Dark Confidant promotes.
As for Thoughtseize, it’s not a card Hammer has ever needed to win matches, so I don’t really understand why people play it. I guess the argument is that it’s good against combo, but white is generally the best color in Modern against combo, and if you’re sideboarding in Thoughtseize against Modern’s control decks, you’re attacking them from the wrong angle because all their permission is redundant.
But the thing that splashing brings into the equation with Hammer is that your mana just gets so much worse. I know that splashing comes easily on paper via Concealed Courtyard, Silent Clearing, Godless Shrine, and some number of fetchlands, but it’s not free (Courtyard can enter the battlefield tapped, Godless Shrine and fetchlands cost life, etc.), and it makes this deck significantly worse against Blood Moon, a card that Blood Moon players are already incentivized to bring in against you to slow down Inkmoth Nexus and Urza’s Saga.
So basically, by splashing black, you’re splashing for stuff that doesn’t make your deck appreciably better and in certain matchups can make your deck significantly worse.
Do Not Cut the Best Card in Modern from Your Deck
Now that we agree that splashing isn’t necessary, let’s move on to this nonsense…
To be clear, I have no problem with CrusherBotBG. I’m sure they’re a wonderful person. What I do have a problem with is cutting the best card in Modern from your deck to play Nettlecyst. That’s unacceptable and I will not stand by and let it happen.
Over the course of my *checks notes* over-twenty-year Magic career, my biggest regret by far is just not playing the best cards or best deck more often. Since I dialed back my play in 2014, I had a very clear conversation with myself: “When you do play, just play the thing(s) that are likely going to get banned instead of the thing(s) that are unlikely to get banned.”
- You know what card might get banned one day in Modern? Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
- You know what mechanic had to be nerfed because it was too powerful? Companion.
- You know what card is still the best card in Modern and uses the companion mechanic? Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
None of the answers to those questions were “Nettlecyst and other three-mana Equipment.”
Here’s another thing I say a lot in my old age that you’ve probably heard from me before…
You only get so many chances at doing that. Two people who recently did? Corey Baumeister, the winner of the SCG Invitational with Grixis Death’s Shadow (Lurrus), and Edwin Colleran, the winner of CFB Las Vegas with Rakdos Midrange (Lurrus).
Play Lurrus while you still can. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
Here’s Another Card You Should Play
Why aren’t more people playing Giver of Runes?
I see all these builds of Hammer with horrible cards like Dark Confidant, Spellskite, Ingenious Smith, and Mishra’s Bauble. They’re all terrible and don’t contribute to Hammer’s gameplan at all. Let’s go over them quickly and why they suck:
- Dark Confidant: Already went over it earlier in the article. Sucked then. Still sucks now.
- Spellskite: A more expensive Giver of Runes effect that’s an artifact, which matters because your opponents are incentivized to bring in artifact removal against a deck named after *checks notes* an artifact.
- Ingenious Smith: People argue that this card is the backup plan for when games don’t go according to plan. Well, that’s what Urza’s Saga and Lurrus are for. Further, Giver of Runes does an exquisite job of making sure Plan A goes right since it protects said plan.
- Mishra’s Bauble: Bauble is busted alongside specific cards like fetchlands and Dragon’s Rage Channeler, where it does a great job of controlling your draw step. In Hammer, it isn’t really doing anything beyond shrinking your deck (I guess?), assisting towards metalcraft for Puresteel Paladin, and likely leading to you keeping bad hands because “Bauble will get me out of it.”
So why play Giver of Runes?
- Your deck is built around putting a Colossus Hammer on a creature. Having protection for that is nice.
- Your opponent has to interact with Giver of Runes. If they don’t, it means you’re clear for takeoff to Hammer someone. If they do, that’s one less removal spell you have to concern yourself when trying to Hammer someone.
- It trades with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. That may seem minor, but no one wants to be hit by a Ragavan and I value the ability to put something in that card’s way as much as I can.
- It costs one mana. One mana is less than two mana (you’re welcome). If I’ve learned anything from Patrick Sullivan, it’s to play as many cheap cards as possible as often as possible.
- It protects your sideboard cards, assuming your sideboard is built correctly (more on this later!).
Giver of Runes won me two games no other card could have in Las Vegas. That may not seem like much, but two games is a lot in the context of a fourteen-round Magic tournament. I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now and I don’t think you should either.
Where’s The Decklist?
I got chu fam.
A couple of quick notes:
- Drannith Magistrate is much better than Void Mirror, at least for right now. Urzatron decks are at an all-time low, so that reason to be playing Void Mirror is off the table. More importantly, Giver of Runes helps to protect Drannith Magistrate against the cascade decks, whereas Void Mirror gets bounced by Petty Theft or some other creative way to get it off the battlefield. Lastly, Drannith Magistrate can wear a Hammer, whereas Void Mirror cannot.
- I prefer Seal of Cleansing to Cathar Commando because I value the free nature of Seal of Cleansing as opposed to leaving up a mana for the Commando. Being able to attack with the 3/1 is nice, but I’ve always found that I prefer how Cleansing plays more because you always have stuff to do with your mana, and that it plays better with Lurrus.
- If you want to play four copies of Silent Clearing as opposed to splitting up your Horizon lands, by all means. Doing that makes your Prismatic Endings worse but your Cranial Plating better.
- Tormod’s Crypt could be Relic of Progenitus if you want it to be. I prefer to keep my graveyard intact in my Lurrus deck and value that more highly than drawing a card with Relic.
- I’m sure there’s a reason people don’t have a Pithing Needle in their 75 to Urza’s Saga for, but I don’t know what it is and I’m not interesting in finding out.
- Sanctifier En-Vec is immensely powerful. Play four copies.
What you’re all here for, I guess. Away we go!
VS Izzet Midrange
Out (on the play):
In (on the play):
Out (on the draw):
In (on the draw):
This matchup looks a little weird because I’m getting funky with Ornithopter and Memnite. When I’m on the play, I just want to play a normal game and make them react to me to the best of my ability. I prefer Ornithopter to Memnite on the play because flying matters in the matchup as far as Hammering someone is concerned.
When I’m on the draw, I’m putting a huge priority on trading with Ragavan. Some people sideboard out Ragavan in this matchup. Some people don’t. I play as though they’re leaving it in because the mana advantage it generates when the opponent is on the play is difficult to overcome. I still leave one Ornithopter in, however, to find with Urza’s Saga in the off-chance I need to chump-block Murktide Regent.
VS Temur/Four-Color Crashcade (with or without Yorion)
Pithing Needle mostly has nothing to name in this matchup (if they’re Four-Color Crashcade, you can nail Teferi, Time Raveler) so it comes out fairly quickly. Memnite is out over Ornithopter because you want to minimize Fury blowouts as best you can.
VS Four-Color Control (Kaheera or Yorion)
You’re just kinda playing them straight up. They’ll have access to stuff like Fury; Solitude; Wrenn and Six; Teferi, Time Raveler; and various spot removal spells, but those are all things you need to know how to play around to succeed with this deck in the first place. Nothing should really be taking you by surprise.
VS Amulet Titan
I can see leaving in Pithing Needle if you see Karn, the Great Creator, but the jury is still a bit split on that card in Amulet Titan right now. One thing we know for sure is Seal of Cleansing is great here, taking care of Amulet of Vigor, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, and Urza’s Saga.
At the end of the day, you need to be faster than the opponent, so mulligan accordingly. They’re skimping on Force of Vigor, so if you have the combo, just go for it.
VS Gruul Belcher
Again, you’re racing here so mulligan accordingly. Pithing Needle names Goblin Charbelcher but it isn’t flat game over since most have incorporated a Pyromancer Ascension alternate kill. Seal of Cleansing is nice to protect yourself a bit against that kill as well as nabbing Strike It Rich Treasures. Fury and Force of Vigor come in after sideboard for them in varying numbers, and they’re easy for them to cast, given the lands are actual red and green cards.
VS Golgari Yawgmoth
Pithing Needle naming Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is huge here since that card can just value you into the ground (I used to sideboard a second copy of Needle exclusively for that card in this matchup). Prismatic Ending may not seem like much, but controlling their mana creatures on the draw is a nice bonus, as is exiling Young Wolf or Strangleroot Geist. Esper Sentinel essentially has no text in this matchup, so that one goes to the sideboard pretty easily.
VS Mono-White / Orzhov Hammer (Lurrus)
There are times where Esper Sentinel is good, but those times are few and far between. Don’t overthink it and just sideboard them out. Prismatic Ending and Seal of Cleansing are incredible in this matchup, so hope to draw them a bunch, with Cleansing being the better of the two. Giver of Runes also shines at allowing you to block threats that have a Hammer on them and protecting them (this keeps coming up for me, heh) or pushing through damage if things line up a certain way. Ultimately, your goal is to get Lurrus on the battlefield and loop Seal of Cleansing.
As I’m sure you’re aware, there are a bevy of Modern decks I haven’t covered here, but I feel as though these are the most relevant at this time. Regardless of this sideboarding guide, your best bet in winning with Hammer is playing a bunch of games with it and messing up a lot. That’s what I did on Twitch a few months ago and now everything is second nature to me.
There are games where you hold Hammer hoping to draw Sigarda’s Aid. There are games where you cast Hammer hoping to draw Puresteel Paladin. Which games those are can really only be defined by playing, but you’ll quickly know them when you see them.
My last piece of advice: if your hand doesn’t have Urza’s Saga, Sigarda’s Aid, or Puresteel Paladin, take a mulligan. Saga is strong enough to keep you in a game and Aid/Puresteel are the more important half of setting up a Hammer on something. Do not convince yourself to keep bad hands that will materialize into something if you draw the perfect card. You’ll draw a Memnite and hate everything.
Best of luck!