Let's flash back to Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. I didn't play an Eldrazi-based deck, but that doesn't mean the deck I played was bad. In fact, the Zoo deck I played is aggressive enough that it can compete with any archetype in Modern. The reason the deck is so fast is Reckless Bushwhacker. My good friend and teammate Steve Rubin quickly realized that Reckless Bushwhacker is a card capable of working well in conjunction with the high density of one drops the Zoo deck already plays. This is the deck I played to a respectable six wins at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch:
The deck has a lot going for it and can win on turn three with a pretty wide variety of draws. The 16 one-drop creatures are non-negotiable. Wild Nacatl is the best one drop creature the Naya colors have to offer, and while Kird Ape isn't quite as powerful as Wild Nacatl, the deck really is looking for a bunch of one drops that are at least two power. The creature base is a bit of a mix between Big Zoo and Naya Burn. Experiment One is unique to this archetype. Experiment One is actually the deck's best possible turn-one play. After playing Experiment One on turn one the chances that it will grow to at least three power is very high. The last one-drop is of course Goblin Guide. There are actually some matchups where Goblin Guide gets boarded out, as giving an opponent a land always sucks, but Goblin Guide has been proven to be one of red's best one-mana creatures.
Moving towards the top of the curve let's talk about the two-mana creatures. That's right, the curve virtually stops at two! The most important two-mana creature is Burning-Tree Emissary because it helps enable all the spells in the deck besides Path to Exile. Starting with a one drop and then going Burning-Tree Emissary into two more one drops allows you to already have four creatures with at least two power in play by the second turn of the game. Alternatively, chaining a Burning-Tree Emissary into a Tarmogoyf is fine. The real payoff for running Reckless Bushwhacker, though, is when you start on a Burning-Tree Emissary and follow it up with a Reckless Bushwhacker on the very same turn.
Reckless Bushwhacker is essentially this deck's top-end, and the way the deck closes out games in a hurry. Playing a one-drop and then giving it haste on the very same turn is a big deal and adds up to a ton of damage. While this deck isn't an actual burn deck it plays out in a similar fashion. Many of the games come down to a race and one turn can decide a game. This is why playing a Reckless Bushwhacker on a key turn is so important. Reckless Bushwhacker is the card that gives the deck additional explosion, and is the reason why there is a copy of Devastating Summons. Playing a Devastating Summons and Reckless Bushwhacker on the same turn is often game-ending, even when sacrificing only two or three lands.
One of the questions I have gotten is: why are there not more copies of Devastating Summons? Earlier versions of the deck had more Devastating Summons but drawing multiple copies isn't where you want to be. Playing one copy is a freeroll, and the card can win a lot of games that couldn't be won without it. While we ended up playing only one copy in the Zoo deck there were other more all-in combo decks we built that focused even more on a combo kill with Reckless Bushwhacker. We didn't have a ton of time to sink into them, but here is a list of Michael Majors' that helps showcase the full power of not only Reckless Bushwhacker, but also Goblin Bushwhacker:
There is not a sideboard here as there is plenty of room for developing the deck further. There is clearly both an artifact theme and a token element. While Kuldotha Rebirth may not be quite as powerful as Devastating Summons it also doesn't require sacrificing lands, so drawing multiple copies is fine. Goblin Bushwhacker is another way to give creatures haste. There are a couple different elements to this deck as you do want to have a critical mass of artifacts in order to turn on Kuldotha Rebirth and Mox Opal, while also having plenty of gas the turn you go for a Bushwhacker. Since Mox Opal and Memnite both cost zero, they work great with surge.
One commonality between this list and the Zoo deck I played at the Pro Tour is Dryad Arbor. I can see how Dryad Arbor could seem out of place, but being able to turn a fetchland into a creature and then give that creature haste is a sweet interaction. Not only does Dryad Arbor combo very well with Reckless Bushwhacker, but opponents never expect it coming. The amount of times I searched for Dryad Arbor in response to an edict from Liliana of the Veil or just to find a creature end of turn and take the opponent by surprise have been too many to count. These decks have very low mana curves and while the land count is low it is important to have something to do with excess lands in case the game goes long.
I hadn't considered the implications of Reckless Bushwhacker too much in Standard until it started seeing some play in Atarka Red. Initially I was a bit surprised to see it in Atarka Red since that deck normally relies more on actual pump spells, and doesn't have a high creature count. However, there are different ways to go about building Atarka Red and this build played by Josh Utter-Leyton really stands out to me:
This list is from the MOCS event in which Josh ended up finishing ninth. I have heard many players complaining about Atarka Red simply not being strong enough post-Oath of the Gatewatch. Initially it seemed like Atarka Red didn't change much with Oath of the Gatewatch, but this is a completely different take. In a way I would consider this to be Atarka Tokens, as the token theme is the real power behind this version of the deck. Yes, there are only 18 creatures, but that is not including Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst.
This deck plays Pia and Kiran Nalaar alongside Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst to attempt to go wide. There are even a full four copies of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar in the sideboard to help this plan out even more. In order to make room for the extra creatures something has to go. It turns out that the pump spells are what Josh decided to cut. Cutting Titan's Strength makes sense but Josh has also cut Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense. That means that this deck is going to have to win with its creatures; there is no two card combo kill. The good news is that Reckless Bushwhacker and Atarka's Command are at their absolute best in this type of strategy.
The first part of the gameplan is getting a bunch of creatures in play — they can be tokens as long as there are lots of them. Reckless Bushwhacker pumping all of your creatures' power is very important in order to make the tokens into sizable threats. A fourth turn of, say, casting Dragon Fodder and Reckless Bushwhacker is an immediate six damage, not taking into consideration other creatures already in play. Atarka's Command plays a similar role to Reckless Bushwhacker as a way of pumping the team. When playing against this deck players may try to play around Become Immense or Temur Battle Rage rather than Atarka's Command because they don't know what's in this list. Just because you aren't running those pump spells doesn't mean you can't represent them in a game.
Looking at the rest of the list we see that Josh has prioritized one mana spells to help surge out Reckless Bushwhacker. Fiery Impulse shouldn't be much of a surprise but there are also three copies of Outnumber. Since this deck plans to have lots of tokens in play Outnumber does make sense, though it is a card that certainly hasn't seen much Constructed play. Outnumber can take out a big blocker like a Siege Rhino for only one mana, given the right circumstances. Moving forward I expect Atarka Red decks to try and incorporate Reckless Bushwhacker more and more. Whether players will follow Josh's lead and cut a lot of the pump effects remains to be seen.
Eternal Masters promises to be a monumental set in Magic's history. Do I wish there was going to be a Grand Prix reminiscent of the Modern Masters Grand Prix events? Of course! While there won't be an Eternal Masters Grand Prix I'm sure there will be plenty of sweet events showcasing the set.
While it is still unknown which exact cards will be in Eternal Masters we do know that format staples like Wasteland and Force of Will are getting reprinted! It will be interesting to see just how available Eternal Masters will be, as it promises to be in very high demand.
Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 were so successful that it makes sense to try and replicate the formula. I am unsure how this will turn out, but I'm sure Wizards has thought things through. Hopefully Eternal Masters will not only be a set containing lots of cards the average player never thought they would have a shot to own, but will also be a good limited format like the Modern Masters sets. I can appreciate the hype and excitement around Eternal Masters, and hope to keep up with all the previews as more details of the set become available.
Thanks for reading,