A month ago I wrote an article Master Deckbuilder Challenge: Collected Company in Modern where I went over several different ways to build various Collected Company decks in Modern. Instead of just sharing some of the decks I came up with, I walked the reader through my thought process as a deckbuilder and then offered a challenge where readers could submit their own Collected Company creation and I would then determine which among all the submissions was the strongest. I did not expect there to be over fifty entries submitted, but that is exactly what happened. Consequently it took me a bit longer than expected to give adequate consideration to each entry. I also decided to award a prize for the winning submission: the Vendilion Clique playmat I received from Grand Prix Vegas. I also selected four submissions as 'Honorable Mentions' that I found to be particularly clever and innovative, each of which will receive a signed (by me) copy of a card of my choice from the deck they submitted.
There were several submissions that were tuned versions of already successful decks, including: Melira Combo, Spike Feeder + Archangel of Thune Combo, Elves, various Bant and Abzan "good stuff" decks, Slivers, and also a spattering of other tribes such as merfolk, elementals, and goblins. I was very close to choosing an Abzan or Elves submission as the winner, but in the end one deck in particular stood out to me as not only matching the power level of the more established decks but also matching the level of innovation of the wilder less established decks submitted. Therefore the winner of the inaugural Master Deckbuilder Contest is... *drum roll* ... Ryan Bennett and his Naya Coco Twin submission!
The deck runs the minimum number of 'hits' (25) I would run in a Collected Company deck (i.e. creatures with mana cost three or less) and has a strong spell package to complement the creature suite. I had mentioned Temur Twin in my article but had not considered Naya Twin using Village Bell-Ringer over Deceiver Exarch, mostly because I didn't see any reason to do so. That's where Ryan's list is particularly innovative in that he uses Heliod's Pilgrim to find Splinter Twin! That means you can cast Collected Company at the end of the opponent's third turn (off a mana accelerant), finding Village Bell-Ringer and Heliod's Pilgrim. The Pilgrim then searches out Splinter Twin, allowing you to untap, cast the Twin on the Village Bell-Ringer, and make infinite attackers.
This was the two-card combo I was searching for when I came up with Kiora's Follower + Wake Thrasher (which unfortunately doesn't work because Kiora's Follower is worded differently than Seeker of Skybreak in that it cannot untap itself). Unlike the three-card combos, you can find both off a single Collected Company, and unlike the two-card combos (Feeder + Archangel) you can find both off the Company without needing to involve Fauna Shaman. Speaking of Fauna Shaman, I still think I might find room for a copy or two in this deck as additional ways to find the combo. I would also not play Lightning Helix over the third and fourth copies of Lightning Bolt. I would also play some number of Path to Exiles in the 75 to stop larger creatures. The last change I would make is to find room for one copy of Chained to the Rocks as a non-Twin card to search out with Heliod's Pilgrim.
Spellskite out of the board can be important at protecting the combo from the extra post-board removal spells you should expect to face and may even be worth moving to the main depending on how the metagame looks, especially since we have Chord of Calling to tutor for a singleton copy. It's also a great card at disrupting opposing Twin and Infect decks. Magus of the Moon is a powerful way to disrupt opposing non-basic-reliant manabases and is likely better than Fulminator Mage unless RG Tron is popular. Ancient Grudge is for Affinity (though Stony Silence or Creeping Corrosion might be better), Rending Volley is for Twin, Qasali Pridemage is a way to answer enchantments, and Wild Nacatl comes in when we need more pressure and cannot afford to rely too heavily on the combo.
While the deck can reliably assemble its combo, it is not reliant on it to win. Much like Temur Twin, it has Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze to apply pressure and force removal spells out of the opponent's hand. It also has Eternal Witness to stay ahead in the attrition battles against Jund and Abzan midrange decks, and it has a sideboard that can adapt to whatever the opponent is doing.
Overall the deck certainly still has room for improvement, but The General idea is brilliant and worthy of the title Master Deckbuilder Champion!
This deck looks super fun to play! Not only does it run a bunch of singleton tutor targets to hit off Collected Company or to find with Fauna Shaman but also to search out with Gifts Ungiven! It is all about the toolbox. Some of the neat combinations to assemble include: Glissa, the Traitor recurring Executioner's Capsule, Sun Titan getting back Eternal Witness, or using Collected Company to find Fauna Shaman to search out Knight of the Reliquary to find Gavony Township for Kitchen Finks. The web of possibilities for how this deck plays out each game is probably larger than any other deck in Modern!
This is an interesting build that uses Collected Company to find all sorts of creatures that interact favorably with the other non-creature spells in the deck, most notably Blasphemous Act. Kor Firewalker survives the Act since it has protection from red, Hornet Nest turns into 13 Bees, Boros Reckoner deals 13 damage to the opponent, Soulfire Grandmaster gains 13 life for each creature on the battlefield (while also potentially buying the Act back), and Eternal Witness gets the Collected Company, Blasphemous Act, or any creatures in the deck back from the graveyard. I like the idea of this deck and I think it has potential, but it's not quite there yet. It does some really powerful things that almost kill the opponent, but it is fairly light on disruption and instant speed interaction. Adding Rending Volley to the board could further help beat Splinter Twin. All the wrath effects make the deck a good choice against Elves as long as you get them while they are unable to Chord of Calling for Burrenton Forge-Tender in response.
When I talked about Gruul Haste in the article, it felt underpowered because it would just run out of gas in the face of a few removal spells on our Ball Lightnings and Groundbreakers. Adam solved this problem by splashing blue for Temur Ascendancy. Sure the haste is mostly redundant but drawing a card for each creature keeps the gas flowing for the rest of the game. First turn Birds of Paradise, second turn Temur Ascendancy, third turn Collected Company can lead to some really fun games. Much like with some of the other 'wilder' ideas, I'm not convinced this is a more powerful strategy than Elves, Twin, or some other linear combo deck, nor am I convinced it is versatile enough to play over Jund or Abzan. But if fun and creativity are your jam, nobody is going to deduct any points for lack of originality if you Collected Company into Cosmic Larva and Hell's Thunder. And being able to say you did that might be worth more than first prize at the tournament anyway.
The first change I would make is to add a sideboard. Beyond that, I like what this deck is doing. Varolz, the Scar-Striped + Death's Shadow creates a very powerful monster that is not quite lethal but close in a single hit, each of which can be found with Collected Company. Keep in mind that if you find Death's Shadow with Collected Company (or cast it for that matter) while your life total is 13 or more, it simply dies on its own to having 0 toughness, which is conveniently exactly where Varolz wants it. Another interesting addition to the deck is Liliana, Heretical Healer. You can hit her off Collected Company and often trigger her immediately by sacrificing a creature to Varolz or simply by Death's Shadow or Merciless Executioner going to the graveyard on their own. I think this deck has a lot of potential and is likely improved by adding the Melira, Sylvok Outcast + Kitchen Finks infinite life combo. If the deck moves in that direction, adding some Chord of Callings and a Viscera Seer is likely worthwhile, though that would eat into your non-hit quota and thus likely force you to cut some copies of Thoughtseize / Abrupt Decay. If nothing else, this at least looks like it could be a sweet new home for Liliana, Heretical Healer. Speaking of which, this brings us to our next challenge...
Master Deckbuilder Challenge 2: Magic Origins in Modern
This time I'm changing the contest a little bit. Submissions will be judged along two categories: (1) strength and (2) creativity. The winning deck will be strong (i.e. tournament competitive caliber) and also creative (i.e. offering unique ideas I hadn't considered before). The winner will receive a playmat from an upcoming Grand Prix I attend. Other entries that stand out to me as exceedingly strong and/or creative will be awarded a smaller prize of my choice just like I did for the first contest.
The instructions for the second Master Deckbuilder Challenge are to build a Modern deck that utilizes some of the most powerful new cards from Magic Origins and to post your submission in the comments section of this article. Since the entire set has not yet been revealed, I will leave the competition open until the set's official release.
Some ideas to get started: Gideon in Zoo or Affinity, Day's Undoing in Affinity or Burn, Nissa in Scapeshift, Pia and Kiran Nalaar in a token deck, Relic Warder in a Puresteel Paladin deck, or perhaps some crazy brew that no one else has ever thought of but you. Will you be the next Master Deckbuilder and owner of my next GP playmat?
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on Twitter