I'm more hyped for Guilds of Ravnica than I have been for a set in a long time. I mean, I was excited for Merfolk in Ixalan and I loved the flavor of the world, but… Ravnica is Ravnica. I can't wait to brew with the new cards for Mining Modern (looking at you, Assassin's Trophy), but until then I'll do the best I can with what I've got – like a throwback from the last time we were on Ravnica, in the Return to Ravnica block: Lotleth Troll. A fun card in Standard but one that has never really seen its chance to shine in Modern.
Oh, also Soulflayer. Did I mention there were Soulflayers involved?
Not only is this deck right up my Mining Modern alley, it's done well recently. Magic Online user Yusiemax went 5-0 with the deck in a recent event, which to me is a blaring siren screaming "play this deck on Mining Modern!" After all, it perfectly fits what I've always tried to do with this series – not just play brews for the sake of playing brews, but doing so because Modern is a format where brews can have real success with enough work. Some of the most memorable decks in the format – Amulet Titan, Lantern Control, Hollow One, Humans – all started as brews people tried sleeving up one time. I still remember walking up and down the aisles of Grand Prix Charlotte many years ago late on Day 2 and spotting Ghoulcaller's Bell at Table 14 (obligatory Zac Elsik shoutout). You never know what "bad" deck I play is going to spark someone's imagination, or who will pick up a Mining Modern deck and iterate on it and maybe even take down a big tournament with it someday.
Anyway, that's why I love this series. The reasons I love Souflayer are almost too numerous to list, but a handful of my top reasons include haste, vigilance, double strike, lifelink, hexproof, indestructible and trample (to name just a few).
The deck is straightforward but powerful – fill up the graveyard and then delve away some keyword soup creatures for Soulflayer. That leaves you with a 4/4 with a host of abilities, most of which will be enough to end the game in a swing or two. Heck, there are plenty of ways to put a second-turn Soulflayer into play with basically any combination of keywords you can imagine. That's not the norm, but it's certainly fun when it happens.
To make that happen, the deck has a ton of ways to discard cards. Faithless Looting makes sense, but this deck actually has a lot more than that going for it. Bomat Courier is a really elegant piece of the puzzle, as it serves as a discard outlet, a way to refill your hand, an artifact for delirium for Traverse the Ulvenwald, and gives haste to your Soulflayer, all in a tidy one-mana package. Collective Brutality and Lightning Axe are additionally discard outlets that also give you some much-needed interaction.
But Lotleth Troll is my favorite of all. It's a discard outlet, sure, but it's also just a really powerful creature in its own right. Sometimes you just go all-in on it as a plan B, and if your opponent isn't packing exile effects it's extremely good at ending games on its own thanks to trample. And sometimes the odd assortment of creatures you play just wins the game even without Soulflayer, becomes opponents overvalue graveyard hate or don't know how to play against the deck and can stumble on answering the many threats you bring to the table.
All in all, this is a fun brew that feels close to the edge of true competitiveness. It had a deep run at a Grand Prix earlier in 2018 alongside this Magic Online 5-0, so there's clearly a bit more here than a flash in the pan. If the right card or two is printed, we might see Soulflayer become much less of a surprise and much more of an actual player in Modern.
Thanks for reading,