Last week I shared a Modern version of the old Standard "The Aristocrats" human deck, courtesy of William Cavaglieri. Cavaglieri is back this week with another brew:
Cavaglieri has taken all of the best creatures from his human deck - Grim Lavamancer, Dark Confidant, and Falkenrath Aristocrat - and put them into a new, less synergistic, more disruptive shell. Gone are the human synergies with cards like Xathrid Necromancer and Champion of the Parish. In fact, this deck eschews white altogether in favor of a more stable manabase. With a reduced creature count, Aether Vial has been replaced with more action.
Lightning Bolt is the premier burn-spell-as-creature-removal in the format, while Searing Blaze is a tip-off to the aggressive game this deck is looking to play. Dismember is efficient and flexible, and is highly effective in most matchups. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are the go-to discard spells for any black deck. Blightning bridges the gap between discard and burn spells, and it's a source of card advantage with historic precedent from its time in Jund strategies.
The most interesting card here is Kiln Fiend, something I haven't seen much of previously except in dedicated combo decks. With 19 maindeck spells to trigger its ability, Kiln Fiend will consistently be attacking as a 4/2 and it comes with potential to grow much larger. Against unaware opponents, Kiln Fiend also acts as a flagbearer in how, as a theoretically extremely threatening creature typically employed in combo decks, it will draw opposing removal early and often, lest they be blown out by something as simple as Apostle's Blessing. Countryside Crusher helps fuel the deck with action as a supplement to Dark Confidant, but it's also a stand-alone threat capable of winning the game by itself.
With improved mana over the three-color humans deck, this deck supports three Mutavault and could likely support the fourth copy. A singleton Lavaclaw Reaches provides late-game value with a touch of mana fixing.
The Rakdos combination lends itself to some strong sideboard cards, notably Slaughter Games, which punishes all combo decks, and the versatile Rakdos Charm. This deck can take particular use of Rakdos Charm's ability to Deal Damage. Three Blood Moon in the sideboard are supported by fetch lands and basics in the maindeck, and the fact that this deck can operate off of just one black mana. Pillar of Flame is excellent against Birthing Pod decks in particular, mainly against Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks, but it works well against any deck full of small creatures, while Vandalblast is dedicated Affinity hate.4C Midrange
I'd call this next deck 4C Midrange, and it's packed with the "Who's Who?" of Modern cards:
This deck rests on the shoulders of some of the greatest creatures in Modern. At the core is a set of Restoration Angel, which plays well with Blade Splicer to generate value and board presence. Restoration Angel creates value and utility with Snapcaster Mage, which comes along with a 21 spell maindeck suite I'll discuss in a moment. While all of these creatures stand on their own, no creature compares to Tarmogoyf, which is the sole maindeck reason the build dips into green. The final creature is a pair of Vendilion Clique, which stands on its own as an evasive threat, combines well with Restoration Angel up the curve, and provides this deck with an added bit of disruption and card drawing.
Supporting this cast of creatures is an assortment of the most efficient and powerful spells in Modern. This deck dips into red for burn, including a set of Lightning Bolt, a set of Lightning Helix, and a pair of Electrolyze. Path to Exile is a no-nonsense answer to nearly every popular creature in the format. Mana Leak is the most efficient but broadly applicable Counterspell in the format, a catch-all and tempo play that makes this deck difficult to play against. The final card is Serum Visions, which gives this deck some much needed card selection and a way to smooth draws in both the early and late games.
The spells here are all great on their own and shine in specific scenarios, but together they combine to give this deck a disruptive spell suite comparable to UWR Control, and in some ways, this deck is nothing more than a UWR Control deck that pushes board presence with Blade Splicer and the splashed Tarmogoyf. In a fast and proactive format like Modern, being able to take the offensive and put cardboard in play is important for pressing advantages and closing out the game; it's hard to truly ever grasp full control of the game. This take on a traditionally reactive archetype adds an aggressive element to make it a multi-dimensional deck well-positioned against a broad Modern metagame.
To touch on the sideboard, a full set of Voice of Resurgence takes advantage of green mana in the maindeck, and it allows this deck to sideboard into more board presence against susceptible opponents. Voice of Resurgence is a powerful threat and hate card against other control decks and Splinter Twin, a way to win the attrition battle against decks like BGx Rock, and a major roadblock to aggressive decks like Zoo. A full set of Pillar of Flame are another nod to the power of that card, a sign that it's becoming more relevant in the Modern metagame, and good reason to take note of it going forward.Bant Midrange
The following deck combines some assorted Modern favorites into an archetype rarely seen in Modern, Bant Midrange:
The key card here is Noble Hierarch, one of the best cards in Modern but not one with many homes. After the banning of Deathrite Shaman, Noble Hierarch became the most powerful piece of one-drop green mana acceleration in Modern, but the card is still relatively unexplored and underutilized. It's a driving force behind Birthing Pod decks, but use beyond that has been rather limited. This is a Bant deck in the style of those around when Noble Hierarch was in Standard, with the plan of ramping into powerful three- and four-drops. A pair of Birds of Paradise helps the cause.
Rather than play Knight of the Reliquary, this deck ramps towards a different selection of three-drops. A set of Geist of Saint Traft is strong in a world where Liliana of the Veil no longer comes down on turn two, and where board sweepers are few and far between. The Counterspell and Liliana of the Veil-hating Loxodon Smiter is well positioned in this metagame. A single Brimaz, King of Oreskos provides some redundancy with an additional powerful three-drop to ramp towards. Each of the three-drops works well with Exalted from Noble Hierarch, and a pair of Qasali Pridemages provide additional Exalted triggers along with a bit of disruption against many archetypes, most importantly Birthing Pod's namesake card and Cranial Plating from Affinity.
The deck expands to include a package of two Restoration Angel, three Snapcaster Mage, and an assortment of spells, ranging from Counterspells Cryptic Command, Mana Leak, and Remand, to creature removal Path to Exile and Vapor Snag. These spells are important for supporting the powerful creatures by protecting them from disruption, clearing blockers, and ensuring the opponent can't go over the top.
The sideboard is straightforward, featuring all of the most powerful white hate cards in the format, including Timely Reinforcements to combat the enormous rise in the popularity of Burn strategies.Jund Aggro
What made this deck stand out to me initially was Death's Shadow. I have seen the card used in the past in narrow situations, including a version of the Ad Nauseam Combo deck, but it's rarely used in fair situations. This is essentially an aggressive Zoo deck, complete with Wild Nacatl and Kird Ape, that recognizes the power of Death's Shadow paired with fetch and shocklands. Zoo tends to take a ton of damage from lands, more than any other deck in the format, so there is no better fair home for Death's Shadow. To push the power level of Death's Shadow, this deck plays a life sink in the form of Mana Confluence, which also provides this deck some extra mana-fixing. Dismember is a huge life-sink that can be used to pump Death's Shadow at instant speed.
Completing the aggressive creature package are some powerful creatures, including the ridiculously fast Goblin Guide and the massive Tarmogoyf. Experiment One combines well with oversized Zoo creatures, including a large Death's Shadow. A pair of Goblin Rabblemaster is a constant source of value that must be answered, and it tops the mana curve in a deck with just 20 lands.
This deck splashes white simply for Stony Silence in the sideboard, meaning Affinity must be tough, but the splash mana is easy between the fetchlands and Mana Confluence. A single Abrupt Decay graces the maindeck, while a pair from the sideboard finds a wide-range of targets. Thoughtseize is broad disruption that's excellent against combo and control opponents. Legion Loyalist looks to be hate against tokens like Lingering Souls, while the first strike clause may be relevant against other opponents looking to block. This is yet another deck with Pillar of Flame in the sideboard.RUG Control
When I think of RUG in Modern, I immediately think of the Tarmogoyf / Splinter Twin combo hybrid deck "Tarmo-Twin" originated by Patrick Dickmann this spring at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but back in early 2012 RUG strategies may have been in Modern, highlighted by Antonino DeRosa's GP Turin win with RUG Delver. Fair RUG decks are back, as demonstrated by 3OA:
This deck pairs the Tarmogoyf of RUG Twin with the Vedalken Shackles and Blood Moon from the "Blue Moon" deck. The fresh addition of Huntmaster of the Fells is yet another proactive card, but it's also a source of card advantage and board presence that will steal games against attrition strategies. All of these permanents are powerful, and any of them are capable of winning the game singlehandedly against a susceptible opponent, while together they work with the spell package to create a bonafide control deck.
The spell core of this deck should look familiar to anyone who has played with or against RUG Twin or Blue Moon. It includes a set of Snapcaster Mage and a supporting spell suite containing all of the usual suspects, like Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, Remand, Mana Leak, Cryptic Command, and even Spell Snare. A single Burst Lighting provides redundancy to Lightning Bolt with the upside of more potential damage, while a singleton Magma Spray provides redundancy with an extra element of hate against persist creatures and Voice of Resurgence.
The most notable card here might be Keranos, God of Storms, which is nearly impossible to Remove, and given time will generate massive card advantage. A second copy sits in the sideboard to combat attrition strategies like BG Rock. Additional copies of Blood Moon and Vedalken Shackles can come in when most effective. Additional control elements include pairs of Engineered Explosives and Threads of Disloyalty, a Pithing Needle, and an assortment of Counterspells.RW Twin
This may be the most startling of the decks I share today: it features the Restoration Angel / Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker infinite combo in a new home. This sort of combo has typically been the realm of Blue control decks, though in the past a RW control deck using this combo along with Splinter Twin and Village Bell-Ringer made a brief appearance. This particular deck takes a different, decidedly more aggressive approach, relying not on the combo but instead using it as the back-up plan for an otherwise functional deck.
The curve starts with Grim Lavamancer, continues to Eidolon of the Great Revel, leads up to a large three-drop component including Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Prophetic Flamespeaker, and Blade Splicer, and includes a set of Restoration Angel before wrapping up with a pair of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to create value or start a combo chain. Supporting these creatures are full sets of Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile as creature disruption. Finally, a Batterskull and a Sword of Feast and Famine are excellent equipment that may steal a game or simply provide repeatable value.
The sideboard here is relatively standard, but a full set of Hide // Seek draws attention. This deck has access to black with a maindeck Blood Crypt, so it allows this deck to sideboard a very flexible card. It's a flexible Naturalize-style effect against decks like Affinity, Birthing Pod, and even Splinter Twin, while the black half gives the deck additional hate against combo opponents. It's also an effective lifegain spell against burn, especially against anyone still playing Flame Javelin.Dredgevine
Triack is back with what may be the best Dredge-style deck in Modern yet. Faithless Looting and Grisly Salvage are both efficient graveyard enablers with a proven track record. Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Thug are Dredge cards that double as a relevant creatures for supporting the big payoff, Vengevine. Vengevine requires a large cast of small, cheap creature, and zombies fill the role in big way. Bloodghast (Although a vampire, and not a zombie. - Frank) and Gravecrawler return to the battlefield from the graveyard and thus compose the value core of this deck. Lotleth Troll fits the Zombie theme while acting as a repeatable graveyard enabler, making it perhaps the most important creature of all here. Supporting the plan is a set of Abrupt Decay, an easy call here given the manabase. Darkblast is great in this creature-heavy Modern metagame, and playing three in the maindeck helps super-charge this deck by adding an additional Dredge element to complement the creatures and replace the lackluster Dakmor Salvage.
Being in Jund colors, this deck has access to a wide variety of great sideboard card. Triack chose cards that ostensibly fill holes, like Ancient Grudge for Affinity and a pair of Sowing Salt for a poor GR Tron matchup. Combust hates on Splinter Twin but goes farther by killing a variety of creatures, like Restoration Angel and Delver of Secrets. Nihil Spellbomb is dedicated graveyard hate that doesn't interfere with its controller's graveyard like Relic of Progenitus. Golgari Charm is flexible and widely applicable. Life from the Loam plays well from the graveyard, especially with Faithless Looting. Gnaw to the Bone punishes burn and aggressive decks.Possibility Storm
Possibility Storm is not entirely new, in fact I did a video piece on the deck last month. The deck is back, this time in the Top 4 of a Premier Event. Here's the updated list:
Wrapping up today is a decklist from a Premier Event Top 8 that features a too soon forgotten M15 card, Return to the Ranks:
This deck is based around the combo of Norin the Wary and Purphoros, God of the Forge as an endless damage engine that, given enough time, will deal enough damage to kill any opponent. The best home for this combo, as it turned out, was in Soul Sisters, a lifegain deck that is difficult to kill but has a hard time actually winning the game. This deck is an evolution of that, doing away with the superfluous Martyr of Sands lifegain in favor of Champion of the Parish as an aggressive element that pairs well with Norin the Wary, a Human. Ranger of Eos holds both sides of the deck together, fetching Norin the Wary and Champion of the Parish as well as Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant, which play well with Norin the Wary and fuel Ajani's Pridemate. What makes this deck stand out is Genesis Chamber, which combines with Norin the Wary to generate a constant stream of creature tokens.
Return to the Ranks is a powerful mid and late-game card that will Turn the Tide of any attrition battle. This deck is full of cheap creatures to return and/or convoke with, making the M15 card a perfect fit here and something I expect to see more of in Modern. In the same Premier Event where I found the Norin the Wary deck in the Top 8, a Monowhite Death & Taxes-style deck reached Top 16 playing a single copy of Return to the Ranks.Looking Ahead
There are a set number of cards in Modern, and many are shared between decks, but there are practically infinite combinations of ways to put these cards together. Modern contains blatantly powerful cards that transcend strategies and archetypes, and part of the challenge is identifying these cards and where to use them effectively. Looking beyond, Modern is filled with lesser-appreciated cards that may lead to a huge payoff when properly applied. The decks I shared today approach the Modern format a bit differently than the rest. They applied a balance of powerful cards with those carefully selected for their strategies, and with winning results to show for it. Please share any "off-the-beaten-path" strategies and decklists in the comments, and as always I will do my best to answer any questions!
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