Last week I dug into Modern decklists, and my eyes were focused on identifying what Hour of Devastation cards had made their way into the format, and on any new deck ideas or novel adaptations that had been successful. Today I'll revisit the format because there are a ton of new decklists available after last weekend's two Modern Grand Prix, an SCG Modern Open, and plenty of Magic Online action.
There have been renewed cries for the banning of Street Wraith after the appearance of this new deck, which is designed to abuse Hollow One and its ability to be cast for free. The card has fantastic synergy with Vengevine, because being able to be cast for free makes it a perfect way to enable Vengevine returning to play from the graveyard, where it can easily be put with the same discard that turns on Hollowed One. With Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion fueling Hollowed One and the graveyard with ease, and Street Wraith reducing Hollowed One's mana cost for free, the deck is capable of some truly powerful starts, as demonstrated in this picture posted to Twitter by Pro Tour Hour of Devastation champion PVDDR.
This also tips off the secondary game plan of the deck, which uses Become Immense, with its delve fueled by Street Wraith and the discard spells to combine with Temur Battle Rage and combo-kill the opponent. Monastery Swiftspear and Goblin Guide fill in the pieces as cheap creatures that can trigger Vengevine or serve as bodies for Become Immense.
Insolent Neonate bridges the gap between plans by helping fuel Endless One, trigger Vengevine, fill the graveyard for delve, or wield Become Immense-Temur Battle Rage. Hooting Mandrills serves as an extra threat, and Lighting Bolt adds a dash of disruption, but the deck is very straightforward and potentially the next big thing in Modern.
There is no deck archetype I love to hate on more than Mono-White Martyr of Sands. When the deck emerged to abuse the interaction between Martyr of Sands and the forecast of Proclamation of Rebirth recurring it every turn to lock out the opponent with life gain and Kami of False Hope, I was locking out my opponents with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter. The matchup proved laughably easy, and in one memorable game at the State Championship my opponent had to try so hard to win that he gained the distinction of being the only opponent in my career to have got themselves disqualified from the tournament.
The Martyr of Sands decks have gotten a lot better since then, with pickups like Squadron Hawk filling their hand with white cards to reveal and Serra Ascendant as a real payoff for the life gain. While my beloved Pickles Morph deck has since been lost to time, the Mono-White Martyr deck has lived on in Modern. The deck truly had its Last Laugh at my expense when it handed me my first loss at Grand Prix Detroit with the brand-new and still broken Eldrazi deck before Eye of Ugin was banned. He locked me down with Ghostly Prison and Wrath of God and other controlling elements, but a new version of the deck takes a much more aggressive approach. Ajani's Pridemate is an excellent offensive payoff for life gain, and Spectral Procession and Honor of the Pure give the deck further ability to apply pressure.
Crested Sunmare is the headliner, and this new addition from Hour of Devastation gives the deck a huge payoff for life gain. At the top of an aggressive curve, it will end stalemates and inevitably overpower any fair strategies. As long as Martyr of Sands decks can continue to evolve with the Modern metagame while taking advantage of new tools like Crested Sunmare, then it will continue to survive in a hostile world where many other decks have fallen by the wayside.
Claim // Fame hasn't made a real impact in Death's Shadow decks like many expected it to, but it has put up great results in this Rakdos Burn deck, where it proves itself to be another Hour of Devastation card that has made the jump to Modern. Burn decks are at their best when they start with aggressive creatures doing much of the work, and Claim helps keep them in play in the face of creature removal. It's particularly strong with Vexing Devil, which opponents are typically forced to pay life to destroy, so it gives proactive value to Claim even when the opponent doesn't have removal, as do the Keldon Marauders that will die from their own Vanishing ability. On the back end, Fame converts to two extra damage plus giving a creature haste, which adds up to even more. It's easy to see how Claim // Fame can convert to a ton of extra damage over the course of the game, and it's a cool addition to the Burn strategy that typically doesn't stray very far from the typical creatures and burn spells.
Its massive Standard success in Standard makes me think the Ramunap Ruins could prove effective in Modern in a Burn deck, and I expect someone will put up a result with it before long. The cost of including it is too low and the payoff too high for it not to be effective in some build.
Jeskai Control decks are in the midst of a tremendous resurgence in Modern, but this version takes the shard on a much more aggressive course by going farther than the typical Snapcaster Mage and Spell Queller package to add Mantis Rider and even Lighting Angel as additional threats. What's most startling is the set of Steppe Lynx at the bottom of the curve. The card has typically been reserved for only the most aggressive Naya Zoo and white creature decks, so its presence here belies the deck's approach to support a cast of efficient creatures with the best disruption available. Taking the Zoo strategy to a blue shell gives access to countermagic, but the spell suite is still dominated by burn with sets of Lighting Bolt and Lightning Helix to control opposing creatures or end the game quickly.
Last week I shared a deck with the Knight of the Reliquary / Retreat to Coralhelm engine built into a Bant Counters Company deck, but this deck fuses the combo into an aggressive Human shell, which is a great way to take advantage of Knight of the Reliquary being a Human with Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant, Mayor of Avabruck and even Cavern of Souls, while providing the deck with a large threat and access to a toolbox of cards including Kessig Wolf Run, a nice addition to the aggressive strategy. Retreat to Coralhelm doesn't have any special synergies with other humans, but it works well in the deck for untapping the mana creatures for some ramping ability, or to simply scry to smooth out draws. As time passes, the Knight-Retreat engine is being successfully incorporated into more and more strategies, and has continued to prove itself to be one of Modern's best combos.
A unique approach to the Human tribe is to meld them with the Ally tribe, specifically those that share both creature types. The motivation to stretch a deck in such a way is to take advantage of Hardened Scales, which does great things with the Ally creatures, each of which gain counters from other Allies entering play, along with Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant that aren't Allies but still work in the same fashion because all the Ally creatures are Humans and will trigger them. With Hardened Scales in play, the deck is capable of some truly explosive draws, so I could see the allure of playing the deck over more traditional builds.
Blood Moon has long been one of Modern's most oppressive and powerful cards that has proven effective in almost any strategy that can operate under its effect, which explains why this deck with Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, which ramp into it and fix mana with it in play, would include a playset.
This deck goes even deeper on the Blood Moon plan with Eldritch Evolution, which can be cast on turn two by a mana creature, which can then be sacrificed to find a Magus of the Moon, which means in practice the deck has eight copies of the effect!
When the deck isn't stealing games with Blood Moon, the deck aims to assemble the combo of Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, which can be conveniently put together by Eldritch Evolution. The combo is supported by Chord of Calling as an additional tutor, which is also useful for accessing any of the impressive fifteen one-of creatures in the sideboard.
My favorite part of the deck is the full four Fiery Justice, which is quite powerful as a creature removal spell but hasn't had much limelight in Modern. Giving the opponent life isn't a problem in a deck that wants to either win with an infinite-damage combo or lock down the opponent and win at its leisure, so including the card is a matter of wanting that sort of effect against the metagame. The typical approach of using Path to Exile in this slot goes against the Blood Moon plan, which explains why going for Fiery Justice is appealing. It's incredibly impressive against other creature decks, like Affinity and all variety of Collected Company decks. It's hard to say whether or not this version of the deck is better than a more traditional build focused on value and the combo, but the results, a near Top 8 at GP Birmingham, speak for themselves.
Another deck that attempts to take advantage of Blood Moon with mana acceleration is this Enchantress deck that uses its Enchantment status to fuel Sphere of Safety or trigger Sigil of the Empty Throne. The deck is full of other excellent hosers, including Rest in Peace, Runed Halo, and Leyline of Sanctity, so it has plenty of ways to steal games from certain opponents.
Cast Out a great addition that takes care of anything else that presents a problem, and along with Supreme Verdict helps buy time for Kruphix's Insight and Sphinx's Revelation to generate card advantage and help take over the game. I haven't seen any dedicated Enchantress decks seeing success in Modern, but this is an honest attempt that takes advantage of some of Modern's most powerful hosers like Blood Moon to earn easy wins where it can find them.
Magic Online user "__matsugan" Ito was one of the very first players to show consistent success with the first Death's Shadow Aggro decks when it appeared over two-and-a-half years ago, and as far as I know is the initial creator of deck. Since that deck was knocked down with the banning of Gitaxian Probe, and a new combo of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies has been printed, he has been working on perfecting a deck completely focused on making the most of the new combo.
All of the combo pieces are creatures, so the deck is filled with ways to find them, with Commune with Nature, Oath of Nissa, Ancient Stirrings, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Summoner's Pact all capable of digging to find whatever is missing. Street Wraith, Mishra's Bauble, Manamorphose and Conjurer's Bauble effectively shrink the deck while supporting delirium, so beyond the combo pieces the deck has very little room for anything else. The last four slots are dedicated to a set of Pact of Negation to protect the combo once it is assembled. Paying blue mana isn't a necessity if the deck can win the game immediately upon assembling the combo, so the rarely-seen Hall of the Bandit Lords is included to give Devoted Druid haste.
The deck is certainly all-in on the combo, but it certainly does so consistently and can win with it when it does. Opponents are going to fight back with everything they can muster, so the deck can shift gears with creatures in the sideboard, specifically the black-removal resistant Mirran Crusader and Mystic Enforcer. Qasali Ambusher doesn't do much work offensively, but it seems like a great way to surprise aggressive decks like Affinity or Burn with a blocker. I'll be paying attention to see if __matsugan puts up another great finish with the deck on his quest to make it Modern's next big thing.
What Hour of Devastation cards and new decks have you seen in Modern?