You guys should know by now that I like interacting with the graveyard. Innistrad block was one of my favorite sets, introducing new flashback spells like Unburial Rites and Lingering Souls, that together led to the infamous Frites deck
Since then, nothing really stood out. I've been trying hard to add cards from newer sets to my Loam deck, but even though the deck has only been out for about a year and the best version only came out recently, it's actually been legal since 2012 (the most recent card is Lingering Souls from Dark Ascension). No need to say, I was excited about Shadows over Innistrad.
While I can't wait to talk about the new additions to Loam, we're not going to cover Modern today. Like last time at the same period, around the days of the prerelease and a couple of weeks before the Pro Tour, I opened my mailbox to contributions from players around the world, to discuss their decks and see if they had ideas worth working on.
I have to say, a card I'm really looking forward to playing (especially in Modern, but I'm gonna stop here with that!) is Prized Amalgam. The problem with "free" creatures that come back from the graveyard is that they usually can't block. By free, I mean creatures that you're not casting from your hand (and that usually don't "cost a card"). Look at Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, the unearth creatures, these guys can only be played in aggressive decks since they have very limited ways to interact with your opponent unless they attack. Even though Prized Amalgam comes on the battlefield tapped, it does block. Maybe not right away, but it's definitely a big upgrade for pesky zombies.
Standard doesn't really allow you to mill yourself (with dredge for example) and fill your graveyard easily with these bad boys. However, Shadows over Innistrad provides enablers in the form of discard outlets, and some of them are built-in in some creatures that will bring back Prized Amalgam.
I tried to build a deck with that card but haven't found success yet. However, Pao Bago submitted the following list that's worth looking into:
This is pretty much the deck I wanted to assemble. The deck uses discard outlets to enable madness and put the creatures you want in the graveyard.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Oath of Jace
Heir of Falkenrath
None of these cards are quite like good old Wild Mongrel, but they kinda all work together. Heir of Falkenrath and Oath of Jace are the only cards that allow you to discard cards from your hand as soon as you cast them. I'm not sure how often you're going to scry off Oath of Jace, but it's something to keep in mind.
I expect Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to shine even more in this format than in the previous one. While looting and its flashback abilities were good enough before, getting extra value from discarding is going to make it totally insane (madness… insane… get it?). Sure, you already used Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in Rally the Ancestors decks to dump creatures to Reanimate, it's gonna work the same way here.
Stitchwing Skaab and Geralf's Masterpiece are both discard outlets, although they are midgame discard outlets. Their downside of discarding cards can easily be turned around as you can discard either madness spells, more Stitchwing Skaabs and Geralf's Masterpieces, or most importantly, more Prized Amalgams. As a part of the cost, you discard the multicolored zombie, the Stitchwing Skaab or Geralf's Masterpiece enters the battlefield, Prized Amalgam triggers, and you get it at the end of your turn.
Just the Wind
At first, Just the Wind doesn't look like the most efficient card, but the potential is there. Its madness cost is cheap, and in a deck that will need a couple of turns to set up, its tempo boost will be essential.
Asylum Visitor is one of the cards I'm also looking forward to playing. As a 3/1 for two, it's not exciting, but as a 3/1 madness for two, it gets a lot more exciting. Add to the mix the fact that you're eventually going to empty your hand and get even more value out of it, it makes for a very good card.
Liliana, Heretical Healer
While I can see the synergy between all the cards listed above, I'm not sure about these ones and that's where testing is needed. While I know that these cards are great and have a lot of potential, I don't know if they're what the deck needs. Don't get me wrong, they might have their place, but let me express my concerns.
Relentless Dead looks awesome on paper. It has some evasion and a far-fetched way to get Prized Amalgam back. It's probably a good late game card when you can bring back a second Relentless Dead from the graveyard. However, you do need to keep mana open, and it's unlikely you're going to get full value from it.
The same goes for Liliana, Heretical Healer. It's a good card, but it doesn't quite fit in the deck. You don't have any sacrifice outlet in the deck to transform it. Sure, you can bring back Prized Amalgam once in a while, but you have to rely on stuff to happen during the game, especially since you don't have actual removal in the deck.
Another reason I don't like Relentless Dead in the deck is that the mana doesn't quite support it as well as it would in a mono-black deck. I like the idea of Sea Gate Wreckage in the deck to give you some gas when you've depleted your hand after bringing back Stitchwing Skaab a couple times.
My problem with this deck is that it's missing some discard outlets to make sure it's doing what it needs to do as early as possible, and that it's missing actual removal.
I'd probably try to add a couple of Call the Bloodline. Drawing multiples of them isn't a problem since you can discard the second one to the first one. It enables and works really well with Asylum Visitor and Sea Gate Wreckage in the midgame. The lifelink of the Vampire Knight Tokens lets you get the life back from Asylum Visitor.
I'd consider Dead Weight and Ultimate Price as potential removal. The red splash for Fiery Temper would be awesome if only the mana base allowed it.
Here's the version I would try:
Overall, I believe this deck has a lot of potential. Not sure how grindy or how aggressing the deck should be, but it definitely deserves a look.
Moving on to the second deck of the day, Emmanuel Vernay, a longtime friend of mine, submitted a couple of decklists for me to try out.
Shadows over Innistrad brought back Madness, and a card I expect to see a lot of play is Fiery Temper. The value gained when you discard it off a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is absurd if you manage to hit a creature with it. We're not going to talk about Jace, Vryn's Prodigy here again — instead, we're going to talk about little red men, something else in my field of expertise.
This deck is pretty self-explanatory. Your goal is going to be to close games as fast as possible with creatures, with draws that are going to be pretty hard to stop if you play your cards in the right order. It plays very much like Blue/Green Madness from the old days.
Atarka Red is gone and the little red men needed replacement. While I don't think this version is necessarily optimal, I believe Vampires are going to take over the Goblins' spot as the aggressive red deck. While Atarka Red was trying to overwhelm you with tons of goblins and pump spells, Vampires will try to outcurve you.
This is an alpha version to try out new cards, but let's go over them.
Eight one-drops is probably a little short. But let's start with this.
Falkenrath Gorger fills the slot of the two-power creature for one, and I believe it's a good one. It makes your Ravenous Bloodseekers that much better. Pumping has never been so easy as you can do it without wasting a card.
Insolent Neonate has an evasion ability that would most likely look irrelevant on any 1/1 creature. However, being able to attack for just a couple of damage in the first few turns is relevant. If it's about to die, targeted by a removal spell, you can just pitch a land to draw a card. It allows you to play a turn-two Bloodmad Vampire that will deal a lot of damage if you have ways to clear the board before it attacks the first time. And it allows you to play a turn-three Incorrigible Youths. A 4/3 haste on the play, especially if you played other creatures before it, is quite a beating. It kinda makes me think of a mini-Careful Study on legs.
The red Aquamoeba. Red's best discard outlet so far. With this deck, I believe there will be draws where you have it, and draws where you don't. When you have it, the games are going to be soft and fast. When you don't, it's going to be harder. Very much like Blue/Green Madness with Wild Mongrel, and that deck that dominated Standard for a long time.
Sin Prodder is a new card that deserves some testing. Its body isn't too shabby, and its evasion ability makes it a little more relevant on the board. With the casting costs of the deck, it's likely to deal nothing one third of the time (when you reveal lands), deal a few one other third of the time (when you reveal a one-drop) and draw you cards when you hit higher casting costs. It's really going to shine when you'll be revealing Fiery Temper and Incorrigible Youths. However, it doesn't quite fit the fast aggro deck or the madness synergy, and that's why it's probably not an auto-include.
Bloodmad Vampire is a strong two-drop (a good reason to sacrifice Insolent Neonate) or in association with a Lightning Axe on turn 3. A cheap madness card that you would play for its casting cost once in a while.
I have no idea how good this card is. On the play, it's likely to deal at least 8 damage before its drawback actually hurts you. It dies to a Lighting Axe or an Ultimate Price, otherwise, it could go all the way. Worth trying out.
Similar to Arrogant Wurn. If you have the discard outlet, your draws with it are going to be sick. If not, it's going to stick to your hand for a while. It makes for a very powerful deck, but subject to more variance.
As I said earlier, I predict a shiny future for Fiery Temper. A Lightning Bolt that doesn't cost a card (kind of) is quite the card…
In a format where Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is going to dominate (or so I think), and where you'll have to shoot discard outlets on sight, Lightning Axe is the weapon of choice. You deal with their threat AND you get to play your madness stuff? That's pretty good.
This is a card to be tested. I can see it being an excellent card in limited, breaking stalemates, forcing a creature to attack into your blockers and then getting a 3 /4, and all that for the little cost of one mana. In constructed, it might be another story, but it might be surprising. While I don't think the "attack each turn" clause is going to be relevant, having a 3 /4 for one mana is. Your opponent's creatures are going to die eventually, so you'll get the 3 /4. The other scenario is that you're going to play it on your Insolent Neonate and sacrifice it to draw and pitch a madness card, and transform the Skin Invasion into a Skin Shedder.
The mana base is straightforward: 23 Mountains to do the job. I don't think you want to play Blighted Gorges (or any utility land) as you probably want to have as many red mana sources as possible.
This red deck can be improved a lot of different ways and I see a lot of cards that can be potential candidates:
This is what I'd probably do and here's the list I would try:
The manabase may be a little off and maybe there are better black cards to play to balance it a bit. However, Heir of Falkenrath is a beating and it allows you to get smoother madness draws.
With these two decks, we covered quite a lot of new cards. Both of them look decent and could be improved to make it to the top tables of a competitive tournament. With Pro Tour Madrid coming up in April, this is a good basis to start from!