Last week the Magic Esports Twitter announced that the next scheduled update to the Banned and Restricted list would be moved forward almost a month, from November 18th to October 21st—this upcoming Monday, right after this weekend's Mythic Championship V. Given that this announcement was made after players submitted their decklists for the event, it was immediately evident that Wizards foresaw a problem, and now that those decklists have been revealed publicly—43% decks playing Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead—it's clear why. We'll see what happens this weekend, but at this point a Standard ban seems inevitable.
Moving up the announcement also opens up the possibilities to changes in other formats. Legacy is in a good place after GP Atlanta, and Wizards explicitly said they will not change Vintage before the upcoming North American Vintage Championship, but it's open season for the Modern banned list. The weekend before the announcement of the change was SCG Philadelphia, where the Paradoxical Outcome Urza deck was the star of the Modern seat and truly broke out in the wider public eye as the most broken new deck in Modern. The new-and-improved Once Upon a Time-powered Amulet Titan deck ultimately won, and followed up by taking 2nd and 3rd at SCG Indianapolis last weekend, making its case to be crowned the most broken Modern deck, period.
Wizards now has the opportunity to finally ban Mox Opal, which has been at the top of the short list of potential bans for years. Ancient Stirrings could also be on the chopping block, as it's in line with the recent ban of Faithless Looting and previous ban of blue cantrips, and would help to nerf Amulet Titan and the widely maligned Urzatron.
Any Modern bans would help open up the metagame for other decks to operate, and today I'll share some of the exciting new candidates. Another week of Throne of Eldraine being legal has brought another batch of decks utilizing new cards, which has been my focus these past few weeks.
Before the fun stuff, I want to share what might be the single most promising deck in Modern, CrabVine. The deck emerged from the ashes of Bridgevine after the Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting ban. I've identified the deck in the past when it 5-0'd a League, but last weekend it boasted its biggest finish yet with a PTQ win at MagicFest Utrecht.
This deck is very similar to Bridgevine, with mostly the same cast of creatures, but instead of red for Faithless Looting it embraces blue and the power of Glimpse the Unthinkable and Memory Sluice, which with conspire will routinely mill eight cards. These give the deck the ability to mimic the Dredge strategy of Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill, which when milled offer extra value at literally no cost. Unline classic Dredge, the strategy can't really mill through its entire library, but its ability to play as more of an aggressive creature strategy is an asset that makes it more flexible and resistant to graveyard hosers. Players continue to refine the deck, and I expect it's going to grow into a major force in the metagame as more players become aware of it.
Last week I wrote about a Fae of Wishes-fused Stoneblade deck that looked promising, and concluded with the words,
"Whether or not this is someone just playing around or the real deal remains to be seen. The deck has not only earned a League 5-0, but also narrowly missed the Top 8 of the Modern Challenge last weekend with a 9th-place finish."
Last weekend that someone, McWinSauce, found a whole new level of success by finishing 3rd in the Modern Playoff, a highly competitive event with around 400 players, and qualified for the Modern Finals this January. A subsequent League 5-0 finish by Edgar "egadd2894" Magalhães shows that other players have taken notice, so it might just be a matter of time before the deck breaks out at a future MagicFest or SCG event.
A key feature of the deck, and one of the big draws of Fae of Wishes for white decks, is the sideboard tech of Knowledge Pool. It forces spells to be cast at instant speed, so it combines with Teferi, Time Raveler to completely eliminate the opponent's ability to cast spells. It's like a light version of the Mycosynth Lattice combo with Karn, the Great Creator, and while not nearly as elegant or powerful, it's a great finishing blow to have access to and something I expect we're going to see a lot more of in the future.
The white-blue version of the deck might be old news, however, because McWinSauce has now earned a 5-0 with a new Bant Snow version of the deck enabled by Arcum's Astrolabe.
Going into green gives the deck access to the great midrange tool Ice-Fang Coatl, but I suspect the real incentive is Oko, Thief of Crowns, which is quickly proving itself to be a staple of every format where it's legal. It's a question and an answer wrapped up into one efficient card, and this deck has all variety of tools to support it. It's especially strong with Arcum's Astrolabe, which it can turn into a 3/3 for no real cost.
The Oko-Astrolabe interaction is also at the heart of the emergent Temur Snow deck, which has earned at least four 5-0 finishes in the past week. Each player has their own take on the deck, so there's still a lot of improvement to be done as players start to hone in on the best list. The major question looks to be the decision to play either Wrenn and Six or Blood Moon, two strong tools that don't work well together.
Blood Moon lends itself to an aggressive approach with Tarmogoyf and Remand, while Wrenn and Six helps to generate value over a long game for a more controlling deck, like this one with a set of Cryptic Command.
My favorite take on the deck reminds me of a Legacy deck, with the efficiency of Tarmogoyf and the midrange power of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Whatever the exact cards it uses, some form of Temur Snow is due for its own breakout performance in a bigger event as one of the best new decks in Modern.
The Snow package of Arcum's Astrolabe and Ice-Fang Coatl with Oko, Thief of Crowns is the foundation of Bant and Temur Snow decks, and it also opens up a Sultai variation, which has earned a 5-0 finish of its own.
One major gain from black is Dead of Winter, a strong sweeper that takes care of early threats while scaling into the late game. This list also uses Drown in the Loch, which is on the rise as a true staple in Modern and even Legacy.
Oko is great in just about any deck that can cast it, and another excellent application is in Simic Merfolk.
Planeswalkers make just about any deck better, but they are especially potent in aggressive decks as a creature removal-proof threat. Beating Merfolk typically just requires killing all of their creatures and grinding them out, or just going over the top with something more powerful. Oko fights back against both of those plans, and even offers a solution to the eternal bane of the deck—drawing extra copies of Aether Vial—by turning it into a threat.
Another tribe with rising fortunes is Faeries, which gained a fantastic new member with Brazen Borrower. The versatility and value of disruption tacked to a threat is what Faerie decks have always been about, so it's a perfect fit next to cards like Spellstutter Sprite and Mistbind Clique.
A more updated approach to the deck uses Drown in the Loch, a natural fit in this disruptive deck, and Faerie Seer, another gain for the tribe in recent months that's a strong aggressive tool with Scion of Oona.
The most innovative approach of all is this mono-blue deck that uses Faerie Seer to enable Ninja of the Deep Hours, a role it immediately filled in Pauper.
With Disruption Shoal and now a set of Force of Negation to protect it, this sort of strategy is the best it has ever looked in Modern, where previous attempts with cards like Delver of Secrets have mostly failed to launch. The countermagic is fueled by Curious Obsession, which served the mono-blue deck in Standard so well and here is similarly protected by Siren Stormtamer.
No matter what color it uses, I'm curious if we'll see any Faerie decks adopt Fae of Wishes, which unlike in other applications we've seen would offer some extra utility with its tribal affiliation.
Bonecrusher Giant has appeared in all sorts of decklists since it was released, including a four-of in a Burn deck, but a new 5-0 list harkens back to a more classic-style red deck in the Red Deck Wins mold.
Red Deck Wins plays a more creature-focused and disruptive gameplan than the mostly one-dimensional Burn deck, and Bonecrusher Giant is a perfect fit into that paradigm as a removal spell and threat that offers two-for-one value. The deck is loaded with card advantage, including Ramunap Ruins and six copies of the Horizon Canopy effect, along with the ability to run away with Bomat Courier like it did in Standard last year. Recently Harsh Mentor showed up as a four-of in a Jeskai deck in Vintage, so I wonder how it would perform in Modern as a tool for this deck.
The most innovative deck I came across this week is one that uses Mausoleum Secrets to tutor up Death's Shadow, as an alternative to Traverse the Ulvenwald that doesn't require dipping into another color. It happens to be perfectly enabled by a single Street Wraith, but for added consistency the deck uses Windcaller Aven as another enabler that also works quite well for giving Death's Shadow flying and getting it over blockers, like a poor-player's Temur Battle Rage.
The real strength of Mausoleum Secrets is that unlike Traverse the Ulvenwald it can search for any type of card, as long as it's black, which offers a great deal more utility overall. The ability to find Fatal Push or Thoughtseize sounds good enough, but the deck goes further with more specialty silver bullets like Rite of Consumption as a Temur Battle Rage-type finisher and Legion's End as a powerful removal spell. Mausoleum Secrets can also find gold spells including Drown in the Loch, and is especially potent after sideboard for finding one-ofs like Surgical Extraction and the new sweeper Witch's Vengeance.
Adam Yurchick is a competitive Magic player and writer. He writes about Modern and Eternal formats and keeps a weather eye on shifts in the metagame.