If you're looking to beat up on Death's Shadow this weekend, I got just the deck for you! Last week I shared a tribal cats deck that is semi-competitive but ultra-fun. This week I'm sharing a deck that is ultra-competitive but only semi-fun. I've been playing various permutations of Hatebears for years and right now for this weekend I'm confident this is the best version and build, even better than the white-black Eldrazi Taxes deck.
This is the number one deck in the format and my list is positioned to beat it. I run the full four copies of Mirran Crusader main deck because few Grixis lists are running more than one Lightning Bolt, their only answer to Mirran Crusader. I also ran a pair of Devout Lightcasters in the sideboard for a while but decided that was overkill. I also tested Chameleon Colossus, which is good against them, but also unnecessary. I have played a lot the past two weeks with my list and have not yet lost to Death's Shadow. I've only played it three or four times, but the matches have ranged from close wins to annihilation. This is a good matchup for us.
I struggled with this matchup early but have since found a plan I am comfortable with. Wrath of God is not necessary since the plan of simply killing their Chalice of the Void and their Eldrazi generally works. Collected Company is really powerful against them. All Is Dust is one of their best cards, so try not to overextend into it. This matchup is close, but I'm not unhappy to face it. We have the tools to come out ahead.
I skimped a bit on Affinity hate. No longer is there Blade Splicer to block Etched Champion or Creeping Corrosion to wipe their board, but Wrath of God and Stony Silence are still here. Qasali Pridemage and Collective Effort kill Ghirapur Aether Grid. Burrenton Forge-Tender protects Mirran Crusader or Loxodon Smiter from Galvanic Blast and effectively counters Whipflare. Flying creatures can also sometimes be a problem, but after sideboard I think things are in our favor. Hope to win the die roll and catch a break in game one though.
Burrenton Forge-Tender (BFT) is the MVP in this matchup. Scavenging Ooze is also a great way to gain life. Collected Company finds BFT and Eternal Witness gets it back. Trade creatures liberally in combat and preserve your life total at nearly all costs. The name of the game is to stay alive without getting burnt out because our late game spells are so much more powerful than theirs.
Aether Vial gets underneath Counterspells and Loxodon Smiter cannot be countered. Voice of Resurgence also makes life difficult for Jeskai Control since it forces them to play at sorcery speed and also threatens to make an Elemental Token if they cast Supreme Verdict. I bring in BFT to answer Anger of the Gods, though sometimes I'll use it to save a Mirran Crusader from a Lightning Bolt depending on the board state. Removal is bad in this matchup, but our creatures are great and Collected Company is great. These matches tend to be close, but I always finish ahead. Horizon Canopy keeps the action coming and Stirring Wildwood gives us reach. Collected Company punishes them hard for tapping out on their own turn while Voice of Resurgence punishes them for not casting their spells on their own turn. See what I mean?
I somehow manage to steal game 1 more frequently than I should against Dredge. First turn Noble Hierarch into Scavenging Ooze to eat their Stinkweed Imp is obviously the best way to do this, but sometimes Thalia, Guardian of Thraben slows them down enough and we just get things going before they do. Leonin Arbiter punishes their fetches and first-turn Noble Hierarch into second-turn Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter yields a lot of free wins. After sideboard we bring in four Rest in Peace and basically mulligan any hand that either doesn't have Rest in Peace or isn't great on its own. Things are usually pretty lopsided in our favor when we have second-turn Rest in Peace. We also get BFT to stop Conflagrate.
Abzan is the toughest variant for us because of Lingering Souls, but Mirran Crusader is excellent against any version. I'll sometimes bring in BFT against Jund if I suspect Anger of the Gods or if I just want to protect Mirran Crusader from Lightning Bolt. This matchup is a typical slugfest, but we're well-equipped to fight along that axis.
This is not a matchup I want to face. I'm fine with playing against any of the previously mentioned decks since they are the top decks in the format and I built this version of Hatebears to be good against the top decks in the field. Abzan Company would require a different game plan, one likely involving Gaddock Teeg and/or Grafdigger's Cage. I think they are favored, but we're both Collected Company decks and they also struggle against Mirran Crusader, so it's not that bad. We can also sometimes steal a game with an unexpected Wrath of God, but I would still prefer to dodge this deck.
Game one can be rough, but both decks are trying to go on the land destruction plan, so if we succeed first, they will not ever get a chance to cast Fulminator Mage. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is great at stopping Living End since they effectively have to pay five mana to resolve it. After sideboard they get splash hate from our Dredge hate in four Resp in Peace. BFT is in case they have Anger of the Gods. If you don't suspect that card from them, you could leave in some Paths instead, but BFT is a good blocker too if it needs to be and it “survives” Living End every time.
Leonin Arbiter is by far our best card in this matchup. It's naturally excellent against them and even better in conjunction with Ghost Quarter. BFT has two jobs. The primary job is to protect Leonin Arbiter. The second job is to counter Anger of the Gods. Do not hesitate to cast Path to Exile on a Sakura-Tribe Elder if we have Leonin Arbiter on the battlefield. Eventually they'll pay the cat tax and resolve multiple search effects, so kill it while you can. Beware of Through the Breach. Overall I like this matchup.
This is another matchup I would rather not face. I did add Wrath of God to the sideboard to improve this matchup, along with also improving the Affinity matchup and a few others. We used to have Sunlance in sideboard and more copies of Qasali Pridemage for their Aether Vials, but not anymore since the metagame shifted. At least have a plan and it's not a terrible one.
It's hard for them to win through Rest in Peace since they rely on Past in Flames, but they can do it with Empty the Warrens. For this reason I would consider also bringing in Wrath of God. Usually though they can't chain enough spells together just with their hand to amass enough Goblin Tokens in time since we are also pressuring them. Also Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is great against them and BFT's primary job in this matchup is protecting Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Every other creature is expendable.
I've been losing to this deck, but I think we have overall better matchups against the rest of the field than they do. So even though we're weaker head-to-head, I think our EV is higher in the tournament. I haven't drawn a lot of Collected Companies and the ones I have got taken by either Tidehollow Sculler or Thought-Knot Seer. If we can manage to resolve that card I think we're in much better shape. We also have answers to their Aether Vial in the form of Qasali Pridemage. Some of our best cards are liabilities in this matchup, which is awkward, but at least we get to board them out for games two and three.
Stony Silence is excellent in this matchup since it turns off Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is also great and Flickerwisp can reset Pentad Prism to zero counters. Qasali Pridemage can also kill a prism or Phyrexian Unlife. This matchup is better with Gaddock Teeg, but as long as we have a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or a Stony Silence it's hard for them to win. We can sometimes steal a game by activating Aether Vial to put Burrenton Forge-Tender onto the battlefield after they try to Lightning Storm us out. It doesn't work if the BFT is already on the board though since they draw their whole deck, including Slaughter Pact to easily kill it. So the trick is to put it onto the battlefield after the Lightning Storm is already on the stack.
Stony Silence is great, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is good, and Qasali Pridemage can break their Ensnaring Bridge. Flickerwisp can also get rid of it for a turn. Collected Company can help find many of these useful cards. I still don't like this matchup, but fortunately few people are playing it now.
Sometimes they spew their hand onto the board and kill us in two attacks. Other times their hands are more manageable and our bigger creatures overpower them. Path to Exile is great, Leonin Arbiter can steal games, and BFT blocks for days. If we can survive to Collected Company we're probably ok, and that happens often.
Lets end on a bad note, shall we? Elves are a very tough matchup, but they only comprise about 2-3% of the metagame. We can steal a game with Wrath of God, but without a card like Gaddock Teeg or Grafdigger's Cage, I think they're the better Collected Company deck head-to-head. I think we're better against the rest of the field though.
There are a few bad matchups we'd rather dodge, but we're fine to good against most of the top decks in the field right now. No deck in Modern has good matchups across the board, so the key is to place yourself in a position to beat the decks people are playing and dodge the ones they are not playing. That's exactly what this deck aims to do. If your local metagame is skewed toward one of the decks mentioned in this article, I gave some pointers about how to improve the matchups in the discussion of each deck. I'm going with this build though because of the way I predict the metagame to look this weekend at Grand Prix Vegas. I might make a few changes before the tournament, but this build is definitely ready to take on the best of the best as is.