Breaking Hollow One

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
8/18/2017 11:00:00 AM
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How does a 4/4 that costs zero mana and can be played as early as turn one sound?

Enter Hollow One.

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Hollow One has huge upside in a deck built around discard synergies. When Hour of Devastation was first released this wasn't a card on many players' radars. I would be surprised if there was a single player with Hollow One in their Standard deck at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. It has arrived late to the party, but now it is becoming apparent there are some pretty crazy decks you can build around Hollow One.

It's broken out in Modern, and has a place in Standard as well!

This deck has only been being played for a couple of weeks now, yet it seems to be a Modern mainstay already! Every other league I enter on Magic Online I have to worry about my opponent having Hollow Ones and Vengevines on turn one. This is an aggressive combo deck, with one-drops like Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear to make sure that once Vengevine is put into the graveyard it is easy to bring back.

The nut draw is starting on Faithless Looting, discarding Vengevine, then cycling Street Wraith, which enables casting Hollow One on turn one, and if you have two Hollow One Vengevine will return to play as well. It doesn't happen all that often as it requires a number of specific cards in your hand right at the start of the game, but there are also redundant discard effects like Insolent Neonate and Cathartic Reunion. Many draws do allow you to bring back Vengevine on turn two, which is pretty great too.

Both Vengevine and Hollow One are cards that can cost zero mana to get them into play, but if you need to hardcast Vengevine or pay mana for Hollow One, that is fine. I like that the deck also plays Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense as a backup plan in case the initial creatures you cast aren't enough to get the opponent to zero. This deck really wants to be explosive, and therefore is pretty reliant on having a strong opening hand.

Some players are already calling for the banning of Street Wraith since it makes a deck like this possible, as well as being an important Death's Shadow enabler. Having zero-mana ways to draw cards are dangerous, but at the same time I like the idea that a deck like this can exist, as long as it's not too good. I think right now players realize that this deck is good, and are wondering what can be done to allow it to go from good to broken. Here is Todd Anderson's take on how to improve on the straight red-green build:

Playing more colors isn't really much of an issue, as Modern mana bases are extremely versatile. The question is how good are the black cards here? The deck is completely different than the red-green version, as it is trying to play more of a midrange game. Death's Shadow has been proven to be so good in Modern that Anderson believes he can slot it into this sort of strategy. Rather than going all in with pump spells, now you can have more reactive cards like Fatal Push and Thoughtseize.

This deck already wants Street Wraith no matter what, and once you add in Thoughtseize, all of a sudden you have enough ways to inflict lifeloss to play the most powerful one-drop in Modern, Death's Shadow. Liliana, the Last Hope is a way to put additional Vengevines into the graveyard by looting them from the top of your deck. This Jund list has taken the most powerful elements of the red-green deck and added a different set of support cards. There is definitely plenty of unexplored territory featuring Hollow One and the Dredgevine shell.

Both of these lists do use their graveyards to bring back Vengevine, but are also not as vulnerable to graveyard hate as more all-in graveyard decks. These decks can bring back Vengevine from the graveyard on turn two pretty consistently, so a Rest in Peace on the draw often won't be good enough. When playing against Vengevine decks, sideboarding is very difficult as it is hard to know just how much you need to respect the Vengevines.

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At this point, most avid Modern players have likely played against a version of Vengevine-Hollow One decks at this point. However, the same cannot be said for Standard. We are just beginning to see players realize that Hollow One synergizes very nicely with the discard outlets in Standard. Make sure to check out Steve Rubin's take on Black-Red Madness with Hollow One.

As Steve already covered the deck I won't go into detail on this one too much. The basic idea is that any card that allows you to freely discard two cards already means Hollow One costs only a single mana. In Standard, you won't be able to power out Hollow One on the first turn or two very often outside of going Insolent Neonate into Cathartic Reunion. Most of the time it will be a one-mana play a few turns into the game, but that is still pretty solid, as you can play multiple spells including Hollow One.

Activating Haunted Dead or casting Cathartic Reunion are the ways to easily make Hollow One cost only one mana. However, there are plenty of other ways to discard a single card. Even cycling Canyon Slough is a way to power out Hollow One, though it doesn't come up all that often. A madness deck is where Hollow One most obviously fits into Standard, yet there are even other decks that you can play Hollow One.

I first saw Brennan Decandio post on Twitter about a sweet Blue-Red God-Pharaoh's Gift deck he has been playing with on Magic Online and winning nonstop. I decided to take a look into the deck, and make a couple of changes.

White-blue isn't the only color pair that can play God-Pharaoh's Gift. This deck does have a lot of similarities to the white-blue version of the God-Pharaoh's Gift deck with a full playset of Gate to the Afterlife, but here it is even easier to get creatures into the graveyard. Cathartic Reunion makes it easier to dig through your deck. Angel of Invention is still in the deck because it is the best possible creature to target with God-Pharaoh's Gift in most situations. However, this deck can't cast Angel of Invention outside of having two Aether Hub in play. This is okay, though, since there are plenty of discard outlets.

Playing Hollowed One after casting Cathartic Reunion or Champion of Wits is pretty typical. Hollowed One isn't the reason this deck is good, but it is an important piece of the puzzle, and one of the main incentives to play red rather than white. Insolent Neonate is strong because it is another easy way to get a creature into the graveyard for Gate to the Afterlife. The reason to play red is mostly for discard outlets, and remember Gate to the Afterlife is another way to discard cards as well. The other reason for the red is the sweet sideboard options.

Since the deck is playing four copies of Hollow One, all of a sudden there is more of an incentive to play Glint-Nest Crane. With enough artifacts, Glint-Nest Crane becomes actively great. Casting a Glint-Nest Crane on turn two and getting a Hollow One into play turn three is pretty typical. This deck needs a critical mass of creatures to help out Gate to the Afterlife, and Glint-Nest Crane is one of them. Alongside Glint-Nest Crane there are also Walking Ballista, which are always good.

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While this may not stand out as the best Walking Ballista deck, there are multiple reasons the card fits nicely here. Having a creature that you can get into the graveyard at will has value, in case you need one more creature for Gate to the Afterlife. Also, this deck can't play that many interactive spells since it is more or less a combo deck. Therefore, having a creature that can double as removal is a nice luxury to have. You can also bring back Walking Ballista with God-Pharaoh's Gift and start adding counters to it, which helps against some of the more difficult matchups like Ramunap Red.

The artifacts here are the most important cards in the deck, so Glint-Nest Crane makes a ton of sense. Filigree Familiar and the Aethersphere Harvester in the sideboard provide a necessary source of life gain against Ramunap Red. A deck like this is primarily worried about how quickly the opponent is able to pressure you. The more time there is to get creatures into the graveyard and get a God-Pharaoh's Gift into play, the easier it is to win. Therefore, the fastest decks in the format are the ones that provide the most problems. Multiple sideboard slots are devoted to shoring up those matchups.

The sideboard has countermagic against control decks, life gain against aggressive decks, and the Chandra, Torch of Defiance are great against midrange. The one card that stands out the most is Chaos Maw. This one is for the Zombies matchup. The White-Blue God Pharaoh's Gift deck has Cataclysmic Gearhulk as a way to sweep the board in case the opponent goes wide, Blue-Red God-Pharaoh's Gift doesn't have a card like that until you get to the sideboard. Chaos Maw can be brought back with God-Pharaoh's Gift and turn a game around in a way that no other card in the deck could.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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