Modern Innovations and Tech to Know

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
8/25/2017 11:01:00 AM
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I have been so focused on Standard lately as seemingly every Grand Prix in America has been Standard! But today I want to shift gears and recap on what has been going on in Modern. Hour of Devastation hasn't had a huge impact on the format, but that doesn't mean that you can't find old cards that may have been forgotten about and see if they fit in your favorite deck. Modern is a format that doesn't necessarily need tools from a new set to change the format, going deep enough into the huge card pool Modern has to offer often means finding something that others may have overlooked.

Eidolon of the Great Revel vs. Shrine of Burning Rage in Burn

I want to start with my favorite Modern deck here, because this is still something I'm trying to take in, and that is the fact Loic Le Briand was able to win Grand Prix Birmingham after cutting Eidolon of the Great Revel for Shrine of Burning Rage.

This is baffling as many players including myself have long considered Eidolon of the Great Revel to be one of the most important cards in Burn. There are certain matchups like Blue-Red Storm, for instance, where it is almost unbeatable if left in play. I have not yet come around to the idea that cutting Eidolon of the Great Revel is correct, but there are reasons for doing it. Modern has started to introduce more big-mana decks that can ignore Eidolon of the Great Revel, and at that point it can hurt you more than the opponent. A deck like Eldrazi Tron can have draws where they don't play any cheap cards that trigger the Eidolon. Then again, when we turn to other decks that have been doing well though, we still see lots of spells that cost three or less.

Decks like Scapeshift and various Collected Company strategies have their most powerful cards that cost more than three, but still need to play lots of cards that are cheap, especially in the case of Collected Company. In Modern you can't afford to sit during the first three turns of the game, so it is really only in the case of big mana decks like Tron, and to some extent Living End, that can try to ignore Eidolon of the Great Revel. This leads me to believe that while there may be matchups it is correct to side out Eidolon of the Great Revel, it is still a worthy inclusion in Burn.

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Perhaps Shrine of Burning Rage is a strong enough card that it should be considered over a burn spell? Like Eidolon, Shrine of Burning Rage is at its best when played on the second turn of the game, so it could be that you want one or the other based on the matchup (some copies could be sideboarded). Players don't actually have a ton of artifact removal, and if they do it's not necessarily being brought in against Burn. The fact is that the Shrine of Burning Rage is capable of getting completely out of hand and killing the opponent almost single-handedly.

Once a Shrine of Burning Rage is in play, the Burn deck can actually play a long game and start pointing Burn spells at opposing creatures. We saw a this strategy used by Loic in the finals of Grand Prix Birmingham, and it worked out beautifully! I have been impressed with Shrine of Burning Rage, and currently have a Burn list with three of both Eidolon of the Great Revel and Shrine of Burning Rage in the main deck, and the fourth of each card in the sideboard. Both are high-impact two-drops and you may want one or the other based on the matchup.

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Jeskai Goes Aggro

The next deck I want to talk about is a Jeskai deck, but not your typical control build of this color combination.

Steppe Lynx is a card we should see more of in Modern, considering it is a four-power creature for one mana if you play a single fetch land for the turn. That is one heavy hitting creature! Of course, Steppe Lynx isn't a great draw in the late game, but the same can be said for pretty much any other one-drop as well. Mantis Rider is pretty much the best aggressive creature the Jeskai colors can muster, and there are even some Lightning Angel here to up the theme.

I like that this deck is proactive, as there are plenty of decks that will punish you for sitting back too long. For instance, versus Tron decks this Jeskai Aggro deck will be much better set up than a Jeskai deck with fewer creatures. Spell Queller is just perfect here because it is going to clock the opponent while being a counter of sorts in many matchups. Even better, Spell Queller isn't actually countering the spell it targets when coming into play, so it is able to get around Cavern of Souls, a very scary card for these sorts of blue decks.

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Humans Take on Collected Company

In Modern, it is possible to make changes to a specific color pair or archetype and put your own unique spin on it to create a new deck. This is one example of that. Many players know about new and old versions of Abzan Company or even straight Green-White Company, but it is Humans Company that seems to be surging in popularity.

There are plenty of ways to build around Collected Company, but one way is to play a bunch of creatures of the same tribe. This version is green-white based, but splashes a bit of blue and black as well. I have even seen versions that play red for Magus of the Moon. Noble Hierarch and Avayn's Pilgrim make it easy to have enough mana to dump out your hand very quickly, and there are a couple of tribal payoff creatures. Thalia's Lieutenant is one most players are familiar with, but Champion of the Parish is important too. Champion of the Parish can grow to be humongous, and Mayor of Avabruck also provides a way to make these Humans more threatening.

There aren't too many Modern decks that are simply going wide with small creatures and hoping to win that way, and that is part of what makes this deck unique. That said, the deck can transition towards a Hatebears sort of deck when you look at some of the more interactive threats here. Sin Collector is able to pick apart the opponent's hand, while Reflector Mage takes an annoying creature off the table for a little while. Both versions of Thalia are Humans and provide ways of impacting opposing plays. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, in particular, is very good in this sort of deck because of how few non-creature spells it plays.

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It's nice to see a Collected Company deck that isn't trying to assemble some sort of combo, and just aims to maximize its synergy through having creatures that are the same type.

Titanshift On the Rise

While Humans Company is one of the hot up and coming decks, it doesn't compare to the results Titanshift has been putting up lately. Titanshift has been a deck in Modern for quite a while, but now it is more popular than ever. While the deck may not seem like it has changed a ton, there is an Hour of Devastation addition to this one.

The deck plays many of the cards we are used to. Primeval Titan plus ramp spells like Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder will always be in any sort of Scapeshift deck. The big addition is Hour of Promise, which is both a ramp spell and a way to find Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Previously there wasn't a good ramp spell that could find non-basic lands like Valakut, but now the deck isn't as reliant on six and seven-mana plays. Once you have a couple Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, it becomes much easier to kill the opponent without landing Primeval Titan or resolving Scapeshift.

Now that the deck is able to play Hour of Promise, Prismatic Omen becomes much more impressive. One of the big reasons Prismatic Omen is good is that it turns Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle into a Mountain itself. You can search for two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle with Hour of Promise and deal 12 damage as a result. Prismatic Omen is almost like another ramp spell, and this deck would play more if they were not so bad in multiples. This version also plays graveyard hate in the main and sideboard to accommodate for decks like Dredge.

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The Return of Infect

With Modern seemingly shifting toward midrange alongside slower-but-consistent combo decks, perhaps this opens the door for a deck like Infect to enter back into the format. Infect is one of the few decks that Titanshift is actually scared of. It seems like there is less removal, and with Eidolon of the Great Revel potentially disappearing from Burn decks I expect to see more Infect. Typically Infect is green-blue, although now that Gitaxian Probe is gone we are seeing lists that are adding black and succeeding.

The black is for another threat in Plague Stinger. It makes sense that Glistener Elf isn't that great right now, as there are Collected Company decks that almost exclusively are playing ground creatures. I like the choice of Plague Stinger, but I'm not sure about Disrupting Shoal. Disrupting Shoal is very high variance, and isn't a card that is typically seen in Infect. I believe there is a way to build a strong version of Infect that uses some of the ideas here, and I like having more card filtering by having Sleight of Hand in addition to Serum Visions.

Blue Steel

The last deck I want to talk about is one that still isn't that popular, but that may be due to players not having tried the deck, because boy can it do some powerful things. Zac Elsik (of Lantern Control fame) put this on the map, and named it Blue Steel after a strong finish at Grand Prix Las Vegas.

With a Grand Architect in play this deck can make a ton of mana, and if you aren't casting spells you can use the excess mana to put counters on a Walking Ballista. Walking Ballista is actually just perfect in this deck. With cards like Chief Engineer and Etherium Sculptor it becomes easy to cast expensive artifacts like Wurmcoil Engine. These creatures are also blue, which is great because of Grand Architect. The Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer provide some more interaction for what the opponent may be up to, and this deck can and will continue to surprise many opponents.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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