Bolt-Snap-Bolt: The Best Plan in Modern (Video)

Feature Article from Riley Knight
Riley Knight
12/15/2017 3:00:00 PM
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It's no secret that flashing back removal spells with Snapcaster Mage is just about the best thing you can do with it in Modern. And even with Fatal Push running the streets, Lightning Bolt remains a powerful, flexible, and above all cheap piece of action to combine with Snapcaster. It's always a savage pleasure to watch an opponent's shoulders slump when you Bolt-Snap-Bolt them during their end step, as they know their doom is imminent.

Just think about that value for a second! Four mana: deal six, summon a 2/1. Leveraging such insane value and swinging the tempo of a game in your favor at instant speed is more or less the most powerful thing Snapcaster Mage can enable.

If you're about that Bolt-Snap-Bolt life (and if you're not, I suggest you take a long, hard look in that deep, truthful mirror) the question remains: What's the best shell in which Snip-Snap can get it done? Right now, a range of interesting Blue-Red lists present themselves, so let's see what weapons are in this particular arsenal.

Jeskai Tempo

The current marquee deck that exploits the old Bolt-Snap-Bolt is of course Jeskai Tempo, sometimes referred to as Jeskai Geist. We've discussed this deck before—last week I suggested it wasn't the best choice for the Modern GP weekend. Well, I tell you what. As soon as I've finished recording this video I'm going to sit down at the dinner table and eat a big steaming bowl of my own words. This deck did very well in Oklahoma City especially, with a number of Top 32 appearances.

Why is this deck the best Bolt-Snap-Bolt deck? The absurd amount of pressure put on by Geist of Saint Traft, backed up by clean and efficient interaction, means that 6'ing them during their end step is often the last thing they'll see before the lights go out. Spell Queller works double shifts as both pressure and interaction, and makes Supreme Verdict look pretty bloody silly. This deck shifts gears at the speed of light, going from defensive interaction to all-out aggression thanks to the versatility of its burn spells.

The main deck is pretty well set in stone, although we saw some interesting innovation with Mantis Rider making an appearance in some starting 60s over the weekend. The sideboard, however, is a completely different beast—it can be tweaked and tuned to beat almost anything. This deck is powerful and flexible, and attracts skilled players due to the many critical decision points that open themselves up as early as turn one. You're never dead in the water with Jeskai Tempo, and opponents at precarious life totals will live in fear of Tiago coming down to Bolt them to oblivion.

Jeskai Control

Despite Jeskai Tempo being the best deck to cast Lightning Bolt as Richard Garfield intended—which is to say, pointing it straight at the scone. Slower Jeskai decks are lumbering their way across battlefields, grinding opponents out by playing the value game like no other. These slower lists have been juiced up recently with the addition of Search for Azcanta, and rely on bigger cards like Ajani Vengeant and the Snapcaster Mage 2.0, Torrential Gearhulk. Typically the Bolt-Snap-Bolt in these lists looks a little different, as it'll be used for board control rather than going face, but nonetheless this powerful interaction is still doing work.

Why is this deck the best Bolt-Snap-Bolt deck? Rather than trying to play both sides of the court like its faster little brother Jeskai Tempo, Jeskai Control focuses on doing one thing and doing it as strongly as possible. This list wants the game to go as long as possible before cleaning up with expensive haymakers like Secure the Wastes and Sphinx's Revelation. Using Bolts and Helices to control the board—and then flashing them back with a Snip Snap or big Terrance the Torrential Gearhulk—will get the job done no worries.

The real power of this deck is in its lands. Not only does it use Celestial Colonnade to take out the trash, Desolate Lighthouse and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin makes it very difficult to run out of fuel. Given that this list is not on any kind of real creature plan, Azcanta really is at its very best: Flipping it is not difficult given fetch lands and cheap spells, and untapping with it should mean you're very close to getting across the line. Although slow and lumbering, Jeskai Control makes excellent use of the power of Bolt-Snap-Bolt, pushing through to the late game and overwhelming opponents on card advantage and quality.

Blue Moon

Path to Exile is a critical removal spell when hustling in a format overrun by everything from Death's Shadow to Primeval Titan. Why would you ever give up playing white? As any Blue Moon player will tell you, playing straight Blue-Red in Modern opens up Blood Moon as an option—and playing a three-mana card that often is unofficially errata'd to “You win the game.” is pretty sick. Blood Moon keeps 'em honest by curtailing buckwild mana bases. If you've never played as the Fun Police, you're missing out.

Why is this deck the best Bolt-Snap-Bolt deck? The number of free wins you get from mooning your opponent on turn three means that a quick flurry of burn spells is all you really need to lock it up once and for all. Failing that, you're playing the best in red and blue interaction—and these are all cards which reward tight, precise play. You're never really out of it while playing Blue-Red decks like these, and Tiago will often close things out by dinging them down bit by bit.

There's a new and exciting finishing option these days, however. Through the Breach has traditionally been seen in Red-Green (oh look, I'm a poet and wasn't even aware of it), but recently it's been appearing as an instant-speed finisher in Blue-Red. This makes a lot of sense, given the instant-speed nature of more or less the entire deck, and there's very little that opponents can do against an end-of-turn Emrakul, the Aeons Torn being flashed in. Given Blue-Red's traditional weakness when it comes to finishers, this new Breach finish is a great way to tie up a game once it's been wrestled under your control.

Jeskai Breach

If the Jeskai shell offers the best in disruptive interaction and late game staying power, and if Blue-Red innovation offers an instant-speed finisher that will end the game on the spot—well, in the words of the famous philosopher, "porque no los dos?" Jeskai Breach made the Top 8 at GP Oklahoma City in the hands of Patrick Tierney, and for good reason. With the standard suite of Jeskai interaction plus the overwhelming finishing power of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Jeskai Breach has everything you need to bring it home for team rock and roll.

Why is this deck the best Bolt-Snap-Bolt deck? Innovation can steal games. One of the problems with Jeskai Tempo is the fact that it's a known quantity, as now canny opponents will respect the clock and preserve their life total. Jeskai Breach, as a relative newcomer, means that you will often catch your opponent off-guard with a flashed-in Emrakul. But if that's not the case, and they play around it, then you've always got Bolt-Snap-Bolt as a fallback position. And what a fallback position it is!

It's too early to say if this incarnation of the Jeskai shell will stick around. Jeskai Nahiri, the Harbinger was something of a flash in the pan—a rather long and somewhat blinding one, but the Harbinger ultimately proved she didn't have the staying power. The same might be true of Through the Breach, but it's still in a terrific position to have you celebrating some wins. The instant-speed nature of this finishing combo synergizes so strongly with this deck's overall game plan. When playing against a Jeskai opponent, it's worth remembering that five open mana could result in you eating a big bowl of spaghetti a lot earlier than you'd like to.

But that's it! That's all she wrote today, sports fans. These are the best shells that can utilize one of the most powerful interactions in Modern. Bolt-Snap-Bolt is and will remain a potent, instant-speed tempo play, often closing out tight games that would otherwise be very hard to win. Any Modern player worth their salt will know to respect these cards, or will pay the price for not doing so! That's it for this week—thanks for hanging out with me, and I'll see you next time.

Riley Knight

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