Black-Red Madness (Videos)
Adapting and playing with new cards in Modern is always exciting, and one of the reasons why the format has been on a recent upswing. New decks in addition to buffers to old strategies seem frequent over the last year or two. We've even seen some decks like Grixis Shadow dominate out of nowhere, despite the entirety of the deck existing for years now. Modern is ripe to be busted open with sharp lists and new cards.
Hollow One piqued my interest the moment I saw it printed. For that Pro Tour, I spent a healthy portion of my time building a Black-Red Madness deck that utilized Cathartic Reunion and Haunted Dead to make free or one-mana Hollow Ones. While it didn't work out to be quite powerful enough, imagine my surprise when I saw a similar deck ported into the Modern format. There are many different ways to build a Hollow One deck, and black-red seems to be the most fair way of doing so, forgoing playing Vengevine. This can't be good, right?
While this may look an unfair deck that may not be quite on par with the other unfair decks of Modern, it actually plays out much like a Zoo or Burn deck. All your threats are hyper-efficient at zero or one mana, but hit quite hard rather as opposed to more typical Zoo creatures. Other than Flameblade Adept, your creatures dodge or shrug off most of the typical removal spells. This resilience, coupled with eight burn spells and a handful of card selection, create quite the consistent beatdown strategy.
Your goal in almost every matchup is to get just underneath the opponent with cheap creatures. That way, you have time to dig through your deck for additional pressure as you find more cheap creatures, haste threats and burn spells.
One of the key functions of the deck is learning to appropriately use Burning Inquiry, Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion. Inquiry is quite the random card – you need to identify spots where to use it and how to maximize its usefulness. If you are light on land, you generally want to play out a fetch land prior to casting it, even if you are holding onto a Hollow One. In a similar fashion, sometimes it's correct to hold up on deploying a land to give you added chance to hold onto an important threat (most of the time this is an Angler or Hollow One you really want to keep).
This deck can operate on two lands, and three is enough to do anything. With all of the discard, I almost always discard my third land with Cathartic Reunion. Faithless Looting is similar, but since you have the flashback it's much less painful to keep a land and then draw into more. Fetch lands are important to hold up when casting Faithless Looting or Burning Inquiry as they allow you to both madness a Fiery Temper or trigger landfall on a Bloodghast. It's important to not be afraid to cast Burning Inquiry – It's in your deck as most of the time it will help you tremendously and will not aid the opponent. Situations will arise where you feel bad about it after the fact, but don't let this tilt you or you might be afraid to make the right play in the future. In the end, it is disruptive for them more often than it helps them. That said, it's important to know where the line is, if you're ahead are quite ahead and you don't need to cast it to win, simply loot it away or don't cast it.
One of the strengths of this deck is that you also are using the graveyard, but not so much that Grafdigger's Cage, Relic of Progenitus or Surgical Extraction really stop you from that much. On numerous occasions, I have had opponents keep weak hands that contained Grafdigger's Cage and easily beaten them. Even Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void aren't unbeatable, as you can still cast all of your spells or loot bad ones away.
Black-Red Hollow One his doesn't do anything insanely well, but it is a well-rounded package. It is hard to disrupt and play against, like many of the best Modern decks tend to be. It also has some crazy nut draws, just like many of the best Modern decks.
- Steve Rubin