Feature Article from Seth Manfield

Wacky Modern Decks

Seth Manfield

5/20/2015 11:02:00 AM

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I wanted to go ahead and write an article about a few of the more obscure Modern decks out there right now. This does not however mean the decks aren't competitive, in fact most have been putting up strong results recently. Modern is such a vast and diverse format that it really is difficult to cover all of the different strategies the format has to offer.

To start, here is a deck based around one of my personal favorite cards, and anyone who was playing Standard during Mirrodin block should be familiar with this one: this is Uegjo's 4-0 Tooth and Nail list from MTGO:

Tooth and Nail by Uegjo (4-0)
Main Deck
1 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
3 Eternal Witness
1 Primeval Titan
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Voyaging Satyr
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
Creatures [17]
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Nissa, Worldwaker
Planeswalkers [4]
2 Harmonize
4 Overgrowth
3 Primal Command
4 Tooth and Nail
4 Utopia Sprawl
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
Spells [18]
11 Forest (262)
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Stomping Ground
2 Windswept Heath
3 Wooded Foothills
Lands [22]
Deck Total [61]

1 Ancient Grudge
1 Blood Moon
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
2 Choke
1 Creeping Corrosion
1 Feed the Clan
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Nature's Claim
2 Nylea's Disciple
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Scavenging Ooze
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

This may look similar to a Monogreen Devotion list, and honestly it could also be classified as Monogreen Devotion, though there is only a single copy of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and zero Burning-Tree Emissarys. This deck has an absurd amount of mana ramp so it doesn't need to play something like Tron pieces to produce mana, there are a full eight Fertile Ground type effects to go alongside the Arbor Elves and Voyaging Satyrs, which can untap those enchanted lands. Once you have access to nine mana the kill condition is casting Tooth and Nail with entwine in order to put into play Xenagos, God of Revels and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, then you win essentially on the spot when attacking with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

There are some four and five mana cards which can present threats themselves, and allow you to survive long enough. Primal Command is one of those cards that can be effective in many different ways because of its versatility, but my personal favorite mode is just returning one of the opponent's noncreature permanents to the top of their deck, and then searching for an Eternal Witness to repeat the process. The Garruk Wildspeakers can put on an Arbor Elf and Voyaging Satyr impression, or just become a win condition by making creatures and overunning them. The deck is an enjoyable one to play, and can combo on turn four pretty reliably.

So, moving onto another sort of combo deck: Dredgevine. After Golgari Grave-Troll was reintroduced into the format the consensus has been that this deck is just not quite good enough, especially with cards like Scavenging Ooze running around. With that said there are very few people who have actually looked into the deck extensively, as there are some different possible builds, and this list which Legion273 has been finding success with is quite unique:

Dredgevine by Legion273 (4-0)
Main Deck
2 Bloodghast
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Gravecrawler
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Vengevine
Creatures [26]
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Darkblast
4 Faithless Looting
1 Gnaw to the Bone
3 Grisly Salvage
2 Murderous Cut
Spells [14]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest (262)
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp (256)
4 Wooded Foothills
Lands [20]
Deck Total [60]

4 Ancient Grudge
1 Damnation
2 Gnaw to the Bone
2 Golgari Charm
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Spellskite
3 Thoughtseize
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

The card that really stands out in the maindeck here are the Gurmag Anglers. It makes sense to put dredge and delve cards in the same deck, and that is what we are seeing. This deck is simply a beatdown deck with a very fast clock, and the Gurmag Anglers also help return Vengevine as they are generally a one mana play. Also of note is this deck is mostly just straight black-green with a small red splash for Faithless Looting. This makes the manabase much more consistent, compared to other versions of Dredgevine, and you don't need to play the mana creatures anymore.

While it is true that there are only four dredgers, Grisly Salvage is one of the best ways of finding what you need and putting creatures into the graveyard. In fact, I'm surprised there are only three copies of Grisly Salvage. Faithless Looting and Lotleth Troll allow you to discard the Golgari Grave-Trolls so while it may seem like the deck needs a lot to come together, everything seems to work out a surprising amount of the time. This version of Dredgevine is absolutely worth looking into, as it has a lot going for it.

Taking a break from combo decks, let's talk about control. Wait, control in Modern? Outside of the Jeskai decks, which aren't seeing much play, there are actually very few straightforward Control decks in Modern. Here though is what a good Blue/White Control deck looks like, played by panadbaer_1234:

UW Control by panadbaer_1234 (4-0)
Main Deck
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Restoration Angel
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
Creatures [9]
1 Gideon Jura
Planeswalkers [1]
4 Cryptic Command
3 Mana Leak
4 Path to Exile
4 Serum Visions
3 Spell Snare
1 Sphinx's Revelation
3 Spreading Seas
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Wrath of God
Spells [25]
1 Calciform Pools
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island (253)
1 Mystic Gate
2 Plains (250)
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Tectonic Edge
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]

3 Aven Mindcensor
1 Baneslayer Angel
2 Celestial Purge
2 Disenchant
2 Dispel
1 Dragonlord Ojutai
2 Negate
2 Timely Reinforcements
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Cutting the burn spells from the Jeskai Control shell makes the deck even more controlling, as burning the opponents out is no longer an option. However this does allow you to play a few more creatures, and there are nine here. Kitchen Finks seems to be particularly well positioned at the moment, as it is the best possible card to have against the aggro and burn decks, and here it works quite nicely alongside Restoration Angel. In fact Restoration Angel also works well with the Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Cliques. Besides these creatures there is also a Gideon Jura, and of course the Celestial Colonnades to help finish the game off.

One card that really stands out is the Spreading Seas. The intention is to color screw the opponent or just shut off a problematic nonbasic land, but either way Spreading Seas can be very disruptive. Alongside three copies of Tectonic Edge the opponent will have to be very careful when managing their lands, or they could just end up being mana screwed out of the game completely. Some of the cards should seem like pretty obvious additions, and that is because these controlling cards have already been proven to be successful. It seems like all blue decks now have just gone ahead and added four Serum Visions whether or not they are combo oriented. As compared to other controlling decks this deck plays three Wrath of God effects, which may seem like a lot, but do good work even when you have a creature like Kitchen Finks already in play.

 Gideon Jura
Store QTY Price  
Visions Cards 3 $0.53
ReadyMadeGaming 1 $0.57
The Game Shoppe 1 $0.60
Land In Front 1 $0.62
Six Feet Under Games 1 $0.63
Six Feet Under Games 1 $0.63
BlackLotusGo Games 7 $0.65
JMJ Games 1 $0.67
Battlegrounds Games 1 $0.69
Pro MTG Shop 1 $0.69
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Gideon Jura Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Continuing with the Blue/White Control theme, this past weekend was the MOCS Championship and one of the formats was Modern. Shintaro Ishimura went ahead and played Blue/White Gifts Tron. There are of course a variety of decks which include the Urzatron, but in the current metagame this is the one that seems to be the best positioned. Signets don't see much play, but here in Blue/White Tron being able to produce both colors of mana is very important. In fact I think there should be four Azorius Signets in the deck. The Azorius Signet helps ramp to four mana which can allow you to cast a sweeper off Gifts Ungiven a turn earlier. The classic Gifts Ungiven package is to actually just go for two cards which include the Unburial Rites and either the Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, or the Iona, Shield of Emeria. This allows you to Reanimate one of the large white creature the next turn. Of course there are plenty of other choices for targets with Gifts Ungiven, as Ishimura has included a number of singletons with the card in mind.

There aren't many four-ofs in the deck, but there are four copies of Thirst for Knowledge. This is a very powerful card draw spell that doesn't see much play because there are very few blue control decks with enough artifacts to make Thirst for Knowledge good. Here being able to filter through the deck is a luxury, and there is even an Academy Ruins which can bring back, say, Mindslaver to create a hard lock. This deck does have a lot going on so it takes repetition with it in order to gain a better understanding of all the lines. For true control players I do recommend a blue and white shell, whether it is one of these two lists or perhaps something different.

Now I am going to post a list that popped up of Blue/Black Mill designed by erlidd:

U/B Mill by erlidd
Main Deck
2 Consuming Aberration
3 Hedron Crab
4 Snapcaster Mage
Creatures [9]
4 Anticipate
2 Crypt Incursion
4 Dissolve
1 Essence Scatter
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
4 Hero's Downfall
3 Mind Funeral
2 Mind Grind
3 Negate
2 Thought Scour
Spells [29]
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Island (253)
4 Polluted Delta
6 Swamp (256)
4 Watery Grave
Lands [22]
Deck Total [60]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

This deck may not be a finished product but Blue/Black Mill actually does have potential as a competitive deck. Glimpse the Unthinkable is a very powerful magic card and Snapcaster Mage makes it so you are essentially playing up to eight Glimpse the Unthinkables. At the moment players are thinning their decks more with fetchlands and search effects like Collected Company, which makes milling more realistic. However milling is not usually a fast clock, so choosing effective controlling elements which draw the game out is key. Hedron Crab is a nice addition, though perhaps there could be more fetchlands to go alongside it. I wouldn't mind seeing a card like Shelldock Isle in the deck to have a way of finishing off the opponents library. Oftentimes you will lose when coming close to milling them, but coming up a little short.

Blue/Black mill is not a top tier deck or anything but it is certainly enjoyable to play with, and it would be sweet to see the deck do well in a big event. Another deck looking to break through is White Prison, here is the list of blackhawk23x:

White Prison by blackhawk23x
Main Deck
4 Wall of Omens
Creatures [4]
2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
2 Gideon Jura
Planeswalkers [4]
1 Banishing Light
4 Ghostly Prison
1 Heliod, God of the Sun
2 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Nevermore
4 Path to Exile
4 Runed Halo
4 Sphere of Safety
4 Wrath of God
Spells [28]
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
1 Mistveil Plains
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
13 Plains (250)
1 Tectonic Edge
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]

2 Auriok Champion
1 Batterskull
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Suppression Field
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Prison is perhaps the most classic answer deck that exists. The deck aims to answer everything the opponents is doing and win the game slowly. With combo decks being so popular right now Prison could actually be well positioned. Even naming Collected Company with a Nevermore is pretty strong. A deck like Splinter Twin has a lot of trouble fighting through all of the different hate in the Prison deck. Traditionally the problem with Prison is that the games tend to go long, as you don't have very good ways to win the game on your own, and some of the hate doesn't do anything in certain matchups. Sometimes it comes down to whether you draw a specific enchantment that is needed for a specific matchup, but Nevermore and Runed Halo in particular seem strong right now. I am a bit surprised to see Wall of Omens and it is probably unnecessary. With both Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety the likelihood that the opponent will be attacking with ground creatures with less than four power is pretty unlikely, but it may save some damage in the early turns.

The last deck I am going to talk about is a deck that popped up on Magic Online played by Alchemisxt, and that is Unburial Loam:

Unburial Loam by Alchemisxt (4-0)
Main Deck
4 Borborygmos Enraged
1 Vengeful Pharaoh
Creatures [5]
3 Liliana of the Veil
Planeswalkers [3]
4 Faithless Looting
2 Flame Jab
4 Life from the Loam
4 Lingering Souls
4 Mulch
3 Raven's Crime
4 Unburial Rites
Spells [25]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest (262)
1 Godless Shrine
2 Graven Cairns
1 Mountain (259)
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains (250)
1 Raging Ravine
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp (256)
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Temple Garden
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Windswept Heath
Lands [27]
Deck Total [60]

2 Abrupt Decay
2 Ancient Grudge
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Golgari Brownscale
2 Pyroclasm
1 Ray of Revelation
3 Seismic Assault
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

I know that Raphael Levy has been advocating for Life from the Loam strategies for a while, though this one is a bit different. The deck simply wants to get a Borborygmos Enraged into play and then win by throwing Lightning Bolts in the form of lands at the opponent. When this deck gets the Life from the Loam engine going it's great, though there will be games where you don't get an early Life from the Loam going. With Faithless Looting and Mulch you will find what you need eventually. The deck can win and stall with Lingering Souls spirits as well. The endgame should involve the opponent just trying to topdeck, as Raven's Crime can just empty their hand. Overall graveyard based strategies definitely have potential assuming there aren't a lot of hate cards running around.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield