A Journey Into Modern

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As you walk down the the path away from the town, you find yourself filled with a sense of joy at all the fond memories of seasons past. The road to get you where you are now was arduous but the tribulation was worthwhile. Heading down this path feels more like returning to a previous time with a different perspective on life. It is almost as if you are a time traveler sent back into the past to explore the area. You have learned much from your time in the town of Standard but your dedication has led you to this heading to see what is going on in the newly formed kingdom of Modern. You have heard stories of creatures and spells that were too powerful for the realm so the ruling council of Wizards banished them forever, but you still wanted to venture to this new area and see what it's all about.

Confidently, you plod down the road. Knowing that you can summon your friend Melira, Sylvok Outcast at any time with your trusty Chord of Calling eases your fears. She teams up quite nicely with her friends Kitchen Finks and Viscera Seer to make your life total impenetrable. She even has a secret weapon that no one knows about yet. Recently she made friends with a Bloodthrone Vampire and a Nantuko Husk. Luckily you are the only on who knows about your secret Birthing Pod development. In the distance, you see the Deep Forest Hermit you are looking for that will get you where you are going a little faster.

After passing through the Deep Forest Hermit you come upon a clearing where you can see the Horizon Canopy. At the edge of the Razorverge Thicket you spot the Overgrown Tomb you were looking for. Passing the Godless Shrine, you head over to the Verdant Catacombs. Once there, you discover the Woodland Cemetary. Interesting, you think to yourself, maybe there is some thing to be learned in this Woodland Cemetery? Something is missing though. There is no Treetop Village or Stirring Wildwood in sight. There must be a mistake, you think as you head back out towards the path.

You exit quickly through the Leechridden Swamp and when you come out on the other side, the kingdom of Modern awaits. What will you find there? There are so many possibilities. So many avenues to explore and exciting adventures  are waiting around every corner. Tread carefully though, the Kingdom of Modern is a dangerous place. You won’t last long unless you are thoroughly prepared.


Creative writing exercises aside, I did learn a lot about Modern this past weekend. On Saturday, I headed over to one of the local shops with some friends and some Modern decks. We sat down for a small fourteen person modern tournament. Though we did not have a large number of players, all of us are PTQers so the event was definitely competitive. I am not sure the metagame was representative of a typical event but it does show how diverse the format is. Take a look at what decks were played.

2 Affinity
2 White Weenie
1 Burn Zoo
1 Merfolk
1 Mono Black Vampires (always at least one random deck)

1 Death Cloud
1 Black Blue Green Control
1 Doran Rock

2 Blue Red Storm (though both different versions)
1 Melira Combo
1 Through the Breach/Tooth and Nail

My journey into this new land of Modern was quite interesting. Four rounds and four different decks, not that that’s different from any other tournament for me, but other players don’t typically face this kind of diversity regularly. With Wild Nacatl getting the axe, you can clearly see the metagame is open for many other aggressive options. Even the Doran deck could be considered an aggro deck, though with the amount of removal spells he played I thought it better classified as control. I actually had quite a difficult time deciding which deck to play. Between my friends and I, my deck choice was pretty flexible. The one deck I wanted to play but did not have all the cards for was not as competitive. It did seem fun to make a bunch of tokens and try to get Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play from Windbrisk Heights or Jalira, Master Polymorphist.

Anyway, take a look at the deck I ended up playing.

Untitled Deck

The first thing to know about this deck is, although it plays like an aggro control deck, it is really a combo deck. That may seem obvious but it still throws players off when I start attacking aggressively with Kitchen Finks and using Gavony Township to pump my creatures. Dryad Arbor not only functions as a sac target for Birthing Pod to find Viscera Seer, just searching for it if you need another attacker or blocker is a good plan. The creature toolbox I put together was aimed at a specific metagame that I expected and it will be changed for every event most likely.

As noted above I went with the combo set up of two Viscera Seer, one Bloodthrone Vampire, and one Nantuko Husk. To my knowledge, I am the first to take this step forward in the deck. Not only does it give you targets for Birthing Pod at different spots in the curve, it allows for you to win instantly if you only have Kitchen Finks because your creature is infinitely large. That is something not to be underestimated.

I was surprised at just how good this deck is at prolonging the game against any deck but Affinity. Unless you can destroy the Cranial Plating, they are typically too fast for you to beat in the first game. Even against burn zoo, I was able to prolong the game long enough by stalling the ground and gaining some life. It is important that when you are playing against a fast aggro deck like zoo and other similar decks that you focus on survival rather than the combo. If you can combo, great, but otherwise, make sure you can live to draw some more cards. One of the best tools against them is Chord of Calling because you can respond to their winning burn spell and gain some life. Small things like that are the difference between winning and losing these matches.

One of the most important parts about this deck is the one of creatures that it runs. Take a look at the important bullet creatures:

I have been so impressed with Thrun in Modern. He is amazing against almost every deck. Not only does he always resolve against control decks, but he also is an unkillable wall against aggro decks. This is a spot that most likely won't ever change. You don't really ever want him against combo but that is because you are more concerned about getting your combo or disrupting theirs.

I really like both of these creatures as basically a catch all for messing with your opponents hand. These two in addition to the Inquisition of Kozilek/Thoughtseize will do a reasonable job of disrupting your opponent.

Playing Ethersworn Canonist was a metagame call. I expected a bunch of players to be jamming Storm decks so I wanted this hate card maindeck. With only two decks like this at the event, I do not think it was the right decision. It turns out that I didn't have to play against it, but if I did, it would have helped a lot. Typically I do not expect this narrow hate creature to be included main deck, but rather in the sideboard. Against Storm and Jund this is a great card to bring in. Can you imagine responding to Bloodbraid Elf with Chord of Calling to search up Ethersworn Canonist so they can't cascade?

Overall this card did not perform well for me. Eternal Witness seems necessary but it never really did much for me and I never searched it out with either of the tutors. I imagine in other matches where they have a lot of removal though, Eternal Witness would grab you whatever piece you need from your graveyard.

Most builds play this catch all Disenchant main deck and I should have done the same. If I had this bullet main deck, I think I would have beaten Affinity game one because I would have been able to blow up his Cranial Plating.

I don't think anyone is onto this tech yet, but it played well for me. The versatility of this copy machine is quite amazing. It does everything from copying a life gainer to killing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. If there is room, this creature adds a lot of versatility to an already versatile deck.

I am not exactly sure how many four mana creatures the deck can support, but I was thrilled with how this type of creature performed. Originally I thought that Loxodon Hierarch was the better of the two because it could regenerate your creatures, but since that never came up, I am wondering if Obstinate Baloths ability to be played for free when you get Blightninged might make it the front runner.

Despite not having Grave Titan in play at any time during the four rounds, it may still have a place in the deck. There were a few times that if my aggro opponent had not conceded, my next target to search for was going to be Grave Titan. Remember, if you draw the titan, you can play him on turn three if you have two mana accelerators. It may be that running a titan is just overkill and the spot would be better served by something else.

Overall this kill spell is crucial to this deck. You certainly never want it against Affinity, a sad realization, or most combo decks, but just about everything else, it is amazing against. It buys a lot of time against any deck trying to win in combat because it blows up a creature and blocks another one. Don't forget also that it can kill Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Deciever Exarch at instant speed with Chord of Calling.

Speaking of Chord of Calling, the card is seriously nuts. It is definitely the card that makes this deck function. Birthing Pod is alright at best, and I think three is the right number not four, but I was unimpressed with it to tell the truth. At most spots in your mana curve, you have one or two options to get. Usually you are getting combo Pieces but there are definitely times when you have nothing to get based on what you drew that game and what creatures are on the board. Honestly I am not even sure that it belongs in the deck. Right now, the deck is sort of build around this card but I am not sure that it needs to be. I was wondering, while pondering Eternal Witness's place in the deck, if building this deck around Gifts Ungiven instead of Birthing Pod might not be the better plan. Grabbing Worm Harvest seems amazing against any creature based deck and my thought is that Gifts Ungiven with any pile including Eternal Witness might let you set up your combo easier than the unwieldy Birthing Pod. A final note on a possible version like this would be to possibly including Noxious Revival and or Unburial Rites as part of the package as well.

Despite not mentioning Wall of Roots or Spellskite, both of these creatures are essential to winning aggro matches. They are huge blockers that really tie up the ground so you can do what you need to do. Wall of Roots gives you mana with out tapping, which honestly feels broken, and Spellskite protects your combo as well as disrupting burn spells and generally causing your opponent grief. Siding out the walls against a control deck seems reasonable as well.

The event:

Now that we have discussed the deck in detail, what actually happened at the event?

Round 1: Burn Zoo

Zoo in general is a match I consider favorable, but it is close and a misplay can earn you a loss. This version played a bunch of good one drops including Grim Lavamancer, Goblin Guide, Loam Lion, and Kird Ape. It also played Hellspark Elemental which was incredibly hard to deal with since I drew no walls. Game one I never found lands so turn four he killed me easily. Game two and three were a grind that ended with me finding multiple Kitchen Finks, Loxodon Hierarch, and Eternal Witness. That was all it took game two and then I was able to start attacking. Game three the life gain just stalled until he was forced tapped out due to his low land count. With no available mana, and I could respond with Chord of Calling to find the combo with no worries about Grim Lavamancer ending my first round.

Round 2: BUG Control

This was a very interesting round that showed the true power of Gavony Township. He killed or countered my threats for the first handful of turns but I really kept kind of a horrible hand. Turn four I top decked Gavony Township and that really turned the game around for me. I started putting counters on my Birds of Paradise to get some damage in before I drew more threats. The turn after that I searched for Dryad Arbor while attacking with the innocent looking bird. If you still are not convinced about how good Gavony Township is he proceeded to bounce the Birds of Paradise because it was dealing him too much damage and then smothered the Dryad Arbor. This is a perfect example of how grindy the control match is but usually you should end up on top. Game two I boarded out a Birthing Pod and all four Wall of Roots so I could bring in more threats. I didn't really need anything more than the Thrun the Last Troll, though I did have to use Eternal Witness to get it back after he cast Choice of Damnations.

Round 3: Affinity

Game one was basically over in less than five minutes. I think he killed me on turn three or four with Cranial Plating on his Vault Skirge and Galvanic Blast to finish me off. I was prepared though. Not only did I have Harmonic Sliver to tutor up, I also came with a Creeping Corrosion or three. I don't think I have seen a player so devastated as when I cast the one sided Akromas Vengeance. I have my board and you don't get to have yours anymore? Yeah, kinda rough. It was even funnier that I didn't need it to win game two. This was the one game I had a really solid hand and he did not draw any of his burn to break up my combo. Linvala, Keeper of Silence did help stall for a second also. Game three Creeping Corrosion destroyed all of his hopes and dreams and earned me a quick win. As a side note, normally I would play a Kataki, Wars Wage but he is pretty vulnerable to removal. Three spots might seem like a lot for Affinity specific hate, but it really is that good. Winning consistently on turn three or four is nothing to mess around with.

Round 4: Through the Breach

For some reason I was completely confused about what he was playing and this caused me to lose sight of how I might win this match. In retrospect, I think this is a pretty favorable match. You have cards that can stop Emrakul, the Aeons Torn until you can get your combo together. Infinite life is not enough against this deck though so don't waste your time. One attack with annihilator six coming at you is enough to end any plans you have to win the game so make sure you don't die if you can't combo.

Final Thoughts:
There are a couple lands that are really important in this deck. Make sure you include Gavony Township in your list. Not only does it get rid of persist counters, it pumps your walls so they trade with opposing creatures, and it provides a very difficult card for control decks to deal with. In addition, I think the deck does need Stirring Wildwood, Treetop Village or both. The deck really needs the ability to grind out control decks and this would be another way to make this happen. If you want to play this deck, decide which decks you are aiming to beat and set up your main deck with the bulltets to do so. Sideboard thoroughly. Make sure you remove all of the cards that are not necessary in any given matchup. This is generally easy to do because you don't actually want cards like Ethersworn Canonist against Zoo for example. Even though it can be decent, there are much better things you can bring in to solidify this match. Overall, this is one strategy that is controlling enough and aggressive enough to be playable in this metagame. Maybe in a couple weeks I will have a sweet Gifts Ungiven Melira Combo hybrid deck to tell you all about.

Until Next Time,

Unleash that Modern Force!

Mike Lanigan

MtgJedi on Twitter

5 thoughts on “A Journey Into Modern

  1. Love your Modern deck choice, as I also have Melira built. You have many creative creature choices to act as “silver bullets”, but no Aether Vials. This is an interesting choice, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on this decision? I am currently running 4 Vials in my build, but drawing them in duplicates is often very unfortunate. I may cut the number to two, but I still like playing my creatures in an uncounterable, instant-speed manner.

    1. Honestly I have not found counters to really be an issue. Sure you get something cryptic commanded from time to time but overall counters are pretty lousy in modern because of the speed of the format. I never thought vial would be right for this deck. Interesting thought though. If you water the deck down with too many things like vial as well, you are lessening your threat density which honestly is already kind of light. In my opinion, this is not a deck for vial.

  2. I included dragonstorm in the blue red storm decks because they essentially run the same way with all the rituals into a storm spell. In theory you should be able to beat them the same way also. I the Through the breach deck did beat me to take 1st though.

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