Insider: Lincoln’s Modern Calls

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I'd like to think that this is Abraham Lincoln's calls, like the Great Emancipator has reached out from beyond space and time to tell us what to grab in Modern. How plain, then, that this is about the best cards to watch, to pick up, and to ditch in the wake of Grand Prix: Lincoln. Modern makes a lot of cards move in value. Doubt me? Boot up Black Lotus Project and look what happened to Proclamation of Rebirth, which was a bulk rare, a wisp of a memory from and old Standard set. Now, you can get $8-10 for the card, thanks to a deck that couldn't break out into the top tables of Lincoln.

Affinity and Jund are the Real Deal

Ignore the winning deck for a moment and let's look at these two. Affinity is a no-nonsense deck with Platings, Ravagers and Mox Opals. We know what it does. It's the Dredge of the format - nobody really wants to play this damn deck, but you have to respect it because it will beat you if you ignore it with your sideboard. There are few money cards in this deck that we don't already know about.

Jund is another respectable force because it can consistently make 2-for-1s out of every trade in its deck. Jund's whole spell list essentially cantrips, aside from super-efficient spells like Exterminate!. Jund's topdecks are always okay, meaning that a decent draw from Jund will punish a bad draw from any deck on the market. I would keep a weather eye on Kitchen Finks and Inquisition of Kozilek. No surprises here, obviously - we know these cards are good - but these are the kind of power staple uncommon that will be bread and butter for Modern for years to come. While the Modern reprint policy is theoretically liberal, do you see Kitchen Finks, with its set-based keyword, being reprinted? What about Inquisition? Its very name calls up a set-specific monster. If I wanted to be on the long game, I'd get both of these cards in quantity. I'm glad right now that I have a set of Finks - I feel like they are more vital than Tarmogoyfs in Modern!

Aggro Loam and the Dark Confidant factor

I don't respect Dark Confidant a whole lot. His presence usually means that I can't run cool spells like Dead/Gone or Boom/Bust. He exacts a heavy toll, but Bobby Digital saw a good amount of play this weekend. Both Jund decks ran the draw monster and Aggro Loam made excellent use of him. I sold my collection of Confidants awhile ago, and while I don't feel bad for doing it then, I see that they are a little more essential now than I had previously figured. Confidant is another card that I wouldn't ever bet on seeing reprints. You could put that guy in Rise of the Eldrazi and he'd still be a monster.

The big guys and the little guys

The central axis coming into this event seemed to be the question of whether little token anklebiters would beat big monsters. Would we see Lingering Souls tokens win, or would Primeval Titans seal things up? It's rough to gauge - the T8 had a Faeries deck, after all - but I'd put this marginally in the hands of the big monsters. Countryside Crusher is a big deal, for instance. In Bronson's deck, it triggers whenever you dredge a card. See a spell on top after cycling through all that? Bring that Darkblast back and grow your Crusher a little more. At $1.25 and in the home of the Prix-winning deck, Crusher will be popular. It's the card I'd call as the speculation target for this event.

Don't be so hasty to rule out the little monsters, though. B/W Tokens was a very respectable strategy, as was Soul Blade. That deck skipped Squadron Hawks for Lingering Souls and a black splash to catch the back end of the spell. Steelshaper's Gift means that you can make any Sword you need to. I'd also keep an eye on that Gift and plan to have access to them. They are getting  more and more popular, which means higher prices and scarcity.

The next-level bets for Modern

I'm inclined to bet against little monsters for awhile, which means that I want to put stock in Firespout, Night of Souls' Betrayal and Curse of Death's Hold. We saw Faeries do well and there were plenty of token decks just nipping at the T16. Plus, imagine how debilitating a Night of Souls' Betrayal is against an Affinity deck! The splash damage is incredible. I'd be inclined to run Curse in everything, but some Martyr decks pack Leyline of Sanctity, which means you don't have realistic targets. You can see that Bronson's Flame Jabs really went the distance - the field is very hateful toward tokens, because they are just so good. Also keep an eye on Zealous Persecution, which is currently $.25. I'm ordering a set today, because they are a total blowout in any tokens mirror. Brian Kibler called it a bedrock card in his Doran deck. These incidental uncommons are going to be worthwhile for a long time and we cannot count on reprints to carry low card prices!

In addition, isn't Shadow of Doubt looking even better? Aside from the Affinity deck, you can at least punk a fetchland from any of the other T8 decks. Picture Shadowing away a Gifts Ungiven from that Tron deck - you can stop Iona, even if you're monoblack! You can make a Birthing Pod fizzle and cantrip, you can blank Steelshaper's Gift... I'm loving this card. Ponderously slow Esper strategies make me sick in Modern, but this is the kind of role-playing card that would make those decks sing. If you can shut down a Gifts with this card, you've cast the world's best Calculated Dismissal.

Torpor Orb also looks pretty sly. It'll shut down the Iona combo as well as stop Birthing Pod combo and Twin. This kind of versatility is great, but I wonder if Grafdigger's Cage isn't simply better. I invite my readers to suggest why I should run Orbs over Cages with practical examples.

How to not lose to Aggro Loam

Granted, Aggro Loam is a real deck and I assume a lot of people will be trying it out. Confidant Aggro Loam, or CAL, from Old Extended, had fits and spurts of doing well. The deck could benefit from Mox Diamonds and Chrome Moxes for speed. This CAL is slow! It lacks Devastating Dreams for Armageddon blowouts. It just takes advantage of the lack of graveyard hate. That's why I think we'll see more Surgical Extraction and Extirpates. Recursive Raven's Crime is no issue if you can remove the Loams. Without a cohesive draw engine, Tarmogoyfs and Countryside Crushers are easily killed.

I'm not sure of the best hate against CAL. I like Withered Wretch and Loaming Shaman a lot, but Nihil Spellbomb will still make a lot of problems. Bronson's CAL list has only two Nature's Claims on the board to solve a Leyline of the Void, which would blank his whole deck. There are multiple ways to fight this kind of deck, which is a more focused Jund style, but you just have to commit to fighting it somehow.

Unfortunately, Faeries Exist

Yes, Faeries and their Cryptic Commands are still going to float around. Look, I don't see Faeries being able to shrug off Firespouts and Zealous Persecutions all day, but the deck is respectable. Mistbind Clique is a Time Warp and then some. Luckily, a lot of Faeries components are cheap. For example, Mistbind Cliques and Scion of Oona are relatively inexpensive to speculate on. This is the kind of deck that MTGO players go nuts about, so getting digital copies of those cards can be smart, too. I wouldn't invest heavily in Faeries because the deck is still largely unproven. It's not a sure thing like Jund is.

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I hope that this satisfies both the Modern junkie and rabid speculator. I'll be back next week with more set reviews, but I absolutely had to talk about Modern - I'll take any opportunity! There are some great uncommons to pick up and hold onto, along with underpriced rares. Get in while you can. Until next week,

-Doug Linn

3 thoughts on “Insider: Lincoln’s Modern Calls

  1. Boy, I was glad to see an Aggro Loam build make the bubble, let alone top 8 then first! Raven's Crime and Life from the Loam are two of my favorite cards of all time. I have a whole stack of foil Raven's Crimes from a while ago when I couldn't find ANY anywhere and had to resort to ordering the $.05 card online. To make the shipping worth it, I bought a bunch of $.25 foils. 🙂

    Anywho, I wonder how practical Worm Harvest would fit into the Loam build? It definitely has some negative synergy with Bob, but it is a great win condition and can be a forever-fog.

    Fighting the deck, standard graveyard hate seems to be just fine. Especially with Snapcasters floating around, Surgical Extraction would be a good card to bet on.

    I could see the deck adopting a more Legacy-centered approach with a replacement for Hymn somewhere… maybe in the form of the (slow) Blightning? Not sure on that one… But I am glad I picked up some Countryside Crushers and Seismic Assaults.

    And 25 foil Flame Jabs.

    I'm really liking Shadow of Doubt. It's like a cantripping Stifle in this format. Would that work as a "counter" against a Surgical Extraction in an Aggro Loam build?

  2. Shadow of Doubt would protect any copies you have in your library, but graveyard and hand are both still fair game; its all right, I guess, in that sense. Considering its "primary" use as a fetch-stifle, it might be good enough.

  3. One quibble:
    Torpor Orb does nothing against Iona. Iona's ability is an 'As it comes into play', just like Clone effects. It is not a trigger.
    There are many players who think they can respond 'with the trigger on the stack' to kill an Iona naming black. That's not how it works.

    I have wanted to play Shadow of Doubt, but I've never been able to in good conscience. DDT-dominated extended had a similar amount of search, and I wanted to include it there, too.

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