Editor's Note: Paul Nemeth (Zwischenzug on MTGO) is the 2013 MTGO Constructed Player of the Year and can boasts the highest overall win percentage on MTGO ( as tracked by mtgstats.com). He started grinding about 3 years ago with 75 tix and, thanks to a ton of grinding, winning and a few good investments, his collection is now worth several hundred times that. He recently won a MOCS event to secure his POTY trophy.
I have a Modern brew for you guys today. I wanted to find a home for Bitterblossom that was neither Faeries nor B/x Tokens. I view the card as a powerful 2 mana Planeswalker although it's slow and costs a lot of life over the duration of a game. It's also difficult to answer, attacks, blocks, provides card advantage, and can take over a game all by itself. Many of the decks that have attempted to use this Tribal Enchantment have drawn on the popular and proven Lorwyn-Alara Block strategies, but there are other ways to win games with Bitterblossom.
Although it had elements of control, Faeries was an aggressive (though reactive) deck and B/W Tokens was undeniably aggressive. In contrast, a control deck can slow the game down to allow Bitterblossom sufficient time to generate a huge quantity of tokens. Control decks like to blank opposing removal, and often skimp on creatures to achieve this. Unfortunately, they still need a way to win the game. Aside from the bit about losing life, Bitterblossom is exactly the kind of threat I want to play in a control shell. Since the tokens can also block attacking creatures, it can function as a kind of Forcefield effect, potentially creating a net gain of life.
Grixis Bitterblossom Control
Note that between Bitterblossom, Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, Snapcaster Mage, Creeping Tar Pit, and Cryptic Command (to tap down blockers) you can actually close out a game pretty quickly. For instance, on your opponent's end step, cast Lightning Bolt, then Snapcaster Mage and Bolt their face again. On your turn, untap and activate Creeping Tar Pit. Attack with it and Snapcaster for a total of 11 damage. Now imagine you've been sitting behind a Bitterblossom, accruing tokens all along. Now imagine that your opponent is probably playing a healthy amount of Fetch and Shock lands. Most control decks don't care about the opposing life total until they have the game locked down, but this build can come out of nowhere with a huge burst of damage. Keep a close eye on your opponent's health and make sure you know when to switch into aggressive mode.
I wanted to make the mana base relatively painless to support Bitterblossom, but due to Anger of the Gods, Cryptic Command, and Terminate that didn't really seem possible. Desolate Lighthouse is key in draw-go matchups such as UWR Control and Splinter Twin, as it allows the deck to loot through the matchup's dead cards (such as Anger of the Gods. 4 copies may be 1 too many in the main deck, but the card is disgustingly good against Zoo and Pod, which I expect to be frontrunners in the post Ban/Unban Modern format. It exiles Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks, and maybe even Wurmcoil Engine with a little help. Pyroclasm and Drown in Sorrow don't make the cut because the presence of Wild Nacatl requires main deck sweepers to do at least 3 damage these days. Batterskull provides lifegain to survive Bitterblossom, but it mostly exists to be the ultimate endgame against decks that play fair in Modern. Think Twice is in the sideboard because I really don't want it against most decks, but it is great against Liliana of the Veil and the slower matchups. The deck looks weak to Blood Moon. If your opponent is likely to have it, try to draw Mana Leak, fetch basic Islands early, and pray to your deity of choice.
Sideboarding Against The Field
This not a bible so you should always be looking to improve on it.
IN: +2 Grafdigger's Cage, +4 Nihil Spellbomb, +1 Volcanic Fallout, +1 Shadow of Doubt
OUT: -1 Batterskull, -1 Devour Flesh, -3 Terminate, -1 Desolate Lighthouse, -1 Cryptic Command, -1 Bitterblossom
IN: +4 Fulminator Mage, +1 Think Twice, +1 Dispel, +2 Nihil Spellbomb
OUT: -4 Anger of the Gods, -3 Terminate, -1 Devour Flesh
Note that Fulminator Mage is not meant to be used as a Stone Rain. It's usually best to attack with him until they use removal or activate a Celestial Colonnade.
IN: +1 Dispel, +1 Think Twice, +1 Volcanic Fallout, +1 Shadow of Doubt
OUT: -4 Anger of the Gods
Maybe keep Batterskull in since you can play it under Blood Moon and there's a good chance they cut combo pieces for a fair plan. Be very careful about actually casting Batterskull. Patience is key.
IN: +4 Fulminator Mage, +1 Shadow of Doubt, +1 Think Twice, +3 Nihil Spellbomb
OUT: -4 Anger of the Gods, -1 Batterskull, -1 Devour Flesh, -3 Terminate
It's not that Nihil Spellbomb is in any way good, it's that the other cards are really bad.
With the Modern Pro Tour only a few days away, it will be interesting to see if any of the competitors decide to field a deck like this. It is highly probable that Bitterblossom will show up in force over the weekend; precisely what role it plays and what company it keeps remains to be seen.
Feedback is important to me, so please start the discussion with a comment!
Zwischenzug on MTGO