And they said Wasteland wasn't Modern legal! Ghost Quarter has been a poor man's Wasteland replacement for years, but with the recent rise of RG Tron, Bx Eldrazi, and other big-mana strategies, the Dissension uncommon is quickly emerging as a major police card in a format notoriously lacking the generic hate of Legacy. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the StarCityGames Open in Charlotte over the weekend. En route to his undefeated Day 1 performance, along with his Top 8 run, Josh Cho packed four of the lands into his BW Tokens maindeck. We also saw a Quarter as a singleton in the winning Jund list, as a pair in Cody Minnix's 6th place Abzan build, and as a one-of bullet in Todd Stevens' Naya Company 60. Quarter is no Wasteland, but it's doing everything in its power to make a good imitation of the Legacy staple.
We have a major pair of banlist pieces publishing tomorrow and Wednesday, leading with the Amulet Bloom piece I've been promising for weeks and following with a general prediction article. Our plan is still to roll out some more entertaining and fun Modern-themed content next Monday (not that Ghost Quarter isn't a deserted wagon full of laughs), so today's piece is going to be on the shorter side. We'll look at Ghost Quarter's general utility in Modern, how to best use it, and some representative lists that successfully wielded the land. For some of you, Ghost Quarter's profile will come as no surprise. For others, you've been looking for a big-mana-buster for weeks and Quarter might be the card for you. Either way, Modern is moving towards these decks and cards that hate them out, and Quarter is an important piece of that narrative.
Lining Up Targets
Although it's tempting to frame Ghost Quarter's relevance solely as a newfound development in response to big-mana decks, this undersells much of the card's utility. Quarter explodes key targets in a surprising array of matchups, whether it's ramp engines in RG Tron, midrange finishers in BGx, or aggro clocks in Affinity and Infect. Take our December metagame update as an example. Looking at Tier 1 decks alone, Quarter hits relevant lands in every matchup except Burn. That's the kind of multi-matchup relevance normally reserved for Spellskite and Inquisition of Kozilek, which should already pique our interest.
Here's a quick rundown of key Tier 1 targets Quarter can mow down:
- Affinity: Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus
- RG Tron: Urza's Tower, Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Eye of Ugin
- Jund: Raging Ravine
- URx Twin: Desolate Lighthouse and Cavern of Souls
- Abzan: Stirring Wildwood and Shambling Vent
- Amulet Bloom: Most of the deck (just don't hit the wrong card at the wrong time like 80% of people on camera...)
Now let's add to that some Tier 2 victims:
- Infect: Inkmoth Nexus and Pendelhaven
- Merfolk: Mutavault and Cavern of Souls
- Scapeshift: Early Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle drops
- Abzan Company: Gavony Township
- Naya Company: Stirring Wildwood and Kessig Wolf Run
- Bx Eldrazi: Eldrazi Temple, Eye of Ugin, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- Jeskai Twin: Celestial Colonnade
These specific targets are on top of the random mana screw Ghost Quarter can wreak on a fragile land setup. Timely Quarters can cut off the major three-colored decks from one of their colors, which is something we saw a few times (notably in Cho's BW Tokens matches) throughout the weekend in Charlotte.
This combination of general utility and matchup-specific relevance make Quarter one of Modern's strongest bullets. Lands tend to be unusually resilient in this format. It's no coincidence that BGx grindfests are often decided on manland immunity to Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay. Remember how many times we saw Raging Ravine put in work all weekend? Or how many times Twitch chat erupted into a chorus of "ATTACK WITH RAVINE"? Manlands win games, and the Charlotte Open was a testament both to their strength and the importance of answering them. These durable clocks were also a major contributor to Jeskai Twin's success at Grand Prix Pittsburgh, where Colonnade dramatically improved the BGx contest. By a similar token, many decks struggle against the Nexus fliers in Affinity and Infect, which lie dormant until the coast is clear before ending the game in a single hit. Or chiseling away with Signal Pest to close a match over a few turns. Either way, Ghost Quarter gives you an out that other decks might not normally have access to.
Of course, no Ghost Quarter discussion would be complete without mentioning the main reasons for running Modern Strip Mine: big-mana ramp. Interacting with RG Tron and Bx Eldrazi spells is often a losing proposition. Blight Herder still resolves a Hordeling Outburst if countered or killed. Turn four Ugin, the Spirit Dragon seals the game even cast turn four after a mulligan to five, something we experienced at least twice over the Charlotte weekend. Interacting with those kinds of cards after they hit the battlefield is generally unprofitable. Blowing up their enabling lands, however, is a much more effective attack angle. Just be sure to pair your disruption with pressure! Both Tron and Eldrazi have ample ways to draw or search into more lands: the latter can even cast their spells naturally as early as the mid-game. Add in a clock, however, and Ghost Quarter becomes an effective Strip Mine that should dash an opponent's chances on the spot.
Finding Quarter a Home
Modern has plenty of decks which can fit Ghost Quarter, and plenty more under-explored synergies which might find new relevance in 2016 (who doesn't want to live the Crucible of Worlds dream?). Ignoring the defensive uses of this card, notably Tron's self-Quartering to dodge Crumble to Dust, there are generally three ways you'll see Quarter in Modern. You can certainly innovate outside these lines, but most Ghost Quarter decks will fit into these categories.
Quarter's most common application is as a 1-2 copy inclusion in a 24+ land deck that doesn't have intentional Quarter synergies. Jund and Abzan are the most obvious representatives here, although we've also seen Kiki Chord, Naya Company (more intentional with Knight of the Reliquary), Grixis, and other decks leverage this strategy. Here's the highest-finishing Abzan list from Charlotte to show this setup.
In Minnix's setup, Quarter is just a metagame call dropped into a utility land slot. In another tournament, we might see those Quarters become Gavony Township, Vault of the Archangel, and/or additional manlands. Given the environment Minnix likely expected at Charlotte, however, Quarter was the more appropriate choice. You can follow this example in your own decks, ditching the more common manabase inclusions for a more contextual Quarter singleton or pair.
The second place we tend to see Quarter is alongside synergies that make it better. Death and Taxes, along with Hatebears, are the two major representatives in this category. Word for the wise: the main difference between these two decks is Flickerwisp, along with the presence or dearth of "When ___ enters the battlefield" effects. Both lists pair Quarter with haters like Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor to turn a virtual Strip Mine into an actual one. Here's Craig Wescoe's GW Hatebears build from his exciting Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Pittsburgh.
To some extent, this entire deck is a metagame call much like the 1-2 Ghost Quarters are themselves metagame calls in Jund or Abzan. That said, Hatebears and Death and Taxes are much better decks than they are often given credit, with plenty of context-specific power in cards like Quarter, Wilt-Leaf Liege, and Voice of Resurgence, as well as blanket hate in Path to Exile, Leonin Arbiter (fetchlands are just so ubiquitous), and Scavenging Ooze. These kinds of decks get much better when you play them to target subsets of the metagame, as Craig did at Pittsburgh, and Quarters are a huge part of that advantage.
Ghost Quarter's final home, and one we see less frequently, is in a mono or two-colored decks that can afford to jam in a Legacy-style, Wasteland-homage playset because the colorless mana doesn't affect their gameplan. Josh Cho's neat BW Tokens list is a perfect example of this, going all-in on Quarters because he has the curve and mana symbols to support them, and because they are sweet metagame calls in a Tron-packed format.
Cho's list highlights a few important prerequisites before you jam Ghost Quarter playsets into everything you build. For one, Cho is also playing the 24+ land manabase, just as we saw in the Jund and Abzan representatives rocking the Quarters. This ensure you can play one-drops like Thoughtseize, Inquisition, and Path while not worrying about missing a turn one play due to a bad draw. Second, BW Tokens has plenty of ways to capitalize on Quartered lands with all its flying clocks. Many are also ghosts, so bonus Vorthos points to Cho! Durdling after a Quarter often backfires as most opponents can still benefit from the fetched basic land to do something else. Finally, Cho doesn't assume Quarter alone will get the job done. He adds three Fulminator Mages out of the board, ensuring land destruction effects come online in those first three turns in matchups where it matters most.
These three lists are great starting points as you figure out more ways to incorporate Quarters into your own decks. And if you can find tricky ways to Quarter, like nuking your own Flagstones of Trokair to get access to black mana for Duress at a critical moment, shoot me an email and I'll give you a shoutout in the next article on this awesome land.
Overall, I want to see more Ghost Quarters in Modern. This card deserves to enter the police-card annals along with Decay, Thoughtseize, Bolt, and others as a primary format regulator, and I expect more players to abuse its strengths in the new year. How else do you want to see Quarter used? Where else is the card at its best? What are some dangers in using it? I'll be responding in the comments and I'll see you all tomorrow when we dive into bans, the 18th announcement, and the cards likely to get the axe.