Brew Report: Further Down the Spiral

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Now that the maniacal calls for banning Bridgevine have subsided, Modern players and observers alike are free to gaze once more at the format's incredible diversity. In this week's Brew Report, we'll take a look at novel interpretations of Jund, Delver, and Zoo from online leagues.

Once You Go Jund...

I know a few Jund players who will always play Jund. They played it before Bloodbraid Elf was banned, while it was banned, and when it was unbanned. Although Abzan Traverse seems to be performing more consistently in online Modern leagues, some players just won't put down Jund, and the archetype's even seeing some innovation.

If It Ain't Broke, Put It in Jund

Faithless Looting and Bedlam Reveler have carried Mardu Pyromancer head-and-shoulders above other black midrange decks in Modern, with the highly reversible Grixis Shadow the lone exception. BLADEDE thought to add this engine into Jund.

What's missing? For starters, Dark Confidant and Bloodbraid Elf. These two creatures have long buoyed the strategy alongside Tarmogoyf, but now only the green creature remains. Reveler adds the card advantage element back into the deck, and Looting is a significant upgrade to Confidant in terms of raw velocity. Scavenging Ooze remains as incidental graveyard hate and a randomly huge creature, while Pia and Kiran Nalaar introduce a go-wide element to attack opponents from another angle while providing removal and reach.

Other notable changes include the Liliana split, perhaps preferable with Looting to find the right one (or a combination of both), and the streamlined sideboard. I feel like this sideboard is probably untuned; its numbers are just so blocky for Jund. But of course I'm a fan of the lone Huntmaster of the Fells. Hunt takes over the game unanswered, as Confidant once did in this deck, and eats creature matchups alive.

Have You Seen This Walker?

Here, Bloodbraid Elf makes a triumphant return—interestingly, without Liliana. Instead, Chandra, Torch of Defiance holds down the planeswalker slot. But Chandra isn't a cascade hit, making Bloodbraid worse on average. Since this deck tops out the curve with Glorybringer, yet another cascade miss, I assumed Sarkhan, Fireblood would make an appearance; even Stormbreath Dragon's in the sideboard, along with 4 Leyline of the Void, a card pilots love to loot away.

Taking the place of expected three-drops is Goblin Chainwhirler, which is surely the reason to play this build of Jund. Unfortunately, I'm strapped for specifics as to why. Noble Hierarch decks aren't ultra-popular right now, and Affinity seems to be trending Hardened. The most convincing reason I can come up with is Lingering Souls, by any standard an irritating card for Jund to deal with... albeit one they've adopted an elegant answer to in Liliana the Last Hope, a card absent from this list. Young Pyromancer, another primer threat from Mardu Pyromancer, also bites it to Whirler. But if anyone has more insight about this deck, I'd love to hear it!

Never Flip

Delver of Secrets has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts since Jeff Hoogland's 13-0 performance with UR Wizards at SCG Indy. These new Delver lists keep Wizard's Lightning but ease up on expensive, reactive, blue instants, a trend I can get behind.

But Literally

When DYLAN93 heard UR Wizards was viable in Modern, he wasted no time in assembling a squad—including Ghitu Lavarunner, a Wizard Goblin Guide, and even Adeliz, the Cinder Wind to benefit further from staying on-theme. All that flavor-winning translated into an actual 5-0.

Mutagenic Growth saves every creature here from Lightning Bolt, as well as from the plethora of other toughness-based removal options currently patrolling Modern (Collective Brutality, Electrolyze, etc.). And every Wizards player knows the value of Lightning Bolt, since they all run eight of them. While slower than Humans, Wizards lines up favorably against aggro's boogeyman, as its heavy removal suite excels at picking apart creature synergies.

If Eight Bolts Are Good...

ALICE1986_'s take on UR Delver trades in DYLAN93's synergy elements not for Hoogland's permission, but for Burn's reach. Lava Spike is the chief addition here, and gives the deck more of an aggro-combo bent, as well as improving the reach plan against removal-heavy strategies. Grim Lavamancer also makes a comeback, both to cover for Spike against creature decks and to add more burn in general.

I noticed couple interesting things about these Delver decks. For one, despite not splashing a third color, they don't run Blood Moon. That's because they have other lines against both midrange decks and big mana strategies, namely murda-ing dem. Moon is simply too slow.

Second, they each run a bare-bones instant/sorcery count, ranging from 21 to 23. Most other Delver decks seem to be following suit. That's as low as we've seen the count in Modern since the pre-Return to Ravnica days. Folks are catching on to Delver's value as a lightning rod in decks with a critical mass of juicy targets. When it dies on site, the creature doesn't have to flip right away, and these decks are built to maximize Delver even if it takes a couple upkeeps to give up its Wizard status.

Back in the Zoo

With aggro performing so well, it's no surprise the king of aggro decks has reared its head, albeit in some unconventional forms.

Value... the Goodstuff Way

Todd Stevens put up a surprise 5-0 with his first run of Naya Traverse, a deck apparently suggested by a stream viewer. He didn't drop a game.

This deck disoriented me at first glance, but after a few test runs of my own, I started to understand its components. Rift Bolt and Vexing Devil may seem like sub-par burn spells, but they fill a critical role in getting much-needed card types into the graveyard. Devil is particularly exciting in this role: opponents that let an early Devil resolve are bound to kill it quickly, while removal-light opponents are likelier to take 4 damage on the nose. Devil even comes back for Rallier against linear decks that don't fill the graveyard with targets. The creature therefore ends up a better Lava Spike.

For its part, Rift Bolt is a worse Lava Spike against those same decks without removal. But it's significantly better in creature matchups, which are plentiful nowadays. Rift lets pilots double up on Bolt effects to supplement the significantly weaker Seal of Fire. Seal, too, has its uses; besides providing the enchantment type for delirium, its sacrifice ability teams up with Mishra's Bauble to easily trigger revolt on Renegade Rallier.

Speaking of Rallier, that's the card that makes this deck tick, and the reason to play it over a more proactive aggro deck like Goblins or Bridgevine. Essentially a Snapcaster Mage for creatures, Rallier's at its very best in removal spell matchups, where it ideally revives a Voice of Resurgence or Tarmogoyf opponents have already spent considerable resources removing. Against control and graveyard combo decks, bringing back Scavenging Ooze can also prove fatal. And with Traverse in the picture, Rallier squeezes extra activations out of single-use bullets like Qasali Pridemage and Remorseful Cleric, giving pilots access to those niche effects multiple times in game 1.

In linear matchups, Rallier still has a role, increasing aggression either with Vexing Devil or by buying back a fetchland. More mana means more plays, and when the plan is cast everything fast and kill them first, another Windswept Heath can't hurt.

I wonder if this deck doesn't have too many bullets. Street Wraith in particular seems superfluous to me. In dire need of a noncreature, nonland card, Traverse becomes a Phyrexian cantrip, but I don't see that scenario arising often; if it's present for delirium purposes, I'd rather just have Tarfire, or even a fourth Seal. The sideboard bullets seem fine, though, especially Phyrexian Revoker, which neutralizes both enemy planeswalkers and Krark-Clan Ironworks.

Splashing a Zoo

Landfall Scapeshift isn't a new deck by any means—the deck looks the same as it did in 2016, when Jeff Hoogland ported an Extended shell into Modern to take 3rd in a StarCityGames Classic. Old decks occasionally doing well is no huge surprise in Modern, but I am surprised this time around.

The format has changed significantly since 2016. Fatal Push punishes players for sinking resources into creatures that cost two or less, such as Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede; combo decks are faster and more resilient; hosers abound, namely Damping Sphere.

So how did Landfall Scapeshift score a 5-0? Dumb luck? Or is the deck secretly well-positioned in this metagame? To its credit, the deck attacks from two totally independent angles, but the enablers on each side don't have much tension. Landfall creatures plus Boom probably does a number on big mana. And Scapeshift can cheese midrange decks. All that might just be enough!

Never 2 Much

Let me know your thoughts about these brews in the comments. And if something caught your eye that I didn't mention here, feel free to share that, too; I had to pick and choose which brews to share today because I found so many. Until next week, remain vigilant in this dynamic Modern!

2 thoughts on “Brew Report: Further Down the Spiral

    1. I have been playing it twice a week at my locals and so far have 3-1’d every time! Still looking for that 4-0. It’s definitely fun, if also definitely way less good than Eldrazi.

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