Roses are red, violets are blue—it's time for another Report About Brews! This (day after) Valentine's Day, we'll take a look at some of the exciting developments Modern has seen this month, and present each deck alongside its significant other: another deck that's somehow related. In the words of a certain heart-shaped candy, LET'S GET BUSY!
Nothing says "romance" like good ol' fashioned steadfastness. At least, that's the tip these star-crossed Modern standbys are on. We'll start with the format's most storied aggro strategy: while they've come a long way from Fatal Frenzy targeting Atog, everyone's favorite robots apparently still have a bit of Frenzy left in them.
Frenzy Affinity takes a decidedly different route from that of casting a three-mana Temur Battle Rage. It relies on Experimental Frenzy to restock after deploying its hand. Veteran readers may recall my dismissing of Frenzy as a worse Precognition Field, which itself sees no play despite my own attempts to tame it. But between plenty of 0-drops, just 17 lands, and its snowballing, play-to-the-field mentality, Affinity seems like a perfect home for the red enchantment.
Frenzy vies for precedence over Affinity's other colored spell options, which include Master of Etherium and Thoughtcast. It's closest in role to the latter. In a format always interested in accessing powerful hate cards post-board, I like Frenzy's promise to tear through the deck once players untap with it.
Even though Affinity's seen its shares decline significantly as Modern has become more weaponized, with Hardened Scales-based artifact decks cutting deep into its shares, I wouldn't dismiss Frenzy Affinity outright. The same build was also quick to post a 5-0 listing after its Challenge performance, which itself put two copies into the Top 32.
Benthic Merfolk also puts a new spin on an old classic, dropping Cursecatcher and Merrow Reejery for some of the flashier tribal additions from recent sets. As a one-drop, Benthic Biomancer seems significantly better than Catcher in the mid- and late-game, offering some immediate card selection and featuring built-in bulk. A potential 2/2 in this slot has worked for Merfolk in the past, and Biomancer has way more utility than Kumena's Speaker without even demanding a splash.
On paper, Catcher seems better than Benthic in the early-game. But that's only true for certain matchups. Most decks will happily pay a mana to destroy Catcher, and are fine casting their removal spell before deploying a creature after turn one. The decks with big instants and sorceries to resolve are few and far between in Modern, and the really juicy ones (i.e. Ad Nauseam) come out of decks that should lose to Merfolk's hate cards anyway.
Speaking of hate cards, this new build will have a hard time losing to combo at all with all its permission. My new beau Spell Pierce joins a full set of Deprives to prevent opponents from doing much while Vial deploys threats. The sideboard compliments the stack interaction with hosers.
If there's one thing Modern's known for, it's speed. If there's a second? The format's powerful creatures. Modern has always been defined by removal for the reason that creatures tend to dominate at a given top table. February introduced us to a couple creature-based newcomers.
First on our list is Mardu Aristocrats, which by now has scored multiple 5-0 records. David's RNA spoiler review wondered about Judith, the Scourge Diva and Teysa Karlov in the deck, and the former seems to have revitalized it. The other new card here is Tithe Taker, an unassuming Human perhaps best known for its recent 9-0 at GP Toronto in a Soldiers deck.
Judith indeed does a lot for Aristocrats. She gives the deck access to some built-in removal with her triggered ability, punishes opponents for interacting and enables combos à la Blood Artist, and makes the strategy more proactive on the whole with her static anthem effect. Cheap beaters like Champion of the Parish and Bloodsoaked Champion look far more appealing with Judith in the picture, as they now represent serious clocks. And as is true of many white aggro decks, Aristocrats gets to run the color's infamous hosers in the sideboard.
Gruul Vial is another novel aggro deck with multiple placings. This deck uses Vial not for tricks, but purely for mana, helping pilots empty their grip as soon as possible. Eidolon of the Great Revel and Scavenging Ooze provide incidental disruption, while Tarmogoyf (6/7 here thanks to Smuggler's Copter discarding funky card types) brings the beats.
Also bringing beats is Gruul Spellbreaker, subbing in for the too-expensive Bloodbraid Elf. While the card underwhelmed many Modern players during spoiler season (me included), its versatility is proving potent in practice; Spellbreaker has even shown up in the little-seen GR Eldrazi. Against Bolt decks, Spellbreaker is another hard-to-kill threat, and it eats unprotected planeswalkers no-questions-asked thanks to its hexproof clause. Forcing Path to Exile during an opponent's main phase also seems decent.
On the utility end of things, Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler keeps the cards flowing against anyone trying to one-for-one the deck, teaming up with Copter for a slow-and-steady filtering engine. And Goblin Cratermaker makes its Modern debut, hopefully destroying anything from Chalice of the Void to Pteramander to Thought-Knot Seer. I'd love to pick the pilot's brain about the roles this card plays in the deck.
Poly Wanna Cracker
Why love one when you could love two? Or... three?! That's what these engine-courters asked themselves this Valentine's Day, coming up with some impressive Frankenstein decks in the process.
Arclight Goryo's takes the Goryo's Vengeance combo (in its original form here, exactly one year ago) and... doesn't go all-in on it. What Modern player goes all-in anymore? These days, successful decks attack from multiple angles. MANMOL decided to make his second angle of attack the most winning angle in the format: Arclight Phoenix.
Of course, both Phoenix and Vengeance utilize the same resource: the graveyard. And there's plenty of hate for that running around, too. Fortunately, the sideboard works to offset this pitfall, with enough copies of Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror to be running the full 4 against creature decks and practically a playset of Crackling Drake to laugh at any Rest in Peaces. With Thing being so popular in Modern, Threads of Disloyalty also seems like promising tech.
Hollow Shadow Vine seeks to right the wrongs I made with Hollow Bedlam Shadow, my own experiment in engine-mashing. Bedlam Reveler proved tough to support in my shell, but Vengevine fits right in as a more proactive plan. This deck is all about putting huge creatures into play really fast, and it runs the three beefiest free guys in Modern.
Only the most critical enablers are kept: Insolent Neonate and Cathartic Reunion, which support One and Vine, and Street Wraith, which supports One and Shadow. Greasing the wheels of course is Faithless Looting, the best enabler for this style of deck and one of the most powerful in the format. Without Goblin Lore or Burning Inquiry, Hollow One will often cost a mana, but that's still a bargain for a 4/4.
All This Chocolate
Despite Arclight Phoenix apparently dominating the tournament scene, leafing through lists of 5-0s still evokes the whimsical joy of choosing treats out of a Whitman's Sampler. Modern's got plenty of variety for everyone, so take your favorite playset by the sleeves and get ready for
Date Friday Night Magic!