July in brewing? More of the same. More copies of Unearth, to be sure. And more of what's become known as Modern's calling card: novel experiments bursting with hot tech. Today we'll look at some of the month's breakout strategies: Elemental tribal, White Weenie, and the return of old-school Miracle Grow.
Unearth continues to make waves in Modern, now as part of an Elemental-recurring engine.
BR Thunderkin represents a natural evolution from the BR Unearth lists we saw cropping up a few months ago. Such decks were already abusing the hard-hitting three-drop core of Seasoned Pyromancer, Lightning Skelemental, and Unearth, and were bound to integrate Thunderkin Awakener once M20 dropped. This build in particular closely resembles the June lists, but with Thunderkin seamlessly weaved in alongside a set of Ball Lightnings to draw extra value from the newcomer.
More streamlined builds are also appearing:
This take on BR Thunderkin cuts right to the chase, Unearthing only the baddest creatures available and employing Thunderkin itself as a Skelemental machine. In a topdeck war, value chains can begin from any link—Dreadhorde flashes back Unearth which targets Thunderkin which reanimates Skelemental, and Seasoned Pyromancer digs pilots into a chain-starter, helping BR topdeck extremely well.
The Pyromancer-Skelemental-Unearth package isn't exclusively relegated to Elemental shenanigans now that M20's been released, though. It's also proven strong enough for the Hollow One deck, where it surfaced in a 5-0 before launching the deck back into metagame with a Challenge finish.
One of Magic's oldest and most beloved archetypes, White Weenie has never had much success in Modern. We've even covered promising builds on Modern Nexus, only to see them retreat into the maelstrom. Now, the archetype is starting to rear its head in Modern, but not thanks to Force of Virtue, a card we've already seen splashed into Zoo to impressive effect. Rather, White Weenie owes its sudden relevance to a certain overlooked Elephant Cleric.
White Weenie plays out a bunch of cheap, white beaters and hopes for the best. It's no wonder Modern hasn't been kind to the strategy. But things start to look up when the deck's hopeful creatures tap to summon Venerated Loxodon.
The 4/4, besides providing sheer bulk itself, permanently grows an assault à la Thalia's Lieutenant in Humans. As White Weenie goes wider, and faster, than Humans, Loxodon ends up adding much more power and toughness than the Soldier—especially considering mana doesn't need to be spent on it. Pilots can instead empty the rest of their hand, then tap the team for Loxodon and set up a very rapid clock.
Kuldotha Weenie offers a novel take on the strategy by melding it with Kudoltha Rebirth, the card helming another of Modern's age-old fringe decks. 0-mana artifacts, creatures or otherwise, pump out Loxodon even faster; in lieu of the Elepehant, Martyr's Soul acts as a Tarmogoyf of sorts, offering an impressive body for little- to no-cost. With Martyr in the picture, players are less likely to wind up with dead Ornithopters and nothing to convoke for.
For years, I called my thresh tempo decks "grow" decks. Not that they aimed to grow their creatures, per se—those creatures entered the battlefield large enough. The name came, rather, from the heritage of the threshold archetype, which once employed Quirion Dryad as its primary beater. Chaining cantrips and sequencing disruption, the original grow decks sought to attack each turn with a progressively larger creature until destabilized opponents were defeated.
Quirion Dryad is far from a playable Modern card; Tarmogoyf, its spiritual successor and cross-format supplanter, has made sure of that. But what if it started with an extra point of power? And had flash? And was blue? Gro-a-Tog-ers, never fear: to find out, Brineborn Cutthroat is here!
Jeskai Grow operates much like a Jeskai Tempo deck should, although Brineborn seems a fair improvement over other threats Jeskai has turned to in the past. It doesn't require tapping out, unlike Geist of Saint Traft; it doesn't carry a narrow casting window, as does Spell Queller. It also applies heaps of pressure if not dealt with. Another flash creature, Spectral Sailor, shows up here as a mana sink and card advantage engine.
Grixis Grow takes a leaner, slower approach, appearing closer on paper to the threat-light Gro-a-Tog decks of old. There's resultantly more value here, from Fact or Fiction to Kolaghan's Command, and less reach to close out the game with. Once opponents are exhausted of resources, Brineborn comes down and stands up tall to finish the game quick; it may also drain those resources in the early- to mid-game if allowed to flourish for long enough.
Last up is Temur Grow, which splashes not for Quirion Dryad or even Tarmogoyf, but for Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells! Long a pet card of mine, Huntmaster can take over creature matchups by himself, and at four copies is a highly reliable plan. Thought Scour is another instant-speed cantrip to support Brineborn, and this Temur shell funnels the extra binned cards into Magmatic Sinkhole, a card fast becoming the breakout removal spell of Modern Horizons.
One thing all these Brineborn decks have in common? Their reliance on red, or more specifically, on Lightning Bolt. There are few better instants in Magic, let alone in Modern. Being castable at any time and eminently flexible, Bolt is exactly the kind of card an aggro-control deck like Grow wants at its fingertips.
20 Brews a Day
Okay, 20 might be an exaggeration. But the fact stands that M20 and Modern Horizons have injected a metric ton of new blood into the format. Next week we'll round out our July brew report with even more sweet tech from the MODO annals.