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June ’19 Brew Report, Pt. 2: Out in Force

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Last week, we began taking stock of the novel decks appearing in 5-0 dumps post-Modern Horizons. With a ban in the books and M20 entering the card pool, the coming weeks are sure to feature even more upheaval. But lots of new tech is already out in force. Perhaps June's innovation bears signs of what's to come.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

A number of midrange decks have benefited notably from Modern Horizons, and now stand only to improve without Hogaak combo forcing them to sideboard playsets of Leyline of the Void.

Temur Twin embraces the midrange role uncomfortably forced onto Splinter Twin decks with the banning of their namesake enchantment. Rather than for Tarmogoyf, though, the deck adopts green for Wrenn and Six, a development I wholeheartedly approve of. Wrenn ensures pilots never miss another land drop, a critical benefit for a deck shooting to hard-cast a five-mana creature as early as possible. Raging Ravine and Lonely Sandbar give Wrenn some extra dimensions in terms of land recursion, and further diverts opposing resources, buffing Twin's classical gameplan.

Hexdrinker Jund is the most recent in a long string of BGx developments. Seasoned Pyromancer and Wrenn and Six have happily joined the Jund cast, and from the dumps seem to position Jund as the frontrunner among BGx decks.

Other lists are foregoing Hexdrinker, but the creature does seem potent in this shell—BGx has always struggled against faster decks it can't adequately disrupt, namely Tron; the 2/1 lets them pressure those strategies from out the gate while scrambling to sequence interaction. In fair matchups, the creature maintains relevance as a mini-Progentius.

Despite what they might be saying at the LGS, Mardu Pyromancer seems alive and well; this build has clocked multiple 5-0 finishes and Top 8ed a Modern Premier. It integrates Seasoned Pyromancer to flavorful results. On the strategic side, Monastery Mentor joins Young Pyromancer as copy number five. Unearth surfaces as a way to get back into the game after a token-maker is removed, and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician replaces Bedlam Reveler as top-end payoff.

The Cat's Meow

Zoo decks also seem to be performing well online, with a range of GRx decks putting up numbers.

Vanilla Zoo gets its name from its stock appearance—here's a Zoo deck that looks exactly as I'd expect a Zoo deck to look in 2019. Joining the jungle ranks are Ranger-Captain of Eos and Hexdrinker, the latter searchable by the former. Ranger can also find Hierarch, for when exalted might help break a board or threaten lethal, or Nacatl, for when mana is tight. Bloodbraid Elf serves as board-widener extraordinaire, and is best when hitting Ranger.

Three-Drop Zoo also employs the Ranger/Hexdrinker combination, as well as a slew of other three-drop plays—Gruul Spellbreaker I understand, the Ogre having surfaced even in GR Eldrazi, but Woolly Thoctar certainly strikes me as suspicious. And what does the 5/4 replace? None other than Zoo figurehead Wild Nacatl!

There may well be more to this build than its epic cascade hits, though, as H0LYDIVER has also enjoyed success with it. In any case, Collector Ouphe looks great as a mainboard answer to both Altar of Dementia and Thopter-Sword, breakout artifact plays post-Horizons.

Virtue Zoo is named for one of the most panned of its cycle, Force of Virtue. +1/+1 makes Wild Nacatl, Loam Lion, Kird Ape, and Narnam Renegade exquisitely difficult to remove in Modern, a format whose high-water mark is 3. The stat boost also improves Squadron Hawk, giving the deck aerial-presence-in-a-can. Light Up the Stage lets pilots fill back up on cheat threats, removal, and anthems.

Trending away from the interactive side of the spectrum is GR Prowess, a deck not unlike Infect or Mono-Red Phoenix in its focus on blitzing opponents. This deck runs Dreadhorde Arcanist as a way to stack more prowess triggers, grow-'em-all via Scale Up, or just generate 12 extra power through Become Immense. MOUSTAFALLLO isn't sleeping on Arcanist's strength alongside Mutagenic Growth, which saves the fragile body from Lightning Bolt and also double-pumps using the creature's ability.

Unearthing the Future

Despite my best efforts, Claim // Fame never saw much Modern play. But its older brother Unearth is making waves in the format. While it sometimes does less for the card investment—Claim // Fame can reanimate, pump, and give haste all at once—Unearth beats out the split card on versatility, targeting creatures with CMC up to 3 and cycling in the face of Rest in Peace (or just while no targets exist in the graveyard).

BR Unearth is about as straightforward an Unearth deck possible, aiming to reanimate the most obvious targets for the sorcery: Lightning Skelemental and Seasoned Pyromancer. Dreadhorde Arcanist is also a bargain at one mana, and swinging with the Zombie lets pilots recast Unearth from the graveyard.

As for fueling the graveyard, only Faithless Looting makes an appearance, leading me to believe this deck could use some work on that front—dipping even deeper into graveyard payoffs like Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix seems especially precarious. Other builds have assuaged this qualm by diversifying their angles of attack, such as with Young Pyromancer.

Grixis Unearth does the strategy one better, splashing blue for more potent Unearth targets: Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound. Both of these creatures keep the Unearth loops going, as does Dreadhorde Arcanist, letting Grixis establish a value snowball roll it down the hill. Joining Looting is Thought Scour, an effective graveyard enabler with so many good hits in the deck. In the face of graveyard hate, the deck has some backup plans; its red and black creatures do a fine job beating down an enemy hiding behind Rest in Peace.

BUG Unearth ties together many midrange goodies from Modern Horizons. Leading the charge are Hexdrinker, an Unearth-targetable threat that grows to huge proportions in a deck looking to go long; Ice-Fang Coatl, an up-and-coming staple in decks that can swing the snow land requirement; and Plague Engineer, and oft-sideboarded haymaker in certain matchups that indeed looks great against Hogaakvine, especially in pairs. Covering for Engineer in the sideboard is Dead of Winter, which does an okay Toxic Deluge impersonation. Finally, in lieu of opposing interaction, Collective Brutality will fuel Unearth.

The idea of Esper Mentor has been floated around Modern for quite some time now, but the archetype itself rarely finds its footing. Unearth is a one-mana sorcery that recurs the expensive token generator once it's been dealt with, perhaps promising to revitalize the deck.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound and Snapcaster Mage are other juicy Unearth targets in Esper colors, as well as Yixlid Jailer and Fulminator Mage from the sideboard. And Teferi, Time Raveler proves the perfect planeswalker to pair with Monastery Mentor—once it's on the battlefield, pilots can Unearth their namesake threat and go to town creating prowess-boasting 1/1s without fear of enemy interruption.

A Whole New Modern

All these lists came from during Hogaakvine's reign of terror, hence the many copies of Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, and even Scarab Feast. I expect the more sustainable among them to chug right along with Bridge from Below banned, just with less hate in their arsenal. Modern should also open up enough to let in even more new brews now that decks have fewer parameters to respect online. It's going to be an exciting month!

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