It's Hogaak's world; we're just living in it. So are some great-looking brews that manage to 5-0 against the odds and the format boogeyman. With August halfway done, let's peek at the coolest decks emerging from the delve/convoke wreckage.
Hogaak's New Bags
It's no secret that Hogaak is still a force to be reckoned with in Modern. Not only is this graveyard strategy the format's most-played archetype, it's dominating big-event Top 8s, giving it plenty of visibility and sparking additional banlist discussion. But bubbling under the surface are some new builds that see Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis slipping into more than just Dredge and its now-infamous namesake deck.
First up is Glowspore Hogaak, which taps the unlikely Glowspore Shaman as extra copies of Hogaak's best buddy, Stitcher's Supplier. Sure, we can only run four Suppliers, but is a two-mana, color-intensive, half-effect Supplier worth dipping into? Conventional format knowledge says no; decks generally don't want enablers this far below the next-best option, and the line for creature playability is strict in Modern. So I was weirded out when I saw this list the first time.
But seeing it another time, and then even a third, made me rethink things a bit. Perhaps there's actually something here. Then again, the Hogaak lists all over the Challenge results don't run Glowspore, so it's possible these players 5-0'd their leagues on the back of the deck's other strengths and not because of the newcomer.
It still bears mentioning that Glowspore Hogaak is built a bit differently from the two standard builds of Hogaak, which respectively rely on Satyr Wayfinder and Hedron Crab to get things going. This one sacrifices a bit of speed for a more reliable plan in the face of graveyard hate, shoring up the weaknesses David identified with the deck. It's possible that a slower build of Hogaak proves palatable should the metagame somehow find a way to adjust independent of Love from Above.
I said slower, but this deck is freakishly sluggish next to the Hogaak we know and love or hate. Hexdrinker Hogaak is a straight-up BGx deck tuned to accommodate the 8/8 trampler, who indeed dwarfs the usual suspects of Tarmogoyf and Tireless Tracker.
One pure beater gets the nod, though: Hexdrinker, a versatile one-drop that can help cast Hogaak or present a constant mid- to late-game threat off the top of the library. Hogaak already does that, of course, but not through graveyard hate, which Hexdrinker totally ignores. The mix of Hexdrinker and Hogaak gives this discard-centric midrange core multiple angles of attack and strikes me as a particularly exciting blend.
Blink and You'll Miss It
That's how it can feel sometimes speeding through endless online dumps looking for diamonds in the rough. But between all the Humans, Eldrazi Tron, and Burn lists, there's always something juicy lurking underneath. This deck showed up in a few iterations, graduating from its casual-room incarnations into the Competitive leagues and apparently carving out a metagame niche in the process.
UW Blink received a few potent tools from Modern horizons, the most widely-adopted one displayed here: Soulherder. Herder lets Blink play more like a fish deck packed with flashy micro-synergies than a midrange deck relying on the clunky Restoration Angel; it now has much more in common with the Eldrazi & Taxes decks inhabiting Tier 3.
Soulherder acts like a mini-planeswalker here, blinking creatures every turn and promising streams of value if opponents don't deal with it. It also grows pretty large in that case, making it even tougher to remove as the game drags on. Another new card here is Watcher for Tomorrow. Despite the creature entering tapped, the prospect of casting multiple pseudo-Impulses, and having a 2/1 to boot, seems to beat the blind-draw blocking of Wall of Omens.
Teferi, Time Raveler ensures pilots at lest generate a trigger off Soulherder the turn it comes down, and Aether Vial speeds up the deck's deployment of creatures and effects. Rounding things out are Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Ethersworn Canonist, floodgate effects stapled to aggressive bodies that disrupt while clocking à la Humans.
Going a level deeper, Bant Blink splashes green for Coiling Oracle, long lauded as one of the game's most appealing enters-the-battlefield effects. Knight of Autumn, Eternal Witness, and Ice-Fang Coatl are also significant reasons to go green, buffing the scope of Blink's enters effects and adding a multi-pronged defensive plan.
Also present here is Ephemerate, a one-mana upgrade to Momentary Blink. Modern is way too fast to be focusing on long-term value with the older spell. At one mana, Ephemerate still casts Cloudshift twice, making it a shoe-in for Blink decks singularly focused on their namesake mechanic.
Bant Company has been around forever, but not in this iteration. Here, Risen Reef has little synergy with the deck's other creatures, which are mostly not Elementals; the Oracle-draw of its own 187 ability seems almost reason enough to include it. Almost, of course, because Voice of Resurgence brings it over the edge. When Voice enters or dies, Risen Reef triggers, creating a snowball of card advantage in which to drown opponents who've spent their early removal on mana dorks.
Of course, why not take things a step further? Elementals isn't focused on the synergy between Unearth, Thunderkin Awakener, Seasoned Pyromancer, and Lightning Skelemental, like earlier decks showcasing the tribe; it's built around fully enabling Risen Reef. And despite the available Elementals generally not wow-ing, that payoff is at least good enough for a 5-0, leaving me to believe the unlikely three-drop may have a real future in Modern.
As Hogaak continues to dominate Modern, the pressure's mounting on Wizards to do something, and players seem as divided as ever. Where do you fall on the format's top deck? My position is clear, with some conditions: if we're to continue seeing decks like these, but on a larger scale, in the wake of a mostly-despised 8/8, who am I to complain?