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November Brew Report: Icy-Fresh Brews

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The metagame is settling down, and players are learning how to attack the top dogs. So November was a slower month for brews. It still possessed Modern's telltale spark of ingenuity, though. Today, we'll look at the most exciting online winners from this month.

New Takes on Aggro Standbys

Playing Ol' Faithful's all well and good, but sometimes, life needs a spice-up. Luckily, we've got these lists to check out for novel tweaks on regular decks.

One Delver? I'll show you One Delver! Hence One-Delver Burn, a pile I initially dismissed as a joke or lost bet. But it boasts some key differences over more stock Burn lists. It's got Atarka's Command despite only playing nine creatures, reasoning that often getting four damage for two mana is good enough. That makes Boros Charm a no-brainer, too. And then there's Bump in the Night, bringing the list to five colors and maximizing the number of impactful burn spells: all 12 sorceries deal three for one.

The catch is the rainbow manabase, which also eliminates Grim Lavamancer as a sideboard option. But that's where Eidolon goes anyway (less efficient than the sorceries, it's been relegated to hoser status), as well as some of Burn's best sideboard options (Revelry and Path).

Bringing us to the one Delver: since our lands make any color mana, why not run a single copy? If it gets removed, so would our more reliable damage creatures. And if not, it's a chance at a one-mana, freely-casting Isochron Scepter with Lightning Bolt. Multiple Delvers could prove clunky, but keeping the number low prevents any clog. The future of Burn? Maybe not, but I wouldn't call this build unplayable.

My favorite list from today jams all the busted green cards recently gutted from Standard into Merfolk, a deck that otherwise accesses some green support, but previously had little reason to want it. All it takes is a handful of great cards to reverse such a stance, and OUAT Merfolk packs those in spades.

Oko, Thief of Crowns: Oko lowers the need for Dismember and Vapor Snag by handling large creatures; Merfolk grows far bigger than 3/3, and often have islandwalk to boot, making the chump irrelevant. It's also a plan in itself, and can turn Aether Vial into Wild Nacatl. Plus, Oko's blue for Force pitching.

Once Upon a Time: Gets the party started right, finding a one-drop, lord, or land as needed. Once joins Vial as a card that makes a hand keepable, and is also awesome in a hand already featuring Vial: I imagine this deck keeps plenty of no-landers thanks to their interaction, and should a hand be heavy on mana, Once serves as another creature to flash in.

Veil of Summer: Maxed at 4 in the side, Veil is a one-mana Cryptic Command against Modern's blue- and black-based interactive decks. With Fatal Push overshadowing Lightning Bolt and Merfolk struggling to beat a critical mass of cheap removal, the Veil package seems like an elegant answer to midrange.

Collector Ouphe: Okay, so this one wasn't banned from Standard. But it's great against artifact decks, and those are the talk of the town in Modern. All in all, Ouphe's another giant gain for Merfolk, especially with Once to find it.

Combo Wackiness

While Urza decks transition away from combo elements in favor of a value-based midrange plan, these players are brewing up combo decks of their own. Got 'em?

David tested out Life from the Loam-fueled value decks way back when the two-mana cycling lands were spoiled, to middling results; he concluded the deck needed one-mana cyclers to make it. Later, Wizards blessed us with just that, but the deck still seemed a bit soft to hate for Modern. Such decks still have success occasionally, and this Gruul Loam posting marks the first bit of luck it's sign in quite a while.

Of note are the removal of Wrenn & Six, a grindy card in a grindy deck, and the addition of Tarmogoyf as a way to quickly close the game against opponents building into something urestrainable. Merchant of the Veil also joins the fun to replace Faithless Looting.

Last week, I mentioned the relative lack of Lightning Bolts in Modern's current metagame. As that trend continues, we inch closer to prison plans like Torbran's: Simian Spirit Guide accelerating into Magus of the Moon, without a similar enchantment anywhere in sight. Bolt-weary creatures such as Harsh Mentor and Goblin Rabblemaster also get a chance to shine within that environment, with the latter fronting plenty of combat damage and the former piling on the reach against certain strategies, Oko Urza included.

Which brings us to Torbran, Thane of Red Fell himself. With the Dwarf in the picture, Mentor and Rabblemaster go from understandable metagame techs to absurd damagers; every Mentor ping, and each 1/1 Goblin hit, is multiplied two- or three-fold. Torbran might cost a lot for a Modern creature, but since the early turns are spent setting up red damage sources, it's more of a win condition than a threat, cf. Urza, Lord High Artificer in the Urza deck's earlier, more combo-oriented stages.

Rakdos Engineer goes all-in on the Engineer plan popping up in certain strands of red stompy decks. Given enough time, the deck is set up to tutor anything it needs out of the 75: Engineer can dump and revive Wishclaw Talisman, which in turn finds even Karn to grab a sideboard bullet. Of course, time is of the essence in Modern, so the deck runs plenty of hyper-efficient ways to interact: one-mana discard, a-lot-for-two-mana Collective Brutality, and Blast Zone all make the cut at four copies apiece. Holding it all together is Arcum's Astrolabe, which makes Engineer a value engine at worst and filters colorless mana to hit double-black.

Midrange Meddlers

Last on the agenda are a group of midrange decks showcasing that playing fair ain't dead... and that it doesn't even have to be playing Jund!

First up is Temur Snow, a mostly Temur midrange shell (to the extent that those can be). The twist: Skred, which compliments Ice-Fang to plug the wedge's hole in viable removal options. Midrange decks were already interested in splashing a snow package for Fang, so it makes sense that red ones might want to go the extra mile for Skred. It makes equal sense to reach for Oko, as many in Modern seem to be doing these days. LYNNCHALICE posted multiple 5-0s with this build in November.

In keeping with the RUG theme, here's Temur Cascade, a deck that ramps into Bloodbraid Elf with Gilded Goose and then rolls Oko for the win. If Goose dies, there's Goyf to follow up. And while Astrolabe is a less-than-exciting cascade hit, ROFELOS was able to ride the wave to a couple 5-0s with this build.

I like that Goose is catching on as the best mana dork this side of Noble Hierarch. When it immediately gets shot, it still leaves behind a little value; in this fast format, that perk seems mostly preferable to having reliable mana tapping each turn it's alive. There's also the bonus that in a mana-heavy gamestate, Goose can just lay some eggs and maybe swing a damage race.

Sultai Snow leans more heavily on planeswalkers than the last couple decks, but it nonetheless relies on Tarmogoyf to close out many games. Combined with the Loam finish above, these results indicate a return to using Goyf as an self-sufficient Plan B, a trend that fell way off with the introduction of Fatal Push. It's been two years since that happened, and I, of course, hope Goyf continues to climb back up through the Modern ranks!

Jund=good, right? Oko=good? Well, GG Modern!

Seriously though, I think the principles at work in this list are similar to the ones I employed last week for Six Shadow. There are very few beaters present because the planeswalkers are also threats. Elf gets the nod over Shadow for its high roll potential with Oko in the picture, not to mention the many juicy hits in the sideboard. Congrats to ALTNICCOLO for topping the challenge with this spicy deck after 5-0ing in the leagues!

Freezing Cold

As the temperatures drop, so too has Modern's frantic summer pace relaxed---November didn't reveal the sheer amount of league brews that less recent months have. In any case, I hope there's no correlation, and we end up with a frenetic winter!

5 thoughts on “November Brew Report: Icy-Fresh Brews

    1. I wonder if the Torbran deck could use another Seal of Fire or two. At first I was wondering what the heck it was doing there, but then I realized you can stick it on the battlefield and use it if you need to, but if you wait until you drop Torbran it becomes 4 damage to the face for just one mana, which is nuts. It reminds me of the Jund lists that used to play a Slaughter Pact alongside Kalitas partially as a way to get immediate value from his replacement effect when you play him on-curve.

      1. That does seem pretty good here TBH. I imagine the deck can keep up for a time as the metagame becomes friendlier to fast aggro decks by packing more copies.

  1. Honestly, this has got me thinking if there are any similar effects low on the curve that could sit on the battlefield before you dropped a Torbran and have a massive effect like the Seal. I mean, there’s obviously Eidolon, which the deck is running, as well as Lava Dart (see above), but I can’t help but wonder if there’s maybe something missed in the crazy deep modern card pool that’s being overlooked. Like something like Pyrohemia would be amazing if it didn’t also cost 4 mana.

    1. Well, Rabblemaster is kind of like that, but I really like Seal specifically for the utility it provides. I imagine leaning too heavily on cards that need Torbran to be good would make the deck less resilient overall, but that’s more theoretical at this point since we can’t seem to come up with many alternatives!

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