Why do I write a Brew Report every month? Because Modern is brimming with innovation every month! While many of the decks featured in this column may not go on to win a GP, or even to carve out a sustainable metagame share, they all performed well at least once; it’s not always a cakewalk to 5-0 a competitive online league in this knowledge-rewarding format. And that success, however brief, can often serve as a launching pad for further iterations. So let’s get down to business and see which tech slapped the hardest in October.
Of the many existing decks seamlessly integrating new tech, the following pair stood out to me most.
Gwixis Shadow gets its name from my own failed experiments in the color combination, in which I ran Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration alongside Monastery Swiftspear and Lingering Souls. This Shadow list, though, doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, nor does it seem to favor either the existing Grixis or Mardu Shadow decks over the other. Rather, it seamlessly integrates aspects of both.
Here’s Ranger-Captain of Eos, the Mardu all-star that tutors the deck’s namesake and turns Unearth into a heap of value; there’s Drown in the Loch and The Royal Scions, new and promising adoptions of Grixis. Tying it all together is Tidehollow Sculler, which increases hand disruption density to ensure the deck has ample disruption to stop opponents in their tracks and enough protection to push its own plays.
My main qualm with that deck is that once up to ten cards are drawn with the Dragon, pilots sometimes have trouble casting everything in time to not lose; in other words, early-game clunk finds itself multiplied in the game’s later stages. Faeburrow Elder, while growing to impressive size itself, mitigates this problem by functioning as an Aether Vial of sorts; players can tap it for 2-5 mana and cast whatever they want, Dragons included. Difficult as planeswalkers are to remove, Faeburrow is likely to have many colors to draw from after players untap with it.
One Is Always Enough
Also significant this month were the mono-colored strategies putting up results with the help of some Throne goodies.
During spoiler season, David doubted Charming Prince’s staple status in Blink, Humans, and Death & Taxes. Neither of us predicted the Noble would up and create his own archetype. Mono-White Titan combines a slew of restricted reanimation effects to get the most out of Prince and its ilk, which include the searchable, blinking-unfriendly Kami of False Hope as well as a full four pre-Princes in Wall of Omens. At the top of the curve rests Sun Titan, a recursive reborn effect that buries opponents in value.
Mono-Green Stompy has received a number of buffs in the last year: Pelt Collector increases the consistency of explosive starts, while Steel-Leaf Champion and Hexdrinker improve the late-game. Payoffs like Avatar of the Resolute remain constant. The deck’s newest addition comes in the form of Questing Beast, a value-charged beater even making waves in Jund. In a metagame full of cheap planeswalkers, including the ubiquitous Oko, powerful haste creatures are a deckbuilding godsend, and this one seems tailor-made for sniping the card type.
Midrange Never Dies
Nor does it apparently ever stop regrouping. These three decks employ the timeless "disrupt, then commit" strategy in ways we've seldom seen.
Speaking of cheap planeswalkers, Bant Mentor packs plenty; Oko aids the shard’s previously untenable trouble with creatures, for which they once only had Path to Exile, while Teferi, Time Raveler lets the deck untap, slam Mentor, and “go off” with an army-causing cantrip chain (Force of Negation also plays to this gameplan by fronting a turn’s worth of protection for the squishy creature). As for Jace, its role seems mainly to ensure a secondary win condition: should opponents answer the Mentor Plan A, they’ll still have the blue juggernaut’s card advantage waterfall to deal with.
BUG Ninjas is yet another Oko-touter. The walker’s partner-in-crime, Gilded Goose, also makes an unlikely appearance for its synergy with the ninjutsu mechanic. BUG Ninjas is without a doubt the most creature-heavy I’ve ever seen the tribe get, and I have to admit I like where it’s headed. Only two Bitterblossoms? What’s to hate?
CAVEDAN's second straight list in this feature, GRx Walker Moon, also makes use of Oko. This deck is similar in construction to GRx Moon builds I’ve flag-flown for over the last however many years, but there’s no Tarmogoyf; rather, it goes all-in on the mana dork survivng, and replaces Goyf with Tireless Tracker. Blood Moon also has its numbers slashed, this time in favor of cheap planeswalkers. Resolving these a turn early indeed puts the game away versus many opponents.
Combo's Other Twist
Modern's combo decks seem to be enjoying the new cards as well.
Copy-Cat has existed in Modern since its ban-addressed stint in Standard. But it's never looked like this. Saheeli Rai now has plenty of company as a strategy-appropriate planeswalker; so much so, in fact, that Oko doesn't even make the cut. Rather, it's Karn, the Great Creator who comes out in numbers, offering a standalone Plan B to the combo dimension the deck is named for and giving players something to funnel their Arbor-Sprawl mana into.
Time Raveler also earns its stripes here by protecting the combo, as does Wrenn for helping build towards Felidar's four-mana price tag. Ice Fang Coatl is also a significant upgrade for the deck; while it can be blinked for cards like Wall of Omens, the Snake plays double-duty as critical defensive against Modern’s huge creatures.
In "Dismantling the Bomb: How to Fight Urza," David commented on the archetype’s different builds and their respective strenghts and weaknesses. One feature the decks shared was their inability to do anything with an Emry or Urza that wound up in the graveyard. Lazav Urza seeks to change that predicament with its namesake legend. Not only does Lazav turn on Mox Amber early in lieu of another creature and gently dig for combo pieces, the Shapeshifter can become a copy of any creature opponents have already killed or pilots have incidentally milled.
In the scope of David’s article, relying on Lazav further exposes Urza to graveyard hate, though I’d assume not to the extent of a full Goblin Engineer package.
Rounding things out today is Tempo-Twin, an oldie-but-goodie declared dead after the banning of its namesake enchantment. Twin-in-spirit decks employing the Kiki-Exarch combination have cropped up in Modern from time to time since then, but they’ve always been on the metagame’s fringes, and they’ve never returned to packing Tarmogoyf to bolster the aggro-control plan.
This build of Tempo Twin also refuses to dip into green, but nonetheless ascribes to the older deck’s philosophy via Brineborn Cutthroat. Brineborn’s flash plays to the deck’s predilection for end-step threat deployment, but its counters clause doesn’t sacrifice the potential for bulk. Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft makes yet another appearance in this dump, reinforcing its worth as a utility option, while Blood Moon and Crackling Drake provide secondary plans from the sideboard.
And the Month Rolls On
That does it for the first half of October, a month that features as diverse a set of Modern innovations as ever. Join me next week as we flesh out the rest of the decklists.