December Brew Report: A Story to Tell

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Full bellies? Droopy eyes? Scrolling and clicking? It's the new year, all right! But why focus on the future when we could dwell on the past? Read on for an after-holiday treat: the spiciest brews to come out of 2019's death throes.


Urza and Oko might be hogging the spotlight, but artifacts have a lot more to offer than those two dominators of the card type might have us believe.

First up is Kethis 8Mox, a deck that taps Simic Urza's most ridiculous element: the free mana generated by Mox Opal. Here, though, Mox Amber is added into the mix, supplementing the usual Simic Urza Mox package of Mox, Bauble, Astrolabe, and Engineered Explosives with a suite of cheap legends.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch has already proven itself alongside these enablers, generating infinite mana with a couple Moxen (an occurrence twice as likely with more cogs in the mix). Grinding Station rounds out the combo, threatening to mill opponents it comes together against. New to the party is Kethis, the Hidden Hand, who gives the deck inevitability against anyone trying to disrupt the combo over a series of turns. In the mid-game, pilots can simply slam Kethis, replay Moxen and Emry out of their graveyards, and go off that way. Unearth even functions as a Kethis should opponents strip it with Thoughtseize, and further bulletproofs the plan.

That plan, though, is still soft to all kinds of graveyard hate, as well as the ubiquitous Collector Ouphe. 8Mox acknowledges these shortcomings by including both Urza and Oko in the sideboard to attack prepared opponents from a more robust and decidedly proven angle.

Who said Affinity was dead? The archetype suffered significant dips in the shadow of Hardened Scales, but with that deck now AWOL, faster shells reminiscent of the onetime giant's former self have started to surface. Glitter Affinity is one such shell, leaning on All That Glitters to functionally increase the number of its best card, Cranial Plating.

The rest of the mainboard should look quite familiar, but I'd like to draw attention to Gingerbrute, an innocuous one-drop that's been prying its way into artifact-based aggro shells by virtue of its sheer versatility. Brute gains life, enables Affinity's mana engines, and turns sideways right away for Signal Pest—or, more importantly, Plating.

Fighting Fit

Much as one-mana haste creatures might get your war drums beating, to me, nothing says "aggro" like a set of Lightning Bolts. And Modern still affords us a million ways to cast its best spell.

Season Zoo contains some of my favorite cards and synergies. Huge Goyfs? Got 'em. Mutagenic Growth to Mental Misstep enemy Bolts and win combat? Oh yeah. But this deck takes things one step further, abusing an unlikely enchantment called Season of Growth (had to hover? Me too).

Growth turns all those Mutagenic Growths we (well, I) would've played anyway into cantrips, but its real strength in this build is what it does for Rancor. The storied enchantment has never seen much play in Modern, as it nonetheless opens casters up to two-for-ones while on the stack and tends to lack huge creatures to enchant. Not here, where Goyf towers over the battlefield. Season makes sure Rancor replaces itself right away, and combines with the aura into a card advantage engine should opponents lack instant-speed interaction. Besides, +2/+0 and trample just doesn't suck in a Zoo deck—Swiftspear and Hierarchs suddenly hit like Goyfs themselves.

Upping the aggression quotient is Mono-Red Prowess, a deck that's no stranger to Modern. Its Phoenix-free variants, though, are breaking out in force for the first time now that Faithless Looting is banned.

This particular build has a lot that pushes my buttons. I love the notion of balancing tension between the full set of Baubles (prowess triggers) and Bedlam Reveler (who could care less), and have tried that mix before (to middling results). Crash Through seems like the greatest card ever in this deck, forcing its damage disher-outters past whatever blockers opponents might be counting on. Same deal with Warlord's Fury, which actually has great synergy with Crash.

Another cool dimension at work is Mono-Red's transformative sideboard. Against linear decks, Kiln Fiend pushes it further up the spectrum towards aggression, while Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp gives the deck some oomph against interactive opponents. Leyline and Smash are just great pieces of interaction for those few faster strategies.

Sickness & Spaghetti

These last two decks don't exactly lump together, hence my cheesy topic line. But they are pretty sweet!

Rankle, Master of Pranks is the new face of Pox, at least according to Rankle Pox. After disrupting opponents for a few turns, the Faerie aims to come down on-curve (perhaps a modified curve thanks to Smallpox) and seal the deal with a stream of "symmetrical" effects, each of which should break synergy.

The first mode denies answers to the 3/3, the second gasses up the turn player while feeding opponents tools that are unlikely to matter, and the third deals with problem creatures, freely with Bloodghast in the picture. I'd been hoping we'd see a home for Rankle in Modern since it was spoiled, and it seems like this could be it.

I think my old standby Colorless Eldrazi Stompy is still playable, in a loose sense of the word, but outclassed; Once Upon a Time does for all creature and land decks what Serum Powder once did for us and only us. I messed around with the instant in Eldrazi shells after it was spoiled, and was blown away by the consistency Once afforded. I've always categorized post-Eye-ban Eldrazi decks as approaching their prime in different ways: Bant via Hierarch, Tron via Tron lands, Colorless via Powder, and lately, Gx via Once. Something I hadn't considered is what would happen if multiple modes were combined.

Which brings us to Once a Powder Tron, an Eldrazi Stompy deck splashing green for Once to give it maximal control over its openers, and subsequently over its Temple draws. The Tron package is also included here, offering as many ways as possible to reach an absurd amount of mana early. Only the most critical Eldrazi make the cut: Scourge for its Powder synergies and control abuse, Thought-Knot for its all-around utility and bulk, and Smasher for its aptitude at sealing the deal. The other threats are Walking Ballista and Karn, the Great Creator, both standbys of the Eldrazi Tron deck itself making a comeback lately.

As for disruption, the deck preserves Chalice of the Void, but forgoes Simian Spirit Guide. Rather, Expedition Map and Dismember are the deck's turn one plays, while Chalice is reserved for turn two and the heavy-hitters come out reliably as of turn three.

I can imagine this build struggling at the exact stages where Colorless Eldrazi Stompy has the most fun: in the early-mid-game. Should opponents find a way to deal with its mana advantage, say, via Damping Sphere or Blood Moon, Once Upon a Tron is left drawing Powder and Once and Map and lacking plays that put the pressure on. And there's no room for Zhalfirin Void to smooth out the draws. But I'm excited to see whether its explosiveness can adequately compensate for its unreliability.

Happy Brew Year

These decks might be from 2019, but I'm sure the coming year holds plenty of innovation for us to slice into. Happy new year once again from Modern Nexus!

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