Things have certainly changed since the last brew report, which reflected April's decklists pre-companion. Post-, it would appear that Lurrus of the Dream Den is Modern's new poster-boy, and alongside it Mishra's Bauble, which is seeing widespread play in everything from Delver to Rock to UW Control. Today, we'll look at some of the wild new strategies abusing the companion and its colleagues.
Don't Call It a Comeback
Or do, because Delver has been markedly absent from Modern for quite some time now. Lurrus seems to be buoying its return, as resting a gameplan on a fragile flier isn't so bad when you can guaranteed get it back in the mid-game.
Grixis Delver is the favorite out of the gate, with the deck going on to enjoy multiple placings in Preliminaries. The deck makes great use of Bauble not only by flipping Delver, but by growing Sprite Dragon the turn it lands, which turns the flier I found lackluster in my own experiments into a potent threat. Like Bauble and Delver, Sprite can be bought back with Lurrus. And so can Snapcaster Mage, which makes for quite a value train!
A critical innovation here is Unearth, which not only revives the deck's threats, but puts Lurrus back onto the battlefield once its companion cast has been completed. Topdecking into a late-game Snapcaster can also generate a ton of value, as Snap can Unearth Lurrus, which then plays another Snap to recur an additional instant or sorcery. Then, Lurrus is left standing to add more value in future turns if opponents can't answer it. This plan is significantly more potent than Grixis Delver's old reliance on Tasigur, the Golden Fang, whose activation requirement was significantly mana-intensive and didn't impact the board at all.
Then there's Dimir Delver, which scraps Sprite Dragon and Lightning Bolt in exchange for better mana and access to the versatileArchmage's Charm. We saw Charm support a soft surge of Delver decks when it was first released, but the archetype has since floundered; in any case, there's pedigree for the instant's potency here. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound is another juicy creature for Lurrus to reanimate, and can recur Unearth to reboot the engine.
With its proven early-game and now some serious late-game prowess, not to mention other relatively new toys like Force of Negation and Sprite Dragon, Delver is positioned to be a force in the new metagame.
A Grueling Game
It can feel overwhelming to keep up with new changes after a set drops. For instance, what the heck is going on with Jund? Are they keeping Lurrus, or reverting to their Bloodbraid Elf ways? Maybe David was right and it's simply not an awesome fit in that shell. So some of Modern's storied brewers have decided to build their BGx decks around the Nightmare Cat more decisively.
You read that right. Willy Edel, or as I know him The Guy That Brought Us Abzan Midrange Splashing Treasure Cruise, running Cabal Therapist in Modern! Therapist was one of the earliest Modern Horizons cards spoiled, and format die-hards were unimpressed with its design. Edel apparently ran Therapist for the Amulet matchup and didn't see them enough to form a great impression, so the jury's still out on that one! Given his record, though, the rest of the core must have treated him well.
No Therapist here, but this build of Golgari Lurrus runs with the same concept: aggressive, resilient creatures in black-green backed up by the best disruption in Modern. These builds both seem to lean heavily on Hexdrinker, a potential liability if Jund is running around casting Wrenn and Six (a planeswalker common to both the Lurrus and non-Lurrus versions). With some special sequencing, though, Hex can come down and immediately grow out of range. Golgari is also giving Grim Flayer some time in the sun.
There are some shells in Modern that require very little change to accomodate Lurrus, or in some cases build a gameplan around it. Both are seeing newfound success.
Abbot Prowess was last seen around the time Abbot of Keral Keep was released. It's always loved Mishra's Bauble, a card that both triggers it and can be cast for free as of turn two. And now it loves Lurrus of the Dream Den, which provides a prowess trigger by recurring a used Bauble, potentially every turn. The upgrade has proved significant for the deck, which posted back-to-back preliminary finishes.
Rather than dip into green or green-black as previous builds have, Abbot Prowess is basically mono-red, splashing white just for Lurrus and some sideboard cards. Another benefit of the second color at all is access to Canopy lands, specifically Sunbaked Canyon. This deck wants to play plenty of those to avoid flooding, and even runs Fiery Islet despite having nothing blue to cast.
Ozolith Scales marks the return of Hardened Scales, and the deck is back with a vengeance. For one, it's got Lurrus, which re-buys any destroyed artifact or creature sacrificed to its synergies, including the powerful Steel Overseer or Arcbound Ravager. It can even retrieve a copy of Hardened Scales stripped by Inquisition of Kozilek. The deck is usually mono-green, so Manamorphose is employed to cast the companion.
And finally, Veil of Summer joins the fray, making it frustrating for opponents on blue or black to disrupt the deck's gameplan via discard, removal, or counters. Scales has always been at its worse against swaths of cheap removal spells, and Fatal Push epitomizes those, making Veil a welcome addition to the suite.
What About Me?
There are, of course, other companions in Ikoria. One such companion made my introductory list, but I didn't feel up to figuring out its combos myself. Thankfully, SMDSTER has me covered!
As far as I know, Zirda Company is the first Modern deck to run its companion both in the sideboard (as a companion) and in the main (as a regular-old, I-want-to-draw-this-for-real spell). That's because with this many synergies, it's a great creature to hit with Collected Company. Zirda makes Walking Ballista, Eldrazi Displacer, and Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler into powerhouses, helping pilots stabilize the battlefield or dig deeper for the Heliod-Feeder combo. Best of all, since Zirda can be cast from the sideboard at any time, just having one of those creatures in play puts a lot of pressure on opponents.
A Future Accompanied
David may be down on the companions, but I think they are seriously great in Modern and other constructed formats, especially Lurrus. So long as it sticks around, which it definitely will for the time being, the Nightmare Cat should remain a fixture of many a competitive deck. I'm even brewing my own with it! Which companion is by your side?