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July ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Claws & Fins

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Well, I've dutifully done my snooping, and am proud to present some of Modern's new directions in a Snow-less world! Chomping at the bit for more? Ready the sails... if you dare!

Nuthin' But a "G" Thang

"One, two, three and to the four / Boggart Harbinger and Conspicuous Snoop is at the door." In fact, this dynamic duo has long gotten past the door, and they ain't leavin' til six in the morning. If July 2020 is remembered for one thing, let it be Snoop Gobbs's impressive debut.

The above build of Snoop Gobbs has been tearing it up online this month, to the extent that I considered omitting it from the "Brew" report at all. But the development nonetheless represents the first foot forward in tuning and refining a brand-new archetype. Besides the above Preliminary list, the first July build I came across, I found similar builds in four other Preliminaries (including one that went 5-0), three Challenges (with one making Top 8), and four regular ol' leagues—in other words, almost every data set I worked with.

The deck and its ilk are built similarly to David's experiment with Snoop early in spoiler season, with the combo shoehorned into an otherwise unremarkable Vial Goblins strategy. Apparently, boasting access to the combo plan plugs gaping holes previously unfixable for Goblins, an archetype we haven't ever seen experience this level of success in Modern.

There are, of course, slight variations between the above lists, mostly coming down to amounts of interaction (some decks run multiple Tarfire, others main Fatal Push, and others still forego noncreature removal entirely) and whether or not Goblin Ringleader is played. Ringleader cemented itself as a Goblins staple as soon as it came to Modern, but it's worth noting that these Snoop-less versions of Goblins still struggled to find footing. As a card that primarily helps overwhelm interactive opponents, it makes sense that Ringleader might under-perform in certain matchups, and therefore predicted metagames.

I also spotted some Goblins decks that diverged from the core more significantly.

This version of Putrid Gobbs maxes out on Skirk Prospector, usually a two-of, to make use of its mana-making synergy with Putrid Goblin. Mogg War Marshall already provides multiple mana with Prospector, but Putrid takes things a step further with Metallic Mimic in the picture, which lets Goblins go infinite and chain together all the Ringleaders, Matrons, or Kiki-Jiki clones it wants. Sling-Gang Lieutenant pays off the digging by providing a damage-dealing sac outlet that kills opponents on the spot.

While adding a second combo to an already shaky tribal aggro core might seem precarious, it helps that none of these pieces play that poorly with the strategy at hand. Mimic is really just another lord, and Putrid's built-in card advantage can help against the types of decks Goblins naturally struggles against: those loaded with cheap removal spells.

Snoop Unearth switches things up even more drastically, focusing single-mindedly on the combo and employing Dark Confidant both to dig for pieces and overwhelm opponents light on interaction. Should the other side happen to have Bolt or Push for the 2/1, a whopping four copies of Unearth form this deck's backbone, reanimating the draw engine or literally any of its combo pieces throughout the game. Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize each join Unearth at 4 to prevent opponents from messing with the deck's plans.

This deck, too, has established pedigree this month, earning another 5-0 and netting one player Top 16 in a Challenge. Whether these results speak to the viability of Snoop Unearth as a build or just to the Snoop combo's own merits in Modern remains to be seen.

Swimming with the Sharks

The Goblin tribe may have enjoyed an explosive month, but Goblins have been in Magic parlance since the game's inception. Another, more slept-on creature type also had its day in July, rising out of obscurity to sink its hundreds of teeth into Modern.

Behold Dimir Sharks, a fins-to-the-shins control deck that wins by cycling, and perhaps even casting, Shark Typhoon. As cycling can't be countered and is available at instant speed, it's an attractive option for control decks if the right card presents itself—and on a finisher, players can simply cycle the card early in a pinch, confident they'll find more copies down the road. Decree of Justice once saw play in control decks for exactly this reason, although Decree also had the benefit of triggering Astral Slide. No such synergy here, although Typhoon is significantly easier to cycle.

Among the decks sleeving up Shark Typhoon are Sultai Snow (RIP) and UW Control, but I did find one other pile maxing out on the thing.

Behold, Izzet Sharks! ASPIRINGSPIKE is no stranger to the Brew Report column, so of course dude had to deliver a twist to the tornado. In fact, he's already on to the next whirlwind, having trophied with an abomination dubbed "UW Sharkblade."

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

With Arcum's Astrolabe banned, Modern's waters are indeed a-churning. Join me next week for an exposé on July's non-Goblins breakout deck.

Jordan Boisvert

Jordan is Assistant Director of Content at Quiet Speculation and a longtime contributor to Modern Nexus. Best known for his innovations in Temur Delver and Colorless Eldrazi, Jordan favors highly reversible aggro-control decks and is always striving to embrace his biases when playing or brewing.

View More By Jordan Boisvert

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4 thoughts on “July ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Claws & Fins

  1. Can I just say how weird it is to see in the Twitter thread about the SharkBlade deck, when he was asked about the sideboard Baneslayer Angels, the author said they were mainly for the Ponza matchup…as someone who’s played Ponza in Modern for around 5-6 years or so, it still seems surreal that the deck is actually a top-level deck that people are now specifically game-planning for. It makes me wonder if I should try and make room for one or two Frys in my SB, because I don’t know how a stock list really beats a Baneslayer because of its (shockingly) relevant Protection from Dragons.

    1. It shouldn’t be that surprising. Modern has always been soft to Blood Moon and dedicated land destruction has been terrible, so of course replacing Slimes, Rains and various pet cards, with some of the best creatures available to the colours.

      If you want to improve your UW match, you’d probably be better off worrying about not getting wrathed out of the game and left casting one or two spells per turn. BSA is one of many potential threats.

  2. Sharkphoon replacing quellers in UW stoneforge probably seemed obvious to most of the archetype’s adherents.

    What I find interesting about the new UW Sfm build is the sparse number of sword carriers. Sharkphoon must do some heavy lifting.

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