September ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Future Flavors

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New sets always inspire brewing and changes of pace, but this month, I was pleased to see that some of the ideas I've had about future metagame developments seem to be more realistic than I'd thought! If these decks have legs now, imagine what they'll look like when Zendikar Rising drops... maybe quite similar, and who knows if they'll truly take off, but imagine!

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill

Yes, they are weird—Mill decks, that is. "Unfair" in the sense that they win through unconventional means, but certainly not in the respect that they dominate events, let alone metagames. While we haven't seen Mill experience anything but fringe success in Modern, that predicament may change with the upcoming expansion, which bears a functional reprint of the deck's best card, Hedron Crab.

So imagine my surprise when various Mill-oriented builds showed up in the dumps a whole month before Ruin Crab reared its little head.

Uro Mill is exactly what it sounds like: Mill splashing Uro, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath as a fair Plan B. The titan can be turned over freely by Mesmiric Orb, gains life, stands in the way of enemy beatdown plans, and of course turns the corner itself should opponents bring Spell Pierce or Emrakul to the party.

Moving closer to midrange with the fair plan encourages adoption of generic removal such as Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, permission like Spell Pierce, and even sweepers like Choice of Damnations.

With these spells in the picture, cheesing a fast victory via multi-Crab or multi-Trap becomes less a necessity, as Uro Mill has the tools to both enter the midgame and also excel there. Maybe a valid strategic innovation, since the deck in its pure form hardly has the tools to out-race Prowess and the like. Or does it?

Here's pure UB Mill with a 5-0, an achievement the deck and its bullied Manic Scribes repeated later in the month. Maybe there's more to this deck than meets the eye! Given these results, I'd definitely have Mill on my radar heading into the post-Ruin Crab metagame.

The next unholy Uro-Crab fusion is UroVine, a self-mill strategy reminiscent of Hogaak's glory days. Indeed, another set of Crabs seems like a solid improvement over clunkers like Satyr Wayfinder, and it'll be interesting to see if off-kilter decks like this one experience a renaissance soon.

A Pox on Both Your Houses

Another Modern old-timer to get a fresh look this month was Pox.

Mardu Pox dips into white for Lingering Souls (sure), Lightning Helix (why not?), and Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (the big payoff). Kaya's a great planeswalker in this deck, providing removal, grave interaction, lifegain, and even a win-condition all for three mana. If the board is kept clear, as is Pox's calling card, Kaya should have plenty of time to put the game away, or at least heavily disrupt opponents relative to what she costs.

For its part, red is co-opted for Lightning Bolt (d'ac), Lightning Helix (porquoi pas?), and Rix Maadi Reveler (voila notre raison-d'être!). Rix is great for gassing up via Spectacle, and provides incidental looting otherwise. Kaya. Smallpox, and naturally all that reach help fulfill the Shaman's "lost life this turn" condition. Regularly re-stocking is a great way to pull ahead in a deck full of cards otherwise singularly focused on exchanging resources.

Some other flashy additions to Pox are Silversmote Ghoul, a carryover from Dredge that plays nice with self-discard and Lightning Helix, and Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, in my eyes the most suspect card here—just seems hard to get a lot out of, since it doesn't recur, costs a ton, dies to Bolt, and only synergizes with a handful of cards.

True! 8-Rack is not a brew. But it nevertheless stands tall as Modern's most successful Pox variant. Given that we've seen Pox decks occasionally splash Tarmogoyf in the past, I wonder if post-Zenikar Rising, we won't see some such decks dip into Scourge of the Skycleaves.

Scourge strikes me as significantly better than Rotting Regisaur in this style of deck, which taxes both players' life totals, is known to take some hits from aggro decks, can and does integrate different splashes fo specific tech and incurs the requisite damage from fetchlands, and makes a gameplan of stripping away enemy answers. Fatal Push is pretty far from a card players want to leave in their decks against 8-Rack, but Scourge may otherwise take total command of the battlefield; in other cases, there's Smallpox to regain control of what's happening.

A note on Scourge: I realize the creature is something of a wild card at this point, with many players (even here on Modern Nexus) doubting its effectiveness over other options. But I'm quite optimistic about its prospects, and have been impressed in my testing... more to come on that soon!

And a final note on the above Pox decks: both integrate Cling to Dust as a hyper-versatile cantrip that gains life or draws a card depending on what's needed, all while providing incidental graveyard hate and a late-game card advantage engine. The card's increasing prevalence in Prowess decks speaks to how effective it is. Black players: don't be afraid to try one of these in your flex spot!

A Cure for Zentropy

That about wraps up potential developments in Mill and Pox. Are any of you pet decks looking to improve with the new expansion? Which ones? Let me know down below!

2 thoughts on “September ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Future Flavors

  1. The new nighthawk might be interesting to try in an 8rack sideboard, but 3cc cards in a deck that wins games with 1-2 lands out have a complicated relationship. I’m having a hard time imagining how Scourge would function in the deck(beyond the kicker never getting paid haha)

    1. My idea is it would gum up the ground on defense and also turn sideways to force blocks, chewing through an opponent’s board. IME games against the deck with aggro strategies often become races against the rack effects, and Scourge can do a great job of screwing up that math, all while acting as an alternate win condition should opponents have a way to generate card advantage.

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