The second half of September 2020 brought us swaths of new decks, as Zendikar Rising did more than its fair share in shaking up the Modern metagame. Today, we'll explore new combo options and view the myriad directions ramp strategies are starting to take.
We'll start with Belcher, a deck that recently received an exposé here at Modern Nexus. David found that while the combo itself was broken on multiple metrics, its inherent unfairness didn't necessarily mean it would come to dominate Modern. Indeed, Belcher achieved modest success this month. But any measure of success should count as a victory for the die-hards who have fruitlessly slaved away at making the deck tick for close to a decade. With the new spell-lands, the deck is at least good enough to place in high-level online events in its opening weeks, which bodes well for Goblin Charbelcher's big fans!
This Pure Belcher deck is simple enough: it seeks to make enough mana to cast and activate Goblin Charbelcher, which ends the game. It runs Leyline of Sanctity in the sideboard as protection from targeted discard, a full set of Veil of Summer in the mainboard to hedge against such disruption in game 1. Veil also beats pesky counterspells, allowing pilots to force through their rituals and payoff spells.
Also featured in the sideboard is Blood Moon, a card that, combined with a turn two ritual, can also end games early. Resolving Moon can give pilots enough time to assemble their Belcher combo the hard way (re: through Damping Sphere), or otherwise assemble an alternate win condition like Empty the Warrens with Goblin Bushwhacker.
Some players liked Moon's prison dimension enough to back it up with Chalice of the Void... and mix all of those elements into the mainboard, giving Belcher a two-pronged attack as of the beginning of a match.
Running Chalice main in Prison Belcher shifts the deck's makeup a bit. Most notably, Veil of Summer has been relegated to sideboard duties. Veil happens to be dead against the aggro strategies that both decimate combo traditionally and struggle to beat Chalice of the Void, especially Infect and Prowess, so perhaps this build is better suited to combat Belcher's strategic predators.
We saw this one coming, too, as Mill was putting up light results even before Ruin Crab was released. Now, though, the deck has undergone some significant changes: gone are clunky once-staples like Glimpse the Unthinkable. Doubling up on the deck's best card lets Mill streamline its strategy like never before, and it'll be interesting to see if tech like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn starts cropping up should Mill sustain its online presence in the coming weeks.
Land Drop & Give Me 50
Belcher doesn't play any "lands," in a sense; to trigger Archive Trap, Mill forces opponents to search up their basics. And on the complete other side of the spectrum lies Ramp, a macro-archetype mostly concerned with making as many land drops as possible. September brought new developments on this front, too, one that had long stagnated around Ponza and Tron.
While Uro decks haven't been tremendously popular as of late, Uro Gifts takes the Titan in a whole new direction. Employing Gifts Ungiven over Fact or Fiction (a common include among Wilderness Reclamation-featuring Uro decks) as an instant-speed card advantage engine lets Uro more selectively dump its escaper, and also sets up the Life from the Loam engine.
The sideboard can also be twisted to get the most out of Gifts, with different packages earning includes alongside the now-requisite full set of Aether Gust.
Modern, meet Omnath Ramp, the deck that's been terrorizing Standard and just got Uro banned in that format. Omnath put multiple copies into that same Challenge Top 8, and has also been spotted this month placing in Champs and Preliminaries alike. So, what's up with this Elemental? Let's break down its heavy card text and find out!
When Omnath, Locus of Creation enters the battlefield, draw a card.
We're already off to a pretty good start; this line of text turned Uro into a format-definer, after all. Four mana isn't so steep in a ramp deck, and locking in self-replacement isn't bad at all for a 4/4 at this rate. Think: Thought-Knot Seer!
Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you gain 4 life if this is the first time this ability has resolved this turn.
If it's the second time, add RGWU.
Triggering two land drops in a turn ain't tough in Modern. Just play and crack a fetchland, and voila! To immediately be rewarded with Omnath's entire casting cost for doing so is a bit ridiculous—that's the payoff of two active Lotus Cobras. And it's not like this deck lacks for things to do with all that mana; it's got walkers, interaction, and more. Still, it's a shame RGWU doesn't cleanly cast Cryptic Command or escape Uro.
If it's the third time, Omnath deals 4 damage to each opponent and each planeswalker you don't control.
Siege Rhino, we meet again! Fulfilling this condition is simpler than first appears. Since the first two drops are fulfilled by playing and cracking a fetch, all that's needed for the third is an Uro escape, Growth Spiral resolution, or Field of Ruin activation. 8-point swings, here we come!
Clearly, Omnath provides Ramp decks with enough juice to stick around awhile, especially backed up by the omnipotent Uro. Will Confounding Conundrum manage to suppress this deck in the coming weeks? For that to happen, after all, players have to actually run it!
Last up today is this beautiful disaster. Players using the Borderposts to bounce their own lands have historically favored game-ending power-plays to break symmetry, such as Restore Balance. We've also seen the curious artifacts support blue-pitching spells like Disrupting Shoal and bolster blue devotion strategies. But now, we have something totally novel.
In Borderpost Mastery, the Borderposts serve to reduce the number of lands pilots have in play without restricting their mana production capabilities. That way, they can extract maximum value from Knight of the White Orchid (a ramping weenie) and Weathered Wayfarer (a land-searching engine-in-a-can). The 1/1 can grab Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx if it hasn't been drawn already, letting the deck make tons of mana with few lands in play. Otherwise, there's nothing like searching up multiple copies of Ghost Quarter and running opponents out of basics—who needs Leonin Arbiter?
Rounding things out are Auriok Champion and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun to hose aggro, Walking Ballista to decimate creature-combo strategies, and Leyline of Sanctity to beat random combo decks and prevent engines from suffering the wrath of Thoughtseize. And oh yeah, some two-mana enchantments: Runed Halo, a pseudo-removal spell which certain decks simply don't beat, and Mastery of the Unseen, a head-scratching value engine I never thought would see the light of Modern day.
In short, there's a lot to love here for novelty fanatics; I'd be elated if this deck, or a twist on it, caught on in the format!
September was a wild month for land-hates and land-lubbers alike. As such, I might've skipped over a couple more post-Rising gems. Do you have a favorite new brew from this new Modern that I've missed? Let's pay the deck its due in the comments!