November ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Saving Scourge

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Uro, Uro, Uro—that's all many Modern players are likely to hear these days, in a certain echo of the Oko, Oko, Oko from around this time last year. But there's plenty more happening under the surface, Modern's saving grace being a wave of innovation triggered by Scourge of the Skyclaves.

The Scourge of Midrange

In fact, Scourge of the Skyclaves is a tremendous boon to midrange strategies, or at least those in black. At a time when value-based Uro decks, most of which eschew black entirely, are dominating the archetype, Scourge's presence as a "second Goyf" for discard decks is something of a saving grace.

No Traverse Shadow takes that Jund Shadow blueprint and dumps its pivotal card, Traverse the Ulvenwald. With Scourge of the Skyclaves in the mix, Traverse's role as additional copies of Shadow and Goyf is less critical; between always charging pilots a mana to use and increasing the deck's reliance on the graveyard, it's good riddance for the cantrip.

While we're adding threats, why not mini-Keeper of Progenitus Hexdrinker? Boasting an aggressive one-drop lets the deck be less reactive if it needs to be, putting opponents on the backfoot right away. And of course, if it dies, there are few better ways to respond than by slamming a Tarmogoyf.

At this point, though, the deck is starting to look a lot less like Traverse Shadow and a lot more than Golgari Rock, which also popped up in some leagues this month:

Golgari Rock is more focused on maintaining and generating card advantage, trading in the more aggressive Death's Shadow for Dark Confidant and mainboard copies of Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Lightning Bolt, seemingly the main reason to even run red in the Shadow shell, also gets the axe so Golgari can run a more painless manabase and be prepared for longer games.

In "Outside the Box With Scourge of the Skyclaves," I unveiled my personal experiments with Scourge, which also paired it with Tarmogoyf in a shell less linear than the Prowess decks that splash it. That tinkering eventually led me to Jund Scourge, which harnessed the synergy between Scourge and Monastery Swiftspear in a shell nonetheless packed with interaction. One MODO user landed on something similar.

This build of Jund Scourge skips out on Death's Shadow, which I settled on as my final heavy threat. Instead, _STREAM runs Brushfire Elemental, a Modern newcomer I messed around with when it was spoiled alongside Akoum Hellhound and other landfall beaters. While Elemental possesses 2 toughness a good chunk of the time, meaning opponents will have little trouble picking it off with Lightning Bolt, it swings for 4 most of the time in this deck, making it another hefty threat should opponents lack the removal for it. By sandbagging fetchlands in play, it can even grow to 6/6 to take on an Uro.

Fighting Faster

That does it for our Inquisition of Kozilek segment. Some players are less interested in grinding value as they turn dudes sideways and more into... just the turning dudes sideways. So what's new with aggro in November?

The last time I even mentioned Tribal Zoo on ModernNexus, I was introducing Counter-Cat... a whopping 4 years ago! Yet here it is, an ancient Modern deck (the card tags in that CFB article don't even work anymore) given new life by none other than Scourge of the Skyclaves. Other than Scourge's introduction, the deck's not so different: Bolt/Path/Helix at 4 apiece, the same efficient one-drops, Goyf to back them up, and a couple Snapcasters for extra Tribal Flames resolutions. Since this deck deals itself a ton of damage with its lands and puts a ton of pressure on opponents, both in the red zone and via reach, Scourge seems like a great fit, and something of a Goyf-plus; while the green staple still beats out everything as a turn two play after a creature dies, Scourge becomes better with each passing turn, quickly surpassing its older brother in worth.

In my Spell Spotlight on Monastery Swiftspear, I remarked that Swiftspear was "good enough in its role to be run in every pure aggro deck." But here's a pure aggro deck without it. It's to Scourge's credit that such aggressive strategies can be built without Swiftspear so long as they embrace this new overlord.

The one deck we'll look at today that doesn't feature Scourge of the Skyclaves is chock full of other huge creatures. Red Eldrazi Stompy is a take on Colorless Eldrazi Stompy that's not exactly new, but may have a niche in this metagame. In the build I've seen before, Eldrazi Obligator usually replaces Eternal Scourge, with more red cards being run over Serum Powder. But this version keeps both, running Obligator instead of the flex spots in my Colorless builds while leaving the core totally intact. Okay, so one Dismember is trimmed, but it's perhaps made up for with all the extra removal: a pair of Chandras, which are pretty mean when Simian Spirit Guide accelerates into them, and of course the pseudo-removal of 4 Obligator.

There's also Blood Moon in the sideboard (why wouldn't there be?), but Obligator is indeed the real reason to go red. While I've never much been sold on the splash in the past, I'll concede that muscling past Uros and Scourges with nothing but a grip of 4/4s and 5/5s is pretty challenging. Obligator's here to take advantage of Modern's huge monsters, of which there are no shortage in the current metagame. And for everything else, there's the Colorless Eldrazi Stompy core—Scourge for control, Mimic and Knot for combo, Smasher for midrange, Chalice for one-drop decks, and the like.

Less Is More... least when it comes to life points. Scourge is incentivizing swaths of Modern players to lower everyone's life total, and the format is more alive than ever as a result. There's more to this format than escaping Uro, and for that, we've got Scourge to thank!

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.

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