December ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Flagged!

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The world's on fire, or so it can seem—depending on your news outlet, salvation may well be around the corner. In any case, there's one world that's blooming and flourishing, and that's the world of Magic: Online Modern invention! Today, we'll check out four of the coolest decks I've seen surface in December thus far, including an underplayed tribal strategy, one sacrilegious twist on an old favorite, and a novel package that's both ramp and land hate.

Keeping the Tempo

Tempo has long been my preferred way to play Modern, although I course-corrected to midrange by building Colorless Eldrazi Stompy. Call me a sucker for attacking and disrupting. And I seem to share this passion with others. The next couple decks are spins on ones I've sleeved up myself that bring something new and exciting to Modern.

No bending over backwards to boost Tarmogoyf with Thieves' Fortune—this is Dimir Rogues we're talking about! Goyf still shows up in Modern, but not nearly at the levels it used to, and it's long become antiquated in tribal tempo shells like this one. Indeed, the above list makes it seem like Rogues has everything it needs in blue and black to become a solid lower-tier contender.

Soaring Thought-Thief is a unique lord that advances the gameplan by milling opponents. While doing so can prove dangerous depending on what you face, a heavy reliance on Thieves' Guild Enforcer makes it all worth it: with Thought-Thief active, Enforcer is a one-mana, four-power creature with flash and deathtouch. Bloodchief's Thirst makes an appearance as additional copies of Fatal Push, although these can take out planeswalkers; Drown in the Loch forms the backbone of the interactive suite, handling anything opponents throw at the pilot and keeping with the mill theme.

And speaking of that theme, Into the Story provides a way to gas back up in the mid-game that frequently draws four for four. "Is that even good?" you may ask, to which I'll reply, "I have no idea." But there are four copies here, and the deck at least did something, so I for one am excited to experience firsthand whether Treasure Cruising-plus is as fun as it looks. We'll get to whether it's any good second. But let me leave you with this image: end of turn, Snapcaster, target Story....

Is that old boy Temur Delver? Yes! I mean... no? Where's Delver? Certainly not in Temur No Delver, which drops the staple of this archetype for the more aggressive Monastery Swiftspear. It's true that Bolts, Pushes, and Thirsts have been creeping up in the numbers lately to deal with hyper-aggressive strategies like Mono-Red Prowess. So Delver's not too long for this world. Neither is Swiftspear, but at least the 1/2 can tuck away a few points of damage before it bites the dust; every point counts in a deck like this one, and few Stage 1 creatures are as reliable at outputting pressure. Plus, when you're leaning on Tarmogoyf and Hooting Mandrills to pick up the pieces, the faster your one-drop gets shot, the better! Flying isn't even entirely forsaken, as relative newcomer Stormwing Entity brought its four copies of Manamorphose to the party and is ready to roll.

Mandrills itself is in an interesting spot right now. The card has always been superb in Modern, where it tramples over creatures typically relied upon to chump-block fatties while dodging Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay. With the popularity of Aether Gust, however, I feel like Gurmag Angler and other cost-reduced fatties are finally giving the Ape a run for its bananas. Gust is making waves for its use against Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, but Mandrills suffers significant splash damage. Having this thing topped or bottomed stinks more than having a fresh turd flung at your head.

Control's New Cleanse

Control decks are alive and well, and I don't just mean four-color Uro piles. More standard interactive builds have figured out some neat tricks to defeat the Omnath menace, and now they're unveiling the goods.

Okay, so it's aggro-combo-control. But at its core, this greenless build of Jeskai Saheeli emphasizes the control, employing a hefty haul of removal spells and interactive planeswalkers to buy itself time before going infinite with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. That spicy new tech I alluded to above? It's none other than Cleansing Wildfire, mainboarded, maxed out, and paired with a set of Flagstones of Trokair.

Back in the day, players used to pop their own Flagstones using Boom//Bust as a build-your-own, two-mana Stone Rain. Cleansing Wildfire does something similar. If it's not destroying Field of Ruin, Tron lands, or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Wildfire can be pointed at one's own Flagstones of Trokair as a build- your-own, cantripping Rampant Growth. Cantripping Rampant Growth! In Boros colors! Jeskai Saheeli is no stranger to tapping out for planeswalkers and 1/4 Cats, so despite its heavily interactive nature, it doesn't mind casting the sorcery on turn two. Still, thanks to with A-Teferi, Time Raveler, Wildfire is often cast at instant speed, which makes it kind of absurd. At last, a worthwhile use for Tef's +1 ability!

Here's the same package in Jeskai Control, a decidedly more dedicated control deck that stretches out the game before winning with a big Shark Typhoon. The more lands the better since that's the gameplan, and having extra insulation against the land-based combo decks all over Modern right now while serving as a competent ramping plan seems like just what Dr. Jeskai ordered.

The success of Flagstones-Wildfire in these lists led me to wonder if other strategies might want it. It's perhaps worth noting that Splinter Twin's cursed remains, Kiki-Exarch, put up multiple strong finishes this month. That strikes me as a pile that would make great use of the engine, as it's already running Wildfire in its 75 to compete with the land-lovers. The package alone isn't much reason to splash white, but Time Raveller adds protection for the combo... at that point, the question becomes: is Kiki-Exarch less reliable than Copy-Cat?

Going Out with a Bang

Leave it to Modern to keep throwing innovation our way as we press on into the new year. I'd bet the rest of December also fails to disappoint. This New Year's, find me counting down from 10 on all alone in a room scrolling the MTGO dumps!

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