Last month, we took a look at some of the more interesting decks the online dumps provided in November, focusing on the many applications of Scourge of the Skyclaves. It is indeed December now, but what better time to check out the candidates from the last two weeks? With our comprehensive metagame update published and Modern's current bigger players established, let's scrape the barrel for the never-before-done—or, if we're lucky, the next big thing!
As the Sky Keeps Claving
Scourge of the Skyclaves made for a fun exposé, but it seems players have had their fun. In November's second half, they gravitated to its buddy in lore, or so I assume: Skyclave Apparition. When we ran Uro's Spell Spotlight, only Apparition stood between the ubiquitous Titan and Modern's #1 most-played creature slot. But Death and Taxes certainly ain't the only deck packing the little guy. Sure, it's been showing up in the likes of Counters Company (great at finding utility creatures) and UW Spirits (which has betrayed its tribe before with Reflector Mage and Militia Bugler), but also in decks potentially better-poised to take advantage of its versatile disruptive effect.
Skyclave Apparition seems to have become a staple in PrimeTime, which I've been calling all mish-mashes of land-oriented cards that revolve around Primeval Titan and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. Here, the card serves multiple functions, helping win a tight race when playing fair while removing troublesome permanents such as Blood Moon (a card we've been seeing more and more of lately).
PrimeTime doesn't always assemble its Field of the Dead or Valakut late-game; sometimes, opponents have just the right answers, or find ways to cripple the engine. In those cases, Apparition helps the deck's namesake 6/6 crash through for lethal. To increase access to both Primeval Titan and Apparition, Eladamri's Call has become an attractive option, letting the deck run a creature toolbox without committing to the combo plan associated with Summoner's Pact.
We've covered Ephemerate decks before, back when they ran Yorion (remember those days?). Behold, the instant's new face: a tighter, sleeker Bant Ephemerate deck that heavily incorporates Skyclave Apparition as a high-value blink target. Like with the old Oblivion Ring-style creatures, blinking Apparition in response to the trigger leaves opponents without one payoff for the kill, or pilots with a "free" exile effect for their trouble. And since opponents never get those cards back with Apparition, but just lousy tokens in their place, the combination can threaten to decimate boards.
The rest of the gang's all here: Ice-Fang Coatl, a great card in Ephemerate even if it's hard to splash in most decks without Arcum's Astrolabe hanging around anymore; Eternal Witness to buy back the right cards, including Ephemerate; and, of course, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Gotta use that graveyard! Gotta draw those cards! Gotta gain that life! In decks like this one, Uro is just too good not to play.
"What if we took the deck we just saw... and made it... weird?" Well, SESBEN1111, I would love that! Neoform Ephemerate trades most of its Apparitions for a full-blown toolbox and Watcher for Tomorrow, a staple Ephemerate target. This deck's creatures can be tributed to Neoform to pull more menacing beasts out of the deck, yielding rank-ups reminiscent of the Birthing Pod days: that measly Watcher might as well be Venser or Apparition, but the real magic happens when the three-drops become Reveillark!
Dark Confidant? Never heard of him! Deadguy Ale is an age-old Legacy strategy that gained a little traction in Modern when Stoneforge Mystic came off the banlist. This build trims the fat in the creature suite, axing Confidant, Giver of Runes and more in favor of staples Tidehollow and Stoneforge as well as—who else—Skyclave Apparition! Bitterblossom also constitutes a threat, especially alongside all that equipment. The rest of the deck is full of disruption; this is BW Tokens with a vengeance.
Head Out the Clouds
Skyclave Apparition seems like Modern's latest sauce, but is likely to have a lot more staying power than something like Reflector Mage, which now sees play limited to Humans. Its no-questions-asked "that's just gone" effect is one the format has been clamoring for. But just as there's more to Modern than Uro, there's more to November than Apparition. Here are a couple quick hits from this extremely diverse month.
Mox Opal may be banned, but Mox Amber's fate was much kinder, and so players get to keep messing around with Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. That's the case with Esper Unearth, the latest deck to try its hand at breaking the upside-down enchantment. Powering out a flipped Erayo means running lots of cheap artifacts, something Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Monastery Mentor can also appreciate. Behold, a blueprint! Cantrips and light disruption fill out the rest of the shell, with a full set of Teferi, Time Raveler included to put the hurt on the Faerie menace. Or whoever runs instants nowadays.
Don't worry combo fans, I didn't forget you! It's true, attacking is lame. But so are those cookie-cutter Gruul Belcher decks, not to mention the Ballustrade builds. Blue Belcher to the rescue! With all those snazzy land-spells, it was a matter of time before someone tried their hand at a more unorthodox Belcher concoction. And if anything, I'd say this deck speaks to the power of Goblin Charbelcher the card; the land-spells don't seem particularly exciting in this color. Rather, the draw to UW seems to be threefold:
- Access to Serum Visions
- The ability to disruption-proof the combo by powering out Teferi, Time Raveler
- An alternate gameplan via Selective Memory
Resolving Selective Memory lets players empty their entire deck of cards, causing Thassa's Oracle to trigger a win upon resolution. As such, the deck boasts an alternate combo dimension similar to that of Inverter Oracle in that it's very difficult to stop if its pieces resolve. Memory-Oracle is also harder to hate out with permanents such as Pithing Needle, which otherwise stop the Belcher combo.
As is always the case with new brews, we'll see if these hang on or just prove flashes in the pan. But either way, it's great to see more nuance in established decks, especially in Belcher (which got old fast) and among Modern's pool of ever-morphing disruptive creature strategies.
Many of my buddies have expressed a reduction in Modern interest of late, something I don't doubt has something to do with paper Magic being more or less on hold in most of the world. But don't sleep on this format! It's as diverse as ever, and never stops giving when it comes to new tech.