May ’21 Brew Report: I Sea Change

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Starms a-comin' in. You know, Modern Horizons 2? As usual, though, Modern players aren't content to just sit around and wait for the new cards. They're as busy as ever creating, tuning, and tweaking new creations! Today, we'll look at a couple of notable developments this month: the propagation of tech from UR Prowess and how different creature themes are helming new and exciting decks.

Ripple Effect
When decks start to perform in Modern, or enjoy continued success, it sometimes occurs that other decks—even established ones—become curious about the steaming hot tech next door. We've already seen BGx adopt Mishra's Bauble to some degree, but the following couple lifts surprised even me!

UR Prowess is indeed very powerful this season, but good ol' Burn has been putting up results here and there, too; as players budget their life totals and deck constructions to just beat Prowess, they give up points against the original Lava Spike deck. This build features what is arguably the most free card in Prowess, Mishra's Bauble... even though it's got a full set of Eidolons to punish all players packing the 0-drop. What gives?

For starters, there is some precedent to running Bauble in Burn. The trend dates back to when Lurrus of the Dream-Den was unfixed, meaning companions could be cast directly from the sideboard without first being put into the hand. That build of Burn quickly established itself as a deck-to-beat and helped contribute to the rules change taking place. This Burn deck also runs Lurrus in the side, which explains the Baubles. But is it worth adding  slow-trips to a deck that often kills opponent at exactly the right time just to extend the deck's mid-game potential against attrition decks?

Apparently, yes. Even with the extra cost demanded by companion, having a Lurrus plan to fall back on is alluring enough that plenty of Modern decks still run the 3/2. It certainly looks great against the UW and Esper Control decks running rampant to quell Prowess. And if MCWINSAUCE could turn the artifact into a 4-0 Preliminary stretch, there may be more to running the trinket in Burn than I had assumed.

The next deck borrowing from UR Prowess is one that isn't so strategically divergent: Grixis Shadow. Shadow definitely trends more interactive than Prowess, but that interaction comes with ensured land drops, and land drops improve Expressive Iteration greatly. This two-mana cantrip has by and large replaced Light Up the Stage in UR Prowess decks, for a few reasons:

  • It hides the information, improving tricks like Mutagenic Growth or Spell Pierce
  • It works from behind, letting players claw their way back into the game
  • It doesn't require an attack, generating more prowess triggers or helping break a board stall
  • It digs a card deeper, increasing the odds of finding the right card

All these benefits seem to outweigh the fact that iteration comes with a hefty price compared to the twice-as-cheap Light Up. I had wondered about the card in Delver shells before concluding that it was just too much mana to pay there. But still, its effect is formidable in a spell-based aggro-control deck. Grixis Shadow seems like a natural fit, and I wouldn't be surprised to see most builds adopt this development going forward. Snapcaster Mage is slower and more conditional, making it a better card to draw into with Iteration than one to be naturally drawing into early on.

Dream Theme

Themed creature decks aren't just the stuff of casual players; many great Modern decks are built around a shared mechanic, such as Prowess, or winning tribe, like Humans. Then there are other mechanics and tribes which, while less powerful, have their fans and can succeed in the right context... or if given a little twist!

Tribal Landfall Zoo blends two underperforming Modern decks, Tribal Zoo and Landfall Zoo, into a league-clearing concoction. I proposed Landfall Zoo way back when Akoum Hellhound was spoiled, but ended up disappointed; Hellhound found its place in Shadow Zoo, the grandaddy of this new deck, as a color-shifted Steppe Lynx, effectively replacing Lynx as R was easier to afford than W early in the game. But the deck didn't want 8 Lynxes, nor did any deck.

Until now, that is, when the landfall strat smashes head-on into Tribal Flames: a sorcery (with its pal Boros Charm in tow) that deals tons of damage for two mana. And getting out all the land types is easier than ever with Wrenn and Six in the mix. On a good day, Might of Alara might even act as a one-mana Tribal Flames!

Notably absent are Wild Nacatl, the de facto face of Zoo, and Monastery Swiftspear, the de facto face of aggro. Instead, meet the 12 landfall creatures, and the 8 Shadow creatures. (Oh, you've already met those guys? My mistake....)

I know I'm not the only one who began frantically searching Gatherer for Vampires when they spoiled Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. Nor the only one crestfallen to discover that the best threat to cheat out was actually Morophon, the Boundless, which doesn't do much on its own. But man does it do much paired with a whole tribe.

With Sorin Slivers, BLACKDOVE26 takes the old tribe to new heights by pairing Slivers with the Sorin strategy, giving the deck a never-before-felt combo element. Sorin cheats out Morophon as early as turn three; from there, Slivers can cast The First Sliver for 0 mana and kick off a chain of cascades. Cloudshredder gives them all flying and haste, so the game ends pretty much right away. And Dregscape lets players do it from the graveyard.

More Where That Came From

Modern players never cease to disappoint when it comes to new brews. If you've seen something spicy, let me know in the comments! In the meantime, stay tuned for some brews of my own featuring some of those sweet new Horizons cards.

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