Eternal Warrior #33: Modern Guilt

Modern is sort of the kid brother to the other non-rotating formats. You don’t even want to acknowledge that he’s there a lot of the time, but Mom and Dad seem to give him a lot more attention than they do to you these days. He can’t do everything the older kids can do, and you have to hold his hand and walk real slow across the street to get anywhere. The format has a lot of frustrating handicaps to it. You can barely get through two turns without self-inflicting several points of damage, which definitely comes as quite a “shock” when you’re trying to re-acclimate yourself to the format.

I don’t really care for any of the established decks in the format. When I’ve wanted to play competitively, I typically opted for Jund back in the days before the Bloodbraid Elf ban, and have played Zoo variants for much of the format’s existence whether or not that archetype was any good. If you have a plan to deal with a few of the format’s boogeymen, you can actually play a wide variety of decks. I’ve touched on the format a few times in the past, trying out a few rogue decks that I found interesting to experiment with. But I hadn’t spent much time before now trying to actually brew a deck for the format.

My intention was to take the things I’d learned from building Hatebears decks in Vintage and apply them to Modern. Most of the creatures in those decks are Modern-legal, so the card pool is there.

The problem is that you are attacking such a wide variety of strategies. In Vintage, there are only a few broad categories of decks to attack: Workshops, Dredge, Blue Control, and “lots of cheap spells” decks ranging from Storm to Delver. In Modern, you need a plan for Birthing Pod, Tron, Burn, Affinity, Splinter Twin, Scapeshift, Bogles, a variety of Rock decks, and more. And all those decks attack in different ways. In Vintage, you also have much better mana-denial plans to supplement your attack.

I knew I would want green, white, and black for the best assortment of hatebears, plus Dark Confidant and Thoughtseize. From there, my original build used blue for Trinket Mage in the board plus a trinket package. The thinking there was that there are a number of solid trinkets that shut down opposing Modern decks fairly well. Grafdigger’s Cage and Pithing Needle are both solid, and Chalice of the Void is pretty good against combo decks like Living End or the new Jeskai Ascendancy deck. But I found the deck was very weak to Tron as configured, so I opted instead to splash red for Avalanche Riders. Uncounterable land destruction off the back of Cavern of Souls seemed good against a lot of decks, actually. Modern’s notoriously greedy mana bases are always worth attacking.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a solid card against many modern decks, and forcing her through off a Cavern of Souls can be a nice tempo play if they were leaving up Remand. Electrolyze is going to be good against this deck, but at least it’s not quite as good at 4 mana.

In Vintage, outside of the Shops matchup, you rarely have to worry about large creatures other than the occasional Tarmogoyf. In Modern there can be a bit more combat, so I beefed up the lineup with a set of Knight of the Reliquary and a couple copies of the new card Anafenza, the Foremost. KotR has gotten much better now that Deathrite Shaman isn’t gobbling up all your discarded fetchlands every turn.

With such a high creature count, I thought Mayor of Avabruck was worth a try as he’d be worth quite a bit of power on the board. They have to respect it enough to spend removal on him at the worst, hopefully clearing the way for the larger beatsticks to remain on the table.

Here’s the list I’ll be playing in today’s videos:

After playing with this deck for a few days in the 2-mans, I feel that you need to have a much more focused metagame in mind to be successful with a deck like this in the Modern format. The smaller-stakes queues are just too wide open. You are planning to be the beatdown with this deck, but if your opponent isn’t disrupted by your creatures, then you really are just attacking with Grizzly Bears. In a metagame that was mostly combo and blue tempo decks, I think you could tune this list to be very successful. But in a metagame with a substantial number of “fair decks”, you are just a suboptimal aggro deck. I was expecting to see a lot more combo than I did, especially given all the hype surrounding the Jeskai Ascendency deck, but that just isn’t the field I would end up facing.

Check out the match videos below, and let me know what you think in the comments. Are there any creatures you would consider running that I didn’t include here?

  1. M1G1, was there a particular reason not to abrupt decay the dryad over the beast token? I feel like I’m missing something.

  2. M1 G1 is like : ”I am so very relaxed , not only because it’s just a game in the end but also ı am sitting on a collection whereas ı don’t care ıf ı win or lose.İt’s just hmmm… the cards man so quality ı don’t even have to think anything ( see noble hierarch attacking for 1 dmg.where at 19 and knowing opp.has the beast in hand) .Yeah great content…Gratz.

  3. Can you please stop the rules nonsense, it kinda hurts and will teach players wrong rules.

    The token is no land and has a converted manacost of 0, so you can of course decay it. He just missed it

  4. +1@Neon.

    The land was indeed not destroyable, but the token ofc is, and I think it was the better play.

    I’ve only watched R1 so far, and i’m not a modern player, so there could be some things i miss (cards to play around etc.), but I found some plays pretty lax in that first round.

    In my opinion, the worst play in R1G3 is to not use the thoughtseize when you were hesitating “to take a million damage”. As it was, you had the biggest creature on board (or virtually, thanks to first strike), so the board was yours. Only things which could change this were cards in your opponent’s hand – esp. since he already showed some cards in R1G1 to interact with your creatures.

    In that kind of situation, I think it’s definitely worth paying the 4 life and having information about the opponent’s hand – especially since he has only one available mana and probably cannot cast any important card to prevent it from being discarded.

    At worst, he had almost nothing and you still removed his strongest play to come back – while doing that you maintain your board position and give you more draws to get some better cards ; and you also know if you have safe attacks/blocks.
    At best, your remove some key cards from his hand, like he had, and avoid future 2 for 1s or such things!

    Well, anyway. It’s often easier to see such things while watching than when playing, but I guess if I’d always go for the additionnal information/discard in that kind of setup, even if it costs 4 life!

    I’ll watch the rest later, thanks anyway for the content!

  5. Thanks for watching guys.

    I think I noted in one of the videos that I’d been sick for a couple days, and I can definitely tell I was playing a bit sluggish in Match 1. The “Beast Within my own land” thing was essentially an on-board trick, since I knew about the Beast Within, and I should have caught that. That’s not an inherently super-powerful play, but it was a definite mistake to give him a way to get additional value out of his mana after he shipped the turn like that. Sometimes you have to barge into it anyhow because you can’t hold back forever, but I wasn’t in such a position there. In my defense, very few decks are playing Beast Within (only Living End, of the Tier decks, AFAIK) so while I knew about the card in his hand, it had been since about 2011 when somebody last used that particular play against me.

    In Match 2, my Boggles opponent attacks his 5/5 into my active 4/4 Knight of the Reliquary. Since I play with/against KotR all the time (it’s probably among my most-played cards), this looks like a really obviously bad play, and you wonder how anybody could miss it. But if my opponent didn’t play during ALA/ZEN standard, or played Modern mostly during the era when DRS pushed KotR out of the format, maybe he honestly hasn’t seen that play very often. There are so very many things to remember in an average game of Magic, and you more easily remember the tricks that you have encountered or employed a few times before.

    Magikado: interesting thoughts on the exchange of life for information, and how board position factors into the decision, much appreciate the comment.

  6. No worries, glad if I could provide some food for thoughts with my moderate magic-level! :)

    Anyway – thanks for the vids, regardless of my “complaints”, it was instructive in its own way and the next games were played a bit tighter if my memory serves me right!

    I was particularly happy to see the mono-green list of your opponent, I always thought modern “had to be” an expensive format due to dual & fetch lands or some expensive “key” cards, but I found out this deck is relatively cheap and I love green anyway, so I’m going to try it (or a similar stuff anyway).

    So thanks for indirectly giving me a breach into joining the modern players :D

  7. Yes I think that mono-green list has a pretty good game against the “fair” decks. Just playing a lot of 4/4 and 4/5 creatures is nice against the Snapcaster/Bolt decks, it’s the same idea behind the midrange Kibler Zoo deck I played for my Christmas Special, you can see that one here:

    Obviously that list was more expensive, containing several mythics, but it’s the same idea of playing creatures that are harder for the opponent to cheaply remove. If I were going to play mono-green stompy, I would try to include a couple copies of Thrun as well (10 tix currently, not bank-breaking though not exactly cheap). I think the deck would be weak against combo, as it really has nothing to fight combo in the main that I could see except for the Dryad Militants that would shut down Pyromancer Ascension Storm — but if your Storm hate dies to Lightning Bolt, that’s pretty weak. I think the combo matchup needs to be improved significantly. A set of Nature’s Claim in the board would help in a lot of those matchups, and without splashing white, that may be the easiest route to take.

    Duals and fetches are actually fairly affordable right now, and it might be a good time to buy in if you want to play Modern.

  8. R1G3 Anafenza is in play, you should have blocked the geist with the mayor and exiled it when you lost most of your board, leaving yourself with a better next turn, would always have lost to the rancor but that is besides the point.