Eternal Warrior #45: I Should CoCo

I’ve always loved Summoning Trap. There’s something very exciting about the element of randomness involved. Sure, you construct your deck to have good targets for it, but there’s still a great deal of chance involved when you flip through that top seven. The most powerful Trap decks have usually had one specific creature they were built to cheat into play with the card, whether that was Primeval Titan in the Standard Valakut deck or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Modern GW Trap. But I’ve had the most fun playing it in decks that had a variety of fatties, casting it on my opponent’s turn and crossing my fingers. People decry the luck factor in this game, but the topdeck is the most exciting aspect of Magic, and Trap is like taking seven topdecks in one fell swoop.

So I was immediately excited about Collected Company as soon as I saw it spoiled:

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Here is a card that rewards you for playing a variety of 2-3 cmc value creatures, efficient beaters, creatures with tricky enter-the-battlefield abilities, or even combo pieces. The way I had wanted to play Trap, with the excitement of not knowing what you’d get, was most likely the “wrong” way. But with Collected Company, you want to have 20+ eligible creatures in your deck. Casting this spell is like opening Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates — I don’t know why you stole a mentally-handicapped person’s candy, and shame on you, but I know you’ll enjoy being surprised at what you find. As long as it isn’t coconut.

The card is aggressively-costed, to be sure. If you took away the part where it puts the creatures into play, and instead printed a card that said “Look at your top six cards, put two creatures into your hand, you can cast creatures as though they had flash this turn”, what would that cost? It would almost certainly have to cost at least 1G. So if you find more than 2 mana’s worth of dudes off this, you’re getting a ritual stapled onto your pseudo-Impulse, and that’s just really nuts. Spells that combine tutoring/filtering/drawing with cost-reduction are among the most powerful available. Several cards across the ban lists of all formats share those traits.

So I knew this spell would be fun to cast, and that it is powerful on paper, but at first I didn’t really know if it would find a home. The list of eligible creatures in Legacy is powerful, but the existence of Daze and Wasteland and Spell Pierce makes it questionable to try casting 4 cmc non-creature spells. I passed over it completely in my eternal set review for that very reason. Although some players have experimented with it there, it hasn’t put up any results yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, in Standard, the card took a little while to catch on. I had previously abandoned Standard completely, but decided to get back in solely to build with this card; that’s how excited I was for it. Lucky for me, I beat the rush on it by a couple weeks and managed to grab my copies on the cheap in both paper and digital. Once players began to find the optimal way to build around the card, it turned out to be quite strong in Standard, and is now the most valuable rare in the set. Online it’s worth more than either planeswalker as of today!

But it’s in Modern where the card seems to have caught on the fastest, and it’s done so across a wide variety of decks.

The first place people thought to try it was in Melira Combo, as a “replacement” of sorts for the dearly-departed Birthing Pod. This application was explored during spoiler season, and it found success almost immediately, winning the Modern event at the SCG Open in Portland in the hands of Brad Rutherford:

Brad’s list is essentially “Podless Pod”, with CoCo taking Pod’s place. All the same combo creatures are there, and the same mana ramping creatues, and the same utility guys. With the addition of CoCo, the plan to “go wide” seems a bit more prominent now, with 2 Gavony Township and a full playset of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit.

That’s about as far as most people expected to see the card go back in spoiler season, but instead it spread to other base-green decks, and enabled some previously Tier 3 archetypes to emerge as strong contenders. Magnus Lantto won the MOCS championship in May with Modern Elves, defeating a Melira Company deck in the finals with this list:

Modern Elves works more or less by simply vomiting a ton of Elves onto the battlefield and dumping excess mana into Ezuri, Renegade Leader‘s Overrun ability. The deck is fairly similar to the Elves that existed in Zendikar/Scars Standard. Back in those days, Lead the Stampede was a respectable option for refueling your hand and digging for action. I’ve tried Lead the Stampede in Modern tribal decks before, as it works fairly well with AEther Vial builds. But Collected Company is a nice upgrade on Lead the Stampede in this type of list. With Chord of Calling in hand, your CoCo is essentially discounted by a couple of mana as the creatures you pop into play can be tapped for convoke.

The light splash of white is very telling about the format. Modern is defined by powerful sideboard cards, and Magnus wanted access to Kataki out of the board, as well as Burrenton Forge-Tender to help save his team from damage-based sweepers from decks like Scapeshift, Tron, or UWR control.

Next up is an interesting Bant list that 4-0′d a Modern Daily Event in late May:

In Game 1, this plays as a straightforward midrange-aggro deck, and is built to be solid in this configuration against the G/B/x Rock decks. Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence are solid against any non-exiling removal spell, and there’s a good bit of exalted to help bash through opposing creatures. With a full set of Loxodon Smiter and three Wilt-Leaf Liege, plus plenty of mana dorks to sacrifice, you can laugh off an opposing Liliana of the Veil. Collected Company is good against Lily as well, and as a two-for-one it helps avoid being ground down by the rock player’s incremental card advantages. Post-board, the deck has access to all the most powerful sideboard cards in the format.

There are some… interesting… choices here. The singleton Tarmogoyf looks a bit out of place, and Bant decks have trouble growing him as quickly as black players do. There isn’t much for Venser, the Sojourner to re-buy, just the pair of Finks and the two Snapcaster Mages. Of course, it’s possible the deck’s pilot wanted Venser for the -1 Falter effect. That effect is often forgotten, but I would kill to have it available in the present Standard for my Bant Company deck there. G/W/x mirrors in Modern, just as in Standard, can often end up with clogged board states, so perhaps that’s the reason for Venser’s inclusion.

The deck I chose for this week’s videos is yet another variant, this time in Naya colors:

I’ve played Big Zoo in Modern before, using a Domri Rade build developed by Brian Kibler. Since the unbanning of Wild Nacatl, smaller and more aggressive Zoo lists have been more popular. Still, having played this type of deck a lot in the past, I felt very comfortable with it — I made a few mistakes here and there, but it performed very well overall.

In the matchplay videos, you’ll see me take on Affinity, UW Tron, and then the Bant Collected Company deck. There is quite a lot of CoCo action in the 2nd and 3rd matches. The random element of the card is definitely on display in these videos, but I think we can safely say that CoCo does what it’s advertised to do. Against Tron’s sorcery speed sweepers, it had obvious power just acting as a pair of flash creatures. In the final match, you’ll get to see what I was talking about earlier with regard to the Bant deck having the ability to grind you down with incremental advantages and recursion.

I hope you enjoyed this extended look at Collected Company. CoCo has turned out to be the most exciting card of the year for Modern, hands down. I love it when fun and power level combine, and I have to applaud WotC development for pushing the power on this one to get this type of effect into constructed play.

 

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