Keranos is one of the most underrated cards ever.
I wrote it off when it didn’t immediately impact Standard, but was pleasantly surprised to see it start popping up in Modern, where it sees play as a one- or two-of in most URx variants.
It’s good in Modern for a lot of the same reasons that Batterskull is good. In a format that revolves around Snapcasting back efficient removal, having a resilient threat wins games, and the clock isn’t that slow when you can combine it with burn. While it doesn’t have the immediate impact of a 4/4 with lifelink, there are even fewer ways of interacting with a Keranos than a Batterskull.
It’s been relatively unplayed in Standard for a few reasons. If your control opponent always has a Detention Sphere, you’d rather play a planeswalker and gain some value before it gets eaten. Meanwhile, efficient removal isn’t as omnipresent as other formats, making resiliency less important.
Costing red matters. While blue control is popular in Standard, red doesn’t add much to the archetype. In Modern, control wants red because Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze are the best cards to Snapcast back.
In Standard, the control decks are designed to cast Sphinx’s Revelation, and if you have time to Sphinx’s Revelation you have time to Aetherling, and at that point why do anything else? That’s all going to change when Standard rotates. No longer will the end game be chaining Sphinx’s Revelations. Once more, gradual engines will have a place.
In the history of Magic, the Gods are recent additions, making them hard to evaluate. I knew that Thassa would be good, but I overestimated how good she’d be if she wasn’t a creature consistently, and I tried her in a few different failed Eternal lists. She was fine as a Zur target in Modern, but didn’t do enough in Legacy Miracles.
Then Keranos came along, and as with Thassa I assumed the card needed to be turned on consistently, writing it off for Eternal play. That was a mistake.
A few days ago, I was messaged by Bruno Ramalho, a Legacy player from Brazil. We’d talked about Keranos in Miracles before, but this time he’d just Top 4’d a reasonably-sized tournament and had stories to share.
In one game, he put it into play off of his opponent’s Show and Tell before playing a Karakas, bouncing his opponent’s Emrakul, and winning with Keranos Bolts. He used it to grind down Jaces, and even raced a Sulfuric Vortex.
I was intrigued.
I can’t speak much for the rest of the deck, as I don’t know the specifics of the Brazilian metagame, but I’m a fan for the most part. The Batterskull in the sideboard is an open slot.
I love the Keranos, especially since we were already splashing red for REBs and had a high curve for Jace and Entreat. It solves some problems for the deck, like adding another way to pressure opposing ‘walkers. It draws through land gluts for Top, and speeds up the glacially slow clock.
It looks peculiar enough on paper that it won’t be picked up en mass, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it slowly picks up steam as people lose to it and realize its power. It should be especially good in metagames full of Jace mirrors and other grindy fair decks.
That’s enough Keranos talk for this week. Although, it might be good in this next deck.
A few weeks ago I shared a UR Delver list that I’d been streaming with to some success. That weekend, I took it to the finals of a 140-person PTQ. Here’s an updated version:
I love this deck. It’s powerful, proactive, difficult to play against and rewarding to play. It has a naturally strong game against many of the top decks, especially Pod.
“I have to say, I’m not even mad,” I said.
And I wasn’t. How could I be? That’s amazing.
I ended up winning the match, but after I got home I wasted hours and hours testing various Waste Not brews. And I do mean “wasted.” While casting Waste Not into Burning Inquiry seems sweet on paper, in reality it’s combining two cards to get about two cards worth of potential value, like a build-your-own Divination. Meanwhile, Reforge was inconsistent, and you almost had to chain them to ensure the opponent had a relevant number of cards in hand.
But I digress. After the Waste Not match, I had an average tournament, beating the UR Delver mirror, two GBx decks, Scape, Burn, Pod, and Wescoe BW while losing to UWR and another GBx deck.
The original deck had a pair of Gut Shots. While not bad, they were at their best in the matchups that were already good and at their worst in the bad matchups. By trading them for Pillars, I made room for more high-impact cards in the sideboard.
Isn’t Batterskull pricey for a 19-land deck?
I started with one Batterskull. After it overperformed, I moved up to two. This card wins a TON of games.
When Delver was in Standard, I had my best finishes with the deck when I had a bomb like Gideon or Consecrated Sphinx at the top of my curve, something to take advantage of excess lands in the late game. When you’re cantripping this much, you’re going to hit land drops whether you want to or not, and Delver can grind with the best of them.
Note that, if you don’t have the mana to cast Batterskull, that means you have plenty of other things to be doing. Running it wins games you would’ve lost, and rarely loses games you would’ve won.
It’s possible that one of the ‘skulls should be a Keranos. After all, a Jund opponent can interact with Batterskull by killing the token, hitting it with Maelstrom Pulse, or boarding in Ancient Grudge. On the other hand, UWR can burn you out at a certain point, and a Batterskull hit is some insurance against that strategy.
Maindeck Blood Moon?
Yes, Blood Moon is rarely dead, hoses manlands and some combo decks, and it flat out wins difficult matchups like UWR. If you try and tempo out the Path + Bolt + Electrolyze + Lightning Helix deck you’re going to have a bad time, which is one of the reasons that Delver variants have fallen off in Modern. If you attack them from another angle, however, you can gain inevitability and win that way.
I like Thrun out of green decks for a similar reason.
On top of all the other reasons, this deck’s ability to reliably kill mana dorks makes Blood Moon a much stronger maindeck card than usual.
How’s the GBx matchup?
Skill-based, for the most part. If the players are equal it’ll come down to draws, but both players have enough interaction and get to see enough cards that decisions tend to matter a lot, whether it’s keeping loose hands or taking the wrong card with Thoughtseize or misboarding or screwing up the sequencing on a cantrip.
The only games I was losing were when the opponent played multiple Tarmogoyfs and/or Scavenging Oozes early and I didn’t have a Blood Moon. Some people suggested Spell Snare, but I hate cantripping into that card, and would rather my answers be live draws so I can keep more hands. As such, I added a second Dismember to the main, a third Blood Moon in the sideboard (also necessary vs. Tron, Scape, and UWR control), and upped the number of Threads of Disloyalty to three. Jan van der Vegt suggested a Sower of Temptation, which is tempting because it doesn’t die to Abrupt Decay, is strong vs. Liliana, and we have plenty of ways to bait out Lightning Bolt.
Are the Dragon’s Claws necessary? What are they good against except burn?
The Dragon’s Claws are narrow, but are 100% worth it. It’s like sideboarding graveyard hate for Dredge. If you have more than 50% chance to face it over the course of a long tournament, it’s worth it to auto-win that matchup instead of auto-lose it.
If all goes well, I’ll be giving it one last shot this weekend.
My WMCQ is approaching, and with it my interest in Standard. I have a few different friends helping me test the following brew. So far, we agree the list is powerful, though it’s still getting tuned.
The deck started as a Young Pyromancer brew, though I was only really winning by going Thoughtseize into Rabblemaster. I cut the garbage and added a pile of other cards that can win the game by themselves, similar to the Mono-Black shell, but with access to Rabblemaster and a few of red’s tools.
At first the removal package was more diverse, with cards like Mizzium Mortars, but narrowed down after testing. Basically, the deck needs ways to kill Master of Waves (non-red), Mutavault (instant), and Desecration Demon (burn ineffective) while being as efficient as possible.
Stoke the Flames looks a little odd on paper, and I’m not certain it belongs, but I’ve liked it so far as a removal spell that can go to the dome. Sometimes, it saves a Rabble token by letting me tap it before attackers.
So far, I like my matchups except for dedicated burn, though I’ve only played a Daily and a slew of two-mans so far. After more testing and tuning, I’ll have a better idea of just how good the matchups are, which will tell me whether losing to burn is worth it.
I’ve had a few requests for more Vintage videos, and don’t worry I haven’t forgotten. After we finish up the Banned Series I’ll be back to making more typical Eternal videos on the regular.
And I know the first deck I want to record:
Despite having more busted competition, UG Survival is still good and a blast to play. Because decks are so light on removal, many are susceptible to random creature rushes, and the backup plan of casting Vengevines and Clamping Rootwallas wins games. Vengevine is particularly good against random ‘walkers like Jace and Tezzeret, and that Rootwalla chains into Trinket Mage for Clamp avoids graveyard hate nicely.
There’s something comforting about having an active Survival. Most of the time, I’m just recurring Vengevines, but I love being able to grab Sower to steal a Blightsteel or Trinket Mage to tutor up Skullclamp. Having Snapcaster as part of a toolbox is a strange feeling, and reminds me of Mystical Teachings in Modern.
The deck started as a Goblin Welder brew, but needing a critical mass of artifacts on top of blue cards for Force and creatures for Survival didn’t work. On top of that, adding colors is more difficult than normal because there’s limited room for non-green sources.
I want more tutors to give the deck some virtual Survivals, reducing mulligans, but again creatures and blue cards take priority. I already cut the miser’s Ponder, and I might end up cutting Brainstorm too, though it’s a little better here than it was in Legacy because finding power replaces the cost of the card.