Discussion of competitive Modern is under the veil of Mythic Championship-induced radio silence, with the best minds in Magic currently testing the pants off the format in the lead-up to this weekend’s tournament. While we’re guaranteed to see a lot of Arclight Phoenixes being reanimated, a lot of Humans being Vialed in, and a lot of turn 3 Karns, the Wild West of Modern hasn’t yet been tamed. There are plenty of mysterious strangers on the horizon, and any one of them may decide London ain’t big enough for anyone else.
Super Crazy Zoo
Take your desks, students, it’s time for some History of Magic with me, Professor Binns. Please put away that copy of Urgent Exorcism, Mr. Thomas! Miss Pennyfeather, if I see that Rend Spirit again, I shall confiscate it.
Many years ago, before Death’s Shadow became the scourge of Modern, whispers of a new deck emerged from the Far East. Rumor told of a deck so powerful—so ruthless—that it shocked itself for no value and welcomed opposing Lightning Bolts with derisive scorn. The deck was known as Super Crazy Zoo, and it spread from Japan to the rest of the world before evolving into what we know today: Grixis Death’s Shadow.
The original lists, however, weren’t Grixis at all. They were Jund, and played big, bad thumpers like Tarmogoyf and Wild Nacatl in conjunction with Temur Battle Rage. Well, someone is messing with the time stream again, because Super Crazy Zoo is starting to find its way back to the top tables!
Super Crazy Zoo
1 Godless Shrine 4 Wooded Foothills 4 Verdant Catacombs 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Stomping Ground 1 Forest 1 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Wild Nacatl 4 Death's Shadow 4 Tarmogoyf 4 Street Wraith 4 Monastery Swiftspear 3 Become Immense 2 Dismember 2 Lightning Bolt 4 Mishra's Bauble 3 Mutagenic Growth 4 Temur Battle Rage 4 Thoughtseize Sideboard 1 Ancient Grudge 2 Assassin's Trophy 3 Collective Brutality 1 Duress 2 Faith's Shield 2 Fatal Push 2 Hooting Mandrills 1 Inquisition of Kozilek 1 Claim/Fame
We’ve all been on the wrong end of a Death’s Shadow plus TBR—it’s not a nice feeling. This deck looks to maximize its chances of one-shotting you with a TBR by playing a more robust creature suite, plus so many pump cards that you need SCADACore to help you monitor them all (#sponsored).
This list trades away the defensive interaction of Grixis, such as Stubborn Denial, to instead put the pedal to the metal with an aggressive game plan. A smattering of removal and hand disruption, sure, but at its core, this deck is going to get you dead real quick. In fact, a turn 2 kill is eminently possible with an opening hand of land, land, Swiftspear, TBR, and three Mutagenic Growth—and the third Growth is only needed if they don’t shock themselves!
Having explosive power and a ridiculously fast clock is going to be a good way to punish noninteractive, linear decks in London. Izzet Phoenix and Tron are both decks that can be outraced, and slamming in for massive damage as early as turn 2 is going to make it very hard for them to keep up. Given the state of Modern, I’m a big fan of this type of strategy for the upcoming Mythic Championship.
Cragganwick Cremator was just another bulk rare, hanging out with Sage-Eye Avengers and Lithophage, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the dollar rare bin. Then, along came Impervious Greatwurm, and the call finally came—it was time for this giant Shaman to join the big leagues.
In a format flush with fetches and shocks, discarding an Impervious Greatwurm to Cragganwick Cremator will often lead to those four little letters that make us all wake up in a cold sweat: “ggez”. Failing that, however, just jam a bunch of good old-fashioned little kid green creatures into a deck and show them pictures of monsters until they don’t want to play any more.
1 Cavern of Souls 2 Fire-Lit Thicket 4 Verdant Catacombs 4 Wooded Foothills 2 Stomping Ground 2 Copperline Gorge 1 Mountain 5 Forest 1 Temple Garden 1 Kessig Wolf Run 2 Birds of Paradise 4 Cragganwick Cremator 2 Fauna Shaman 4 Noble Hierarch 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller 1 Tireless Tracker 4 Strangleroot Geist 1 Nullhide Ferox 4 Steel Leaf Champion 2 Scavenging Ooze 1 Magus of the Moon 4 Impervious Greatwurm - Foil Buy-a-Box Promo 3 Eldritch Evolution 4 Lightning Bolt Sideboard 1 Alpine Moon 1 Anger of the Gods 1 Caldera Hellion 1 Cindervines 1 Damping Sphere 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Kitchen Finks 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence 1 Reclamation Sage 2 Relic of Progenitus 1 Surgical Extraction 1 Tireless Tracker 1 Wall of Reverence
Eldritch Evolution, otherwise known as “table scraps for Pod players”, hasn’t had the biggest impact in Modern, but has been around the traps with Devoted Druid Combo long enough to prove its worth. Here, however, it’s sacrificing Strangleroot Geist in order to fetch up a Cragganwick Cremator, and you can see how the bulk of the list is built to support the big Giant.
Undercosted, over-statted creatures are the name of the game here. Even if you’re not discarding a Greatwurm, there are only so many 5 damage hits an opponent can take, especially when you’re beating down with Standard all-stars Steel Leaf Champion and Nullhide Ferox. This deck hits hard and it hits fast, thanks to all the mana dorks, although when you discard a Noble Hierarch to Cragganwick Cremator, you’re going to feel like a bit of a turkey.
One thing to note about this list is its capacity to play silver bullets, especially post-board. Searching up a turn 2 Magus of the Moon, Eidolon of Rhetoric, or even Kitchen Finks can be huge in the right matchup. Even the supremely techy Caldera Hellion to punish small creature decks—incredible!
I don’t know how well this deck functions in the current format. I’m ready to be wrong about this—and in fact hope to be—but this list seems vulnerable to both the Karnfather and quick Human starts. Doming someone for 16 is no joke, and there will be some games that are basically free wins, but unfortunately I’m still not convinced this deck is in the best position right now.
Lingering Souls has had a quiet old time—there was a point in Modern’s history that it was so powerful, even Jund decks were splashing for it. After an extended period, however, those souls lingered no more—they were ready to get up and about to start feeding the opponents left and the right.
There are plenty of powerful token enablers and payoffs in Modern—everything from Bitterblossom to Intangible Virtue. If you’re looking to gum up the board and grind ’em out by going wide, have a look at this masterpiece.
3 Arid Mesa 4 Concealed Courtyard 1 Vault of the Archangel 1 Fetid Heath 4 Godless Shrine 4 Marsh Flats 2 Shambling Vent 1 Swamp 4 Plains 2 Secure the Wastes 4 Auriok Champion 2 Bitterblossom 2 Hidden Stockpile 2 Inquisition of Kozilek 4 Intangible Virtue 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 4 Lingering Souls 4 Path to Exile 3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor 4 Spectral Procession 2 Thoughtseize 2 Zealous Persecution Sideboard 1 Burrenton Forge-Tender 2 Disenchant 2 Duress 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Fatal Push 1 Lost Legacy 2 Rest in Peace 1 Runed Halo 3 Stony Silence 1 Wrath of God
Sweepers aren’t as prevalent in Modern as they once were, and players are very focused indeed on playing to the board. A deck like this plays exceptionally well against the biggest decks in the format—infinite blockers against Phoenix and Humans, no single threat for a Karn downtick to remove, and a resilient planeswalker-based late game against slow decks.
Don’t forget, either, that in playing black and white you gain access to the absolute top-tier disruption in the format. White removal and black hand disruption define the format. To succeed in Modern, you need to be able to beat both Path to Exile and Thoughtseize, and this deck gets to play both. On top of that, there are all the hard-hitting “hammer cards”, as they’re known, coming out of the sideboard: Rest in Peace, Stony Silence—all the usual suspects.
I feel this deck is well-positioned to run with the big dogs, given its capacity to clog up the battlefield and make life difficult for anyone looking to race. I don’t know how well it would fare against decks like Burn, Ad Nauseam, or Teferi-based control, but I’d be thrilled to face Phoenixes and Karns all day with this list.
This weekend, Modern will be put on show on one of Magic’s biggest stages, and I’ll be there with the rest of Team Coverage to bring you all the action. Hopefully we see some buck wild lists like the ones I’ve highlighted today, but even if we don’t, the sparks will still fly. I’ll see you there!