My preparation for this Mythic Championship was one of the best I’ve ever had. Instead of gathering with a team of pros for days before the event, me and Javier Dominguez chose to test with Zen Takahashi and Anthony Lee–two of our closest friends that weren’t qualified for the MC–in the Dominguez mansion just outside of Barcelona. Javier’s mom treated us like her sons for 10 days and I’ve never felt so welcomed in my life, with amazing cuisine and great hospitality in a wonderful house.
Magic-wise we split early into two groups, me and Zen, with the help of Lee Shi Tian from Hong Kong, worked hard on Hogaak, whereas Javier and Anthony were trying more fair stuff like Jund or Izzet Phoenix.
Izzet Phoenix or Hogaak?
After a 5-0 and a 4-1 on Magic Online with Hogaak, I felt pretty much locked, but that was until Kanister went 12-0 in the Modern Challenge on stream the weekend before the MC. That made me afraid to sleeve Hogaak for the fear of facing far more opposing Leyline of the Void.
So I jumped ship and landed in the safe boat of Izzet Phoenix, which happened to be the only good deck with a good matchup against Hogaak thanks to its powerful ability to win as early as turn 3 or 4, as well as being a solid deck against the most other strategies.
I didn’t really work too much on tuning the list, I basically blindly trusted Javier and tried to learn from him how to pilot the deck, which reminded me very much of playing Delver in Legacy.
This was the list that me, Javier and Anthony played.
Javier Dominguez – 37th MC Barcelona
1 Fiery Islet 1 Flooded Strand 3 Island (335) 2 Mountain (343) 1 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 4 Spirebluff Canal 2 Steam Vents 4 Arclight Phoenix 4 Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror 1 Aria of Flame 4 Faithless Looting 1 Finale of Promise 1 Flame Slash 1 Lava Dart 4 Lightning Bolt 1 Magmatic Sinkhole 4 Manamorphose 2 Pyromancer Ascension 4 Serum Visions 4 Sleight of Hand 3 Surgical Extraction 4 Thought Scour Sideboard 1 Fry 1 Abrade 1 Anger of the Gods 1 Aria of Flame 1 Blood Moon 1 Force of Negation 4 Leyline of the Void 1 Narset, Parter of Veils 2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 2 Spell Pierce
Unfortunately, I didn’t win a match with the deck at the Mythic Championship, I made some mistakes and faced some tough matchups. Javier, on the other hand went 7-3, and Anthony lost in the final of an LCQ on Thursday and went 11-4 at the GP.
I’m still not sure if Pyromancer Ascension is better than Aria of Flame. I was never impressed by Aria, but was even less impressed by Ascension. I’m sure Javier will know how to put in better words the deck choices we made, as he’s the real true master of the deck!
But my weekend wasn’t over! The Tabletop Mythic Championships these days are together with MagicFest, which means that I got to play a GP on Saturday, and that I could do it with Hogaak!
Luckily I played a lot of Hogaak, pre and post-Bridge ban, so I was ready to pilot it. And thankfully I also had a full sideboard guide from my teammates. Christian Calcano was 7-1 (with my physical copy of the deck), so thanks to Marcos and Huey I was able to put together the deck for the following day.
Andrea Mengucci – 47th GP Barcelona
2 Blood Crypt 3 Bloodstained Mire 3 Marsh Flats 3 Overgrown Tomb 3 Polluted Delta 2 Swamp (339) 3 Verdant Catacombs 4 Bloodghast 4 Carrion Feeder 2 Cryptbreaker 3 Golgari Thug 4 Gravecrawler 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 3 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Vengevine 4 Faithless Looting 2 Fatal Push 3 Shriekhorn Sideboard 2 Force of Vigor 2 Assassin's Trophy 2 Cryptbreaker 2 Fatal Push 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Nature's Claim
I was super happy with this list and wouldn’t change a card.
I’m going through some of the main differences that you can see from other lists.
I already explained you in my previous Hogaak article why I think Cliffs are bad and the mana base should be mono-fetch land. Casting Hogaak off one Stitcher’s Supplier is possible and you need two fetches to accomplish this. We also decided to replace Lightning Axe with Fatal Push, so we didn’t need too much painless red mana. Thanks to Fatal Push, you can play off just Swamps against Burn, and this helped me beat Burn in Round 8, thanks to two basic Swamp and three Fatal Pushes.
Martin Muller and Team Mage’s list was very close to ours, but one of the main differences was the Neonates over the Horns. While me and Zen loved Neonate in early testing, Lee Shi Tian was always in love with his Shriekhorns, and he was right. Neonate just doesn’t do enough–it’s only good to enable Vengevine, or mill 4 cards when paired with Golgari Thug, but very often it’s bad on its own, especially in a matchup where they can Surgical Extraction your Vengevines.
On top of that, Neonate (like Hedron Crab) doesn’t convoke for Hogaak, which is a very big deal in a deck like this. Shriekhorn was much better since it filled your graveyard very fast for basically free, and often the mirror comes down to who has more cards in their graveyard to play Hogaak over and over after trading them, and Shriekhorn was crucial there.
Shriekhorn is also great against Rest in Peace, as you can play it on Turn 1, untap and kill the RiP in your second upkeep and start milling yourself immediately.
Both me and Zen were very high on Cryptbreaker since the Red Bull events, pre-Bridge ban. We love Cryptbreaker in any grindy matchup where we can beat the graveyard hate thanks to it.
Cryptbreaker is insane–probably the best card–against U/W Control, and even though that deck is pretty bad at the moment, I know that in any European GPs there are always a lot of French players who show up and play U/W no matter what. In, fact I ended up playing against two U/W Control and 1 Esper Control out of 12 rounds, and I’m glad I had my playset of Cryptbreaker along with me.
Ideally, you want to keep a hand with either Leyline of the Void, or an answer to your opponent’s Leyline of the Void + at least one enabler for your strategy. Keep in mind that Leyline of the Void can be hardcasted and can be very problematic even then, so make sure you keep at least one Nature’s Claim or an Assassin’s Trophy for later. That’s how I lost game three of Round 15, after discarding a Nature’s Claim over Stitcher’s Supplier to Faithless Looting while being quite ahead in the game, and then died to Leyline of the Void on Turn 4, because my opponent was free to attack with Hogaak against my Hogaak.
This is the matchup we played the most in testing. The biggest problem for Hogaak from the Phoenix side are Leyline of the Void and Thing in the Ice.
Although we expected Phoenix players to not be ready for the matchup and still play Ravenous Traps and Surgical Extraction–which are not nearly as good as you think–so we started not bringing in Assassin’s Trophy in the dark. That said, going forward I recommend bringing in Trophies, especially after Javier’s list did well with 4 Leyline of the Void in the sideboard.
The matchup is close and you need to play around Surgical Extraction as much as you can, which means sequencing is really important. For example, if you have a Gravecrawler, Stitcher’s Supplier, two fetch lands and Hogaak you must play Gravecrawler first, fetch, play Supplier and then play Hogaak, without giving your opponent the opportunity to surgical anything other than your fetch lands. Vengevines and other small creatures don’t matter much (especially because they often get Surgicaled or Trapped), all it matters is a fast 8/8 trampler.
Thing in the Ice can deal with your threats easily as well as killing you with some Phoenixes, so make sure to Fatal Push it immediately as fast as you can, don’t ever let them untap with it.
Rest in Peace is their main weapon to beat you, although they are so bad in game 1 that overall I’m always happy to play against control. At the GP, I beat two U/W Control decks and lost to Esper. Use your Faithless Looting wisely and don’t go all-in on it on Turn 1 on the draw.
I played against three Eldrazi Tron on Day 2 of the GP and didn’t drop a game. Thanks to Force of Vigor, this matchup is incredibly easy. They have no way to deal with Hogaak (Ensnaring Bridge is sort of one) or stop you from casting it other than Leyline of the Void and some other small graveyard hate like Relic of Progenitus or Grafdigger’s Cage.
Jund is another deck that has a hard time with an 8/8 trampler, and has to rely mainly on Leyline of the Void to disrupt you from casting it. Nihil Spellbomb and Scavenging Ooze simply aren’t enough, and this is the big strength of Hogaak over its cousin Dredge.
Should Hogaak be banned?
I’ve said before I don’t like banning cards, but even I have to admit that it’s important to figure out mistakes, and Hogaak was a big mistake from R&D, one that should never happen again, just like Aetherworks Marvel, Felidar Guardian and Smuggler’s Copter.
The metagame itself right now isn’t fully dominated by Hogaak, as both the GP and the PT had a variety of different successful deck, but that’s just the surface. The games with Hogaak involved are usually a very bad experience, and a kind of Magic I don’t like to play. Modern has become way too fast and far less skill-intensive, which is one of the reasons why I don’t like it.
I do enjoy breaking formats and coming with a deck people weren’t prepared for, that’s why I loved to play Hogaak in GP Barcelona, but who knows what will happen soon?