My History with Hollow One

I played against a bunch of Hollow One and Vengevine decks online when I was testing for Pro Tour Bilbao. I wasn’t sure what to think, because I was mostly beating them, but I also felt that I was playing decks with decent game plans against their strategy, so maybe they were better than they looked.

Unfortunately for Reid, I got to find out how busted Black-Red Hollow One could be if you didn’t have the right tools while he was testing for his quarterfinals matchup against Ken Yukihiro. I think there was a stretch of 20 games at some point where Reid’s Abzan won a game, maybe two. I was already on my way home when Reid played Yukihiro on Sunday morning, watching the match on my phone, and I couldn’t believe that he managed to even make it to game 5.

I had a Modern GP coming up two weeks after the PT, and even though I had done really well with Blue-White Control in Spain, I was so impressed with Hollow One that I decided to give it a try as soon as I got home. I wasn’t disappointed, and even when I felt everything was going wrong, I was still putting up positive results. I showed up with the deck in Lyon, feeling great about my chances. I “only” managed an 8-4 record after my three byes, but still felt good about the deck. Here is what I played in Lyon:

Black-Red Hollow One

I decided right away that I didn’t want Blood Moon or Leyline of the Void in my sideboard. I’m just not a fan of how they play out. I also like that since pretty much every list has them in the board, your opponents will play/sideboard assuming you do as well, giving you an extra edge at no cost.

On the other hand, I loved the synergy of Big Game Hunter and Ancient Grudge with the rest of the deck so decided to up Yukihiro’s numbers. I also wanted a few cards that could give me a chance against Bogles (Liliana of the Veil/Explosives), as well as Empty the Warrens (Explosives/Rakdos Charm). The main deck was just Yukihiro’s +1 Tasigur, -1 Angler.

Next up was the MOCS in Seattle, and I wanted to try to come up with a good Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck. In the scenario where I came up empty, I would fall back on Hollow One since it seemed to have an acceptable Jund matchup. I was crushing with Blue Moon, but still hesitated until the very last second. In hindsight, especially after my crazy run in the Modern Super League where I managed to sweep Team Genesis, I wish I had gone with Hollow One.

Surprisingly enough, despite playing over a hundred matches with the deck, the main deck I chose to play in the Modern Super League was Yukihiro’s exact 60. Ken’s mana base was on point, and there really aren’t many good options as far as nonland cards go.

Collective Brutality is perhaps the least exciting card in many matchups, and I tried Cathartic Reunion instead for a short while, but it was usually worse. The Angler/Tasigur ratio is up for debate, but I don’t think it matters much in the end. Some people like all Anglers, the two/two split I played in Lyon was never bad, but I’m back on the original three Angler and one Tasigur list.

I’ve seen lists with a main-deck Blood Moon or two, and while I dislike the card as a sideboard option because it is so expected, the surprise factor of having it game 1 can be worth it if you think it’s the right metagame call. Similarly, I could see most of the sideboard cards make their way into the main in small numbers, probably over Brutalities or one of the delve creatures.

Given that I hadn’t played with the deck since playtesting for the MOCS, I decided to go with what I knew for the Modern Super League, cheating on Bogles hate in the sideboard since our plan was to most likely ban the deck if Team Genesis had it as one of their six options. Here was my sideboard:

Even though things worked out really well, I’m not sure which exact version I would play if I had a major Modern tournament tomorrow but here is what I want to try the next time I battle with the deck online:

BR Hollow One

You end up cutting an Angler or two in a lot of matchups after sideboard, so I want to see if it’s worth cutting one from the main for a Blood Moon main instead. Call to the Netherworld will probably be bad, but I’ve been meaning to try it for a while now.

There are a lot of Bogles decks on MTGO right now, hence the extra copies of Liliana and Explosives in the sideboard.

What I’ve Learned Playing the Deck

The deck doesn’t have as much variance as people think. You have few draws that do nothing at all (these usually include multiple Burning Inquiries gone wrong) and you don’t have to aggressively mulligan if your opener isn’t busted. Something like turn-1 Bolt, turn-2 Bloodghast, turn-3 Phoenix is a decent opener in most matchups.

I’ve found the deck’s best matchups to be fair decks that interact poorly with Bloodghast. For instance, the Blue Moon deck I played in the MOCS had an abysmal Hollow One matchup.

Given that you will sometimes have to discard at random, you want to be careful with your sequencing and which lands you play first. You usually want to play your fetchlands over other lands to fuel your delve creatures, and usually fetch for Blood Crypt on turn 1. On turn 1, you usually want to fetch first, cycle Street Wraith second, then cast Looting/Inquiry. Of course, there will be scenarios where you want to hold on to Street Wraith.

There is no set rule, but typically you should play Faithless Looting over Burning Inquiry if you have the choice. In Lyon, I think I only cast Burning Inquiry on turn 1 once in 12 rounds, and did okay despite never putting more than one Hollow One into play on turn 1.

Here is an example of when I would play Inquiry before Looting:

I think the upside of getting Hollow One into play on turn 1 is too high to pass up, and the parlay of not getting a Hollow One into play on turn 1 and not being able to play a delve creature on turn 2 seems extremely low (maybe Frank Karsten can help me out).

Most decisions are intuitive, but they will vary depending on your given hand. You’ll want to play your land before casting Lore/Inquiry sometimes (usually when you’re land light) and wait until after discarding at random to make your land drop at other times (usually when you’re flooded).

Don’t be stingy with your life points, and fetch for Blood Crypt unless the matchup demands otherwise as you’ll be hard casting Bloodghast a fair amount. This is especially true against Path to Exile (and to a lesser extent Field of Ruin decks) as you’ll want to have a basic to fetch as often as possible.

You usually want to play Flameblade Adept over draw/discard spells on turn 1 unless you’re guaranteed at least one Hollow One via Street Wraith plus Looting. People who haven’t seen the deck play out much usually don’t realize how good Adept is. I know I didn’t think much of it until I started playing with the deck.

While fetching and thinning your deck is usually a good thing, you want to make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to bring back a Bloodghast into play right away. A lot of the time, you’ll want to play your fetchland without sacrificing before you cast Lore/Inquiry on the off-chance you randomly discard the 2/1.

You can usually board out Stomping Ground in matchups where you don’t bring in Ancient Grudge, especially on the draw, but in the matchups where you do bring it in, don’t forget that there is always a small chance (or big if you have it in hand) that you’ll discard your only green source at random. So try to get it into play ASAP.

It’s fairly intuitive that you want to keep extra lands in hand because of all the draw/discard effects, but don’t forget that your opponent might be holding extra lands as well in case you cast Burning Inquiry. It doesn’t come up often, but it is possible that if you’re far ahead enough, you’ll want to just hold on to your Inquiry and not give your opponent a chance to get back into the game. This is especially true against a deck like Burn that has very little use for extra lands.

You almost never want to hold onto Street Wraith in the hopes of hardcasting it. I think I’ve put it into play once in over a hundred matches, and it was because I drew it when I already had five lands in play in a grindy matchup. The decision to hold or cycle Hollow One is a bit trickier, and will sometimes come up when you keep a marginal hand and don’t draw any draw/discard effects. I think you’ll usually want to cycle it as well though.

If you have ferocious at the beginning of your combat step, they can still kill your 4+ power creature when Flamewake Phoenix’s trigger goes on the stack and you won’t be able to bring it back, so plan accordingly (typically against a deck running Kolaghan’s Command or Terminate).Keep Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze in mind when you delve.

The Matchups and Sideboard Plans

Keep in mind that even though I’ve played the deck a fair bit, my sample size for each matchup is small. Take everything I suggest with a grain of salt as some of it will be mostly theory, especially since I don’t know how good Blood Moon and Call to the Netherworld are. You’ll also notice that I usually trim some of the delve or graveyard creatures after sideboard, since people will usually have some kind of graveyard hate.

Humans

You are almost definitely an underdog, but I’m not sure by how much. Reflector Mage is amazing against you, Mantis Rider is a nightmare as well, and a common theme with Hollow One is that you’ll do poorly against decks that interact well with Bloodghast.

Out

In

I almost never board out any copies of Bloodghast, but they block it very well and usually bring in Grafdigger’s Cage as well.

Jund

I thought that Jund would be much harder than Abzan because of Terminate and Kolaghan’s Command, and while my matches have been close, I think I’ve come out on top all but once out of five or six tries. I think the matchup is favorable, but Reid and Logan seemed to like the Jund side. Tarmogoyf is their best card, and while Scavenging Ooze can be scary, it can be too slow and you have Lightning Bolt to get rid of it.

Out

In

I’m not sure how many Burning Inquiry you want to take out. I used to board out all four, making the deck less explosive and more grindy. I think that the more answers people have to a quick, big creature and recursive creatures, the worse Inquiry becomes, but I haven’t played enough to know for sure. It’s possible that I underestimate Burning Inquiry, but it’s also possible that your best bet is to board out all four and have extra copies of Collective Brutality, for instance. I’m not sure bringing in Explosives is right, but one of the scarier cards they can bring in is Grafdigger’s Cage and most of their threats cost 2 mana, so it seems like it should be good and you might even want the second one.

Tron

You’re usually too fast for them as their threats line up poorly. Karn isn’t very scary, Ugin is expensive and doesn’t get rid of Hollow One, and you can sometimes even beat a quick Wurmcoil thanks to the evasion of Adept and Phoenix.

Out

In

You’re still trying to goldfish after sideboard and I’m not positive the third Grudge is better than the first Bolt.

Burn

A very good matchup—they don’t deal well with your creatures at all and you have access to multiple copies of Collective Brutality, one of the absolute best cards against Burn.

Out

In

In the dark, I used to bring Ancient Grudge in case of Ensnaring Bridge, but that was right after Jon Stern came in second at GP Toronto playing three copies of the artifact in his sideboard. Most lists don’t play it, but the matchup is good enough and the cost low enough that I would keep boarding them in. I also used to bring in a Liliana of the Veil, but I’m not sure that it’s good and it is a nombo with Blood Moon since you only have one basic Swamp in your deck. This is probably the matchup where you have to be the most careful with your Inquiries in the mid-to-late-game as they could easily be holding two or three lands in hand.

Affinity

A close matchup. Game 1 is in their favor and while you’re a favorite after sideboard, they can still sometimes out-tempo you even if you are casting one removal spell a turn.

Out

In

You bring in enough removal that you turn into some kind of control deck. You should usually prioritize keeping the board clear over deploying your threats. I’m not exactly sure what to sideboard out and it might vary a bit depending on whether you are on the play or on the draw. I am also not sure if having access to Grudge makes Inquiry better, worse, or roughly similar (the latter would be my guess).

Bogles

This seemed like one of the toughest matchups over my small sample size. Beware of Dryad Arbor enabling a double-block on Flameblade Adept.

Out

In

I’ve only played the matchup two or three times and I’m not sure how realistic it is to race them. Your Fatal Pushes don’t have a ton of targets, but I think you want to make sure that you punish their non-Bogle draws. While Liliana and Explosives can be serviceable in other matchups, Bogles is the main reason you want them, so if it turns out the matchup is abysmal despite having access to them, I could see cutting down to one Explosives and maybe the Lilianas altogether.

Black-Red Hollow One

Out

In

Brag time: I’m undefeated in the mirror and 3-0 against turn-zero Leyline of the Void after sideboard (I also won both sideboard games against Leyline turn zero versus Seth and his W/B Smallpox deck in the Modern Super League). I still feel like the card should be good and I would bring it in if I had it in my sideboard, but you know, just classic Leyline things and those results sure will keep feeding my anti-Leyline bias. I’m not saying that the card is bad, but that it’s probably not worth the sideboard slots.

It’s also possible that Collective Brutality is good and that you want more after sideboard, perhaps over Bolt.

U/W Control

A fairly close matchup and probably the toughest control matchup you can face. Make sure you don’t spew your Bolts, as you might have to deal with a planeswalker, and try to play around Cryptic Command as best as you can. For instance, you might not want to bring back all of your Bloodghasts if they’re low enough and you have a fetchland in play to bring them back after they had to use their Command.

Out

In

Death’s Shadow

Not the easiest matchup, especially the Traverse version, but Shadow has been on the decline. I think your best bet is to go full removal after sideboard. That’s what I did the last time I played against Grixis Shadow during GP Lyon, and it seemed effective.

Out

In

I’m not sure how far you want to push it, and if you want the second Liliana and the second Explosives. You might also just want Explosives if you know they have Lingering Souls after sideboard.

Storm

They goldfish faster than you and Empty the Warrens is very effective against you after sideboard. I’ve played the matchup three or four times and have yet to win a match.

Out

In

I don’t think you want Fatal Push and I’m assuming they board out Electromancer, so there’s a small chance cutting your engine cards for Brutality is wrong even though it seems like the card should be good against them.

TitanShift

I’ve only played against the deck once at the GP and won, but it’s probably very close and maybe one of the more coin flip dependent matchups (my opponent at the GP told me he was 2-2 against Hollow One counting our match).

Out

In

It’s possible Liliana isn’t good, especially if they have Obstinate Baloth after sideboard, which they should.

Lantern

I like the Hollow One side of the matchup, but only because I have a lot of sideboard hate. Just like Affinity, you’ll be an underdog if you go too low on artifact hate.

Out

In

I’m not exactly sure how the Lantern player sideboards in the matchup, but Grim Lavamancer can easily go unchecked and finish them off if you can’t get rid of Ensnaring Bridge. It’s possible Blood Moon is passable/good, especially on the play, and I’m not sure if Liliana is good or not but it might be worth it as it is hard for them to get all the right artifacts into play in time.

If Blood Moon and Call to the Netherworld don’t work out, I would probably just go back to Yukihiro’s 60, and if I’m unhappy with Liliana and Explosives, I could see playing a full playset of Grudge, Big Game Hunter and/or Brutality. Another card I want to try is Torpor Orb for the Humans matchup or maybe even a copy of Damnation.

I don’t think Jace and Bloodbraid Elf getting unbanned hurt the deck too much. It’s still one of the best Modern decks, but it definitely has a few nasty matchups. I know people have had success with Red-Green Hollow One with Vengevine online as well, but I haven’t tried it myself, so I can’t say which version is better.