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Barcelona, Brews, and What’s Next For Modern

I decided to play Eldrazi Tron at Mythic Championship Barcelona, and even though I did well on a personal level (going 7-3 in Constructed), I think I ran hot and should have probably just played Hogaak. My second draft didn’t go very well and I made a few too many mistakes over the weekend to really hope for a great finish and ended up in 81st place with a 10-6 record. I did win the last three rounds which always feels good, but only got an extra $250 and a few potentially useless mythic points for my efforts.

Why I Didn’t Play U/W Control

Long story short, I didn’t think it had a good Hogaak matchup. I almost never beat it in testing. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t play U/W as 38 players played the deck to an overall win rate of 46.8% which is almost 4% lower than in London despite the addition of Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler.

No matter how much you practice and know the deck, there’s also the fact that playing control at the MC is grueling and you’re starting at a disadvantage compared to some of the other players. I decided to “take it easy” on myself for once and went for something a bit less complicated to play.

Why I Played Eldrazi Tron

I was strongly considering Hogaak for most of our testing even telling my teammates that it would just be a big mistake not to play the deck, but eventually got cold feet as I was worried people would either show up with decks that have an inherently good Hogaak matchup or ridiculous amounts of hate. I was also worried my Hogaak list would be a few days behind the meta and slightly outdated.

From our testing, E-Tron was flipping versus Hogaak and was a favorite against Izzet Phoenix and Jund, two decks I expected to be popular given what I was seeing on social media. It was also good against Urza Thopter Sword, which was rising in popularity and had the benefit of having a good Hogaak matchup. I was also hoping some of the tougher matchups like U/W Control and Tron wouldn’t be very represented given their bad matchups against Hogaak.

Eldrazi Tron seemed to perform well most of the time in the past and I also thought it would benefit overall from open decklists as I would know when I was suppose to mulligan very aggressively to try to “goldfish” against my opponent, and when it was okay to keep a slower, grindier hand or a turn 2 Chalice of the Void hand.

Two Brews I Tried

Mono Blue by Gabriel Nassif 11th Place Modern Challenge

3 Field of Ruin
16 Snow-Covered Island
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
4 Serum Visions
3 Archmage's Charm
4 Cryptic Command
2 Dismember
1 Force of Negation
1 Logic Knot
1 Mana Leak
2 Spell Snare
2 Surgical Extraction
4 Opt
3 Thought Scour

Sideboard
1 Force of Negation
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
2 Piracy Charm
3 Ravenous Trap
1 Twisted Image
2 Vendilion Clique

This is a deck I’ve been messing around for a while now, and even though I don’t keep track of my results, I knew I was doing consistently well with it. The deck can turn the corner extremely fast and wins a lot of games that seem hopeless, mostly on the back of Thing in the Ice. My teammate Edgar actually tried the deck for a league, went 4-1 and told me he felt he won a bunch of games he had no business in winning.

League results can be fairly random and don’t matter a ton–especially when you expect a narrower metagame–and I kind of gave up on the idea of playing it in Barcelona when people started maindecking Lightning Axe in Hogaak, and Jund rose in popularity.

I still think the deck is sweet and if you love basic islands, this one might be for you, so I’ll try and go through what I’ve learned playing with the deck.

Stealing Aether Vial on 2 with Archmage’s Charm is probably the coolest thing you can do with the deck and one of the best ways to beat Humans and Spirits. This came up multiple times for me and it’s usually a better play than stealing one of their small creatures. Humans is a close matchup and game one is a bit rough, but you bring a bunch of extra removal (Piracy Charm!) as well as cards like Vendilion Clique and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to make things much better.

Despite some people’s first impressions, it isn’t just a worse Izzet Phoenix deck. For starters, I’ve found the Izzet Phoenix matchup to be excellent as Dismember and Surgical Extraction really shine to deal with their creatures and Cryptic Command helps deal with Cryptic Command. While the deck isn’t as explosive, it’s much more versatile and resilient to hate thanks to Cryptic Command.

Splashing is definitely an option and red is probably the best candidate (pretty much turning the deck into Blue Moon), but I didn’t feel like it would help my Hogaak matchup so I didn’t bother exploring that option. I also tried Marcus Ewaldh’s Taking Turns deck and it felt pretty good, but I was running out of time and had to set it aside. Hogaak was a close matchup before they started playing removal in their main and I haven’t played the matchup since.

Tron was really not popular online pre-MC, but I’m assuming the matchup should be decent, especially if you find room for the fourth Field of Ruin.

I’ve played against Eldrazi Tron a few times and it has felt like a fine matchup. Field of Ruin is once again a key card, whether it’s not slow them down or get rid of Cavern of Souls.

U/W Control used to be a really good matchup as Snapcaster Mage was the key card and you were much better at find your copies thanks to the extra cantrips, but it got much tougher since the printing of Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler. T3f3ri is the scariest card and you need to keep it off the board at all costs.

Jund is a bad matchup and one of the other main reasons why I decided to give up on the deck for MC Barcelona. You don’t have a good way to get rid of Wrenn and Six, Thing in the Ice is really hard to keep in play and is bad against Liliana of the Veil. Planeswalkers shine in the matchup and Jund would be the main reason to have Saheeli, Sublime Artificer main. A third spell snare would be nice, and this deck could be well-positioned if Spell Snare is good against enough decks that you can play three or four in the main, but that’s unlikely to ever be the case. It’s possible I should just have up to four after sideboard, though, as the card would help a lot in some other matchups (Burn comes to mind as Eidolon of the Great Revel is very problematic).

Affinity, Scales and Grixis Urza weren’t that popular during my testing, but Hurkyl’s Recall is a nice silver bullet versus them after sideboard since you see so many cards, and Thing is usually good in these matchups as well.

I was experimenting a bit with some number of Exclude over Archmage’s Charm as the card is a bit easier to cast and a bit less clunky and quite liked it. I was also trying Brineborn Cutthroat in the sideboard as an alternative to Thing in the Ice for the matchups where the Horror isn’t good, typically against U/W Control (really hard to flip because of their planeswalkers) and Jund. While the card is fine, I’m not sure you can justify using up the sideboard slots.

Overall, I think the deck’s power level might be a bit capped, but it’s a fun deck to play if you like control decks and it could be a solid choice if the meta is combo-oriented and/or soft to Spell Snare or Thing in the Ice.

Bant Soulherder

I built the first version after playing against Tscheggschdepoegg’s Bant brew in a league. We played a close match and I kept expecting to lose the Cryptic Command/Eternal Witness lock, but it never came. I saw their list in the 5-0 deck dumps a few days later and it turned out they weren’t relying on Cryptic at all.

Tscheggschdepoegg 5-0 on Magic Online

1 Breeding Pool
2 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Prismatic Vista
2 Seachrome Coast
2 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Temple Garden
2 Windswept Heath
4 Eternal Witness
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
3 Knight of Autumn
1 Reflector Mage
2 Restoration Angel
2 Thraben Inspector
2 Wall of Blossoms
2 Watcher for Tomorrow
3 Familiar's Ruse
4 Path to Exile
2 String of Disappearances
2 Thirst for Knowledge
4 AEther Vial
2 Detention Sphere
2 Utopia Sprawl

Sideboard
1 Knight of Autumn
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Dispel
1 Dovin's Veto
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Negate
2 Oust
4 Ravenous Trap

My first few versions were underwhelming and I had given up on the deck when I saw the following tweet:

I figured I owed the deck another shot. I was playing Aether Vial and Astrolabe for the most part, but while Vial was a great first-turn play, I felt like I had too many dead draws in the mid game and was flooding out a bit too much. I would also get wrecked by Karn, the Great Creator.

Will Erker tried his own take on the archetype and this is what he ended up with:

I liked the idea of Force of Negation, especially if I was going to slow my deck down a bit.

Here is where I’m at currently and what I would have played in GP Barcelona had I not made Day 2 of the MC:

1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Breeding Pool
1 Temple Garden
1 Flooded Strand
3 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Windswept Heath
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Prismatic Vista
4 Soulherder
3 Eternal Witness
4 Coiling Oracle
2 Wall of Blossoms
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Watcher for Tomorrow
1 Mulldrifter
4 Path to Exile
4 Force of Negation
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Ephemerate
2 Time Warp

Sideboard
1 Knight of Autumn
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Rest in Peace
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Celestial Purge
1 Thragtusk
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Dovin's Veto

I don’t think you want less than 12 two-drops as the deck doesn’t function very well if you don’t play one on turn two. I think Coatl and Oracle are the two best. Watcher for Tomorrow is much better against decks like U/W Control as it pressures planeswalkers and doesn’t get countered by Narset’s passive, and Wall of Blossoms is a much better blocker and way more valuable against Hogaak or Humans.

I think four Path to Exile is mandatory–it’s a big part of your game plan against Hogaak and just an all-star, especially when you can rebuy it with Witness. Ephemerate might seem gimmicky at first, but it’s the glue that holds the deck together and I don’t think I’d play less than four.

Soulherder is the engine of the deck and isn’t as vulnerable as it might look as you usually get at least one trigger. It gets an extra counter when you Path a creature or when you Ephemerate one.

Soulherder

Eternal Witness is another key card and you could easily play the fourth copy, but I’m still experimenting with cards like Mulldrifter. Knight of Autumn isn’t always exciting, but I think it’s versatile enough to make the cut. Chalice of the Void on 1 can be a problem and the life gain will come in handy in lots of matchups and not only against Burn.

I’ve been happy with Force of Negation as it makes up for some of the deck’s clunkiness and gives you a shot against the combo decks. It helps you slow down Hogaak by countering a turn one Faithless Looting and makes it extremely hard for U/W Control to turn the corner with one of their OP planeswalkers. I haven’t played a ton against Tron, but I’m assuming it should be huge there as well.

Jace might seem a bit out of place, but the card is just a powerhouse and you’re good at protecting it.

Time Warp serves as a value card if you can manage to cast it with either Jace or Soulherder and one of their buddies in play and is also part of an infinite turn loop (with either Soulherder + Witness or Witness + Ephemerate).

The sideboard is a work in progress and I’m not sure the plan against Hogaak is totally coherent. I could see not playing Rest in Peace and just relying on Path/Purge and something like Tormod’s Crypt, Ravenous Trap or Surgical Extraction as a hate card you can recur with Eternal Witness.

Cards I’m Not Playing

Noble Hierarch is a great card, but I feel like I’ll have some of the problems I had with Vial; I’m worried I’ll be less consistent and more susceptible to removal. You also don’t have great cards to accelerate into on turn two as you’d usually rather play a two drop first.

Collected Company is a hard card to balance and I think this deck wants the non-creature spells. You could build a version with more creatures and CoCo, but I feel like that might make the deck too one-dimensional and weaken it overall. Cryptic Command would be a nice addition and can be better than Jace at times, but it’s a bit harder on the mana now that Astrolabe is gone and you can only play so many expensive spells.

Cards like Restoration Angel, Renegade Rallier or Blade Splicer have good synergy, but I tried to really trim the decklist down to the cards I felt were essential to my game plan and these feel more like a little extra bonus value, but you can definitely fit those in if you expect a bunch of grindy matchups.

The State of Modern

I was perfectly fine with Wizards only banning Bridge from Below before the MC and just seeing what happens in Barcelona. But Hogaak was the most represented archetype (21.4% of the field), people were ready for it and it still had the best win rate by far (56.2%) among the most-played decks. Hogaak Dredge even had an 60.4% win rate but was only played by seven players.

I think it’s time to admit mistakes were made and get rid of Hogaak. I also think Wizards should nerf Dredge by banning Creeping Chill, a card that really took the deck to the next level and made it even harder to interact with by making racing not really an option anymore.

I was anti-Looting ban a month or so ago but wouldn’t mind if it finally got the boot either even though I don’t think it’s necessary. While having Hogaak (or to a lesser extent Dredge) be the best deck in Modern doesn’t seem healthy, I think Izzet Phoenix would make for a good villain.

I’m not sure when the next high-profile Modern event will be, but while I didn’t mind the combination of the London Mulligan and open decklists, I think it might be a bit much and we might want another solution. It might not be as bad if the format isn’t as crazy and people aren’t maindecking cards like Leyline of the Void. I also wouldn’t mind them adding five minutes to the clock for Constructed rounds as players spend way more time mulliganing with the new rule.

As usual, feel free to ask any questions you might have about the decks or anything else and thanks for reading.

Discussion

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