Grand Prix San Diego came, and I was without a deck. A last-minute decision to play Eggs seemed strong enough, and I did OK at the Grand Prix, but ultimately fell short of anything spectacular. During the tournament, the gripes about Eggs being a convoluted combo deck that just took way too long to win became apparent. I began the tournament a newcomer to the deck, and thought that was influencing the speed at which I won, but as I learned the deck more and more, the combo did not get any faster. There was just too much shuffling and repetitive action for even the most experienced player to deal with in a timely manner.
If you were lucky and had a tapped-out opponent, you could maybe execute the combo in 5 minutes or so, but that was still a single turn in a match of Magic, and if the Eggs player had it their way, it would happen twice per match. I expected the deck to be banned after San Diego, for being a menace to tournament Magic and being pretty dang powerful at that.
The pro community was pretty convinced that [card]Lotus Bloom[/card] would be cut from the format, and many people wrote Eggs off well before the announcement was even out. At work, we were talking about the potential ban and it was brought up that [card]Lotus Bloom[/card] was the obvious choice. I argued that there was a chance something like [card]Second Sunrise[/card] would be the victim because [card]Lotus Bloom[/card] technically enables other decks, so cutting it might be harsh to the environment as a whole rather than just one deck.
Having played Eggs, I knew that [card]Second Sunrise[/card] would not be a significant enough blow to the deck. While the card was powerful and streamlined the list, I had won entire games using only [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] to play around things like [card]Seal of Fire[/card] before, so I knew it was at least possible that the deck might exist in a world with [card]Lotus Bloom[/card] still around.
Flash-forward a month, and that scenario is exactly what played out. [card]Second Sunrise[/card] was added to the ban list, and a shiver of excitement shot through my spine. I had explored a few potential lists that could be built if Bloom stuck around, originally just to prove a point that the deck might exist, but as I looked them over a second time, I realized there was real potential.
The deck could exist with only the Rewards if you had enough viable tutors. Unfortunately, Modern does not have many high-quality tutors. With that in mind, I thought the best course of action was to come up with additional effects similar to [card]Faith’s Reward[/card]. Luckily for me, the card I wanted to exist did, and it had even seen some success in the tournament scene before—so I decided to give [card]Open the Vaults[/card] a shot.
[draft]Open the Vaults[/draft]
[card]Second Sunrise[/card] did create a mana-neutral play with a single [card]Lotus Bloom[/card]. This allowed you to generate mana with a [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] or whatever, something [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] cannot do unless a second Bloom enters the mix. Beyond just that, [card]Open the Vaults[/card] is a six-mana sorcery, more expensive than the deck could handle in its previous form. The deck needed another mana engine to make sure things ran smoothly.
And everyone knows, when you need something done right, you should rely on a few Goblins to deliver… Wait, what? Here’s the list I ended up playing in Grand Prix Portland:
4 Lotus Bloom
1 Mox Opal
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Ichor Wellspring
1 Runed Servitor
1 Grinding Station
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Faith’s Reward
4 Open the Vaults
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Ghost Quarter
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 Defense Grid
3 Echoing Truth
1 Cyclonic Rift
2 Torpor Orb
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Pithing Needle[/deck]
On the surface, we have an Eggs decks. With more mana and a more expensive spell suite than the traditional Eggs deck, one of my opponents even referred to it as Ostrich Eggs. Regardless of name though, the deck morphed into a more [card]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/card]-friendly shell. [card]Conjurer’s Bauble[/card] doesn’t work so well when it needs to sacrifice itself to net you a card because you cannot generate mana off of your 4-mana engine.
The Times, They Are a-Changin’
So, what’s different? The first thing is that the mana engine requires some special cards:
[card]Ichor Wellspring[/card] is the most obvious of these, as it cycles for two cards with a KCI in play and is a fine turn two play to dig you a little deeper and invest another trinket to the board. [card]Terrarion[/card] is the other addition that fits this bill as well. Instead of Bauble, which would come off the top and cycle in Eggs, [card]Terrarion[/card]s filter your mana for an [card]Open the Vault[/card]s or [card]Reshape[/card] the first time around, and then generate a mana and a card once you get KCI online.
[card]Mox Opal[/card] and [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] give the deck additional artifact sources to sacrifice to KCI. This is a luxury of not needing so much deck space for your [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] package like Eggs did, allowing you to get away with some of these artifact sources. Mox also allows you some nut hands with turn 3 Ironworks. The reason there are not more Moxes is that [card]Open the Vaults[/card] and [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] require you to return all artifacts back to play and the legend rule can really cause issues there.
Once we have all of these artifacts that we constantly deploy to the board, [card]Thoughtcast[/card] becomes quite strong. [card]Serum Visions[/card] and [card]Sleight of Hand[/card] were never impressive. In the early turns, you are busy playing Stars and Springs. Then, mid-combo, they end up just being a cantrip worse than an artifact version of the same thing. Thoughtcast makes for an excellent card mid-combo, allowing you to actually generate card advantage and fight through a clump of land or whatever. And during the turns where you would want to be casting Visions or Sleight, Thoughtcast is going to be one or two mana and do a significantly better job of setting up the combo.
One standout moment from the Grand Prix had me empty-handed with a few trinkets out, but nothing going on due to a Liliana and other hand disruption holding me down. I peeled a [card]Thoughtcast[/card] that was a single mana, chained it into two additional Thoughtcasts, and ended the turn with 6 cards in my hand and the win ready to go with a [card]Silence[/card] to [card]Time Walk[/card] my opponent. Obviously, you cannot count on that type of situation, but even having access to it is awesome when you consider that [card]Serum Visions[/card] and [card]Sleight of Hand[/card] cannot come close.
If you are familiar with Eggs, you are acquainted with this tedious process, throwing a Sunrise effect on the bottom of your library and then shuffling it into your deck to draw it again until you get down to a single card in your library, when the process becomes automatic. This was perhaps the most time-intensive portion of playing the deck, so I was pretty happy to come up with a simpler, faster, and less “random” way of actually winning.
To accomplish that, I replaced the Spellbomb and [card]Conjurer’s Bauble[/card]s with [card]Grinding Station[/card] and [card]Runed Servitor[/card]. In theory, the route to winning is getting a bunch of artifacts in the ‘yard through whatever means, and that a [card]Grinding Station[/card] be among them or in play. Then, with a single Reward or [card]Open the Vaults[/card], a million artifacts entering play creates a million untap triggers for your [card]Grinding Station[/card]. At this point, you spend your time sacrificing artifacts to mill the opponent, and then allow 1 untap trigger to resolve before rinsing and repeating for each instance of the untap trigger.
This is in no way strictly superior to the Spellbomb kill, which is still a viable option, but I thought that the incremental advantages of those two cards was enough to include it.
• [card]Grinding Station[/card] offers an additional way to sacrifice [card]Ichor Wellspring[/card]s while you are looking for your combo.
• [card]Grinding Station[/card] allows you to mill yourself to go deeper with [card]Open the Vaults[/card].
• [card]Runed Servitor[/card] and [card]Grinding Station[/card] both offer outside shots at winning the game when your combo is disrupted by something like [card]Rest in Peace[/card].
These two different methods of winning the game are not the only two either. You can use [card]Codex Shredder[/card] plus basically anything else, such as [card]Grapeshot[/card] or an X-spell. In that version you are just constantly trading in Shredder for a copy of Faith’s Reward and continuing the 9-mana loop as many times as you need.
And that Servitor?
[card]Runed Servitor[/card] might not seem like an essential piece of the combo, and in reality, he isn’t. Against most decks, in most situations, you can just mill your opponent out and pass the turn for the win. But what happens when you run into Mono Red, you combo off and mill their deck, then pass the turn only to be double Bolted for the loss all in the upkeep step? That doesn’t seem that unlikely. Or, what about the even more likely situation that you begin milling your opponent and then they flip an [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] into the yard?
Well, that is where our little artifact bear friend comes into the picture. With [card]Runed Servitor[/card] in the deck, you can conclude your combo by instantly killing an opponent with no cards in their deck. This means no upkeep for that Mono Red player and it means that Emrakul never gets the chance to shuffle anything in.
In the [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] situation, you want to mill the opponent as usual. If possible, lead off with [card]Open the Vaults[/card] as many times as you can if you suspect an Emrakul effect in their deck. This is because once you mill that Emrakul, a trigger to shuffle their library will go on the stack on top of all of your remaining untap triggers, so you can’t continue to just mill them out. At this point, you need to sacrifice all (or most) of your artifacts to the KCI, then cast a [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] returning everything and creating an entirely new set of triggers to mill them with, all on top of the newly created Emrakul trigger. You repeat this process again if another Emrakul happens to exist in their deck, needing exactly one [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] per Emrakul for this to work. At the end of their library, with all of those shuffle triggers waiting to resolve, you sacrifice your Servitor and force them to draw from an empty library.
If they happen to have a full 4 [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card], this can be tricky as you need every [card]Faith’s Reward[/card], but still possible. If you ever get lucky enough to mill 2 copies of the alien with the same 3-card mill activation though, you get to save 1 copy of [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] due to both triggers going on the stack together.
[card]Runed Servitor[/card] allows you to avoid including an alternate win condition in the board which is nice, and he occasionally holds back a Bob or whatever. I could still see an alternate win condition being somewhere though. For awhile, I had [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] in the board, but I wanted as many sideboard slots as possible for potential matchups, and the card never seemed essential, so I decided to leave it on the cutting room floor.
Most of the week I spent coming up with tweaks to improve the flow and speed of the deck, as well as identifying sideboard cards that had big impacts while fitting the niche confines of the deck. Because of this, I never got the time to sit down and create a card-by-card guide for boarding. Because this is a combo deck, you cannot generally cut entire cards and get away with it in the same way that a control deck can, so most often, I was trimming.
The cards that I often cut 1 or 2 copies of to make room for between 4 to 7 sideboard cards were:
1 [card]Runed Servitor[/card]
1 [card]Open the Vaults[/card]
1 [card]Island[/card] on the draw
I never tried boarding in more than seven cards, because I did not want to heavily disrupt the flow of the deck just to gain some ways to beat hate. Eggs had a very similar structure to it, so I basically just adopted the lessons I learned from that deck.
While I worked on this deck for a few weeks, an intricate combo deck like this needs a lot of work to become optimal. I don’t think I quite got there, even though I did come up with solutions to most of the problems I encountered, but things like the mana ratio could easily be off. With a 4-mana artifact being included in the deck now, getting to four lands in play is actually valuable, which was not really true in Eggs before. I added one additional mana source, going from 17 lands to 17 lands and a Mox, but it could easily end up correct to have a few more sources on top of that.
The sideboard is another area that could use some work. The field in Portland was significantly wider than I could have imagined so my sideboard had a few holes in it that I did not anticipate going into the tournament. With a more defined metagame in a post-GP world, it should be much easier to actually nail down a reasonable board.
Ultimately, if people begin playing this deck with some regularity, I expect the list to evolve to a point where it is better than it is now. The list we played at the Grand Prix was strong and I think the archetype can get even stronger as people explore some of the cards and ideas that I never got around to trying out, so ya never know!
The deck still has the same problems that Eggs in dealing with things like [card]Stony Silence[/card] and the like, but I expected a drop-off in the number of hate cards of that caliber. Still, if people begin playing this deck, more [card]Stony Silence[/card] will be in people’s sideboards, so be sure to have a gameplan to fight through hate, as that was something Eggs did splendidly. Give this deck a shot though! I think you will be surprised by the results! Thanks for reading.