Modern Horizons has been out for a short time on Magic Online, and undoubtedly the most impactful card has been Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Hogaak, alongside Altar of Dementia, has given Bridgevine a huge upgrade. Even though UW Control ended up winning the first MTGO Modern Challenge post-Modern Horizons, there were eight copies of Bridgevine in the Top 32, which is especially telling since the new additions had only been out for a couple of days before the event.
If I had any tournament I seriously cared about in the first week or two of the new Modern, I’d have to have a really good reason not to register Bridgevine. As a UW player, a game-1 Surgical Extraction + Snapcaster Mage was usually good enough to defeat Dredge, whereas against Hogaak and friends, you’ll need that and a really solid draw in addition to hoping they don’t draw their entire panoply of threats. The new Bridgevine is extremely resilient to all but the most hateful cards (i.e. Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void), and even then they still have answers for hate cards combined with a better aggro backup plan than Dredge used to have.
While Bridgevine might be the current best deck, I’ve decided to focus on Control archetypes and try to figure out how to adapt them with the advent of Modern Horizons.
I’ll give you a brief recap of the first few leagues I’ve played as well as my first impressions on the new cards.
Control in the New Modern
I played my very first league in the new format with an updated Mono-Blue list as I really wanted to cast Archmage’s Charm but didn’t feel like it was a reasonable card to add to UW given its demanding casting cost.
2 Field of Ruin 1 Blast Zone 19 Snow-Covered Island 1 Vendilion Clique 4 Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror 4 Snapcaster Mage 3 Cryptic Command 1 Logic Knot 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Spell Pierce 1 Spell Snare 3 Serum Visions 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Peek 2 Force of Negation 1 Dismember 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Archmage's Charm 4 Opt 1 Remand Sideboard 1 Ceremonious Rejection 1 Disdainful Stroke 4 Tormod's Crypt 1 Negate 1 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Dismember 2 Gut Shot 1 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Vedalken Shackles 1 Surgical Extraction
Round 2: 0-2 vs UR Kiki-Jiki: they also had multiple Archmage’s Charms, the games were close, and it seemed like a tough matchup. I might have misboarded taking out all the Thing in the Ice, something I usually do against UW Control as they are fairly weak against the minus abilities of their suite of planeswalkers and the fact that they keep in Path to Exile. They might be okay in this matchup to have some kind of pressure as it is hard to play the super long game against their combo.
Round 3: 2-1 vs Mardu with Dreadhorde Arcanist and Monastery Mentor: their brew looked sweet, it was a very close match, and I won a ridiculous third game where I started the turn with a Thing in the Ice with four counters on it, a land in hand, dead on board, and somehow managed to cantrip into flipping into Awoken Horror and win from there.
Round 4: 0-2 vs Eldrazi Tron: they got Tron turn 3 twice and my draws were lackluster. It seemed like it should be an okay matchup, but I was playing a version with no Field of Ruin which I definitely missed.
Round 5: 2-0 vs Storm: the matchup felt favorable but close.
Archmage’s Charm was utterly busted and Force of Negation was very solid. Against the two UR decks I wish I had Fact or Fiction over Jace in some spots, but I feel Jace is just too good not to play. I think the main changes I would make right now would be to up the Field of Ruin count, add some fetchlands for Jace and Logic Knot, and play 4 Leyline of the Void in my sideboard while still keeping an extra Crypt. I’m not sure if this build is better than the Narset/Day’s Undoing one (a lot of people have also been playing Teferi’s Puzzle Box), but I’m not sure how many 3-mana casting cost cards you can really afford to play.
I’ve also played a bunch of matches with UW Control and here are my notes.
Round 2: 1-2 vs Eldrazi Tron: their version had Ulamog, which is probably worse for UW, and they got me with it both game 1 and game 3. Overall a tough matchup.
Round 4: 2-0 vs Jund Shadow: this matchup doesn’t come up often, but it has been good ever since they decided to cut Bloodbraid Elf.
I feel like Teferi, Time Raveler has been taking a lot of flack in this archetype, but it has been solid for me and was outstanding in this league. I’ve seen people say it’s a narrow silver bullet, but it’s the best card in the mirror, and it always does a little something so it’s not exactly a silver bullet either.
Round 1: 0-2 vs RUG snow: I got screwed game 1, and there was a bug which didn’t let me sideboard for game 2, but them running playsets of Snapcaster, Ice-Fang Coatl, and Archmage’s Charm made the matchup feel rough, as is usually the case with UR control archetypes.
Round 3: 0-2 vs Ponza with Karn: people often asked me what UW’s bad matchups are, and right now I would have to say Ponza is at the top of the list. I used to do better against it but I’m currently on a four-match losing streak against the archetype. One of the reasons is that most lists now play Stormbreath Dragon, which is a nightmare to deal with.
Round 1: 1-2 vs Eldrazi Tron: this matchup used to be close, but the addition of Karn, the Great Creator has definitely made things worse. As with Ponza, I’m on a four- or five-match losing streak against Eldrazi Tron, which is the reason I keep upping the Disdainful Stroke count in my sideboard.
Round 2: 0-2 vs Burn: I think this matchup is favorable if you have at least 1 copy of Timely in the main plus another copy in the sideboard, as well as a third hate card like Timely #3, Shalai, Voice of Plenty (which can also come in against Humans) or Leyline of Sanctity, but unfavorable otherwise.
Round 1: 0-2 vs Eldrazi Tron: yet another loss to Eldrazi Tron, even though I feel like the matchup shouldn’t be that bad especially given the fact that most lists only play two Wastes (making Path and Field of Ruin incredibly effective).
Round 2: 2-0 vs UW Spirits: their draws were unspectacular.
Round 3: 2-0 vs Esper Death’s Shadow: close games against an opponent was running the list that made Top 8 in the Modern Challenge. Them running cards like Lingering Souls and Teferi, Time Raveler made the matchup feel tougher than regular Grixis Shadow.
Round 4: 2-1 vs Bridgevine: won game 1 with Surgical + Snapcaster/Surgical followed by an Oust + Snapcaster/Oust turn followed by some more interaction, and it was still really close. Won game 3 on the back of turn 2 Rest in Peace.
Round 5: 1-2 vs Mono-Red Phoenix: this deck has been gaining in popularity and is usually favorable for UW, but you can’t win them all.
Here’s my current build.
4 Field of Ruin 2 Hallowed Fountain 2 Glacial Fortress 2 Celestial Colonnade 2 Prismatic Vista 6 Island 2 Plains 4 Flooded Strand 4 Snapcaster Mage 1 Fblthp, the Lost 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Wall of Omens 1 Baneslayer Angel 2 Restoration Angel 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Detention Sphere 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4 Path to Exile 1 Oust 1 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 3 Cryptic Command 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Force of Negation 1 Remand 1 Exclude 1 Logic Knot 4 Opt Sideboard 2 Celestial Purge 3 Disdainful Stroke 4 Rest in Peace 1 Supreme Verdict 1 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Stony Silence 2 Timely Reinforcements 1 Wrath of God
I chose to throw in the Angel package in the main and move the sweepers to the sideboard, a decision I’ve been happy with so far.
Force of Negation has been good, and two copies main seems to be the early consensus, but I’ve definitely had multiple games where it felt like a “lose less” card (meaning I would be really happy to have it, and it would momentarily save me, but only in spots I was so far behind it didn’t end up mattering).
Exclude is a card I tried out more of nostalgia and not really expecting it to be good, but I’ve been impressed so far and the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.
Overall, I think UW is in a good spot against some of the top decks in the meta, but it probably suffers against a wider field. From what I’ve seen, it seems to have a favorable Bridgevine matchup and should also have a solid game against Neoform, which might ramp up in popularity when the London Mulligan is introduced.
When my buddy Ghettsmart told me he was having god success with Blue Moon, I decided to give his list a try.
4 Scalding Tarn 2 Steam Vents 2 Spirebluff Canal 4 Flooded Strand 8 Island 1 Mountain 4 Snapcaster Mage 1 Vendilion Clique 4 Lightning Bolt 1 Spell Pierce 3 Serum Visions 2 Blood Moon 1 Archmage's Charm 4 Narset, Parter of Veils 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Magmatic Sinkhole 4 Remand 3 Force of Negation 1 Mana Leak 1 Cryptic Command 4 Opt 2 Teferi's Puzzle Box Sideboard 3 Goblin Rabblemaster 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Abrade 1 Negate 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Magma Spray 2 Surgical Extraction
I ended up getting paired against Bridgevine twice, only winning the game where I mulliganed to five but started with Leyline in play and had a turn 3 or 4 Rabblemaster. I even lost a game where I had Surgical + Snapcaster backed up by more spells. I don’t think the matchup is atrocious if you’re prepared, and Rabblemaster seemed to be exactly the card you wanted to follow up a Leyline with (as well as being good in control matchups) but I can’t imagine having a favorable matchup vs Hogaak.dec, and that’s not a place where I want to be. That this list is not running Thing in the Ice is possibly greedy as well, and I would try to include at least a few if I played the deck again.
Brewing with Snow
We decided to have a little fun brewing on the stream and came up with the following deck list.
1 Breeding Pool 4 Misty Rainforest 4 Prismatic Vista 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Snow-Covered Forest 7 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Plains 2 Flooded Strand 2 Field of Ruin 1 Temple Garden 4 Noble Hierarch 2 Snapcaster Mage 4 Coiling Oracle 4 Ice-Fang Coatl 2 Vendilion Clique 4 Restoration Angel 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Torrential Gearhulk 2 Force of Negation 2 Exclude 1 Spell Pierce 3 Cryptic Command 2 Ojutai's Command 4 Opt 4 Path to Exile 4 Rest in Peace 1 Disdainful Stroke 2 Collector Ouphe 1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Mystic Snake
Round 1: 0-2 vs Mono-Red Phoenix: my opponent had updated his deck with Lava Dart which completely wrecked us on top of seeming like an overall great addition, giving you that extra free spell to trigger Phoenix.
Round 2: 2-1 vs 8 Rack: Ensnaring Bride was a nightmare game 3, and we barely got there probably thanks to some suboptimal plays from our opponent.
Round 3: 2-1 vs Humans: they made a pretty bad mistake, and I had to get lucky on top of that to win game 1. The matchup seemed fine after sideboard.
Round 4: 2-0 vs Old School Dredge: they mulliganed to two and scooped game 1, so I brought in all four Rest in Peace in the dark as they were extremely likely to be some kind of graveyard deck (or maybe Tron).
Round 5: 0-2 vs Mono-Red Phoenix: got crushed again, and they didn’t even need the Lava Dart technology this time around.
Inspired by my first version of Bant Snow, I decided to try a more controlling version.
4 Field of Ruin 4 Prismatic Vista 4 Flooded Strand 5 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Forest 1 Snow-Covered Plains 1 Breeding Pool 1 Temple Garden 2 Misty Rainforest 1 Hallowed Fountain 4 Ice-Fang Coatl 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 4 Snapcaster Mage 1 Baneslayer Angel 2 Restoration Angel 4 Cryptic Command 4 Path to Exile 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Arcum's Astrolabe 1 Detention Sphere 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 2 Remand 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Timely Reinforcements 4 Opt Sideboard 4 Rest in Peace 1 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Dovin's Veto 3 Disdainful Stroke 1 Supreme Verdict 1 Collector Ouphe 1 Wrath of God 1 Weather the Storm 1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Vendilion Clique
Round 2: 0-2 vs Neoform: they got me fair and square game 1, and I made a loose play game 2 when I decided to Snapcaster + Opt to dig for lands instead of just casting my Clique. A matchup where I got punished for not having Force of Negation.
Right now, I’m experimenting with the new Ninja cards. I went 2-3 in a league with Sultai Ninjas, playing green for Birds of Paradise and Ice-Fang Coatl. Coatl was great once again, but is it really worth splashing? I was only playing Fallen Shinobi as far as Ninjas go but I’ll definitely try Ingenious Infiltrator next time. I also want to try a straight blue-black build, and maybe there’s a Temur version splashing red for Bolt and some sideboard cards. Here are a couple of lists one of my viewers had good results with: Temur Ninjas and Sultai Ninjas, courtesy of MrRaeb.
I still want to get more reps in with Fallen Shinobi so this is what I would try next time:
2 Prismatic Vista 4 Polluted Delta 4 Misty Rainforest 1 Breeding Pool 1 Watery Grave 1 Overgrown Tomb 2 Snow-Covered Swamp 2 Snow-Covered Forest 2 Snow-Covered Island 2 Verdant Catacombs 4 Ice-Fang Coatl 3 Fallen Shinobi 3 Vendilion Clique 3 Ingenious Infiltrator 4 Faerie Seer 3 Spellstutter Sprite 4 Birds of Paradise 1 Snapcaster Mage 4 Fatal Push 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 3 Force of Negation 1 Mana Leak 1 Dismember 1 Spell Pierce Sideboard 2 Thoughtseize 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Ravenous Trap 2 Collector Ouphe 3 Plague Engineer 1 Mana Leak 1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Darkslick Shores 2 Watery Grave 4 Polluted Delta 4 Prismatic Vista 2 Mutavault 2 Misty Rainforest 4 Island 3 Swamp 1 Snapcaster Mage 3 Vendilion Clique 4 Changeling Outcast 4 Faerie Seer 4 Spellstutter Sprite 4 Ingenious Infiltrator 3 Fallen Shinobi 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 4 Fatal Push 3 Force of Negation 1 Spell Pierce 1 Mana Leak 1 Dismember Sideboard 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Ravenous Trap 4 Plague Engineer 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Mana Leak 1 Dismember 2 Thoughtseize
It will be interesting to see how the format (or WOTC) reacts to Hogaak and maybe Neoform (especially once we switch to the London Mulligan), but Mythic Championship Barcelona is still a month and a half away so there is plenty of time to keep brewing and experimenting.
Feel free to share any thoughts or brews below, and I’ll see you next time!