Goryo’s Vengeance decks in Modern are fast and powerful—but tend to be glass cannons. If you disrupt them even a little, they crumble, and that’s before factoring in how often they implode on their own. Adding blue’s card selection, however, lets you trade in speed for resilience.
Goryo’s Vengeance is a unique effect in Modern that lets you return a legend from your graveyard to give it haste—leading to lots of damage, and powerful abilities—all for the incredibly low price of 2 mana.
With Goryo’s Vengeance comes legends, and the options in both Modern and Legacy tend to be the exact same.
Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn are completely overpowered. Griselbrand gains you a bunch of life and draws a ton of cards. Emrakul hits once and opponents rarely live to tell the tale. Even if they happen to have a couple life points remaining, their board will be decimated by Emrakul’s annihilator trigger.
You may be thinking “how do I return an Emrakul from my graveyard? It shuffles back into my library!” While that’s true, the key is that it is a trigger. When Emrakul goes to the graveyard, shuffling everything back into your library will go on the stack. This leaves a window open to cast an instant, such as an opposing Surgical Extraction to exile it, or your own Goryo’s Vengeance to return it before the trigger resolves. At 2 mana, this is pretty easy to set up early in the game.
If you’re going to be bringing creatures back from the graveyard, you need a way to get them there. Faithless Looting is likely the best way due to the fact that it costs only a single mana and has flashback. The fact that it has flashback means you aren’t really taking a big risk by just casting it turn 1, even if you don’t have anything in your hand that you want to discard. A turn-3 Looting for 1 mana into Goryo’s to return Emrakul is a common and game-winning line.
Izzet Charm is the other way to get monsters into your graveyard while also having the added utility of a removal spell or counter. This versatility makes it invaluable in a deck with blue mana to support it. It’s also an instant, so you can wait until your opponent’s turn to decide which effect you really need. You’ll often cast it during an opponent’s end step to draw 2, discard 2, and set up for the kill the following turn.
Simian Spirit Guide is just a broken Magic card. When I say you can set up a Looting + Goryo’s turn 3, that means without having access to Spirit Guide. Each Spirit Guide can speed things up by an entire turn. While a turn-1 Emrakul (annihilating nothing) is generally not worth going all in, a turn-1 Griselbrand that can draw you 14, or 21 cards after swinging for 7, is a different story!
Sometimes Spirit Guides aren’t used in the first couple turns, but that just means they’ll be around for turns 3 or 4 when you may be looking to cast a Through the Breach. Through the Breach to put an Emrakul into play is an absolute highlight that should end the game. This is also a key plan B in the face of graveyard hate.
Aside from Izzet Charm that you would prefer to save for other uses, you also have Lightning Bolt to kill creatures or finish opponents off after an Emrakul hit. You also have Collective Brutality for occasional reach, but more importantly as a way to discard legends while also clearing the way of problematic spells in your opponent’s hand, and killing a creature like Scavenging Ooze is a nice bonus.
Goryo’s Vengeance is one of the best cards in Modern, and the addition of blue mana and Collective Brutality adds a lot of versatility and strength to an already powerful deck!
Grixis Goryo’s Vengeance
David Sharfman, 2nd at a Modern Open