You can call it Death and Taxes, or you can call it Mono-White Hatebears. You can definitely call it powerful. Theau Mery may not have taken down the trophy at the massive Grand Prix Las Vegas this weekend, but he didn’t pick up a single loss until the finals. After a 14-0-1 record in the Swiss and wins in the quarters and semis, this is not a deck you can overlook.
Hatebears is a creature-centric deck where the cards work well together to create a sum much more powerful than the parts. To get those creatures into play at instant speed and maximize their effectiveness, Aether Vial is central to this strategy. It’s the best turn-1 play in the deck, and will make the rest of the game a nightmare. Modern has lots of artifact removal options thanks to decks like Affinity, Lantern, and Tron, but boarding those in to only deal with Vial can be more punishing than the artifact itself, when your opponent finds themselves facing down white’s efficient creatures with a handful of artifact removal.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is incredible against decks with high spell density, but it’s also solid in creature matchups. It turns out that 2 power with first strike is just a really nice size in the format. Doing work against combo decks like Storm, Ad Nauseam, and Living End is icing on the cake.
Leonin Arbiter is incredibly annoying. A 2/2 for 2 is a reasonable rate, but this is a format filled with fetchlands that just lost a ton of value. With plenty of other search effects in the format, as well as your own Path to Exiles and Ghost Quarters that turn into super-charged Swords to Plowshares and Strip Mine, Arbiter is a game-changer.
Thraben Inspector comes down early and provides a bit of value. This deck is filled with flicker effects, turning the Inspector into real card advantage. The same can be said of the Blade Splicer, as it offers another excellent enters-the-battlefield trigger. Creating an additional 3/3 for just 3 mana is great, and being able to blink the Splicer out of play will create a sizable army.
Flickerwisp attacks nicely in the format and threatens to take out most planeswalkers in a single swing. The flickering ability is especially powerful with Inspectors and Splicers, but also works against opposing tokens, planeswalkers with high loyalty, or just to remove blockers. The combo with Aether Vial to give it flash is excellent.
Speaking of flickering and flash, there’s Restoration Angel. Sized perfectly to avoid Lightning Bolts and Abrupt Decays, the Angel can save your creatures in combat, save them from removal spells, or just reset them for more enters-the-battlefield triggers with Inspectors and Splicers.
The rest of the creatures offer additional power and utility. Weathered Wayfarer allows you to get way ahead on cards, Phyrexian Revoker is a great answer to planeswalkers and other problematic permanents (especially if they don’t respond to you activating a Vial on 2, since they won’t be able to use the permanent once that resolves), and Serra Avenger is an efficient attacker to maximize your mana on turn 4 or to Vial out on the cheap.
Mirran Crusader’s stock should be on the rise as decks move away from Lightning Bolt to focus on removal like Fatal Push and Kolaghan’s Command. This thing hits hard and holds down the fort against Death’s Shadows and Gurmag Anglers.
The Hatebears really proved themselves a powerful piece of the metagame in Vegas. With 2 copies in the Top 8, and 0 copies of Grixis Shadow, this may be one of the format’s premier solutions.