Soulherder

How Soulherder Fits into the New Modern Meta

On August 26, R&D announced the banning of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting as well as the unban of Stoneforge Mystic. While I think the Hogaak ban was a no-brainer, the two other decisions were a bit more interesting.

I was hoping that on top of banning the free 8/8 trample, they would nerf Dredge in some additional way (I was thinking about maybe getting rid of Creeping Chill) so I’m kind of glad Looting is gone, but the red one-mana sorcery was also the cornerstone of many strategies, most of which were fun and interesting to play. I’m not sure having a deck like Izzet Phoenix as one of the decks to beat was a bad thing for Modern.

Unbanning Mystic is also a questionable decision. It might not be too good and might even eventually disappear from tier 1 decks, but is the risk really worth the reward? It doesn’t make for especially interesting play patterns and you risk having almost every deck that can play white start with the same five or six cards. I’m guessing the bottom line is that R&D is slowly trying to reintroduce as many cards as possible in the format and I don’t think anyone can argue that’s a bad idea. If things go right, you’ve got a slightly more diverse Modern and the few weeks/months post-unban are always exciting with infinite brews popping up. If they don’t, Wizards said they’re more than willing to backtrack and just ban the card again–but so far, it’s worked out for them as both Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf have seen a lot of play without being oppressive.

What Does Modern Look Like Now?

We’ve had about two weeks of play as I write this, as well as one weekend worth of paper results. Grixis Death’s Shadow dominated the Modern Challenge on Magic Online, placing first and second, Team Lotus Box and Burn had the most impressive showing in the Open with three in the Top 8 of the Open that was won by Whirza, a deck that appears to be just as strong as it was before. Stoneforge Mystic showed it was legit, with multiple players placing highly mostly with UWx based strategies.

Grixis Death’s Shadow

Marc Tobiasch, 2nd MTGO Modern Challenge

2 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Island (335)
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Swamp (339)
2 Watery Grave
4 Death's Shadow
3 Gurmag Angler
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Street Wraith
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Serum Visions
4 Thoughtseize
2 Dismember
2 Fatal Push
2 Kolaghan's Command
2 Lightning Bolt
3 Stubborn Denial
2 Temur Battle Rage
4 Thought Scour
3 Mishra's Bauble

Sideboard
1 Stubborn Denial
2 Abrade
2 Alpine Moon
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Pithing Needle
2 Plague Engineer

Marc had an interesting take on the archetype, opting for Vryn’s Prodigy, which might be a nod to the fact that most Modern decks right now are doing their own thing and not packing a ton of removal.

Burn

Dylan Donegan Open 2nd place

2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Wooded Foothills
3 Mountain (343)
4 Sunbaked Canyon
1 Fiery Islet
4 Inspiring Vantage
2 Arid Mesa
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Boros Charm
4 Searing Blaze
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt

Sideboard
2 Deflecting Palm
3 Skullcrack
4 Kor Firewalker
3 Path to Exile
3 Smash to Smithereens

Fairly stock list. The tournament was in Texas, which apparently is notorious for having a lot of Burn players, which explains the 4 Kor Firewalker in the sideboard. With the unban of Stoneforge Mystic, I might have expected a couple Skullcrack in the main even though Burn is already well-positioned against Mystic decks–you can usually get rid of Mystic with Searing Blaze and kill them before they have the time to hit you with Batterskull just in the same way you can easily die the turn you tap out for a Lyra Dawnbringer with U/W Control.

Four-Color Whirza

Harlan Firer Open 1st place

1 Inventors' Fair
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Breeding Pool
1 Steam Vents
1 Watery Grave
4 Polluted Delta
4 Snow-Covered Island
2 Spire of Industry
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
3 Goblin Engineer
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
1 Mystic Forge
4 Arcum's Astrolabe
3 Whir of Invention
1 Ichor Wellspring
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Galvanic Blast
4 Mox Opal
4 Thopter Foundry
2 Sword of the Meek
2 Chromatic Star
4 Mishra's Bauble
2 Pithing Needle
1 Welding Jar
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Ensnaring Bridge

Sideboard
3 Assassin's Trophy
1 Damping Sphere
2 Fatal Push
3 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Collective Brutality
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Thoughtseize

My teammate Eli Kassis has been adamant for a while now that the white splash for Teferi, Time Raveler isn’t good, and it seems Harlan agrees as well. Mystic Forge is a recent addition and gives you a tutor target for Whir of Invention in grindy spots where searching for a bullet or a combo piece isn’t enough, but I think the card has been underwhelming in most people’s experience so far and you might just want something like a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas main as an extra payoff card even though you can’t get it with Whir.

While Modern is usually too diverse to really have a deck to beat, I would consider Whirza the best deck in the format right now.

U/W Mystic

McWinSauce MTGO MCQ 4th place

2 Celestial Colonnade
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Polluted Delta
6 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Vendilion Clique
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Cryptic Command
1 Dismember
3 Force of Negation
1 Hieroglyphic Illumination
2 Mana Leak
4 Opt
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Snare
1 Batterskull
1 Sword of Feast and Famine

Sideboard
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Batterskull
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Celestial Purge
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Disenchant
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Rest in Peace
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Timely Reinforcements

Another close MCQ miss for Sauce. The decklist looks solid even though I’m not the biggest fan of Ceremonious Rejection over Disdainful Stroke. The second Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the sideboard is also probably unnecessary and you should probably run at least one Stony Silence even though the card is a nonbo with your own equipment. Another interesting option could be a Sword of Fire and Ice as most of Whirza’s creatures are blue or red and it might come in handy in some other matchups.

Looking at different Stoneforge lists, you might see people using different Swords–the gist is that you usually want Sword of Feast and Famine where you make good use of the untap trigger, which U/W does thanks to Jace and Cryptic Command.

The list that Sauce “stole” from Pete runs the standard 4 Field of Ruin, but some players have been advocating for extra creature lands (Blinkmoth Nexus seems like the best) which will usually shine in grindy matchups, but I think you’re giving up way too much against big mana decks if you make the switch.

It seems most players are favoring U/W Stoneforge over U/W Control and while I haven’t played a ton with Mystic, the card was good and I would assume the Stoneforge version is better. While Narset, Parter of Veils is still a great card, it probably lost a bit of its value with the ban of Faithless Looting.

The real winners seem to be the some of the big mana decks that were mostly rendered unplayable by Hogaak, as Titanshift had a strong showing with the pretty much exact same list placing Top 4 in the Open and winning the Online MCQ.

TitanShift

Ross Meriam Open 3rd Place

1 Field of the Dead
1 Sheltered Thicket
3 Cinder Glade
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Windswept Heath
3 Mountain (343)
1 Forest (347)
3 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Forest
4 Primeval Titan
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Obstinate Baloth
4 Sylvok Explorer
1 Khalni Heart Expedition
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Prismatic Omen
4 Scapeshift
3 Summoner's Pact
1 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Lightning Bolt

Sideboard
1 Fry
2 Veil of Summer
1 Collector Ouphe
2 Force of Vigor
3 Damping Sphere
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Beast Within
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Reclamation Sage

Ross included a few new cards in his build. Field of the Dead gives the deck another dimension and helps against a potential Surgical Extraction on Valakut, while the flexibility of Fry is welcome.

It deals with a Stoneforge Mystic as well as Jace, the Mind Sculptor or even potential hate cards like Ashiok, Dream Render that could start showing up in people’s sideboards if TitanShift gets more popular. Veil of Summer is amazing against a big portion of the field whether you’re stopping a Thoughtseize or a Cryptic Command. If your opponent has Teferi, Time Raveler in play, don’t forget you can simply lead with Veil, which will act as a Silence even though you won’t draw a card.

Just like most Modern decks, tuning TitanShift is a daunting task and cards like Prismatic Omen are going to be absurd at times or the worst possible card you can draw. From playing a decent amount against that deck, I’ve always had the feeling that the TitanShift players cost themselves more by having too many reactive cards rather than just more ramp spells, but this might be only true against midrange and “fair” decks.

Amulet Titan expert and streamer Francisco Pawlusz (@fpawluszmtg on Twitter and fpawlusz on Twitch) has been on a tear with different versions of the archetype and thinks the deck is the best it’s been in a very long time. It seems that most versions doing well are playing three copies of Karn, the Great Creator in slots where you use to play cards like Hive Mind or Trinket Mage.

Mono-Green Tron has also been doing reasonably well, but with TitanShift and Amulet Titan back on the map, it doesn’t have the big mana monopoly it enjoyed for a little while.

Eldrazi Tron is alive and well and has the upside of having a good Whirza matchup as well as being slightly favored against Burn, but is also fairly horrendous against big mana decks.

Finally, it seems that rumors of Dredge’s death have been exaggerated as Sodeq managed to keep the archetype alive by replacing Looting with Tome Scour. He piloted the deck to a fifth-place finish in the Modern Challenge while Jake Peralez won the Classic with the same main deck.

Dredge

Sodeq

1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 City of Brass
1 Copperline Gorge
2 Forgotten Cave
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Mountain (343)
1 Spirebluff Canal
1 Steam Vents
2 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodghast
2 Golgari Thug
4 Narcomoeba
4 Prized Amalgam
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Cathartic Reunion
2 Conflagrate
4 Creeping Chill
4 Life from the Loam
4 Tome Scour
4 Shriekhorn

Sideboard
2 Alpine Moon
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Blast Zone
1 Darkblast
3 Lightning Axe
3 Nature's Claim
2 Thoughtseize

I have to assume one of the reasons Dredge did well on the first weekend of the new format is that everyone was a little light on graveyard hate and it seems like we might be back in a spot where on any given weekend, whoever picks their deck or hate properly could be highly rewarded.

Soulherder

Soulherder

While all of this was going on, I was just jamming league after league with Soulherder variants. I was going to be reasonable and try out some of the other top tier decks in an attempt to test seriously for the Modern MOCS Playoff, but blinking dorks has been way too much fun and the deck has performed really well.

When I wrote the Soulherder guide a few weeks ago, I wasn’t too sure what to expect after the potential bans/unbans. Izzet Phoenix and Red Prowess are mostly gone and with them Gut Shot and Lava Dart, which led me to give Noble Hierarch another try and the card has been delivering; it doesn’t hurt that most U/W decks are only playing one sweeper. The format is a bit grindier and Mulldrifter has been very impressive. If you Ephemerate it with the evoke trigger on the stack, you draw four cards and get to keep the Elemental in play, but I’ve also been hard-casting it regularly.

As if you didn’t already have a wide enough pool of cards to pick from, I made my life is more complicated a few days ago when I decided to add black for 4 Siege Rhinos and few sideboard cards to very good results. Red decks are fairly popular right now and Siege Rhino is obviously nuts against them. While the Bant version usually functions almost as a prison deck (you just take over with card advantage and lock your opponent looping Path to Exile and Force of Negation with Eternal Witness), the black gives it a little extra punch and allows you to close games a bit faster.

Here is my current Bant version:

Blink182

1 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
2 Flooded Strand
3 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
3 Windswept Heath
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Prismatic Vista
1 Hallowed Fountain
3 Soulherder
3 Eternal Witness
4 Coiling Oracle
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Knight of Autumn
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Wall of Omens
2 Mulldrifter
1 Vendilion Clique
3 Path to Exile
4 Force of Negation
1 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Ephemerate
1 Time Warp

Sideboard
1 Stony Silence
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Celestial Purge
1 Knight of Autumn
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Weather the Storm
1 Spell Snare
1 Winds of Abandon
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Rest in Peace
1 Veil of Summer
1 Mana Leak

I just started trying out Vendilion Clique and it seems good so far, but if you’re looking for a cut this could be it.

Wall of Omens gets the nod over Wall of Blossoms because it can block a creature equipped by Sword of Feast and Famine, which has been surprisingly relevant. Watcher for Tomorrow is also a good choice as a one-of and any extra blue card is always a welcome addition to enable Force of Negation. If Knight of Autumn was blue, I would probably a second or even a third in the main and you might still want to consider this option if you expect a lot of Burn and Whirza.

As I added Hierarch and cut down on the two mana creatures with an ETB trigger, I decided to trim a Soulherder as well, which has seemed correct. I’m also not sure about a maindeck Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I felt like the one copy was strong but most people who have tried the deck seem to disagree.

A lot of the sideboard slots are still in the air, but right now I really like the two Strokes, the two Purge (Wrenn and Six is a problem), the Spell Snare and the second Knight. I haven’t played versus Dredge at all and I’m also not sure what the best plan is for Whirza which has been a tough matchup. Rest in Peace and Stony Silence are both annoying for them, but Urza gets around these cards so I also like to bring in Stroke.

And here is the four-color version, aka Sewer Herder:

3 Snow-Covered Forest
3 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Prismatic Vista
1 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Flooded Strand
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Windswept Heath
3 Siege Rhino
4 Coiling Oracle
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Soulherder
3 Eternal Witness
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Knight of Autumn
2 Mulldrifter
1 Wall of Omens
1 Watcher for Tomorrow
1 Hostage Taker
2 Path to Exile
4 Ephemerate
3 Force of Negation
1 Time Warp

Sideboard
1 Acidic Slime
1 Shriekmaw
1 Siege Rhino
1 Knight of Autumn
1 Spell Snare
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Path to Exile
2 Celestial Purge
1 Sin Collector
1 Weather the Storm
1 Mana Leak
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Rest in Peace

This is still a work in progress and it’s unclear if the black cards are worth the splash. My gut tells me no but I usually like to keep it as simple as possible, so I might be biased.

I started off with Astrolabe and Yarok, the Desecrated, but Yarok was too clunky and I felt like Astrolabe was making me flood a bit too often. I also had Birds over Hierarch, but I think you can get away with Noble and still be able to cast the black spells consistently.

A question I get a lot is what to do if you can’t play Force of Negation for budget reasons. I don’t have a great answer and I usually suggest trying out Negate, but it’s possible you can maybe use Tidehollow Sculler and Sin Collector to make up for it in the four-color version and then maybe even throw in some Wasteland Stranglers. The big strength of Force is that it’s free and makes up for the lost tempo, which Sculler and Collector don’t really achieve.

I’ve said it a few times already, but this is really the most fun I’ve had playing Magic in a while and I’ve had a lot of my Twitch viewers build the deck and do well with it. It’s also still a fairly new deck and you can definitely get creative with the shell, especially since apparently adding a fourth color isn’t that big of an issue.

Let me know if you have any more specific questions and if you’ve built the deck, let me know what your version looks like!

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