Normally, this is the time of year when I go over the Bazaar of Moxen deck lists. My biggest takeaway was that the European Legacy players have Spirit of the Labyrinth figured out. It’s an affordable Chains of Mephistopheles that attacks! Play this card!
I’m much more excited about a different list:
This deck is the new hot thing, with a tide of buzz carrying it from Twitter to card forums to Twitch.tv streams. There was a solid week in there where I heard or read about it every day.
The hype holds up. Not only is this deck a blast, but it’s good too. It’s weak to fast combo, but great against decks that want to keep permanents in play, which adds up to a large chunk of the format.
One of the mistakes of earlier lists was an over-focus on the combo, leading to a weak early game and a host of bad spells if the combo gets disrupted.
This version trims away the inconsistency, instead building around legitimately strong cards with only a few slots devoted the Griffin combo. Manipulate Fate is a good example, as it cantrips and finds Griffins regardless of whether you have Food Chain or not, essentially drawing four cards for two mana.
Shardless Agent overperforms as a value spell that pitches to Force of Will. Most importantly, it’s a 3-drop to jump to Griffin with Food Chain. The cascades aren’t bad, either. It’s hard to believe until you’ve seen it, but hitting Manipulate Fate is so busted that it rivals cascading into Ancestral Vision. Both the mana dorks, ordinarily “dead” cascades, help win through mana denial and speed up your clock when you’re on the beatdown plan, and Shardless is rarely bad.
While Karakas taps for colorless in this deck, it’s worth running for the soft locks with Clique and Venser.
Most Food Chain lists finish the game with Emrakul, and here Tidespout Tyrant fills a similar role. Just recast Griffin enough times to bounce the opponent’s board. Unlike Emrakul, Tyrant pitches to Force of Will, and with all the mana ramp you might actually cast it without the combo. Against an opposing Show and Tell, they’re both fine cards to drop into play.
Attacking with Griffin wins an absurd amount of games. Between flying and random Noble Hierarch triggers, it hits harder than you’d expect, and if they Swords to Plowshares it you can simply recast it.
The Ancestral Visions are there for the grindy matchups, especially decks trying to cast Hymn to Tourach, and I’ve liked them so far.
Legacy dreamboat Eric English suggested cutting the Visions for Meddling Mages and squeezing a Tundra into the mana base. This would help the deck’s worst matchups, and the nice thing about Mage is that it can be cascaded into (unlike Flusterstorm). Ultimately, that decision might depend on if you expect to face more Hymn to Tourachs or fast combo.
Tips and Tricks
• With a Food Chain in play, you can attack with a Griffin and then exile it + recast on your second main phase, giving it pseudo-vigilance. This is especially effective if you have a number of Griffins in play, and it makes racing difficult.
• If your opponent is winning the race, blocking and then exiling Griffin will let you keep recasting it, sort of like a build your own Maze of Ith.
• If a Griffin ends up in the graveyard, Deathrite Shaman is a neat way to get it back. This could happen through discard, a counter/removal spell, or even blocking your opponent’s giant thing. Since you can activate Deathrite + replay every turn, this gives the deck a second Maze of Ith-type effect.
• Pitching Griffin to Force of Will feels filthy, and the deck is almost worth running for that play alone.
I spent some time testing Modern for GP Minneapolis, only to have my travel plans fall through. I’m not salty. Since Modern is “eternal,” the testing is never wasted, and at least it gave me a few hot lists to write about.
I’m still testing my first choice for the GP, but I enjoy it and feel it has enough surprise factor to run it despite some roughness around the edges. In my Journeying into Nix article, I featured a BW Humans list with Athreos. As I kept testing and experimenting, I eventually dropped the Humans subtheme for more utility creatures that have synergy with Athreos.
The discard moved to the sideboard, as you can’t afford to draw too many spells against decks looking to Snapcast back Path to Exile. If Athreos doesn’t turn on, it’s basically an enchantment that probably doesn’t matter because you aren’t pressuring their life total because you don’t have any guys.
“That’s a Caleb special all right”
At its core, the deck is all about Athreos, and you’ll win way more often when you draw it. Ghost Council of Orzhova overperformed as a way to create a pile of devotion out of nowhere, and it has added value as a drain and sacrifice outlet. Once, I even got to blink it in response to Path to Exile on Athreos, removing devotion and fizzling the Path. One of the reasons I love this deck is the powerful curve of Athreos into Ghost Council, and I’ve only lost one game with that opening.
Athreos is better than it looks. Eventually, the opponent will run out of life, at which point you can get your creatures back indefinitely. This makes all of the creatures way better than usual, and many of the one-drops can self-sacrifice. Martyr becomes an enchantment that reads 1W: gain a pile of life. Fume Spitter machine guns down entire boards. And Doomed Traveler, when combined with Cartel Aristocrat, creates an army in a can.
While there’s plenty to love about the deck, I do have a few problems with it. It has its good matchups, but game one against Pod is almost unwinnable. I tried Aven Mindcensor, but most of the BW deck’s other threats are resilient to removal, so the opponent is bound to have an Abrupt Decay or something, and holding up three mana with the W/x disruptive creatures deck sends off alarm bells. The pile of Grafdigger’s Cages in the board reduces the chances of getting combo’d out, which is the main problem, but I’m still wary. I’ve had a lot of success in Modern playing decks that beat Pod in game one, and this would’ve been my first tournament trying to dodge it.
I dislike the randomness of Martyr, as it fluctuates from amazing to worthless. I’m convinced it’s good in the deck, and have been ever since my first opponent slumped in his chair when I cracked Martyr with an Athreos in play, but there are a lot of Modern decks where your life total simply doesn’t matter, and now you have these vanilla 1/1s in your deck. Another thing I dislike about Martyr is that it’s way better with Squadron Hawk, another high variance card. Sometimes Hawk is good without Martyr, especially when it’s fulfilling devotion and making the opponent pay 3 life every time one of them dies, but then you get those games where it’s entirely disappointing, and you wonder what convinced you to play it in Modern.
One idea I haven’t had the time to test is Grave Pact, which could be sweet. It gives a ton of devotion for Athreos and also wants sacrifice outlets. The core of the deck could stay the same, including the Doomed Travelers and the high power 2-drops, but adding Viscera Seer as a Ranger of Eos target.
Speaking of Ranger, I also want to try out a miser’s Mikaeus, the Lunarch.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Eidolon is a solid card in Modern, though not as good as I thought it’d be. It suffers from a weak body. It’s worse on the draw, and some Modern decks that can just dump their hand early (like Affinity or some Pod draws). Still, it’s a strong reason to play an aggressive red deck.
Our initial build began as a mono-red list with a high density of creatures, including Mogg Fanatic. I liked the idea of Fanatic. Without Deathrite Shaman in the format, people have to run X/1s if they want mana dorks, and a single point matters again (see the Fume Spitters in my BW list). Also, having a threat in play when you cast the Eidolon seems ideal, as it increases the relevance of the 2/2 body. If you curve out, the opponent has to take damage to deal with Eidolon while your one-drop keeps swinging in.
After a few games, it was just too underpowered. Fanatic got bricked too fast and too often. Forked Bolt, on the other hand, overperformed, and became a four-of.
This is where we ended up:
Here, we have an aggro deck that does its darndest to make Eidolon matter. Searing Blaze works with both halves of the card, clearing blockers and punishing the opponent’s life total. Lavamancer does something similar. Tarmogoyf is the only card without any direct synergy, and it’s mostly there to up the power level of the deck.
It’s possible that Eidolon belongs in a more Zoo-y deck, with more power one-drops like Experiment One, Wild Nacatl, and so on. However, self-damage matters a lot, and most 3-5 color Zoo lists end up at 14 on turn two. That doesn’t leave much room to cast spells post-Eidolon.
Mountain fetishist David Merced added the Ghor-Clans and Hellsparks, the idea being that they get in damage underneath Eidolon. I like the way they increase the gas density of the deck. Rampager is awful against removal, but it lets our efficient creatures keep on attacking into the midgame, and it can always be boarded out.
The Pillar slots were the toughest to nail down. They started as Rift Bolt, but that card is terrible outside of a burn shell. With this many creatures, the deck needs efficient spells to remove blockers and force through damage, and that’s the main reason I like the Ghor-Clans in the first place. Pillar is especially good against Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks.
Dismember is another option for that slot. It sounds awkward, as it has negative synergy with Eidolon, but one of the weaknesses of the deck is efficiently handling large creatures, and the one mana for Dismember matters a great deal when you’d otherwise have to combine Searing Blaze and another burn spell. Flame Slash is an option, but it doesn’t hit Colonnade or interrupt Twin combo.
One of the advantages of being GR as opposed to just plain red is that we get to run Ancient Grudge over Smash to Smithereens. Smash might be better in a dedicated burn deck, but that’s not exactly what we have here.
It seems like Thrun costs a lot, but in the matchups where it’s good there’s time to hit land drops, and the opponent ramps us with Path to Exile. And once Thrun hits, it’ll win the game.
Molten Rain vs. Blood Moon is a serious decision for this list. On the one hand, Blood Moon is great at locking people out of the game, and it beats most of the Lightning Helix decks singlehandedly. On the other hand, it doesn’t deal damage and it can backfire by shutting us off of green and shrinking our Kird Apes. Molten Rain being a sorcery for Tarmogoyf is a thing.