Honored Hierarch, initially reviled, has now grown wings in Standard. Over the past few weeks I have supported the card with burn, bounce, and evasion and developed viable competitive options in either Jeskai Ascendancy Combo or aggro-control “Delver.” My lists are not definitive, merely a starting point, and community momentum will carry them from here.
I now turn my attention to Honored Hierarch in Modern, where I believe the card has greater potential. There are certain cards that are better in Eternal formats than Standard, and Honored Hierarch may be one of them. There are some unique features of Modern that make life easy for Honored Hierarch: less blocking, and better support.
Honored Hierarch vs. Modern
There are far fewer blockers in Modern to get in the way of a turn-1 Honored Hierarch. Many players develop their own game plan on their first turn with Serum Visions, Thoughtseize, or Treetop Village, leaving them vulnerable. Under these circumstances Honored Hierarch needs very little support to connect.
The blockers that are available are the likes of Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise, which match up poorly against Honored Hierarch in a fight. Honored Hierarch embarrasses Noble Hierarch, winning infinity-to-1 on the play or infinity-to-2 on the draw.
Modern has Lightning Bolt, but there are actually fewer Bolts in Modern than there are Shocks in Standard! And the worst case is a 1-for-1 trade. Instead, there are far more Path to Exiles and Abrupt Decays in Modern which Honored Hierarch matches up very well against.
What we get when Honored Hierarch “flips“ is a combo killer. Where Tarmogoyf is vulnerable to cards like Living End and Ensnaring Bridge, Honored Hierarch laughs at them. It slides under from the start and applies pressure without ever dropping your counter shields. In certain metagames, Honored Hierarch could be dominant.
Honored Hierarch With Modern
Honored Hierarch has great support in Modern, starting with the mana. While Standard Hierarch may dilly-dally with tapped lands, Modern Hierarch comes in turn 1 consistently. This doesn’t give the opponent any extra time to deploy a blocker or removal. With good mana they have to do something immediately or it flips with protection.
The supporting removal is also much better in Modern. You get to run alongside Lightning Bolt and Vapor Snag, which are both absurd tempo plays that force Hierarch through and push damage.
An important deck crafting question with Honored Hierarch is how can we make a deck that makes good use of the extra mana, but doesn’t need it? Modern offers a lot of flexibility on this. Gitaxian Probe, Disrupting Shoal, and Snapcaster Mage give us options for mana cost. Grim Lavamancer and Become Immense give us more flexibility from our graveyard. Cryptic Command also gives us versatility for a cost most other Delver lists have a hard time reaching.
From here we fill out the deck with the usual Blue/Red Delver fixings—the most efficient counters and tricks tailored to preference for surprising the opponent. What we get is a very mana efficient deck that can dominante from turn 1 onward, and a deck that can play control and claw back to win a longer game in desperate times.
I have been tuning my list over the past weeks and am pleased with the results. However, this is not meant to be the definitive list—it’s meant to be tweaked for a variety of factors.
If you are interested but have doubts, stay tuned for the video series this Friday which will demonstrate the versatile power of this deck. I also highly recommend trying this for yourself, especially if you have played Blue/Red Delver. After the banning of Treasure Cruise, Delver has been suppressed in Modern, but I think with Honored Hierarch the strategy could rise to prominence once more.
Honored Hierarch to the People
When properly supported, Honored Hierarch is amazing, and the greatest thing about it is the price. Compared to Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage, this thing is basically free. Of course, the supporting lands are expensive, but it’s a nice alternative.
The availability of the card really opens up brewing possibilities. We have the RUG Honored Delver deck now, but that’s just the beginning. This card plays great with Tasigur, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Kolagahn’s Command, so maybe there is an Honored Jund out there. It also can work well as a lightning rod in a tempo-based Honored Twin strategy. The options are vast.
What do you think about Honored Delver, and how else can we push the card in Modern?