A couple of weeks back, big mana decks took center stage and the trophy at Grand Prix Oklahoma City. At the Team GP in Madrid, 3 of the Top 4 teams played a big mana strategy. Big mana is the name of the game in Modern, and knowing how to fight these strategies, or how to play with them, needs to be high on your agenda.
While I don’t advocate for overreaction in Modern, trying to fight such strategies can be a useful adaptation. I don’t think the entire field of your next Modern tournament will be flooded with Expedition Maps and Sakura-Tribe Elders, but the process of finding cards to beat these decks and that still produces a solid Modern deck is a good place to begin. That lead me to ask myself, “What card or decks completely smash Urza’s Tron and Valukut?” My first thought was Blood Moon, and I don’t remember seeing a single copy at the tournament that weekend. Surely there were some in the room, but I couldn’t remember seeing it on the battlefield.
This lead me on a quest—I wanted to find a Blood Moon deck. I tried Sun and Moon, a R/W control deck that plays planeswalkers, removal, and then Blood Moon to prevent the opponent to interact. The deck was lacking. I thought about trying out one of the Mardu Pyromancer decks, but their mana base would have difficulty accommodating Blood Moon. Then I remembered a deck from a while back that played Pack Rat alongside Blood Moon to reasonable effect.
One of the problems playing a deck focused on such a narrow, and sometimes dead, card like Blood Moon is that you draw it in the matchups in which it’s terrible. So having ways to discard the card when it’s dead, or a duplicate, can eliminate one of its biggest downsides. I started looking at old builds of the deck, and wanted to adapt them to be more like the recent Mardu Pyromancer lists. What these decks were doing really intrigued me, but I wanted to make that extra push to include Blood Moon in these decks. After some iteration, this is where I ended up:
This deck is really a Rakdos control deck. But unlike blue-based control decks that have countermagic when the games go long, this deck really needs to rely on either its threats or Blood Moon to hold off the opposition. Enough has been said about the power of the 1-mana discard suite of Thoughtseize and Inquisition. In this deck, you’re mostly using them to clear the way for Blood Moon and to answer troubling cards from your opponents. Unlike a Jesaki, Grixis, Esper, or U/W control deck, you’re lacking in diversity of removal, thus, these are your answers to most enemy noncreature threats.
The Faithless Lootings might be the most important cards in the deck. Usually, I’m looking to avoid card disadvantage, but the filtering in this deck is quite important. You’re looking for Blood Moon, but it’s sometimes a dead card, and you’ll want to throw it away. Tack on that in the late game additional lands and discard spells lack their effectiveness. This isn’t your usual place for Faithless Looting. Trying to abuse discard synergies, reanimation, or dredge—you’re purely trying to play a value game with Faithless Looting. The last key interaction with Faithless Looting is its synergy with Bedlam Reveler.
Bedlam Reveler is the star of the show. I so badly wanted this card to shine in Standard, but its cost reduction ability does push it to success more in Eternal formats where the cheaper cantrips and spells are more diverse and plentiful. The goal with Reveler is similar to that of Faithless Looting. Discard the bad cards, and refuel with a new set of cards ready to fire away at your opponent. The differences between the two is that Bedlam Reveler plays better into the main game plan, and actually kills the opponent is quick order.
The ability on Bedlam Reveler wants you to play out all of your spells, exchanging them 1-for-1 with the opponent’s resources. While doing so, you’re dumping a large amount of instants and sorceries into your graveyard, reducing the cost of Bedlam Reveler. Once played, it refuels your hand with about 1-2 instants and sorceries to use to trigger its prowess. In addition, you have those Faithless Lootings to help dig into more action. For this reason, you don’t have any delve cards (Gurmag Angler, Empty the Pits, or Murderous Cut) in your deck, as you really want to keep these instants and sorceries in your graveyard until after reducing the cost of your Bedlam Revelers. From my experiences thus far, I really recommend holding onto the flashback on your Faithless Lootings until you’ve played any Bedlam Revelers you can—you’ll want the extra filtering after you draw the extra cards.
The Young Pyromancers and Pack Rats are the supplemental threats to the Bedlam Revelers. Given the number of instants and sorceries in the deck, I wanted to try Young Pyromancer instead of Dark Confidant or Goblin Rabblemaster. Dark Confidant doesn’t play very well with the 8-mana Revelers in your deck. In addition, the amount of damage you do to yourself with Thoughtseize, fetchlands, and potentially Dismember are too difficult to offset. The Goblin Rabblemasters are slightly too expensive for this style of deck. The goal is to find a card that is useful in a wider range of scenarios. The Pyromancers and the Pack Rats both require cards in your hand and some mana, but the Rabblemasters are dreadful in matchups like Burn, and Collected Company variants where you’d like to be blocking or it will be outmatched.
The other important aspect of the Young Pyromancers is that this deck really struggles with decks that can go wide. Something like a Bitterblossom can be incredibly powerful against this strategy, as the majority of the Rakdos cards are efficient in 1-for-1 trades, but unless you want to play main-deck sideboard cards (Damnation, Flaying Tendrils, Curse of Death’s Hold, Anger of the Gods, etc) you’re going to need ways to keep up with these go-wide strategies and race them back. Without access to white mana for Lingering Souls, I’ve found the Young Pyromancers to be among the most effective options.
I’ll see how this deck handles the MTGO League this week. I’m hoping that I fight many big mana strategies, but this deck has game against a lot of the field. I think that I can give decks like Lantern, Grixis Shadow, and Blue Control fits! I’ll want to avoid matchups against decks that are resistant to Blood Moon, which usually means creature-based strategies like Affinity, Elves, and Merfolk. I’ll be back later on this week, and I’ll be showing off more control decks the next couple of weeks before I start getting into Rivals of Ixalan!