Last week, I shared the decks I thought were best for Grand Prix Vegas. I ended up submitting the exact same Hollow One deck list I put in that article, and I managed to take it to a 13-2 record for a solid but unfortunate 10th place finish. Right now, I think it’s one of the best choices in Modern.

Hollow One has the ability to beat any deck in the format. It’s explosive enough, resilient enough, and has just enough disruption to compete with almost any deck.

Here’s my deck list from this past weekend in case you missed it in my article last week. The only difference is my configuration of the red fetchlands.

Hollow One

Mike Sigrist, 10th place at GP Las Vegas

Card Choices

As far as the flex spots in the deck, they’re tight. The two Collective Brutality in the main deck are all I consider to be flex spots, and depending on a specific field, you could change those up. Collective Brutality is your best option for Collected Company decks and Burn, but plays the role of mediocre removal or mediocre Thoughtseize in all other matchups.

Lingering Souls is an option in this slot, and what I would want if I was playing against a lot of other fair decks. It gives you an extra way to grind against decks trying to manage your creatures with removal, but the deck is generally pretty strong against those.

Grim Lavamancer is another option, and what I’d want if I expected to play against mostly Humans, Affinity, or Infect. Other than that, Grim Lavamancer is very good against Collected Company decks, but so is Collective Brutality.

I prefer having my deck set up against a wide open field, which is why I chose to play Collective Brutality, the most versatile of the options.

The Sideboard

Ancient Grudge

Ancient Grudge comes in a lot more than you might think since people try and get you with Ensnaring Bridge. Your deck puts a ton of cards in the graveyard, and can churn through cards with Faithless Looting, Burning Inquiry, and Goblin Lore. This means you can board Ancient Grudge in without worrying about drawing a dead spell like decks without Faithless Looting would.

Engineered Explosives

I might cut a copy of Engineered Explosives. It’s best for the very difficult Bogles matchup, and comes in anywhere where you’re trying to turn into a pseudo-control deck post-board—decks like Elves, Affinity, and Humans. It also gives you an out against Empty the Warrens from Storm. It’s the weakest sideboard card in my opinion, and I could see going to one or zero depending on the expected field.

Thoughtseize

Thoughtseize is usually a card you want to put in your deck when you’re taking out Lightning Bolt. It’s a small disruptive element to work with your fast clock so that you can beat control or combo before they piece together a functional game plan. I think it’s the best option for hand disruption in the sideboard as opposed to Collective Brutality, especially against a deck like KCI, which is rising in popularity.

Fatal Push

Fatal Push is your best answer for Tarmogoyf and Death’s Shadow, which are both problematic creatures as they often outsize your Hollow Ones and Gurmag Anglers. Fatal Push is also a huge part of your plan against decks like Humans and Affinity.

Grim Lavamancer

Grim Lavamancer is one of the most important cards in the sideboard. It allows you to turn into a more controlling deck post-board against decks like Affinity, Humans, Infect, and Collected Company decks. Your goal against these decks is to keep a clean battlefield so that your Hollow Ones and Gurmag Angler can go the distance.

Leyline of the Void

This is the best sideboard card possible for Mardu, the mirror, and KCI. The deck needs to use its mana proactively, so having such a high impact sideboard card for 0 mana is a big upside. I’d consider a fourth copy in the sideboard over an Engineered Explosives.

Additional Options

Big Game Hunter

This is a great card for the mirror, and serviceable against Death’s Shadow, Tarmogoyf, and any other Gurmag Anglers you run into. The mirror match can come down to who has the biggest threat, and Gurmag Angler is always the trump. Right now, Hollow One and Jund aren’t at their peak popularity so having Big Game Hunter is less important and too narrow to have at the moment.

Liliana of the Veil

I don’t like Liliana of the Veil in the sideboard of Hollow One. Liliana’s discard effect isn’t disruptive enough without a huge cast of discard behind it, and it’s not good enough against control to warrant using valuable sideboard space.

Terminate

This feels like a much worse Big Game Hunter to me. Terminate is a little too expensive against Humans when you want to cast a removal spell and use Grim Lavamancer in the same turn, and doesn’t have madness like Big Game Hunter. I don’t like Terminate for this deck.

Blood Moon

Most of the decks you’d want Blood Moon for are favorable matchups without it. I don’t think you need it, but if you expect to play against an unusual amount of Tron and Scapeshift, then it might be a reasonable option.

Sequencing

Sequencing is key to playing Hollow One optimally. Every turn you could be throwing percentage points away, until you eventually turn a favorable game into an unfavorable one. There are some difficult considerations when playing this deck. I’m going to use some sample hands, and explain how I would play the first turn or two with the deck.

Hand #1

This is one of the best possible starts with the deck. This hand has an explosive start with no risk of discarding your Hollow One. First I would play my fetchland, sacrifice it, find Blood Crypt, and then cycle Street Wraith. You want to play and use fetchlands as early as possible to increase the size of your graveyard for a delve creature, and this allows you to play another on turn 2 if you draw it. There’s a small added upside of thinning a land out of your deck to get closer to a second Hollow One as well. If you find a second Street Wraith before or after the Faithless Looting, you should just cycle it immediately. You have the potential to draw another Bloodghast or Flamewake Phoenix to discard to the Faithless Looting, or the upside of finding an additional Hollow One after it.

Hand #2

With this hand you actually want to lead on Mountain into Flameblade Adept. You want to fetch and fuel your graveyard, but you are also planning to cast Burning Inquiry on turn 2. Playing Mountain first allows you to play your fetchland before the Burning Inquiry to guarantee your land drop. If you discard the Bloodghast in your hand, or another one, you won’t miss out on being able to bring it back immediately. Ideally, you discard both Bloodghast and Phoenix as well, and having one less card in hand makes that more likely.

Hand #3

It’s possible for you to play a turn-1 Hollow One with this hand if you draw one, but you already have a sure thing with a Flameblade Adept. With this hand, you lead on Flameblade Adept and wait until turn 2 to cycle your Street Wraith. You get one card deeper to find a free Hollow One, and you also get to cycle Street Wraith, then cast Faithless Looting, discarding Phoenix, and if you find a land you  can bring it back from the graveyard. If you replace your Lightning Bolt with a Hollow One in this hand, you should definitely just cycle Street Wraith and then cast Faithless Looting. The upside of a bunch more damage from a second Hollow One is so high that it’s always worth playing the sure Hollow One with Looting and Street Wraith on turn 1.

Hand #4

This hand gives you the option of playing a Flameblade Adept on 1, or a Burning Inquiry on 1. This is one of the toughest hands to determine how to play correctly. If you cast the Inquiry and discard your Hollow One, your hand is relatively weak. If you lead on Adept, you’ll still have a threat in play if you discard Hollow One, but it’s more fragile, and a pretty anemic threat given the rest of your hand.

Burning Inquiry is also at its best early in a game. It gives you the outside possibility of leaving your opponent with no lands, which will usually result in a free win. You know from Frank Karsten’s Hollow One article that you’ll be putting a Hollow One into play about 61% of the time with this hand, and in the percentage of that time where you don’t, you also may find a Gurmag Angler or Tasigur, the Golden Fang to put into play quickly. I’d slam Inquiry here on the play, and on the draw I’d use the information I have accordingly.

A lot of these sequences stay the same with Goblin Lore instead of Burning Inquiry. Make sure that you play your fetchland before your random discard spells, unless you have a bunch of lands in your hand, in which case, hold lands in your hand to try and turn them into threats.

Sideboarding

Sideboarding was a pretty daunting task for me with this deck until I got used to it. Now it’s almost second nature to me. Here’s how I sideboard and what the more popular matchups are like for Hollow One.

Humans

Out

In

This matchup is all about getting on board first and pressing your advantage while slowing their development down with your removal and Grim Lavamancers. Bloodghast is at its worst in this matchup because they have creatures that can easily block it, and using your graveyard for Grim Lavamancer fuel is better anyway. The random discard effects are good with Grim Lavamancer, but you can trim one because your deck gets more reactive and you don’t want to cast them with removal still in hand.

You most often lose to Mantis Rider and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and win when you get a Hollow One, Grim Lavamancer, or delve creature out early and keep their creatures in check with your seven removal sells. I find this matchup to be close, and I’ve won more than I lost, but I think Humans is a relatively small favorite. I just want to be on the side that wins the die roll.

KCI

Out

In

This matchup is a race. It’s all about getting on board and putting a clock on them before they can combo off. They have very minimal interaction. Wurmcoil Engine can be a problem, but Ancient Grudge can make it less of one, especially when combined with a Leyline of the Void. Flamewake Phoenix is slow in this matchup, so I trim down because recurring the second one is usually difficult at a stage where it’s relevant to the game.

Leyline of the Void is your best sideboard card and I’d suggest going up to four right now because KCI is sure to be on the rise. It allows you to develop your battlefield while also locking them out of combo’ing you. It’s even fairly effective to hard cast if you’re still alive by that time.

Thoughtseize does some work slowing them down, but with Inventors’ Fair, Ancient Stirrings, and Buried Ruin, they can recover quickly from it, so it’s best when combined with a lot of pressure. Mulligan aggressively against this deck to find Leyline or a fast goldfish hand. This matchup is very close.

Tron

Out

In

You simply need to pressure their life total and play threats early and often. Wurmcoil Engine is the scariest card they have, and without it it’s pretty easy to break through their other draws. Ancient Grudge can take them off an Oblivion Stone, or kill two-thirds of a Wurmcoil Engine. This is a fairly good matchup, and it’s a lot like goldfishing.

Jeskai Control

Out

In

They have a tough time recovering from your fast draws. Their removal doesn’t line up well, and they want to play a long game to win, but recurring threats is an issue for them and makes that plan difficult. You want access to Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality to pick off Cryptic Commands on turn 3, and potential Settle the Wreckages on turn 4. This is a matchup I’m looking to play against with Hollow One.

U/W Control

Out

In

This matchup is a lot tougher than Jeskai because their removal package lines up better. Path to Exile plus Condemn or Oust can make your draws anemic, and they have Terminus in their deck sometimes to deal with your recursive threats. You want to get on board quickly and dodge Rest in Peace. If it’s convenient, save Burning Inquiry for when they cast Jace and Brainstorm with no open mana. A lot of the time they’re stacking a Terminus on top, and you can ruin that plan by forcing them to draw it before they intended to.

Mardu Pyromancer

Out

In

This matchup can be tough, but I’ve felt favored. They struggle with your fast starts, and if you can keep them off a Young Pyromancer, you can grind through it with your bigger threats. Leyline of the Void plays a huge role on both sides of the matchup in deciding a winner, as it can debilitate both decks’ ability to set up. Ensnaring Bridge is the new hot tech out of Mardu Pyromancer, which is why you bring in Ancient Grudge, and with so many ways to discard extra cards, it’s unlikely to punish you when they don’t have it. Since they also use the graveyard with Bedlam Reveler and Lingering Souls, Burning Inquiry is a liability. I trim some graveyard-based threats instead of Flameblade Adept to mitigate some of the effectiveness of Leyline of the Void.

Affinity

Out

In

This is a matchup where you want to keep the battlefield as empty as possible, and turn into a control deck with Lavamancers, Bolts, and Fatal Pushes. You need to establish some pressure, and usually win with Hollow One and Flamewake Phoenix while controlling your opponent’s threats. This matchup is tough in game 1, and gets much better post-board. Etched Champion can be a problem for your delve threats and Bloodghasts, so I like to trim them. They also don’t work well with Grim Lavamancers.

Burn

Out

In

This matchup is favorable and gets better the more Collective Brutalities you have. Flamewake Phoenix is your slowest threat that also can’t block, and Street Wraith is a life total liability. I bring in Ancient Grudge to avoid being locked out by Ensnaring Bridge.

Bogles

Out

In

This matchup is really tough. Once they get a Bogle suited up, your only out is Engineered Explosives. Your best hope is to Thoughtseize or Burning Inquiry their hexproof creature or Daybreak Coronet, and kill them before their creature gets out of control. I bring in Fatal Pushes over Lightning Bolts to kill Kor Spiritdancer with an Aura on it if that’s their only action, or Dryad Arbor.

Storm

Out

In

This matchup is tough but you can win with Leyline in play. I bring out Burning Inquiry as they can benefit from discarding a Past in Flames, or go off with a single Past in Flames if you fill up their graveyard. Establish early pressure and keep them on their heels with discard and removal. Engineered Explosives is the out to a big Empty the Warrens. I’m not quite sure how much spot removal you want, but Lightning Bolt is better than Fatal Push as they both kill their creatures. You can consider bringing in a Fatal Push for another Flamewake Phoenix, since it’s your slowest and least reliable threat.

This is one of the matchups I’m most unsure about in my sideboarding plan, and it’s possible that you want to leave Burning Inquiry in on the play because it can lead to your most explosives draws, and also can disrupt them enough on turn 1 to be useful. If that’s the case, I’d likely cut some amount of Goblin Lores and the rest of the Flamewake Phoenixes out of my deck.

Hollow One

Out

In

Surprisingly, one of the most important cards in the mirror has been Flameblade Adept. It gets around Leyline of the Void, which can make the post-board games sloppy. Hollow One is good when it’s fast, but gets outsized by Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler. Ancient Grudge is like a free Terminate in some games, and the upside is worth the dead card when it’s not. Burning Inquiry fills up their graveyard for opposing delve threats, so I cut them. Tasigur is your worst delve threat because it lines up poorly against Angler, so you can remove it or a Flamewake Phoenix, but I prefer having the Phoenix since you can cast it in the sloppy Leyline games. Not having a solid answer to delve threats can be problematic when they have them, but the games are often quite fast and you can shut them off when you draw Leyline. I’d like to have a Big Game Hunter or two, but it would cost you valuable sideboard cards. I’d likely add the fourth Leyline of the Void before the first Big Game Hunter, especially since I haven’t seen an Eldrazi deck in a long time.

I still think Hollow One is a top tier Modern deck, though it hasn’t broken through in a big tournament win yet. I have a lot of matches under my belt with the deck, and will continue to explore it even further.