Doing coverage in LA over the weekend was absolutely excellent. Modern has always been my favorite format to cover, and the tournament was made all the more enjoyable with the more relaxed and laid-back vibe ChannelFireball was going for. Besides, being in the booth with the likes of Huey and LSV was terrific—not to mention that I got to share a round with Marshall for the first time in five years.
People have been very forthcoming with feedback about the coverage we provided and I’m very grateful for all of it, both positive and negative. I recognize I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine—I know there’s stuff I can work on to be a little more palatable to a wider audience without betraying my core competency of silly nonsense. To those regular passengers on the nonsense train, however—full steam ahead. Thanks for being at my back.
We got to feature a ton of wild decks on camera throughout the weekend, and I kept a careful record of those I wanted to highlight in this week’s article. While no off-the-wall brews made it to the Top 8, some of the lists below made pretty deep runs into Day 2, and really impressed me and the rest of the team with how innovative, interesting, or just plain cool they were. Let’s get into it!
I’ll kick things off with an absolute club banger—Alex King came ready to rock and roll with his Enduring Ideal deck, which we featured multiple times on stream. As you might have guessed, this deck is all about resolving a copy of Enduring Ideal, with a host of enchantment-based support cards and win conditions to back it up.
2 Calciform Pools 2 Rugged Prairie 1 Mistveil Plains 11 Plains 2 Temple of Enlightenment 4 Temple of Triumph 1 Sacred Foundry 2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx 4 Lotus Bloom 1 Wrath of God 4 Enduring Ideal 2 Porphyry Nodes 4 Runed Halo 2 Blood Moon 4 Ghostly Prison 1 Oblivion Ring 3 Phyrexian Unlife 1 Solemnity 4 Leyline of Sanctity 2 Sphere of Safety 1 Dovescape 2 Form of the Dragon Sideboard 1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All 2 Damping Sphere 2 Greater Auramancy 2 Rest in Peace 2 Stony Silence 1 Oblivion Ring 1 Day of Judgment 4 Silence
Surviving long enough to cast a 7-drop in Modern is a risky proposition, and as a result we see Lotus Blooms and Simian Spirit Guides as ways to cheat it out ahead of time. Working hand-in-hand with fast mana are disruptive elements that seek to slow the game down—everything from Ghostly Prison to Blood Moon are designed to prevent an opponent from playing their natural game.
After resolving an Enduring Ideal, however, things start to get truly wild. Dovescape plus Sphere of Safety render opposing spells useless, while the mondo-combo of Phyrexian Unlife plus Solemnity means you are unable to lose the game! Finally, Form of the Dragon is the rug that ties the whole room together, clocking an opponent and providing a powerful (and sweet) win condition.
We’ve seen main deck Leyline of Sanctity before in decks like Bogles, and there are times when it’s a terrific piece of tech. Now, however, isn’t one of them. With half of Modern reanimating Arclight Phoenixes or Prized Amalgams, Leyline of Sanctity isn’t at its best as a main deck inclusion—there are just too many linear decks right now. Nonetheless, Enduring Ideal is a hell of a card and a hell of a deck, and this is a super sweet way to catch opponents by surprise with a truly wild deck.
Esper Demonic Pact
Celestial Colonnade has had a quiet few months. White-Blue Control was one of the most powerful strategies in Modern for a time, but has taken a back seat with the ascendancy of Arclight Phoenix and Prized Amalgam. Is the answer to splash black? Almost certainly not, but that didn’t stop Chris Botelho in Los Angeles—he aimed to get it done with Esper Charm and Demonic Pact.
4 Celestial Colonnade 2 Field of Ruin 3 Flooded Strand 2 Hallowed Fountain 4 Polluted Delta 2 Watery Grave 4 Island 2 Plains 1 Swamp 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4 Cryptic Command 2 Demonic Pact 1 Detention Sphere 2 Esper Charm 2 Negate 4 Path to Exile 3 Rest in Peace 2 Spell Snare 1 Supreme Verdict 1 Talisman of Progress 2 Terminus 1 Timely Reinforcements 1 Wrath of God 2 Censor 4 Opt Sideboard 1 Baneslayer Angel 1 Damping Sphere 1 Dispel 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Negate 1 Porphyry Nodes 3 Stony Silence 1 Terminus 2 Thoughtseize 2 Timely Reinforcements 1 Vendilion Clique
Setting aside the black cards for a second, there are plenty of delicious card choices to get through here. I love playing Censor instead of something like Mana Leak—the difference between paying 1 and 3 is very rarely relevant when playing on-curve—and main deck Rest in Peace is a 200 IQ play given the state of the format. While it necessitates the removal of Snapcaster Mage, Rest in Peace crushes so many decks in Modern and will steal innumerable game 1s.
The black cards, however, is where things really heat up. Demonic Pact is such a weird choice for a deck like this, but it plays the role of a planeswalker your opponent can’t attack and provides huge value over three turns. Cryptic Command and Esper Charm both mitigate its fourth mode, with Esper Charm also offering the rare instant-speed discard effect.
I’ve talked about playing main deck Rest in Peace before, and it really isn’t as crazy as it sounds. I think it’s a good call given the state of the format, but I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t think the black splash makes this deck better. Esper Charm is a great card, but loses a lot without Snapcaster to flash it back. And while Demonic Pact is super sweet, I don’t think it’s immediately clear that it’s better than more copies of Jace. This Esper build is sweet, but I wouldn’t seek to claim it’s better than straight white-blue.
We’ve seen Ensnaring Bridge/Chalice of the Void prison decks in the past, and Jacob Brooks got stuck in with his take on the archetype this weekend. A heavy black component accompanied the usual red suspects such as Blood Moon and Chandra—the prison elements were only intensified with cards such as Liliana of the Veil and Collective Brutality.
3 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 2 Graven Cairns 1 Temple of Malice 3 Mountain 9 Swamp 1 Hazoret the Fervent 1 Magus of the Moon 1 Master of Cruelties 4 Simian Spirit Guide 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 3 Liliana of the Veil 1 Liliana, the Last Hope 1 Abrade 2 Anger of the Gods 3 Bedevil 4 Blood Moon 4 Chalice of the Void 4 Collective Brutality 4 Ensnaring Bridge 2 Kolaghan's Command Sideboard 2 Crumble to Dust 4 Goblin Rabblemaster 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Slaughter Games 2 Stormbreath Dragon 1 Kolaghan's Command
Mono-Red Prison is a force to be reckoned with in Legacy, where its extremely hateful disruption can leave opponents unable to even play Magic. This deck, lacking the fast mana in Legacy, is a fair bit slower and doesn’t have the punch of its Legacy cousin, but it does have a diverse range of threats to go with its disruptive cards. Specifically, this deck is flush with discard effects—Collective Brutality and Kolaghan’s Command pair excellently with Liliana of the Veil to get both players hellbent.
The sideboard is very focused, and the creature package is a smart way to pivot and catch removal-light opponents off-guard. Stormbreath Dragon is very difficult for non-black decks to remove (red decks will almost always have to 2-for-1 themselves), while Leyline of the Void and Slaughter Games go a long way in contesting linear decks.
All the same, I’m not convinced when it comes to this deck. As sweet as it is to get busy with Master of Cruelties, this seems like such a significant downgrade to the Legacy version without Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors. And on top of that, it doesn’t even get that much value out of Chalice of the Void. Chalice on 1 is a backbreaking play against so many decks in Legacy, but in Modern the curves are much more spread out and there are plenty of matchups where prison elements such as Chalice just won’t line up.
Craig Wescoe has really painted himself into a corner, and the paint he used was blindingly white. Wescoe is known for his devotion to White Weenie decks, but last weekend this devotion took another form altogether. This disruptive permanent-based strategy designed to abuse Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was a new angle of attack for Wescoe. Instead of Savannah Lions, he played Elesh Norn!
1 Field of Ruin 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Horizon Canopy 4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx 10 Plains 3 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite 4 Knight of the White Orchid 4 Walking Ballista 4 Weathered Wayfarer 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 4 Fieldmist Borderpost 3 History of Benalia 4 Leyline of Sanctity 3 Nevermore 4 Path to Exile 2 Quarantine Field 2 Runed Halo 4 Wildfield Borderpost Sideboard 1 Devout Lightcaster 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Nevermore 1 Quarantine Field 3 Rest in Peace 4 Surgical Extraction 3 Wrath of God 1 Gideon's Intervention
At its core, this deck looks to play disruptive permanents such as Leyline of Sanctity and Nevermore while still contesting the board with value-oriented creature plays such as Knight of the White Orchid and History of Benalia. Nykthos will eventually be able to create a squillion mana you can pump into Quarantine Field to eat up their board, or Walking Ballista to dome ’em out of nowhere.
Additionally, powering out Elesh Norn with Nykthos seems pretty powerful in a vacuum. All of a sudden, Arclight Phoenix isn’t a threat, and Dredge is more or less all-in on Conflagrate. As I mentioned before, Leyline of Sanctity isn’t the main deck all-star it once was. Rest in Peace might even be the better pick there, especially given the extremely high intensity of graveyard hate in the board.
You might have seen Daniel Wong and his quad-sleeved monstrosity before. His deck isn’t just an off-the-wall brew—it’s also useful as a stepladder for reaching high shelves. We’ve seen many difficult configurations of this list over the years: mono-blue, green-blue, etc., but this weekend Wong was slamming and jamming with blue-red, splashing for red interaction.
1 Cascade Bluffs 1 Flooded Strand 1 Gemstone Caverns 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea 1 Misty Rainforst 1 Polluted Delta 2 Scalding Tarn 4 Snow-Covered Island 2 Steam Vents 4 Sulfur Falls 1 Watery Grave 1 Temple of Epiphany 3 Island 4 Snapcaster Mage 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 1 Commandeer 2 Cryptic Command 4 Dictate of Kruphix 3 Exhaustion 3 Gigadrowse 1 Howling Mine 3 Lightning Bolt 1 Part the Waterveil 4 Serum Visions 1 Snapback 3 Temporal Mastery 4 Time Warp 1 Opt Sideboard 2 Abrade 2 Anger of the Gods 1 Commandeer 1 Crackling Drake 2 Engineered Explosives 1 Gelectrode 1 Negate 2 Surgical Extraction 3 Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror
The deck’s plan A is relatively simple: stall early, land a Dictate of Kruphix or Howling Mine, then start to chain turns together with various Time Walk effects. From there, Jace, the Mind Sculptor can mill an opponent out, or Snapcaster Mage/Part the Waterveil can go the distance (after you’ve tapped down any blockers with Gigadrowse). It’s a slow, lumbering beast of a deck, but if you find sitting through opposing turns to be too boring for your tastes, it might be the deck for you.
This list has a fair few 1-ofs, which makes sense given the deck’s velocity. You will see a lot of cards with this list, and so it makes sense to include specifically powerful cards. In particular, Commandeer and Snapback will take opponents by surprise—you can tap out and still offer potentially devastating interaction! Exiling extra cards from your hand isn’t even all that much of a cost in a deck with so many Howling Mine effects.
A wealth of red sideboard cards offer great flexibility to the deck post-board, and take advantage of opponents who immediately sideboard out all their removal. Thing in the Ice and Crackling Drake are huge threats, while Anger of the Gods and Surgical Extraction are essential tools against all the recursive graveyard nonsense currently dominating Modern. This deck is very cool, quite powerful, and pure misery for your opponent. If you’re a firm believer that fun is a zero-sum game, it might be time to quad-sleeve this bad boy up!