The eyes of the competitive Magic-playing world are converging on Modern in the leadup to the Mythic Championship in Barcelona. With two high-impact sets in Modern Horizons and War of the Spark, plus the recent banning of Bridge from Below, Modern is once more a dynamic and unsolved format, with a huge array of decks jostling for position.
There are clear frontrunners. Decks like Izzet Phoenix and Humans very much set the bar of Modern’s power level, and the ever-present White-Blue Control is around to keep people honest. However, Modern is still wide-open for attack, and a solid approach being taken by many players is to unearth an older deck, update it with the latest technology, and test it against the field.
In my preparation for the Mythic Championship, I’ve come up against more than a few old decks that might be poised to make a resurgence in Modern in a post-Hogaak landscape. I’d forgotten some of them even existed–but they might just be back!
Three Modern Decks I Forgot Existed
After a breakout performance in Bilbao at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, Hollow One was one of the leading graveyard-based strategies in the Modern format. While never reaching Hogaak levels of dominance, it still caused people to pack plenty of graveyard hate during its time at the top.
In more recent times, it’s been eclipsed by even more powerful graveyard degeneracy at the hands of Arclight Phoenix and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis–but now that Hogaak has been nerfed, there might be room for the Hollow Bois to start throwing their weight around once again.
Hollow One by DrGenial
3 Blackcleave Cliffs 2 Blood Crypt 1 Swamp (339) 3 Mountain (343) 1 Stomping Ground 4 Wooded Foothills 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Bloodghast 4 Flameblade Adept 3 Flamewake Phoenix 1 Gurmag Angler 3 Lightning Skelemental 1 Seasoned Pyromancer 4 Street Wraith 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang 4 Hollow One 3 Burning Inquiry 4 Faithless Looting 3 Goblin Lore 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Unearth Sideboard 3 Ancient Grudge 2 Blood Moon 3 Fatal Push 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Thoughtseize
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen moments like this in Modern, and while we’ve seen a general increase in Modern’s overall power level in the interim, I don’t think it’s out of the question for Hollow One decks to still rumble with the best of them. Especially as this deck has also received an upgrade or two with Modern Horizons!
Lightning Skelemental doesn’t offer much in the way of synergy with the deck’s overall gameplan, but it hits fast and hard and can be a real issue for slower decks when combined with other, more consistent pressure. Additionally, Seasoned Pyromancer, as a Faithless Looting on legs, is a great inclusion when playing cards like Flamewake Phoenix and Bloodghast.
The most exciting “new” card in the list, however, is Unearth. I think people have been criminally slow in finding ways to include this card in their decks, and it’s absolutely perfect here. It can bring back everything from Flameblade Adept to Lightning Skelemental, and it even cycles away to fuel both Hollow One and the delve creatures!
I like almost everything about this list, from the threat-heavy maindeck to the clean-cut sideboard, but one thing perplexes me–I don’t understand playing a 2/1 split of Tasigurs and Gurmag Anglers. I would have thought you just want 3 Anglers, as you can’t activate Tasigur’s ability and the extra point of power more than offsets the extra delve mana. Also, remember that you should always play snow-covered basics, even if you don’t play any other snow cards.
Hollow One wasn’t the only deck to have a great weekend in Bilbao last year–Gerry Thompson famously made it all the way to the finals with Mardu Pyromancer before bowing out to Luis Salvatto’s Lantern Control. Mardu Pyromancer has taken a backseat in recent months, but with a few new Modern Horizons cards buffing its gameplan, it’s making a bit of a comeback.
Mardu Pyromancers by Rvng
2 Arid Mesa 4 Blackcleave Cliffs 2 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 1 Godless Shrine 2 Marsh Flats 2 Mountain (343) 1 Plains (331) 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Swamp (339) 3 Bedlam Reveler 3 Seasoned Pyromancer 4 Young Pyromancer 2 Dreadbore 4 Faithless Looting 2 Fatal Push 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 1 Kaya's Guile 2 Kolaghan's Command 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Lightning Helix 4 Lingering Souls 2 Smiting Helix 3 Thoughtseize Sideboard 1 Anger of the Gods 1 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Blood Moon 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 1 Dreadbore 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Fatal Push 1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation 1 Kaya's Guile 3 Leyline of the Void 1 Liliana of the Veil 2 Wear/Tear
In the past, this deck played an early Young Pyromancer, then killed everything on sight while beating down with 1/1s before reloading with Bedlam Reveler. It’s a collection of the best disruption in the format, with absolute top-shelf removal paired with the very best discard spells.
Modern Horizons brought two important pieces of technology to this list. Firstly, the extremely on-brand Seasoned Pyromancer (I’m looking forward to seeing the next two cards in this “cycle,” Cool Dad Pyromancer and Grumpy Old Coot Pyromancer), and secondly, the draft all-star Smiting Helix. Any deck playing Faithless Looting has a decent chance of being interested in Seasoned Pyromancer, and this list is no exception. There are so many excellent cards to bin with a Seasoned Pyromancer, and its graveyard ability is terrific in a deck looking to grind out hard-fought wins like this one. Smiting Helix, however, might seem a surprising inclusion at first. A four-mana, sorcery speed Lightning Helix? Not exactly Modern-playable. Much like Lingering Souls, all this deck wants to do is to discard Smiting Helix, further mitigating the “downside” of a card like Faithless Looting.
Quite honestly, in a deck like this, Faithless Looting is dangerously close to Ancestral Recall. That sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not far from the truth. You draw two new cards, then discard cards that still can be played from the bin. Faithless Looting, on the face of it, represents card disadvantage, but it isn’t card disadvantage in lists like this where discarding something like Lingering Souls or Smiting Helix isn’t a downside.
Finally, a list that is dragged from the depths of memory. Everyone knows about regular Mono-Green Tron and their turn-three Karns; Eldrazi Tron is a familiar enough face now with the Mycosynth Lattice lockout plan. Mono-Blue Tron, however, has been around for years and years, always flirting with the possibility of real playability without ever actually making it.
Mono-Blue Tron by shoktroopa
1 Academy Ruins 1 Field of Ruin 5 Island (335) 1 Gemstone Caverns 1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds 1 River of Tears 1 Tectonic Edge 1 Tolaria West 4 Urza's Mine 4 Urza's Power Plant 4 Urza's Tower 1 Wurmcoil Engine 3 Walking Ballista 1 Snapcaster Mage 1 Trinket Mage 1 Chalice of the Void 4 Condescend 1 Cyclonic Rift 4 Expedition Map 1 Grafdigger's Cage 2 Karn, the Great Creator 2 Mindslaver 1 Oblivion Stone 2 Relic of Progenitus 3 Remand 2 Repeal 1 Talisman of Dominance 4 Thirst for Knowledge 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 1 Warping Wail Sideboard 1 Chalice of the Void 1 Crucible of Worlds 2 Dismember 1 Engineered Explosives 3 Leyline of the Void 1 Mycosynth Lattice 1 Phyrexian Revoker 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Spatial Contortion 1 Surgical Extraction 1 Trinisphere
One of the sweet win conditions available to Mono-Blue Tron is the Mindslaver/Academy Ruins loop. With sufficient mana sources–12 plus the Ruins–you can control your opponent’s turns indefinitely. You play and activate Mindslaver, then activate Academy Ruins to put it on top of your library, control your opponent’s turn, then redraw the Mindslaver. It effectively wins the game then and there.
Now that we have the Karn/Lattice combo, Mono-Blue Tron now has another avenue to victory, and both are in conjunction with more straightforward get-’em-dead cards such as Wurmcoil Engine, Walking Ballista, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. In short, Mono-Blue Tron has a wide range of tools at its disposal when it comes to winning games.
That doesn’t, however, make the deck unique; the same could be said of other Tron decks. No, the real draw to Mono-Blue Tron is instead its suite of interaction. Mono-Green Tron uses seven-drop Karn to exile permanents it doesn’t like, or Oblivion Stone to contest fast aggro, but it’s only Mono-Blue Tron that offers bona fide stack interaction.
Condescend and Remand are welcome additions to a deck like this. Compared to the traditional brute-force approach taken by Tron decks, this list has a lighter touch and can keep opponents guessing. There’s even Repeal and Cyclonic Rift for when you’re behind–and all these instants are supported by the incredible draw engine, Thirst for Knowledge!
I’ve seen lists with other amazing inclusions, everything from Fact or Fiction to Torrential Gearhulk to Emrakul, the Promised End! Between its tutor effects, interaction, and raw power, Mono-Blue Tron is a real dark horse as we head towards Barcelona.
With Modern still in a shifting state of week-to-week change, it’s anyone’s guess as to which decks will make deep runs at the Mythic Championship in Barcelona. Digging up old technology like these lists and finding ways to upgrade them with new cards is an excellent way to attack Modern, so I’m excited to see a few blasts from the past in Spain!