I went to Barcelona with 5 decks I considered playing.
- Izzet Phoenix. one of the best decks in Modern, very straightforward, proactive and linear. Plays out very smoothly, lots of card selection. My frontrunner.
- U/W Control. I believe this is also one of the best decks in the format, but it’s just not my style. I actually brought it to the Redbull Untapped tournament in Brussels, but the evening before, as I am drawing opening hands, I’m just thinking to myself “Colonnade, go? I don’t want to do this. I want to be proactive.” and I eventually switched to Phoenix. Still, this is the Mythic Championship and I’m willing to play whatever the best deck is, even if I don’t love it.
- Eldrazi Tron. I do like proactive creature decks, so the idea of casting turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer into turn 3 Reality Smasher is always something I’ll be happy to entertain. Chalice of the Void also seemed fairly well-positioned. I just wasn’t sure why people stopped playing Simian Spirit Guide.
- Devoted Druid/Vizier/Karn combo. A lot of the people on our team liked this deck and it seemed like it goldfishes faster than Hogaak. You really don’t want to play against decks with cheap removal like Phoenix and Jund, though.
- Hogaak. It looked like the banning of Bridge from Below didn’t really hurt the deck as much as people expected. We added Hedron Crab to make the deck a little faster.
The decks I didn’t want to play:
- Humans, Infect. Both heavily depend on winning the die roll. Being on the draw in Modern and your only turn 1 play being Noble Hierarch or Aether Vial with no form of interaction is just not where I want to be.
- Jund. Wrenn and Six is busted, but even with 6 discard spells, I felt like game 1 against Graveyard and Tron decks was just too bad. Jund wants to play fair, but most of the top decks don’t.
- Mono-Green Tron. It definitely gained some momentum because people started focusing their hate on the graveyard rather than Tron lands, but I absolutely hated playing this deck at the last MC. When you are on the draw, your dream scenario is a turn 3 Vindicate (Karn) or turn 4 Oblivion Stone or Ugin. That just seems way to slow for Modern right now.
I know Tron won the tournament, but don’t be results-oriented. In Modern, anything is possible if you dodge your bad matchups because there are so many decks. In fact, Tron won less than 50% of its matches in the tournament.
When we arrived in Barcelona on Saturday, it took me just a few games of watching someone play with Hogaak to realize how broken it still was. It almost seemed like the banning of Bridge from Below made the deck better, because people started cutting some of their graveyard hate cards. I spent the next five days playing Hogaak in person and in leagues, trying to figure out the right 75.
This is the list many of us ended up playing.
4 Gemstone Mine 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Polluted Delta 2 Verdant Catacombs 1 Blood Crypt 1 Steam Vents 2 Overgrown Tomb 1 Watery Grave 1 Swamp (339) 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Gravecrawler 4 Hedron Crab 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Bloodghast 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 4 Vengevine 4 Faithless Looting 3 Lightning Axe 1 Altar of Dementia Sideboard 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Thoughtseize 2 Fatal Push 1 Collective Brutality 2 Nature's Claim 2 Assassin's Trophy 1 Force of Vigor
This deck is broken. Without disruption, you put 14-20 power in play in the form of Hogaak and Vengevine in almost half of your games. This deck also mulligans very well. With the London mulligan, don’t be afraid to go down to as low as 4-5 cards. All you really need is 2 lands, Stitcher’s Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder.
4 Hedron Crab. We felt like making the deck a good amount faster was worth hurting the mana base. The idea is to play a one-drop on turn 1 into Crab and fetch land on turn 2 and protect it from removal that way. It also helps you bring back Vengevine. You have to play Steam Vents, which is the worst land in the deck by far, but we felt like it was worth it. Crab doesn’t tap to convoke for Hogaak, but it does mill you for a lot of cards, which is very important in the mirror, where Hogaaks keep getting traded every turn and having a large graveyard helps you recast it more times than your opponent.
20 lands, including 10 fetch lands and 4 Gemstone Mine. You want to have as many fetches as possible for your Crab and to help delve out Hogaak. Fetch your lands early to make sure they don’t get milled out.
0 Insolate Neonate. Without Bridge from Below, this card lost a lot of its appeal.
0 Prized Amalgam. We started with 4 in our deck but slowly went down to 0. It doesn’t help you “go off” and it felt more like a win-more card.
4 Satyr Wayfinder. it doesn’t look like the strongest Modern card ever, but it mills 4 cards (remember that you don’t have to take the land) and it taps for convoke for Hogaak. Some of us played 3, but I believe 4 is the right number.
2-3 Lightning Axe. It felt good to have interaction against Humans, Infect, Eldrazi, Hardened Scales etc.
1-3 Altar of Dementia. With a good draw, even without Bridge from Below, you can fairly easy mill your opponent out on turn 3. It seemed like an important card against Humans, where you can sacrifice your Hogaak in response to Reflector Mage, as well as in the mirror. It also gives you game 1 outs to cards like Ensnaring Bridge.
4 Leyline of the Void. We expected Hogaak to be the most popular deck and Leyline is the best graveyard hate card in the format. I just wish we actually pulled the trigger of playing some number in the main deck. With just 1 Leyline in your deck, if you are willing to mulligan to 5, your odds of finding Leyline are 32%. With 2 in your deck, you are 50% to find it. I lost multiple mirrors at the MC where my opponent mulled to 4 in game 1, found a Leyline and I just had no chance of winning even against so few cards. With Faithless Looting in your deck and especially with open decklists, I believe it was a mistake to not play at least 2 copies main.
2 Nature’s Claim, 2 Assassin’s Trophy, 1 Force of Vigor. Various answers to Leyline of the Void and other hate cards. During the tournament, we realized we should have probably just played 4 Forces and chose to draw against the Leyline decks after sideboard. Force is also amazing against decks that have both Leyline and Chalice of the Void, and against decks like Hardened Scales, Urza Sword and anyone who starts with 2 Leylines in play against you.
2 Fatal Push, 1 Collective Brutality. We wanted some more interaction against decks like Burn, Mono-Red Phoenix, Infect and Devoted Druid combo. Going forward I would cut Brutality for something better.
I didn’t like Wear // Tear and Wispmare because I didn’t want to add the fifth color. Shenanigans I could see playing in the sideboard if artifact decks are more popular. Rotting Regisaur could be good if everyone is on Leylines and don’t have ways to kill a 7/6. Engineered Explosives and Bontu’s Last Reckoning were cards I considered against Humans.
What is the Ideal Start?
Something like fetch land into Steam Vents and Faithless Looting, discarding Vengevine and Bloodghast. On turn 2, you play Hedron Crab, fetch land into Overgrown Tomb and Stitcher’s Supplier, milling yourself for a total of 9 cards, hopefully finding Hogaak, casting it from the graveyard, bringing back Vengevine and Bloodghast.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the deck, but we were clearly not prepared for so many Leylines, especially in game 1. I would like to stress that Leyline is basically the only card that actually stops Hogaak. Cards like Tormod’s Crypt, Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace are often too slow or too situational.
For example, against both of my U/W opponents in the tournament, I was able to take game 1 almost for free (as it always goes against U/W), and then in game 3 I am on the play and on my turn 2 put a Hogaak and 1-2 Vengevines or Bloodghasts in play, while my opponent is just watching me do it with a Rest in Peace in hand.
Similarly, I had a match against Eldrazi Tron where in game 2, my opponent had turn 1 Grafdigger’s Cage into turn 2 Chalice of the Void on 1, which is basically their best possible opening against you. I played Carrion Feeder into fetch land + Satyr Wayfinder and my opponent could only watch me put a Hogaak in play from my hand with both of his hate cards in play.
Looking at the Top 8 of MC Barcelona, it looks like Hogaak might not have dominated the tournament, but it did have the best win rate even though most people were ready for it. Consistently putting 18 power into play on turn 2 is just not okay. When people are playing maindeck Leyline of the Void and the deck still puts up the best win rate, I believe things need to get fixed. Hogaak didn’t just shake things up, it’s the new metagame.
Banning any of the enablers or support cards isn’t going to work though, you just need to ban Hogaak itself. Even if you banned Sticher’s Supplier or Vengevine, the deck would get a bit worse, but people would just play something like Hedron Crab and Prized Amalgam Instead.
How do you beat Hogaak? Don’t leave home without 4 Leyline of the Void. I like Ravenous Trap out of the other graveyard hate options, because they don’t see it coming, but it’s not nearly as strong as Leyline. I understand why some decks like Hardened Scales play Grafdigger’s Cage (you can find it with Ancient Stirrings), but the fact that it doesn’t stop Hogaak from being cast from hand makes it useless in half of the games.
Here’s the list I would play in a tournament tomorrow.
4 Gemstone Mine 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Polluted Delta 2 Verdant Catacombs 1 Blood Crypt 1 Steam Vents 2 Overgrown Tomb 1 Watery Grave 1 Swamp (339) 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Gravecrawler 4 Hedron Crab 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Bloodghast 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 4 Vengevine 4 Faithless Looting 2 Lightning Axe 2 Leyline of the Void Sideboard 2 Leyline of the Void 3 Thoughtseize 2 Fatal Push 2 Nature's Claim 2 Assassin's Trophy 3 Force of Vigor
The 15th sideboard card should be whatever you expect to play against the most in your local metagame. Collective Brutality against Burn, Mono-Red Phoenix, Infect and Devoted Druid. Another Force of Vigor or Shenanigans against Eldrazi Tron, Hardened Scales, Affinity and Urza decks. The fourth Thoughtseize against combo decks. Extra Nature’s Claim if you expect to play mostly mirrors where it is the fastest answer to Leyline.
Sideboarding with this deck is hard and it’s going to get even harder without open decklists. Here is a rough sideboard guide. When you absolutely don’t know what to do, you can usually just trim one of each of the support cards to gain slots while making sure your deck will still function. I was often sideboarding out a land because the game slows down and you aren’t just goldfishing with Crab anymore.
Choosing to be on the draw with so many Forces is probably correct. Keep in mind that you don’t want to side out green cards because you need one to pitch to Force.
U/W Control on the play
U/W Control on the draw
On the play, you are usually faster and don’t need the answers to Rest in Peace.
Don’t worry about their creatures, you need answers to Leyline and Chalice.