If you would use these words to describe your life I dissuade you from reading this article, because by reading this article you risk letting your life spiral into an endless obsession of repetitive brewing.
Now, for most of the humans in the world, this article will mean nothing and do nothing. But for the few, it will change everything.
Flashback to Ninja Bear Delver.
It’s late 2013 and I’m preparing for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Modern is on my mind and we break it with 18 Islands.
For this brief moment of time, I’m feeling fulfilled.
But all that changed from one Greg Hatch stream.
I was directed to Greg’s stream where his title was “Lowering the Price of Disrupting Shoal.” He was jumping into 2-mans with a deck titled “Disrupting Shoal Price Lowerer” trying to get matched up against Ninja Bear players.
His list looked something like:
I couldn’t believe the genius. The vision. That there is so much more to deckbuilding than even I thought.
The idea of maindecking egregious hate and sucking up losses just for the satisfaction of hate crushing random people—just brilliant.
Since then you’ve seen me maindeck these cards:
You’ve seen me go so far out of my way to try to make decks that have an excuse to maindeck cards like this.
And I’ve gotten people. Badly.
Imagine you’re playing Affinity in the 2-mans. And your opponent plays Stony Silence before you get going… in GAME ONE. All this, thanks to Greg Hatch.
Okay, back to obsessing over Greg Hatch.
Around this time I became aware of Greg Hatch’s obsession with Sky Hussar. Obsession is a word the obsessed use to describe the other obviously obsessed.
I think I have a good idea of what obsession is at this point of my life. Now 20 years, the majority of my life elapsed with most of the time spent on deckbuilding. Most of my life has been spent obsessing over a niche subgame of a niche card game.
I think obsession might be the only way to make a difference, the only way to make it to the top. It’s about repetition.
Obsession is doing the same thing over and over and over again… but never getting tired of it. It’s about pacing, fidgeting, racing thoughts and ideas. It’s about finding yourself up at 4 a.m. alone doing weirdly repetitive things.
Obsession is a nice light mix of OCD, antisocial, and the autism spectrum. It’s knowing that while other people are thinking about people, you are having the same thoughts year in and year out, not about just Magic cards, but about just ONE Magic card.
That is obsession.
And that is Sky Hussar.
Something about this card. I can’t get it out of my head. I don’t want to get it out of my head.
It just seems broken. It’s so different than every other card out there. The effect is so unique: draw an additional card every turn, at the cost of tapping creatures. There is a cost, but not a mana cost. How bizarre.
So the brews began.
At first I was pretty influenced by the recent Ninja Bear Delver. I thought maybe Sky Hussar could push the tempo-free spell theme even further.
So we started with a draw engine.
With plenty of free spells to use the extra cards.
The rest of the deck was to be filled with tiny clowns.
The deck drew tons of cards, and used those cards to cast tons of free spells. It was fun. Except for the fact that I kept losing with 6 1/1s in play and a full hand. If the deck fell behind it just couldn’t do anything and there wasn’t a clear fix.
Greg claimed to be winning with it, but since I wasn’t, I moved one. Or tried to at least.
I had a life to live. A Pro Tour to prepare for. I had business to handle.
But my mind was still on Sky Hussar. I kept coming back to it.
So I spent my time thinking about a deck like this.
I like it, but it lacks control in Modern. There was a time when gaining 20 life made it hard for decks to win but the new school is infinite creature combos—a deck like this looks silly against Pod or Splinter Twin.
So I moved on. Or tried to.
Here’s a look at his decklist.
Even crazier than taking the deck to a tournament, Greg actually had some success. Enough success to blow up Reddit with poor people who would catch the Sky Hussar bug.
So here I am inspired, with all this, back at Modern.
I had a vision the other night.
I imagined a Sky Hussar deck. A deck that would never run out of mana or cards or things to do. A deck that could operate and interact at instant speed.
Why not? Sky Hussar is the type of card that gives you something to do when you are stuck on mana (draw cards) and gives you something to do when you have tons of mana (draw cards, or maybe even play the creature).
All the card asks is that you build a deck full of tiny creatures that don’t really want to attack or block.
So we want to build a deck full of creatures. Can we try that Aether Vial card again?
Aether Vial is the answer. We’re going to play all creatures and we’re going to play a ton of card draw to keep Vial running.
I used Aether Vial to win a PTQ back in 2008 and my understanding is the best Aether Vial decks historically have run a lot of card draw and mid-costed creatures. We have all this now and we already know we are going to run four 5-drops.
From here let’s skip to the full 60, because to talk about the individual cards coming up we’re going to have to see the system.
The first thing I’ll say is that I think this deck is very good. If I were at GP Minneapolis last weekend I would have played this, and I’ve had plenty of GP success with even uglier looking decks.
The deck is selective and interactive, which makes for fun thinking games of Magic. The deck has some powerful starts and some easy-mode finishes. The deck looks at a lot of cards which means it will be easy to find sideboard cards.
This deck may be the one.
It’s a weak blue creature that we don’t mind funneling into Hussar and gives us endless use of our mana in any game we draw Aether Vial.
These cards together give us hard counters in a long game. Previously we had been running a lot of Judge’s Familiars and Cursecatchers, but an ideal Sky Hussar game is a long one—meaning the opponent is going to have plenty of mana. The Force Spike creatures are no good in this game and we want hard counters only.
Sage of Epityr is incredibly important in this deck. He’s innocuous and underloved. Unplayable in Limited, unplayable in Constructed—until now.
Sage of Epityr is a nice combo card with Voidmage Apprentice and Sky Hussar. On its own, it offers some selection in combination with fetchlands. Four cards is a lot to look at, and we can frequently just pick the best one or two before shuffling the rest.
Sage gets even better when we consider how it matches up against the premier removal spells in the format: Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Abrupt Decay. No one wants to use these spells on Sage, which means Sage can get busy with Sky Hussar unimpeded. If they want to break it up with Lightning Bolt—nice!
Now we start moving up to the 3- and 4-drops. The 3- and 4-drops in the deck are really meant to be impactful on the board and tempo proactive.
The biggest weakness of earlier versions of the deck was falling behind and never being able to catch up with just an army of 1/1s. This deck is pretty much the same so far, except we have Aether Vial and card draw, which means we can play a fair number of 3s and 4s. They should impact the board as much as possible.
Grand Architect is the best lord the blue Wizard tribe has. Its mana ability isn’t useful but it gives a purpose to all of our durdles later in the game. It’s a big tempo play.
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner is meant to combo with our bomby 4-drops. It’s a historically powerful card that nerfs removal badly.
Vendilion Clique and Thassa are both pretty weak on the tempo end compared to Grand Architect. I might turn them into more lords, but for now I’ve been rocking them for the sake of diversity. We have so much selection and decks are so different that sometimes these are the cards we want, so I’ve been okay with them so far.
Our 4-drops are solely focused on making a huge board impact. There will be lots of situations where we have a full grip and lots of guys on board but still in danger of dying to bigger bodies. We need to use our 4-drops to survive and take over.
All three of these 4s are pretty similar in that they’re great tempo plays, but they’re different in that they’re good against different decks.
Sower of Temptation is incredibly good against a lot of decks, but since some decks don’t play creatures I’ve skewed more towards Master of Waves. Either of these when protected by Kira are serious problems for most decks.
Venser is definitely less powerful, but it’s interactive and flexible against everyone, and I like it.
I’m playing Serum Visions because I think it’s a busted card. It’s one of the best cards in Modern and is the most played card that costs one blue.
It can be a bit awkward in this mana hungry deck that wants to leave up mana for flash effects, so I’m only playing 3.
This is the mana base that I’ve been rocking. I’ve been playing 8 fetchlands to power Sage of Epityr. They combo really nicely and would be tough to go without, so for those of you hoping to budget this deck, I’m sorry.
To fetch I’m only playing 1 Hallowed Fountain. Normally you would see 2, but I don’t expect to cast Sky Hussar that much and I don’t want to pay life or slow down.
Mutavault is another card I’m only playing 1 of. I’d like to play more to combo with Spellstutter Sprite, but I’ve found the deck wants quad blue to play with Voidmage Prodigy.
Vial Wizards Sideboard
Sideboarding for this deck is pretty exciting because we have access to white and play well with creatures. This means we get to look at a lot of the top cards in Modern: white hate bears. And we stall, interact, and dig for them in most matchups.
This is the board I’ve been running:
Most of this can be tuned for your meta, but I’d say the most important board card by far is Sower of Temptation.
When this card is good it’s just insane. Against any kind of creature deck, especially midrange and slow creature decks, Sower is a fat bomb and wins games with Kira.
Beyond that, the card I’m most excited to talk about is Tidebinder Mage.
Tidebinder Mage has been a staple in Standard main decks this season, and I’m happy to find a sideboard home for it in Modern. It’s a nice blue Wizard that can really put the screws on Noble Hierarch decks.
This brings us back to here:
I highly recommend this deck. It’s good, fun, and totally different. A lot of work has been put in to it. A lot of repetitive thoughts of tapping and untapping creatures, drawing cards, tapping and untapping Aether Vial and countering spells.
It’s been a little bit of an obsession of mine (and of Greg Hatch) and I would hope you get as much entertainment out of it as me, except I wouldn’t wish that kind of obsession on anyone.