Pro Tour Born of the Gods is creeping up and I know everybody is hoping for something crazy to happen in Modern before then. Well, Wizards didn't add anything new with Born of the Gods and they might not add anything new with the ban list announcement either. Well, someone's got to do something, so I guess that someone will be me.
If the Pro Tour had happened this weekend I would have played a new deck. It's a green ramp deck. I won't declare the format broken, but this deck is good. It's just fast enough, just consistent enough, just interactive enough, and just unexpected enough to make a great choice for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Except by writing this article I am giving up all of my free confusion wins, huh.
To tell you the truth, I almost didn't write this article. I thought long and hard about keeping it to myself for the Pro Tour. But I have a lot of reasons to write this. First, I care about intellectual recognition. The deck list will get around either way, and when it does I want people to know it's from me. Might as well trumpet it. I feel no shame in that.
Secondly, I write this because I want as many horses in the field for the tournament as possible. Sure, I would like to do well myself, but if a deck I contributed to wins the tournament, that's just as good. Maybe even better. The thing is, the tournament is not my job, and producing content is. I don't need to do well in tournaments. I haven't even played in a tournament since September, and I am still loving the game, still banging out great content, and still affecting the metagame from afar. This article is confidence in my own process.
But perhaps most importantly, I leak this deck to set the tone for 2014. In 2013 or 2012 I bet I would have kept it to myself. Those past years were all about delayed gratification and sacrificing today for tomorrow. That mindset put me in a great position for 2014, but I want to live a bit different this year. I want to embrace the moment and have some fun caving to immediate needs. There's a part of me that wants to try to keep a secret for 3 weeks, but I'm willing to ruin all that because I want to leak this right now. So here you go.
[draft]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/draft]
You've probably seen the green Nykthos decks sprout(swarm)ing up. I've been running into them constantly in the 2-man queues, and to be honest, I haven't been impressed. I've liked my matchup against it with a variety of decks. It's not the type of deck I would want to play, but let's talk about it right now anyway.
Basically, most of the green Nykthos decks I've seen are not interactive and kill on turn 4 with a good draw. I feel like if you aren't going to interact in Modern you have to be killing on turn 3, or you should just play a different deck. Yeah, better yet, just play a deck with interaction.
So the Nykthos deck plays these green creatures to build up devotion on the board. Here are some of the common creatures:
Now, these creatures can be great when you draw Nykthos. But what if you don't? These are not at all cards I want to be playing because they make you so reliant on drawing Nykthos. They don't ramp by themselves. They durdle. Sure, they can grind bits with Jund a little bit, but they are just embarrassing against most things.
So we have a deck that really needs to draw Nykthos. To accelerate into what exactly? Primeval Titan?
Primeval Titan getting what? More mana? Personally, I don't want to play a 6-mana ramp spell. A 6/6 that has no board impact is not what I want to play. Sure, it can get Kessig Wolf Run if you put that card in your deck, but that is a slow, vulnerable plan B. Not a plan A. So we have our Titan that ramps.
Into [ccProd]Genesis Wave/[ccProd]!
All right, Genesis Wave is sick. It's like a Sphinx's Revelation that dumps all your gas onto the battlefield. But I don't want to rely on drawing it in the same way that we rely on drawing Nykthos to get there. I don't want to play an uninteractive deck that says if you draw your 4-of land and your 4-of big spell you get a turn 4 kill. Sorry if you really like this deck, but that's how I feel about it.
This deck went infinite with Nykthos, Magus of the Candelabra, and Staff of Domination, and actually beat me. Now, this doesn't really change any of the vulnerabilities, but it got me thinking. What if Magus of the Candelabra was untapping a Forest equipped with a ton of auras? What if we pushed this idea to the extreme?
Back to green ramp. But not the devotion deck. I mean, the devotion deck plays Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl. That is clearly the best part of the deck, as it allows for turn 2 Garruks. So let's push that to the extreme.
We have these:
And we have these:
Now imagine an Arbor Elf tapping for 5 mana on the third turn. Oh buddy oh boy.
This combination has a lot of things going for it. We have the turn 3 nut draws, and we aren't particularly vulnerable to anything. Removal might slow us (and them) down, or it might whiff. Our basics are mostly untouchable in game 1s, and if we sniff that something is up we can always spread them around.
I like this. This is a ramp base that is fast enough to be competitive in Modern and isn't reliant on drawing Nykthos at all, although Nykthos does play well with these cards.
Obviously we can ramp into Genesis Wave, but I don't want to rely on drawing it, so let's look at our other options.
I already dismissed Primeval Titan. I don't like it very much. We could try Harmonize, but we are just hoping to draw a Genesis Wave off it. We could play Craterhoof Behemoth, but a non-lethal 'Hoof is such a bad draw. We could play Eldrazi, but they are so expensive. We could try a Staff of Domination, but what if our creature gets Bolted?
It's a real stumper.
And then it all becomes clear.
Why Primal Command? On the surface the card is really flexible—it can search for any creature, it can remove a permanent, it can gai life, it can shuffle away their graveyard, it can restock our library. But the reality is that it's much more flexible than that.
The card scales in mana the same way that Genesis Wave does. For 5 mana we set them back a land drop and find an Eternal Witness. For 8 mana we set them back a land drop and get a 2/1. For 13 mana we set them back 2 land drops and get a 2/1.
If we get even a tiny edge with Primal Command the game can just end. We can draw one copy and dump all of our mana into it turn after turn as our opponent draws the same land over and over. The card isn't always fast enough to do this, but it often is.
The last card to talk about is Acidic Slime. I am playing 4. It's not a gas card really, but it buys time by being interactive. It is a nice value card against B/G and U/R, and a sniper against cards like Birthing Pod and Pyromancer Ascension. It blows up lands. The card can win games just on the interaction.
Most importantly, Slime lets us confidently put the game away from a big Genesis Wave, so it would be tough to cut.
The way it goes when things work out and we have buckets of mana is that we dump a bunch of aura ramp on one land, untap it and a Nykthos, grab our old G-Wave back with Eternal Witness, uncover the entire deck, destroy 4 lands, Eternal Witness and Primal Command the rest, and restock our deck with a Garruk ultimate and [ccProd]Kessig Wolf Run[ccProd] ready to finish them off the next turn.
That's all it takes. We don't have to play “finishers” that are awkward early game draws. We can fill our entire deck with mana and cards that cost 5 or less.
Green Aura Ramp
1xKessig Wolf Run
Get This Deck
Here is a deck that is fast, demands to be interacted with, and interacts. Before writing this it is unexpected too, which made it the total package. I imagine I am going to try to find something else for the Pro Tour, but if the Pro Tour had just happened, I would have definitely played this.
The main weakness of the deck is the all-ramp no-fat draw, but that is just an archetype weakness. I'm okay with it.
Building a Sideboard for Green Aura Ramp
Perhaps the best part of the deck is in sideboarding. First, we have to ask what is good against us. There are plenty of hate cards that affect us, but nothing that really shuts us down.
Is Pyroclasm good against us? Aven Mindcensor? Molten Rain? Grafdigger's Cage? Mana Leak? Torpor Orb? Damping Matrix? Slaughter Games? Rest in Peace? Maybe, but depending on our draw all of these cards might be total bricks.
This means we are going to win some games from our opponents diluting their own strategies for cards that have an effect but don't smash us. We aren't going to have to sideboard defensively and instead can bring in cards that smash them. Seems fair to me.
As such, I want to fill the sideboard with only the most egregious hosers. A lot of those happen to be in white, which we can splash off of 6 fetchlands, a Temple Garden, and 8 auras for 15 sources—11 of them by turn 2.
Stony Silence is the first card in the board. It's timing dependent against the Robot deck, but it's also an insane early drop against Tron, and a nice preempt to Birthing Pod. The card is our best sideboard card against 3 strategies.
[draft]Rest in Peace[/draft]
Rest in Peace is an insane Magic card against Living End, Pyromancer Storm, and other graveyard strategies. I realize these are fringe strategies, but I feel this deck can afford blowing out fringe strategies.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is sweep the board, and Firespout is the best sweeper for this deck. I like it more than Pyroclasm because we can afford the extra mana and 3 damage hits more archetypes. There are random Experiment One and Kird Ape decks and there are Lord of Atlantis decks, for example.
Since our deck is a bit threat-light it can mean that against discard and hard counter strategies we are left looking to the top of our deck as the game progresses. This isn't necessarily a losing situation, as our deck can rip a bomb off any draw step, but it's not a position I like to be in.
The best solution I find to the B/G or U/R midrange type decks is to just put more Bonfires in the deck. If we're going to have to rip out of discard, let's do it more often by rigging the deck.
This brings us to here:
[deck]3 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
1 Wurmcoil Engine[/deck]
Playing Modern Green Aura Ramp
Playing this deck has been the greatest pleasure over this weekend. The 2-mans seem to be mostly filled with players who have some stake in the coming Pro Tour. Since most of them have seen decks like this, but not this deck, most of them play it out to the very end to see everything.
This has been extremely entertaining as I have Primal Commanded many opponents who have not conceded. I expect this will change over the following week. Oh well.
As for matchups and tips, I'm gonna keep that to myself.
Can't share everything.
<3 Travis facebook.com/Travisdwoo twitter.com/Travisdwoo twitchtv.com/traviswoo