Top Level Podcast

Modern remains one of the freshest, most dynamic, Magic formats. One of the big reasons? Ixalan in Modern is driving new combinations, and even new archetypes!


Modern Manipulation: Opt


The funny thing about Opt is that it is barely playable at all in Standard... But it is awesome in Modern!

The secret is that the efficacy of cards -- in particular library manipulation cards -- is inversely proportional to their casting costs in larger formats. Opt helps make combo decks like Storm more consistent. It also helps keep them going once they start to go off...

And of course? Being a one mana instant is one of the best things you can be.

And Opt is.

For reference: U/R Gifts Storm, by Scott Simmons


Modern Mana: Unclaimed Territory

Unclaimed Territory

It's not that Unclaimed Territory is so great (though it's pretty good)... It's the critical mass this land represents when combined with Ancient Ziggurat and Cavern of Souls.

Collins Mullin absolutely destroyed last weekend's Open with a Humans deck with only 4 Aether Vials -- deck or sideboard -- as his only non-creature spells.

Mullen could cast any Human he wanted. All these lands that can tap for any color, put together, let him consistently play Noble Hierarch at the one, [fellow Ixalan Staple] Kitesail Freebooter come two, and Mantis Rider on three mana. Mantis Rider!

That's G, B1, and URW!

For reference: Humans, by Collins Mullen


Modern Merfolk: Deeproot Waters

Deeproot Waters

Ixalan gives Merfolk players some actual new Merfok. However their sideboard enchantment may be more interesting, and seems much, much more powerful.

Deeproot Waters is quite like an Oketra's Monument... With tons of upside.

It's not just that you can make a 1/1 like the white artifact; because Merfolk is full of Lords -- Lord of Atlantis, Master of the Pearl Trident, and Merrow Reejerey -- so it is probably a safe bet your enchantment will spit out 2/2 or 3/3 Merfolk.

For reference: U/G Merfolk, by Jeremy Bertarioni

These ideas are just scratching the surface of Ixalan in Modern. Settle the Wreckage, Field of Ruin, and Merfolk Branchwalker all performed last week, and in different decks!

Learn more about Ixalan in Modern here!

Direct download: ixalan-in-modern.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 12:13am EDT

Sunbird's Invocation
Sunbird's Invocation was a "Perfect 10" at US Nationals

The Sunbird's Invocation Combo

Adam Bialkowski busted open Standard with a 10th-place finish at US Nationals last weekend. He used a R/W Board Control-slash-Combo deck utilizing this big red six and a certain favorite white seven...

Approach of the Second Sun

Here's the simple explanation of this combination:

  1. You play Sunbird's Invocation on six.
  2. You untap and play Approach of the Second Sun on seven.
  3. When you cast Approach of the Second Sun, the Invocation digs through the top of your library to check if there is an Approach of the Second Sun there; if there is, it will cast it for you.
  4. Your first Approach of the Second Sun (which you cast from your hand, remember) checks to see if you cast another Approach this game... You did!
  5. Ding!

This together, these two cards represent a turn seven insta-win combo.

Sunbird's Invocation Fail State

So you've invested six mana in a big red enchantment.

Miraculously, you've untapped, still alive.

However you don't have an Approach of the Second Sun...

What's a girl to do?

Chin up, Planeswalker! So you don't have a turn seven insta-win! That doesn't mean you don't have game...

Your Invocation plays a pretty good "personal Howling Mine" once you've untapped. Basically, your spells can potentially snowball into more and more spells. In the 10th place version, there are a ton of expensive cards -- tons of fives sixes and of course sevens -- that make its centerpiece enchantment really look good.

What's Wrong with Sunbird's Invocation?

If there is anything "wrong" with the Perfect 10, it might be all those expensive cards!

Adam certainly benefited from a (current?) (short-term?) gap in Mono-Red popularity. The archetype version only has one Magma Spray in the main deck, and no real way to develop its game plan against B/U Control in the early game. Further, it has a lot of expensive cards but no great way to ensure it hits all its land drops.

That isn't taking anything away from the innovation; just to say that there is still a lot of room for optimization.

A flaming owl wasn't the only hot Hot HOT deck to stand out at US Nationals. Check out "" now to learn more about Abzan Tokens, Mardu Vehicles, and more on the B/U Control v. U/W Control matchup in Standard!

Direct download: sunbirds-invocation.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 2:00am EDT

Worlds Favorite: Longtusk Cub
Longtusk Cub headlined one of the best decks in the Worlds

Worlds was awesome!

We saw an amazing overlap of one of the best players of all time wielding those top skills at exactly the right time, combined with great preparation and and even better 60/75.

But we get it.

You have questions...

Top Level Podcast is here to answer those questions this week! Questions like...

  • If The Scarab God is so good, why didn't Huey play it in his Temur Energy deck?
  • Is Commit // Memory an ace-level replacement for The Scarab God... Or basically just a boring old Utter End?
  • Is Longtusk Cub secretly just the best card in Standard?
  • Why should you play "Treasure Red" instead of regular old Ramunap Red?
  • When should you play any of the following, and in which order? Opt, Hieroglyphic Illumination, Glimmer of Genius
  • Will Huey be the first person to win Worlds, and then win Nationals the very next week?

Don't you fret, beloved listeners! The answers to these and other burning questions await in...

The Best Decks in the Worlds

Direct download: thebestdecksintheworlds.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 1:43am EDT

Hostage Taker
Some cards are just better than the others. Hostage Taker is already one of the best.

Actually... Make that Better than the Best

Brainstorm. Fact or Fiction. Oath of Druids.

Vampiric Tutor. Hermit Druid. Upheaval.

The Top 8 of Pro Tour Houston 2003 sounds like the love child of the Banned and Restricted List and a general rundown of the best spells from almost any format. But the best card of the era? Believe it or not?

Faceless Butcher.

Faceless Butcher!

Faceless Butcher

Weird, right?

A four-of in Mono-Black Reanimator and a key bullet in The Rock's sideboard, Faceless Butcher was a cast-able answer to everything from a mid-range All-Star like Spiritmonger to a combo-riffic 20/20 Cognivore.

Hostage Taker is like Faceless Butcher... But way, way, better. It has the same basic ability, but offers the opportunity for a three-for-one upgrade (rather than just two-for-one).

Five Mana: The New "Splinter Twin" Combo

How are you supposed to deal with The Scarab God? A Fatal Push? Ask it to Walk the Plank? Stockpile a bunch of energy and hit it with Harnessed Lightning?

None of those seem like very good solutions to The Scarab God.

What about removing it from game?

Hostage Taker seems like a great way to deal with The Scarab God... Only that 2/3 body isn't exactly durable. Every Abrade and Lightning Strike (plus like half the Fatal Pushes) will kill it.

... Unless you make it hexproof or something. So that's why, Sultai!

Blossoming Defense
Hostage Taker + Blossoming Defense is like peanut butter and chocolate.

When you put Hostage Taker and Blossoming Defense together, you can -- for sake of argument -- exile the opponent's The Scarab God (which you would probably have to do to win, anyway)... And catch your breath for one mana. All you need to do is get the untap and that The Scarab God can be yours! You will be the unbeatable mage!

A great solution to a certain supposedly "indestructible" red God, Hostage Taker is nevertheless quite vulnerable to a Red Deck's many point removal spells. Blossoming Defense is equally useful here while you bide your time for the untap.

Hostage Taker: Taking Hostages Here, There, Everywhere

Sultai ruled the day at the first Standard Open of the season... But who knows just how far the long shadow of Hostage Taker may loom? God Pharaoh's Gift decks seem to be leaning towards the black and blue of Esper. There might be an honest to god Pirates deck hiding in the metagame. Poor dinosaurs! It's gotta suck to have such great creatures... Only to have to deal with them yourself when The Scarab God and Hostage Taker are across the table.

More on Hostage Taker's meteoric rise (and the rest of the opening weekend of Ixalan Standard) right here:

Direct download: hostage-taker.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 1:19am EDT