Top Level Podcast (modern)

New Set on the Block Amonkhet had a pretty good weekend in Modern, across three continents, last week. Amonkhet cards contributed to all of the main macro archetypes: Control, Combo, and Beatdown!

Amonkhet Control: Glory-Bound Initiate in Esper

Glory-Bound Initiate

At Grand Prix Kobe, Akio Chiba slotted Glory-Bound Initiate into his creature-poor Esper Control deck, Stonefore Mystic style.

"Glory-Bound Initiate is legal in the format."
-Patrick

Can't disagree with you there!

Chiba played a four Painful Truths deck, where the life gain from Glory-Bound Initiate could be really effective in fueling his main card advantage engine. Glory-Bound Initiate is just that good in Modern!

Subtly, exerting Glory-Bound Initiate may not have that much of a downside, as opponents may actively try to trade with it.

Amonkhet Combo: Vizier of Remedies in Collected Company decks

Vizier of Remedies + Devoted Druid is an infinite mana engine.

Devoted Druid
Devoted Druid says "Put a -1/-1 counter on me and I'll untap."

Vizier of Remedies says "Go ahead and untap. But Don't worry about the -1/-1 counter, no problem."

Once you've got infinite green mana access, the world (or at least your deck) is your oyster. Here are some of the things players did last weekend:

  • Draw every creature in my deck with Duskwatch Recruiter. One of those creatures is Walking Ballista. Pay however much. Get you for however much.
  • Combine with Knight of the Reliquary and Kessig Wolf-Run for infinite power (and trample).
  • Overrun all with Ezuri, Renegade Leader. The coolest thing about this version is that even if you have to tap all your guys to set up / make the infinite mana, you can still untap Devoted Druid to be your lone attacker... With infinite power!

Amonkhet Aggro: Harsh Mentor in Burn

Harsh Mentor

Meanwhile back in Baltimore, MD -- USA -- Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Stephen Neal added a Harsh Mentor as his "fifth copy" of Eidolon of the Great Revels.

Neal's version was super atypical for Burn (at least since the release of Inspiring Vantage), going up to some fifteen creatures... But still finding room for some unique spell choices.

Shard Volley, anyone?

What is important for Amonkhet fans is that Harsh Mentor might be Burn's best friend in certain matchups. Of course it makes life harder on the fetchland player, but think about Affinity: Harsh Mentor makes doing stuff like activating an Arcbound Ravager downright dangerous.

TLDR: Amonkhet hit Modern hard last weekend; and it hit from Control, Combo, and Beatdown. Obviously more on this story as the format continues to develop.

Listen to "Amonkhet in Modern" now for even more decks and details!

Direct download: amonkhet-in-modern.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 1:29am EDT

Nicholas Byrd won the most recent Modern Open with a wonderfully positioned Ad Nauseam deck. This style of deck combines the mana acceleration of Simian Spirit Guide, Pentad Prism, and Desperate Ritual with a number of esoteric and specialized cards to kill with a solo Lightning Storm.

Direct download: ad-nauseam.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 1:50am EDT

Modern Masters 2017 Edition
Somebody must like them:
MichaelJ and Patrick sure got some sweet preview cards from Modern Masters 2017 Edition!

Mike's Modern Masters Spoiler:

Compulsive Research
Compulsive Research

Compulsive Research is near and dear to Mike's heart. He has both filled his own graveyard with Firemane Angels and forced opposing Firemane Angel decks to draw a lethal number of cards. This is a card that allows you to access every part of the veritable buffalo.

What Patrick Wants to Find in a Modern Masters Pack

Cruel Ultimatum
Cruel Ultimatum

We all know what a soft spot Patrick has for Grixis. There is no more "Grixis" card than Cruel Ultimatum.

Top Level Podcast shares some war stories, and tells you why Compulsive Research and Cruel Ultimatum are some of the most exciting cards in Modern Masters 2017 Edition:

Back to our regularly-scheduled podcast tomorrow.

Direct download: MM-2017.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 2:01am EDT

Death's Shadow
Death's Shadow produced a clean break -- including both Grand Prix and team event wins -- and is probably the best deck in Modern.

Weren't Bannings Supposed to Nerf Death's Shadow?

Just a few weeks ago there were bannings.

Golgari Grave-Troll was there for Dredge. Yes, Dredge would still be viable, but its biggest, burliest, enabler disappeared.

Gitaxian Probe is kinda sorta not a real Magic: The Gathering card. Why does Gitaxian Probe even exist? The banning of this card pushed a pin into the collective bubbles of decks like Infect, Storm, and... Death's Shadow.

Gitaxian Probe had a special place in the old Death's Shadow deck. Sure, the new version still has cards like Mishra's Bauble, but Gitaxian Probe also cost the Death's Shadow deck life (in most cases), (oddly) helping to grow the centerpiece threat.

A More Interactive Death's Shadow Deck

The previous version was mostly an offensive deck. Wild Nacatl or Monastery Swiftspear got the ball rolling; the creatures were much more plentiful... but the interaction was deemphasized.

The current version is almost a Jund deck. This deck has only a few creatures (even if they are doozies)... It has a ton of midrange interaction instead. Fatal Push, a ton of direct hand destruction including the maximum numbers of both Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, and even Tarfire have repositioned the archetype.

Tarfire?

In addition to having the superpower of being one mana, Tarfire is a Tribal Instant. As such, it's really useful for 1) buffing Tarmogoyf, and 2) getting Traverse the Ulvenwald online super quickly. Some versions even have Seal of Fire to make Tarmogoyf that much bigger!

Survival

Most of the offense in this strategy is accomplished by only two creatures: Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf. Unfortunately -- and especially given the printing of Fatal Push -- neither of those guys is hard to kill. The deck can weather opposing removal in a number of ways...

  • Liliana, the Last Hope - Played in some versions (over Liliana of the Veil), Liliana can put a creature from your graveyard back in your hand.
  • Renegade Rallier - Played in some versions (over Ghor-Clan Rampager), this creature can recycle cheap creatures
  • Kolaghan's Command - Played in essentially every version, Kolaghan's Command is a multi-pronged tool. It can lock opponents out, it can do the last two points, and of course it can raise the dead.

Thirteen creatures have never stretched so far.

Direct download: deaths-shadow.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 1:38am EDT

Kari Zev's Expertise
Kari Zev's Expertise is already format-warping.

Years from now, when we look back on Aether Revolt, it will likely be the case that what we remember most about the set is how badly it helped players to cheat.

Cheat on costs, that is.

Kari Zev's Expertise is at this point the most prominent example of how Aether Revolt can break -- really break -- the rules of Magic to gain a massive advantage. Dan Ward was the first person to innovate Kari Zev's Expertise in Modern (though he lost in the finals of his Regional Chapionship, to Mike's apprentice Roman Fusco playing the Inspiring Vantage Burn deck).

How Does the Kari Zev's Expertise Combo Work?

Dan played Simian Spirit Guide, so he could pop off the Expertise against a second turn beatdown card (say a Grim Flayer). Threatens can be good cards in and of themselves, but this one also gives you the opportunity to play a two mana card for free.

The most important two mana card you can play is Breaking // Entering:

Breaking // Entering

Note two things about these cards:

  1. Kari Zev's Expertise specifically says the word "card" (as opposed to "spell").
  2. The "Breaking" half of Breaking // Entering costs two. Bingo! You can play the card Breaking // Entering for free even though if you had flipped this over with a Dark Confidant, you'd be eating eight.

When you are casting Breaking // Entering this way, you never give the opponent a chance to use Relic of Progenitus or Extirpate. If you separately cast Breaking and then Entering, the opponent would have a chance to respond, but entwined this way, it is just one giant beating.

Ward's deck still had Goryo's Vengeance, Cathartic Reuinion, and other traditional enablers.

All That and Fatal Push!

Fatal Push is going to continue to be highly effective in Modern... A card (for once not Rare or worse) on the order of Path to Exile. One of the reasons that Ward's deck seemed so reliable is that he lacked the small creatures that make Fatal Push such an effective defensive card.

Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores go over not just a number of ways to cheat costs in Modern, but run down ideas for other archetypes like Burn, Grixis Control, or Abzan Company. Check it all out in this week's episode!

 

Direct download: kari-zevs-expertise.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 2:02am EDT


Say Blood Moon wins the last big Modern event. What's the plan? How about we go UrzaTron with 4 Karn Liberated?

Before we start...

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Okay... So part of this is just Tom Ross. How is Tom Ross a real person / Magic: The Gathering player? Tom's reaction to Blood Moon winning Grand Prix Dallas was to play an even slower deck that relied on not just nonbasic lands... But getting three particular nonbasic lands onto the battlefield!

Part of it is that Tom correctly assessed that people would prepare for Blood Moon decks, maybe making decks good against anti-Blood Moon decks that much better. It turned out he was right!

G/W Tron over G/R Tron

The main [deck] reason to play green-white UrzaTron instead of the more traditional green-red build is Path to Exile. That is, Tom played Path to Exile over Pyroclasm in the starting sixty.

Three copies of a spot removal card is hardly the whole point, though. Not only does the Tron deck manage Path to Exile better than almost any other deck (who cares if the opponent gets one extra basic land when you are tapping yours for three?), it makes much better use of the white mana... Just elsewhere.

  • Rest in Peace - Tom's sideboard featured Rest in Peace, a powerful supplement to the main deck's Relic of Progenitus and another great spell against Dredge.
  • Blessed Alliance - Blessed Alliance is a really flexible card here that really blunts the advantage Burn decks have often had against Ramp ones. Blessed Alliance doesn't just counter a Boros Charm, it can surprise the opponent with a Wurmcoil Engine or smite a Tarmogoyf.

Seven is big, and they just get bigger

The natural one-two-three is Urza's Tower, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Mine in some order. That allows you to tap for seven mana with just three lands, or the cost of a Karn Liberated.

On eight mana you get Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and ten mana gives you Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Seemingly every play from there allows you to go "over the top" of a fair opponent's game plan. It's just about hitting your lands, and then landing almost any hitter to win.

Karn Liberated is only one answer to Blood Moon

There are a ton of direct answers to Blood Moon in Tom's deck, incidentally... Karn can remove a Blood Moon from the battlefield, as can either Ugin or Ulamog. Casting those cards might be tough under a Blood Moon, though (and World Breaker might be even tougher with its colored mana in seven). However Oblivion Ring costs just three mana to start. If Tom is not under substantial life points pressure, he can work an Oblivion Ring to really asymmetrical advantage. It can free up his lands from under Blood Moon easily, regardless.

The deck has a good number of answers to obvious threats and strategies. Main deck Relic of Progenitus can give Dredge fits, while Spellskite will have an Infect player's head scratching. Tom's deck isn't necessarily about locking out a game forever... Some of these tools are just there to buy time; remember - given a window to make a play, it's unlikely there is one on the other side of the table better than one of Tom's.

Plenty of G/W Torn, but More Modern in "Karn Liberated and the Answer to a Blood Moon Victory"

 

Direct download: karn-liberated.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 11:58pm EDT

Skred. R. Instant. Skred deals damage to target creature equal to the number of snow permanents you control. A Coldsnap Role Player takes the Modern stage!

Direct download: skred-red.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 12:34am EDT

Two big topics on this week's cast! 1: We revisit Schools of Magic per a Sean O'Brien Patreon request, and 2: Blossoming Defense and more Kaladesh in Modern

Direct download: blossoming-defense.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 11:22pm EDT

Is new Kaladesh card Madcap Experiment too good in Modern? Learn about a sweet one-card combo that might just make it so!

Direct download: madcap-experiment.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 12:44am EDT

Wild Nacatl potentially pushes Naya Burn from "Lava Spike Deck" to "Red Aggro" in terms of macro archetype. What are the trade-offs for this move in Modern?

Direct download: wild-nacatl.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 5:25am EDT