Top Level Podcast (modern)
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 EST

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 EST


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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

Goblin Dark-Dwellers. 3RR. Creature - Goblin. Menace. When Goblin Dark-Dwellers enters the battlefield, you may cast target instant or sorcery card...

Direct download: goblin-dark-dwellers.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 10:42pm EST

The Gitrog Monster allows you to win on turn five, immediately. Here’s how…

 

Dakmor Salvage + Seismic Assault + The Gitrog Monster

Direct download: the-gitrog-monster.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 11:18pm EST

Eye of Ugin was banned in Modern this week!

 

 

The macro storyline here is this: The Eldrazi deck in Modern was too good. It was the best on a number of dimensions, but most folks looking in would identify a deck full of Sol Rings pumping out de facto undercosted threats. Something was going to give (and almost certainly from the mana front).

 

Direct download: eye-of-ugin.mp3
Category:Modern -- posted at: 10:13pm EST