Top Level Podcast
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

Should wotc ban Scrapheap Scrounger? This unassuming two-drop has more going on than its stats. Scrapheap Scrounger may be a key to solving the metagame.

Direct download: scrapheap-scrounger.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 2:50am EDT

Which deck will be the most popular at PT Dublin? Green-Black Delirium? Black-Green Energy? Find out what Nahiri is doing in Copy Cat and more!

Direct download: pt-dublin.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 12:48am EDT

Walking Ballista combines flexibility, combo defense, and raw power. Possibly the strongest card in Aether Revolt, Walking Ballista is the true inheritor to Hangarback Walker.

Direct download: walking-ballista.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 8:48pm EDT

Saheeli Rai (with Felidar Guardian) threatens to become the dominating strategy in Standard. Learn about some different ways to play Saheeli Rai.

Direct download: saheeli-rai.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:40am EDT

Aether Revolt is more than just broken combos and mana engines! Learn about the "fair" side, headlined by Gifted Aetherborn, here.

Direct download: gifted-aetherborn.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:59am EDT

Half on the surprising new bans to Modern and Standard; half on the crazy combos and engines from Aether Revolt (especially Felidar Guardian &co.)

Direct download: felidar-guardian.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:25am EDT

Winding Constrictor is just one of several cards that Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J Flores discuss in this week's podcast:

Direct download: winding-constrictor.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:26am EDT

Rishkar, Peema Renegade is our exclusive preview from Aether Revolt! Check out what Patrick and Michael have to say about this powerful new Legendary Elf.

Direct download: rishkar-peema-renegade.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT