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Two Modern Gems

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 45 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Top 32 GP Vienna 2008
  • Top 64 GP Krakow 2007
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

Two Modern Gems

Hey everyone and welcome to another installment of the Level up series! Although regular tournaments in the usual formats are still held this time of the year, everybody’s eyes are already fixed on the new big set, Return to Ravnica, which is going to be released in just a couple of weeks from now. Standard is going to change dramatically, so even though we could still crunch the data from events like the SCG Opens and PTQs, there’s not really any point in analyzing this „lame duck“ anymore. On the other hand, we still don’t have enough information to be able to tell what exactly is going to happen to the future Standard (apart from seeing what cards rotate out), so creating rough drafts of new decks doesn’t really make sense either, just yet. Because of this, I’m going to focus on Modern today, a format that is not about to undergo such a drastic change like Standard, because the pool of this format is much bigger and no cards are rotating out.

In terms of popularity, Modern seems to usually come in a distant second place to Standard, partly because of the card availability issue and partly because of the fact that there are many more high profile tournaments held in Standard than in Modern. However, Modern is quite a diverse and interesting format, even though you probably wouldn’t come to this conclusion if you checked the results of the Player Championship or the World Magic Cup. I still have high hopes for Pro Tour Seattle, where the constructed rounds will be played in Modern, and I’m eager to see if the top players will bring something new to the tables, something else than a sea of Jund and Zoo. And as for the card availability issue... have you checked the Return to Ravnica spoilers recently? I have and I’m sure that building a reasonably-costed manabase in Modern won’t be such a big deal in just a few weeks.

Has Return to Ravnica so far brought something that could have a major impact on Modern? I don’t really think so. Cards like Dryad Militant, Dreadbore or Abrupt Decay could see some play in Modern, but they don’t look like very important cards, since they’ll only replace some older cards with a similar function. They won’t have a whole deck built around them. But M13 certainly introduced several interesting cards that have pretty important Modern applications, my favorite so far being Faith's Reward. Have you ever read this card before or actually played with it? No? Don’t worry, you’re probably not the only one – Faith’s Reward is close to unplayable in both Standard and Draft, but in Modern, it is virtually a second copy of Second Sunrise, a card that had once some serious combo potential in Extended and with two versions of this card now available in Modern, I do believe that this combo deck could make a comeback.

So what is the combo deck about? It used to be called „eggs“ and it‘s basically a „big turn“ combo deck, in which you play a huge number of cheap artifacts that draw you a card upon entering or leaving the battlefield and can be sacrificed for good measure. Lotus Bloom is pretty important here, because it gives you the mana necessary to pay for the two key instants – Second Sunrise and Faith's Reward. Both of these cards let you bring back all of the trinkets that you sacrificed on the key turn, so that you can sacrifice them again to generate more mana and draw more cards, which will hopefully contain another Second Sunrise or Faith's Reward, allowing you to continue going off and ultimately find your one copy of Grapeshot and kill your opponent with it. Here’s the list that I’ve been testing recently:

Modern Eggs

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by Ondrej Smid

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This list is pretty stock, as far as the „eggs“ archetype goes. Reshape is the best way how to find Lotus Bloom, without which you can’t really go off, because you lack the necessary mana. You can sometimes also see Wargate in the deck as a way to get the Lotus, but Wargate is a bit slow and the deck already has so much card draw that you usually don’t have troubles finding a Reshape or having a Lotus going out of suspend on the turn you want to go off. Three Lotuses are enough, because you usually want to search for it with Reshape rather than suspend it, as that is often too slow, unless you draw it in your opening hand. Faith's Reward and Second Sunrise are the cornerstones of the deck and you can’t really cut any of them. In fact, the deck needs these two cards so much that it also plays three Noxious Revivals, which are there mostly to make sure that you keep going off, placing used Sunrises and Rewards back on the top of your deck, where you draw them with one of the „eggs“ that you bring back with one of the two white instants.

There are some particular cards in this list that you usually won’t see in other builds, but that I’ve found rather useful so far. Peer Through Depths is a card that I really like in this build. Some other versions play Serum Visions as the card filtering spell, but I think that Peer Through Depths is vastly superior. You can’t get any „egg“ from Peer, but the deck runs so many of these already that you usually shouldn’t lack this piece of the puzzle (and you’re not really looking for any particular egg, so it doesn’t matter which ones you have). However, you do need a Reshape and a Second Sunrise-type of effect and Peer can find both of these. It also looks for some of the one-of and two-of instants / sorceries in the deck, cards that I’m going to talk about in a minute. In order to be able to feed Peer Through Depths and not having it fizzle too often, you need to run a bit more instants and sorceries, but fortunately, that’s not a big deal. A pair of Gitaxian Probes fit perfectly into this deck, being a free spell and allowing you to see if the coast is clear. Edge of Autumn is sort of an „egg“ as well, because on the turn when you’re going off, you can float a mana in your pool from a land, then sac it to cycle Edge of Autumn and then bring back the land with Second Sunrise / Faith's Reward. Ghost Quarter plays a similar role here, since you can „ramp“ with it thanks to your white recurring spells by eating one of your own lands and then bringing both the Quarter and the destroyed land back to the light of day.

Silence is a neat little card that can protect you from annoying counterspells and some of the graveyard hate. Jund Charm can cause you some troubles, but if you start your big turn with Silence, they can’t get you with the Charm, since all your eggs are still in play. Silence can also be found with Peer Through Depths, which can be useful sometimes.

What I like about this deck is that it’s quite resilient. You have so much „cycling“ that you often don’t really mind getting Thoughtseized or Inquisitioned before your big turn. Many decks use Grafdigger's Cage to fight graveyard based strategies and the good news is that the Cage doesn’t do anything against you. The bad news is that there are cards that hose you pretty badly, like Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, countermagic in general, Stony Silence and sometimes Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (although you can go off even with Thalia in play, since you’re not necessarily playing that many spells on your key turn). However, Gigadrowse from the sideboard solves a big portion of these troublesome cards and Echoing Truth solves another big part. Because you’re not relying on your graveyard until the point where you start to go off, you don’t really mind your opponent having a Relic or a Nihil Spellbomb and if you send it back to their hand with Echoing Truth before you start going off, you don’t suffer any damage. Leyline of Sanctity also helps a ton, especially in matchups like Jund where they have a lot of discard. And killing a random burn deck with the Leyline is just icing on the cake.

„Eggs“ is a Modern deck that greatly benefited from a card printed in M13 and Merfolk is another one. Before M13, Merfolk had only been a „real“ deck in Legacy, so most people assumed that Master of the Pearl Trident will only have an effect there, but I think that the format in which he will see the most play is actually Modern, where the Master helped Merfolk emerge from virtually nothing to a respectable deck that can win tournaments. A couple of good local players have been testing and tweaking this deck in my local store for the past several weeks and they have been posting really good results with it recently. This is the most up to date list:

Modern Merolk

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by Petr Brigurek

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What we have here are basically the best available Merfolk creatures (with Phantasmal Image acting as the Lord number 15-18), Aether Vials to help you plop them into play at an even faster rate, some cards to slow your opponent down and then a very light sprinkle of countermagic. Mana Leak is also an option, but with decks like Zoo and Affinity left and right in Modern, the format seems a tad too fast for Mana Leak to really do its work. Vapor Snag seems to have made a successful transition from Standard to Modern, but the card that I like probably the most here is Spreading Seas. Merfolk is a tempo deck that can kill the opponent quickly and Spreading Seas helps a ton with this plan. The combination of fetch-lands and Ravnica duals means that many Modern decks opt for a rather greedy manabase and Spreading Seas can punish decks like Jund really badly for that. And it can get even better than that, for example against decks with Tron lands, where Spreading Seas is an absolute all-star.

The sideboard contains mostly the usual suspects, which is not terribly surprising, as the deck has only access to a single color, so there are not all that many options. However, you can still adjust the sideboard according to what you expect in your local metagame. Hurkyl's Recall is a must against Affinity, because the Robots are faster and beat down harder than the fish, but if you expect decks like Storm, for example, feel free to pack your sideboard with Mindbreak Traps and other assorted goodies. Additional Kira, Great Glass Spinner might help if your metagame is infested with Jund, etc.

These two Modern decks are what I think is flying under the radar right now. Return to Ravnica will shake things up a bit, although not as much as in Standard. What exactly will the new set do to Modern – and how powerful The Eggs and Merfolk really are – will be more clear after Pro Tour Seattle and I’m certainly curious if we’ll be seeing some Lords of Atlantis or Second Sunrises in the feature matches.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam Koska

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