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Stomping Modern

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Patrick Wild
Patrick Wild

About Patrick Wild

Patrick Wild is a Swiss Magic player. He began his Magic playing career with Legacy events in 1998 and then moved on to play other formats, such as Standard and Modern. Patrick also plays countless Vintage tournaments, and he won the Swiss Vintage National Championship. As an experienced tournament player, he has played in several PTQs and Grand Prix, it is his goal to qualify for the Pro Tour, and he pursues that goal with utmost dedication.

Stomping Modern

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Mono Green Stompy, a cheap and competitive aggro deck that can hold its own in Modern. Today, I’m going to write about an update and two promising variations of it.

Updating Modern Stompy

While wildly researching ways to improve Stompy, I had the following train of thought: The viability of aggro decks is greatly defined by the quality and quantity of 1-drops, since they allow you to seize tempo early and dictate the pace of play. Experiment One and Dryad Militant were quite good, but finding a third creature proved to be difficult. Tattermunge Maniac was okay, but clearly a candidate for replacement. With the release of Eldritch Moon, I found a suitable successor: Kessig Prowler.

Kessig Prowler
Versions:
Eldritch Moon (Foil)

What elevates Kessig Prowler to a staple is its flip ability. Traditionally, aggro decks have problems in the lategame, where they draw too many lands and the creatures are too small. With Prowler, you can pump your spare mana into it to create a formidable threat in the late game. In other words, Prowler is great in the early and late game. My current decklist looks like this:

Modern Stompy

Colors
Green34
Hybrid4
Land22
Converted Mana Cost
120
212
36
Type
Basic Land22
Creature30
Enchantment4
Instant4
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Not having to attack like Tattermunge Maniac proved to be a big difference. Kessig Prowler allows you to wait until you can transform it, whereas Maniac forced you to make suboptimal attacks. A hidden benefit of Prowler is that it turns Path to Exile into a clear liability for your opponent, since you are now closer to transform. Dungrove Elder (and Scavenging Ooze to a lesser extent) has a similar effect. These creatures are great because they allowed me to run one more land. This in turn has the effect of decreasing the mulligan rate and weakening the adverse effects of mana flood.

A New Kind of Stompy

However, one problem persisted even with the addition of Kessig Prowler: My early creatures got trumped by bigger creatures. Something as simple as Kird Ape stops Kessig Prowler, Dryad Militant and Strangleroot Geist effectively. Similarly, Tarmogoyf stonewalls a majority of my creatures unless I draw Rancor. The same applies to Eldrazi, Merfolk or Slivers. Vines of Vastwood helps to break through bigger creatures, but costing GG makes it mana-inefficient, in addition to opening myself up to removal (since I’m the first one to „blink“, so to speak). Is there a solution?

The answer is yes. When I scoured the card database, I discovered something that addresses both the one-drop problem as well as the „sizing“ problem. That card? Hardened Scales.

Naturally, building around Hardened Scales requires some restructuring. Interestingly, a lot of Stompy’s creatures already operate with +1/+1 counters, so the transition was smooth:

Hardened Stompy

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While this version is a little slower out of the gates, it is more powerful in the midgame. Let’s break it down card by card:

Hardened Scales:

Though it is not a creature, Hardened Scales is a card you gladly drop on turn 1. It bolsters all subsequent threats and is strong in multiples. Even if you draw it later, you can easily play it and sequence it with your other cards because it only costs G. Its impact is hard to see on paper, but easy to see in play. Every single creature has some kind of +1/+1 counters built in, so Hardened Scales amplifies their power. In contrast to global pumps like Glorious Anthem, Hardened Scales has the advantage that its benefits stay on the battlefield even if it gets removed with Abrupt Decay or Dromoka's Command. However, if your opponent removes your creatures instead of Scales, it makes every subsequent one into a game-ending threat. A classic catch-22.

Experiment One:

In this version, Experiment One rarely evolves beyond 3/3. There are other ways to boost its power like Rancor or Servant of the Scale though. The regeneration ability is surprisingly relevant in a format where Lightning Bolt rules supreme, and lets you make more aggressive attacks into big blockers. Although the general strategy is to be aggressive, there are decks like Zoo or Burn where it blocking and regenerating is of utmost importance.

Servant of the Scale:

The green Arcbound Worker. Although a little on the weak side, it truly shines with Hardened Scales, growing your other creatures by three +1/+1 counters, or even more. Like Hardened Scales, they get better in multiples and complicate combat math for your opponent immensely. For aggressive decks, it is of paramount importance that your cards are good in multiples, since you often lack other means to accumulate card advantage.

Strangleroot Geist:

One of the best creatures against removal, of which there is plentiful in Modern. Also the nemesis of Liliana of the Veil. Only Path to Exile takes care of it, but even in that case, getting a land is quite useful, even more so if you’re running a version with Dungrove Elder or Kessig Prowler. Strangleroot ensures that you have board presence even against heavy removal. With Hardened Scales, Geist comes back as a 4/3 haste creature, which conveniently is big enough to take down Snapcaster Mage, a persisted Kitchen Finks, Spellskite, Dark Confidant and many more, where a 3/2 would simply trade.

Scavenging Ooze:

In case your sturdy creatures get removed, Scavenging Ooze is there to pick up the slack. The Modern metagame recently has shifted towards more aggressive decks like Zoo and graveyard based decks like Dredge and Living End. Against all of these, Scavenging Ooze is outstanding. It is also important to remove Path to Exile from the graveyard, so that it can’t be flashbacked by Snapcaster Mage. Four copies might seem like too much, but you really want to draw it early in those matchups and have a replacement in case the first one gets dealt with. With Hardened Scales, just one activation gets Ooze out of range of Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods.

Avatar of the Resolute:

In this deck, Avatar simply gets a counter for each other creature you control, often entering as a 5/4 or 6/5 creature.  With Hardened Scales, it often enters as the biggest creature on both sides (though Ooze and Hydra can outgrow it). The trample is key in beating token strategies, while Reach is important against Delver and Affinity.

Managorger Hydra:

Left unchecked, the Hydra is capable of winning games all by itself. With the recurring Rancor and Hardened Scales, it quickly grows so big that it trumps all other creatures. Each spell of your opponent that doesn’t remove Hydra increases your clock, forcing your opponent into tough decisions – is it better to spend removal on early creatures or save it for Hydra? Like Vines of Vastwood, I like it when a card dictates how your opponent has to play. Together with Avatar and Rancor, the Trample of Managorger Hydra is one reason why this deck has a good matchup against token based decks, traditionally a difficult enemy for creature decks.

Predator Ooze:

The slowest creature, yet almost unbeatable if the game goes long. One of the best targets for Rancor. Hardened Scales ensures that it grows quick enough to impact the battlefield. Unlike other creatures in the deck, Predator Ooze withstands sweeper effects like Wrath of God and Damnation. Again, only Path to Exile takes care of it. Although it is an all-star against anything with creatures, it often gets boarded out against combo decks.

Rancor:

Important for outracing linear decks and getting through tokens. Though Managorger Hydra already has trample, the recurring part of Rancor ensures that you have enough fodder to grow it. In a metagame with fewer combo and more removal heavy decks, it might be better to replace it with Vines of the Vastwood.

Mutant's Prey:

Usually considered garbage, but in this deck, it is in full cry. Especially with Hardened Scales, all creatures are big enough to win almost all fights, turning Mutant's Prey into a 1 mana instant removal, something which green decks usually lack. Prey Upon was played in old versions of Mono Green Stompy, and Mutant's Prey is even better than Dismember, in the context of this particular deck.

Hardened Stompy with Fetchlands

Though this version runs more Rares, the deck is still very affordable, since the Rares are quite cheap. If you have a bigger budget, I built an alternate version:

Hardened Stompy with Fetchlands

Colors
Green38
Land22
Converted Mana Cost
118
212
38
Type
Basic Land14
Creature28
Enchantment8
Instant2
Land8
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Basically, this version swaps Strangleroot Geist and Predator Ooze for Vinelasher Kudzu and Undergrowth Champion, both of which work very well with Fetchlands. With Hardened Scales, each Fetchland grows them by four +1/+1 counters. Incorporating a light splash for something like Atarka's Command, Kird Ape, Abrupt Decay or Path to Exile is easily possible with Fetchlands and 1-2 Shocklands. The range of possible sideboard cards extends considerably with a splash, too.

Sideboarding

Being mono-green certainly restricts your sideboard options. However, there are a few cards that have proven to be useful tools. Instead of listing a rigid sideboard list, I will talk about sideboard „groups“ and the cards that are usually sided out.

Natural State/Deglamer/Unravel the Aether:

A huge upgrade over Nature's Claim, since the lifegain lengthened the clock and almost all targets were below 3cmc anyway. This card comes in against Affinity, Bogles, Tron, Lantern, Storm and Ad Nauseam. All of these have plenty of high-value targets that you usually struggle against like Cranial Plating, Daybreak Coronet, Oblivion Stone, Ensnaring Bridge, Pyromancer Ascension and Phyrexian Unlife. As a flexible, cheap and instant speed answer, it is rarely wrong to pack the full four copies. I would only include Deglamer or Unravel the Aether if you expect a lot of Wurmcoil Engines, which otherwise is close to unbeatable. Matchups where Natural State is good tend to be races, so I recommend siding out cards that are best against creatures, but otherwise a little slow, like Predator Ooze.

Spike Feeder/Feed the Clan/Pulse of Murasa:

In versions with Hardened Scales, Spike Feeder is stronger than Feed the Clan. Not only does it synergize with Servant of the Scale and Hardened Scales, but it gives you life incrementally. Against Burn or Zoo, it is important that you don’t run into a Skullcrack or Atarka's Command. With one-shot lifegain like Feed the Clan, you encounter these sub-games, where the player who first blinks usually loses. With Spike Feeder, you circumvent that problem entirely. Additionally, the ability to move counters is good at halting attacks, particularly with Experiment One for instant speed regeneration and Undergrowth Champion for damage prevention. Pulse of Murasa looks good on paper, but has the same issues as Feed the Clan. It is fine against removal heavy decks, but in those matchups Dungrove Elder and Vines of Vastwood are stronger. I tend to take out Rancor, since games are more about stabilizing than straight-up racing.

Dismember/Gut Shot/Mutant's Prey/Hunt the Hunter:

Cheap creature removal is something Green usually doesn’t get access to. I like Mutant's Prey best, since your creatures are usually bigger, even more so with Hardened Scales on the battlefield. Dismember has the widest range and is reliable, but the lifeloss hurts badly against other creature decks. Gut Shot is notable for being good against Infect, Affinity, Company decks and Soul Sisters, as it takes care of early key-creatures without inhibiting your development. Hunt the Hunter is very narrow but powerful, if your meta contains a lot of Elves, Abzan Company and Kiki Chord, it is a fine choice. I would board out Rancor (and Hardened Scales if needed), so that your deck consists of creatures and removal.

Dungrove Elder/Treetop Village/Vines of Vastwood:

Ace in the hole against grindy, removal-heavy decks like Jund, Jeskai and Grixis. Excellent against Path to Exile, since Elder punishes it in two ways. I like to side in Treetop Village to add a sorcery-immune threat and up the land count to 23, since the other three-drops are good in these kind of matchups and the mana curve gets a little higher. If you don’t run Vines in your main deck, it is an excellent option to have in the sideboard. Not only does it counter removal and push through additional damage, it even has uses to counter pump spells from Infect or Suicide Zoo by targeting their creature. I tend to take out Mutant's Prey and Rancor, as your opponent can blow you out in response with removal.

Relic of Progenitus/Tormod's Crypt:

While 4 Scavenging Ooze main deck may seem like a lot, sometimes they are too slow or susceptible. Relic has been very good for me against Dredge, Living End, Jund and Snapcaster decks. It helps against Pyromancer Ascension, too. I usually take out the slower three drops. Tormod's Crypt may be cheaper to cast, but I like the versatility of Relic a lot more. This train of thought explains why I don’t run stuff like Creeping Corrosion at the moment – it is a waste of sideboard space to run a card that is only good against one matchup, when there are 10+ viable decks in Modern. Of course, that changes when you know your local meta. If there are 3 Affinity players in your 12 person FNM, by all means put 3 Creeping Corrosion in your sideboard.

Guttural Response/Choke:

If you encounter a lot of blue-based Control, Merfolk or Scapeshift, these are fine options. Guttural Response looks like junk, but is an absolute blowout against Cryptic Command and Hibernation, two cards you usually have trouble with. Choke may seem more powerful, but has underperformed in my testing. As a one-of it is fine, because your opponent has to respect it and change play patterns. Taking out Mutant's Prey, Hardened Scales or Rancor has worked for me.

Conclusion

Stompy got a boost in consistency with 12 one-drops and is still competitive. If you like things to be a little bigger, I recommend trying the Hardened Scales Version, which is a lot of fun to play, has good synergies and takes many opponents by surprise. Just don’t forget to bring a lot of dice!

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