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Deck Spotlight - Modern Living End

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Hello everyone!

As Standard is approaching big changes due to a new set being released and the subsequent Pro Tour taking place, I'm going to talk about Modern again today - analyzing a list that has been a "pet deck" of mine for some time. I played it in day 2 of a Modern GP before and I keep going back to it every now and then when the circumstances are right. The deck that I'm talking about is Living End.

Living End
Versions:
Time Spiral (Foil)

Modern is an interesting place and Living End's position in it is quite intriguing as well. The archetype is definitely not among the most widely popular ones, but every now and then, we see it do really well - top8ing a GP or being chosen by a significant part of competitors at a World Championship (four out of the twenty-four players chose Living End at the 2015 Worlds). Why is this? Because Living End is extremely metagame-dependent. The modern metagame tends to oscillate and Living End is a deck with some very good matchups and some really bad ones - or more specifically, some cards that it has a really hard time beating. That's why I always like to keep the deck sleeved up when the meta shifts in a way that is favorable.

Under which conditions does Living End thrive? The short answer would be "in a metagame with no countermagic and no graveyard hate", but that doesn't tell the whole story. Right now, Modern is full of graveyard hate because of Dredge, but not all cards that are good against Dredge are also lethal against Living End, so we should not only look at how much hate people play, but also at which pieces they choose. Anger of the Gods, for example, is incredible in the Dredge matchup, as it kills Prized Amalgams and Bloodghasts, but against Street Wraiths, Deadshot Minotaurs and Monstrous Carabids, it doesn't do much. The same goes for Surgical Extraction - it can be annoying if they remove one species of creatures from your graveyard, but unless they manage to somehow nab the Living End itself, you should still be fine, as a typical Living End that you cast under no time pressure should give you 5+ big creatures and wrath the opponent's board.

On the other hand, there are other problematic cards that Living End doesn't want to play against. Countermagic is really annoying, because you only have a limited number of shots you can take and after the opponent counters all three of your Living Ends, it becomes really hard to win. The good news is that most Living End lists play a full set of Fulminator Mages to constrain the opponent's manabase and also that half of your cascade spells are instants, so you can fire one off at the end of the opponent's turn and then another one on your turn, but countermagic is still an issue. Another problematic card is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, since she makes your win conditions cost five mana (one more on the cascade spell and one more on Living End itself) and Chalice of the Void for zero. In short, playing Living End can be quite rough if you bump into too many cards that are hard to play against, but in the right field, you can cruise through a tournament really smoothly. Also, some cards can be solved if you come prepared. Scavenging Ooze, for example, is also not a card you want to see on the other side of the table, but having some Shriekmaws in the main deck goes a long way towards making sure that you don't lose that way.

Here's my current Living End decklist:

Modern Moon Living End

There are not many "free" slots in this archetype: you always want to play eight cascade spells, three Living Ends, the full sixteen creatures that cycle for zero or one mana, at least two creatures that cycle for two (Jungle Weavers, Pale Recluses, Twisted Abominations) and at least two Beast Withins to deal with problematic cards like Chalice of the Void. That gives you thirty-one fixed slots and since this archetype typically runs eighteen or nineteen lands (you shouldn't have troubles with lands when you play so many cyclers), it leaves us with around ten adjustable slots. The first question is whether we play Simian Spirit Guide or not, and the answer depends on the speed of the current metagame. Right now, with Infect and Burn being popular, I would lean towards playing the Spirit Guides, although the number you want can vary between two and four. Then there are four more slots typically occupied by Fulminator Mages and while I think that the Mage is excellent in Living End, my current version has zero, because instead, I went with Blood Moons. Surprisingly, Living End is one of the best Blood Moon decks in the format. You have Simian Spirit Guides to cast the Moon on turn two (or even one), a lot of fetches and some landcyclers to get your basics and cycling to reliably get the three-mana enchantment when you need it. But that's not all. Other Blood Moon decks can have problems when the opponent fetches for a basic early on - the enemy who was supposed to be wrecked by not having access to the right mana might suddenly not even be affected by Blood Moon at all. But fortunately, we have Beast Withins that can shoot down their basic lands and lock them out completely. In addition, most Living End decks don't play Blood Moons, so the opponent might be caught off-guard and waste their fetchlands for duals when they could prevent the damage done by Blood Moon by fetching basics. I've got to say that so far, I've been quite impressed by the Blood Moons in this archetype.

The sideboard is a very important part of this deck, because post-board, you're certainly going to be facing a lot of hate. Ricochet Trap is a way how to fight through countermagic and Krosan Grips are very important now, as they kill Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Relics and Nihil Spellbombs, so even when people come prepared, you can still win through graveyard hate. Generally speaking, if you expect the matchup to be about must-answer cards and you won't be able to execute your plan on turn three, I would side out some Simian Spirit Guides, because speed won't get you anywhere against a turn 1 Spellbomb. I would advise against boarding out cyclers, but if you expect the game to go longer than pre-board, you can shave one Demonic Dread, since seven cascade spells should be enough. Unfortunately, because of how narrow cards this deck plays, it's almost impossible to have a transformational sideboard, but especially if the opponent goes all in on graveyard hate and weakens their plan A, you can start hard-casting your creatures and try to win that way. Surprisingly enough, this plan also works from time to time.

Playing Living End in a Modern event is somewhat of a gamble. If you like decks where you have to sweat every win out and all your matches are close, then I would suggest playing something else. But Living End can be the perfect weapon in certain metagames. If you can guess the matchups you'll be facing correctly, Living End can be a very good choice.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam

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:

  • 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 64 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8
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