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Deck Spotlight - Martyr Proclamation

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Time for another Modern Deck Spotlight! I will skip the 'Standard is a stale vegetable' rant this time, everybody and their mothers already know what's going on there, so let's talk about Modern.

What is going on in Modern exactly? I was out of the loop for a bit, since I was really really trying to get into Standard, so I can bring you quality content, as always, so I kind of lost any idea what is going on in Modern since the banhammer fell.  

After a through metagame analysis I figured out that the current metagame isn't nearly as complicated as it used to be at times. The modern metagame is currently mostly dominated by aggressive decks (that are NOT Infect) which make up for around 60% of the metagame (even more if we count Dredge as an aggro rather than a combo deck), while the rest mostly consists of control-ish decks (I'm counting Tron here) and a combo deck here and there. Aggro deck department is headed by none other than Death's Shadow Zoo, which is not a huge surprise. This deck wasn't nearly as damaged by the Gitaxian Probe ban as Infect was and is still going very strong. The deck itself took a bit of a turn, losing Monastery Swiftspears and Temur Battle Rage and now looks more like a classic Jund deck, but with Death's Shadow elements incorporated in it. The deck is certainly very strong due to the combination of hand disruption and card advantage while also keeping pressure on the board, but certainly has some weaknesses. The second from the top of the pile are Eldrazi variants, which also come in a few different forms  - with color(s), without color, with or without tron... you get the point. The whole deck is still a pretty straightforward affair of slamming huge guys early and bashing face. The same goes for the third deck on the list - mono red. So, if the top three most popular decks in the format are (more or less) decks that share a common strategy of beating people with creatures and/or spells that deal damage, isn't the best way to combat this by gaining life and dominating the board? The answer might be yes, but I know, most lifegain decks are just fluff baskets that rely on Serra Ascendant too much, which is not the best idea in a format where Fatal Push is the best removal spell. Now, what if I told you that there might be a solution for this? Behold:

Martyr of Sands
Versions:
Coldsnap (Foil)

This is the list Todd Welles used to make top 8 of a TCGplayer states. Let's be clear right away - this deck has more than a few flaws, but I like to use a 'real' list as a reference when writing a deck spotlight article, so I'd rather comment on a flawed list that someone actually used to do well in a tournament rather than just pulling a list out of thin air.

Let's start off with what this deck is actually trying to do. If you played while Martyr of Sands was in Standard, you are probably familiar with the concept, but for those of you that didn't, I'll try to sum it up. Martyr Proclamation is a control deck that uses the combination of Martyr of Sands and Proclamation of Rebirth to gain obscene amounts of life by sacrificing Martyr of Sands for it's ability and then returning it by casting, or in the late game Forecasting  Proclamation of Rebirth. This huge life cushion you gain forces your opponent to commit to the board thus walking right into your Wrath of God.  The deck also has more than a few ways to gain card advantage, but mostly it relies on an never-ending stream of creatures provided by Ranger of Eos, Squadron Hawks and later Proclamation of Rebirth and Emeria, the Sky Ruin.  Thanks to the life gain provided by Martyr of Sands, you have more than enough time to set up all these recursion engines. Once those are online, it shouldn't be too hard to take the game over with either Serra Ascendants, Elspeth, Sun's Champion or some of the equipments.

I agree with the core of the deck, and it is hard to argue most of Welles' list, but there are also some fluff additions that I really don't think have any merit being in the deck. Providence is a card I completely forgot existed, and would be happy if it stayed that way. Sadly it didn't. I literally don't understand why it is in the deck. It actually feels like it would lower your life total when you cast it more often than not. The next card on the 'what the..' list is Godsend. I understand that it is a white equipment and you can reveal it for the Martyr, but the card does close to nothing. The other honorable mention in this department is Thalia, Heretic Cathar. I understand that the card somewhat slows down your opponent due to the fact it might make his lands ETB tapped, but is it really worth it? On turn three, it seems only good on the play.

Other obvious flaws are the lack of a fourth Path to Exile in the main deck, which is paramount in both Eldrazi and Death's Shadow matchups, which are the two most popular decks. This is also true for the Leyline of Sanctity in the sideboard, an omission which is very odd for a white deck.  What this list also lacks are some catch-all cards like Oblivion Ring and/or Pithing Needle, since it might have issues with planeswalkers like Karn or Nahiri if you can't mount enough pressure.

The deck seems to be well positioned in the metagame, mainly due to the fact that its worst matchups Splinter Twin and Infect do not exist anymore. Most of the aggressive decks are a really good matchup, as well as midrange/combo decks that try winning with tempo and damage should be fine. On the other hand, Tron might be a problem, and Affinity can sometimes sneak through Inkmoth Nexus to circumvent the lifegain strategy, which is yet another reason to play a full playset of Path to Exile. It is also worth noting that there seems to be a trend of Kiki-Jiki/Saheeli/Felidar combo decks rising in Modern, which is certainly not a great matchup as well, but nothing that can't be addressed with a proper sideboard plan (Hallowed Moonlight might be a good idea in the current metagame).

Conclusion

I still have nightmares playing against my brother running Martyr Proclamation in Standard all those years ago, and these nightmares just might be back in Modern. This deck is certainly a metagame choice - it is not always the correct choice, but it seems Modern shifted towards fair decks lately, and this deck loves doing unfair things to fair decks. If you are one of those people who love being disliked in your local gaming store, who enjoys groans of frustration from your opponents and the look of desperation on their faces the moment they see the pairings - this is a deck for you.

Good luck and have fun!

Stjepan Sučić
Stjepan Sucic

About Stjepan Sučić

Stjepan started his Magic career in 2003, and had some decent finishes over the years, including a World Magic Cup top 8, Pro Tour and Worlds top 32 finishes, and a GP top 8, with 61 pro points total.

During the summer months he is also a Magic Online grinder who you can easily find in the draft queues. Stjepan boasts a 74% win rate in his real life Magic career. When he is not playing Magic, Stjepan enjoys watching Starcraft and playing MOBA games.

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