In my previous Level Up article, I mentioned that I was experimenting with the Copycat combo (Felidar Guardian + Saheeli Rai) in Modern, and in this article, I'd like to elaborate a bit more, sharing my current decklist and talking about why the combo can be good in Modern. If you want to attack from a very unusual angle and bring something brand new to the table, this might be the way to go.
Just like in Standard, there are two basic approaches to the Copycat combo in Modern. You can either go the control route, where Felidar Guardian is one of the few creatures and the rest is removal and countermagic, or the midrange route, with more creatures and value targets for the 1/4 cat. I think that both of these ways have their merit: The control route offers more card draw and library manipulation (Serum Visions) to help you dig for the combo. Also, control decks are typically better equipped to survive in the lategame, having access to sweepers (Supreme Verdict) and other card advantage spells. And it's not that hard to find pieces that offer value with the Guardian and still fit the control plan: Wall of Omens, Spreading Seas, Snapcaster Mage... all of these give you at least a card back when you only have the creature part of the combo. But the midrange approach also has a certain appeal. First of all, it very likely means going green for mana acceleration in the form of Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. This can lead to a turn three kill (turn 1 Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Saheeli Rai, turn 3 Felidar Guardian), which is very important against combo decks that ignore the opponent and just want to be as fast as possible. Second, green gives you some excellent blink targets in Eternal Witness and Oath of Nissa. The Witness is sweet in the deck because if you already have both parts in the graveyard (which will be a common feature in a format with so much discard and removal), you can get the whole combo back: both Felidar Guardian and Saheeli can re-trigger the Witness to bring back the second piece as well. As for Oath of Nissa, it works just as well in this deck as in the Standard version: it gets you closer to the combo and even fixes your mana, which is actually fairly important for a deck that is mostly Bant. All in all, I like the 4C version more than the Jeskai Control build at this point. This is my current version:
|Converted Mana Cost|
The Standard 4C Saheeli deck has Rogue Refiner, Servant of the Conduit and Whirler Virtuoso, the Modern version has Blade Splicer, Eternal Witness and Reflector Mage - a card banned in Standard, but perfectly legal in Modern. So far, I've seen a lot of different versions of this deck, so let me talk about my particular card choices. First of all, while you often can go beatdown, I don't think this is an aggro deck in its nature - some lists have Tarmogoyfs as a 2-drop, but I think we can do much better. Voice of Resurgence is a flexible defender which also makes sure that if the opponent tries to stop our combo, at least we get an Elemental token out of the exchange. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, has a double function here. First, the deck has a lot of ways how to trigger her bolster ability multiple times: Restoration Angel, Felidar Guardian, Eternal Witness... these all mean that we can keep triggering the effect and end up with a significant board. But Anafenza is also capable of one infinite combo. If you have two Felidar Guardians or Felidar Guardian + Restoration Angel, you can get infinite Bolster triggers and an arbitrarily large board of creatures. This is a nice "plan B" which doesn't make you play any bad cards, so I don't see a reason why not to run it. There's another similar "backup combo" in the sideboard: Essence Warden can give you infinite life with two Felidar Guardians or Felidar Guardian + Restoration Angel. The reason why I'm not all that excited to play this combination in the main deck is that I feel there are too many decks in the current Modern format that can either dismantle your hand and board, leaving you with a useless 1/1 Essence Warden, or that don't care about your life total. This is why I currently have this package in the sideboard (together with the singleton Chord of Calling, which we can afford to play once we lower the curve with the Essence Wardens) - to board in against decks that fold to infinite life and don't run too much disruption and against decks like Burn, where lifegain itself is a huge boon.
A main deck card that might raise a lot of eyebrows is Elder Deep-Fiend. Originally, I had Vendilion Clique in this slot: a creature that can protect our combo when we have the pieces but when we can't afford to fight through disruption. I wasn't happy with the Clique because the opponent often had multiple removal spells or would draw one from the Clique's trigger. Elder Deep-Fiend is the Mistbind Clique of this deck: not only can it tap down the opponent to make sure we can go off with the combo, but being a 5/6, it can often win simply by Time-Walking the opponent once and then attacking until they're dead. The Emerge cost shouldn't even be that much of a problem: Blade Splicer is the ideal enabler, giving us a Golem and then a huge discount on the Fiend, but Voice of Resurgence, Reflector Mage and Eternal Witness will do just fine as well.
The sideboard is very much an unfinished product yet, but there are several directions in which you can take the deck in games two and three and I tried to provide the tools for different matchups. Apart from the Essence Warden / Chord of Calling package, we can also go beatdown with Gideon (great on turn three thanks to Birds and Hierarchs), protect our combo with Spell Pierce and Unified Will or fight removal with Evolutionary Leap. I like how against removal-heavy opponents, the Leap allows you to cash in your mana dorks in the lategame and - thanks to creatures like Voice of Resurgence, Blade Splicer and Eternal Witness - make sure that you never run out of gas.
Overall, I've got to say that this deck is a ton of fun and feels very refreshing in Modern. The best possible version (if there's even one) might still be out there, but I like a lot of the things my list is doing and I have high hopes for it.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
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