Brew Report: February Decks, Pt. 2

Halfway through last month, I published “Brew Report: Perfect Pairs,” picking out happy couples from among Wizards’ decklist dumps. As is common in Modern, more innovative decks were published in February’s latter half, including ones built around Standard-legal enchantments, age-old Modern artifacts, and even a few known staples. Today we’ll unearth and assess that tech.

Reclaiming the Wilds

Contrary to what Modern Horizons hype-builders might have you believe, many Standard cards do indeed trickle down into Modern. One such recent card has spawned an archetype by itself.

Wilderness Reclamation, by FTZZ (30th, Modern Challenge #11800714)

Creatures (3)
Snapcaster Mage

Enchantments (3)
Wilderness Reclamation

Instants (29)
Growth Spiral
Opt
Remand
Spell Snare
Fatal Push
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Devour Flesh
Logic Knot
Pulse of Murasa
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Cryptic Command
Mystical Teachings
Nexus of Fate

Lands (25)
Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Flooded Grove
Breeding Pool
Watery Grave
Creeping Tar Pit
Hinterland Harbor
Drowned Catacomb
Field of Ruin
Island
Forest
Swamp
Sideboard (10)
Fatal Push
Ceremonious Rejection
Consume the Meek
Crypt Incursion
Dispel
Echoing Decay
Fracturing Gust
Hero’s Downfall
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Wilderness Reclamation put two copies in the Top 32 of this Modern Challenge and has since amassed multiple 5-0s. Whether the strategy hangs around remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Growth Spiral officially has a home in Modern. Similarly to its Standard incarnations, Reclamation aims to slam the enchantment and then untap all its lands, in this format representing the likes of Cryptic Command and Mystical Teachings to out-pace opponents using Snapcaster Mage and other instant-speed cards. Eventually, Nexus of Fate puts the game away.

The deck reminds me most of the Heartbeat of Spring combo decks from Kamigawa-era Standard. These too relied on a green enchantment to generate a massive mana advantage, and even featured triple-devotion X-costed spells, if from a different cycle than Blue Sun’s Zenith.

Modern-wise, I dislike how slow Reclamation is as a deck, although the enchantment can come online relatively early; Mystical Teachings is an awfully bricky card when people are attacking for six flying on turn two. I’m also not a fan of relying on the graveyard to generate so much advantage, especially in this polarized metagame. These traits suggest that the popular Teachings version of the deck is mostly riding the hype wave right now, and not necessarily here to stay.

Utopia Reclamation, by PIGNORTON (5-0)

Planeswalkers (5)
Jace Beleren
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Enchantments (16)
Fertile Ground
Utopia Sprawl
Search for Azcanta
Wilderness Reclamation

Instants (19)
Thought Scour
Haze of Pollen
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Cryptic Command
Nexus of Fate

Lands (80)
Misty Rainforest
Wooded Foothills
Breeding Pool
Forest
Island
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
Dispel
Nature’s Claim
Negate
Obstinate Baloth
Relic of Progenitus
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Utopia Reclamation only has one 5-0 to its name, but it signals other possibilities for building around Wilderness Reclamation. The deck borrows heavily from the Turbo Fog archetype, most commonly represented in Modern by Taking Turns, by making use of flexible Amonkhet sleeper Haze of Pollen.

This build removes many of the complaints I had about the Teachings version, now ignoring the graveyard completely and ramping into its plays with greater consistency thanks to land-enchanting auras. On the flip side, it’s suddenly soft to nonbasic hate like Ghost Quarter, and also seems much less consistent despite its many 4-ofs. In fact, given the spell spread, I wouldn’t be surprised if Utopia Reclamation is a very early build of a variant to be fleshed out in the coming weeks, and we’ll see less-rigid decklists down the road.

No Ironworks, Node Ice

With Krark-Clan Ironworks banned from Modern, players are tinkering with new artifact concoctions to fill the void.

Semblance Anvil, by CNEWMAN (5-0)

Creatures (9)
Scrap Trawler
Myr Retriever
Sai, Master Thopterist

Artifacts (29)
Mox Opal
Welding Jar
Chromatic Star
Terrarion
Pyrite Spellbomb
Engineered Explosives
Ichor Wellspring
Semblance Anvil
Grinding Station

Sorceries (4)
Ancient Stirrings

Lands (18)
Darksteel Citadel
Grove of the Burnwillows
Yavimaya Coast
Inventors’ Fair
Buried Ruin
Forest
Island
Sideboard (15)
Sai, Master Thopterist
Galvanic Blast
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Karn, Scion of Urza
Nature’s Claim
Negate
Swan Song
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Semblance Anvil, affectionately referred to as Slot Machine by hype-mongers, made quite a splash when it emerged online last month as the spiritual successor to KCI—it plays all the same cards, after all! With an artifact imprinted on the Anvil, subsequent artifacts cost 2 less to cast. That makes Anvil similar to Ironworks in terms of mana generation: Ichor Wellspring costs 0 either way. Cheaper artifacts net less mana, though, which makes churning through the deck significantly more difficult than it was with Ironworks, a deck that had a very low fail rate once it got going. All the digging in Anvil leads to setting up a combo with Grinding Station and decking opponents out, or re-casting Pyrite Spellbomb with Myr Retriever.

Despite the hype, the deck has yet to prove its worth numbers-wise. Only one copy of the deck 5-0d in February, a success I have yet to see repeated; naturally, the deck strayed far from the Top 32s of published Challenges, as well. Anvil suffers from many of the problems KCI had, such as slowing to a halt in the face of Stony Silence or other heavy-duty hate. But compared with KCI, Anvil boasts fewer angles of attack and is far less resilient to disruption; there are fewer Engineered Explosives here with which to blast through the floodgates.

Surge Node, by RAGINGTILTMONSTER (5-0)

Creatures (16)
Coretapper
Lodestone Golem
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Wurmcoil Engine
Platinum Angel
Blightsteel Colossus

Artifacts (22)
Surge Node
Mox Opal
Astral Cornucopia
Everflowing Chalice
Chalice of the Void
Lightning Greaves

Sorceries (4)
Ancient Stirrings

Lands (18)
Darksteel Citadel
Buried Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Inventors’ Fair
Forest
Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Dismember
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Nature’s Claim
Spellskite
Walking Ballista
Welding Jar
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Surge Node revolves around sticking its namesake artifact, which has slumbered quietly in Modern for years, and spreading the charge counters onto artifacts that can make better use of them, primarily mana rocks. Everflowing Chalice and especially Astral Cornucopia then serve as the primary dumps for counters, with Chalice of the Void—which can come down for 0 and then “tick up”—acting as disruption. Coretapper rounds out the enabler suite for when Surge Node proves elusive.

With all that mana, Node starts dumping large artifacts into play, including Wurmcoil Engine and Platinum Angel. The maxed-out Kuldotha Forgemaster searches out the best one in a given matchup, should it resolve and activate—Lightning Greaves, a card I’ve long felt had yet to realize its Modern potential, lets Forgemaster and other creatures prove their worth immediately. Greaves on Platinum Angel indeed forms a hard-lock against many decks.

Of course, I still doubt Node makes much of a name for Greaves in Modern. The deck folds to Stony Silence, as many artifact strategies do, and lacks the proactivity and resilience of Hardened Scales. Expect this deck to fall way off the map in a month or two when players have forgotten about it.

Modern Misfits

The last two decks we’ll look at today make up for not matching with a hearty dose of novelty, each expanding upon an existing deck theme in a totally new way.

Jeskai Chalice, by JOAO_DANNEMANN (17th, Modern Challenge #11800714)

Creatures (1)
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (5)
Gideon of the Trials
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Artifacts (6)
Chalice of the Void
Engineered Explosives

Enchantments (2)
Detention Sphere
Journey to Nowhere

Instants (14)
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Logic Knot
Mana Leak
Negate
Thirst for Knowledge
Cryptic Command

Sorceries (7)
Terminus
Ancestral Vision
Timely Reinforcements

Lands (25)
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Glacial Fortress
Gemstone Caverns
Academy Ruins
Island
Plains
Sideboard (15)
Timely Reinforcements
Baneslayer Angel
Celestial Purge
Ceremonious Rejection
Crucible of Worlds
Disdainful Stroke
Lyra Dawnbringer
Rest in Peace
Spell Queller
Stony Silence
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Jeskai Chalice cuts Modern’s premier one-mana interaction for Chalice of the Void, which is well-positioned against two of the top decks right now: Izzet Phoenix and Burn. With so many strategies riding on Faithless Looting or Ancient Stirrings, having a card to stop powerful enablers and cantrips presents an interesting alternative to packing removal spells Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile.

I’m not totally convinced; after all, this deck only has a single result to its name. But I like the inclusion of Hieroglyphic Illumination, a functional one-drop for the deck early on, and, of Terminus, which gives Jeskai Chalice an “unfair” dimension I think is necessary for interactive decks in the current Modern. Successful Jeskai lists sidestep this requirement with the ever-flexible Bolt-Snap-Bolt, while UW also runs Terminus; the most popular interactive deck in Modern, Grixis Shadow, is built around the ability to give a one-mana 8/8 double strike and trample. Non-Terminus options on this front aren’t really available for Jeskai Chalice, and Illumination gives players the option to miracle during an opponent’s turn in lieu of Opt.

Hollow Living End, by GLAUBERT (15th, Modern Challenge #11800714)

Creatures (30)
Hollow One
Flameblade Adept
Insolent Neonate
Street Wraith
Desert Cerodon
Monstrous Carabid
Deadshot Minotaur
Urabrask the Hidden
Simian Spirit Guide

Sorceries (10)
Faithless Looting
Cathartic Reunion
Living End

Instants (4)
Electrodominance

Lands (16)
16 Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Guttural Response
Lightning Bolt
Faerie Macabre
Ingot Chewer
Anger of the Gods
Blood Moon
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Hollow Living End is, in my opinion, the coolest deck of the day. Electrodominance gives players more ways to cast Living End, meaning they don’t necessarily have to run no one- or two-mana cards in their decks to enable cascade and can instead tech End as an engine. In goes Faithless Looting, the card some top players are now calling the best in the format. But Bolt is relegated to the sideboard, as Hollow Living End already packs functional sweepers for enemy creature decks. Late-game Electrodominances also serve as reach.

The Hollow One engine is self-supporting here. Each cycling creature reduces its cost by one (or by two in the case of Street Wraith), so the 4/4 will always be cast for 0-3 mana, with cycles thrown in for good measure. Flameblade Adept is thrown in as a way to pressure opponents early, often swinging for 2-3 damage; should they remove Adept or Hollow, Living End brings them back. The same goes for Insolent Neonate, which plays multiple roles by binning additional creatures, “storing” mana for Hollow One next turn, and chewing through the deck and into the combo, as well as having a body itself.

GLAUBERT also took his list to 5-0, as did another player some days later, so the strategy may well have legs. No matter these Hollow innovations, Violent Outburst fans needn’t fear too much, as traditional Living End seems alive and well.

Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough

As pundits ponder whether Modern has fundamental issues with Dredge, Phoenix, and Burn on top of the metagame, others are hard at work behind the scenes, brewing the decks of tomorrow. Which innovations here do you like best? What did this report miss? Share your thoughts below.

9 thoughts on “Brew Report: February Decks, Pt. 2

  1. Can I say that I love the genius of Thought Scour in the taking turns style reclamation deck. It took me a second to realize why they were running it as a 4 of, but the fact that milling over Nexus shuffles it back and even gives you a chance to draw that same Nexus off of the thought scour draw is definitely an interaction I wouldn’t have immediately thought of. Also, I feel like this is a deck to keep an eye on if wizards decides to (as a lot of people are predicting), print wild growth into modern, as another 1 Mana ramp land enchantment could send this into the tier range potentially. Yet more reasons to be stoked about modern horizons I guess…if this is the sort of cool off the wall deck that can become tier 2-3ish, I would love that.

  2. I love the designs. Very cool, but how would slower decks see consistent results in modern? The first reclamation list has 0 interaction in the first two turns, possibly first 3. I understand the deck ramps, but I just dont see how no interaction is going to be supported well long term. The greatest thing about KCI is that EE played both as interaction and mana developer depending upon deck situation.

    1. So the first reclamation list has both four copies of growth spiral and remand, which I think is very cool. You get to pass turn 2 with 2 Mana up and either remand a threatening play to buy you time or just ramp.

    2. Did you mean the 2nd Reclamation list? The first one has not just Remand, but Logic Knot, Fatal Push, Trophy, Decay… Snapcaster as a body even!

      The 2nd list is definitely trying to race. Since many proactive decks in Modern are aggro-based, Haze of Pollen seems like the core interactive piece. Out of the sideboard, Baloth helps further against these decks.

      That said, I agree with you that the deck seems interaction-light, and assume this failing in construction would harm the deck significantly over the course of a longer event. We’ll see if it can replicate its success over the coming weeks, but I’m skeptical for now!

      1. Yes, I apologize. I mean the second. I would love for someone to figure out a deck that survives co sistent with 0 interaction until late game. It would be stunning.

          1. I agree. Tron was the only thing I could think of. Except that Tron does sideboard dismember and has mainboard relics to fight dredge and pheonix decks

  3. I still think it’s funny that initially everyone was talking growth spiral in temur scapeshift, and that hasn’t really happened at all, but wilderness reclamation has started making a name for itself. As it turns out having your own personal heartbeat of spring/Mana flare is pretty dope.

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