Brew Report: Perfect Pairs

Roses are red, violets are blue—it’s time for another Report About Brews! This (day after) Valentine’s Day, we’ll take a look at some of the exciting developments Modern has seen this month, and present each deck alongside its significant other: another deck that’s somehow related. In the words of a certain heart-shaped candy, LET’S GET BUSY!

Old Faithfuls

Nothing says “romance” like good ol’ fashioned steadfastness. At least, that’s the tip these star-crossed Modern standbys are on. We’ll start with the format’s most storied aggro strategy: while they’ve come a long way from Fatal Frenzy targeting Atog, everyone’s favorite robots apparently still have a bit of Frenzy left in them.

Frenzy Affinity, by JOSITOSHEKEL (26th, Modern Challenge #11794021)

Creatures (23)
Arcbound Ravager
Memnite
Ornithopter
Signal Pest
Steel Overseer
Vault Skirge

Artifacts (12)
Cranial Plating
Mox Opal
Springleaf Drum

Enchantments (3)
Experimental Frenzy

Instants (5)
Galvanic Blast
Welding Jar

Lands (17)
Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Inkmoth Nexus
Mountain
Spire of Industry
Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Dispatch
Etched Champion
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Rest in Peace
Rule of Law
Thoughtseize
Wear // Tear
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Frenzy Affinity takes a decidedly different route from that of casting a three-mana Temur Battle Rage. It relies on Experimental Frenzy to restock after deploying its hand. Veteran readers may recall my dismissing of Frenzy as a worse Precognition Field, which itself sees no play despite my own attempts to tame it. But between plenty of 0-drops, just 17 lands, and its snowballing, play-to-the-field mentality, Affinity seems like a perfect home for the red enchantment.

Frenzy  vies for precedence over Affinity’s other colored spell options, which include Master of Etherium and Thoughtcast. It’s closest in role to the latter. In a format always interested in accessing powerful hate cards post-board, I like Frenzy’s promise to tear through the deck once players untap with it.

Even though Affinity’s seen its shares decline significantly as Modern has become more weaponized, with Hardened Scales-based artifact decks cutting deep into its shares, I wouldn’t dismiss Frenzy Affinity outright. The same build was also quick to post a 5-0 listing after its Challenge performance, which itself put two copies into the Top 32.

Benthic Merfolk, by MASHMALOVSKY (5-0)

Creatures (26)
Benthic Biomancer
Harbinger of the Tides
Lord of Atlantis
Master of the Pearl Trident
Master of Waves
Merfolk Trickster
Silvergill Adept

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Enchantments (4)
Spreading Seas

Instants (6)
Deprive
Spell Pierce

Lands (20)
Cavern of Souls
14 Island
Mutavault
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Dismember
Echoing Truth
Hurkyl’s Recall
Mistcaller
Relic of Progenitus
Spellskite
Tidebinder Mage
Vapor Snag
Venser, Shaper Savant
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Benthic Merfolk also puts a new spin on an old classic, dropping Cursecatcher and Merrow Reejery for some of the flashier tribal additions from recent sets. As a one-drop, Benthic Biomancer seems significantly better than Catcher in the mid- and late-game, offering some immediate card selection and featuring built-in bulk. A potential 2/2 in this slot has worked for Merfolk in the past, and Biomancer has way more utility than Kumena’s Speaker without even demanding a splash.

On paper, Catcher seems better than Benthic in the early-game. But that’s only true for certain matchups. Most decks will happily pay a mana to destroy Catcher, and are fine casting their removal spell before deploying a creature after turn one. The decks with big instants and sorceries to resolve are few and far between in Modern, and the really juicy ones (i.e. Ad Nauseam) come out of decks that should lose to Merfolk’s hate cards anyway.

Speaking of hate cards, this new build will have a hard time losing to combo at all with all its permission. My new beau Spell Pierce joins a full set of Deprive s to prevent opponents from doing much while Vial deploys threats. The sideboard compliments the stack interaction with hosers.

Speed Dating

If there’s one thing Modern’s known for, it’s speed. If there’s a second? The format’s powerful creatures. Modern has always been defined by removal for the reason that creatures tend to dominate at a given top table. February introduced us to a couple creature-based newcomers.

Mardu Aristocrats, by DRANTIDERIVATIVE (5-0)

Creatures (32)
Judith, the Scourge Diva
Bloodsoaked Champion
Champion of the Parish
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Doomed Traveler
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Kitesail Freebooter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Tithe Taker

Instants (6)
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile

Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Cavern of Souls
Clifftop Retreat
Concealed Courtyard
Godless Shrine
Marsh Flats
Mountain
Mutavault
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Path to Exile
Auriok Champion
Dark Confidant
Ethersworn Canonist
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
Nearheath Pilgrim
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Wear // Tear
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First on our list is Mardu Aristocrats, which by now has scored multiple 5-0 records. David’s RNA spoiler review wondered about Judith, the Scourge Diva and Teysa Karlov in the deck, and the former seems to have revitalized it. The other new card here is Tithe Taker, an unassuming Human perhaps best known for its recent 9-0 at GP Toronto in a Soldiers deck.

Judith indeed does a lot for Aristocrats. She gives the deck access to some built-in removal with her triggered ability, punishes opponents for interacting and enables combos à la Blood Artist, and makes the strategy more proactive on the whole with her static anthem effect. Cheap beaters like Champion of the Parish and Bloodsoaked Champion look far more appealing with Judith in the picture, as they now represent serious clocks. And as is true of many white aggro decks, Aristocrats gets to run the color’s infamous hosers in the sideboard.

Gruul Vial, by GOOBYGOO (5-0)

Creatures (26)
Gruul Spellbreaker
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Scavenging Ooze
Tarmogoyf
Goblin Cratermaker
Noble Hierarch
Ghor-Clan Rampager

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Instants (7)
Lightning Bolt
Smuggler’s Copter

Lands (23)
Copperline Gorge
Dryad Arbor
Fire-Lit Thicket
Forest
Misty Rainforest
Mountain
Raging Ravine
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Cindervines
Crumble to Dust
Dismember
Flame Slash
Grim Lavamancer
Magus of the Moon
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Gruul Vial is another novel aggro deck with multiple placings. This deck uses Vial not for tricks, but purely for mana, helping pilots empty their grip as soon as possible. Eidolon of the Great Revel and Scavenging Ooze provide incidental disruption, while Tarmogoyf (6/7 here thanks to Smuggler’s Copter discarding funky card types) brings the beats.

Also bringing beats is Gruul Spellbreaker, subbing in for the too-expensive Bloodbraid Elf. While the card underwhelmed many Modern players during spoiler season (me included), its versatility is proving potent in practice; Spellbreaker has even shown up in the little-seen GR Eldrazi. Against Bolt decks, Spellbreaker is another hard-to-kill threat, and it eats unprotected planeswalkers no-questions-asked thanks to its hexproof clause. Forcing Path to Exile during an opponent’s main phase also seems decent.

On the utility end of things, Duskwatch Recruiter keeps the cards flowing against anyone trying to one-for-one the deck, teaming up with Copter for a slow-and-steady filtering engine. And Goblin Cratermaker makes its Modern debut, hopefully destroying anything from Chalice of the Void to Pteramander to Thought-Knot Seer. I’d love to pick the pilot’s brain about the roles this card plays in the deck.

Poly Wanna Cracker

Why love one when you could love two? Or… three?! That’s what these engine-courters asked themselves this Valentine’s Day, coming up with some impressive Frankenstein decks in the process.

Arclight Goryo's, by MANMOL (5-0)

Creatures (11)
Arclight Phoenix
Griselbrand
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Thing in the Ice

Instants (20)
Goryo’s Vengeance
Izzet Charm
Lightning Axe
Lightning Bolt
Manamorphose
Noxious Revival
Thought Scour

Sorceries (11)
Faithless Looting
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand

Lands (18)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Island
Mountain
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Island
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Thing in the Ice
Abrade
Anger of the Gods
Crackling Drake
Dispel
Engineered Explosives
Surgical Extraction
Threads of Disloyalty
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Arclight Goryo’s takes the Goryo’s Vengeance combo (in its original form here, exactly one year ago) and… doesn’t go all-in on it. What Modern player goes all-in anymore? These days, successful decks attack from multiple angles. MANMOL decided to make his second angle of attack the most winning angle in the format: Arclight Phoenix.

Of course, both Phoenix and Vengeance utilize the same resource: the graveyard. And there’s plenty of hate for that running around, too. Fortunately, the sideboard works to offset this pitfall, with enough copies of Thing in the Ice to be running the full 4 against creature decks and practically a playset of Crackling Drake to laugh at any Rest in Peaces. With Thing being so popular in Modern, Threads of Disloyalty also seems like promising tech.

Hollow Shadow Vine, by AXEL_FOLEY (5-0)

Creature (29) (29)
Death’s Shadow
Hollow One
Insolent Neonate
Street Wraith
Vengevine
Flameblade Adept
Goblin Bushwhacker
Gurmag Angler

Instants (4)
Lightning Bolt

Sorceries (9)
Call to the Netherworld
Cathartic Reunion
Faithless Looting

Lands (78)
Arid Mesa
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Mountain
Stomping Ground
Swamp
Wooded Foothills
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Anger of the Gods
Collective Brutality
Destructive Revelry
Fatal Push
Gut Shot
Pyroclasm
Surgical Extraction
Temur Battle Rage
Thoughtseize
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Hollow Shadow Vine seeks to right the wrongs I made with Hollow Bedlam Shadow, my own experiment in engine-mashing. Bedlam Reveler proved tough to support in my shell, but Vengevine fits right in as a more proactive plan. This deck is all about putting huge creatures into play really fast, and it runs the three beefiest free guys in Modern.

Only the most critical enablers are kept: Insolent Neonate and Cathartic Reunion, which support One and Vine, and Street Wraith, which supports One and Shadow. Greasing the wheels of course is Faithless Looting, the best enabler for this style of deck and one of the most powerful in the format. Without Goblin Lore or Burning Inquiry, Hollow One will often cost a mana, but that’s still a bargain for a 4/4.

All This Chocolate

Despite Arclight Phoenix apparently dominating the tournament scene, leafing through lists of 5-0s still evokes the whimsical joy of choosing treats out of a Whitman’s Sampler. Modern’s got plenty of variety for everyone, so take your favorite playset by the sleeves and get ready for Date Friday Night Magic!

7 thoughts on “Brew Report: Perfect Pairs

  1. I love seeing your brew reports. Keeps things fresh. I thought you might like this one Jordan https://www.mtggoldfish.com/archetype/modern-goryo-s-vengence-65872#paper
    I was hoping you would have seen it and discussed it but maybe next time. Either way it looks super spicy and I got all giddy because when Electrodominance first got spoiled my gears started turning. I just found a sticky note that I jotted down some card inclusions for a brew similar to the one I posted. It reminded me of a video I watched back in the day by LSV on “Living Twin” just jamming the Twin combo into Living End. With Cathartic Reunion/Faithless Looting/Izzet Charm filling up the yard. As Foretold lets you play Ancestral Vision and LE. Jam Kiki-Jiki, Pestermite, and some counterspells. Could it be the second coming of Living Twin?

  2. I love to see Merfolk putting up some good numbers. Any thoughts on whether or not this iteration of Fish may finally be able to swim their way out of the doldrums of obscurity and back into the mainstream?

    1. I think Biomancer is the best one-drop the deck has ever had, so that definitely helps. But I doubt Merfolk crawls out of Tier 2 anytime soon with so many similar high-performing options available (Humans, Spirits) and those decks not doing so well at the moment regardless.

    2. In my opinion merfolk is solid but it’s just… Meta dependant version of humans/spirits.

      Combo meta you want spirits
      Scalpel meta (where singular cards dominate, think deaths shadow, ad nauseum) humans is King
      In a grindier meta merfolk has the edge.

      1. I think that is a fair assessment of where fish is. We have solid, albeit grindy match-ups, against much of the top decks: Dredge, Phoenix, Tron, and Shadow are all pretty good for Merfolk.

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