Since Modern’s inception, converge decks have periodically been attempted, modified, dropped, and eventually forgotten. While the mechanic has just recently been named, we all know converge is basically a rehash of domain/sunburst, and Modern is no stranger to strategies looking to take advantage of excellent fixing to support powerful spells in multiple colors.
With Battle for Zendikar introducing more potential love for multi-colored strategies in the form of Battle Lands and converge, will these greed monsters finally be able to jump out of the shadows and into the spotlight? Let’s find out!
The Case for Multi-Color
The Modern environment is often defined by complex strategies that require specific answers. Affinity is best answered by Stony Silence, combo is best answered by discard, on and on. Sure, other answers exist (on-color artifact hate, narrow combo-specific answers) that don’t require splashing, but often the power gained by the splash is “worth it” when compared to the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost, for those wondering, is a classic economics principle that basically means “what you give up in exchange for something else”. Rarely is anything in life totally free (except this free philosophy lesson!) so looking at opportunity cost gives us a more complete picture of the value/worth/trade-offs of a certain set of decisions. With this in mind, let’s briefly go over the opportunity costs of splashing in Modern.
On one hand, easy and consistent mana is made possible through shocklands and fetchlands, which combine to support everything from three color decks with splashes to full-on four/five color monstrosities like Loam and Tribal Zoo. The infrastructure to support splashing has always been there (fetches and shocks), and the payoffs have historically been worth it as well. Jund splashing Lingering Souls, Twin splashing Ancient Grudge/Tarmogoyf, Burn splashing anything; if you want it, in Modern you can probably get it. This lets you just play the most powerful cards available without the need for internal synergy or a combo kill, a benefit I will talk about more shortly. Why focus on protecting a Deceiver Exarch when every single card you play is just more powerful than your opponent?
On the other hand, there have been a few factors keeping wild mana in check, primarily Burn, discard, Spreading Seas, Blood Moon, and Tectonic Edge. Cards like this, coupled with Modern’s speed severely punish clunky mana. While it may be “easy” to stretch to that fourth or fifth color, Modern as a format is largely defined by mana-efficiency and tempo. This means that the life loss from fetching and shocking dual lands and the mana inefficiency resulting from clunky draws can also be a liability. In a format as fast and punishing as Modern, the ability to just cast spells on time is often better than playing a wide array of powerful cards across multiple colors. All of these negatives are just the inherent nature of playing spells that require multiple colors of mana to cast. Once you factor in all of the ways available in Modern to actively punish greedy manabases (Blood Moon, Spreading Seas, Burn taking advantage of incidental fetch/shock damage) you can see why, historically, decks that “could” splash have chosen not to.
All of this background discussion is here to give context to what we have seen, and what we can expect moving forward. For those that have been reading my column for the past few months, you might have heard me mention “context” a few times. I’ve become thoroughly convinced that context is the single most important factor that goes into determining everything we see, from decklists to sideboards to tournament winning lists to archetype tier changes and everything in between. What I naively used to just refer to as “the metagame” has, in my mind, evolved into an understanding of an ever-changing amalgamation of variables, manipulating factors and relationships that all combine to form this notion of “context”, which in turn manipulates and guides the results we see every weekend. I could probably write a whole article on this topic (and maybe I will), but for now, what I’m trying to say is read my words, because I think they are important!
Living the Dream
There have been many multi- and even five color lists in Magic’s history but in my mind this is the definitive list and the dream that any other five-color list is trying to achieve.
Five Color Control, Gabriel Nassif (1st - Pro Tour Kyoto 2009)
3 Broodmate Dragon
3 Wall of Reverence
4 Broken Ambitions
4 Volcanic Fallout
4 Cryptic Command
1 Celestial Purge
4 Esper Charm
2 Cruel Ultimatum
1 Pithing Needle
2 Exotic Orchard
2 Cascade Bluffs
4 Sunken Ruins
1 Mystic Gate
2 Vivid Meadow
2 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Creek
3 Vivid Marsh
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Celestial Purge
4 Scepter of Fugue
2 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
1 Remove Soul
2 Wrath of God
|Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)|
The epitome of greed, value, #yolo, and everything that is cool about Magic, Pro Tour Kyoto 2009 demonstrated that good things come to those that refuse to settle. Or, you know, play Reflecting Pool alongside Vivid Marsh. It is an absurd pile of all the best cards available streamlined and tuned by a master. It simply played the best answers, the best card drawing, and the best win conditions and crushed the opponent under its raw power, never seeming to stumble from awkward draws or poor mana. Gabriel Nassif took this monstrosity of a deck to victory against Luis-Scott Vargas and his BW Tokens, demonstrating the power of color pie domination and the benefits of playing ALL the good cards. Wizards definitely took notice, and we haven’t seen much love for 4+ color strategies since, but Battle for Zendikar could change all of that.
Bring to Light
I bring this up because one Battle for Zendikar card has been on my mind since it was first spoiled. Even though I was not too impressed by Battle for Zendikar in general, I have been impressed by a few cards and am willing to try them out. Are they good? I don’t know, but we’ll never find out unless we try them, and Bring to Light has the potential to be a powerful new addition to multi-color strategies in Modern. A cursory look suggests that it will have a home in many decks, be they value-oriented Gifts Ungiven decks or combo-focused strategies like Scapeshift. A five-mana tutor for any spell in our deck (assuming it costs 5 or less and we don’t mind casting it sorcery speed and you paid all the colors of the rainbow for it), the potential uses for Bring to Light are endless. Since we talked about LSV’s heartbreaking loss earlier, it’s only fair that we let him redeem himself, and luckily for us he’s already brewed up a sweet Bring to Light list we can use as a starting point.
Bring the Gifts, Luis Scott Vargas
Normally I find issue with some small element of any list I find, and my own deckbuilding style is often slightly quirky or slanted enough that I end up just playing my own lists, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t change a single card here, at least for Day 1 (it’s an LSV list, so this is probably correct). In this deck, Bring to Light functions as combo-tutor, value card, silver bullet, and even red herring. Against countermagic, Bring to Light functions as extra copies of whatever bullet we’re looking to search up, which can soak up counterspells until we can force through an Unburial Rites on Iona, Shield of Emeria or some other such awesome play. Four Color Gifts decks have often been hindered by inconsistency once they have to dilute their gameplan to fight hate/interact with opponents, and Bring to Light seems like it will be an excellent fit for strategies like this. I can’t wait to stream this deck! Or my own version!
Bring to Light Scapeshift, Trevor Holmes
This list is almost assuredly wrong, but it serves to illustrate my main point (well, two of my points): (1) Don’t be afraid to make horrible decks, and (2) Be willing to explore all options. This list also raises a bunch of questions. Do we want to have access to five cards to search up Thragtusk? Should we just be playing an Obstinate Baloth maindeck? Do we want to stick to three colors and just splash one off-color dual to search up Scapeshift? Should we splash black or white? Should Bring to Light even go in Scapeshift?
I feel like the answer to that last one is yes, as we can pretty much cut down to one Scapeshift if we wanted (though two seems to be a safer number). Removing those awkward copies of Scapeshift that used to kill us (as we were clobbered to death with a do-nothing combo piece in hand) in exchange for Bring to Light that could get a potential Thragtusk or sweeper seems like an excellent upgrade, and I’m excited for all the possibilities that Bring to Light can bring to the archetype. It also fixes the traditional weakness of Scapeshift where it just died unless it found its namesake. While we need to stick to at least 9 Mountains (preferably 10+) it’s possible that the archetype no longer wants to be base blue, instead moving to base black (with discard and removal) and just enough blue for Bring to Light. This type of list could beat down with Tarmogoyf and look very “Jund” but with a combo-kill at the top end. I’m definitely looking forward to experimenting with this deck too!
Scapeshift and Four-Color Gifts are just the first two places to start with Bring to Light in Modern. Five-Color control (Cruel Ultimatum anybody?) and many more wacky combo decks exist out in the shadows (Quicken and Day’s Undoing to go along with Bring to Light at instant speed?), just waiting to be discovered. Alongside the Battle Lands, it’s quite possible that converge strategies in Modern are on the cusp of a breakout, and as long as these decks come prepared for Burn and hate, we could see some new players on the field this weekend. Thanks for reading, and let me know if the comments if you’ve got a sweet Bring to Light brew!
The_Architect on MTGO
Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!