Thank God it’s Friday. In other words, time for another article about everyone’s favorite transforming bug. I’ve dabbled in midrange, combo, aggro, and control, but only tempo consistently stimulates me to learn everything I can about Magic. As such, most of my Magic knowledge is tempo-based, and you can always expect me to write articles focused on tempo, both the archetype and the in-game mechanic of time and mana advantage.
A full week of testing with Day’s Undoing has led me to a few conclusions:
Day’s Undoing is still broken
I’m standing by my boldest claim from last week. Underestimate Day’s Undoing at your own peril. Not life-threatening peril; at best, you’ll be unprepared for the coming meta, and at worst, you’ll be forced to shell out much more than $60 for a playset (current preorder prices are seriously low). “Broken” means nothing without context, so I’ll provide some datapoints. At its highest representation, Treasure Cruise Delver comprised 15%-20% of the Modern metagame. Jeskai Ascendency Combo also relied on Cruise, but Wizards blamed Delver for the ban. For the purpose of this article, we’ll deem “broken” any one card that pushes a deck or archetype into representation numbers as consistently high as Treasure Cruise Delver’s.
Modern is already home to an astounding number of linear strategies. That’s all that unites Lantern Control, Burn, Infect, Tron, Affinity, Elves, Storm, Bogles, Grishoalbrand, Mill, and Amulet Bloom. Beyond their linearity, these decks have little in common, respectively attacking opponents from different angles and requiring specific cards to hate out. After Day’s Undoing becomes legal in Modern, I predict one of two potential outcomes for the format:
- One of these linear decks could rise above the others as the shell that best abuses Day’s Undoing. We saw this with Treasure Cruise – it seemed like the card was designed for Delver decks. Other strategies benefited from its inclusion, including Storm, Burn, and Willy Edel’s Siege Rhino deck, but nothing could cast Treasure Cruise and keep opponents from casting Cruise as effectively as UR Delver. By GP Omaha, Delver was practically the only deck playing Cruise, but the format felt the card’s presence strongly enough for Wizards to step in anyway.
- Undoing’s second possible fate is one already enjoyed by Collected Company. Steven Borakove won a StarCityGames 5K with Naya Company last weekend, Collected Elves won GP Charlotte, and Abzan Company decks have done well in Modern since the green Dig Through Time was printed. Undoing could follow suit, finding a home in multiple linear decks instead of skyrocketing the metagame shares of just one.
Whether one or a few decks end up abusing Day’s Undoing in Modern, the card stands to impact the format less like Company and more like Cruise. Undoing gives linear strategies an unfair layer of resilience, scarily comparable to Cruise’s, that should push most midrange and control decks deep into the realm of fringe playable for three reasons.
First, these slower decks exist because of splashy X-for-1s like Snapcaster Mage and Kolaghan’s Command. Day’s Undoing deletes any incremental advantage gained by players casting these spells by restocking both players to seven cards, however lopsided their hand size discrepancy. Second, as the format speeds up, the answers become more efficient. Undoing will certainly speed up Modern, and options like Electrolyze lose a lot of attractiveness in the face of Spell Pierce and Dispel. Third, and most importantly, none of Modern’s playable X-for-1s succeed in their ultimate goal of generating card advantage like Day’s Undoing. Three mana for seven cards is so much better than three mana for two cards that faster decks, directly affecting the board with their resources, will simply out-card decks leaning on Cryptic Command.
Big disclaimer before we continue: if the paragraphs you just read, my article from last week, and your knowledge of Modern and Magic don’t combine in some way to sell you on Day’s Undoing, we’ll have to agree to disagree for now. From this point on, the article assumes you’re with me on card evaluation. Otherwise, let’s wait until Origins hits Modern and see who eats his hat (or his Jace). I’ve been wowed enough in testing that I won’t be swayed by any theoretical arguments until we see some real results indicating the card’s shortcomings.
You Can Beat Day’s Undoing…
…and you don’t even need it yourself. In testing, I split games 60-40 in my favor against a UR Undoing Delver deck with good ol’ Monkey Grow (my GP Charlotte list, -1 Tarfire and +1 Stubborn Denial). Disrupting Shoal and Denial did tons of work in this matchup, though my Goyf did die to Forked Bolt plus Undoing a couple times. I also tried Jund and Twin against the deck and fell short. Here are some deckbuilding guidelines to help you survive the new meta:
- Play a deck that can reliably empty its hand by the time opponents reach three mana. Otherwise, the Undoing deck will drown you in card advantage. If you do play a deck like this, have a good reason not to play your own Day’s Undoings. As a general rule, Undoing decks should side the sorcery out against anyone faster than them and try to profit from their opponents casting it. Similarly, if your deck is slower than 50% of an anticipated meta, don’t play Undoings.
- Play a deck that can reliably counter Day’s Undoing by the time opponents reach three mana. Compare this plan with playing around Blood Moon. Interacting with Undoing on the stack is especially potent, since to take full advantage of the card, its caster first empties his hand. Post-counterspell, he’s left with nothing and you’re free to play spells at your leisure, but watch out for extra copies. I can see good players scrying extra Undoings to the top before casting one, since they only stay on top if Undoing fails to resolve. French-language card aficionados, rejoice: Delay has never seen Modern play, but it’s definitely the funniest answer to Day’s Undoing, since it gives you three turns to prepare for resolution and then literally Time Walks opponents.
- Attrition is a losing plan here. You don’t Thoughtseize the Treasure Cruise deck, either. If you do manage to nab an Undoing, you’ve postponed the inevitable; opponents will Serum Visions into another one and shuffle that Undoing right back into the deck to draw it again. And if you don’t, you’ve spent a turn helping Undoing players empty their hands instead of actually impacting the board.
The Best Delver: Back to Basics
Last week I suggested an untested Counter-Cat port with Silence and Day’s Undoing. In testing I found it too suicidal, so I tried progressively more straightforward approaches. Not surprisingly, the most successful Undoing Delver list I came up with is also the most linear.
UR Undoing Delver, by Jordan Boisvert
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Serum Visions
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Faithless Looting
4 Day’s Undoing
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Vapor Snag
4 Disrupting Shoal
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Blood Moon
3 Mutagenic Growth
3 Spell Snare
2 Forked Bolt
2 Pillar of Flame
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The deck’s best spell, bar none, is Disrupting Shoal. Delver’s ability to counter one- and two-drops forzero mana gives me enormous confidence that this deck will prove a real contender in a linear meta. Shoal is even huge in the mirror. I’ve long nursed a love affair with this card, playing it in Modern since the Cruise ban and eventually “breaking” it with Monkey Grow. Day’s Undoing should make Disrupting Shoal as feared in Modern as Force of Will is in Legacy, forever ending the format’s days of opponents not following their turn 1 plays with, “Okay?”
During spoiler season, Legacy players often evaluate blue cards more leniently, claiming, “You can always pitch it to Force of Will if it’s dead in hand!” This decidedly lazy line of thought has always peeved me, but the best thing about Day’s Undoing in this deck is, ironically, its blueness. When Undoing is bad for you, it’s good for them; and when it’s good for them, Disrupting Shoal trades your bad Undoing for their good one. Let me flesh that out: Undoing will only rot in hand if its owner is ahead on cards, behind on the board, or both. Casting Day’s Undoing in these predicaments is tantamount to suicide. Naturally, opponents down on cards and ahead on the board will profit enormously from a resolved Day’s Undoing. If the Delver pilot’s opponent goes for such a backbreaking play, Shoal can indeed eat the “dead” Timetwister – and, in the process, counter the Undoing that would undo him (I really like this pun), setting him up to stabilize with his hand full of Forked Bolts (or whatever). As illustrated above, countering Day’s Undoing can often prove game-winning, since it leaves card-exhausted opponents wide open for bombs.
I touched on Vapor Snag’s relevance in Undoing games last week, and Remand does something similar. I’ve advocated against non-Undoing card advantage engines since they’re just not efficient enough for the coming meta. Remand does replace itself, but in a deck as speedy as this one, it doesn’t provide anything like “card advantage;” the card it draws is spent almost immediately. Opponents rarely have moments to cast their spell again. Complimented by Day’s Undoing, Remand is essentially just a cantripping Counterspell.
Lightning Bolt combines with Swiftspear to give the deck enough “reach” for instant kills after Undoing resolutions. Forked Bolt and Pillar of Flame are sideboard answers to other linear creature decks, especially Elves and Affinity, that can easily fit into the mainboard depending on the meta. Undoing or no, I would never play Magma Spray over Pillar of Flame; reach is worth so much more than even instant-speed in a tempo deck.
Snapcaster Mage doesn’t make the cut in such a compact threat suite. Monastery Swiftspear is easily the best attacker in the deck since it comes out swinging every time, and often for 3+ damage. Young Pyromancer never sold me in the Treasure Cruise era. I wouldn’t have trouble tapping out for a Goyf since he at least resists Lightning Bolt, but I couldn’t bring myself to play a two-drop that 45% of the format could answer for one mana. But Disrupting Shoal brings Pyromancer over the top. Shoaling the Bolt sets us up to untap with him and promptly take the game. The board advantage he creates after sticking around for one turn is extremely difficult for even other dump-your-hand decks to overcome, especially as they battle with Remand and Vapor Snag, which generate even more tokens.
Sometimes, Undoing “bricks,” drawing us 6 lands and a Remand. Faithless Looting shines in these situations, fixing bad draws while growing our threats. Magmatic Insight might be better here (more on this card below), but I like that Looting can dig for lands in a pinch, throw away extra copies of Undoing, and grow Swiftspear/make an Elemental token from the Graveyard.
18 lands is plenty for this curve, but we want a healthy amount. Lands are cards we can play for free, and making our drops up to the third or fourth turn maximizes Day’s Undoing. We also want to commit to the board as quickly as possible, which means spending early mana on threats, and not on cantrips. Undoing gets much better when we’ve established a positive board presence, and having a team of beaters also prevents opponents from casting their own Undoing. I’m counting on Looting to dump lands after Undoing resolves. It flashbacks easily in these cases, since we’ve made over 4 land drops by then.
Sideboarding UR Undoing Delver
Shatterstorm: Better than Vandalblast since it can remove a Chalice, though I’ll admit it doesn’t answer that permanent very elegantly. There’s always Shoal and Snare. But Shatterstorm does seem like the best Affinity hoser, forcing that deck to recreate most of its board instead of developing it further with every Undoing.
Other Magic Origins Playables
Day’s Undoing takes the cake as the best card in Origins, but the set offers plenty more to Modern players. Many of these cards won’t see play in an Undoing meta, but assuming an incoming ban, I bet each could find a place in the format. Nothing wrong with a little optimism.
Magmatic Insight: The second-best card in Origins. I’m a big Faithless Looting proponent. Without Ponder and Preordain, the best way to achieve consistency in Modern is through redundancy. But nobody wants to draw three Blood Moons. Or a bunch of extra lands. Unlike blue cantrips, Insight specifically caters to decks with higher land counts. This card may make a splash even in Legacy and should become a defining fixing tool in Modern.
Thopter Spy Network: A hard-to-remove late-game engine à la Outpost Siege or Keranos, God of Storms. Putting Bitterblossom and Coastal Piracy on one card probably justifies the steep cost, at least as a sideboard plan for blue midrange decks. Especially interesting in grindy decks without red.
Hangerback Walker: Underwhelming at first glance, but the Walker “stores” Arcbound Ravager counters and even spreads them across the board as bodies for Signal Pest and artifacts for Cranial Plating. A fine topdeck for Affinity decks with four lands in play, especially against attrition decks which can’t profitably remove it.
Hallowed Moonlight: Since everyone hates Surgical Extraction so much, Moonlight might see play as an answer to Goryo’s Vengeance. It also denies Collected Company, Through the Breach, Rally the Ancestors, and persist creatures. A body might be better, but cantripping never hurts.
Harbinger of Tides: Merfolk staple that punishes anyone trying to race, i.e. everyone, since the Folk have islandwalk. Playable even without the Flash clause.
Goblin Piledriver: Modern Goblins lacks the mana-denial package of Wasteland and Rishadan Port, but Origins at least releases the Legacy deck’s toughest beater into the card pool. More on Goblins below.
Shaman of the Pack: A very aggressively costed body that lets Collected Elves win instantly. Shaman even comes into play off Collected Company, and is worlds easier to Chord for than Craterhoof Behemoth.
Send to Sleep: An efficient card for low-to-the-ground tempo decks without hard removal. Probably sideboard material for UR/RUG Delver decks against aggro fields.
Nissa, Vastwood Seeker / Nissa, Sage Animist: Nissa offers Scapeshift the same “Does he have it?” sideboard-guessing-game plan that’s served so many Modern strategies. Batterskull, Baneslayer Angel, and Blood Moon have all posed these questions before in control and midrange decks. Nobody wants to keep their Bolts in against Scapeshift… but they do now.
Pyromancer’s Goggles: What exactly does this copy? Even in Skred Red, Modern’s only Big Red deck? A Lightning Bolt? On the off chance that Goggles casts something cool, like a Magmatic Insight, I’d still rather it just be another high-impact threat (e.g. Koth of the Hammer) than a usually-does-nothing mana rock.
Artificer’s Inginuity: “Pure control” players have always clamored for an Instant-speed Divination (Esper Charm in non-Esper colors). Here it is, but with a bit of a hoop. In decks that can meet the requirement, Thirst for Knowledge is just better.
Brew of the Week: Undoing Goblins
I brew about 40 decks a month, and one that looks interesting is a UR Goblins deck running on Aether Vial and Day’s Undoing. The Day’s Undoing strategies I think will do best in the coming meta have some way to immediately win the game after drawing seven cards, and burning opponents out is as reasonable a proposition as it is traditional. Giving haste to your sizeable team work too, and UR Goblins does both. This shell also gives us a way to dump our hands quickly via Vial and an optimized creature curve (eight one-drops, eight two-drops, eight three-drops), synergistic lords like Goblin Piledriver, Bushwhacker, and Chieftain, a threat that wins games on his own, a creature that sets the bar for aggressive one-drops, and two sets of high-power burn spells, including the devastating Goblin Grenade. Goblins has historically run out of steam in Modern before it kills its opponent, and Day’s Undoing might be the shot in the arm the archetype needs to reach competitive status. Blue also shores up the strategy’s weaknesses with sideboard countermagic to hose its natural predators: combo decks that ignore an onslaught of little red monsters and fire off a kill just a turn shy of losing themselves.
UR Undoing Goblins, by Jordan Boisvert
4 Goblin Guide
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Mogg War Marshall
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Chieftain
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Day’ Undoing
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Aether Vial
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
3 Blood Moon
2 Rending Volley
4 Searing Blaze
2 Forked Bolt
3 Unified Will
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Wizards has done a fantastic job breathing life into Modern with its past few expansions. Here’s to hoping our format retains some semblance of diversity under the glare of Day’s Undoing.