Unlikely Artifacts: This Week’s Hot Tech

While I’ve been durdling around writing theory pieces on phases, Modern has been chugging right along… with a vengeance. The last week alone has showcased so much piping-hot technology I had to split this article down the middle while writing it. Today, we’ll take a look at six of the most exciting decks to emerge (or resurface) since Dominaria‘s sanctioning.

A Mox Is a Mox

Mox Amber has rightfully found itself the center of much debate among Modern pundits—after all, it is a Mox. And if any non-Vintage format is defined by access to fast mana, it’s this one.

In my own article on the card, I asserted that Mox Amber would see Modern play, but expressed doubts about how quickly; I felt too few powerful, cheap legends existed for pilots to make the most of the card, and assumed Amber would make the biggest splash in combo decks that could use the ramp. In other words, I mostly discounted the murmurings of a Boros-colored aggro shell featuring the card, figuring people’s minds prematurely jumped to the color combination for its wealth of cheap legends without remembering that Modern creatures have to actually be playable. It turns out the bar for creature playability drops drastically when the payoff is including a Mox, something I maybe should have known from slinging Eldrazi Temple.

Strike While the Bell is Hot

This first deck employs a host of white and red one-drop legends to turn on its four Ambers right away, letting it ramp into Goblin Rabblemaster and Hazoret the Fervent a turn early.

Boros Legends, by AKMID (5-0)

Creatures (27)
Zurgo Bellstriker
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Figure of Destiny
Grim Lavamancer
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Goblin Rabblemaster
Hazoret the Fervent
Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Artifacts (6)
Mox Amber
Smuggler’s Copter

Instants (7)
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Dismember

Lands (20)
Arid Mesa
Marsh Flats
Windswept Heath
Flooded Strand
Sacred Foundry
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Plains
Sideboard (15)
Blood Moon
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Chained to the Rocks
Dusk // Dawn
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Rest in Peace
Shattering Spree
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This deck plays enough one-drops to ensure an active Amber on turn two, and boasts multiple payoffs for achieving such a game state. That’s the kind of focus I look for in new Modern decks. It’s also compact enough to run some of the format’s better interactive cards, including a set of Lightning Bolt, and makes great use of Smuggler’s Copter—the deck’s weaker creatures can at least crew the ship, which chews through redundant legends (especially Amber itself).

Out of the sideboard, Boros has access to Blood Moon and Rest in Peace, two of Modern’s nastiest hosers. Moon seems especially good with Amber, which accelerates into the costly enchantment.

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Mox Amber also showed up this week in a mono-white aggro deck. Death & Taxes has been a part of the scene for some time now, enjoying a sort of renaissance after Brian Coval decimated a field of Eldrazi Tron and Grixis Shadow at the SCG Invitational last summer. A strategy already mana-hungry enough to warrant a set of Aether Vial, Taxes seems like a great fit for the new Mox.

Death & Taxes, by SPIDERSPACE (5-0)

Creatures (27)
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Dauntless Bodyguard
Leonin Arbiter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Flickerwisp
Fiend Hunter
Eldrazi Displacer
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Brimaz, King of Oreskos
Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Artifacts (9)
Aether Vial
Mox Amber
Smuggler’s Copter

Instants (4)
Path to Exile

Lands (20)
Horizon Canopy
Ghost Quarter
Field of Ruin
Eiganjo Castle
Tectonic Edge
Plains
Sideboard (15)
Fiend Hunter
Blessed Alliance
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Kataki, War’s Wage
Ratchet Bomb
Rest in Peace
Settle the Wreckage
Sunlance
Worship
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

Death & Taxes shines brightest when its lands are free to attack the opposing manabases as Aether Vial keeps the hits coming. Should Aether Vial die, the deck sometimes struggles to disrupt and pressure opponents adequately. Mox Amber partly addresses this issue as another producer of extra mana, granting the deck some much-needed redundancy by filling a slot sometimes plugged by Noble Hierarch in GW builds.

To accomodate the Mox, Death & Taxes must swing more aggro, which isn’t necessarily so bad in Modern. In practice, that means one-mana, two-power creatures abound in this list. I like moving to 4 Kytheon here (from 3 in Boros Legends); it’s an obvious removal target and the strongest legend at this price point, so occasionally drawing multiples doesn’t hurt too bad. And while Death & Taxes generally prefers creatures that mesh with its goals, the one-mana beaters still enable that plan by again crewing Smuggler’s Copter, which digs into the right pieces.

These white aggro decks seem like fine starting points for Mox Amber, and I can’t wait to see the card enable other aggro decks as we receive more cheap legends. Decks in this vein have always been a tad fair for Modern, and I’m happy they’re getting the tools they need to level up.

It’s a Bomat World

Bomat Courier has gently impacted Modern in a couple ways since its release, first inhabiting a short-lived Affinity shell and then helming the newest banned-in-Standard deck to rear its head here, Bomat (formerly Ramunap) Red. But Courier’s not finished—the card continues to show up in winning lists.

Soul Survivor

Andreas Schulte’s “Soulflayer Surprise,” from GP Lyon a few months ago, isn’t much of a surprise anymore. But Bomat Courier has found its way into the deck, and looks to be there to stay. This new build uses Courier to dig into combo pieces, discard fatties, and give Souflayer haste—all while incentivizing opponents to keep in their cheap removal after siding, which further improves the deck’s namesake card.

Soulflayer Surprise, by YUSEIMAX (5-0)

Creatures (27)
Soulflayer
Sylvan Caryatid
Bomat Courier
Lotleth Troll
Hazoret the Fervent
Samut, Voice of Dissent
Chromanticore
Drogskol Reaver
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Instants (5)
Grisly Salvage
Lightning Axe

Sorceries (9)
Faithless Looting
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Collective Brutality

Lands (19)
Bloodstained Mire
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills
Blooming Marsh
Cavern of Souls
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Blood Crypt
Forest
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Ancient Grudge
Damping Sphere
Maelstrom Pulse
Thoughtseize
Thrun, the Last Troll
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Adding Courier to the rock-solid consistency package of Faithless Looting and Traverse the Ulvenwald gives Soulflayer a frightening amount of velocity for a Jund-colored combo deck, and increases the odds of seeing sideboard bullets like those shiny new Damping Spheres.

No New Friends

Another old deck to receive the Bomat treatment is 8-Whack, an aggressive tribal deck that makes big attacks with Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker before using Goblin Grenade to close out games. While Courier isn’t a Goblin itself, it meshes well with the deck’s gameplan of dumping its hand as fast as possible, and gives 8-Whack some mid-game staying power. The same can’t be said of Dominaria‘s freshly-sanctioned actual Goblins, which fail to make the cut here.

8-Whack, by MAGIC_AIDS (5-0)

Creatures (31)
Legion Loyalist
Goblin Guide
Mogg Fanatic
Fanatical Firebrand
Goblin Bushwhacker
Bomat Courier
Burning-Tree Emissary
Reckless Bushwhacker
Simian Spirit Guide

Enchantments (4)
The Flame of Keld

Instants (4)
Lightning Bolt

Sorceries (4)
Goblin Grenade

Lands (17)
Arid Mesa
Scalding Tarn
Bloodstained Mire
Stomping Ground
Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Atarka’s Command
Damping Sphere
Destructive Revelry
Forked Bolt
Grafdigger’s Cage
Searing Blood
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

When it comes to staying power, Courier gets a hand from The Flame of Keld, a Dominaria newcomer that slots in here at 4. In my Dominaria spoiler review, I expressed mixed feelings about the card in Burn, its obvious does-it-go-here deck; Burn wants a critical mass of cards that do the same thing, and Flame does something else. But the enchantment seems right at home in 8-Whack, where it gasses pilots back up on resources after they commit to the board. In this slower metagame, boasting cheap avenues to card advantage is a huge boon for such all-in strategies.

Architects of Goodstuff

Last on the agenda are a couple decks wielding Architects of Will, ex-Living End staple and delirium-enabler extraordinaire. Unlike the card’s initial home, these decks are strictly fair, and use Architects to pump up Traverse the Ulvenwald.

Slow and Steady

Traverse Shadow’s no longer a breakout deck by any means, but it’s certainly one that keeps up with the times. This Shadow deck lacks the late-game power of Snapcaster Mage, seemingly making it preferable for faster metagames; while players have traditionally adjusted for this quirk with a white splash for Lingering Souls and Ranger of Eos, ANEMU’s build tweaks the deck’s very core to make it slower and steadier.

Traverse Shadow, by ANEMU (5-0)

Creatures (16)
Tarmogoyf
Death’s Shadow
Street Wraith
Architects of Will
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Grim Flayer

Artifacts (2)
Mishra’s Bauble

Instants (13)
Fatal Push
Tarfire
Dismember
Cast Down
Stubborn Denial
Temur Battle Rage

Sorceries (12)
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek
Maelstrom Pulse

Lands (17)
Polluted Delta
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Overgrown Tomb
Blood Crypt
Watery Grave
Steam Vents
Forest
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Stubborn Denial
Abrade
Anger of the Gods
Ceremonious Rejection
Collective Brutality
Delay
Izzet Staticaster
Nihil Spellbomb
Radiant Flames
Snapcaster Mage
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

Architects of Will replaces 2 Mishra’s Bauble in this build, a stark departure from what we’ve known to be standard fare for Traverse Shadow since the deck burst onto the scene a year ago. This build isn’t looking to turn on delirium so quickly, instead valuing the additional card types Architects provides on its own.

ANEMU also includes a Dominaria card in his mainboard: Cast Down. In hindsight (20/20 as always), I’m not sure how this card was able to fly under the radar; it’s clearly one of the least restrictive “Doom Blades” we’ve gotten so far, and I understand including it over the color-hungry Terminate here. Also removal-related, ANEMU splits Fatal Push with Dismember, a choice that works well with Tarfire. With both Shadow and Goyf feeling their fittest, Temur Battle Rage improves dramatically.

Return to Castlevania

I’m no stranger to four-color Delver decks, nor to thresh shells in this color combination. But KIIIITTYMAN’s BURG Delver still had me doing double-takes.

BURG Delver, by KIIIITTYMAN (5-0)

Creatures (16)
Delver of Secrets
Grim Flayer
Young Pyromancer
Bedlam Reveler
Architects of Will

Instants (19)
Lightning Bolt
Fatal Push
Tarfire
Terminate
Deprive
Countersquall
Spell Pierce
Thought Scour

Sorceries (8)
Serum Visions
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Claim // Fame
Rise // Fall

Lands (17)
Misty Rainforest
Wooded Foothills
Overgrown Tomb
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Breeding Pool
Forest
Island
Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Countersquall
Terminate
Ancient Grudge
Disdainful Stroke
Duress
Feed the Clan
Izzet Staticaster
Natural State
Pyroclasm
Ravenous Trap
Buy deck on Cardhoarder (MTGO)Buy deck on TCGPlayer (Paper)

There are some things I understand about this deck, and some I don’t. Bedlam over Snapcaster for card advantage, letting us play the blue-heavy Deprive instead of Mana Leak? Sure. Flayer over Goyf, so as not to over-rely on the graveyard? Makes sense. All those color-hungry black spells over their isn’t-this-as-good analogs in a 17-land deck that stretches unflinchingly into four colors? Lost me.

There’s still enough savvy deckbuilding here to tempt me into taking BURG Delver for a spin. For instance, Architects of Will does more than Bauble for the in-deck card economy—Delver of Secrets requires a critical mass of instant and sorceries, and Will offers double the card types for the same number of slots. And I love side-stepping graveyard hate and Blood Moon at once with the full set of Young Pyromancer.

The Never-Ending Format

And so ends our partial journey through a week of attention-grabbing 5-0s. Do you think these decks have legs, or are they flashes in the pan? Have you noticed any great brews running around that I’ve missed? Drop me a line in the comments, and I’ll respond—that is, if I can manage to tear myself away from playing this impossibly diverse format!

Jordan is the copy and content editor at Modern Nexus. He has played Magic since 2003, and Modern since its inception. Jordan favors card efficiency over raw power and specializes in disruptive aggro strategies. He always bringing tuned brews to events.

4 thoughts on “Unlikely Artifacts: This Week’s Hot Tech

  1. Hey Jordan’

    I am Kiiiittyman on mtgo, thanks for talking about the list, even given its roughness atm!

    Architect is good tech indeed, there is a good number of great interactions woth delirium (obv), but also with flayer, as you can instant speed daw what you left on top, which is often a great play.

    I am glad you noticed the list, and to be honest it’s super inspired by your own delver lists 😉 the no (or almost no) snaps tresh style list you have been playing for years are imo the best (exept during the khans era) way to play delver in modern.

    This list is actually derivated from my take on burg shadow, which was basically ripped off from one lf your articles!

    So thanks 😉

  2. Hi Jordan, which Eldrazi flavor (Bant Eldrazi, Eldratron, Eldrazi Stompy, RG Eldrazi) do you think is more favorable in the current modern metagame? I leaning towards Bant Eldrazi mainly because of Path+EE on main deck and good all-around sideboard package to beat other Tiers right now.

    What’s your thoughts?

    1. I think RG’s matchups are too polarized for it to sustain favor in Modern for too long (big creatures good; everything else eh), and Bant has too many consistency issues for my tastes (lose dorks lose; wrong colors lose; bad curve lose). So personally I’d go with Eldrazi Stompy, although that should come as no surprise!

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