Feb ’20 Brew Report: Together Forever

Happy Valentine’s Day, Nexus readers! While I know this holiday can be a controversial one, today I’ll invite you to set aside your differences (or crippling loneliness, or whatever) and join me in celebrating the strong bonds between some of the most eligible decks of the year. As Modern again finds its footing, the format is playing home to a myriad of novel strategies and neat twists on old favorites. Behold, the betrothed!

Does Every Rose Have Its Thorn?

Bant Stoneblade is one of the unlikely winners after Modern’s recent shakeups, its niche opened up now that Simic Urza no longer executes its overarching midrange gameplan more effectively and reliably.

Bant Stoneblade, SWARM_OF_MATS (4-1, Modern Preliminary #12081600)

Creatures (11)
Ice-Fang Coatl
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Planeswalkers (5)
Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Time Raveler

Artifacts (6)
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Batterskull
Sword of Feast and Famine

Instants (13)
Archmage’s Charm
Cryptic Command
Force of Negation
Mana Leak
Path to Exile
Spell Snare

Sorceries (2)
Supreme Verdict

Lands (23)
Breeding Pool
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Sanctuary
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains
Steam Vents
Temple Garden
Sideboard (15)
Ashiok, Dream Render
Blood Moon
Disdainful Stroke
Kor Firewalker
Mystical Dispute
Rest in Peace
Timely Reinforcements
Veil of Summer
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This build seems to be where most players are settling, with namesake Stoneforge Mystic the proverbial “thorn” in an otherwise unremarkable Bant midrange deck. Ice-Fang Coatl is a flexible role-player enabled by Arcum’s Astrolabe, able to trade with menacing threats while cantripping or just carry a Sword to victory itself. And since Astrolabe makes the mana so good, palpitation-inducing packages like Blood Moon are available from the sideboard.

Bant Bladeless, SOULSTRONG (3-2, Modern Preliminary #12081619)

Creatures (9)
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Ice-Fang Coatl
Snapcaster Mage

Planeswalkers (5)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Time Raveler

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Instants (15)
Cryptic Command
Force of Negation
Mana Leak
Opt
Path to Exile

Sorceries (3)
Supreme Verdict
Timely Reinforcements

Lands (24)
Breeding Pool
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Sanctuary
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains
Steam Vents
Temple Garden
Sideboard (15)
Timely Reinforcements
Ashiok, Dream Render
Blood Moon
Celestial Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Kor Firewalker
Mystical Dispute
Rest in Peace
Veil of Summer
Wrath of God
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And here’s the same deck, minus the Stoneforge! SOULSTRONG told himself the Ice-Fangs and Astrolabes were great, but was less impressed by the deck’s corest component. So in come extra copies of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. 6/6 is no joke in Modern, and plenty of decks this month have discovered that the slightly overpriced front-side of this Titan is well worth the Big Late-Game Energy it furnishes down the road. We haven’t seen the last of this primordial cupid….

Confection Collection

Collected Company has long been paired with another instant or sorcery in a deck otherwise stocked full of creatures—Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, and others have all seen their day. As players’ love for the four-drop seems to know no bounds, today we’ll welcome a couple of its newer mistresses into the fold.

Once Collected, XAKX47X (3-2, Modern Preliminary #12081600)

Creatures (32)
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Birds of Paradise
Giver of Runes
Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Kitchen Finks
Noble Hierarch
Ranger-Captain of Eos
Spike Feeder
Viscera Seer
Walking Ballista

Instants (8)
Collected Company
Once Upon a Time

Lands (20)
Forest
Godless Shrine
Horizon Canopy
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Plains
Razorverge Thicket
Temple Garden
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Auriok Champion
Damping Sphere
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Mirran Crusader
Path to Exile
Thoughtseize
Veil of Summer
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Once Collected, Forever Protected, as the saying goes. XAKX47X took this just-invented expression to heart, complimenting his trusty set of Companies with the cantrip that’s got every faithful Modern die-hard gazing after it longingly as the dallying dude from that meme, including yours truly. Once ensures early-game curves loaded up with the right mix of mana dorks and payoffs, a balance now supremely tweak-able depending on the opponent—in postboard games against Jund, for instance, pilots can dig for extra dorks to replace the first one, which is almost certainly dead on arrival, or just Giver of Runes, a one-mana handful for any spot-removal deck.

Collected Blink, ANTOINE57437 (1st, Modern Challenge #ANTOINE57437)

Creatures (27)
Charming Prince
Eternal Witness
Fiend Hunter
Flickerwisp
Giver of Runes
Kitesail Freebooter
Knight of the Reliquary
Scavenging Ooze
Tidehollow Sculler
Wall of Omens
Wasteland Strangler

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Instants (9)
Collected Company
Ephemerate
Once Upon a Time

Lands (20)
Bojuka Bog
Field of Ruin
Godless Shrine
Horizon Canopy
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Razorverge Thicket
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp
Temple Garden
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Auriok Champion
Aven Mindcensor
Collector Ouphe
Eldritch Evolution
Gaddock Teeg
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Phyrexian Revoker
Plague Engineer
Sin Collector
Veil of Summer
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Modern Challenge winner ANTOINE57437 skipped over Once in favor of Ephemerate in Collected Blink. Well, not entirely; the card may well be too good not to include, as evinced by the single copy that did make the cut! More of a Blink deck that splashes Company, Collected Blink features the usual Blink suspects, including the Wasteland Strangler and Tidehollow Sculler package and a staple, recurring Black Lotus effect in Aether Vial. Even when it’s scooping up the deck’s one- and two-drops, Collected Company finds plenty of high-value targets in this build, including hosers like Kambal, Consul of Allocation and Gaddock Teeg after siding.

Flirting With Death

It wouldn’t be a Modern Brew Report without a couple of graveyard decks, and February is certainly delivering on that front.

Hollow Ox, KANM_H (5-0)

Creatures (23)
Flameblade Adept
Flamewake Phoenix
Goblin Bushwhacker
Hollow One
Ox of Agonas
Runaway Steam-Kin
Street Wraith

Enchantments (3)
Underworld Breach

Instants (4)
Lightning Bolt

Sorceries (11)
Burning Inquiry
Cathartic Reunion
Goblin Lore

Lands (19)
Forgotten Cave
13 Mountain
Snow-Covered Mountain
Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Blood Moon
Dragon’s Claw
Leyline of the Void
Rampaging Ferocidon
Shattering Spree
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Faithless Looting may be gone, but Hollow Ox has a plan regarding how to revitalize the neutered Hollow Phoenix decks of old. First up is Ox of Agonas, replacing Bedlam Reveler as a restocking top-end threat; Ox cares not for the type of card in the graveyard, rewarding “bad” Burning Inquiry loots and turning the card into a velocity granter extraordinaire. It’s also exactly the card pilots want in the graveyard, since that’s where it can be cast from for escape.

Fueling Ox best is Underworld Breach, a Yawgmoth’s Will of sorts for the deck’s draw power. Topdecking Breach in the mid-game lets pilots recast their Inquiries and Reunions at will, helping locate and bin Ox only to drop it in play for even more card advantage. Rampaging Ferocidon from the sideboard joins Flameblade Adept and Runaway Steam-Kin as plans that persevere in sickness, health, and through Rest in Peace.

Assault Loam, LANTEROR (28th, Modern Challenge #12086268)

Creatures (7)
Elvish Reclaimer
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (4)
Wrenn and Six

Artifacts (4)
Ensnaring Bridge

Enchantments (5)
Molten Vortex
Seismic Assault

Instants (4)
Abrade
Magmatic Sinkhole

Sorceries (6)
Anger of the Gods
Life from the Loam

Lands (30)
Arid Mesa
Blast Zone
Field of Ruin
Field of the Dead
Forest
Forgotten Cave
Ghost Quarter
Mountain
Sheltered Thicket
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Mountain
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Magmatic Sinkhole
Chandra, Awakened Inferno
Collector Ouphe
Force of Vigor
Ravenous Trap
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tireless Tracker
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Then there’s this unique take on Assault Loam, which seems cognizant of the deck’s positioning as a tad too slow to play the game it wants to in Modern. The solution? A playset of Ensnaring Bridge to slow down those faster aggro-combo strategies if not beat them outright. Sped into via Simian Spirit Guide, Bridge can stop assaults in their tracks as early as turn two. Wrenn and Six and Elvish Reclaimer are on-theme Plan B’s should opponents find ways of quelling the Assault-Loam strategy, such as with Surgical Extraction; Tireless Tracker and Chandra, Awakened Inferno also make appearances as totally new angles of attack.

The Fairly Odd Couple

The next two decks share only their quirkiness, which us high school graduates know can be more than enough to excuse a courtship.

Spark Double Skred, CHERRYXMAN (5-0)

Creatures (14)
Spark Double
Tarmogoyf
Ice-Fang Coatl
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Planeswalkers (7)
Garruk Relentless
Wrenn and Six

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Enchantments (2)
Blood Moon

Instants (12)
Lightning Bolt
Once Upon a Time
Shadow of Doubt
Skred

Sorceries (1)
Repudiate // Replicate

Lands (20)
Misty Rainforest
Prismatic Vista
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Blood Moon
Grafdigger’s Cage
Spell Snare
Tireless Tracker
Veil of Summer
Weather the Storm
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It may cost twice as much as Phantasmal Image, but Spark Double has the benefit of being able to copy planeswalkers and get around the legend rule. Although this nuance has never led to its play before, Spark Double Skred makes great use of the four-drop by flexing just how impactful it can be to have two of the same planeswalker on board ticking up or down with shared goals. Once the mana’s online, it can’t even be so bad to copy the lowly Ice-Fang Coatl, which nonetheless cantrips and leaves behind a deathly blocker for our trouble, or just fat-ass Tarmogoyf, who appears to be experiencing a resurgence this month with all the wonky card types running around.

Similarly, Tireless Tracker appears ever-popular as a boarded Plan B these days, with Veil of Summer also claiming hella spots across the board as an all-purpose answer to “your stuff” in the majority of interactive matchups.

Lazav Titans, LANNYNYNY (5-0)

Creatures (10)
Lazav, the Multifarious
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Planeswalkers (2)
Liliana of the Veil

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Instants (16)
Once Upon a Time
Assassin’s Trophy
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Stubborn Denial
Thought Scour

Sorceries (6)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize

Lands (22)
Blood Crypt
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Swamp
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Stubborn Denial
Ancient Grudge
Ashiok, Dream Render
Damping Sphere
Leyline of the Void
Lightning Axe
Mystical Dispute
Unmoored Ego
Veil of Summer
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I told you we hadn’t seen the last of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath! Both these decks run it, but neither as deliberately as Lazav Titans, whose creature suite paints a plain picture of its devious aspirations: front-end or otherwise put a Titan into the graveyard (such as with Scour, Liliana, or Lazav’s random mill), then copy it for its “cheating” price with Lazav, the Multifarious. Once Lazav is big and strong, Stubborn Denial can protect it from removal as it lays the smack down, Project Pat voice.

There’s no way to start any fairytale romance like Once Upon a Time, which naturally slots in here as a way to find Lazav or one of its Titan role models and set up the gameplan quickly. In the meantime, though, Jund’s classic discard suite of 3 Inquisition, 3 Thoughtseize, coupled with a full 4 Fatal Push, should keep enemies at bay.

Valentine’s is often a snowy holiday here in Montreal; Lazav Titan is ready for summer, though, running not a single snow synergy to go along with Arcum’s Astrolabe. Rather, the egg earns its place purely based on its color-converting capabilities, which speaks to how incredibly strong it is even as a mana filter. And in the sideboard, again with the Tracker-Veil-Moon package! Blood Moon seems mostly employed right now as a way to mess with Amulet Titan, even by color-intensive decks, although as David noted earlier this week, Ashiok, Dream Render (which too makes an appearance in the sideboard) is starting to catch on as a more deliberate Primeval Titan answer.

My Heart Still Beats On

Modern’s future has been uncertain as of late, with many potential threats to its continued existence causing players to question the format’s long-term viability. But if these lists are any indication, its pulse remains Kimye-strong. Tune in soon to find out what else won my affection this month!

7 thoughts on “Feb ’20 Brew Report: Together Forever

  1. I love how Arcum’s Astrolabe has just thrown the color pie out the window. Looking at the first two Bant decks, we have decks that have GGUU, 1UUU, and 1WWU costed 4-drops in Uro, Cryptic, and Verdict. Yet *somehow* this deck is cool with running Blood Moon in the side. Like, not only is Blood Moon not the sort of card that most decks should be able to run as their only red card, but this sort of heavy color-intensive Bant deck should be one of the decks that tends to *scoop* to Blood Moon.

    1. In fairness, Modern’s never had the best color discipline enforcement in it’s lifetime. I remember Grixis Control trying to make Cryptic Command, Liliana of the Veil, and Anger of the Gods live together happily, never mind the shenanigan’s that went down while Deathrite Shaman was legal.
      I think that Blood Moon is generally underplayed because a lot of manabases were already exceptionally greedy. It’s just taken until recently for the scope of that greed to become evident.

    2. I love that too! Interesting also that Moon is being so played despite many decks having a) snow basics to fetch and b) Astrolabes of their own. It’s no longer used to hose greedy-mana “balance” decks, as those are the ones that now pack Moon as a plan; rather, it’s for the combo decks that can’t run Moon because they lack the economy for Astrolabe or need their lands to go off.

    1. I started with that thought, but after reading both cards, I wasn’t so sure it worked that way. But I guess if Snapcaster works with Delve… that’s pretty sick!

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