March ’20 Brew Report: Bobbing for Brews

Stuck at home? No better time to play Magic Online! At least, that’s what a lot of great minds are thinking alike. Today, we’ll see what can come of such a think tank!

Midrange, in Black

Black, you say? Why, that’s the defining color of midrange! And for much of Modern’s history, you may have been right. But in 2020, Simic-based midrange decks have taken over as the midrange flavors of choice. Tarmogoyf is as potent as ever in such shells, but it’s Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath that has realigned the midrange paradigm so severely. It has seemed for the last couple months like the only black midrange deck in Modern was Jund, with Bant, Simic, and Temur decks claiming most of the archetype’s results.

So yeah, I’m personally a little excited to see Inquisition of Kozilek again!

Sultai Delirium, EXOTICHERMAN (5-0)

Creatures (13)
Grim Flayer
Tarmogoyf
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Scavenging Ooze

Artifacts (4)
Mishra’s Bauble

Planeswalkers (3)
Liliana of the Veil

Instants (9)
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Fatal Push
Stubborn Denial

Sorceries (9)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Traverse the Ulvenwald

Lands (22)
Blooming Marsh
Botanical Sanctum
Breeding Pool
Darkslick Shores
Forest
Island
Misty Rainforest
Nurturing Peatland
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Assassin’s Trophy
Ashiok, Dream Render
Choke
Collective Brutality
Collector Ouphe
Disdainful Stroke
Nihil Spellbomb
Plague Engineer
Veil of Summer
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Sultai Delirium proposes the best of both worlds, splicing the Simic Uro core into the age-old BGx shell. Traverse the Ulvenwald ensures that Uro hits when it’s supposed to, all while functionally doubling up on heavy-hitters like Goyf and Flayer and providing surgical access to Scavenging Ooze, Collector Ouphe, and Plague Engineer during a match.

Inquisition, Thoughtseize, and Denial keep the crippling Rest in Peace from resolving while answering whatever opponents might be bringing to the fray, and are joined by Brutality and Stroke post-siding for additional off-board disruption.

Another interesting tech is Choke, which might steal an edge in the Uro mirror; these rely on Snow-Covered Island, whereas Sultai Delirium is content to draw blue from fastlands. Still, Choke isn’t a totally free include. Since Uro decks tend to run Arcum’s Astrolabe, the enchantment’s role is more to slow an opponent’s mana development than to cut them off a color permanently.

Potential mirror applications aside, Choke is especially great against Tronless big-mana builds of all flavors, which have universally adopted Dryad of the Ilysian Grove—that’s with or without Primeval Titan, Amulet of Vigor, or Scapeshift. Choke makes it so players controlling a Dryad can never untap their lands!

Notably absent are two cards almost always seen alongside Uro in contemporary midrange shells: Ice-Fang Coatl and Arcum’s Astrolabe. The omission of this “snow package” bodes well for Uro’s applications outside of the decks we’ve seen it helm the most; we’ve already seen Sultai Delirium place in a Modern Preliminary since its initial 5-0 showing.

Rakdos Unearth, SOIMBA_AIRWAVE (5-0)

Creatures (17)
Rotting Regisaur
Seasoned Pyromancer
Lightning Skelemental
Dark Confidant
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Artifacts (3)
Mishra’s Bauble

Instants (6)
Fatal Push
Lightning Bolt

Sorceries (12)
Collective Brutality
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Unearth

Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Mountain
Sunbaked Canyon
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Boil
Dreadbore
Fulminator Mage
Kolaghan’s Command
Liliana of the Veil
Magus of the Moon
Nihil Spellbomb
Plague Engineer
Rakdos Charm
Vampiric Link
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Rakdos Unearth makes a case for midrange without Uro. Its secret? Splashy synergies! We saw Unearth decks explode onto the scene post-Modern Horizons, but they were more or less abandoned as better graveyard decks like Hogaak and Dredge took center stage.

Here, SOIMBA_AIRWAVE fully invests in two of the sorcery’s most potent targets, Seasoned Pyromancer and Rotting Regisaur. The former digs through the deck and dumps other targets, while Regisaur applies a ton of ground pressure and also helps put creatures into the graveyard. Collective Brutality helps get the party started without Faithless Looting here to turbo-charge the engine (and buff other decks enough that Unearth isn’t even viable in the first place).

Other players are Dark Confidant, a way to overwhelm the durdly Bant decks lacking Lightning Bolt or Fatal Push, and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, another piece borrowed from Jund to hassle midrange. Then there’s Boil in the side, a Choke analogue that beats up on Uro and Titan decks alike.

In Good Company

Okay, so we can’t have people over. At least we’ve got Collected Company to simulate the experience.

Company Humans, THEGAMEROOMPRO (5-0)

Creatures (32)
Charming Prince
Dark Confidant
Eternal Witness
Kessig Malcontents
Noble Hierarch
Phantasmal Image
Seasoned Pyromancer
Thalia’s Lieutenant

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Instants (4)
Collected Company

Lands (20)
Aether Hub
Cavern of Souls
Forest
Mana Confluence
Reflecting Pool
Unclaimed Territory
Sideboard (15)
Anafenza, the Foremost
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Knight of Autumn
Magus of the Moon
Phyrexian Revoker
Reflector Mage
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Company Humans boasts no infinite combos or mana-ramp shenanigans. It’s good, clean, Aether Vial-powered fun, making use of Company to cheat in perfectly fair creatures like damage-dealing 3/2’s. Look me in the eye and tell me you’ve never had a great time casting any of these creatures!

Collected Coralhelm, LOLLYGAGGER12 (5-0)

Creatures (29)
Knight of the Reliquary
Aven Mindcensor
Birds of Paradise
Courser of Kruphix
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Hushbringer
Noble Hierarch
Qasali Pridemage
Ramunap Excavator
Tireless Tracker

Enchantments (1)
Retreat to Coralhelm

Instants (7)
Collected Company
Path to Exile

Lands (23)
Blast Zone
Bojuka Bog
Breeding Pool
Canopy Vista
Field of the Dead
Forest
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter
Horizon Canopy
Kessig Wolf Run
Plains
Radiant Fountain
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Plains
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Collector Ouphe
Damping Sphere
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Leyline of Sanctity
Leyline of the Void
Pithing Needle
Prowling Serpopard
Settle the Wreckage
Spellskite
Stony Silence
Torpor Orb
Veil of Summer
Weather the Storm
Worship
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This take on Collected Coralhelm runs Dryad of the Ilysian Grove itself, acknowledging the card’s potency alongside the old Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm combo. The interaction also works fairly, dealing lethal over a matter of turns, but the enchantment accelerates the process. Of note, Dryad can’t be found with Company, making this build seem somewhat clunky.

The Dregs

Before we go, I’d like to touch on a few more decks showcasing that restrictions really do breed creativity.

Vial Goblins, THEHYDRA (5-0)

Creatures (34)
Grumgully, the Generous
Dragon’s Herald
Goblin Chieftain
Goblin Cratermaker
Goblin Matron
Goblin Ringleader
Hellkite Overlord
Munitions Expert
Murderous Redcap
Pashalik Mons
Putrid Goblin
Skirk Prospector
Sling-Gang Lieutenant
Vexing Shusher

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Auntie’s Hovel
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Cavern of Souls
Mountain
Stomping Ground
Sideboard (15)
Goblin Cratermaker
Munitions Expert
Chalice of the Void
Damping Sphere
Earwig Squad
Goblin Chainwhirler
Goblin Trashmaster
Icon of Ancestry
Leyline of the Void
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If you had to re-read a bunch of those Goblins, you’re not alone. Vial Goblins ports an outdated Legacy deck to Modern in a seriously unconventional way. Between Grumgully, Shusher, Sling-Gang, Expert, and more, Vial Goblins features plenty of black and green creatures. Enough, it turns out, to support Dragon’s Herald.

Herald gives the deck a combo dimension previously lacking from beatdown builds of Goblins. I imagine the very threat of having an 8/8 appear out of nowhere will keep opponents on their toes enough to prioritize removing Herald over other creatures, making the creature similar to another heavily played removal-magnet, Giver of Runes. That Herald is an on-tribe one-drop that benefits from everything else happening in the deck is also huge for its playability; imagine how nuts it would be in those decks if Giver was a Merfolk or a Human.

It’s nonetheless interesting that THEHYDRA didn’t fully invest in Herald, opting to only run 2 copies despite apparently stocking the deck with black and green creatures to make it menacing. I imagine the other creature slots had to be pulling more weight individually, and there was only room for a pair of Heralds in the final build. Which of course begs the question… is Herald worth it?

Superfriends, ASPIRINGSPIKE (5-0)

Creatures (10)
Arbor Elf
Birds of Paradise
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (21)
Ashiok, Dream Render
Dovin, Hand of Control
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Karn, the Great Creator
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Time Raveler
Vraska, Golgari Queen
Wrenn and Six

Enchantments (8)
Oath of Nissa
Utopia Sprawl

Lands (21)
Breeding Pool
Forest
Interplanar Beacon
Misty Rainforest
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Chalice of the Void
Damping Sphere
Ensnaring Bridge
God-Pharaoh’s Statue
Grafdigger’s Cage
Heart of Kiran
Knowledge Pool
Liquimetal Coating
Pithing Needle
Teferi’s Puzzle Box
Tormod’s Crypt
Torpor Orb
Wurmcoil Engine
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Next up is Superfriends, a deck that has traditionally been very slow and needed to dip into more creatures to hold its own. Naturally, then, it hasn’t seen much play in Modern. But with the arrival of many cheap planeswalkers, the “pure” strategy is perhaps viable for the first time.

My favorite thing about this deck is that Oath of Nissa becomes Ponderplus, including both halves of the card (the selection and the shuffle) and only missing Utopia Sprawl (not that players would be likely to choose that one anyway). I experimented with Oath as a pseudo-Ponder before, but was left underwhelmed; Superfriends, though, seems like its perfect home!

Temur Breach, GERSCHI (5-0)

Creatures (11)
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Ice-Fang Coatl
Snapcaster Mage
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Artifacts (4)
Arcum’s Astrolabe

Enchantments (2)
Blood Moon

Instants (19)
Archmage’s Charm
Cryptic Command
Force of Negation
Remand
Skred
Through the Breach

Lands (24)
Breeding Pool
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Sanctuary
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Steam Vents
Sideboard (15)
Snapcaster Mage
Blood Moon
Abrade
Aether Gust
Anger of the Gods
Mystical Dispute
Surgical Extraction
Veil of Summer
Weather the Storm
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Last up is Temur Breach, or Not Another Simic Uro Deck. It’s another one, alright, but not your grandma’s—rather than go all-in on the beatdown plan by backing up Uro with Goyf, or swinging full control with more removal and permission, Temur Breach leans combo, including the Breach-Emrakul pairing that has supported so many Blue Moon decks. This build comes to us from Immanuel Gerschenson, a Temur aficionado so enamored by the wedge as to have won GP “Treasure Cruise” Madrid with a set of Tarmogoyfs.

The strategy seems to work given its multiple placings, and even UR Breach is showing up—with a full set of Brazen Borrower!

The Brews Before the Storm

That does it for May’s brews. As we now enter a month of full pandemic lockdown for many countries, we’re bound to see even wilder strategies show up on Magic Online. I’ll see you on the other side!

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