Hollow One is the breakout Modern deck as of late. It was the entire craze at the Pro Tour and is still putting up solid results on the Grand Prix circuit. While Hollow One certainly doesn’t have as many broken aspects in Standard that doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential home in a somewhat existing shell. I believe I’ve stumbled upon the best deck no one is playing in Standard. I’m not necessarily claiming it’s the best deck period, but it’s pretty darn close from how testing has gone for me.
This is a bit of an unusual take on the traditional GPG deck lists. I figured to fully justify all the slots and give the reasoning, it would be better to do a card by card breakdown for you.
2 God-Pharaoh’s Gift – This is namesake of the deck and the reason to be playing it. The second copy serves a couple of rolls. The main reason to play a second copy is that sometimes you simply need a second copy to outrace an active copy of The Scarab God. The other reason is a little more obscure, but if you only play a single copy and it gets exiled from Bomat Courier, then you have a bit of a problem.
4 Gate to the Afterlife – This version of the GPG deck centers around cheating the GPG into play via Gate to the Afterlife instead of Refurbish. Therefore we have a high creature count to make the Gate to the Afterlife as effective as possible. One of the bigger draws to this version is the inclusion of Walking Ballista, which allows you to play them as pseudo free spells by casting them for 0 and getting your Gate trigger.
4 Cathartic Reunion – One of the main draws to red is to play Cathartic Reunion. It fixes our draws while pitching effectively dead cards from our hand or adding more creatures to your discard pile. It also has the added benefit of working quite nicely with Hollow One.
4 Angel of Invention – The number one way to shut the door on your opponent with GPG is with Angel of Invention. I also gave the mana base a relatively free way to cast Angel of Invention in a pinch, although admittedly not always reliable. I had considered including a few copies of Glacial Fortress to help increase those odds, but I felt that doing so would weaken the overall consistency of the deck with the potential of additional enter the battlefield tapped lands. You could try fixing this by removing the Ipnu Rivulet with more basic Island, but losing Ipnu Rivulet would be too back breaking.
4 Champion of Wits – It should be no surprise we have the full playset of Champion of Wits here. We’re actively trying to fill the graveyard with creatures and it’s an absolute bomb when you get it back from the graveyard. It’s one of the best cards in Standard and is another great enabler for Hollow One. An interaction that comes up a decent amount that you should be aware of is when you eternalize or return Champion of Wits with GPG and have an Angel of Invention in play you draw an additional card thanks to Angel of Invention +1/+1 effect.
4 Bomat Courier – Here is something that at first doesn’t seem like it belongs. It turns out however, that Bomat Courier is just super powerful in this deck. It does a lot of small things that end up being a big deal. For starters the ability to pitch your entire hand can set up an active Gate to the Afterlife out of nowhere. The discard effect also helps enable any of your Hollow One that you might have exiled with Bomat Courier. There is also the added benefit of it being an artifact, which comes in handy when you’re playing Glint-Nest Crane. Speaking of which….
4 Glint-Nest Crane – The bird is the word. A real big speed bump for the aggro decks that’s also quite useful to target with GPG since it has flying. The best part about this card though is that it digs for Gate to the Afterlife. With a total of 18 artifacts you’re likely to always hit something, which is an added bonus compared to your typical build.
3 Minister of Inquiries – Minister is great at filling your graveyard with creatures to make activating your Gate to the Afterlife super easy. The reason why I didn’t include the full four is because it’s such a redundant effect that you really only ever want to draw one and sometimes you don’t want to draw them at all if you already have other discard avenues.
4 Walking Ballista – I truly believe this is what makes this deck so utterly effective. Gate to the Afterlife works so well with Walking Ballista, especially in multiples that you can often surprise your opponent when you start your turn with just one or two creatures in your graveyard by casting it for 0, getting a loot effect and dump all the creatures in your hand to get to six creatures with relative ease. There is of course so much more Walking Ballista does for this deck I really can’t stress how valuable it is.
4 Hollow One – The spiciness that is Hollow One gives this deck some punch in matchups where it could use it. There are plenty of times where your opponent can disrupt your game plan enough that you can just do the anemic beat down plan, but with Hollow One it’s no longer so anemic. The different ways in which you can lessen the cost include Cathartic Reunion, Champion of Wits, Gate to the Afterlife and Bomat Courier. Hollow One also does more than just be a big body you can get into play on the cheap. The ability to cycle Hollow One is quite useful when needing to put the last creature you need into your graveyard or are looking for a Gate to the Afterlife. Also, since it’s an artifact it’s also a nice hit off your Glint-Nest Crane.
Now that I’ve given the basic run down of the deck, let’s talk matchups.
Red Aggro – This matchup is pretty good for us. There are a lot of good defensive stats on our creatures and they are forced to kill our creatures to get through damage, thus helping turn on our Gate to the Afterlife. The only cards you really need to be concerned about here are Scavenger Grounds and Abrade. Make sure you bring in Negate and Nimble Obstructionist to hedge against the few ways they have of beating you.
The Scarab God Decks – These tend to be a little draw dependent. The turn they tap out for The Scarab God you have to either already have an active GPG or start to be active that turn or you will simply lose. That being said, you do typically win the games where you get your GPG active, even against The Scarab God. Post board the Silent Gravestone is super clutch against The Scarab God and is even reasonably easy to find thanks to Glint-Nest Crane.
Control – These tend to either be really close matches or blowouts in your favor, just depending on the kind of draw you get. Boarding in the Planeswalkers really pressures the counterspells they are packing, often allowing you to slip a Gate to the Afterlife through in the mid game. You come at them at so many different angles it’s really hard for them to cover the entire basis. A turn one Bomat Courier can often go unanswered the entire game as well, because they are taking out the removal they do have since it’s relatively ineffective against the deck as a whole. Your biggest concern is against Approach of the Second Suns since games typically go long enough for them to cast it. Negate and Nimble Obstructionist is quite important here, as you’re trying to overload their permission and removal with your Planeswalkers and Gate to the Afterlife.
Constrictor – This is admittedly a matchup I haven’t played much. For whatever reason it’s not too popular in my area, but you’re both basically gold fishing here so it’s all about speed. It also comes down to how many Thrashing Brontodon and Deathgorge Scavenger they draw post board. Overall I think you are favored if your GPG is online and you get an Angel of Invention, otherwise I think they are capable of racing you when a Constrictor is drawn.
Moving forward with this deck I don’t think there’s much room for changes in the main. Everything is so tight that all I can really see are minor things like + or – a land or maybe finding room for the fourth Minister of Inquiries. The sideboard however has a lot of options and flexibility which I find fantastic. Depending on what the meta game is in your area, you can increase and decrease any number of the current choices I have used. In addition, some other powerful cards that come to mind like Chandra’s Defeat, Kefnet’s Last Word, or Padeem, Consul of Innovation all are reasonable options depending on what your goal is. With all that being said you can see why this deck is great and why you should be playing it.
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