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Arcane Laboratory: The Fun Police

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

I sat in my chair staring at my computer screen for fifteen minutes. I was even F6’ed and it was taking forever. My opponent’s Pyromancer Ascension had become active and he was cantripping through his deck. Past in Flames, great, another 5 minutes to wait. Did I Thoughtseize the wrong spell? Maybe I should just go get a drink.

We’ve all had these experiences playing Modern. Some of the combo decks can just take forever to kill you. The wait to see if they actually go off is killer. It is really not fun and it was starting to make me regret playing Modern. Then I had an idea.

It was simple. What if I play Leyline of Sanctity in a maindeck? Not many decks were even packing it in their sideboard. Main deck would definitely win me a lot of game 1’s versus combo. After sideboarded games the combo decks usually get worse because they dilute their deck to answer your disruption effects.

But I didn’t want to stop there. Leyline of Sanctity is great, but it doesn’t stop everything. It’s particularly bad against the creature decks like Affinity or Zoo outside of protecting you from burn spells. It’s even worse against the control decks. So, I went even deeper.

I shipped my initial idea to my friend Matt @Astormbrewing Braddock. Matt is my go to when designing weird decks that have a lower chance of success because Matt will entertain the ideas and help think outside the box. After some email and Facebook exchanges we arrived at a decklist that I felt was capable enough to take for a spin on stream.

What a deck! Instead of us sitting and waiting for opponents to go off now they have to sit and wait for us to kill them. A fair warning, this style deck is not for everyone. At times it can be very boring to play. But, let’s just run down the cards.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – After adding more and more of the hate enchantments white has, I knew that the deck would be able to generate a lot of white pips on the field and that a mid-late game Nykthos would open up some ridiculous lines of play.

Ghost Quarter – Going in the deck that is the scariest for an archetype like ours is Tron. A turn 3 Karn Liberated can completely ruin our day. Ghost Quarter helps keep them off that third piece of Tron.

Aura of Silence – A great proactive answer to things like Birthing Pod or Splinter Twin. It also has the added effect of being a removal spell against Affinity that can also slow their progression if they don’t have one of their nuttier draws.

Blind Obedience – Prevents Twin from combo-ing you on your own turn. This should hopefully buy you enough time to find a prison effect or a Runed Halo to keep you from dying to a million Deceiver Exarches. It also prevents Birthing Pod from being used the turn it is played. This card is also our plan C. I have won a few very grindy games with multiple extort triggers per spell I was casting.

Ghostly Prison – This card will choke your opponent’s mana. They have to choose between attacking with their creatures or advancing their board, which is a double edged sword for them. If they choose to attack you they run the gambit of you hitting more Prisons or a Sphere of Safety which turns off further attacks later, which means they wasted time not advancing their board. But, if they choose to advance their board instead then the game is going longer and you have more time to draw into your win conditions.

Idyllic Tutor – THE card you want in your hand when you can Nykthos for 8 white mana. It allows you to tutor up a win condition or another hate card to further shut the door on your opponent. Casting it on turn 3 to find a Ghostly Prison isn’t the best, but serviceable if necessary.

Leyline of Sanctity – This card has two jobs. The first is to prevent you from targeted effects like burn or discard. The second is to provide extra white pips to the field that you didn’t need to spend mana on. I’ve had very explosive hands that involve opening the game with two Leylines in play and deploying a Nykthos on turn 3.

Rest in Peace – Shuts down any form of graveyard strategy: Life from the Loam engines, Gifts Ungiven packages, Past in Flames, Persist. It can stop Pyromancer Ascension from ever getting active if you land it early enough. It even stops Snapcaster Mage. The card hits a wide variety of the format in different, yet very disruptive ways.

Rule of Law – Storm’s worst nightmare. Leyline is great because it stops their grapeshot kill. But Rule of Law also stops their Empty the Warrens kill. It also has the added effect of slowing opponents who may have gotten ahead of you on mana while also shutting down Snapcaster Mage.

Runed Halo – Completely undervalued, this card does so much. It provides two white pips early in the game and it stops you from dying from whatever you choose. Setting one of these to Lightning Storm while also having a Leyline out means Ad Nauseam can almost never win.

Sacred Mesa – The first of our win conditions. This is one of those nice additions to the format we get from the timeshifted sheet. Combined with a Nykthos this card can make an evasive army to attack or block with.

Heliod, God of the Sun – Another win condition. He becomes a creature very easily for us, but is only cold to an opponent’s Path to Exile. He can give our Pegasus or Angels vigilance. He can also make his own army of 2/1’s that also increase our enchantment count.

Sigil of the Empty Throne – This is our main win condition. Playing our enchantments to get 4/4 Angel Tokens can very quickly kill your opponent.

Sphere of Safety – This is the prison effect that stops your opponent from every being able to attack again. It is very good against the creature decks in the format.

Stony Silence – The big middle finger to Affinity. Sadly, it just doesn’t hit enough out of other decks to warrant more than 2 in our main deck.

The sideboard brings in some interesting choices we found while scouring Gatherer.

Nevermore – One of the key things any of your opponents can do is to Cryptic Command or Echoing Truth a key enchantment on your endstep. Nevermore set to those cards downright stops those lines. The card is a proactive answer to whatever hate your opponent may be bringing in for you. It’s also my favorite card to play naming Chord of Calling.

Porphyry Nodes – We don’t have any actual removal in the maindeck. Nodes is cheap and efficient and works very well in the match-ups where we bring them in, primarily the faster aggro decks like zoo or affinity. It should also be noted that a Nodes and an active Heliod are a soft lock. Even if your opponents have no creatures left you can just choose your own Heliod to be destroyed, except it wont be because of that nice indestructible keyword.

Prison Term – This is a card for the midrange match-ups. It’s a little slow for Zoo or Affinity, but it does an excellent job of stopping Phyrexian Obliterators or Scavenging Oozes from attacking. Being able to play it early and then swap it to newer threats opponents play as the games progress is also a benefit.

Story Circle – The only other card from our sideboard that doesn’t already have a slot in the maindeck is this baby. Story Circle is a great way to stop midrange creature decks from killing you. It is also fine against aggro and usually better than something like a Stony Silence or Rest in Peace.

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The first two games could’ve gone a lot better. Very early on in the games I noticed a few holes in the deck already. But as soon as we started to play against some Combo decks it was clear that we were very much the favorite. We even rounded out the night by beating Affinity in a game 3 where I went to 1 life and 8 poison!

The deck definitely lacks in two areas. The first is that it needs a sweeper for the creature decks. Prison effects are nice to slow their development but we really want a few Wrath of Gods to reset their board and buy us more time. We also need some form of card advantage engine. We have no way to smooth out our draws and find what we need. After some digging and considering I found two paths we could take.

I could keep the deck mono-white, and therefor close to Blood Moon-proof. This would involve cutting our Ghost Quarters for Scrying Sheets and making all of our plains Snow-Covered. This is an engine regularly used in commander. In playing it typically turns out to be 0.5 cards drawn a turn.

The other option is to deviate and add a second color: Blue. This would allow us to branch into other enchantment options like Ephara and Detention Sphere while giving us access to the blue draw spells of Sphinx’s Revelation or Compulsive Research.

I need to fully explore both before I can decide which is correct, but I’d love to hear some feedback in the comments! This Tuesday I’m looking to break away from the non-rotating formats and play a night of Standard. Most people know that I’m not really fond of the format in general currently, but I think I’ve found something that may actually be fun to play with.

Keep battling!

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