When Modern was first announced as a format, I was excited. While I played Magic in elementary school, I didn’t play the game competitively until I got into college around the release of Ravnica. The idea of being able to sling decks from past Standard and Extended formats tantalized me. In particular, I was interested in the prospect of being able to throw together the Fauna Shaman and Vengevine style decks that I had so loved in the past. The larger card pool looked to provide a better mana-base and a greater set of tools to work with.
Unfortunately, as we know, Fauna/Vine decks were essentially a no-go early in Modern. However, now with all of the bannings balancing out the format, it appears that these sort of decks are in a position to see some play. And as it turns out, you don’t actually have to take my word for that.
GW Fauna Shaman
This deck was initially created by Caleb Durward, and both he and Brian Kibler have created videos to showcase it in some Daily Events. A lot of the power of the deck comes from its ability to generate a swarm of threats, recurring ones in the case of Vengevine, as well as attack the opponent’s mana with Tectonic Edge. However, as soon as I saw this deck I wanted to add red.
I was a huge fan of the Boss Naya deck (as made famous by LSV at Pro Tour San Diego) and played Naya Vengevine during the short lived double-standard era of Extended. When I saw that a Vengevine deck was possible in Modern, I immediately thought to redesign the Naya deck. As a three color deck, it does lose the ability to play multiple Tec Edges, but I thought that the innate power of Bloodbraid Elf was worth it.
Modern Boss Naya
This deck works less on disruption and more on resilient beatdown. Bloodbraid Elf and Squadron Hawk give you a lot of ways to recur Vengevine (especially when you cascade into a Hawk!,) and in general the deck lays down a lot of threats. Swords, Wolf Run, and the exalted mechanic help to make the lesser threats like Squadron Hawk, Scryb Ranger, and the mana-dorks into impressive clocks.
Now, I know some of you are wondering about the lack of Tarmogoyf. Quite frankly, Tarmogoyf isn’t a strong card in this style of deck. Goyf is very good in more aggro control style decks like Jund or RUG Tempo where you need singularly powerful and efficient threats. This sort of deck is more about hitting a mass of Vengevines and Elves to take over the board. Furthermore, a turn two Goyf in this deck is rarely going to be large. You are likely to lead with a mana-dork (and maybe a fetchland) and then just play a Goyf and say go. Compare this to Jund, which can play a turn one fetchland and a discard spell to put land, sorcery, and whatever the opponent discards into the graveyard, which leads to a 3/4 Goyf on turn two. Similarly, RUG might lead with a fetch and a Serum Visions or Sleight of Hand.
It’s possible that the singleton Scryb Ranger could be a Goyf, as having a powerful dude to search up is sometimes relevant, and of course you could also do that to stall your opponent’s Goyf. However, the Ranger provides a nice set of combat tricks and can enable multiple Fauna Shaman activations in a turn.
One card I have not yet had a chance to test with is Strangleroot Geist. I’m not sure if it would fit in this deck or what I would cut for it, but it is a strong, aggressive card, which works well with the basic strategy here. You could cut Hawks for Geists, but the Hawks help a lot with mulligans, among other things. It’s likely worth testing, though.
As far as sideboards go, you have added weaponry for your sideboard that the GW version of the deck does not have access to. I haven’t fully fleshed out the sideboard for this deck, and Dark Ascension is sure to change what the format looks like, but here are some cards that you could use, depending on what you’re concerned about in your given meta.
Burning-Tree Shaman was the card I was most excited to put in my board, and Linvala is another creature you can tutor up as a form of hate. Both of these creatures have four toughness, which means that they survive Firespout. Combust is a hate card I liked during Standard against this deck, as it avoids counter magic and Spellskite. The downside of the card is that it isn’t the greatest cascade. Kibler ran Arena in his version of the GW deck. Being a land, it can’t be countered, and your Vengevine and Knights are powerful enough to take down Deceiver Exarchs and Spellskites.
One thing to keep in mind when making sideboard choices is that variety is a good thing. For instance, having a Burning-Tree Shaman and a Linvala on the table allows you to play around an opponent’s Echoing Truth. If you simply slammed four Shamans into your board, you would be more vulnerable to this answer. Having multiple answers to combo decks puts combo players off balance, and it might cause them to sideboard incorrectly or play differently. If you beat them in game two with a Shaman, they might not be prepared for your Arena or Combust in game three.
Thalia, just recently arrived from Dark Ascension, is a good one against Storm, as she’s a tutorable Thorn of Amethyst that also attacks. However, I would still play some number of Thorns to vary the hate. Gaddock Teeg is a good bullet to have access to in this sort of deck, and he can be effective in this match-up. Ethersworn Canonist is another option, but I think I like my cascades too much to want to chance this.
I haven’t had a chance to play against this deck, so I’m not sure exactly what I would want to side against it or how the match-up would play out. However, against a mana intensive deck, my first plan would be to attack the mana. Goblin Ruinblaster and Fulminator Mage are both good at doing this. Aven Mindcensor is a possible bullet against anything running Gifts Ungiven or other search cards.
Life gain creatures are traditionally good against aggressive decks. Finks and Baloth are also good against Jund, since they are difficult to get rid of. Hierarch isn’t a card that has seen much play so far, but in this creature heavy style of deck, the regeneration ability might be relevant.
If you’re concerned about Jund, Mirran Crusader is the card you want to add more of. Its protection from Green and Black make it difficult for Jund to handle. It still dies to burn spells, but they don’t run very many of those. Paladin en-Vec is another option, as it totally blanks their removal. However, it’s bad in a race, since most of Jund’s creatures are Green.
As I said in the aggro section, Baloth and Finks are also options, and I would board them in if I had them. However, you already have Vengevine, and adding more cards to pitch to your opponent’s Lilianas and Blightnings isn’t all that exciting.
Kataki is probably the best bullet you can tutor for against Affinity, but be wary of leaning on him, as the Affinity decks have a lot of burn spells. Ancient Grudge is good for obvious reasons. If Affinity isn’t something you’re worried about, Acidic Slime and Vithian Renegades might be good cards to have, since they have broader applications but can still be used as affinity hate.
Shatterstorm is one of the stronger cards you could play against Affinity, since it kills just about everything that’s relevant (even getting rid of Cranial Plating and Etched Champion, which can be difficult to beat.) The Shatterstorm plan is strong since it avoids Blood Moon, and between Bolts and Paths you have enough instant speed answers to hit things like Inkmoth Nexus.
The cards can come in against anything that requires some graveyard haterade. Relic and Cage are self explanatory. Heretic is weaker than both of those cards and certainly more narrow. However, she is a tutor target for Fauna Shaman, which might make her worth looking at. Similarly, Jotun Grunt is a nice bullet to search up in the late game if you want to get rid of your opponent’s graveyard. However, he will eventually become at odds with the Vengevine plan.
This is only one way to make these GW/x Vengevine decks. Bloodbraid Elf is one of my favorite cards, which is why I chose the Naya route. It’s also fairly aggressive, meaning that you can always fall back on trying to race your opponent when you don’t have the answers you want. However, Junk and Bant are also options, depending on your play style. Junk is a more mid-range type of deck with a grind-it-out mentality. Bant obviously has access to counter magic, which makes it slightly better against the combo decks and possibly things like Tron as well. Rhox War Monk and Vendilion Clique are great cards, and being able to Sower of Temptation away an opposing Emrakul would be hilarious.
This style of deck is traditionally strong against Control and Aggro Control strategies, which have been starting to see a bit more play of late. They’re also incredibly fun to play, so if you’re looking for a new deck in the Modern format, I recommend trying your hand at something like this.
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