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Cascading Off the Beaten Path

Written by Billy Mitchell on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Cascading Off the Beaten Path

Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell is an L1 judge and competitive player from the Philadelphia area. Outside of Magic, Billy is a high school math and science teacher. He can be found on Twitter @badluckbandit.

I had plans.

I’ve been thinking about the new and diverse Standard format. I’ve been brewing up new decks. I wanted to analyze the Modern Pro Tour. Instead, I called dibs.

Between work and life, I’m writing this already 3 days removed from the unleashing of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf upon the Modern metagame. Numerous articles have probably already told you about the best shells for these two cards. Keyword: probably.

Since I called dibs, I haven’t read a single Magic article. If you know me at all, you probably understand the importance of that. The 2 constants in my daily routine are caffeine and Magic content. There’s actually an SCG video where I’m in the background checking coverage of the match I’m watching live. It’s a sickness.

My goal in my Magic withdrawal is to have some original, untainted thoughts. Aside from one Facebook thread and a conversation with Michael Mapson, I’ve managed to emerge unscathed. As far as I know, these are original decklists. For the sake of conversation, the decks are very basic. I’m focusing on the spells and less on the mana. In something like Standard where my mana has serious restrictions, I would worry more about it. In Modern, there’s enough land support where I’m not concerned about finding a mana base that will work for my deck.

Jund Traverse Shadow

This idea comes from the help of Mapson. The deck itself is not exciting. My major pull off this deck comes from the addition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to the format.

While Jade is insurmountable in long games, he is also fairly effective on empty or near-empty boards. I want to make sure my creatures are cheap or have a terrific enter-the-battlefield trigger. Bloodbraid Elf, Death’s Shadow and Tarmogoyf all fit the bill but Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang are liabilities when they can easily be unsummoned. This would pull me towards a list like this:

To maximize our hits from Bloodbraid, we are avoiding counterspells and focusing on creatures and removal. Bloodbraid Elf makes us want to avoid spells that need additional mana to be effective such as Snapcaster Mage or spells that need to be timed at a particular moment such as Stubborn Denial. Tarmogoyf, Death’s Shadow, and Bloodbraid Elf provide a great amount of pressure and Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana of the Veil provides additional threats as we transition into the late game.

Naya Zoo

I think this is an obvious one but obvious doesn’t mean bad. One thing Bloodbraid Elf is good at is attacking so we can easily put it at the top end of an aggressive shell. Zoo has been a deck that was waned in popularity but Bloodbraid Elf could be the card to bring it back.

This deck has a swath of one-drops and moves up the curve pretty well. My main issue with this deck is the likelihood that your 4-drop creature will simply hit a 1-drop. Extra pressure is never bad but it could always be better. At the very least, Bloodbraid Elf does provide some flood insurance so I’m sure a deck like this will see the light of day.

4-Color Greed

This idea is ambitious. The idea is to play Bloodbraid Elf on turn 3 every game. Well obviously we can’t always have it in every hand so we would need another high-impact 4-drop to put into our deck. What could we play…

Yeah, that’ll work!

This is essentially a value-heavy creature deck which is right up my alley. The idea is that it plays a lot like Shardless BUG from Legacy mixed with the value of a Bant Knightfall deck. We have a solid opening with Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise that can accelerate us into Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Courser of Kruphix helps us “draw” a card more consistently in concert with Jace activations. Also, Ancestral Vision and Bloodbraid Elf can be set up by Jace or foreseen by Courser of Kruphix. Knight of the Reliquary also is the best possible blocker for Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This deck is certainly ambitious but it is also very powerful.

Wrapping Up

Time will obviously tell how these decks fair but I am excited for the journey ahead. Modern was a fairly diverse format prior to these unbannings. Like Wizards stated in their announcement, the format is very different than it was a few years back. It’s debatable whether a card like Bloodbraid Elf is better than Collected Company. It’s possible (but highly unlikely) that Jace, the Mind Sculptor will not wildly change Modern. I am happy that Wizards is willing to shake up the format even if it ultimately ends up being a mistake. If Modern has proven anything over the last few years, it’s that it is very adaptable.

Let’s hope this ends up being a Bitterblossom and not a Golgari Grave-Troll type of unbanning!

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