Modern Primer: G/W Hate Bears

Written by Joseph Scalise on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Modern Primer: G/W Hate Bears

Joseph Scalise

When he’s not writing or shooting hoops, Joseph Scalise is usually reading online articles, grinding at PTQs or playing in local FNMs. Although a reluctant Limited player, he is a large cube enthusiast and loves Standard and Modern. If he could, he would sleeve up White Weenie in every format, but sometimes he has to settle for other forms of aggro. Most of all, he is just a 21-year-old aspiring screenwriter who spends good chunks of his time on the sunny California coast slinging spells across whatever table he can find.

While some argue the Modern format has become stale, this is a fallacy. There are still plenty of interesting decks to explore. Junk (G/W/B) Hate Bears is an incredibly efficient and consistent deck that can accurately disrupt and hold its own against most of the popular metagame. I also want to battle Jund, and cards like Lingering Souls as well as Loxodon Smiter, Mirran Crusader and Wilt-Leaf Liege all help this

I originally looked at the list made popular by Brian Kibler. But that deck, while strong, had some flaws that were being sorted out by many different builds. G/W has a lot of choices for strong creatures and can run a lot of silver bullets. One card that Kibler omitted was Fauna Shaman, which is extremely strong and really makes this build work. While his deck was already running black for Lingering Souls, splashing for a tutorable terror (Shriekmaw) and Orzhov Pontiff to battle other Souls is no stretch. This version is a lot more toolbox and can react to many different archetypes while still beating down and maintaining the original shell.

Hate Bears is a deck that relies on two different factors coming together — being able to attack aggressively as well as disrupt your opponent’s game plan. The deck is full of creatures that each have a different purpose. But all are aimed at taking away plays from your opponents while furthering your own. It is a deck that requires an able pilot, with each part of the deck acting as a specific and necessary cog in a greater machine.

Decklist

Lands

The manabase is quite simple. It ticks way back on the painlands and relies more on putting lands into play without hurting yourself. It does run the “fetch, crack, take two” package, being able to grab a Temple Garden, Godless Shrine or Overgrown Tomb depending on what you need. (You always want access to black mana, so remember to search up Overgrown Tomb most of the time.) The manabase relies on Horizon Canopy for card advantage and Razorverge Thicket in order not to take damage. The three Stirring Wildwoods are very important, acting as a great way to beat down for some extra damage while acting as 3/4s with evasion from sweepers. The manabase is not particularly tricky, but you almost never want to be caught without black; that’s a mistake that can cost you games.

Spells

Path to Exile: The only real removal spell in the deck. It’s not glamorous and ramping your opponent’s mana can be bad in the current format, but it is a no-nonsense, good-bye, see-ya-later spell that really clears the way for creatures to get through. Plus, it also erases some rather irritating threats (Wurmcoil Engine, I’m looking at you). Simple, easy, done.

Lingering Souls: The souls have been taking over Modern, especially after their splash in Jund, and they do their job in this deck quite well. They can act as an aggressive card, creating swarms of fliers that can quickly end games when paired with a Gavony Township activation or a Wilt-Leaf Liege. They also act as great blockers and can be used to stave off damage and keep you alive while you build up creatures.

Creatures

Noble Hierarch/Birds of Paradise: You want both of these creatures in your opening hand, and you want them bad. You almost always want a Hierarch over Birds, but either one suffices as long as you can drop a Loxodon Smiter or Lingering Souls on Turn 2, or jump ahead to a Wilt-Leaf Liege or Gavony Township on Turn 3. Both cards are simple and help get you what you want: bigger and better creatures.

Loxodon Smiter: Loxodon Smiter is one of the deck’s best Turn 2 plays. This card will always resolve, dodging discard, making Liliana of the Veil look like a joke, and smashing right through counterspells. It is also quickly decimates your opponent’s life total, especially when paired with Noble Hierarch. This is one of the frontrunner cards of the deck, enabling quick wins and bringing in a lot of damage.

Wilt-Leaf Liege: If Loxodon Smiter is one of the main cards of the deck, then Wilt-Leaf Liege is its juiced-up big brother. As much as you want to get Smiter into play off a discard, Wilt-Leaf Liege is a hundred times better, pumping your team and acting as a Gavony Township. If you can, try and play it after Lingering Souls. This card can just be jammed out to get creatures into the red zone, but can also be held back to wait for the killing assault.

Fauna Shaman a.k.a. Dark Confidant: In this deck, Fauna Shaman acts just like Bob does in Jund. It is a two-drop that often eats removal, but when you untap with it the card advantage can easy propel you to a win. Fauna Shaman finds threats and answers.  It is the reason this deck runs so many one-ofs, and it is the reason this deck works so well.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: A big part of Hate Bears is knowing what creatures to play when. Against some decks, such as Tron and Scapeshift, Thalia chokes your opponents to death. In other matchups, such as Jund, where a lot of their plays are Goyfs or Bobs, you can wait a few turns before putting her into play.

Aven Mindcensor: This can really hurt someone trying to crack a fetch, but its main application is to shut down Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Scapeshift and Birthing Pod. It is a silver bullet for these types of decks and should be searched up accordingly.

Mirran Crusader: A must-have, Mirran Crusader helps block/fight through one of the most annoying creatures: Tarmogoyf. Goyf was initially a big problem for this deck, and Mirran Crusader largely fills that hole. And against Jund, if they have no Lightning Bolt after you play a Turn 2 Crusader, it’s game over. No questions asked.

Gaddock Teeg: Teeg is pretty straightforward. He is really strong against Scapeshift and Tron-type decks.

Baneslayer Angel: With Jund cutting way back on removal that can hit creatures above 3 CMC *cough* Abrupt Decay *cough*, Baneslayer Angel is the deck’s finisher. While this is a toolbox deck, don’t worry if you often find yourself searching for the flying lifelinker. She’s a very strong card that quickly closes out game if your opponent has no answer. In fact, she’s so good I would consider adding another.

Orzhov Pontiff: One of the best reasons to splash black, Orzhov Pontiff is an extremely solid maindeck answer to Lingering Souls. It can also be searched up to blow out people who aren’t expecting it. What creatures do you have? Noble Hierarch, Dark Confidant and some Lingering Souls tokens? Nice.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence: When it comes to hate, Linvala is at the top of the list. There aren’t too many cards with gamebreaking activated abilities these days, but when you need to neutralize a Deathrite Shaman or shut down Splinter Twin or Melira Pod, Linvala has you covered.

Thrun, The Last Troll: Thrun acts like a untargetable Loxodon Smiter that beats down on control decks. His original function was to stop blue from having so much power, and he does that while also being extremely strong against Jund. He is good in almost every matchup and, like Baneslayer, could see another copy.

Shriekmaw: Versatility, thy name is Shriekmaw. It’s a great card on every level and kills things that you need to kill. If you evoke it, great; if you don’t, even better. This is my second-most tutored card with Fauna Shaman (behind Baneslayer Angel), and it should always be searched for when you need to kill something right away.

Qasali Pridemage: This beats down with the help of exalted but mainly is just a tutorable anwer if you need a Birthing Pod or Batterskull removed.

Sideboard

Chalice of the Void: This tech was first developed by Brian Kibler in the original list and it really stuck. You mainly want them for the Infect match, which admittedly is really hard, because naming Chalice for 1 usually ends their deck. It also completely shuts down the new enchantment deck because only two cards in their deck don’t cost one mana. It even shuts down their only artifact removal in Nature’s Claim. Chalice is also a good play against Storm because placing it on two, while shutting down some of your creatures, takes them off Pyromancer’s Ascension and Grapeshot.

Relic of Progenitus: This hates on your opponent’s graveyard without turning off your own Lingering Souls. However, there are some decks where you want the graveyard gone entirely and also some times when you just need the cantrip.

Ethersworn Canonist: Another combo-hating bear that hates combo with the rest of them. It should be boarded in against every combo deck.

Abrupt Decay: After much testing, it seemed like this card was necessary to fight back against the Splinter Twin matchup. Not saying that the matchup is unwinnable pre-board, but this certainly doesn’t help. Twin runs Mizzium Skin, but Abrupt Decay makes them have it.

Creeping Corrosion: A single copy that blankets the Affinity matchup. It is a very difficult battle because they have many flying creatures, but the biggest problem is the presence of Etched Champion, which not only dodges removal but also swings in past spirit tokens.

Stony Silence: Another Affinity hate card, but this one also works against Birthing Pod and Tron decks. It may not be exciting, but it is a card you want access to. Sideboarding is all about silver bullets, and this card is a silver bullet that shuts down three different main archetypes.

Dismember: I really like this against Jund as well as Pod, where killing their creatures can sometimes be more important than having your own. Dismember is just your all-purpose kill spell. It comes in handy against Tarmogoyf and brings down some of the bigger creatures. It also provides another way to disrupt the Splinter Twin combo, which is never a bad thing.

Guttural Response: With Seething Song (and effectively, Storm) out of the metagame, the Rules of Law I originally had did not seem necessary. But U/W/R midrange is taking the format by storm, so some blue hate seemed necessary. This card is very narrow and comes in to stop counters and Cryptic Command.

The Matchups

Jund

The Jund matchup can range from games that feel completely unwinnable to games that are laughably easy. The three main cards you want to play are Loxodon Smiter, Wilt Leaf-Liege and Mirran Crusader. Smiter and Liege are obviously excellent hate while Liege also has the plus of dodging almost all removal that Jund has at its disposal. Mirran Crusader really brings the pain. Without a Lightning Bolt, they have no way to remove it except a Liliana sacrifice; it also hits all of their creatures. Orzhov Pontiff does a good amount of work against Lingering Souls and can really blow players out who don’t see it coming.

It suffices to say the sideboard comes down to a creature battle. While Path to Exile is strong, both Dismembers should come in as more ways to remove Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf. Abrupt Decay is also worth a consideration as it gives more removal, although limited. You can take out Qasali Pridemage.

Affinity

Beat them before they beat you in Game 1. It’s really as simple as that. Orzhov Pontiff can be really strong, and Qasali Pridemage is always going to be an all-star. Bring in everything you have during sideboarding. Seriously. Stony Silence, Abrupt Decay, Creeping Corrosion and Dismember are all strong here. Take out some creatures that don’t do much (such as Aven Mindcensor and Mirran Crusader) and ride the hate to victory.

Tron

This is an interesting unwinnable … nearly unwinnable matchup in Game 1. If they get a Wurmcoil Engine, Path it. If you can’t? You lose. Also, Karn Liberated blanks almost everything you have. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Gaddock Teeg and Aven Mindcensor do a lot of work in this matchup. Watch out for sweepers and make sure not to overextend. Game 1 is very, very rough.

You mainly want the Stony Silences during sideboarding. I want to test Blind Obedience, which makes all of Tron’s artifacts come into play tapped and could really swing games. This is your hardest matchup and need to know how to play around their big spells and constantly find ways to slow their gameplan. If you slow down Tron long enough, you can win.

Enchantments

This is the easiest matchup to explain. If they stumble in Game 1, you win. If they don’t, you lose. It’s really as simple as that. Even with Qasali Pridemage, they just have too much card advantage to really battle through. If they don’t have a 1,000/1,000 first strike, vigilant, life linking trampler, one hope is to clog the ground with Loxodon Smiters and Wilt-Leaf Lieges long enough to mount an offense.

The good news is this matchup is why the Chalice of the Voids are in the sideboard. As I previously explained, this deck not only loses to a Chalice on 1; they actually CANNOT PLAY SPELLS. I have received multiple concessions from a Turn 1 Noble Hierarch, Turn 2 Chalice of the Void.

Storm

You have a lot of preboard ways of attacking Storm — including a certain uncountable elephant — that all leave them gasping for air. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the card you want to see, but even without her you can easily stick to your game plan.

After sideboarding, the matchup becomes even easier. Bring out some of the more irrelevant creatures (like Thrun, the Last Troll) and Path to Exiles while bringing in Ethersworn Canonist, Relic of Progenitus and Chalice of the Void. Do not take out Orzhov Pontiff! Being able to kill their Empty The Warrens goblins is a very strong game.

Scapeshift

An more resilient combo deck, Scapeshift has many different ways to beat you. They are largely going to ignore what you are doing, so attacking away while playing cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Loxodon Smiter is a straightforward plan. Aven Mindcensor really shines in this matchup; put it out right away to stop early searching or flash it in later to blow out a Scapeshift.

There really aren’t many cards you want to see in the sideboard. I have considered Runed Halo as a way to fight the Valakut decks, but haven’t had enough testing to see how well it works. This matchup isn’t the best one, but it is winnable as long as you land some early disruption.

Splinter Twin

Abrupt Decay … OK, nothing else to see here folks. You also want Dismembers because it is always better to have more ways to remove the combo. Lingering Souls is not much help and can get brought out. The best way to fight Splinter Twin is once again the two favorite hate cards — Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Aven Mindcensor. However, Gaddock Teeg is also extremely powerful and Blind Obedience would also really help postboard in this matchup — the tokens would come into play tapped so they could not combo off.

U/W Tempo

This is a deck where Thalia, Guardian of Thraben also is very strong. But Loxodon Smiter fighting through counterspells and being able to kill a Wall of Omens or win a battle with Restoration Angel make it the best card to have. Thrun, the Last Troll is also stronger and can regenerate from a Supreme Verdict, which make it an awesome play. Basically, you don’t want to fall into their game and just keep playing answers.

Mirror

The last matchup is the good ol’ mirror. G/W Aggro is by no means a rare deck, and the plan basically comes down to having more creatures than them. And it’s more like having bigger creatures. Gavony Township and Wilt-Leaf Liege both break this matchup open. You want to board in Dismember, and always watch for an opportunity to use Orzhov Pontiff. Aven Mindcensor can really hurt an opposing Fauna Shaman. Watch when you use Path to Exile; some creatures need to be removed, but jumping your opponent into an early Baneslayer Angel or Wilt-Leaf Liege can be backbreaking.

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