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Delving into Modern: A BUG Brew

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

Let’s start with the important part.

I’m Dave Shedden; and I’m a brewaholic.

There, I did it. I’m given to understand that I can’t get better until I admit that I have a problem – and ticking off an introduction to my audience in the same sentence just seems like a beautiful, efficient synergy. Magic players seem to like those.

Lately, a lot of my brewing has been focused on the Modern format. I’ve built decks which Snapcaster Mage-ed land destruction spells, decks which Smallpoxed and Death Clouded my opponents into the stone age, decks which ran Blood Moon in the main and tried to Wildfire my problems away… you may be able to see a pattern emerging. If this sounds appealing, let me stop you before it all goes wrong: land destruction is not ‘good’ in Modern. What it was good for, though, was teaching me how the format really works. The hard way.

Proactivity is King

In Modern, people park their tanks on your lawn.
Everyone is bringing the most brutal clock, the most redundant combo, the most powerful interaction they can find; you do not have time to durdle around. Threats are strong and diverse, which means that answers tend to be comparatively weak and narrow. If you want to play Modern, make sure you are doing something which will bring the pain in some form or another.

I learned this because all my tricky, complicated, durdly decks got steamrolled by a squadron of hasty Deceiver Exarchs; or burned out by rapid-fire Lava Spikes; or had their perfect cheekbones ruined forever by a Tarmogoyf, in the alley behind a bar, where no-one could hear them scream.

What do you do when Modern beats you black and blue?
Add green – and kick it up a notch.

The sweetest answer

Having flushed a wad of tickets down the drain trying to will my creations into life in the 2-man queues, I snapped and decided to play a Tarmogoyf deck instead.
Long story short, I had a better run with the Gruul Aggro strategy, but ended up losing a match just after the M14 rotation to a deck packing Scavenging Ooze. That card is a beating, especially for a deck relying on the sort of red removal which Ooze quickly outgrows.
As I reviewed the match in my head, I began thinking about what I could use to kill this slimy 2-drop which I expected to be seeing a lot more of.
Then I remembered Abrupt Decay… and a deck was born.

Tooth decay

Yes, Abrupt Decay is so sweet that it will make your teeth rot. This card is the exception to the rule: an answer card which is both flexible and powerful. Let me break down why it’s so awesome:
This card does close to everything I could possibly desire in the format. If I did want to build a controlling deck, a good place to start would be something that simply cast Abrupt Decay as many times as possible… whilst kicking my opponent hard in the face with a decent clock. Guess what? I did want to build that deck, so here it is:

Why this strategy?

There are a range of things in this format which frequently just kill you – Melira-pod combos, splintered twins, huge Goyfs and Oozes, even Pyromancer’s Ascensions and Goblin Electromancers in a roundabout way – but are vulnerable to an Abrupt Decay.
There is another spectrum of blue decks which will try to land a threat, like a Delver of Secrets or a Vendillion Clique and protect it with countermagic. Abrupt Decay cuts through those. The same decks will aim to stop opposing threats with countermagic too; luckily, we get to play Thrun, the Last Troll to gain inevitability against them.
In general, Green and Blue support a range of Modern’s most powerful cards – and we get to play them all. Cool, right?

The Card choices

RundownEvery card has a role – but I’m going to focus on a couple of choices for deeper discussion. We are setting up to have some game against the combo, with our disruption suite, but also to have some serious grinding power against creature decks. Snapcaster Mage and Eternal Witness let us rinse and repeat our laundry list of powerful effects in a way that becomes overpowering for most strategies in a longer game. The full Eternal Witness/Cryptic Command lock is available once enough cards have been drawn – and I’ve used it to win through otherwise unbeatable board states (like an army of Living End monsters when I’m at low life). Vedalken Shackles is also an incredible engine for grinding down creature strategies. All the Hate Bear, Soul Sisters and Merfolk decks which infest the dark corners of the metagame absolutely loathe this card. Oh, and Countersquall? Resolve this against a crucial Lightning Helix, or a turn 3 Karn Liberated, then tell me it’s terrible. One is just the right amount to keep them guessing.

So how does it fare?

I’ve been playing this deck for just a couple of days now, so I’m working from a small sample size of matches,  but at the moment:

I like my game against Splinter Twin and the other Tempo decks, plus the Hate Bear/Soul Sisters/Merfolk type of creature decks. I also like my chances against Living End, although I don’t think the deck is well represented.

I feel decent against Melira Pod, although it’s a complex strategy and I’ll need more games to really bottom out the matchup.

I feel OK about Tron when I draw my counters… but not so great when I’m staring at Abrupt Decays and Thrun, the Last Trolls.

I feel bad about Kiki-pod, because Legendary Goblins and Restoration Angels do not have a CMC of 3.

I really, really don’t like Lava Spikes.

Man-lands and Spell-lands could pose a problem, although it hasn’t really come up yet. Of course, this is fine, because no deck short of Caw-Blade is ever the finished article. There is always room to tune and I have some idea about the direction we might take.

Future improvements

I’ve already dedicated some space in my sideboard to Graveyard hate, via Nihil Spellbomb, but I’d love to improve my overall utility by substituting something more flexible. At the same time, my manabase is painful – I win a lot of my games at around 6 life – and I’d like to incorporate some life-gain into the 75.
Scavenging Ooze, come on down! I’ve found Eternal Witness to be a little bit slow in multiples for some matchups, although it’s exceptional in others. Shaving down to three copies might be an acceptable compromise; if nothing else, it would allow me to import the all-star, third Maelstrom Pulse into the maindeck.

A resolved Geist of Saint Traft will give me fits. I need to fit some edicts into this list – and although Liliana of the Veil is a fantastic example, I’m leaning more toward something cheaper and/or which only requires a single black mana. Far // Away and Devour Flesh are on my radar, but neither are perfect.

Some better enchantment hate is required if I’m ever to beat the Hexproof Bogle deck, or increase my percentage against the terrifying Blood Moon. I currently have Golgari Charm, because it gives me an out to Supreme Verdict and can devastate Elf combo, but I think Back to Nature might well be an upgrade. Not only will it kill all the umbras and Daybreak Coronets in the world, but it can remove multiple Blood Moons at once… I’ve had more than one opponent drop two on me, to try and cut off one-for-one outs.

I may need to carve out an extra edge against non-basics like Celestial Colonade and Gavony Township. Could the second Overgrown Tomb in my manabase make way for a Tectonic Edge/Ghost Quarter/Encroaching Wastes? Only time (and tinkering) will tell.

Go forth and brew, Brothers and Sisters!

Like this concept? Think you could do it better? Great. I don’t have a monopoly on ideas for the archetype, or the time to attend a bunch of tournaments any time soon – I’d love to see one of you take it to the next level and put up some results. All I ask is that, when you’ve just had the pleasure of sending your opponent into the stone age with 6 to 10 Abrupt Decays in a single game, you drop me a line @daveshed on Twitter, so I can join in the hysterical giggling.

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