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Double Strike in Modern

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

A long, long time ago there was a brief time that Boros Swiftblade was feared. It played a lot of burn, but the majority of the deck hinged on that human soldier. It could do 18 damage on turn three. Drop a Bonesplitter on turn one. Drop Boros Swiftblade on turn two. Turn three, equip the Bonesplitter, cast Reckless Charge followed by another Reckless Charge and swing in the red zone with a 9/2 double striker. Then, any burn spell would do such as Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix.

The inspiration comes from looking over Tom Ross’s Infect deck list for Modern. Essentially, infect acts like double strike except it has the advantage of ignoring any life gain shenanigans. This doesn’t mean infect doesn’t have weaknesses. One, it runs little removal. It also has very little reach. Switching over to a double strike deck would allow for the ubiquitous Lightning Bolt or Lightning Helix. White also gives it some sideboard options and Path to Exile.

Brewing Options

There are a couple of avenues to take. Since the primary colors for double strike creatures are red and white, it locks us into those colors for sure. The question is whether to stay squarely red and white or to expand into other colors. Going Naya gives us all those good green pump spells. If we expand the colors, Might of Alara might be spicy along with some Tribal Flames action. This might be pushing the mana too much and make the deck vulnerable to Blood Moon and company. There is also the option of playing equipment which has the advantage of being immune to Spellskite.

Well, let’s look at our creature options first.

One Mana Double Strikers

Kor Duelist: A one mana 1/1 that gets double strike if equipped. Dropping this turn one and equipping a Bonesplitter on turn two for six damage is exciting. This could be the decks Glistener Elf. Otherwise, that is it for one mana double strikers.

Two Mana Double Strikers

Boros Swiftblade: Probably the whole reason to be brewing this deck as a 1/2. This guy can do a lot of damage and will be an auto-include no matter what.

Fencing Ace: Basically, it is Boros Swiftblade number two with a point shaved off its toughness. The singleton one white mana in its cost makes it attractive.

Viashino Slaughtermaster: Another 1/1 Double Striker in red. The downside is that it isn’t a human soldier which makes it an oddball. This could matter later depending on how the brew is built. Its pump ability could matter if we go the five color route as there may be game where its activation could be relevant.

Warren Instigator: Not a bad option, but I can see games where the double red mana cost would be prohibitive. Unfortunately, this brew probably won’t be able to take advantage of its powerful triggered ability.

Auriok Edgewright: An honorable mention. It is a 2/2 for two, but its requirement for double strike in the form of metalcraft puts a lot of restrictions on the build. It could be done, but then we might as well be playing affinity.

Three Mana

I won’t list them all as there are quite a few. I don’t think most of them are worth it. People do play with three mana creatures in Modern, but they better have a lot of upside to them. I will list three.

Mirran Crusader: This card has seen Legacy play. Its protection from green and black can be relevant in certain matches. It’s a card I might slot two for the deck and possibly the sideboard. The protection from green though is anti-synergistic with all the green pump spells.

Prophetic Flamespeaker: The card is probably the perfect card for this brew or at least it would seem that way. It could be a possible source of card advantage for a deck that is playing a lot of cheap spells.

Fable Hero: Honorable Mention. Sure, heroic may be nice at times, but I’m not sold on the card. At the moment, this card suffers from there not being enough space in the deck. We simply have better options.

Pump Spells

I won’t go over all the green options since most are widely known from infect decks. The white options aren’t very appealing unless we start talking about tossing in auras which we all know by now that they suck. Red does have a few options.

Brute Force: Oh, the card that so desperately wants to see play. The +3/+3 is smaller than some of green’s spells, but it is not conditional like some of the other green pump spells. This may be our card though if we stick to just red and white.

Titan’s Strength: Tom Ross could probably get behind this card. The scry 1 is a bonus on top of the +3/+1.

Colossal Might: I’m not sure if we want to be paying two mana for our pump spells. Although, the trample could be very relevant at times if our opponent is in chump blocking mode. Eat that Lingering Souls.

Lands

Inkmoth Nexus is one of the main reasons for Infect’s success. This doesn’t mean red and white doesn’t have its own share of goodies. Slayers’ Stronghold could be easily slotted into those twenty or so lands. It does exactly what we want. It pumps our guys and haste and vigilance could be very, very relevant. Image a clear board state. Both you and your opponent are top deck. You draw a Boros Swiftblade. With Slayers’ Stronghold and four other lands in play, you could be swinging in for six damage on the spot.

Equipment

Equipment hasn’t had a great track record so far in Modern. Partly, it may be due to all the artifact hate for affinity. I don’t think this should hinder us from looking at it. I could easily see a brew where we do play a few artifacts alongside a bunch of pumps spells. Now, there isn’t a lot of good cheap equipment to play which I believe this deck wants. Let’s look at a few.

Bonesplitter: The big reason to play equipment. It drops down on turn one under counterspells. One to equip. In this deck though, it is doing four damage. It makes me wonder if anyone has ever tested this in Infect.

Silver-Inlaid Dagger: One to drop, two to equip. If we go strictly human (Prophetic Flamespeaker is a human by the way), it is giving all our creatures +3/+0. This could be equipped turn three with a possible mana to spare for a Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile.

The questions to ask: can this compete?

Scenario:

You are on the play. Turn one Sacred Foundry and cast Kor Duelist.

Your opponent fetches for a Temple Garden and plays Noble Hierarch. 17 life

You play Teetering Peaks and attack. No blocks. Second main phase you cast Bonesplitter. 14 life

The opponent plays an Overgrown Tomb and cast Knight of the Reliquary. 12 life

You play a Clifftop Retreat. Equip the Kor Duelist with Bonesplitter. You then cast Titan’s Strength followed by an Apostle’s Blessing naming Green. You swing for 12 damage. Good Game.

Of course this is Magical Christmas land, but I just wanted to show the raw power of the deck. It can win by turn three. This isn’t the only possibility. There are also multiple scenarios for a turn three and many more turn four kills. This is merely a rough example, but it’s a good place to start. Lots of tweaking to make this deck viable. Other cards to consider is Gods Willing instead of Apostle’s Blessing. I included the Apostle’s Blessing due to its ability to protect your equipment. However, Gods Willing with its scry may simply be superior and adds to scry count with Titan’s Strength. Another consideration is Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Throwing your double-strikers to the sky can give the deck a little reach. She was a powerful card in the day and this deck just may be the spot for her.

This deck is a big or go home deck. Yes, it is vulnerable to Blood Moon, but it is very powerful. Drop any double striker on Turn two. The following turn, juice it up with Might of Alara and give it trample with Ghor-Clan Rampager and you have a 10/10 trampling double striker. Even if they somehow chump block enough damage, you have Tribal Flames and Lightning Bolt to finish them. It may look like a fragile five color deck, but it’s basically Naya in disguise. It just happens to have five basic land types at its disposal. Personally, I love the deck. Even if my opponent takes out all my creatures, I can kill them easily with just my burn spells. Three Tribal Flames and two Lightning Bolts will to it. My creatures just need to get me closer.

I would show you a Naya build, but that deck is basically Double Domain. All we do is switch Might of Alara and Tribal Flames with more pump spells, burn, protection or evasion spells. The only thing Naya has going for it is a more stable mana base. Is that a real trade off? Maybe. Blood Moon is a risk factor for many, many decks, but those decks keep putting up numbers. If I did run a Naya build, the only thing I would push is more Pendelhavens or even Mutavaults for that almost Blinkmoth Nexus feel. Basically, it’s just a case of whether you want more stability or more power. I would go for power in this format.

Advantages

Besides the fetches and shocklands, the decks are relatively cheap to build. I know. I know. Lands are always expensive, but it sure beats $90 Snapcaster Mages and etc. The other advantage this deck has over a deck like infect is that it has built in reach in burn spells that double as removal. Infect has the disadvantage of having to deal 10 poison counters. It doesn’t benefit from a format that likes to Lightning Bolt itself on the first turn (fetch + shock land).

Even though infect has more invasion, the double strikers mentioned above are more robust in combat. The first strike damage matters. For example, I swing a Boros Swiftblade into a Loxodon Smiter. If they block, I can let the first strike damage resolve. Before regular combat damage, I can Lightning Bolt the Loxodon Smiter. My opponent can’t just block my creatures with a Snapcaster Mage. My creatures win that battle. Bloodghast. Bring it on. Vendilion Clique. What a wimp. Anyway, my point is there are a lot of one toughness creatures in the format and first strike has its advantages.

Viability

It remains to be seen. However, preliminary testing shows it to be viable. There are many decks that simply don’t interact much with your board in Modern. Without Pyroclasm, Tron can just be dead by third turn. Amulet-Bloom can just durdle sometimes while you smack them around. The same with Storm, Scapeshift and other decks. It’s the fair decks that are more of a problem as they put creatures in your way. Discard and removal also makes things difficult, but that is why we have sideboards. Honestly, don’t even ask about sideboards. I’ve merely been entertaining the idea and it appears to be an idea worth further exploring.

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