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Thirst for Knowledge: Modern Death Cloud.

Written by Joshua Claytor on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Thirst for Knowledge:  Modern Death Cloud.

Joshua Claytor

Joshua is the current content manager of Legitmtg.com and Puremtgo.com.

In the long long ago, when Champions of Kamigawa was the newest set, and Affinity had not quite ruined Standard yet, Death Cloud was nothing more than a neat Black Spell that had no right being cast in the amazingly fast Standard format. In format with artifact lands, Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager, one should have been dead long before Death Cloud had any chance to make an impact on the board.

For the most part, that was the truth in the previous Standard, and Block Constructed seasons. The card saw very little play. What changed though? Well obviously a new set had something to do with it, Skullclamp getting banned left Affinity without an incredibly powerful card advantage engine, and with Champions coming in, Onslaught Block rotated out, making Standard significantly smaller. What else was important?

Sakura-Tribe Elder gave Green decks a speed bump that was also useful. You could stack damage at the time, so you could block, stack damage, search for a land, and maybe trade for one of your opponent’s creatures. Kodoma’s Reach was an efficient ramp spell, moving you from 3 mana to five mana on turn 4. Kokusho, the Evening Star gave you a powerful threat that under the old legend rules would gain ten life for you while draining ten from your opponent, because they would both die. It should be noted that Affinity did not exactly gain any new cards with Champions release, so the format slowed down considerably, a banning effected the deck, and it was still the best deck in the format by far.

I won States in 2004 with a Death Cloud list that was tuned through hours of work to beat Affinity, and throughout the day that is what I did. I beat it twice in the top eight, and a few times in the swiss, but still managed to get browned by one of my best friends in the swiss. I struggled against the Blue decks that Flores had theory crafted, but I expected a ton of Affinity, it was cheap, didn’t have expensive new cards and ported over well from the previous block season. That is what I had to beat, and to do that I had to break the symmetry that Death Cloud has built in. My plan was to get super ahead in lands, kill some creatures to make everything manageable, and then start to fire off clouds. They would empty the hand, deal with the threats and kill their lands, and since a lot of my lands were in play and out of the deck, I would be drawing gas for the rest of the game. I could Eternal Witness spent copies of Plow Under to further put the screws to them and eventually just win with the card advantage I gained from breaking that symmetry Death Cloud wants to deliver.

To say that casting Death Cloud is one of my most favorite memories in regards to Magic would be a small understatement. Most of my favorite memories from Magic involve messing with my opponent’s land somehow, from Annexing land in an Onslaught Block PTQ, to cycling Decree of Annihilation, to casting Wildfire, I have this desire to see my opponent struggle to cast spells. I miss Pillage and Stone Rain.

Recently there was an MOCS on MTGO, and while looking at decks, I saw the 12th place list, a Death Cloud list that had went 6-2 in the event. That is a fairly impressive record, and after borrowing cards from two of my friends and writers at PureMTGO.com, I was able to fire up MTGO and get into a friendly league right before the recent Modern bannings happened on MTGO.

Here is the list that I played.

When looking at a Death Cloud list for the first time you for sure want to see how this deck looks to break the symmetry of the sorcery. In my states build it was to get a land advantage and ride the extra lands to casting Death Clouds that would leave me with some and my opponent with none. This build looks to gain advantage in two different ways. The first is Planeswalkers, Death Cloud does not care about them, so you can cast the spell, and pump beasts out with Garruk. The other way that this deck looks to take advantage is through discard spells. Inquisition hits a vast majority of the format, and Thoughtseize well, it get a lot of the cards too. The other thing to notice about this deck is the absurd amount of 1 ofs in the deck. It kinda looks like Binder.dec, but it did go 6-2 so there was some promise in it.

I joined my league, fired up the stream, and was super excited to battle with Death Cloud.

Then I promptly went 1-4 with it in the stream. Let’s watch!

After that embarrassment, I took a small break, dusted myself off and went 4-1 in the next league, but the deck, for all the promise that it showed was wildly inconsistent. The amount of one ofs made it play like a Highlander deck, and it was powerful but widely inconsistent. I sided out Death Cloud in more matches than I care to remember, and it felt like when I was done, a BG rock deck that had Death Cloud just thrown in.

Can Cloud compete in Modern? I would like to think so, even if WotC banned the wrong card for Dredge. Prized Amalgam should have been what got banned but it’s whatever, just slide Golgari Thug in that main deck and Dredge again. I’m going to continue to look at Death Cloud and hope that we can make some sort of inroads there, as it’s about that time of the year where I fall in love with something in Modern.

Thanks for checking out the article, have a great day!

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