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Throwback Thursday

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

A little over four years ago we were introduced to a brand new format replacing the then debunk extended format. That format of course is Modern. It came with much confusion and uproar as an extensive banned list was already in place, preventing us from discovering what truly awesome things could be achieved. Apparently everyone wasn’t happy not being able to just jam Caw-Blade again. Fast forward to the present day and even though the pillars of the format are relatively the same, decks come and go. The popular decks from 2011 are completely different than they are today. I want to discuss some of our fallen comrades that have potential of coming back in a major way. All they need is a little push.

First up is one of my personal favorites in Death Cloud. Way back in 2011 I had worked on the deck extensively. It was one of the two decks I exclusively played with back when Extended was a format. (The other being Psychatog) Although I didn’t actually get to play in the Pro Tour the inaugural year for Modern I did have my buddy Antonino De Rosa play the deck I had been working on. Let’s take a quick look at the deck and even a deck tech after a 5-0 start with it.

As you can see the concept and foundation for this deck is very strong. The game plan is basically disrupting your opponent with discard and creature removal. Then set up a Garruk Wildspeaker and Death Cloud to destroy all the permanents and be left with Garruk Wildspeaker vs nothing. Then of course the other alternative is just simply playing a Tarmogoyf and killing your opponent. A pretty effective strategy since the card was printed. Ever since 2011 I have watched as Death Cloud has slowly fallen out of favor to the point of being nothing but a blip in the record books. I believe that with all the new cards that have come out since 2011 surely there is a place in the format for this deck to make a resurgence. I think a fantastic starting point would be the following:

Some small adjustments can really bring this deck up to speed. I added Night of Souls’ Betrayal to help out against Splinter Twin, Affinity, and even Infect to name a few decks. This change means having to cut Sakura-Tribe Elder and to replace it I added Search for Tomorrow. Adding Abrupt Decay can really help the early game and is always a good reason to be Golgari colors. I replaced the Primal Commands with Thragtusk. Thragtusk not only generates the potential life gain you need but also is a great way to add a threat to the board post Death Cloud. Finally I added Tasigur, the Golden Fang which I believe is just an utterly fantastic add. These took up the Eternal Witness spot, which is another nonbo with Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Tasigur however offers repetitive card advantage and a reasonable finisher post Death Cloud.

There are of course other ways to go about building this deck. You can try utilizing Lingering Souls and Siege Rhino while cutting Night of Souls’ Betrayal. This would give the deck a little extra value in the creature department while still having the option of being control or aggressive depending on the draw. The Lingering Souls are very impressive post Death Cloud as a way to quickly lock up a game. Since the mana fixing is so good in Modern it wouldn’t really effect the triple black requirement of Death Cloud all that much either.

Next up we have more of a one-two punch. Affinity has been a prime player since Modern began and that’s showcased here by the old combo of Fling and Atog. My Affinity brother Alex Majlaton showcased the power of this deck at Worlds in 2011 going 5-1 in the Modern portion. Let’s take a look at what he played.

Today Affinity is more at its core playing with almost strictly Artifacts and abusing cards like Steel Overseer and Etched Champion. This list showcases the two card combo that can leave your opponent quite dead, really fast. Fling is also quite powerful with Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating. Ironically there isn’t much I would change from this deck without trying it out some more. The only change I would make would be cutting the four Frogmites and replacing them with the other two Blinkmoth Nexus and two Spellskite. What I really like in theory here is that this particular version isn’t just dead to Stony Silence like the traditional versions. Having Atog means you always have something that can turn your useless artifacts into an actual threat.

Perhaps another direction you could take this list is to add Disciple of the Vault instead of those Frogmites as well and playing Blackcleave Cliffs over the mountains. Having both Arcbound Ravager and Atog to sacrifice artifacts can really rack up some serious life loss and an easy way to gain incremental points of damage against removal and the mirror match. This again would highlight the power of not being dependent solely on Artifacts and make traditionally back-breaking cards like Stony Silence more manageable. Adding the Blackcleave Cliffs also gives you minor improvements like being more able to attach Cranial Plating at instant speed, cast Vault Skirge without life loss, and have access to cards like Thoughtseize or Dark Confidant post board. A rough draft would look something like this:

Finally the last throwback I have for you today is Tribal Zoo. Pat Cox has been using Wild Nacatl to bring him success in Modern for as long as it’s been legal. For a while it was banned and even with its resent unbanning there hasn’t been much success with it. Zoo might be able to take the place of RDW as the aggressive burn deck of the format given the chance. Let’s take a look at his list from Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011.

The strategy is fairly straightforward here. Play a couple of critters on the first few turns and just clear the path with removal spells. Once you get a few hits in the burn spells can finish the job. This list even packs Thoughtseize to help against the combo matchups that were so prevalent back then. Flash forward to today and you get some nice bonuses to the deck. The first great addition with be to add Onslaught fetch lands thanks to Khan’s reintroducing them to the format. This would really help smooth out the mana base and make draws less awkward. Also Snapcaster Mage is another great add to potentially just straight burn out your opponent with Tribal Flames. An updated list would look something like this:

Modern will continue to be a fun and diverse format as the card pool for it continues to grow. Some decks today will be gone the next time Modern season comes around while others will continue to be pillars of the format like Affinity and Twin. I’m always one for innovating and breathing life back into dead archetypes. I guess that’s just the deck builder in me. Anything dead you’re looking to bring back?

Till next time,

John Cuvelier
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. on MTGO

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