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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Oct 15 2012 2:51am
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Hello!

Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man!  This week I'll be looking at the Soul Sisters deck.  The original Soul Sisters concept came about during a Core Set overlap in which Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant were briefly both legal in Standard at the same time.  The result was a deck that could gain a lot of life and then take advantage of that life gain with creatures such as Ajani's Pridemate and Serra Ascendant.  Most of the building blocks for the deck are unchanged, with the main players being the same.  However, the Modern pool of cards also gives you access to some very cool cards.

Here is a list from a recent Modern Daily piloted to 3-1 by SA36:


Below is the list I am currently running.  My list is fairly similar.  I'm running some slightly different numbers and playing Angel of Jubilation over Mikaeus, the Lunarch, largely due to the difference in cost.  I was running a couple of Ghost Quarters in the deck but it just makes the manabase more awkward and means your Spectral Processions can't be played with as much consistency.  However, the basic framework is very much the same here.


DECK TECH

The Sisters

Soul Warden/Soul's Attendant
Soul Warden/Soul's Attendant
Gaining 1 life whenever a creature comes into play is an ability that has appeared on quite a few cards over time.  It's a fairly innocuous ability but one that can gain you a serious advantage over time.  That advantage only increases when you're running eight one-mana creatures with that ability.  The Soul Sisters can gain you a lot of life in fairly short order and make it very rough on fast beatdown decks like RDW and Boros.

Martyr of Sands
Martyr of Sands
Martyr of Sands isn't an original Soul Sister but she deserves to be an honorary one.  I don't think there is a single creature that can gain you as much life in one turn as Martyr.  An early Martyr of Sands can gain you a good 12+ life, which not only helps keep you alive but also activates a lot of the things this deck does, particularly Serra Ascendant which we will get to shortly.

The Brothers/The Others

Ajani's Pridemate
Ajani's Pridemate
If you've never played this deck then it's possible you don't know how ridiculous this card can get.  Ajani's Pridemate gets a +1/+1 counter each time you would gain life.  So if you have a Soul Warden in play, any time a creature enters the battlefield Ajani's Pridemate gets a +1/+1 counter on it (including when you play it as the trigger resolves after it comes into play).  Now think about the times when you have more than one Soul Warden/Soul's Attendant in play or you play Spectral Procession making three Soul Warden triggers, this guy gets very big very fast.  I've had him as big as a 10+/10+ though my opponent tends to die pretty soon after that sort of thing happens.

Serra Ascendant
Serra Ascendant
One mana for a 6/6 flying lifelink creature.  Sounds like a good deal.  Granted you are going to have to put a little work in but it's well worth the payoff.  Also even as a 1/1 lifelink creature Serra Ascendant is fairly reasonable.  Being able to attack and put a +1/+1 counter on your Ajani's Pridemate is not too shabby.  Being able to search up two of these guys with Ranger of Eos (below) when you have a solid life total is also pretty awesome.

Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos
Ranger of Eos is excellent in this deck as it can search up Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendant.  I usually search up a Martyr of Sands and a Serra Ascendant as they are usually a brutal combination, however, choices change according to circumstances.  Ranger gives you a lot of options and essentially draws two cards which is fantastic.

Squadron Hawk
Squadron Hawk
Squadron Hawk works really well in this deck as it has excellent synergy with the sisters.  When you play your Hawk you can fetch up 3 more creatures to play which is 3 more life if you have a Warden or Attendant out.  Alternatively, if you have a Martyr then you can add 3 additional white cards to your hand for when you sacrifice your Martyr.  That equals 9 more life for you.  A pretty sweet deal.  Let's also not forget that multiple 1/1 flyers are not all that easy to deal with in themselves and with Honor of the Pure they become an even more serious threat.

Angel of Jubilation
Angel of Jubilation
I was really trying this as a one-of in replace of the more expensive Mikaeus, the Lunarch.  I have to say I wasn't really convinced.  Some decks are also running a couple of Aven Mindcensors which is something I might also try.  I haven't been too impressed with Angel of Jubilation so I don't think I would recommend it as the best choice.  Worth experimenting with though.

Spells

Spectral Procession
Spectral Procession
Three 1/1 flyers for 3 mana is just a great deal.  A one card army particularly awesome with anthem effects and also great at activating Windbrisk Heights.  The additional benefit of playing Spectral in this deck is that 3 creatures come into play at the same time.  This means your Soul Warden or Soul's Attendant will activate three times.  Whilst that may only be three life the separate activations mean that an Ajani's Pridemate will gain 3 +1/+1 counters.  Turn 1 Soul Warden, Turn 2 Ajani's Pridemate, Turn 3 Spectral Procession is a curve that is very difficult to beat.

Path to Exile
Path to Exile
Best removal spell in Modern?  I think so.  Most Soul Sisters decks aren't packing the full playset of Paths, I guess because life gain negates the need to deal with creatures to some degree.  However, you will definitely find times when removal is useful and so I'm currently running 3 copies.  I'm not really convinced that the deck can really do without it.

Honor of the Pure
Honor of the Pure
Honor of the Pure is the anthem of choice here.  As the deck is not based around tokens, Honor of the Pure is definitely the preferred choice here.  Honor is very powerful and sticking one makes life a lot harder for your opponents.  Creatures that were once doing minor damage start doing significantly more and creatures they could trade with can only be chump blocked.  Honor can change a board state in a hurry.

Manabase

Windbrisk Heights
Windbrisk Heights
Getting a free card for attacking with three creatures is very powerful and that's why Windbrisk is here.  It's probably not as powerful as it is in the Tokens decks, as it is a little harder to get three creatures down, but you can Spectral Procession and Squadron Hawk to help in this department.

Flagstones of Trokair
Flagstones of Trokair
Flagstones seems to be a card that is increasingly being cut from the deck and I can't really argue against it.  Although it does have the ability to thin your deck a little, the fact it brings in the new lands tapped means that you can sometimes be left in an awkward position.  There isn't a great deal of advantage to running these and so cutting them seems fine to me.

Sideboard

Disenchant
Disenchant
Disenchant is a card that catches a lot of potential problems and that's why I have chosen to run it in the sideboard.  There are a large number of problem artifacts including Vedalken Shackles, Birthing Pod, Ensnaring Bridge and the various Swords.  Disenchant also catches the outlier enchantments like Worship too.

Path to Exile
Path to Exile
The final copy of Path is in the sideboard if it seems like it might be needed.

Worship
Worship
As with its inclusion in the WB Tokens deck, Worship can sometimes let you win games you have no business winning.  However, I would warn against overestimating the power of the card.  Sometimes it is not quite as good in a matchup as it would first seem.

Grafdigger's Cage
Grafdigger's Cage
Graveyard shenanigans might not be as common as they once were in the format but they're certainly still around.  Grafdigger's Cage is a good answer to those decks.

Relic of Progenitus
Relic of Progenitus
More graveyard hate.  Perhaps more than is necessary and I would consider taking either these or the Cage out in the current metagame.

Ethersworn Canonist
Ethersworn Canonist
Ethersworn Canonist is useful against a number of different decks.  It works well against Cascade spells like Bloodbraid Elf, stops decks like Storm, and can just generally slow down your opponent to allow you to gain an advantage.

COST
This deck is considerably cheaper than a lot of the other popular decks in the format.  The manabase is a lot easier to make as all you really require is Plains and preferably some number of Windbrisk Heights, which are by far the biggest expense for the deck.  Having said that, there are still some expensive cards in the deck.  Spectral Procession, Path to Exile and Ranger of Eos are reasonably expensive but a worthwhile investment as they are useful in other decks.  Serra Ascendant has seen a surprising boost in cost recently jumping to 3 tixs a piece (they were about half that price when I picked them up a month or so ago). 

Main Deck
4 x Windbrisk Heights= 15.04
4 x Serra Ascendant= 12.00
4 x Spectral Procession= 7.68
3 x Path to Exile= 7.65
4 x Ranger of Eos= 7.52
4 x Flagstones of Trokair= 1.76
4 x Honor of the Pure= 0.96
4 x Ajani's Pridemate= 0.60
3 x Martyr of Sands= 0.45
4 x Squadron Hawk= 0.32
1 x Angel of Jubilation= 0.31
3 x Soul's Attendant= 0.30
4 x Soul Warden= 0.12
Total: 54.71 tix

Sideboard

2 x Grafdigger's Cage= 3.44
3 x Ethersworn Canonist= 2.97
1 x Path to Exile= 2.55
3 x Relic of Progenitus= 0.24
2 x Worship= 0.22
4 x Disenchant= 0.08
Total: 9.50 tix
 
Grand total: 64.21 tix

*Prices are taken from MTGOTraders.com and are correct at time of writing.

GAMEPLAY
So now for some gameplay videos.  Just to remind you I don't claim to be an expert with any of the decks I run.  These are just some first impressions and an example of what the deck can do.  As always the videos are in playlists so the next game of the match will automatically play at the end of the game your are matching.


My first matchup is against an interesting Esper Control build.  Our opponent's deck was quite versatile with its ability to search up answers using Mystical Teachings, however, ultimately the threat we posed was too great.  We were able to overwhelm our opponent with threats and the card advantage we gained from cards like Ranger of Eos and Windbrisk Heights meant that we were able to keep our opponent under pressure.


The second match I have for you is against RWU (or American) Delver.  Delver is one of the premier decks in the format and this match probably shows you why.  The deck is very versatile and despite a great start for me in Game 1, I was eventually attritioned out of the match.  A similar thing happened in Game 2.  I had a fairly decent board position and even tried to play around Wrath of God but it was to no avail.  Swords eventually did me over, with a little help from Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel.


(*Sorry if the audio quality isn't as good on the following videos.  I usually record on an external microphone but have recently moved and forgot to bring it with me so I'm using the internal microphone in my laptop for the last two videos.  Hopefully I'll be able to sort this out soon.)
My third matchup is against Jund, a deck that seems to be coming one of the most popular deck choices in the format.  In Game 1, I almost managed to bounce back from my opponent tearing my hand apart with Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, however, increasingly large Tarmogoyfs made sure that he made short work of me.  This is one of those occasions where the lack of removal in the deck can hurt.  Game 2 was a lot closer as my opponent almost committed suicide with two Dark Confidants on the battlefield.  Sadly, I didn't take full advantage of this and ended up just losing out despite a spectacular amount of life gain in the early going.


This matchup is against Valakut, the newest big player in the format.  I felt like Soul Sisters might be well positioned against this deck as gaining life means that they need a greater number of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle activations to kill you. My confidence was boosted by my quick victory in Game 1.  However, in Game 2 which sadly I lost the replay for I was defeated despite gaining considerable life and establishing a good board position.  In Game 3, I was defeated again this time even quicker due to a Turn 2 Prismatic Omen followed rather swiftly by a Scapeshift that left me well beyond dead.

CONCLUSION
Although the deck's overall strategy seems simple, I have found that the deck is more difficult to pilot than I had anticipated.  It's not always clear when you want to be trying to gain as much life as possible and when it would be better just to establish a solid board position.  The deck also has some trouble with overcommitting.  Although there are some powerful card advantage engines in Squadron Hawk, Windbrisk Heights and Ranger of Eos, the deck tends to demand you play out your hand fairly quickly.  If your opponent can handle what you've dealt out then they will probably win.  I've found that this deck doesn't too well at coming from behind, unlike some of the other prominent decks in the format.

In my next article I plan to look at a UR Delver build which is rather fun; and cheaper than the more common RUG and URW Delver decks.  Until then I invite you to check back on the previous articles in this series.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

4 Comments

What about the inclusion of by Rerepete at Tue, 10/16/2012 - 09:08
Rerepete's picture

What about the inclusion of Cathar's Crusade?

The reason for Mikaeus, the Lunarch is the ability to tutor it with Ranger of Eos.

I think I would prefer Emeria, the Sky Ruin over Windbrisk Heights, as the average mana cost of the deck is ~1.9 CMC; so you net less than 1 on the activation. Altough it does allow for a scry 4 and possible combat trick.

Interesting take on an old by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:08
Paul Leicht's picture

Interesting take on an old classic.

The cards that are missing that I'd want are proclamation of rebirth, Wrath of God, (and maybe DOJ too as a #5 wrath)

I agree with pete that Windbrisk is not really effective here but for the same reason emeria isn't either. With one (bad for this deck) bigger creature it doesn't really make sense for either land. Tectonic Edge might be suitable as a replacement, as there are plenty of opposing lands to hate on, including some manlands.

Ajani #1 might be a good one off.

Alternatively you could go with a stronger Angel presence with a one off Angel of Glory's Rise,some number of Sublime Angels and keep the Windbrisks for THOSE cards.

Angel of Jubilation seems like a sideboard against one particular deck: MBC. Nothing else really suits it's ability. Also it stops you from saccing Martyr which could be deadly.

Thanks for the comments guys. by olaw at Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:47
olaw's picture

Thanks for the comments guys. Glad you enjoyed reading the article.

In response to Rerepete, Cathar's Crusade is a little expensive for my tastes. Also, if you are looking for that kind of effect I think Ajani Goldmane is probably a more powerful card, with a cheaper mana cost, as Paul suggested. I would not mind trying Goldmane in this deck as it seems like it would be pretty good.

I think both of you are looking at Windbrisk Heights in the wrong light. I think it's better to look it from a card advantage perspective rather than a mana advantage perspective. Windbrisk Heights essentially draws you a card, provided you can meet the requirements (which isn't all that difficult for this deck). Although playing an expensive spell from under it is more advantageous I don't think it's necessarily worth hampering your curve for the sake of it. I do respect your opinions and I think your suggestions are valid.

As to Paul's other suggested inclusions, I think Proclamation of Rebirth is a good one. Not a lot of Soul Sisters decks run it anymore but I think that was because graveyard hate was quite prevalent in the format, which I don't think is as true anymore. As for Wrath/DOJ I don't really like the idea of running these main deck as I don't think you can necessarily bounce back as quickly from the results; however I don't object to them in sideboard, particularly as I see a need for additional removal in some match-ups.

Angel of Jubilation isn't a strong choice and I think it was initially included as Birthing Pod hate, which probably isn't worth main decking in the current environment. There are a lot of cards that could take its place.

I view windbrisk as being a by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/16/2012 - 13:10
Paul Leicht's picture

I view windbrisk as being a skill test. It can be awesome or terribad based on what you select to put underneath and how well the board shapes up for you. If you can't attack for value then the heights are useless. If you can then you have to ask whether what is under the windbrisks is worth the potential risk to the main idea of holding back sisters to gain life with. Yes you may get a procession going, great combo! or you may not. If you do however, what exactly is your gain?

RE: Wrath and DOJ. I hear/see this objection a lot from players who are failing to consider the dynamics of the play. Consider this: Your op plays a dude, you play a sister, they play more dudes, you wrath.

Your board recovers easily because you didn't over-commit and they did thinking you'd not dare to kill your side. Also with Proclamation you don't really care if you lose a few dudes early on. You will get them back and Ranger refills your hand if you need it.

Strategy on the board becomes much more complex with sweepers but it also means better control. A more likely later game sweeper is Martial Coup which will give you tokens to further your goals with if you just need some dudes and or reset the board in your favor.