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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Apr 30 2015 12:00pm
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http://blog.mtgprice.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Anafenza-Kin-Tree-Spirit-by-Ryan-Yee-1038x576.jpg

Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I want to look at the new Anafenza from Dragons of Tarkir.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit

After thinking about Anafenza a bit from the spoiler probably the most exciting interaction she has is with Persist creatures such as Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap.  Much like Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Anafenza can ensure that these creatures repeatedly return to play as the +1/+1 counter from her bolster effect cancels out the -1/-1 counter the creature is given when it Persists from the graveyard.  This means you can Persist infinitely so with a repeatable sacrifice effect, like Viscera Seer, you can gain infinite life with Kitchen Finks or deal infinite damage with Murderous Redcap and Scry through your whole deck for the card you want to put on top.

Melira Pod was a pretty popular deck in Modern once upon a time but after Birthing Pod got banned it's been hard to see a way to rebuild.  Anafenza has sparked interest in building a Melira Pod without the Pod.  Notably because Anafenza is for the most part superior to Melira, in that she is actually a creature that has a reasonably amount of utility outside of just being a combo piece.  The Bolster ability can help grow your creatures and although not always amazing it is better than just having a glorified Grizzly Bears.

Another card from Dragons of Tarkir that help fuel interest in such a deck was another fantastic enabler for the deck, Collected Company.

Collected_Company.jpg

Although it is far from Birthing Pod, Collected Company is a powerful way to search part of your library for creatures and what's more you get to put them straight into play.  The fact that the three creatures required for the combo, Anafenza/Melira, Kitchen Finks and Viscera Seer are all under three mana means that Collected Company can find you any one (or event two) of your combo pieces and drop them straight into play at instant speed.

A lot of people have had the idea of making this deck and I've taken some of my own ideas and some that I've seen around the web to make my list:

 

DECK TECH

The Combo Pieces

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
I've already spoken of some of the virtues of Anafenza but how does she play in practice?  I've been reasonably happy with her for the most part.  As we are currently setup it can be a bit frustrating being forced into putting your +1/+1 counters on Noble Hierarchs or Birds of Paradise but gaining some sort of advantage of it being in play makes it a lot more valuable than Melira as a two drop. 
She combines well with Collected Company as she triggers at least twice off the creatures that come into play, even if they aren't combo pieces.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
The original 2-mana legendary creature that made this combo tick.  I wanted to run some number of Meliras as running 4 Anafenza is probably not a good idea because of the fact that she is legendary.  I am not sure that 2 copies is right and would possibly cut down to just 1 or even cut them altogether.
Melira works slightly different to Anafenza in that she actually prevents the -1/-1 counter being put on your Persist creature.  The difference is fairly minimal but in MTGO terms it's pretty big as you don't have to deal with stacking triggered abilities in the same way you do with Anafenza (which can be cost you quite a bit of time when comboing with Anafenza).

Kitchen Finks
Kitchen Finks
Finks is the preferred Persist combo creature thanks to it being 3 mana and a generally powerful and aggressive creature.  Unfortunately infinite life will not win you the game, and on MTGO will probably cause you to lose to time.  That is probably the most frustrating thing about playing this deck on MTGO, infinite life just isn't a concept that translates well and the amount of trigger stacking you need to do when comboing with Anafenza can cost you serious time.

Viscera Seer
Viscera Seer
Viscera is not only one of the cheapest sacrifice outlets available but the Scry ability is one of the most desirable available.  Being able to Scry 1 for each sacrifice when you can sacrifice the same creature infinitely means you can look through your whole library to find the card you want to place on top.  Finding a Murderous Redcap can set up an infinite damage kill but you also have options of finding any card in your deck, which is super powerful.

Murderous Redcap
Murderous Redcap
As previously explained the 1-of Redcap is the kill condition to your combo.  You only need one as you are able to Scry into it with Viscera Seer and generally it pales in comparison to your other creatures.  As it costs 4 you can't hit it off a Collected Company unfortunately but usually you only really want to see Redcap when you are about to win the game.  The double black in the mana cost can be a bit awkward in a deck that also wants double white for Anafenza but again you are usually only casting this to end the game.

Other Creatures

Birds of ParadiseNoble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise/Noble Hierarch
Our mana dorks help accelerate us into our more powerful spells.  They are also extra creatures to hit off a Collected Company and can be pumped by Gavony Township.

Spellskite
Spellskite
As a creature based combo deck it's nice to have some way to protect your guys.  The 1-of Spellskite was an idea I got from another list I saw and it has served me pretty well.  It's also a very good tutor target against Burn, Splinter Twin, Bogles and various other matchups.

Scavenging Ooze
Scavenging Ooze

Ooze is a powerful two drop that interacts well against graveyard strategies, exiling Flashback spells, Snapcaster Mage targets, opposing Persist creatures, Dredge cards etc.  Ooze is also generally useful as a creature that can get very large and another source of life gain in the deck.

Qasali Pridemage
Qasali Pridemage
Another utility 2-drop.  Pridemage is a strong creature but also can be a Naturalize as and when you need it to be.  Having a main deck answer to problem answers to artifacts and enchantments is very useful.

Eternal Witness
Eternal Witness
Witness was one of the first cards I thought of when I saw Collected Company.  Being able to Collected Company drop in a Witness and another creature and then get back your Collected Company to do it all over again seemed really nice.  Other similar lists I've seen seem to be less high on Witness and perhaps 4 isn't the right number but I'm never too sad to have an Eternal Witness.  As well as synergy with Collected Company, Witness can also get you back key combo pieces, you can Chord for it and get back your Chord to bulk out your board and lots of other plays then are just generally pretty sweet.

Flickerwisp
Flickerwisp
I never originally planned to run Flickerwisp in the deck but I saw some in Max Brown's list, which I will discuss more below, and thought they seemed like a good idea.  My experiences in testing have been somewhat mixed.  Flickerwisp's ability is a lot less exciting at sorcery speed and not being dropped in by a Collected Company, which is my main concern.  That said it can still reset a Kitchen Finks or get another trigger out of an Anafenza.
Also, on the positive I found it useful to have an aggressive flyer in the deck as the ground sometimes gets clogged up playing this deck.  Being able to fly over with an aggressive creature has proved useful.  Also, the 1 toughness which is a burden means that if you have an Anafenza in play you can instantly make Flickerwisp into a 4/2 flyer, an even more powerful threat.
As I say, I'm not entirely sold on Flickerwisp in this deck and could certainly see cutting them for something else.

Spells

Collected_Company.jpg
Collected Company
The other new card from Dragons of Tarkir that makes the deck, Collected Company, has impressed me quite a lot.  I think I underrated it in my article looking at the new cards in the set as it is definitely one of the better cards to come out of the set for Modern.  In this deck it is particularly useful as it can hit of our combo pieces and is a great way to rebuild after a board wipe or a key creature is hit by removal.  The instant speed also tends to take opponents by surprise as they aren't really expecting a green deck to have access to instant speed value.

Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling
Chord is a more specific tutor for the card you need when you need it.  Chord is very powerful and as we run a lot of cheap creatures it's not too difficult to tutor for the card you want.  That said Chord can be a little expensive so I decided to run a 4-2 split of Collected Company and Chord of Calling.  I'm not sure what is best but I think I prefer Company over Chord for the most part.  Tutoring a single creature in the deck on its own isn't nearly as powerful as dropping two into play. 

Collected Company is the card I want when I'm behind and Chord is the card when I'm stable but I am looking for a specific piece of the puzzle.  I think I value the former more than the latter.

Lands
The manabase is a fairly standard collection of Duals and fetchlands with one notable exception:

Gavony Township
Gavony Township
Gavony Township is a really great land and one that can do a lot of work for us.  Even back days when Birthing Pod was available, a lot of players used to say that they would win more games through Gavony Township than the Melira Combo.  I think one of the tightropes in perfecting the build of this deck is making the deck sufficiently aggressive while also keeping a viable combo element.  Township really helps in making the deck aggressive as even small creature can get very large after a few activations.

Sideboard
My current sideboard is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas.  I think there needs to be more creatures in it to take advantage of Collected Company.  In general there is removal in there, as currently I am trying to see how the deck performs without and there are also some utility creatures.  Orzhov Pontiff and Sin Collector are both nice tutor targets to deal with either onslaughts of small creatures or Control/Combo decks respectively.  However, in general the board needs a lot of work, this was just very hastily put together.

GAMEPLAY
So let's take the deck for a spin shall we:


Our first matchup is against Mono-Blue Tron. This matchup went pretty favourably.  We were able to establish a quick board presence and Collected Company and dodge any countermagic from our opponent.  Wurmcoil Engine is a scary character to deal with but Flickerwisp is very good in that regard, being able to exile for an alpha strike or just fly over the top when necessary.


Our second matchup is against Zoo.  This matchup ended up going pretty favourably for us.  Cards like Kitchen Finks are very good at slowing down Zoo's aggression.  Provided we can get into the long game cards like Gavony Township, Eternal Witness and Collected Company really give us the advantage, so it's really about being able to resist the initial onslaught.


Our third and final matchup is against Merfolk.  As with Zoo, I think generally our creature matchup is pretty good.  We have tools to allow us to fill the board and we have creatures that can be awkward to deal with.  Also, the combo can be difficult for creature heavy decks to deal with.  Merfolk is still tricky as they can amass a pretty huge army if they get a solid enough combination of Lords but here we managed to cope pretty well.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to produce any more videos.  I've been a bit constrained on time recently as well as feeling a bit run down in general.  Hopefully I'll have a bit more time for videos for my next article.

ALTERNATE TAKES
As I've mentioned earlier in the article, I certainly wasn't the only person to think that this deck idea might work.  Max Brown managed to play a build of this deck to 11th place at an SCG Premier IQ.  Some of my card choices were inspired by this version of the deck.

This list has a lot of interesting card choices, particularly interesting is the use of Congregation at Dawn which I will have to give a try.  I assume that Congregation is used to setup the top of your deck with the combo, which is why Max can afford to run only 1 Anafenza, 1 Melira and 1 Viscera Seer.  Congregation at Dawn works very nicely to setup a Collected Company too.

CONCLUSIONS
This is a deck that feels like it has some potential mileage.  I don't think it's likely to challenge the Top Tier and is a bit of a pain to run on MTGO due to the number of triggers involved in comboing but it's a solid deck.  My list could certainly use tweaking but I've seen greater minds than myself working on tuning a strong list.  I think the deck probably needs to go the way that some others have already steered it in, being a strong aggressive creature deck that has the combo as a side-attraction rather than a more combo-focused list like my current one.

That's all for this week.  I had the honour and privilege of appearing on the Freed From the Real podcast with AJ and Adam last week so please check that out if you haven't already.  Got to chat about MTGO, Standard, Modern, Modern Masters 2015, Tempest Remastered and various other things which were a lot of fun.  Also, a big thank you to Adam for making the sweet new banner/logo for the article that you can see at the top.  As for my next article, I think I'm going to continue testing out the Dragons of Tarkir cards in Modern as I've still got a few ideas left that I'd like to try out.

Thanks for reading
Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)