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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 22 2014 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!   In this article I will be looking at a rogue BG Aggro deck that put up a couple of good results a short time back.  The deck didn't have a name but due to the presence of Varolz, the Scar-Striped I like the name Scars & Stripes, though I guess in essence it is a BG Zombies deck.  Let me know if you can think up a better name for the deck.

So let's get to it shall we!  Here's the decklist I will be working with in this article:

Scars & Stripes
Chagatai (4-0) Modern Daily #6865603 on 03/16/2014
Creatures
4 Bloodghast
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Geralf's Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Putrid Leech
2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Abrupt Decay
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 MAelstrom Pulse
4 Thoughtseize
13 cards
Lands
4 Marsh Flats
4 Overgrown Tomb
10 Swamp
3 Woodland Cemetery
21 cards

Varolz, the Scar-Striped


DECK TECH

Creatures

GravecrawlerBloodghast
Gravecrawler/Bloodghast
Gravecrawler and Bloodghast are both recursive threats that can repeatedly return from the graveyard to mount increasing pressure.  Death is only a minor inconvenience to these guys and so any removal that does not exile them is pretty ineffectual.  These guys are the real bread & butter of the deck and provide a lot of the incremental advantages that can provide you with the win.

Lotleth Troll
Lotleth Troll
Initially I wasn't too impressed with Lotleth Troll but the more I played the deck the more I like it.  It is a little weak to Path to Exile but otherwise it's probably the most powerful creature in the deck and by far the most difficult to kill.  Trample and regenerate is a powerful combination and the fact that you can throw away creatures like Gravecrawler and Bloodghast to the Troll practically for free is a very nice interaction.

Gatekeeper of Malakir
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Gatekeeper is a decent inclusion but not an amazing one.  Forcing your opponent to sacrifice a blocker is good and having the ability on a creature means when it's not useful you can just feed the Gatekeeper to your Lotleth Troll.  I'm not in love with the card but it plays a role and can get rid of your opponent's lone blocker which can be very powerful.  Unfortunately, Gatekeeper is a Vampire not a Zombie and so doesn't help you recur Gravecrawler.

Putrid Leech
Putrid Leech
Putrid Leech is a powerful two-drop that can turn into a 4/4 at the cost of 2 life.  This makes it a powerful beater, though be careful that your opponent doesn't Lightning Bolt or Electrolyze your guy in response to the trigger.  Leech is also a Zombie which means it allows you to recur Gravecrawler.

Geralf's Messenger
Geralf's Messenger
Geralf's Messenger is another powerful Zombie card which not only provides a large recursive threat but also drains your opponent's life directly which can be useful in a board stall.  It's often right to attack with this and the rest of your guys regardless of whether your opponent has a blocker big enough to take it out as it just comes back bigger and drains some additional life from the opponent.

Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Varolz is an interesting card and one of the things that really attracted me to this list.  Varolz is certainly not a commonly played card in Modern.  Sadly, having played with the card I have to say that I wasn't too impressed. 

Honestly, Varolz is often just a worse version of Lotleth Troll.  You can Scavenge onto it and keep up regeneration shields but it doesn't trample and also the majority of your creatures are not good targets for Scavenge.  Also, Varolz is not a Zombie so unlike Lotleth Troll you are going to need another Zombie on the battlefield if you want to recur your Gravecrawlers.  It does act as one of the decks few sacrifice outlets which is valuable but it doesn't give you any direct value from the sacrifice in the way a Mortarpod or Viscera Seer would.  I have to say I was largely disappointed by Varolz.
 

Spells

Maelstrom Pulse
Maelstrom Pulse
The miser's Maelstrom Pulse.  Pulse is a very powerful removal spell and has a slightly broader reach than Abrupt Decay when required.  Don't know that I wouldn't rather be running some number of Dismembers as it fits better with our curve and can get larger creatures out of the way at instant speed.

Abrupt Decay
Abrupt Decay
Abrupt Decay is the primary removal spell for the deck.  Abrupt Decay is extremely powerful in the Modern format as the low curve of the format means it tends to have plenty of targets.  The fact it is uncounterable also means you don't have to worry about Remands or Mana Leaks slowing you down.

ThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek
This deck runs a formidable suite of cheap hand disruption with the full 4 copies of Inquisition and Thoughtseize.  This can help stymie your opponent while you get in the early beats and hopefully but yourself in a winning position.

Lands
I will only briefly mention the lands in the deck as they aren't too complicated.  We have Overgrown Tomb and Woodland Cemetery as our GB duals and Marsh Flats to help us seek our Overgrown Tomb for our green source.  Interestingly we are only running 21 lands which is quite land light but the deck runs well on two-three lands.  We also don't run any basic Forests which means we are a little weak to Blood Moon but running a Forest is a bit awkward with the double black and triple black mana requirements for some of our cards.

Sideboard
Let's take a look at the deck's sideboard:
ChokeMogis's MarauderMaelstrom PulseDuressGolgari CharmVarolz, the Scar-Striped

  • Choke is a powerful enchantment against Blue deck of which there are many in Modern.  Choke can be crippling against a Blue mage if they don't play around it.  I like this card a lot for the deck as your initial threats demand answers which give you time to stick a Choke.
  • Mogis's Marauder has some potential as a way to break a ground stall and to allow your creatures to fight through.  It might be a little bit too cute for this deck and at three mana it's a little expensive, not allowing us to keep up mana for replaying a Gravecrawler or regeneration mana for Lotleth Troll.
  • Another Maelstrom Pulse adds some additional removal to the deck.  I like Pulse but it feels very slow as sorcery speed removal.
  • A full playset of Duress adds to our already very heavy main deck discard suite.  Do we really want 12 one-mana discard spells at any one time?  I suppose there are matchups where you actually will but I feel like at least some of these slots could be used for something else.
  • Golgari Charm is a fine card but not the best Charm.  The -1/-1 to all creatures is the best mode, particularly against decks like UR Delver, but also kills a good number of your creatures (even if you can get them back it's not ideal).  Destroying enchantments is not nearly as relevant in Modern as destroying artifacts.  Finally, the regeneration ability seems like it will rarely be relevant, I guess you could potentially counter an Anger of the Gods but seems a little fanciful.
  • Two more Varolz, the Scar-Striped are also in the sideboard.  I don't really know what matchup these are for.  As I've mentioned I haven't been impressed with Varolz so I would be looking to swap these out.

Given that I'm not too happy with the current sideboard let's take a look at some cards I would like to be running instead:
DismemberNaturalizeDarkblastFulminator Mage

  • I've already mentioned it but I feel like Dismember's absence seems wrong to me.  It covers a lot of the creatures that Abrupt Decay cannot touch, such as Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to name some outstanding examples.  Unfortunately I didn't get it on video but I played a game against Mono-Blue Tron and my opponent played a Platinum Angel off a Treasure Mage and I just had no answers to it.  Also, our full black mana base means we can choose to cast it from anywhere to 1-3 mana depending on how precious our life total is.
  • There is no artifact destruction in the deck outside of Abrupt Decay.  It seems like we could use some, particular to provide an answer to Birthing Pod.  Not sure what the best destruction would be.  Creeping Corrosion has the upside of being great against Affinity but it's quite expensive.  Nature's Claim is nice and cheap but giving your opponent 4 life probably isn't what you want to be doing in this format.  Maybe Naturalize is good enough.
  • Darkblast could be an interesting card for the deck.  It deals with small creatures like Grim Lavamancer, Vendilion Clique and Dark Confidant.  Dredge is also an interesting mechanic for the deck as throwing Bloodghasts and Gravecrawlers into the yard is great, also other incidental creatures make Varolz better if you are still want to take that route with the deck.
  • Fulminator Mage could be an interesting card for this deck.  It is at the top end but it covers another area which the deck isn't covering very well currently - that being non-basic land destruction - it's a creature so can be thrown to Lotleth Troll and is also a beater if you don't want to blow up a land.  Could help slow an opponent down sufficiently to get the win.

COST
This deck isn't exactly cheap but it's a lot more reasonable than a lot of decks in this format.  You could also reduce the cost of the deck by cutting Marsh Flats for more BG duals.  Another upside is that the deck is almost entirely made up of cards printed in recent sets so if you've been playing Standard anytime since Zendikar then there's a reasonable chance that you have a few of these cards lying around.

Main Deck

4 x Marsh Flats= 42.96
4 x Thoughtseize= 21.08
4 x Abrupt Decay= 19.44
4 x Overgrown Tomb= 16.52
4 x Bloodghast= 9.72
4 x Gravecrawler= 5.96
4 x Geralf's Messenger= 4.16
4 x Inquisition of Kozilek= 3.28
1 x Maelstrom Pulse= 1.54
4 x Lotleth Troll= 0.84
3 x Woodland Cemetery= 0.72
4 x Gatekeeper of Malakir= 0.48
4 x Putrid Leech= 0.32
2 x Varolz, the Scar-Striped= 0.12
Total: 127.14 tix

Sideboard

1 x Maelstrom Pulse= 1.54
2 x Choke= 0.62
3 x Golgari Charm= 0.60
3 x Mogis's Marauder= 0.15
2 x Varolz, the Scar-Striped= 0.12
4 x Duress= 0.08
Total: 3.11 tix
Grand Total: 130.25 tix

GAMEPLAY


Our first matchup is against Scapeshift.  This is a bit of a race, just have a bit more time than in some matches though and we have plenty of hand disruption to help us keep the combo at bay.  In Game 1, we take a pretty harsh mulligan to 4 and do surprisingly well despite the mulligan but still come up a turn short.  Game 2 goes much more favourably with our early aggressive creatures and hand disruption allowing us to pick up the win.  Game 3 was much closer but we managed to fight through an Obstinate Baloth and overpower our opponent to pick up the win.


The next matchup we faced was a BW Midrange deck.  The deck runs hand disruption, powerful token producers such as Brimaz and some number of equipment.  In Game 1, our opponent had a lot of hand disruption but little in the way of follow up, we capitalised on their stalling and won.  Game 2 was a bit closer with Rest in Peace throwing an early spanner into the works, however, our creatures were still powerful to win through.  Lotleth Troll particularly shined as its ability to trample means that chump blocking is ineffectual.


Our third matchup is against a Birthing Pod deck.  This didn't quite look like a standard Birthing Pod list but it was Melira Pod in colours.  This matchup is very difficult.  They have a lot of creatures to gum up the ground and cards like Kitchen Finks along with ways to recur them is just a big problem.  Also, the Birthing Pod engine is extremely powerful and Maelstrom Pulse is our only way of dealing with it in the deck in its current configuration.  We also have a problem with creatures that cost more than 3 as Abrupt Decay is our main removal spell and just has no effect on anything with CMC over 3.


The final match I have for you is against Storm.  Obviously this is something of a race.  The full complement of discard spells, and the 4 Duress from sideboard post-board, give us a lot of options to disrupt our opponent and our deck is sufficiently aggressive to get a quick win.  It seems that sometimes it is better to throw all your creatures to Lotleth Troll if it means you are going to kill your opponent quicker that way.  Choke can also be pretty powerful out of sideboard.

ALTERNATIVE TAKES
There have been various takes on BG Zombie decks.  However, the first alternative take on this deck is another deck by Chagatai from the Dailies.  This version of the deck adds white to the mix, giving access to Tidehollow Sculler, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Path to Exile.

The differences between this list and the one we have been working with are quite significant.  It might be worth trying this deck out on its own someday but for now I'm content just to show you the list.  I like the addition of Path to improve the removal suite of the deck and Tidehollow Sculler is a nice disruptive Zombie.  Thalia also does a lot to slow down your opponent.  I think the manabase is a bit ambitious, I'd really want to stick some fetchlands in there to fix my mana.  Interesting deck though.

CONCLUSION

I have my doubts about the power of this deck and I think it could use some tweaks but I've had a lot of fun playing this deck.  Attacking with creatures and getting value from bringing creatures back from the graveyard is a lot of fun.  One of my bigger misgivings for the deck though is that Anger of the Gods has become the sweeper of choice in the format and that does not bode well for Gravecrawler, Bloodghast and Geralf's Messenger.  Certainly worth a try particularly if you are Zombie fan.

That's everything for this article!  Afraid I haven't been able to attend FNM recently due to other commitments so no draft stories to speak of this week.  If you enjoyed this article then please check out the rest of the series, the next article will be the 40th in the series it turns out.  I didn't have anything special planned for the article but perhaps I'll come up with something.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)