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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Feb 25 2015 1:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I will be taking a look at a very interesting deck that popped up in the Dailies recently.  The deck is centred around the slightly obscure Ghostway and uses lots of creatures with ETB effects in order to abuse that card to its maximum potential.  In some ways the deck does feel a bit like Birthing Pod, so forget trying to make Yisan, the Wanderer Bard into a playable card and why not give this a try.

So let's take a look at the list:


The deck was piloted by Italian player Alberto Mattarei who is something of a champion for the deck.  I saw this deck in the Dailies prior but it was covered before me by Frank Lepore, check his article out here.  I also understand Sam Black put up an article on StarCityGames.com with the deck but it's currently Premium so I can't comment on it.

DECK TECH

Ghostway
Ghostway
Ghostway is probably the most interesting card in the deck.  Certainly a somewhat obscure card but essentially a mass-Blink effect for your whole team.  Obviously the creatures in our deck are designed to maximise the value of this with a host of ETB effects.  The biggest and most important synergy though is with Eternal Witness that, upon its return to the battlefield, can return Ghostway back to your hand meaning you can continue your shenanigans all over again.

There a few things that need to be noted when playing with Ghostway.  The first is that your creatures don't come back until the beginning of the next end of turn step.  This means that if you want to use it to protect from a removal spell your opponent plays in the first main phase you might be leaving yourself open to a big attack.  Additionally, if you play Ghostway during your opponents of end of turn step you won't see them back until the end of your turn which isn't usually what you want.

Although Ghostway is an important card in the deck I think 3 copies rather than 4 is right.  Once you get a Ghostway loop going with Eternal Witness there is no real need for further copies, also Ghostway requires some number of worthwhile creatures on the board to be effective so drawing multiples in general isn't great.

Eternal Witness
Eternal Witness
Witness really is the key card in the deck.  With the different ways you can bounce and recur Eternal Witness the deck can reuse not only Ghostway but basically any other card in the deck.  If you can get two copies of Eternal Witness or a Witness and a Restoration Angel you can buyback your Ghostway and any other card in your graveyard, allowing you to always have a Path to Exile to answer their threats or a Tectonic Edge for their non-basics or just to pick creatures out of the graveyard.

The Other Creatures

Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise isn't an essential in the deck but the deck doesn't particularly get going until the three mana slot.  As such Birds can give you a much needed bit of acceleration into your more exciting plays.

Wall of OmensElvish Visionary
Wall of Omens/Elvish Visionary
In the main deck, we are running eight 2-mana creatures that draw us a card.  I'm not sure whether that is too many or not, I often find myself cutting some number of Visionaries when sideboarding, but they are really great when combined with Ghostway.  Drawing 2 or 3 cards whenever you cast a Ghostway is awesome and helps make the next Ghostway even better.
Wall of Omens probably deserves particular mention as a generally good anti-Aggro card that can buy you a lot of time to set up bigger things.

Kitchen Finks
Kitchen Finks
Solid and potentially aggressive creature that gains life and enjoys being blinked to reset itself.  Honestly, I think Gavony Township is a better combination with Finks than Ghostway but the combination is still decent.  Finks helps us to be a bit more proactive and actually attack our opponent's life total rather than just be passive until we get the silly stuff going - though it also very good on defence too.
I could see cutting Finks in this deck as it's certainly not an essential part of the deck but it does help buy time as well as carrying an attacking threat.

Magus of the Disk
Magus of the Disk
This is one of the cuter interactions in the deck, maybe too cute but it has actually proved useful in my time playing the deck.  As Magus' triggered ability doesn't require you to sacrifice, rather it is just implied that it will die along with everything else, you can cast Ghostway in response and blink out all your guys until end of turn.  This gives you a one-sided Wrath of God and you can even do it again as Magus of the Disk will return to play tapped at the beginning of the end step.
The main problem is that it's a little slow when hardcast and at 4-mana Chording up your Magus of the Disk at end of turn is easier said than done.

Loxodon Hierarch
Loxodon Hierarch
Hierarch is a nice lifegain option in the main deck, to compliment the existing Kitchen Finks, and a big body too.  I actually substituted Hierarch for Obstinate Baloth in my testing because, as Frank Lepore suggested, I feel I am more likely to come up against Liliana of the Veil than a Wrath that I can actually regenerate from.

Restoration Angel
Restoration Angel
Restoration is another key card in the deck.  Obviously being able to reuse any one of your ETB effects is good but with Ghostway the situation can get really silly.  It's also one of our best attacking threats in the deck as a 3/4 flyer and it's the other half of our killer combo alongside Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
My first impressions on the list were to question whether it was really worth the effort of stretching the manabase for Kiki-Jiki.  I'm still a little undecided on that point but I have to say that Kiki-Jiki has definitely pulled his weight in the deck.  The deck can be a bit durdling at times and having an instakill combo in the deck that can spring out of nowhere via Chord of Calling is pretty awesome and kind of gives the deck the killer instinct it sometimes lacks.  Drawing Kiki-Jiki tends to suck in this deck because in general you want to be fetching sources that produce green, white or both and it isn't always worth compromising your life total to make sure you have Kiki-Jiki mana in case you draw it.  That said I have hardcast it in games and Birds of Paradise does work to make that a lot less of chore.

Reveillark
Reveillark
I have mixed experiences with Reveillark.  I have played a couple of games where it was really good and was helping get back Wall of Omens and Eternal Witness and then Witness would get back Reveillark to do it all over again.  However, those opportunities seem few and far between.  It's not the most exciting card with Ghostway as if your graveyard is empty then you won't get any value from it leaving the battlefield.  On the plus side it is a significantly sized flyer which is useful and can be a strong aggressive creature.

Other Spells

Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling
Chord of Calling is your tutor for any creature in the deck.  It's also probably the closest thing linking this deck to Birthing Pod decks of yore.  Obviously the fact that we aren't playing Birthing Pod does mean that silver bullets aren't as easy to find but we've still got some nice creatures to find.  Searching up a Magus of the Disk at end of turn with a Ghostway in hand is really awesome, as is searching up a game winning Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.  A card with many uses and all of them are pretty good - it's an expensive card but well worth the investment.

Path to Exile
Path to Exile
Path to Exile remains one of the best removal spells in the Modern format.  It really shines in this deck as you are often able to buy it back from the graveyard with Eternal Witness to efficiently remove another dangerous target.

Lands
The land setup isn't too remarkable.  It is notable that the manabase has been stretched to three colours solely for the purpose of hardcasting Kiki-Jiki if you are unlucky enough to draw it - which seems quite extreme for a one-of but it is very frustrating to have it stuck in your hand and it doesn't impact us too negatively.  Tectonic Edge is a nice non-basic hate card that can take out manlands, Tron pieces and cut people on their colours, it can also be rebought with Eternal Witness for additional fun.

Sideboard
I have to admit that I didn't really put the full sideboard together.  I feel like there are a lot of options for the sideboard of this deck and many that have merit.  Let's look at a few that I've had chance to use:

SpellskiteQasali PridemageScavenging OozeAven Mindcensor

  • Spellskite is a powerful hate creature against a number of decks - particularly Splinter Twin which is fairly prevalent.  It can also help absorb damage from Burn decks which are another popular strategy at the moment.
  • Qasali Pridemage is artifact/enchantment destruction in a neat and cheap creature package.  I might even be tempted to move a copy of this to the main deck because it is a very useful Chord of Calling target.
  • Scavenging Ooze can provide an answer to graveyard shenanigans though it isn't always the most effective answer given the mana requirements.
  • Aven Mindcensor is card that I don't think is as useful as it once was.  I feel like it's best matchup was against Birthing Pod and with that gone I guess Scapeshift would be the main target.  Search disruption can be a general nuisance for opponent's cracking fetchlands etc but that hardly seems a good enough reason to board a lone Mindcensor in.  Undecided on how useful this is.

I feel like the rest of the slots are very much open for discussion.  You will see in the videos that I tried out Thragtusk in the board, as Frank Lepore suggested in his article, and found it to be reasonably good even if the token goes not synergise well with Ghostway.  I've also been looking to add Lightning Bolts or Dismembers to the board due to my concerns over being removal light.

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


Our first matchup is against Splinter Twin, which after the Pro Tour is probably the deck to beat in Modern.  The deck we played against is a Jeskai version but the principles are largely the same.  This is not a good matchup for us unfortunately.  The four Path to Exiles in the main deck are our only answer to the combo, at least in the main deck, so we are pretty soft to it.  However, the video does highlight the power of being able to use Eternal Witness to buy back your Paths.
Miro83 actually left me a message on my Youtube page suggesting that Engineered Explosives from the board was a good way to improve this matchup, which is something I will have to give a try.


Our second matchup is against Affinity.  This matchup seems considerably better for us though the hyper-aggressive nature of Affinity can be problematic in a deck which is somewhat removal light.  In Game 1, we get a pretty solid lock on our opponent with a couple copies of Eternal Witness and Ghostway allowing me to recur copies of Path to Exile.  Game 2 and 3 don't go quite so well as Cranial Plating manages to do a number on us.  This matchup seems decent but could probably use a little work - fortunately there are a lot of good artifact destruction spells in our colours.


Our third matchup is against Burn, a deck that has really increased in popularity post-bannings.  I think in theory this should be a good matchup for us, we have Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks and a main deck Obstinate Baloth/Loxodon Hierarch which should all be pretty problematic.  Also, we have cards like Spellskite post-board.  However, Burn can be very fast and very painful as you can see in the videos - race situations can be difficult for this deck. This is also probably the match where I most regret having our manabase stretched across three-colours rather than just two as preserving your life total is so important.


Our fourth matchup is against a Jeskai Delver deck that takes advantage of Monastery Mentor from Fate Reforged.  This matchup was a little rough again thanks to the lack of spot removal.  Threats like Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor demand to be answer and we just didn't have those answers.  I guess Firespout from Miro83's list would be a good card to board in for this matchup, as well as Engineered Explosives.  I felt this matchup was winnable but it's very hard to combat the incremental advantage of a Young Pyromancer or Monastery Mentor even once we really get going.


Our fifth matchup is against Elves.  Elves isn't a major deck but I thought I'd show you this matchup as we got to live the Magus of the Disk dream and there were come other cool interactions.


Our final matchup is against Dredgevine.  I picked out this matchup because it worked out pretty well and we got to do some cool stuff with Reveillark, which was nice to see.  They have a series of recurring threats but don't do a lot to interact with us, which can let us get our Ghostway shenanigans going.  I'd say the match is fairly favourable for us as we can block up the ground, have a better long game and Path to Exile is good at getting rid of Vengevine and other recursive threats.

It has to be admitted that we lost a lot of our matches against the major decks in the metagame though all the matches I have shown were at least close.  Perhaps I need more experience with the deck or it is more reliant on its sideboard than I recognised, either way my match win percentage probably wasn't the best.  That said I think we could tweak the deck to our liking and it's a whole lot of fun win or lose.

ALTERNATIVE TAKES
I feel like there is a lot of potential for tweaks and changes to strengthen the deck or alter its direction.  How about going Abzan for Siege Rhinos?  How about being more combo orientated with Village Bell-Ringer?  What about Murderous Redcap?  How about adding Purphoros, God of the Forge?  I'd really like to try some other options using this shell and hope I can get some ideas from you.

While writing this article I saw another player take a list to a 3-1 record in the dailies.  Check out HiMyNameIsHenry's version of the deck:

This version goes some way to answering some of my problems with the deck.  Notably there are Lightning Bolts in the main deck, which is something I've been experimenting with in the sideboard.  Another interesting suggestion that I've seen talked about is Wall of Roots.
Wall of Roots
It might not be the most exciting of cards but it helps ramp your mana, which is important as the deck is quite mana hungry and its important drops are all 3+ mana, and is also great with Chord of Calling being able to provide additional mana and tap for Convoke.  I'd be interested to try Wall of Roots out in the deck as I also think it would help our early defence.
Huntmaster of the FellsRavager of the FellsReclamation Sage
The other additions in the main deck are Huntmaster of the Fells and Reclamation Sage.  Huntmaster has the problem that tokens don't work with Ghostway but might be better than a lone Obstinate Baloth or Loxodon Hierarch - a debatable point though but a card that is worth a try.  Reclamation Sage is probably a better choice than Pridemage as artifact/enchantment hate thinking about things as it works better with blinking.

CONCLUSION
This deck is just so much fun!  I often enjoy playing the decks I write about but this deck has been a particular favourite.  What it does is just really crazy and fun and the interactions are awesome.

The deck's strengths lie in its ability to absorb pressure and create a long game that is incredibly difficult to beat.  Once you get Ghostway loops going you are generally just too far ahead.  The combo option also means you can still win when you are on the back foot.

The deck does have a number of weaknesses though.  As I mentioned, the deck tends to durdle and lacks a killer instinct.  Sometimes you just sit around playing copies of Elvish Visionary and Wall of Omens and don't do a great deal, which doesn't match well with the speed of the format.  It's possible to imagine a more aggressive version of this deck that is better at taking the initiative but in its current state it is very passive, which is why you sometimes have to lean on the combo win.  The other big weakness in my view is the lack of removal.  Path to Exile does a lot of work, particularly with the help of Eternal Witness, but it does make the deck weak to Splinter Twin and creatures that demand answers like Young Pyromancer.  The deck is also somewhat weak to graveyard hate as this neutralises your Eternal Witnesses and Ghostway loops, it also makes Kitchen Finks a lot less effective.  Torpor Orb is also a beating for us but thanks to Birthing Pod leaving the format that is generally less common as a sideboard card.

Overall this deck feels very fresh and exciting in a way that a rogue deck hasn't in some time from my perspective.  I really enjoyed playing this and hope this inspires some of you to give the deck a try.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

2 Comments

What about Sun Titan or by Rerepete at Wed, 02/25/2015 - 19:56
Rerepete's picture

What about Sun Titan or Primeval Titan for this deck?

I certainly considered the by olaw at Thu, 02/26/2015 - 14:00
olaw's picture

I certainly considered the Titans as potential options. My main concern is that the deck is already a bit slow at times so adding more expensive creatures is a bit of a risk. That said I would probably be cool with it if we added in more mana ramp, such as Wall of Roots as I mentioned in the article. Sun Titan seems good but potentially suffers the same problem as Reveillark in that sometimes there just aren't good targets in the card. Primeval Titan is also good but we might want to add some exciting lands, such Kessig Wolf Run to make it more than just a 6/6 Trampler that ramps your mana (not that that isn't good - it's just not as exciting as Primeval Titan can be).