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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Apr 01 2013 12:42am
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Hello!

Welcome to another edition of Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I will be looking at the GW Auras deck that uses cheap hexproof guys and a whole host of Auras to bring some big beats.

So here's the current list I'm running.  Noteworthy missing pieces are more Temple Gardens and some decks also run Horizon Canopy which would be another nice addition.  Neither are absolutely essential but they would help the deck to run smoother.

This deck draws a bit of distain I think largely because people think the Hexproof is an ability that has been overused by WOTC.  This argument is pretty valid as Wizards have printed cards with Hexproof pretty frequently since keywording the ability previously referred to as 'Troll Shroud'.  I'm fairly sympathetic to this viewpoint as Hexproof is a pretty annoying ability and not nearly as fair as Shroud, forcing you to have some sort of board wipe to get rid of the card while your opponent can exploit the non-symmetrical nature of the ability by sticking auras on the creature with impunity.  A similar deck was also a big deal in Standard for a short-time which was probably the biggest cause of upset at the mechanic.

DECK TECH

Creatures

Slippery BogleGladecover Scout
Slippery Bogle/Gladecover Scout
This are your 1 drop hexproof creatures.  Functionally they are almost entirely the same, unless your opponent happens to have a creature with protection from blue in which case Gladecover Scout would be better.

Kor Spiritdancer
Kor Spiritdancer
Kor Spiritdancer is spectacular in this deck.  I've seen some decks cut down to 3 Spiritdancers but honestly I can't understand why.  To me at least, Spiritdancer is probably the best card in the deck.  Unanswered it will destroy your opponent in extremely short order thanks to the +2/+2 pump it gets for each aura attached to it and draw a whole host of new cards.  I suppose the main disadvantage is for that reason your opponents will be gunning for the Spiritdancer and so often it won't last all that long.  Due to this I often prefer to play Spiritdancer when I've got at least 3 mana open, and at least 1 mana aura (which is pretty much always).  This way, as priority doesn't pass to your opponent after the Spiritdancer hits play, you draw at least one card off the Spiritdancer even if they immediately remove it.

Spiritdancer also has the advantage of forcing your opponent to play some number of removal spells that generally just aren't very good against you. 

Noble Hierarch
Noble Hierarch
Noble Hierarch is far from essential to this deck but I've found it to be a solid addition.  It helps ramp your mana and means you do a lot more in early game.  For example, as I discussed above, off a Turn 1 Hierarch you can play a Turn 2 Spiritdancer and an aura to draw a card.  This can allow you to make your Spiritdancer big enough to survive removal (assuming it's damage based removal - e.g. Lightning Bolt).  Also, as you are generally attacking with one creature with a ton of auras attached to it the Exalted on Hierarch is also relevant.  In a pinch, Hierarch is also a viable, if not ideal, target for your Auras.  If your opponent is light on removal then it really doesn't matter too much which creature you're putting your auras on.

A final advantage of playing some number of Hierarchs is that it can help you dodge sacrifice effects that opponents may well be sideboarding in against you.  Also, there are some decks that will be running main deck Liliana of the Veil which can be a problem, though you can certainly play around it.  Hierarch is a good sacrificial lamb for any opposing sacrifice effects.

Auras

Daybreak Coronet
Daybreak Coronet
It's awesome when old obscure cards finally find a home.  Daybreak Coronet has certainly found a home here.  Daybreak fits in fantastically with the deck's strategy and if your opponent doesn't have an answer to it you really should be favoured to win.  A +3/+3 bonus as well as first strike, lifelink and vigilance is just massive and each of those abilities is very relevant.  The lifelink and vigilance mean that racing is generally no longer an option for your opponent.  Not only will you gain back a significant chunk of life on your attack but vigilance means you can also block gaining an equally large amount of life.  First Strike on the other hand means that mass blocking usually won't be enough to take down your guy and chump blocking is the best your opponent can do.

One thing to note about Daybreak Coronet is that it will fall off any creature which no longer has another Aura on it.  So, for example, if you have a Gladecover Scout and you put a Rancor on it and then a Daybreak Coronet, if your opponent subsequently finds a Disenchant and targets the Rancor the Daybreak Coronet will go to the graveyard as it can no longer legally enchant the Scout.  For this reason, particularly if your opponent has main deck cards like Abrupt Decay, it's sometimes better to use Daybreak Coronet on a creature that has at least 2 auras already attached to it.

Spirit Mantle
Spirit Mantle
Spirit Mantle is far from my favourite aura in this deck but it's definitely a roleplayer.  It's most obvious role being that it makes your creature unblockable and so you can get through if your opponent happens to have a lot of blockers.  This is pretty significant as, unless you have trample from Rancor, some decks can just chump you until they can put themselves in a position to turn the tides.  Spirit Mantle is also a nice card to have on defense as it allows you to block your opponent's biggest attacking threat each turn, or otherwise make favourable blocks.

Ethereal Armor
Ethereal Armor
Ethereal Armor can get pretty ridiculous pretty quickly in this deck.  With all the one and two-mana auras in the deck, Ethereal Armor will generally be giving +2/+2 and first strike at a minimum and often much, much more.  It's even more powerful on a Kor Spiritdancer as you just get bonuses on bonuses.  A Spiritdancer with a Rancor and an Ethereal Armor on it, and no other enchantments, is an 8/8 with first strike and trample.

Hyena UmbraSpider Umbra
Hyena Umbra/Spider Umbra
Doesn't your deck get destroyed by Wrath effects?  Well actually no.  Why not?  Totem Armor!

Totem Armor plays a subtle but important role in this deck.  The Totem Armor auras mean that if your creature would be destroyed you instead destroy the aura and the creature stays on the battlefield with all the other auras remaining attached to it.  So, provided a Totem Armor aura is protecting your big guy you don't have to worry about Wrath effects.  Honestly, though Wrath effects are generally pretty rare in Modern even with the rise in popularity of UWx Control decks.

Totem Armor can also be good on the defense as it can make what look to be a favourable attack for your opponent much less favourable.  I've had opponent's attack me with a creature an equal size to my creature with a Totem Armor aura on it.  I block and they lose their big attacking threat while I lose a 1 mana aura; seems like a good trade to me.

Rancor
Rancor
Historically, Rancor is probably the best Aura ever printed.  So when we are looking for 1 mana Auras to fill our deck, Rancor is certainly near the top of the list of cards we want.  Thanks to its reprint in M13, Rancor is Modern legal and we have access to it.  Rancor is the only aura we have that grants Trample which is certainly something you want if you opponent is taking the route of chump blocking your guy.  The fact that Rancor comes back to hand if the creature it's enchanting is destroyed also means you don't get completely blown out to a Wrath or something similar.

Removal

Path to Exile
Path to Exile
Even the most linear of decks will often find a need for removal.  There are a number of creatures that can cause this deck problems.  Spellskite being a particularly problematic creature that demands an answer.  Path is here to clear out troublesome creatures.

Manabase

Temple Garden
Temple Garden
The GW Ravnica dual is a fundamental part of the manabase.  You don't necessarily need a playset but it does help you if you want to play cards like Daybreak Coronet and green spells off the same lands.

Razorverge Thicket
Razorverge Thicket
The Scars duals are very good, particularly in a deck like this that runs off very few lands.  The deck runs very happily on just three mana so there isn't much of a setback to running Razorverge here.

Dryad Arbor
Dryad Arbor
Dryad Arbor isn't the best card, particularly as you rarely want to play it as a land, as it doesn't tap for mana the turn you play it.  However, ideally it is something to fetch for if you have run out of creatures and need something to use your auras on.  It tends to be a bit of a last resort but it can give you an additional out when your opponent manages to wipe the board.

Arid MesaMisty RainforestMarsh Flats
Arid Mesa/Misty Rainforest/Marsh Flats
Fetchlands are always good to have around, even better if you're running the full playset of Temple Gardens as they can dig them up.  If I was running the full playset of Temple Gardens I would actually want to run more green fetchlands as then I could find Temple Garden and Dryad Arbor consistently.

Sideboard

Torpor OrbPath to ExileDismemberRest in PeaceNature's ClaimStony SilenceSpirit Link

  • Torpor Orb is a hate card against various decks but most notably the Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod combos.
  • Path to Exile and Dismember serve as additional removal.  This can be particularly useful if your opponent is going to be bringing in cards like Spellskite which is a major nightmare for this deck.
  • Rest in Peace is an enchantment, so it gives an additional pump to your Ethereal Armor, that deals with graveyard shenanigans.  This can be useful against various decks but is particularly good against Eggs and Melira Pod.
  • Nature's Claim is very cheap enchantment and artifact removal.  Very useful for dealing with Spellskite, Birthing Pod or various other troublesome artifacts.
  • Stony Silence is a very powerful card against artifact heavy decks.  Again, it's a very good card against Eggs as the Eggs, e.g. Chromatic Sphere, can't be activated.  It's also good against Tron decks that also rely on various artifacts such as Sphere, Expedition Map and Oblivion Stone.  Finally, it also turns off Birthing Pod which sometimes warrants it coming in against Pod decks.
  • Spirit Link is a card you can use against aggressive decks, particularly RDW.  Personally, I haven't found Spirit Link very useful as it doesn't add any power or toughness and Daybreak Coronet already plays the role of lifelink provider.  I would quite like to try out Blind Obedience in this slot as a nice hoser for Splinter Twin/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combos, a way of slowing fast creature decks and a way of gaining life.

COST

This was once labeled a budget deck, which I suppose is true if you water it down somewhat.  Otherwise, I don't think the 'budget' label is really appropriate, at least not anymore.  The basic cards are fairly reasonably priced but Daybreak Coronet has seen a significant rise in price as the popularity of this deck has risen.  Then there are the fetchlands, duals and Path to Exile which pick up the price considerably.

Main Deck

4 x Daybreak Coronet= 29.44
3 x Noble Hierarch= 28.59
3 x Arid Mesa= 23.16
2 x Misty Rainforest= 18.00
3 x Path to Exile= 13.02
2 x Marsh Flats= 10.72
1 x Temple Garden= 5.70
4 x Kor Spiritdancer= 5.40
4 x Rancor= 4.20
4 x Razorverge Thicket= 1.28
4 x Slippery Bogle= 1.08
1 x Dryad Arbor= 0.37
4 x Gladecover Scout= 0.32
4 x Hyena Umbra= 0.32
4 x Spirit Mantle= 0.32
4 x Ethereal Armor= 0.16
2 x Spider Umbra= 0.16
Total: 142.24 tix

Sideboard

2 x Torpor Orb= 7.34
1 x Path to Exile= 4.34
2 x Dismember= 2.34
2 x Rest in Peace= 2.32
3 x Nature's Claim= 0.24
3 x Stony Silence= 0.15
2 x Spirit Link= 0.06
Total: 16.79 tix
Grand Total: 159.03 tix

GAMEPLAY


My first matchup is against Gifts Control.  I featured this video as a preview of this article in my 20th article so if you watched it then you can skip this one.


The second matchup is against RG Tron.  RG Tron is a deck that has proved quite popular since the bannings so it's one you need to be prepared for.  Fortunately, our deck has the raw speed to beat Tron, particularly their slower draws.  Probably the biggest thing to watch out for, other than an early Karn Liberated, is Oblivion Stone which depending on what's going on you might what to play around.  Post-sideboard we can bring in Stony Silence which can cause real problems for the Tron opponent as you will see in the final game of this match.


The third matchup is against UWR Control.  UWR Control has been a major part of the metagame since the bannings.  This match is interesting as counterspells and Supreme Verdict, if they run it, are pretty bad news but on the other hand, the fact that their deck is filled with burn spells that don't deal with your creatures is very much in your favour.  Being on the play in this matchup can be very significant and if you get off to a good start you can definitely take them down.


The fourth matchup is another interesting match against a UWR Control deck.

CONCLUSION
GW Auras is a deck that has had some success in Modern but seems to be declining in popularity since it's initial rise.  I'm not entirely sure why this is because as far as I can tell the deck is still very much a contender.  It's fast enough to race Tron, blanks enough removal to cause UWR Control and similar decks trouble and has enough life gain to cause the aggro decks problems.  You also have a range of sideboard options to make combo decks slow enough to beat.

I was initially a little dismissive of this deck but it actually has a lot of good tools for battling the current metagame.  It's a very all-in strategy but it can pay off handsomely.

3 Comments

Heh, daybreak coronet was by Psychobabble at Mon, 04/01/2013 - 18:57
Psychobabble's picture

Heh, daybreak coronet was literally a 10c card in December last year.

Does Silhana ledgewalker have any place in the deck? Is the evasion relevant?

And I see your justification for spiritdancer, but it just seems a bit odd to have a card which turns on all of your opponent's bolts and paths. Yes, it wins the game if unanswered but spot removal that hits an X/2 isn't exactly uncommon. You say that if you play it + an aura on the same turn you "draw" card even if they respond with removal, but you're not actually drawing, you're just cantrip-ing the aura you lost. You're still down a card from the spiridancer, the cantrip means that the removal has become a 1-for-1 rather than a 2-for-1.

Yeah, funny how quickly by olaw at Tue, 04/02/2013 - 06:48
olaw's picture

Yeah, funny how quickly things can change in the MTGO market.

I think Ledgewalker does potentially have a place in this deck. I've certainly seen a lot of decks taking that approach. I think it's the obvious substitute for Kor Spiritdancer if you are going to cut some number of those. Adding Ledgewalker seems a fine way to make sure you have a Hexproof guy in your opener. The downside is that drawing a lot of Hexproof guys is pretty redundant and Ledgewalker doesn't do anything particularly different to your 8 1-mana hexproof guys.

The evasion of Ledgewalker isn't completely irrelevant but at the same time I can't see it being massively significant. It might help you win a turn quicker now and then but when your opponent is chump blocking you are usually in the ascendancy. Also, cards like Lingering Souls will still be an issue if you don't give your Ledgewalker trample. If I was running Ledgewalker I might be tempted to cut some Spirit Mantles as protection from creatures matters a little less on Ledgewalker but not sure what I would substitute it for. I've seen some people running Fists of Ironwood but not sure how good that is, at the very least it's another source of trample.

The situation I was thinking of was actually when you target a creature other than Spiritdancer, that way you get the Aura and draw a card while only losing the Spiritdancer. However, I admit it still isn't an amazing play. I take your point that making your opponent just redundant is perhaps better than giving them targets. I haven't tried cutting Spiritdancer so I can't say for sure if one strategy is superior to another. Personally, I think I prefer keeping Spiritdancer but it has come back to bite me on occasion.

Aww, I was going to suggest by Psychobabble at Tue, 04/02/2013 - 17:15
Psychobabble's picture

Aww, I was going to suggest vitality charm which does what fists does but at instant speed, but It's not modern legal.