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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 28 2015 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I am looking at a cool and quirky combo deck that is very much capable of winning on Turn 3.  Let's just dive straight into the decklist shall we:


The list I am working with is from an article by Shaheen Soorani for StarCityGames.com.  There's quite a lot going on here so let's break it down.

DECK TECH

The Combo

Protean HulkFootsteps of the Goryo
Protean Hulk/Footsteps of the Goryo
These two cards are essentially your combo though you do need to apply the other pieces in the deck to actually get the kill.  First you find a way of putting Protean Hulk into the graveyard, then you cast Footsteps of the Goryo on the Hulk.  You then get to the end of your turn and you are forced to sacrifice Protean Hulk, which then triggers its ability.  You can use the Hulk's ability to search up creatures with a total mana cost of 6 and put them into play, which is then where the rest of the gang come in.

Body DoubleViscera SeerReveillarkMogg Fanatic
Body Double/Viscera Seer & Reveillark/Mogg Fanatic
So the first two creatures you tutor up with the Hulk's ability are Body Double and Viscera SeerBody Double enters the battlefield as a copy of Protean Hulk and then can be sacrificed to Viscera Seer.  This triggers the Protean Hulk's ability for a second time and this time you search up Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic.  You then sacrifice the Mogg Fanatic to deal 1 damage to your opponent's dome and then sacrifice the Reveillark using the Reveillark's ability to return the Mogg Fanatic and Body Double to the battlefield.  Body Double copies the Reveillark in the graveyard and you can then sacrifice Mogg Fanatic followed by the Body Double and use the Reveillark ability to return both creatures to play ad infinitum.  It's quite a drawn out process, particularly on MTGO where it takes about 7 clicks just to do 1 iteration, but it is an infinite damage engine.

I realise that explanation is quite wordy so just to be more clear I have broken it down into steps:

STEP 1: Cast Footsteps of the Goryo on Protean Hulk in your graveyard.  Protean Hulk returns to the battlefield.
STEP 2: At end of turn, sacrifice Protean Hulk to Footsteps.  Find Viscera Seer and Body Double (copying Protean Hulk).
STEP 3: Sacrifice Body Double to Viscera Seer.  Use the Protean Hulk ability to find Mogg Fanatic and Reveillark.
STEP 4: Sacrifice Mogg Fanatic to its ability to deal one point of damage.
STEP 5: Sacrifice Reveillark to Viscera Seer.  Use Reveillark's ability to return Mogg Fanatic and Body Double (copying Reveillark).
STEP 6: Repeat Steps 4 & 5.

The combo isn't unstoppable.  The best way to stop it is to kill the Viscera Seer in response to the Reveillark trigger targeting Body Double and Mogg Fanatic in your graveyard.  This leaves you without a sacrifice outlet and so stalls your combo until you can find a way to kill your Reveillark copy and return Body Double and Viscera Seer and get the loop going again.  This still puts your opponent in a tough spot but they may be able to circumvent your strategy if they have a way of attacking past the Reveillark, burning you out or otherwise winning without killing your Lark copy.  The answer to this problem, and one of the reasons we have 2 Viscera Seers and 2 Body Doubles in the list, is to add an extra step to the process above:

After STEP 2 instead of moving straight to STEP 3 add an additional step:
Sacrifice Body Double to Viscera Seer.  Use the Protean Hulk ability to find Viscera Seer and Body Double (copying Protean Hulk).

This allows you to find an additional sacrifice outlet.  Also, having two Body Doubles means you can Reveillark both back to play to give extra protection against removal, or use one to copy a sacrifice outlet stuck in your graveyard.  The extra Body Double can also help out if your opponent is running Leyline of Sanctity as you can instead move to a beatdown plan.

Draw Spells

Faithless Looting
Faithless Looting
Faithless Looting is just the card this deck is looking for.  We want access to quick ways to discard and to get through our deck as quickly as possible to find our combo pieces.  At one-mana Looting can start setting things up early, and the flashback ability means we can use it later if we need to dig that bit deeper.

Serum Visions
Serum Visions
Visions is probably the best one-mana draw spell in the format.  Draw and Scry 2 allows you to sift through a good number of cards and helps draw you closer to your combo pieces or the utility cards you need.

Izzet Charm
Izzet Charm
Izzet Charm also shines extremely brightly in this deck.  Although generally you will be using it for the instant speed looting ability, the fact it has other modes is extremely useful.  I have used it to counter cards like Rest in Peace, that would otherwise have spelt game over, and used it to kill a lethal attacker to buy some extra time.  Charm is possibly my favourite card in the deck just because it fits so perfectly.

Ideas Unbound
Ideas Unbound
Ideas Unbound goes that little bit further than its peers in actually letting us see 3 cards rather than the usual two, and letting us discard 3 cards which can also be important if important combo pieces get stuck in your hand.  It's also worth noting that as you don't have to discard straight away, if you have extra mana it can be worth casting this before (Footsteps of Goryo) to see if you find any ways to protect it, such as Pact of Negation post-board.

Peer Through Depths
Peer Through Depths
Peer allows you to search for (Footsteps of Goryo) or grab another one of your draw spells to help dig further.  Shaheen identified Peer as one of the weaker cards in the list which is probably fair.  It can dig you a bit deeper but isn't much use if you are looking for the Hulk.

Discard

ThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek
The deck uses Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek as ways to clear the way for the combo and disrupt opposing strategies.  However, Thoughtseize also has the additional utility of being a one mana discard outlet if you happen to have a Protean Hulk or other combo piece stuck in your hand.  You simply target yourself with Thoughtseize and pitch the card you want in the graveyard.

Lands
I won't be looking into the manabase as it looks fairly standard though I do have a few comments.  I'm not sure this is optimal manabase for the deck.  In particular I am unhappy about the lack of basic lands as sometimes I am forced to search for a Ravnica dual and take two pain more than I would like to.  With only 19 lands maybe that is necessary but I would appreciate one or two more basic lands in the manabase.  My other negative experience is with Darkslick Shores.  Sometimes I found myself desperately in need of one extra land in order to combo but then drew into a Darkslick Shores that would come into play tapped.  The utility of the Shores in the early game is good but it has occasionally made a nuisance of itself which I thought was worth noting.

SIDEBOARD
I'm trying to save money for Modern Master 2015 so haven't played with the full sideboard suggested by Shaheen Soorani.  However, I will discuss the cards I have tried out.

Pithing NeedlePact of NegationEchoing Truth

  • Pithing Needle can feel a bit narrow but it provides a nice answer to Scavenging Ooze and Relic of Progenitus, which are two of the biggest problems for the deck.  It also has further applications in other matchups too.
  • Pact of Negation helps protect the combo from countermagic.  Great against blue decks of all varieties.
  • Echoing Truth doesn't further our game plan but provides an out to a variety of problem cards.  I like having at least one copy of Echoing Truth in the main after sideboarding as I hate to just lose to not having a single out in my deck.

GAMEPLAY


Our first matchup is against Stompy/Mono-Green Aggro.  This matchup seems pretty favourable provided you can find the pieces in sufficient time.  Stompy can be fast but it certainly isn't the fastest deck in Modern.  The main thing to watch out for is Scavenging Ooze which can destroy our combo but we have Pithing Needle to handle it.


Our second matchup is against Grixis Twin.  Twin is always a difficult matchup, the Grixis version being no exception.  Discard doesn't bother us too much except when it comes to Footsteps of the Goryo which is the main card we don't want to see go in the bin.  Stealing our draw spells can also leave us in a bit of a pickle too.  Countermagic is probably the more worrying thing, and is generally less prevalent in the Grixis version, but Pact of Negation comes out of the sideboard to protect our combo.


Our third matchup is against Skred Red.  Skred Red is generally a bit slow which gives us a good amount of time to find our combo pieces.  Red also isn't the best of colours at interacting with our combo so this matchup seems very favourable.  The only thing we really want to be worried about is Relic of Progenitus, which sometimes features in the main deck of Skred decks as a utility cantrip.


Our fourth matchup is against Jund.  I probably didn't get the best of hands in these matchups but Jund is always a tough matchup as it is both aggressive and disruptive.  Post-sideboard it generally gets worse.  Scavenging Ooze is one of the cards that our deck fears most and it is often found in the main deck of Jund builds.


Our final matchup is against a Grixis Control deck.  This was one of the fastest match wins I was able to put together with the deck, which can happen when you draw well.  It's very difficult to get much going against a deck when it strings together Turn 3 wins.

THE HISTORY LESSON
Inevitably when looking at an old archetype there needs to be a bit of a history lesson.  The original Hulk Flash deck was a Legacy/Vintage deck that combined Protean Hulk with Flash as a two card combo kill with a variety of kills available.  In Legacy, the deck made big waves at Grand Prix Columbus 2007 with Steve Sadin picking up the title with a Hulk Flash deck designed by Billy Moreno.  Another two copies of the deck, of varying designs made the Top 8.


The combo here was to Flash out a Protean Hulk, not paying the cost, then put Karmic Guide and Carrion Feeder into play.  Karmic Guide returns Protean Hulk to play which you sacrifice to the Carrion Feeder to get Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.  You then use Kiki-Jiki to copy Karmic Guide, sacrificing Kiki-Jiki with its ability on the stack, and use the Karmic Guide token's ability to return Kiki-Jiki to play allowing you to repeat the process until you have enough hasty Karmic Guides to kill your opponent.

I believe that Flash was banned in Legacy shortly after this, as it was deemed too powerful.  Given that you can with on Turn 1 on the play, with some help from Chrome Mox, it seems sensible that they didn't keep this combo around.  Flash is also restricted in Vintage for similar reasons.

ALTERNATIVE TAKES
I was first alerted to this deck idea when I read an article by Drake Builta on MTGGoldfish.com.  The list looked at there was apparently played by Clinton Whitehurst to 5th place at SCG States in Texas.  Let's take a look:

This big difference in this decklist is that it compliments Footsteps of the Goryo with a Flashesque Through the Breach package.  I'm not entirely sold on adding Through the Breach but it does protect you from graveyard hate and what it also gives you is an alternate win-condition in the form of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn out of the board.  I'm keen to test out this version of the deck but I fear it won't be as consistent as the list I am currently working with.  Getting to five mana is a long wait in Modern and hardcasting Through the Breach doesn't seem like the ideal way to go.  It also creates a slightly awkward tension between whether you keep your Hulk in hand or pitch it to the graveyard when discarding, as depending on which combo piece you draw into you may wind up regretting your decision.

Another interesting bit of tech is the lone Summoner's Pact in the deck which you can use to tutor up your Protean Hulk.  Though I'm not really sold on Pact either.  It works well with Through the Breach if you know it's going to resolve but works less favourable with Footsteps of the Goryo as you will need to discard the Hulk and resolve the Footsteps in the same turn which can cost quite a bit of mana.

CONCLUSIONS
I have been very pleasantly surprised by how well this deck plays.  I thought it would just be a super janky combo but it's actually got a lot more game than I thought it would going in.  The deck is actually pretty competitive and I won more matches than I thought so I was pleasantly surprised.

The biggest problems the deck has are consistency and its weakness to graveyard hate.  Consistency is a problem with any combo deck and there will be times that you just don't find the cards that you need - I don't think Hulk Flash is exceptional in this regard and I actually think it is reasonably consistent, just not the most consistent combo deck available in Modern.  The graveyard problem can be helped out with our sideboard cards but I guess the broader problem is that we don't really have a Plan B if the combo doesn't come together.  Shaheen Soorani wrote in his article that he tried out Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler as an alternate win condition but felt it just left him with a weak Delve deck.  I certainly think Tasigur might be worth investigating in this deck but agree that watering down the deck would not be helpful.

Worth a try if you are looking for something a bit different and it's something that will catch your opponent's off-guard.  It's just a shame that the combo isn't much fun to action on MTGO due to excessive amount of clicking required.

That's all for this week!  I was just checking back and I believe this is 60th Becoming A Modern article I have written which seems like a pretty decent milestone.  It's also the 95th article I have written for the site which is not bad going either.  May it continue!
Modern Masters 2015 will be hitting MTGO today which I am very excited about.  Hoping to pick up a lot of cards that I've been wanting for a long time at bargain prices - probably going to try the limited format too!

Thanks for reading!

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

2 Comments

There are a lot of 6CMC by Rerepete at Fri, 05/29/2015 - 17:46
Rerepete's picture

There are a lot of 6CMC creatures that would be good backup plans (Dragonlord Dromoka or Dragonlord Silumgar come to mind) to deal with graveyard hate.

Yeah. In Clinton's list by olaw at Sat, 05/30/2015 - 05:14
olaw's picture

Yeah. In Clinton's list there is a Grave Titan in the board which I assume is the intention of that card. However, I feel putting in 6 drops presupposes that I will be cheating them into play via Protean Hulk (otherwise they don't drop until Turn 6 which is probably a bit late) which is not where I need the backup. The backup is needed when we aren't able to combo off due to graveyard hate.

Clinton's list can play a 6 drop early off a Pentad Prism but our decklist doesn't have that option. Not sure adding 6 drops is necessarily the way to go.