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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 30 2019 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Becoming A Modern Man!  In this article I take a look at a sweet new brew centred around War of the Spark's Narset, Parter of Veils.

Narset, Parter of Veils

The deck comes from the mind of renowned rogue deckbuilder Conley Woods.  Here is the list I picked up from Conley's stream:


Conley has since done some tweaking and changing but the list isn't massively changed from that shown above.

DECK TECH

Creatures

Lore Broker
Lore Broker
This is a card I had to look up when I saw the list as I had no idea what this card did.  Symmetrical looting effects aren't generally good but there is a unique use for them in this deck.  With a Narset in play and your opponent with no cards in hand you can activate Broker on the opponent's upkeep.  They will then draw a card and instantly have to discard it with no time to cast it and be unable to draw another card for the turn.  With Notion Thief in play the opponent does get an opportunity to draw a card but you can activate Lore Broker on their draw step to force them to discard it and draw and extra card for yourself.  This is the basic lock the deck is trying to achieve; leaving the opponent stuck with their existing board state while we draw more and more cards.

Vendilion Clique
Vendilion Clique
Clique is a powerful creature and a legitimate threat as a 3/1 flyer.  It furthers our lock game by being able to take problematic cards out of an opponent's hand before they can use them.  It also interacts nicely with Narset and Notion Thief as the opponent doesn't get to draw a new card, effectively working as a Thoughtseize.  Clique is usually the way we win the game, if our opponent doesn't concede first, as it's our only evasive creature.

Notion Thief
Notion Thief
Notion Thief is a centrepiece to the deck.  Although it is somewhat vulnerable due to its 1-toughness, Notion Thief's effect is very powerful in a deck that is so heavily designed to abuse it.  Thief is more vulnerable than Narset as a creature with a single toughness but it gains us much greater card advantage by stealing our opponent's additional draws.  Casting Day's Undoing with Thief in play will draw you 14 cards.  Sadly as the turn immediately ends you will need to discard down to handsize but you do get to sculpt the best seven card hand from your top 14 cards.

Spells

Vapor Snag
Vapor Snag
A one-of bounce spell for the deck that can save our creatures from removal or send a threat back to the opponent's hand, preferably in preparation for a Day's Undoing.

Spell Snare
Spell Snare
Spell Snare is a efficient counterspell but one that fluctuates in value depending on the matchup.  Due to the low curve of Modern though there is usually a reasonable target in most decks.  Snapcaster Mage, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Thing in the Ice and Manamorphose are all great targets for Spell Snare.

Remand
Remand
Remand buys us time and puts cards back into our opponent's hand ready for us to empty their hand with Day's Undoing.  It also draws us deeper into the deck to find the cards we need to establish the lock.

Snapback
Snapback
A pitch spell that allows us to bounce creatures back to our opponent's hand.  This is a good way of relieving pressure but can also be a precursor to us forcing a discard or casting Day's Undoing which permanently deals with any problem creatures.  The pitch spells also generally try to break the symmetry of Day's Undoing allowing us to respond to threats even while tapped out.

Unsubstantiate
Unsubstantiate
Another bounce spell but one that can also bounce spells as they are cast which can be handy when dealing with permanents with ETB effects.  It's partially Remand and partially Vapor Snag which is a decent compromise.

Disrupting Shoal
Disrupting Shoal
Shoal is another pitch spell and a free counterspell in theory.  It's certainly very difficult to play around and can protect you after a Day's Undoing.  That said I have found it largely underwhelming and a card that I am too often cutting.  Pitching a card is a big cost when so many of our cards are underpowered already.  I have not been impressed with Shoal.

Day's Undoing
Day's Undoing
Another fundamental piece of the deck's gameplan.  There was a lot of hype surrounding Day's Undoing when it was spoiled but eventually players struggled to break the symmetry of the card.  Letting your opponent play first with a full grip is a big risk.  This deck seems to have, more than any deck before it, found a way to break the symmetry of the card.  With Narset in play the opponent shuffles their hand and graveyard into their deck and draws just a single card.  With Notion Thief in play you draw 14 cards while the opponent is immediately empty-handed.  It is a devastating play and a nasty one-two punch with Narset.

Engulf the Shore
Engulf the Shore

This card is slightly awkward but is probably the most reasonably costed mass bounce-spell available in Modern.  I am not in love with Engulf but it has come in handy as a way of clearing the board.  It can be a good way of getting creaturelands off the battlefield by casting it at the end of turn after the creatureland has been activated (or during combat if they have played a land already).

Commit // Memory
Commit/Memory

Commit provides a way to answer a variety of permanents that we want to get off the board once or before we have secured the lock.  Memory is a more expensive version of Day's Undoing that doesn't immediately end the turn.  This card does a lot of the things we want to be doing but the whole package is quite expensive.

Commandeer
Commandeer
Commandeer is a very cool card that can make some very entertaining plays.   It's another pitch spell but one of the more expensive ones.  That said stealing a planeswalker or a combo spell from an opponent is super fun.  The sad fact is though that Modern is a format of very cheap and efficient spells and using 3 cards to redirect a Lightning Bolt or Thoughtseize isn't quite how you want this card to play out.  Outside of a matchup like Tron where you are likely to encounter something worth stealing I have found Commandeer has underperformed.  There just aren't enough good targets in the average Modern deck.

Planeswalkers

Narset, Parter of Veils
Narset, Parter of Veils
Narset really is the key card for the deck.  It's the card we most want to see in our opening hand and is the fastest way to establish our prison.  Turn 3 Narset into Turn 4 Day's Undoing is one of the deck's most powerful plays that steals a lot of resources from the opponent.  From there establishing the lock or stalling our opponent until we can establish the lock tends to be relatively easy with a full grip of cards.  Narset's ability helps us dig to our combo pieces and useful spells too so she really does it all.

Artifacts

Mistvein Borderpost
Mistvein Borderpost
A question that a lot of people (including myself) ask when first looking at this list is 'Why Borderposts?'.  Borderposts, though not the fastest, represent a mana source for us that is also a blue card that can be pitched to our various pitch spells.  As such it gives us a bit more value than a land at the expense of being slightly slower.

Lands

Geier Reach Sanitarium
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Sanitarium does the same thing Lore Broker does but is harder to get rid of due to it being a land.  As such it's another way to access the lock and a valuable card for the deck.

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Mikokoro is a similar deal to the Sanitarium though unfortunately it doesn't force a discard from the opponent.  It's either a one-sided draw with Narset in play or allows us to draw 2 cards with Notion Thief in play.

SIDEBOARD

Ashiok, Dream RenderTyrant's ScornBlast Zone

  • Spell Snare comes in against decks like The Rock where there are lots of 2-drops to hit.
  • Commandeer is very powerful in some matchups - most notably Tron - as stealing a Karn Liberated or any of their planeswalkers is a huge game.
  • Engulf the Shore and Damnation are here for when we need more ways to wipe the board.  Useful against any creature heavy decks.
  • The extra Notion Thief is never something I found myself needing and I believe Conley has removed it from the board since.  I have been running Ancestral Vision in this slot.
  • Unmoored Ego is a great way of hampering decks that are overly reliant on one or a small number of cards.  Amulet Titan is a deck that can do very little without Primeval Titan.  Tron also suffers if you can take away one of the Tron pieces.  Phoenix is also a lot easier for us to handle without Arclight Phoenix.
  • Ashiok, Dream Render is search and graveyard hate.  I have not been impressed with Ashiok as a sideboard card as I think it is just too slow at three-mana.  I would replace this with Surgical Extraction or a superior graveyard hate option.
  • Tyrant's Scorn is a nice versatile spell that can kill cheap creatures and bounce more expensive ones.  Again, a useful addition for the creature heavy decks.
  • Relic of Progenitus is solid graveyard hate and also can dig us deeper into our deck in a pinch.  Decks that can abuse their graveyards are another way out of our lock so we need to be able to keep a check on that.
  • Blast Zone is a nice sideboard card that can clear the board of problem permanents and gives us access to more mass removal.

GAMEPLAY

This is certainly a deck that you will benefit from seeing in action.  It's quite hard to imagine how the games actually play out looking at the rather janky cards that make up the deck.  So, I present to you as usual five matches with the deck:


Our first matchup is against Hardened Scales Affinity.  This matchup played out very interestingly.  Our opponent never got a super speedy start and bouncing is quite an effective way of removing +1/+1 counters from the board.  We got to see the reach of Hardened Scales in its ability to kill you by proliferating poison counters even once you have dealt with their creatures.  Post-board we get access to more removal but don't have the artifact hate that is available to other decks.


Our second matchup is against Grishoalbrand.  I played the other side of this match when testing Grishoalbrand and the matchup is great for Pitch Blue.  Sticking a Narset prevents the opponent from drawing cards from Griselbrand which compromises their whole combo.  Then we have bounce spells and countermagic which makes their life very difficult.


Our third matchup is against Abzan.  I ran into a lot of GBx decks and the matches can be though.  Cards like Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize can really disrupt our plan.  Also, Dark Confidant is a huge pain as it gives the opponent an extra card but it isn't worded as a draw ability which circumvents Narset and Notion ThiefLiliana of the Veil is also a problem if we don't have a creature on hand to deal with her quickly.  Post-board we get to bring in the extra Spell Snare and the creature removal spells.  Blast Zone also does some good work against there 2-drops.


Our fourth matchup is against Shadow Zoo.  This matchup is rough.  Hyper aggressive decks are problematic as they can swarm the board and deal too much damage to us before we can setup our lock.  Our bounce spells are a nice way to buy time but it's very easy for them to rebuild their board.  Blast Zone from the sideboard can help deal with all their one-drops.  Again, creature removal is the main thing we want to bring in here.


Our fifth matchup is against UW Control.  This match is interesting as cards like Narset can be very good against UW Control but they also have their own planeswalkers that can make our life miserable.  An opposing Narset breaks our lock and Teferi , Time Raveler prevents us from using our countermagic and bounce spells.  Our sideboard isn't terribly well organised for Control matchups.  Commandeer can snag an early planeswalker but at a big cost and later in the game is too vulnerable to their countermagic.

ON THE HORIZON

Modern Horizons is coming soon and may well have some new tools that this deck would be interested in.

Force of Negation
Force of Negation
I think Commandeer becomes Force of Negation once it is released.  Force of Negation largely achieves what Commandeer is trying to achieve in this deck at a much cheaper cost.  There are certainly a number of circumstances where Commandeer performs better but for the most part we are using it to counter non-creature spells on our opponent's turn.  Force has the upside of being a card we can actually hardcast and only requiring one blue card to be pitched to it so it isn't quite so backbreaking to use.  It's also better than Disrupting Shoal against some decks so it will be interesting to play around with the numbers and see how this might improve the deck.

Archmage's Charm
Archmage's Charm
Cryptic Command is notably absent from Conley's list (presumably because of the mana curve), so perhaps the deck isn't looking for this kind of effect, but at a mana cheaper Archmage's Charm seems a reasonable option.  It can dig us deeper into our deck, be countermagic or steal a permanent away from the opponent if we are struggling to get it off the board.  Probably worth testing once released.

CONCLUSIONS

Pitch Blue is a really entertaining deck that establishes a lock situation that is unique in the Modern format.  The deck is really fun to play if you enjoy the challenge of thinking through the different lines.

Pros:

  • Games with Pitch Blue never play out the same way and working out the best way of establishing your lock is very fun and very satisfying when achieved.  If you enjoy that kind of challenge then this deck will suit you nicely.
  • The deck attacks the format in a unique and pretty unexpected way.  Some decks just will not be set up well against you.  The deck certainly has a surprise factor to it.

Cons:

  • The deck is difficult to play well and involves a lot of different micro-decisions that could prove costly to your chances of winning the game in the long run.  There are lots of different lines and it's not always clear what the best way to play is.
  • Without Narset or Notion Thief, and more particularly Narset, the deck doesn't really do a whole lot.  There is a reason that Lore Broker and the various bounce spells in the deck aren't Modern staples - they just aren't very good in a vacuum.  So without the key cards to establish the lock you are playing a very underpowered deck.
  • The deck is well set up to deal with creatures once we have established the lock but creaturelands, enchantments, artifacts and planeswalkers are all cards that give decks outs to the lock and that we cannot deal with easily.

I had a lot of fun with this deck and enjoyed the challenge.  After playing some fairly linear combo decks for the past few articles this was a refreshing change of pace.  If you are looking for something a bit different and a challenge then you can't go far wrong with this deck.  However, I wouldn't recommend it as a competitive deck choice.  If you are looking to be competitive there are more consistently powerful options in the format.  I like the deck a lot and the design is ingenious but there are much easier ways to win games of Modern.

As always your thoughts, feelings, critiques or corrections are welcomed.  Leave me a message or comment!  I hope you enjoyed this article.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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