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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Aug 05 2019 12:00pm
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Hello!

In this edition of Rogue's Gallery we are looking at the month of July.  July saw the release of Core Set 2020 and the permanent introduction of the London mulligan to all formats.  On 8th July, the banned and restricted announcement added to Bridge from Below to Modern's banlist as a targeted shot at the Hogaak Vine deck that had been dominating the metagame.

At the end of the month was the Mythic Championship IV which saw the pros playing Modern Horizons Limited and Modern.

So let's take a look at some of the biggest innovations for the month:

Jund

Wrenn and Six may have just found a home and it's in the old Jund shell.  Wrenn and Six and Seasoned Pyromancer seem to have rejuvenated the increasingly sidelined archetype and it is seeing a lot more play online and in paper too.  Andon de Smet took down the Red Bull Untapped Qualifiers in Brussels with the following Jund list:


This decklist is fully tricked out with Modern Horizons tech with Hexdrinker as a one-drop, Plague Engineer as some main deck creature hate and (Nuturing Peatland also adding to the mix.  With the crazy nature of the format these days it's hard to believe that there was a time that Jund was the deck that was too powerful for the format.  A powerful midrange deck would be most welcome in this degenerate graveyard and artifact deck metagame that currently reigns over Modern.  I welcome Jund's return to prominence and hope it can continue to be successful.

In fact, it was the only archetype to put more than one copy into the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship - with David Mines and Zhiyang Zhang both taking it to the Sunday stage.

You can watch Jund master Reid Duke run a similar version of the deck in the video below:

Eldrazi Tron

Eldrazi Tron is far from a new deck but seems to have seen a real uptick in popularity in the past month.  In a Modern Challenge event, just before the Bridge from Below ban, 8 Eldrazi Tron decks put up 6-2 or better records.  We seem to have reached that time again in the format where Chalice of the Void decks are very powerful against the metagame which I think is a big factor in the success of the deck.

MTGO player olioolli posted a perfect 8-0 record in the Swiss section and finished in fifth place overall.


More recent versions of the decklist have been adopting some number of M20's Mystic Forge in the main deck or to be tutored with Karn from the sideboard.  The deck seems to still be pulling strong in the post-ban metagame with Sean Gifford piloting a copy of the deck to the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship.

Yawgmoth Evolution

Visitor636's 5-0 decklist is a very spicy brew surrounding the scourge of the multiverse Yawgmoth in his younger form.  The decklist is a value creature deck, not dissimilar to the Birthing Pod lists of yore, which combos off once you have two Undying creatures as you can sacrifice one creature and then put a -1/-1 counter on the other to cancel out the +1/+1 counter allowing it to recur repeatedly.  The effect is to allow you to draw as many cards as you have life to give.  Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons generates a 1/1 deathtouch Snake for each Yawgmoth activation adding additional sacrifice fodder for Yawgmoth to allow a wipe of the opponent's board.  Repeatedly recurring Geralf's Messenger can be lethal as the opponent loses 2 life for every activation as can adding Blood Artist to any of these setups.


This is certainly an exceptional brew.  I tested this out as I was intrigued but I wasn't completed sold.  The deck is cool but it's awkward that going off with Yawgmoth is a three-card combo and more awkward still is that it doesn't directly lead to a game winning situation.  The deck is somewhat similar to the Vizier Combo deck but doesn't have the same killer instinct - however, it is slightly more resilient to removal.

Monument Sisters

Next up we have a tasty and relatively budget friendly brew based around, the much maligned, Force of Virtue.  At time of writing the deck is around 81 tix on MTGO, the majority of that cost is the fetchlands and the copies of Rest in Peace in the sideboard.  The deck uses Squadron Hawk and Legion Conquistador to fill its hand and offset the cost of Force of Virtue while using Oketra's Monument to build up a big board state.  The Soul Sisters pad our life total in the process allowing us to beat many creature-based aggro decks.


I thought this deck design was super cool and tested out the deck myself on MTGO.  I have to say that although I had some fun with the deck and generated some huge board states it lacks a bit of that killer instinct, which can be a particular problem against combo and control decks.  This deck is looking to play a long and grindy game and decks that can go over the top of that or simply wipe the board have a significant advantage over this deck.

You can check out my experiences running this deck in my latest Becoming A Modern Man article and the videos in the playlist below:

Hogaak's Back

Just when you thought it was safe to reduce the graveyard hate in your Modern deck...don't call it a comeback but it turns out Hogaak is still running amok in the format.  The banning of Bridge from Below has certainly weakened the deck, without the possibility to combo kill on Turn 3, but the main parts of the deck are still available and it turns out they are still very powerful.  There have been a few different builds floating around, including a blue splash Hedron Crab and Prized Amalgam and mono-black version with Pack Rat and Smallpox, but it is Hogaak innovator kanister who appears to have had the greatest success with his reimagining of the deck.  Satyr Wayfinder is the new enabler for the deck, being a card that can be tapped to cast Hogaak while also adding a minimum of 3 extra cards into the graveyard.


This list posted a completely unbeaten run through the 12 matches played by kanister.  Having played around briefly with both kanister's list and the Hedron Crab list I think I prefer the list above.  However, it does sometimes lack that power to quickly refill the graveyard that the Crab assists with.  However, having a more durable manabase is a big benefit of running three colours and not relying so heavily on fetchlands for Crab activations.

The Mythic Championship proved that Hogaak had not gone anywhere with the deck taking up a massive 21.4% of the Day One Metagame.  The decklist also put up one of the most impressive win percentages (56.2%) of the tournament despite Leyline of the Void being the most played card in the tournament.

You can check out my videos running the post-ban decklist below:

The other Hogaak inspired variant that made a big impact at the Mythic Championship was Hogaak Dredge which had an insane 60.4% win percentage.  The deck is essentially Dredge with Hogaak added.  The upside on the Hogaak Vine decks is that you are basically trading Vengevine for the power of Creeping Chill and Conflagrate, which give the deck some additional reach and life gain to help out in races.

 

Image result for core set 2020 logo

Though Core Set 2020's impact on Modern has not been nearly as huge as War of the Spark and Modern Horizons we have seen few cards filtering through into Modern.  In this section I intend to shine a spotlight on some of the more prominent cards from the set.

Rakdos Goblins

Modern Horizons provided a big boost to a rather different AEther Vial-based alternative Goblins strategy.  That strategy has been further strengthened by the reprinting of Goblin Ringleader into Modern in Core Set 2020.

There doesn't appear to be a consensus best-build for the deck just yet as Goblin Matron allows for a number of 1-of toolbox options.

Here is Saffron Olive's video testing out a version of the deck if you want to see it in action:

8-Ball

I am happy to say that Thunderkin Awakener has starting showing up in a Mardu shell as a way of recurring Lightning Skelemental and Ball Lightning.  It certainly doesn't seem to be a top tier archetype but repeatedly swinging for 6 will get you some wins.  MagicCardsFunFunFun's decklist runs lots of cards from the recent sets, including Dreadhorde Arcanist and Seasoned Pyromancer and Unearth to return any of its powerful creatures back to the battlefield.


Again you can see SaffronOlive trying his hand with a version of the deck in the video below.  The deck is certainly explosive and can win a game quickly.  The problem really comes if your opponent can stabilise at any point.  The deck really needs to be on the front foot as obviously Ball Lightnings are not very good when it comes to being defensive.


Devoted Abundance

While I'm not sure it brought him much success Jon Stern obviously had some faith in the Freed from the Real/Leyline of Abundance combo - enough to take it to the Pro Tour.  With Leyline of Abundance in play a mana creature that makes blue mana and Freed from the Real you can generate infinite mana and make your creatures infinitely large with Leyline's activated ability.


Time will tell whether this is a legitimate strategy but there are a few lists around looking to abuse Leyline of Abundance's power. 

CONCLUSIONS

A lot has happened in the past month when it comes to Modern.  War of the Spark and Modern Horizons continue to show their impact on the format and a few cards from M20 are seeing some play too.  There is a new mulligan rule in town, there was the banning of Bridge from Below and there was a Mythic Championship which quickly showed that the ban did not go far enough to stop Hogaak's dominance.

There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in Modern but I think it's true to say that the format is not in the best place.  The rapid release of high impact sets means the format hasn't had a lot of time to breathe with so much change.  Graveyard strategies, particularly Hogaak, seem to have reached an all-time high and it is definitely not good to see so much main deck graveyard-hate in the format.  Hogaak definitely needs to go but it might be time to consider some more radical bans to bring the format back down to earth.  That said there are some signs, like the return of Jund, that signal towards more reasonable and less degenerate strategies being viable in the format.  I guess we will see how things shake out in the coming months but I do expect change to come soon.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)