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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Nov 07 2019 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Rogues' Gallery!  I apologise for not having a full article released over the past few months.  I got married in September and so my attention was very much distracted away from Magic the past few months.  I have, however, still been keeping an eye on things.  There were a few significant changes to the format over the time I was away.

We had a banned and restricted update that saw the banning of Hogaak and Faithless Looting and the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic at the end of August.  This put an end to Hogaak's stranglehold on the format and was also a huge blow to graveyard strategies generally.  Thankfully it is now safe to register a decklist without Surgical Extraction in the main deck.  We will take a look at some of the Stoneforge Mystic brews and discuss its impact on the format further below.

We also had the arrival of Throne of Eldraine which has added quite a few new cards that have been making a splash in the format.  I had started writing my usual Modern Musings article before Throne of Eldraine's release but didn't manage to quite finalise it.  I thought looking at some of those cards in action in the decklist below would be a more interesting way of talking about these new cards.

So lets get into it and check out some of the hottest tech and innovations from the past couple of months of Modern:

Stoneforge Unleashed

There have been many who have campaigned for the release of Stoneforge Mystic from the constraints of the ban list.  That time finally arrived on 26 August.  So far it seems to have been a pretty safe unban as Stoneforge Mystic has seen some play but it has not truly made it as a format staple.  I had concerns that the classic Turn 3 Batterskull play line might prove difficult for aggro decks to get past but so far that doesn't seem to have been a problem.

Stoneforge Mystic has found itself a home in a number of different decks, though not have proven overly successful in the metagame so far.

Some decks resemble the type of shell that we are used to seeing Stoneforge Mystic in - that being a UWx Control or UWx Midrange deck like CawBlade.  These StoneBlade decks have seen some success as shown below:

 
Perhaps the most interesting new home for Stoneforge Mystic is the Devoted Vizier combo deck.  Stoneforge Mystic provides the deck with a more aggressive line of action by giving access to Batterskull but also grants a tutorable win condition in the form of Viridian Longbow once the combo is online.  Once the combo is assembled with Vizier of Remedies, Devoted Druid can untap infinitely which turns the Longbow into a machine gun.


The deck above also uses a number of other Throne of Eldraine innovations, including Once Upon a Time which is a great tutor for the deck to find its combo creatures.  It also features the much maligned Oko who has been taking every format by storm.  From what I have seen so far I am not sure if Oko has found his perfect home in Modern but he is still making an impact.

Taking Turns w/ Fires of Invention

Fires is an exciting new card from Throne of Eldraine.  The ability to play spells for free has always been dangerous territory when it comes to Modern and there are a number of ways to abuse the card in Modern.  One of the most exciting synergies is with the Taking Turns shell in which Fires can be used to string together a never ending set of turns.  Fires works never nicely with Savor the Moment as untapping isn't strictly necessary when you are no longer paying to cast your cards.


While Fires of Invention may be the headline card there are a number of other Throne of Eldraine additions to the deck that have a big impact.  Mystic Sanctuary is a key card in the deck and is also making a big impact in UW Control decks more generally.  As it is an Island it can be tutored up with a fetchland to return goodies from your graveyard back to the top of your library.  That is particularly potent in this deck as it allows you to chain Time Warps.  You also have Castle Vantress as a way of using your excess mana to set up your draws and keep the gas flowing.

The win conditions for the deck are the planeswalkers with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Chandra, Torch of Defiance ultimating being the usual ways of actually killing your opponent.

You can check out LSV's run with the deck in the video below:

The deck looks super fun and I want to try it out soon.

Urza Decks w/ Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Gilded Goose & Oko

Urza decks of varying varieties seem to be taking up an increasing amount of the metagame.  It's difficult to get a strong read on exactly how powerful it is because there haven't been too many major Modern events in recent times.  Regardless these Urza decks got a significant amount of new toys from Throne of Eldraine - mostly prominently Emry, Lurker of the Loch.  Emry is very often a one-drop in these decks and also turns on Mox Amber allowing for explosive opening turns where hands are rapidly emptied.  Emry is also a big threat if left unanswered as it racks up value from replaying Astrolabes, Baubles and other artifacts from the graveyard.


This deck dominated the SCG Open in Atlanta with five of the top 8 decks in that tournament being this deck or a slight variant.  Is Urza broken?  Is this the best deck in the format?  It remains to be seen.  SCG Open's aren't always indicators of wider format trends but certainly this is a deck to watch out for.

You can check out Zan Syed's deck tech in the video below:

CrabVine w/ Merfolk Secretkeeper & Once Upon a Time

As discussed above, graveyard based strategies took a big hit from the banning of Faithless Looting.  However, some of these decks are soldiering on and taking advantage of the reduced graveyard hate being played.  CrabVine is one such deck that has been putting up some good numbers. 

Wondering why DredgeVine has been renamed?  Well there actually aren't any Dredge cards in the deck anymore.  However, much like Affinity feel free to keep calling it by the mechanic that no longer appears in the deck.  The deck has replaced the Dredge cards with new addition Merfolk Secretkeeper, Sticher's Supplier, Hedron Crab and Glimpse the Unthinkable.  Some versions are also running another newcomer in the form of Once Upon a Time to smooth their draws and find the all important creature enablers for the deck.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Throne of Eldraine has really added a lot of new tech to the Modern format.  The recent Standard sets and Modern Horizons, for better or worse, have had a huge impact on the Modern and the format has evolved a lot in recent times.  I don't think this rate of change can be maintained long-term but certainly there are a lot of pushed cards in Throne of Eldraine that are making an impact.

The Faithless Looting and Hogaak ban have definitely left graveyard decks weakened but there are still a number of graveyard based strategies around.  Cards like Mystic Sanctuary and Emry certainly play into making the graveyard still a problematic place.  It feels too soon to be ditching your graveyard hate with so many decks still looking to abuse the graveyard.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Be sure to leave a comment below.  I'll be back next month with more innovations from November.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)