Much Modern

All About Amulet of Vigor in Modern

Amulet of Vigor

Amulet Titan is among the filthiest decks there is!

It has a lot of bad cards, a high failure rate, is mostly just air… But when it works, it WORKS.

This deck can start with an Amulet of Vigor to get incredible value from the “Karoo” cycle from the original Ravnica Block. Just imagine the fun of playing a Primeval Titan (ahead of curve, of course) and searching up a Slayers’ Stronghold and Boros Garrison.

The Garrison will enter the battlefield untapped, so you can immediately make RW to activate the Stronghold. Now your Primeval Titan can attack, searching up two more lands, for greater and greater nonsense.

Karoos usually slow players down. They bounce a land when entering the battlefield, after all; but in a deck with Amulet of Vigor, they can actually net mana before bouncing themselves; or make a mess with Tolaria West. Ever think about searching up Tolaria West and a Simic Growth Chamber with your Primeval Titan, tapping them both for mana, bouncing the Tolaria West… And then searching up a Pact of Negation to protect your incoming 6/6?

Nonsense!

The Most Miserable Card in Modern Is…

Possessed Portal!

Normally a Whir Prison deck will deck you with Ipnu Rivulet, recycled with its Crucible of Worlds… Or maybe get you over and over, two at a time, with Pyrite Spellbomb and Academy Ruins.

But mostly? It beats you by submission. By cruel and unrelenting horrible-ness.

Possessed Portal is even more cruel and more horrible than usual:

Step One: From Now On, Nobody Draws Cards

You feels me? 🙁

And it’s not like anyone pays eight for this thing. Not with Whir of Invention in their decks.

My Gosh is Modern Hostile to Burn Right Now

Mike’s beloved Red Deck is really, really badly positioned just this second. Not only is Dredge back in flavor — what with its innumerable free Lightning Helixes that cost neither a card nor mana — but other matchups can be equally challenging.

And by “equally” we mean…

Oh my God is that Mono-White Martyr of Sands?

More Modern:

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Izzet Phoenix in Modern… And Legacy?

Arclight Phoenix
Izzet Phoenix won a[nother] Modern Grand Prix, in Los Angeles


Izzet Phoenix in Modern

We saw Arclight Phoenix jump back into Top 8 action just last week… Standard’s Mythic Championship Cleveland was the stage. The player in question, none other than the legendary Luis Scott-Vargas.

But it’s not clear that Arclight Phoenix even belongs in the best Standard U/R deck! The same is not true of Izzet Phoenix in Modern. If anything, this is considered the strongest current deck in Modern… And it’s not hard to see why.

Izzet Phoenix has some stoopid stupid draws.

Here’s one:

  • Mountain, Fathless Looting; discard two copies of Arclight Phoenix.
  • Gut Shot you. Gut Shot you again!
  • That’s eight! Your go.
  • Is that the most common first turn? Obviously not. But it’s certainly an available one. Izzet Phoenix has a ton of perfectly fine regular draws that are super aggressive while remaining card advantageous.

    Cantrips, Cantrips, Everywhere

    Mike and Patrick discuss the various cheap card drawing spells in Modern.

    Most important might be Faithless Looting. Mike doesn’t think this one is long for the format. It’s certainly been a problem child in a variety of decks before!

    Patrick thinks that Manamorphose might be the most broken of the cheap card drawers; but Mike draws a distinction at the one-versus-two-casting cost line.

    This dovetails into Patrick wondering how Grixis players pick which cantips they play in Modern, and how many!

    Why isn’t Arclight Phoenix a Bigger Deal in Legacy?

    A different Izzet deck won last weekend’s Legacy Open — a Delver of Secrets deck!

    Izzet is a great strategy in Legacy, due to the strength of cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain… and now Light Up the Stage! Light Up the Stage is very Treasure Cruise-ish, and easily catalyzed by Pteramander or Delver of Secrets on turn one.

    But look at those cantrips: They’re great, but they don’t put creatures into the graveyard! There are no Faithless Lootings or Thought Scours in the Legacy builds. Therefore getting the Phoenix into the graveyard (where it can work its proper mischief) is a little more challenging than in Modern.

    But!

    There are some emerging Grixis deck lists that are looking to solve the Arclight Phoenix problem. And because it’s Legacy… The solution is pretty a good one.

    Learn how they’re doing it in this week’s podcast:

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    Top Decks from Mythic Championship Cleveland

    Cleveland Rocked: Mono-Blue Took Down Mythic Championship

    It’s hard to argue that Mono-Blue Tempo wasn’t the top deck of the inaugural Mythic Championship. Autumn Burchett defeated all other mages with their nineteen land-one-Heral version… But there remains a lot of wiggle room in the archetype, even with the dust settled. Consider:

    • How many lands is right? 19 Islands? 20? … And should any of them match with any others?
    • How many copies of Entrancing Melody? Main deck or sideboard?
    • Ditto on Exclusion Mage. Or Jace, Cunning Castaway?

    One thing’s for sure: Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy and friends is the right way to go in Standard moving forward… But his beloved Goblin Chainwhirler and friends did not back up its reputation against Mono-Blue in this Top 8 specifically. Patrick disagrees greatly, despite our duo’s mutual appreciation of the all-new Cindervines.

    Arclight Phoenix Returned to the Top Tables at Mythic Championship Cleveland

    “Greek Mythological Figure” Luis Scott-Vargas also returned to Top 8 play (since, you know, his last appearance at the last Pro Tour) as the Arclight Phoenix pilot.

    Why might you play Arclight Phoenix instead of Drakes?

    Why might you play the card basic Mountain at all?

    Are there any Ravnica Allegiance cards to play in this deck?

    These questions and more are answered!

    The Best of the Rest

    Mythic Championship Cleveland gave us some spicy options outside of the Top 8… And some all-new decks that you may not have seen before.

    • Into Control? Sure there was Esper in the Top 8, but that’s not the only Thought Erasure deck in the format. Check out Seth Manfield’s Dimir Surveil build… With zero main-deck copies of Sinister Sabotage!
    • Straight Beatdown more your game? There were multiple takes on Mardu with Judith, the Scourge Diva. Whether you’re into Mavren Fen and the Vampire squad or hastily dominating the Red Zone with Heroic Reinforcements, Standard has some corners still worth exploring.
    • Or our favorite… Hall of Famer Raph Levy was into Merfolk Trickster… Just not as into Merfolk Trickster as all those Planeswalkers in the Top 8. Raph only played two in his Simic Merfolk deck. Bask in the aura (and recoil from the fishy odor) of thirty marauding Merfolk! Theme is broken here only for four copies of Kraul Harpooner in the sideboard. Truly a spicy brew that both our hosts would gladly sleeve up.

    All this and more:

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    Kraul Harpooner – Evolutions and Synergies


    Kraul Harpooner is one of the most underrated cards in Standard

    Kraul Harpooner – Current Implementations

    The Insect Warrior from Guilds of Ravnica has done most of its damage recently coming out of the sideboard. This past weekend at Grand Prix Memphis, it was featured in the sideboards of both Top 8 Sultai decks, as well as the aggressive Gruul deck.

    Standard deck designers have been including it… Just not as the centerpiece.

    Kraul Harpooner in Main-Deck Sultai

    Patrick had the pretty novel idea of playing Kraul Harpooner in his main deck at the Mythic Championships. There are many benefits, including just mugging the dominant Mono-Blue deck on turn two.

    Can you imagine an opponent passing with a Siren Stormtamer in play on turn one? Maybe a Healer’s Hawk? Because the 3/2 Harpooner can take one of those creatures out while both generating card advantage and establishing a threat on the board, the positional advantage generated on turn two can be absolutely devastating. Talk about getting a free win!

    But the advantage of adding this guy to the main it isn’t just the ability to catch Mono-Blue or White Weenie unaware. Relative to the stock Sultai list, Harpooners are taking up creature removal slots (while remaining creature removal-ish). So you also get a turn two threat that you can use to attack against Esper or Wilderness Reclamation! The fact that Kraul Harpooner is a guy you can cast early instead of a Cast Down that you will never cast might make all the difference in a race.

    This attitude towards initiative versus instant speed removal goes beyond just the 3/2 body. Patrick chose also to sideboard Thrashing Brontodon at Cleveland instead of Crushing Canopy. The Brontodon is a potential attacker (or blocker for Mono-Red)… At the point that you can or should cast Crushing Canopy, the dino might have put you 6-9 points ahead already… While still being capable of Reclamation removal

    Kraul Harpooner and Friends

    We spend this podcast talking about all the relevant decks of Standard, including the resurgent “one true color” according to Mike. In the green-splashing Red Deck, there is a novel synergy between Goblin Chainwhirler and the Harpooner. Both are Warriors.

    Therefore you can open up on Mountain; play Unclaimed Territory on turn two (naming Warrior) to hit the Harpooner; then play a second Mountain for Goblin Chainwhirler on three without missing a beat!

    The Gruul midrange deck is chock full of other Goblins, so this might be a slightly unusual use of Unclaimed Territory, but it’s important to note… Especially as Growth-Chamber Guardian is not just a Crab, not just an Elf… But a Warrior as well!

    Check out all the new deck talk here:

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    Play More Thief of Sanity

    Thief of Sanity
    Play more Thief of Sanity? Try playing four Thief of Sanity already!

    Thief of Sanity in Jeskai?

    Since Thief of Sanity is a Dimir (ergo black-blue) and Jeskai is a white-blue-red color combination… So you can’t actually play the Thief in Jeskai.

    Mike briefly argues that it’s not necessarily the case that Esper is the superior control deck to Jeskai in Standard (regardless of what the Top 8s say). Patrick argues that the ability to play Thief of Sanity after sideboarding pushes black over the red three-color control version.

    This three drop Specter is of course an awesome tool in Esper decks after sideboarding, offering a combination of persistent card advantage and ongoing disruption against any of the Wilderness Reclamation type powerhouse decks.

    How About Thief of Sanity in Sultai?

    This card can be played in the main deck or the sideboard. While we are not sure which is best… We do know that we would lean on playing more copies.

    Argument For Main Deck: Llanowar Elves on turn one can potentially allow you to play your Specter on turn two!

    Argument Against Main Deck: It’s awful against decks like Mono-Red and you might just lose if you draw two copies.

    That said, this creature is much like the full promise of the Mono-Blue Aggro deck — currently the most successful deck in Standard — all bundled into one card. This is essentially one of Mono-Blue’s 1/1 evasion creatures that starts with Curious Obsession already in play.

    It can keep you when you’re already winning. It can steal from decks that require particular spells to function. And especially coming out of the sideboard, it can help control decks put their victims on a clock.

    Find out more places we think players should play more copies (and all the other current Standard trends) here:

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    So Much Ravnica Allegiance Standard

    Pteramander Adapts to Allegiance Standard

    Pteramander

    Alexander Hayne, the great Canadian Pro Tour Champion, put out a new Mono-Blue deck featuring Pteramander this week. Packing only 19 Islands, Hayne’s deck relies on a ton of super cheap threats, including 11 one casting cost evasion creatures.

    Alongside Pteramander, Mist-Cloaked Herald and Siren Stormtamber make for many creatures to catalyze Chart a Course or Curious Obsession on turn two.

    Overall, this strategy can keep the opponent on their toes; it’s got just enough permission to hold a lead — not indefinitely, but maybe long enough to get Tempest Djinn across the Red Zone once or twice…

    Light Up the Stage Brings Back Experimental Frenzy

    Light Up the Stage

    After an off week, Mono-Red players suddenly remembered they are allowed to run Experimental Frenzy!

    Part of the Red Deck’s bounce back came from the power of Light Up the Stage. This Ravnica Allegiance sorcery found homes immediately, but often at the cost of the more expensive Frenzy. Why? Light Up the Stage kind of does the same thing as Experimental Frenzy (draws cards). Turns out it doesn’t have to be either / or.

    Casting Light Up the Stage with Experimental Frenzy in play gives you the option of casting an instant on top of your library before Light Up the Stage resolves.

    This creates a bit of a tension in Mono-Red Land. Do you maximize your instants? That would mean playing Wizard’s Lightning… Possibly over Skewer the Critics. But is Skewer — Light Up the Stage’s Spectacle buddy — just too good not to play?

    How about Fanatical Firebrand? Many mages have cited the little Pirate as the weakest card in Mono-Red. Maybe… But it’s also the best setup man for Spectacles in the deck. There is no easy cut for the format’s Red Deck.

    Allegiance Standard Gives Hostage Taker a New Mission

    Hostage Taker

    Hostage Taker seems amazing in the format right now!”
    -Patrick

    Why?

    Two words: Hydroid Krasis.

    Yeah? Not only can you follow up by casting their Hydroid Krasis for a bunch if your Hostage Taker lives, even if it doesn’t, the opponent will get back a 0/0 Krasis.

    Not bad.

    Tons more Standard in this week’s podcast!

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    Breaking Hydroid Krasis

    Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis is the top Mythic Rare from Ravnica Allegiance

    How Do I Make a Hydroid Krasis Deck?

    The top deck from the first week of Ravnica Allegiance Standard was Sultai Midrange. The inheritor of the Golgari decks, Sultai Midrange uses Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to turn creatures into extra cards. At the top end, instead of just playing another big Jadelight Ranger, Sultai (over Golgari) tops up on Hydroid Krasis: It’s bigger, it draws tons and tons of cards (instead of just one), and it gives you something to do with all that Explore land!

    Hydroid Krasis is a powerful finisher in a Wilderness Reclamation deck. A blue mage can tap out for it main phase without fear: Draw some cards! Gain some life! Wildnerness Reclamation will untap your lands and you can play defensively on the opponents turn.

    The hip new Gates builds are also playing the Jellyfish Hydra Beast. Because accelerators like Circuitous Route can give you the materiel to make X big… It’s just a big threat in Gates. The Krasis can compliment your Angels, or draw you into your relatively limited sweepers. Or kill a mage.

    Hydroid Krasis has “cast” triggers

    While it is effectively not-so-different from the 187 creatures of the Golgari deck, the Krasis differs meaningfully against blue opponents. Jadelight Ranger only Explores when the Jadelight Ranger actually resolves. Hydroid Krasis, on balance, draws cards and gains life when you cast the creature, not only if you resolve it.

    This rarely matters if the opponent isn’t playing permission. But you’ll appreciate this nuance in the cases that he is!

    Memorial to Folly is great with Hydroid Krasis

    One of the long-game uses of Memorial to Folly is to re-buy this creature. In the older Golgari decks, you might draw the spell-like Memorial thanks to Jadelight Ranger… But late in the game you were probably also just re-buying the Jadelight Ranger.

    The Krasis gives you the option to recover and play a much more powerful finisher. Long game flooded? Tap a ton of mana! Gain a ton of life! Use your creature slot to hit an extra land!

    This week’s podcast also features the early struggles of Mono-Red, a cool new Bant Flash build, color conflicts in Grixis, and much more. Check it out!

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    Skewer the Critics (and other spectacular Spectacles)

    Skewer the Critics
    Get ready to Skewer the Critics

    Krark-Clan Ironworks… We Hardly Knew Ya!

    Or, we’ve known you for seventeen years. Either or.

    The King is Dead! Long live Ravnica Allegiance.

    Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage Are Already Making Waves in Standard

    Skewer the Critics is like “Rift Bolt 2K19” according to Mike. Along with Light Up the Stage (aka “Red draw-two”), these Spectacles are driving success for initial builds of Mono-Red.

    Patrick and Michael agree that the initial Mono-Red decks in Standard are going to be balls to the wall aggressive. This is a move away from the Arch of Orazca / Treasure Map Red Decks; or even the Experimental Frenzy builds that have been such important pillars of Standard for the last few months. This is because they believe in the importance of racing Wilderness Reclamation decks. If you let one of these upcoming Rampers get going, no midrange deck will be able to keep pace.

    Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage in Modern

    Michael argues that these same Spectacle cards will be outstanding in Modern. Skewer the Critics does basically the same thing as every non-creature card in a Modern Red Deck… And it does so for only one mana, assuming Spectacle. Mike’s thinking is that moving down casting costs is the most important thing a Red Deck can be doing right now; plus, the ability to cut a land lets you increase spell and threat density.

    WATCH THIS SPACE for a Modern recap (assuming Mike kicks butt and takes names this weekend in New Jersey).

    Make Mine Rakdos: The Black Spectacles

    • Drill Bit – Patrick points out how this can pay off a player for running aggressive one drops. Mike sees it as a supplement to Duress (probably out of the sideboard) but is a little skeptical of the Spectacle.
    • Spawn of Mayhem – Awesome in part because it so easily enables future Spectacles.

    … Plus a Top-Five card that is sure to make your Wilderness Reclamation even more broken. All in:

    “Skewer the Critics (and more spectacular Spectacles)”

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    Wild About Wilderness Reclamation

    Wilderness Reclamation
    “[Wilderness Reclamation] is not an okay card.” -Patrick

    Wilderness Reclamation “doesn’t seem close”

    The task seems to be figuring out cards that are good with Wilderness Reclamation. The card looks to be a slam dunk. We’ll walk through some basics on this card, then get to some of the historical comparisons.

    Let’s start with Growth Spiral. Growth Spiral allows you to play Wilderness Reclamation on turn three. That’s great by itself.

    You can’t normally just tap out for a four mana do-nothing and expect to live through the next few turns, but Wilderness Reclamation will untap your lands on your own end step. Depending on your other colors, you will be able to defend yourself with anything from Fog variants to Settle the Wreckage for the turn.

    Turn five (or turn four with Growth Spiral) starts getting really interesting.

    You can open up by playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. You do the whole “draw a card” thing with Teferi, then move to your end step. Teferi will untap two lands. Wilderness Reclamation will tap all five. Put one effect on the stack, tap Teferi’s bounty in response, and you’ll have access to seven.

    You know: For Nexus of Fate.

    “Let me get this right,” says the babe in the woods. “It’s turn four and I have both this and Teferi in play… Plus I’ve just hit a recurring Time Walk?”

    “Yes,” replies the Hand of Fate.

    “How quickly can I sign up for your Bant Newsletter?”

    You don’t even have to play Teferi, or white at all. This card works just fine and dandy with Nexus of Fate with or without Teferi, and untapping all your lands every turn is hyper synergistic with Search for Azcanta.

    How Might We Properly Gauge Wilderness Reclamation?

    One of the things that’s great about this card is that, in addition to being able to spitball a cool two-three-four sequence with Teferis and Time Walks… We can just compare it to things we know have already performed.

    Compare it to Thran Dynamo.

    Thran Dynamo cost four mana and gave you three back immediately. Presuming your mana is all coming from lands, Wilderness Reclamation is generally — and immediately — just better. Rather than colorless mana, you get colored mana back. Rather than just three, you get four (or more). Even better, you get more and more mana over time assuming you hit your land drops.

    Ditto on Gilded Lotus. Rather than paying five up front, you only have to pay four. Again, Wilderness Reclamation will generally give you more mana than the celebrated Lotus; and pay you more and more mana over time.

    The Best of the Rest

    • Theater of Horrors – Looking for an alternate engine? As long as you’re aggressive, this card is generally better than Phyrexian Arena
    • Basilica Bell-Haunt – Mike comes completely around on this card. Patrick has him comparing it to Loxodon Hierarch and Siege Rhino. Synergies with The Eldest Reborn push the Bell-Haunt over the finish line.
    • Shimmer of Possibility – Impulse at sorcery speed… Not great but good at finding Wilderness Reclamation!
    • Pteramander – Solid deal for one mana.

    Lots more in the podcast proper. Give it a listen!

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    The Beginning and End of Angel of Grace

    Angel of Grace
    Angel of Grace is the Beginning… But Will Often be THE END

    Angel of Grace is card #1 for Ravnica Allegiance; so… The Beginning. But it will often be the end (of the game). This Angel is an extremely powerful threat creature. Let’s check out how:

    Angel of Grace has both Flash and Flying

    A 5/4 flyer with flash for 3WW is no joke. With no other abilities, it would still be a consideration to play. Having flash gives this creature some important tactical advantages. Here are some examples:

    • You can double up big threats against a permission deck. Test spell them with Angel of Grace; waltz it into an Essence Scatter, but then resolve your Lyra Dawnbringer the next turn.
    • Take advantage of your opponent’s Teferi window: A common play pattern will be to tap out for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and then draw a card. U/W players will have at least two open lands for your next turn. Usually this will mean some amount of defense, especially if they just drew Essence Scatter with their Teferi. But with this flashy Angel, you can resolve a big 5/4 before their two lands untap. Even better, you’ll be able to attack with it, not just resolve it!
    • In general, any “threat” deck can put pressure on the opponent — whether it’s with Knights, tokens, or whatever — forcing them to cast Cleansing Nova. With Angel of Grace, you just have an instant speed window to resolve a big beater, to keep on the pressure the next turn, while the opponent is tapped out for their sweeper.

    Did you say “Angel’s Grace”?

    “When Angel of Grace enters the battlefield, until end of turn, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.”

    This card is obviously a little punny.

    It doesn’t have Split Second (or some of the other clauses of the original instant) but this middle ability will certainly come up. It can undo a lethal attack, many combo kills, etc.

    Oh, and the opponent still has to deal with your 5/4.

    4WW, Exile Angel of Grace from your graveyard: Your life total becomes 10.

    Like we said, we’d consider Angel of Grace without these last two abilities. This one is in particular free. You can dump the Angel for free with Search for Azcanta, or get some free value from Explore guys like Jadelight Ranger or Merfolk Branchwalker.

    Regardless of how you get your Angel into the graveyard, this last clause can make your opponent miserable. You can activate the ability at instant speed. It’s not a spell so your opponent can’t Negate it. On top of all that… The card itself is on the bonus; you’re not using a card in hand or creature in play to adjust your life total.

    Least important block of text? Maybe. But it’s still there, and will contribute to the success that this card can help contribute, from tournament number one.

    Check out even more Ravnica Allegiance discussion here:

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