Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales

Arcbound Ravager
It turns out Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Arcbound Ravager is, and has always been, the Fairy Godmother

The Ravager, mightiest of Modular cards, has always been a cut above the competition. With the ability to defy card advantage and throw all your deck’s power onto one threat, this creature has wowed crowds and defined formats for over a decade.

The Ravager could always sacrifice an artifact that was about to die. In that way, it could mitigate the effects of cards like Searing Blood or Smash to Smithereens. More importantly, it could create size without using mana: This let the Beast take all kinds of explosive turns for years.

So with cards like Myr Enforcer and Somber Hoverguard all but forgotten, this Affinity two-drop has remained relevant.

But wait! There’s more!

Arcbound Ravager makes (and moves) +1/+1 counters… Hardened Scales loves +1/+1 counters

Hardened Scales may be the new boogeyman
Hardened Scales

What happens when every Worker enters the battlefield as a 2/2? How does Steel Overseer look when this enchantment is in play on turn one?

Affinity was always a good Modern deck, but with Hardened Scales, the archetype is doing something cool and legitimately new for the first time in years.

Consider for a moment what happens when you sacrifice an Arcbound Worker to an Arcbound Ravager with Hardened Scales in play…

  • The Worker dies, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Ravager.
  • But wait! Hardened Scales says to put two +1/+1 counters on instead.
  • The Ravager’s ability resolves, so we’re up to three +1/+1 counters already…
  • But then Hardened Scales checks again…

Pretty cool, huh?

Forget about cool, pretty powerful.

Hardened Scales Affinity may be the new hotness in Modern. Learn about it, and all the latest modern tech, in this week’s podcast:

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Palace Jailer Wins the Pro Tour!

Palace Jailer
Palace Jailer made two of the Top 4 Legacy decks at the Pro Tour… including the winning Death & Taxes!

Death & Taxes is a “High Tier One” Archetype in Legacy… Thanks to Palace Jailer

New addition Palace Jailer helps to catapult this strategy to a legitimately defining deck in Legacy.

Death & Taxes has performed for years… But largely as a metagame deck. For example, the presence of main-deck Karakas has helped the deck to foil Sneak and Show. Sneak and Show’s key creatures — Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn — are perfect targets for the Legendary Land.

But with Palace Jailer and other toys from Conspiracy: Take the Crown, the power level and flexibility of this already-viable deck has increased substantially.

Palace Jailer doesn’t quite work like Fiend Hunter

Fiend HUnter
Fiend Hunter

“Um… How do I become the monarch?”

“Well… Did you play with any cards that make you the monarch?”

Patrick notes that the Jailer offers exactly the kind of edge Mike loves. While Palace Jailer looks like another take on the Fiend Hunter mechanic, it actually relies on a unique Conspiracy: Take the Crown mechanic. Many players just won’t read the card and will snap Lightning Bolt the Jailer hoping to get their creature back… not realizing that they aren’t the monarch.

That makes Palace Jailer essentially a white Nekrataal that exiles creatures with no targeting restrictions. Not only can this card smash almost any creature in a 187 — permanently — it can work well with Flickerwisp and other old standbys of the Death & Taxes archetype.

Casual Sets contribute heavily to Death & Taxes

Containment Priest
Containment Priest

From Commander 2014
This card is an absolute monster against Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, or reanimation strategies.

Council's Judgment
Council’s Judgment

From Magic: The Gathering – Conspiracy
Council’s Judgment is like a Vindicate or Maelstrom Pulse that does extra damage against folks who don’t read the card. Here’s a hint: When the opponent casts this, agree with them. Otherwise, you could lose more permanents!

Recruiter of the Guard
Recruiter of the Guard

From Conspiracy: Take the Crown
This tutor helps search up cards like today’s Palace Jailer. Simply awesome in a deck with cards like Stoneforge Mystic, Containment Priest, and Aether Vial. Recruiter of the Guard can get you the right tool for the right matchup at the right time.

There was lots more to the Pro Tour than Death & Taxes and Palace Jailer. Check all the tech out here:

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Breaking Thunderbreak Regent in Modern

Thunderbreak Regent
Thunderbreak Regent is a key card in the new Skred Dragons deck

Thunderbreak Regent won the Classic in Skred Dragons

A brand new archetype has hit Modern! Though we’ve seen other “Skred Red” decks in the past, the won played by Ozzy Kelly last week broke quite a bit of new ground.

Yes, it plays Skred and Snow-Covered Mountain.

The new / important part is the addition of Sarkhan, Fireblood.

While there have been predecessors packing five drop Dragons like Stormbreath Dragon or Thundermaw Hellkite, Ozzy’s plays three different kinds, including last summers hit, Glorybringer. Sarkhan, Fireblood makes the big Dragons much faster.

Predictably, this was Mike’s favorite deck of the weekend. “There is nothing about that name I didn’t like,” says of the onetime Resident Genius.

Would Nicol Bolas, the Ravager Improve Skred Dragons?

Just as predictably, Patrick wonders if this straight red deck shouldn’t just be Grixis… Because of course he does.

Wouldn’t Nicol Bolas, the Ravager be a welcome addition to any Dragons-centric strategy?

He does have a good point. But of course you can’t add Nicol Bolas and stay mono-red. The question becomes why would you want to be mono-red?

The incentives are Skred (need lots of Snow-Covered Mountains) and Blood Moon. How often would you prefer Skred on one mana to, say, Fatal Push? Fatal Push is better a lot of the time, and in particular against Death’s Shadow. Death’s Shadow, of course, made a mini-comeback this past weekend.

Patrick does concede that you might just want to be a Blood Moon deck.

The Best of the Rest…

Sarkhan, Fireblood fronting a new archetype — that won the tournament, mind you — is the biggest news RE: M19 in Modern… But it’s not the only new card from Dominaria or M19 in Modern.

Elvish Clancaller made a predictable debut in an Elves Overrun deck. A Crusade with upside, Elvish Clancaller is in particular synergistic with Collected Company for instant-speed buffs.

Lyra Dawnbringer made numerous appearances in U/W or Jeskai Control decks… Sometimes with, sometimes in lieu of, Baneslayer Angel. What is interesting is that Baneslayer Angel is generally better than Lyra Dawnbringer (especially if Dragons are going to be a thing)… But the first Lyra Dawnbringer is better than the second Baneslayer Angel. Rawr.

All your old favorites plus a brand new As Foretold deck are all one click away…

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Manamorphose at the MOCS

Manamorphose
Does Manamorphose go in every deck? Apparently it at least goes in Burn now!

Manamorphose in Every Deck?

We’ve kind of nudged and nudged and winked and winked about it.

One Hall of Famer plays three Manamorphose in a deck that doesn’t usually play it; another Pro Tour Champion runs a singleton. Together they get it right.

Manamorphose has been Staple essentially since its printing. There is almost no better card in Storm combo. Not only does it dig in that deck like a blue card, with Goblin Electromancer on the battlefield, Manamorphose even nets mana!

But in Burn?

The Implications of Manamorphose in the Red Deck

Josh Utter-Leyton brought Manamorphose to Modern Burn for perhaps the first time!

To make room for this Innovation, Wrapter went down to one copy of Eidolon of the Great Revel, cut all the Skullcracks, and… Added Bedlam Reveler!

The Innovations are not all intuitive (so we’ll rattle through them). First of all, with Manamophose but not fringe garbage like Shard Volley, Josh will just draw his Lightning Bolts and Lightning Helixes more often than other Red Decks. That’s a given. He is also better set up to grind with those Bedlam Revelers (in-part powered by the Manamorphoses). But colors matter more now!

  • While Mike has won with Stomping Ground Red Decks, he’s been on R/W since Inspiring Vantage was printed. While he can “get” someone playing Stomping Ground, playing it for [only] three sideboard Destructive Revelries makes little sense. Here, Wrapter splashes for both Destructive Revelry and Ancient Grudge… And can hit green with no Stomping Ground on the battlefield. Surprise!
  • Kor Firewalker makes great sense in this build. The WW isn’t too hard to hit for Red Decks, but it’s particularly easy when you can turn GG, RR, or GR into WW.
  • The Eidolon of the Great Revel cut might hurt on its face, but Eidolon is kind of bad in a deck chaining multiple spells with Manamorphose. Not intuitive, maybe, but internally consistent.

Tips and Tricks that have nothing to do with Manamorphose

  • Nissa, Vastwood Seer + Path to Exile – Path to Exile is always interesting in a pinch (respond to fizzle their removal and Thaw up a land). It’s even more interesting if you have Nissa, Vastwood Seer in play. If the opponent shoots at your Rhox War Monk, say; you can play the Path to Exile trick and flip your Nissa! Ditto if they try to kill your Nissa (you can respond by Path-ing someone else)
  • Legacy! Jim Davis put together a trifecta of Portent, Predict, and Terminus to make up for the lack of Sensei’s Divining Top – Jim’s U/W Miracles deck can set up a Terminus with Portent, or mess up the opponent’s draw (while drawing tons extra). Portent + Predict being an oldie-but-goodie.
  • Legacy! What can you get with one Crop Rotation? If you’re playing one Crop Rotation in Elves, you can grab a singleton Cavern of Souls to crush blue, or increase the redundancy of your Cradles.

Is Burn Even Good? Manamorphose or No?

Uh, Bogles just won [again].

This time with 4x Leyline of Sanctity MAIN DECK.

Discuss.

I guess listen to the podcast first:

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Bloodbraid Elf versus… Bogles?

Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf also broke out of its ban this week; but first… Bogles!
Dan Ward piloted Bogles to the Grand Prix Toronto trophy last week. Bogles!

Dan Ward is one of the strongest deck designers in the world. He first hit our radar with that innovative Kari Zev’s Expertise combo deck at SCG Regionals about a year ago. That deck was so awesome (or at least awesomely angled), WotC R&D banned almost immediately.

Moving formats over to Standard, Dan produced a legitimate contender archetype in U/W Approach of the Second Sun. Yes that U/W Approach of the Second Sun.

And while Dan can’t claim to be the first person to suit up a Hexproof creature, he never let up on his trademark innovations. Like…

Leyline of Sanctity in Bogles

Dan played three copies of Leyline of Sanctity in his main deck. This may seem like an odd choice for the strategy… If it isn’t in your opening hand, Leyline of Sanctity will just clog your grip later. Further, Leyline of Sanctity provides little or no offensive value to this attack-oriented deck. Why might Dan have played it?

  • He’s playing a Hexproof deck: With 4 copies of Slippery Bogle and 4 copies of Gladecover Scout, Ward is clearly heavy on the Hexproof plan. His creatures are largely free and clear to wear powerful buff Auras, but they’re not quite immortal. Do you know what suited up Hexproof guys hate? Edict effects. Do you know that one of the best Edict effects is also one of Modern’s Staple three-drops? Leyline of Sanctity can defend you from Liliana of the Veil.
  • Lantern just won the Pro Tour: While it doesn’t defend you from Pyxis of Pandemonium or Ghoulcaller’s Bell, Leyline of Sanctity turns off not only Codex Shredder but the Lantern decks’ many hand destruction sorceries.
  • It makes racing difficult: Dan was able to overcome Jon Stern’s Burn deck in the Toronto finals. Leyline of Sanctity is pretty decent against Burn decks, turning off all the Lava Spikes and taking the edge off of most of the rest of the burn cards. Can Searing Blaze suddenly target Slippery Bogle?

All in all, a pretty cool three-of.

Bogles in Context

Dan on Bogles in the future
Them’s fightin’ words, am I right?
Fighting words or not, Dan might have a point. His version, with Leyline of Sanctity, actually cuts off two of Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s abilities. They can’t Fateseal or Ultimate you without answering the Leyline. Plus, unless they are on Damnation or Supreme Verdict, fast, huge, Hexproof guys can be hard to race.

Further, if you’re planning to use Bloodbraid Elf to grab Lightning Bolt or other spot removal… That plan isn’t so good against Bogles. Plus, with a couple of buff auras, most of Dan’s cards will be able to tussle with a 3/2 and walk away, easily.

Grab the popcorn!

Because if Champion-Bogles remains good enough, it will soon clash with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf in Modern!

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor Unban

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is about to make its Modern debut

Jace, the Mind Sculptor Banned?

Not any more!

Earlier this week, some pretty big news broke that has instantaneously flipped Modern from Patrick’s least favorite format to most favorite format! We were too excited to keep our reactions bottled up until Thursday. Don’t worry, this is an EXTRA episode: We’ll be back Thursday 😉

When in doubt, use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Brainstorm

Jace has never been legal in Modern before. For many format aficionados, this will be the first time they have Jace in front of them at a Modern table. With so many abilities to choose from… Which one should they pick?

Noted Jace, the Mind Sculptor master (and Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer) Patrick Chapin says that, in the dark, it should be the Brainstorm ability. That isn’t going to be true all the time — Jace both has a ton of abilities and Modern is a diverse format after all — but it’s a good place to start.

Why might you want to use the [+2] “Fateseal” ability instead? Usually it will be because the opponent has some kind of red spells to attack Jace. You know, like Lightning Bolt.

Speaking of which…

Is Blightning Good against Jace, the Mind Sculptor?

Not surprisingly, Patrick and Mike reminisce about some of their old Jace Standard decks. Patrick attempts to recuse himself, being both a Grixis-lover and a Jace-lover. Mike is happy to jump in, being a Jace-Grixis fan himself.

Mike’s favorite take on Jace in Standard was alongside Blighting. He cites the ability to attack Jace as well as the opponent’s hand.

Patrick points out that — especially at the same casting cost — Kolaghan’s Command is probably a better choice. It is arguable that Kolaghan’s Command + Lightning Bolt is actually a better anti-Jace plan than Blightning. “Blightning is too tempo-negative.”

The Kolaghan’s Command argument is strong. Not only is it an instant, you can set up Snapcaster Mage and lace together multiple cards to deal sufficient damage.

New Jace, the Mind Sculptor Decks

Mike himself — longtime Modern devotee of Lava Spike — is threatening to switch allegiances to Team Jace.

Our intrepid pair do tons of brewing in this episode. For example, a pretty sweet-sounding Bant deck list from Patrick featuring Spell Queller inspired by Wrapter’s “Counter-Cat” from way back when.

What about Courser of Kruphix with Jace?

  • Courser is a great three; Jace is the best four (better than all, we have it on good account)
  • Courser has awesome toughness, so can defend Jace well
  • Together these cards build life and card advantage; and can affect the top cards of your library, further strengthening both sources of card advantage!

What deck idea does Mike not like? No Oath of Nissa / Oath of Ajani

When you’re playing with Jace and Liliana, your cards are just better than theirs; he doesn’t like the idea of messing with your mana when you can just play more consistently.

Also, thumbs down to “Jace in Merfolk”. Because, Merfolk.

More, many more, ideas in this special episode!

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Young Pyromancer at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan

Young Pyromancer
Young Pyromancer posted Top 8 in two different strategies

Young Pyromancer Goes Wide in Blue-Red

Just as there are a variety of viable Young Pyromancer decks, there are a variety of viable blue-red decks in Modern. The one that made Top 4 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was a flexible build by Pascal Vieren.

Vieren’s deck played several creatures… Four copies of Snapcaster Mage, three copies of Thing in the Ice, and of course three Pyromancers. All of those creatures excel with instants and sorceries. Snapcaster Mage gives you card advantage with them. Thing in the Ice flips into a huge monster when set up by them. And our Human Shaman can build an army while doing something else.

Vieren’s deck can win multiple ways. Thing in the Ice clears all the blockers and presents a threat by itself; while the Pyromancer can push a lead once you’ve already got it. Lightning Bolt is one of the most efficient tempo plays you can make. Of course Cryptic Command can both answer threats and tap all the blockers in one move.

Young Pyromancer Goes Even Wider in Mardu Control

Gerry Thompson — already a PT Champion and friend to the ‘cast — put up another Top 8, this time with a Mardu Pyromancer build.

It takes a singular kind of deck designer to figure out to play one copy of Manamorphose… But in Gerry’s deck, it doesn’t just power up the Pyromancer, it gives you white mana for Lingering Souls! Cool little card in support of the Human Shaman.

The advantages in Gerry’s deck all build on one another. Cheap instants and sorceries like Inquisition of Kozilek fuel not just the Pyromancer, but put fodder into the graveyard for Bedlam Reveler. More important is Kolaghan’s Command… Not only is it even more redundant discard, the ability to re-buy a creature is always nice; but what about when the creature is a card advantage engine?

All That and the Kitchen Sink

There was more, much much more, to the Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8 than a 2/1 for 1R.

We leave no deck un-discussed!

No, not even that one.

Check it all out now:

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The NEW Modern Rundown

Thundermaw Hellkite and Stormbreath Dragon
There are no Thundermaw Hellkites in this Modern episode. Even fewer Stormbreath Dragons.

… But there could have been.

It’s Modern! Don’t Blink

Modern is a great format! It’s waaaaay different from other formats, though. One way we know that is that we have such a hard time predicting what will be good from one week to the next.

What decks do you prepare for?

Affinity?

Humans?

Storm?

Jeskai?

… and when you say “Jeskai” what exactly do you mean? Is it Geist of Saint Traft, Spell Queller decks, the new Search for Azcanta stuff… Or are you talking about warping in an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn?

Yet another look at Jeskai: Jeskai Breach, by Patrick Tierney

Who is to say?

Who is to say you’re not up against Thundermaw Hellkite this week?

I mean, it just so happens that this week the right answer was “giant green things” (whether Primeval Titan or Tron-based colorless bombs), but we think you take our meaning.

Don’t Forget the Graveyard! Black Resurgence in Modern

Patrick recently commented that the graveyard may be a place to angle for an advantage in this wide and wonderful format.

Was he predicting the future?

Despite weeks and weeks of Humans and Storm, the graveyard came back in a big way at Grand Prix Oklahoma City. Dredge and Living End almost can’t be more different (despite being two different graveyard-centric creature decks). These two very different decks both kicked butt, took names, and claimed Pro Tour invitations last weekend:

Don’t Blink! Dredge, and Living End from OKC

What Week is it Again? Modern Cuteness Hotness

A few weeks ago we started talking about the new / now-seminal Humans deck based on a critical mass of Unclaimed Territories. But what if, rather than pushing “Human” with our Cavern of Souls, we just play four copies of Sliver Hive?

Instead of the bobbing and weaving of Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter, we may just see mono-offense.

To Wit: Slivers, by Chris Warren

These decks barely scratch the surface of this week’s Modern Rundown. Get ready for multiple Tron styles, double-combo Collected Company decks, and our intrepid duo completely ruining a perfectly wonderful Orzhov Zombies deck.

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Cryptic Command is Good in All of the Spots

Cryptic Command
Every card in your deck has purpose some of the time; Cryptic Command is the card that is the best, the most.

Welcome Back to Modern, Cryptic Command!

One of the most successful [new-ish] decks in Modern is Jeskai Control.

This archetype, featuring Search for Azcanta from Ixalan has reinvigorated pure control in the format.

Seminal to this strategy is the power of Search for Azcanta to flip into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. In its mana-mode, this card implies the availability of four mana. You can leave up four, and threaten Cryptic Command. If you don’t have to use the Cryptic Command, you have four lands to go find it.

Former US National Champion Ali Aintrazi played a version at a recent StarCityGames event, moving up to Nahiri, the Harbinger and Torrential Gearhulk as his late game heavy-handed threats.

Nahiri is particularly exciting in this archetype. She can discard cards to help flip Search for Azcanta, and will dig you to a big Torrential Gearhulk.

Also decks WITHOUT Cryptic Command

In the spirit of gearing Mike up for the upcoming #SCGInvi in Roanoke, Virigina, our intrepid duo goes over all kinds of decks beyond the soaring Jeskai Control…

  • Storm Combo – ever thought about playing Runed Halo on “Gifts Ungiven”?
  • Humans – now featuring “colorless” spells like Dismember!
  • Grixis Death’s Shadow – including all the one-ofs, spice, and strategies
  • Jund – with Hazoret the Fervent!
  • (and lots more)

When do you play FOUR copies of Cryptic Command?

  • Whenever it’s right!
  • … and half the time, when it’s not 😉

Check out this meditation on Modern now!

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The Rise of Ixalan in Modern

Modern remains one of the freshest, most dynamic, Magic formats. One of the big reasons? Ixalan in Modern is driving new combinations, and even new archetypes!

Modern Manipulation: Opt

Opt

The funny thing about Opt is that it is barely playable at all in Standard… But it is awesome in Modern!

The secret is that the efficacy of cards — in particular library manipulation cards — is inversely proportional to their casting costs in larger formats. Opt helps make combo decks like Storm more consistent. It also helps keep them going once they start to go off…

And of course? Being a one mana instant is one of the best things you can be.

And Opt is.

For reference: U/R Gifts Storm, by Scott Simmons

Modern Mana: Unclaimed Territory

Unclaimed Territory

It’s not that Unclaimed Territory is so great (though it’s pretty good)… It’s the critical mass this land represents when combined with Ancient Ziggurat and Cavern of Souls.

Collins Mullin absolutely destroyed last weekend’s Open with a Humans deck with only 4 Aether Vials — deck or sideboard — as his only non-creature spells.

Mullen could cast any Human he wanted. All these lands that can tap for any color, put together, let him consistently play Noble Hierarch at the one, [fellow Ixalan Staple] Kitesail Freebooter come two, and Mantis Rider on three mana. Mantis Rider!

That’s G, B1, and URW!

For reference: Humans, by Collins Mullen

Modern Merfolk: Deeproot Waters

Deeproot Waters

Ixalan gives Merfolk players some actual new Merfok. However their sideboard enchantment may be more interesting, and seems much, much more powerful.

Deeproot Waters is quite like an Oketra’s Monument… With tons of upside.

It’s not just that you can make a 1/1 like the white artifact; because Merfolk is full of Lords — Lord of Atlantis, Master of the Pearl Trident, and Merrow Reejerey — so it is probably a safe bet your enchantment will spit out 2/2 or 3/3 Merfolk.

For reference: U/G Merfolk, by Jeremy Bertarioni

These ideas are just scratching the surface of Ixalan in Modern. Settle the Wreckage, Field of Ruin, and Merfolk Branchwalker all performed last week, and in different decks!

Learn more about Ixalan in Modern here!

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