A Little Historic, a Lot of Modern

Time Warp was Banned in Historic Last Week

Time Warp… Clearly the problem

… But we recorded this episode before that was announced.

So opener is discussion on a now-defunct Jeskai Turns deck. Hopefully everything else on that topic (structure of the deck’s engine, other key cards) makes sense though!

Speaking of which…

Commence the Endgame is a key over-performer

Commence the Endgame
Commence the Endgame

Forget about how folks are ultimately abusing their Izzet-engines for a second. Yes, yes… Time Warp itself might not be legal any more but the rest of the Jeskai Turns deck — which shares 50% or more of its DNA with Jeskai Control or even Izzet Phoenix — works just fine.

On that note, Commence the Endgame is a perfectly positioned sideboard card.

  • With Fry such an important sideboard card, the fact that Commence the Endgame makes a black Zombie turns off Fry.
  • Cycling a Shark Typhoon is a two-for-one. Commence the Endgame is a three-for-one! Key for grinding.
  • Speaking of which, sideboard games are all about grinding. Commence the Endgame is great for that while ignoring the opponent’s Aether Gust (again the creature is black) and Mystical Dispute (while the spell is blue, it can’t be countered)

Modern Horizons 2 is Already Making Huge Waves in Modern

  • Should Counterspell be played in the main deck of Merfolk?
  • Tron was NOT a big winner. Modern Horizons 2
  • Domain Aggro is one of the most exciting new-old archetypes. Vigilant Knight of the Reliquary and the many tricks of Scion of Draco are killer incentives
  • Damn or Damnation? Damn or Go for the Throat for that matter!
  • Chaining The Underworld Cookbook
  • Gingerbread Cabin in Urza decks?
  • Cursed Totem is the coolest catch-all sideboard card

So there is a LOT going on in Modern thanks to Modern Horizons 2. Consequently… The format is fresher than it has been in long months.

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The Most Powerful Cards in Modern Horizons 2

Shardless Agent Joins the Modern Format

Shardless Agent…
Now in Modern Horizons 2!

Shardless Agent looks to be one of the highest impact cards to be printed — or in this case reprinted — in Modern Horizons 2.

This card is awesome in a number of ways. You can gang up with lots of Cascade action with cards like Bloodbraid Elf. This kind of a deck can probably overwhelm faster or more powerful combo decks by flipping over lots of disruption like Duress, Inquisition of Kozilek, or Thoughtseize.

Or you can flip over lots of removal! Remember, Shardless Agent is a 2/2 creature as well as a purveyor of Black Lotuses. Removal can just clear the path to get in for damage.

And of course, it is a three mana card with Cascade. Like Ardent Plea or Demonic Dread, this is a card that can aim for a Balance, Living Death, or now Replenish.

Damn from Modern Horizons 2 is Damn! Good


What is Damn?

Other than the best ever at what it is?

It’s a sorcery speedTerminate for players who don’t have access to red mana. Don’t sleep on this one! That’s not a bad use case.

It’s a Wrath of God that has play against Gaddock Teeg. That’s not bad at all, right? Maybe you can get caught by Spell Snare or Inquisition of Kozilek now… But this card’s functional equivalency to Wrath of God kind of can’t be exaggerated.

Of course in a deck that can tap for both black and white? Damn! That’s a good card!

Will Vindicate be Good in Modern?

Mike wants Vindicate to be good.

Patrick doesn’t believe that Vindicate can’t be good.

Who’s right?

From Mike’s perspective… Molten Rain is often too slow against Tron (especially when you’re on the draw). How can Molten Rain that doesn’t deal extra damage be good?

But you know what won’t be too slow against Tron?

Break the Ice
from Modern Horizons 2

Break the Ice is really exciting against Tron! Even on the draw it can potentially disrupt their mana engine before it’s too late.

Mike wants this card to be good enough for main deck but is a little incredulous. Many other decks where Break the Ice has text are either aggressively too fast or have Aether Vial to get around it. But you know who doesn’t?

Skred Red.

That deck that has 20+ Snow-Covered Mountains and specializes in midrange three mana permanents and / or 4/4 Dragons? The Overload is legitimately going to get them.

Don’t Look Here! It’s just a two-card infinite combo

Sanctum Weaver

So Modern Horizons 2 has given us a new and viable two-card combo. Let’s start with Sanctum Weaver.

This card is basically never worse than a 0/2 creature that taps for one mana of any color. Yes, it’s twice as expensive as a Birds of Paradise; but as an enchantment itself, it’s fail state is not that deep into failure. Where it gets exciting is with Freed From the Real:

Get ready for infinite mana!

Here’s how it works:

  • On Turn Two, play Sanctum Weaver for 1G
  • On Turn Three, cast Freed from the Real on Sanctum Weaver; ideally leaving up Sanctum Weaver
  • Now you can tap Sanctum Weaver for [at least] UU. With Sanctum Weaver and Freed from the Real, you now have two enchantments in play. You can spend U of your UU to untap the Sanctum Weaver, rinse, and repeat. Every time you do this you leave yourself U.
  • What can you possibly do with infinite mana of not just blue, but any color?

The answers to all these burning questions (and more) in this week’s podcast! Listen up:

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Breaking Clever Lumimancer in Modern

  • Clever Lumimancer
  • W
  • Creature – Human Wizard
  • Magecraft – Whenever you cast or copy an instant or sorcery spell, Clever Lumimancer gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
  • 0/1

So many turn-two kills with Clever Lumimancer in Modern…

Start with a first-turn Clever Lumimancer.

Play your second land and a Manamorphose (2), and another Manamorphose (4). What are you going to do with all that mana? Certainly not cast Mutagenic Growth (6, then 8). An Assault Strobe will put your Human Wizard to 10, dealing 20!

There are lots of ways to get there with Ground Rift on turn two as well! The red-white build of this Storm-esque Red Deck in Modern has tons of “free” spells. In addition to Mutagenic Growth you get things like Gut Shot and the back side of Lava Dart as well.

Never has “the Lava Spike” deck needed Lava Spike less… To be so fast.

Don’t like white? The Blue Burn in Modern has something new for you, too!

Expressive Iteration

The blue-red version of Modern Burn is a bit less fast than red-white… But also has a ton of play. Expressive Iteration is a nice card to set up Lightning Bolts and land drops (or both at the same time!) Look for this card to be best buddies with Sprite Dragon and Vapor Snag.

Weirdly enough, Expressive Iteration seems less desirable in the legitimately “blue” blue-red decks. It’s not great with permission (and might be a liability for deck with more expensive curves or especially kill conditions). So, unlikely the returning Counterspell plays much with this one.

Monastery Swiftspear likes lots of these teammates, though. Patrick thinks maybe even Counterspell itself!

And More Modern Strixhaven

  • How to play Silverquill Silencer in Humans
  • Witherbloom Command in Golgari Midrange… One at least
  • The return of Temur Delver… Now with Expressive Iteration!
  • Why Sedgemoor Witch is a more exciting Modern card than Standard card

Intrigued? Listen up:

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Uro is About to Be Banned (again)

Check out this sweet variant
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is on “the” chopping block

… It’s just a question of how many chopping blocks Uro lands on.

Check out the above screen cap. On the one hand, last week’s cool Secret Lair announcement showed us some cool stuff…

But on the other hand we just found out that we’d soon see Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath banned again. See ya, Uro in Pioneer. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Uro in Historic. Never again! (probably) Uro in Modern.

… The only real question is about Uro in Legacy for what it’s worth, Patrick is against seeing Uro banned in Legacy. (There are just too many silly things to do in that format to take banning Uro there seriously).

More Modern Tibalt Trickery

So we know we talked about Valki, God of Lies a ton last week…

But Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver has totally taken over Modern!

Previously we were seeing call-it-Jund decks with Demonic Dread and Violent Outburst flipping over the powerful flip card… Now Azorius has gotten in on the game.

These decks play a ton of free interaction like Force of Negation, Mystical Dispute, and Commandeer to cover their tracks… But despite practically costing 0-1 mana, all those cards technically cost more than two.

They all play beautifully behind…

Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi is so good at covering big spells it almost doesn’t need to do anything else.

But don’t worry, it does. Teferi can bounce an Ethersworn Canonist or even an opposing Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver. When the latter comes back as Valki, God of Lies, it might not even be big enough to take down Teferi cleanly.

What’s Gotta Change?

The “Azorius” Cascade decks in Modern are so flexible they get to sideboard cards like Firespout and Timely Reinforcements. I mean, they cost three mana and can interact with Red Decks that might otherwise have percentage thanks to cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel.

What’s worse?

A ton of them are playing Kor Firewalker in the sideboard!

You know, the old “seven cost Planeswalker or 2/2 creature” dilemma. It’ll be interesting to see.


  • Hate Bears
  • Other novel ways to flip Valki, God of Lies
  • How Deflecting Palm was good last week (and kind of bad this week)
  • Why even though it looks like it’s all about Tibalt’s Trickery and Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver… But they really should still ban Uro in Modern

What are you waiting for?

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More Innovations in Modern Decks

This week Top Level Podcast returns to examine the weird and even “disrespectful” world of Modern decks. The newest sets have helped breathe life into older cards, and have even given way to a new engine or three!

Goblin Charbelcher is Our Modern Deck of the Week

“It’s like the ‘Oops, No Lands’ deck… that doesn’t lose to graveyard hate.”

So let’s talk about Goblin Charbelcher.

Back in the day, Pro Tour Champions like Gabriel Nassif had to take the time to cast Mana Severence before tapping a Goblin Charbelcher.

These days, thanks to Modal Double-Faced cards, you don’t have to play any “lands”-lands at all! So… Goblin Charbelcher will never naturally hit a land.

Interesting technology: Blood Moon!

Blood Moon is relevant in general due to the popularity of Tron decks. But! It also subtly fixes your own mana. Don’t forget, this deck has cards like Irencrag Feat with RRRR in the casting cost. Blood Moon actually helps make that cast-able.

Goblin Charbelcher is only the first place we’ll see Recross the Paths

Recross the Paths

In a deck with no actual lands, Recross the Paths lets you stack your Modern deck!

You can do all different kinds of things with this old-card-given-new-life, like…

  • You can give yourself several copies of Pact of Negation in a row, which will help you to resolve your Charbelcher
  • What about every copy of Manamorphose? They are remarkably “free” after your first two mana investment, and can help you make lots of Goblins with your sideboarded Empty the Warrens
  • Reforge the Soul seems like an awesome Miracle to topdeck! This is especially synergistic given you can be down a card (or more) from just playing Recross the Paths

Even More Modern Decks…

  • 80 cards in the Modern deck? Winota, Joiner of Forces is just showing off now.
  • Making your Death’s Shadow difficult to block
  • Boros or Mono-White Colossus Hammer?

Find out about “More Innovation in Modern Decks” now!

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What You Need to Know About the 2019 MOCS Decks

The 2019 MOCS Decks played cards from… Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor from Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor is a newer card that helped revitalize some already powerful decks and combos for the 2019 MOCS decks.

Champion Michael Jacob played a variety of +1/+1 counter-based cards, including Scavenging Ooze; Walking Ballista; and centerpiece combo pieces Spike Feeder; and Heliod, Sun-Crowned.

While “fair” compared to an infinite combo, we thought it would be fun to point the card out, for all the reasons.

The MOCS Decks showcased both Modern and Pioneer

… And showed off awesome innovation in both formats!

In Modern, “Oops All Spells” seems faster than ever. Cutting down to 60 cards (from 77 or even 80), the Modern version is a singleminded killer.

Tuning elements include adding Shatterskull Smashing for even more early untapped land, and as many as three copies of Leyline of Sanctity… Main deck!

In Pioneer, Michael Jacob combined fair and unfair elements to produce a beautifully tuned champion. Big elements included Oath of Nissa and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for setup and engine… But sometimes topped up on a “mere” Elder Gargaroth. From the same set, Llanowar Visionary makes a surprise — but highly appropriate — appearance.

“I like how it can down-shift.”


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Are Modern Decks Completely Busted?

So is This What U/R Modern Decks Looks Like These Days?

Okay let’s look at the creature base of a blue-red deck.

  • One copy of Brazen Borrower? Okay, that makes sense.
  • The Maximum Number of Snapcaster Mages? Of course! Also these guys make sense together; seeing as they all have Flash.
  • Oh, and ALL FOUR COPIES of Emrakul the Aeons Torn!
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Wow so that’s kind of ridiculous.

Michael likes to think about this deck as a blue-red Flash deck. Bounce your thing. Get in for two or three. Hassle with some card advantage. You know, how you do with a Flash deck.

But then!

The opponent taps their mana main phase to handle your hasslers.

So it’s Boom! Head Shot!

Through the Breach

Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn get’s em. Good.

I mean, what is a blue deck going to do if you just cast Through the Breach? They kind of have to counter it, right? Whether or not you actually have the Emrakul.

One of the cool, synergistic, bits about this deck is that you can buy a lost Through the Breach back with Snapcaster Mage.

Patrick describes this blue-red as “a Splinter Twin deck” which of course warms Mike’s heart. But it’s not a Splinter Twin deck that actually wins the game. Unless the opponent does a lot to themselves with shock lands you still have to lace together the last four or five with Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage, but that’s not so big a deal after Annihilator 6 has had its way with the opponent’s battlefield.

So What in Zendikar Rising is Making Affinity’s Modern Deck?

Surprisingly, it’s not one, but two different Modal Double-Faced lands that make the deck:

Kazuul’s Fury // Kazuul’s Cliffs makes red… But this Affinity is all over all the Fling combos. Either side is okay.

The real gold comes from Timbercrown Pathway // Cragcrown Pathway. Affinity really wants to play Hardened Scales to take advantage of all those +1/+1 counters. When you already want green mana on turn one, some of these Modal Double-Faced cards start making more sense.

The big incentive to red as a splash color? Alpine Moon in the sideboard.

Balustrade Spy Innovates Modern Decks

So we recently talked about Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer “Oops, All Spells” decks in Pioneer.

They’re powerful, but mostly cute at 77 cards, in Pioneer.

The Modern version is a beautifully tuned killer. It could be a problem, in fact.

But one thing’s for sure, Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer are gorgeously tuned in Modern.

  • In addition to consistently flipping over all your copies of Creeping Chill, this deck will put four Vengevines into your graveyard.
  • A combination of Sword of the Meek and Narcomoeba will set up your Salvage Titan… Putting those Vengevines onto the battlefield.
  • You’ve already brained the opponent with four copies of free Lightning Helix. Now sixteen hasty Elementals are going to come a coming!

To top it off, if you accidentally draw one of the cards you would rather have in your graveyard… It even plays one copy of Phantasmagorian to “fix” your “hand” … Err… Whatever the opposite of your hand is.

But that’s not all!

In case you were planning to beat it with dedicated graveyard hate, it sideboards into Goblin Charbelcher.

And So Many More Awesome Modern Decks…

  • The Tron deck that Patrick calls “a thing of beauty”
  • The Death and Taxes deck that Mike — somehow — calls the deck of the week
  • “You can fit a lot of themes when you’re 80 cards…”
  • And… The “secret weapon” for the format!

Find out if Modern is, in fact, completely busted right now:

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Shark Typhoon in StoneBlade (and much more Modern)

Shark Typhoon is everything to everyone (well, lots of decks)

Shark Typhoon in Modern StoneBlade

Check out Kogamo’s build of StoneBlade; a recent 5-0 deck list:

“The kind of deck Kenji would play,” according to Patrick (and, let’s be honest, Kenji himself), this deck combines the original core strategy of Azorius StoneBlade with recent standout Shark Typhoon.

If you think back to the original Caw-Blade days, that deck ran four copies of Stoneforge Mystic and four copies of Squadron Hawk… And kind of called it a day on creatures. Shark Typhoon isn’t quite Squadron Hawk — meaning it can’t un-mulligan you early — but the Typhoon does a great impression of “flying threat + card advantage” … and can be much bigger than 1/1.

Michael thinks this deck could do with a certain better-than-all Planeswalker (and would probably add a little more Mystic Sanctuary action)… But all agree this is an interesting direction to take a long-standing archetype.

A Surprising Amount of Time Spent on Red Decks

We spent an unusual amount of time on Red Decks (and in fact various black discard and Death’s Shadow builds) this episode. Some assorted thoughts from the podcast:

  • Mike disapproves of splashing for Wild Nacatl. That just turns on their removal, according to the Red Deck aficionado.
  • Instead of Skullcrack, try Bonecrusher Giant. Bonecrusher Giant can do the same kind of work against Kor Firewalker, but leaves a 4/3 body that can matter. Anyway, Mike hates Skullcrack.
  • Think carefully about Shard Volley versus Lava Dart. For the same mana — and additional Mountain sacrifice — Shard Volley does one more point of damage, but can be very awkward to cast. Lava Dart does two instead of three, but is great at turning on Skewer the Critics, pumping Prowess creatures, and sandbagging resources for long-term play. Unlike Shard Volley, it is never really “awkward” to cast.

So Many More Modern Decks!

  • Do black discard decks want to kill opponents with creatures or The Rack?
  • What colors should you supplement your Death’s Shadow strategy? Who might you want to Unearth?
  • How do “Utopia Sprawl” people do it?
  • New(er) set evolutions in Transmogrify and Elementals deck lists! Spoiler: “Voice of Resurgence is a surprisingly powerful Elemental”
  • … and (believe it or not), much more!

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Arcum’s Astrolabe is Banned in Modern!

Arcum’s Astrolabe is [FINALLY] Banned in Modern

Bans, Bans All Around…

This week the ban hammer flew wide! Modern, Pauper, and something called Historic all lost Staple cards. Arcum’s Astrolabe is probably the highest profile (but Patrick points out that little one mana artifact will continue to light it up in Legacy).

Modern players, though will surely enjoy the opportunity to play regular old basic lands without feeling silly or inadequate.

Also un-Banned!

Oath of Nissa
Oath of Nissa returns to Pioneer

In Pioneer, Oath of Nissa — a card somewhat philosophically aligned with Arcum’s Astrolabe, actually — is un-banned!

When Oath of Nissa left Pioneer, it was during a time where one more green pip could have felt format-prohibitive. Given the power upgrades to other colors, the Powers That Be in Renton, WA decided to give green a little more consistency.

Patrick and Michael note that, though a very good card, Oath of Nissa is not particularly more powerful than one mana competitors like Traverse the Ulvenwald or Attune with Aether.

Mike’s New Favorite Thing

So apparently they play black in their Historic Red Decks.

Who knew?


Not only that, but Patrick told Mike. And while he started off incredulous, when he found out that the reason is that you can Call of the Death-Dweller up a Goblin Chainwhirler… Like it says, we’ve discovered Mike’s new favorite thing.

Giving the 3/3 first striker menace is bad enough; but they’re not going to have any creatures to block with anyway on account of having already given it deathtouch. Truly this is the world’s cheapest Plague Wind.

It’s a rare tour of formats various. What’s next for Modern, Pioneer, or Historic given the many bans (and one un-ban)? Find out right now!

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We Adore This Colossus Hammer Deck

You don’t know what a Colossus Hammer is, you say? Let us help you out with that…

It’s Hammer Time!

More on Colossus Hammer in a second; but before we get to Modern and Pioneer [with Companions!] it’s probably worth mentioning Vintage, which is “in a kind of weird, unplayable state” might just feature the first banning of a card before it is actually printed:

To be fair, we did warn y’all that Lurrus of the Dream-Den Sure is Good with Black Lotus.

All Kinds of Companions in Modern and Pioneer!

  • Blinking Ice-Fang Coatl with Yorion, Sky Nomad [and wouldn’t Magic be more fun if all the decks were 80 card decks?]
  • Your standard* Uro / Urza deck, with Emry and Galvanic Blast [* where “standard” is actually Modern]
  • Seal of Fire just seems better than Burst Lighting in this 18-land Burn deck [that really only splashes white for Lurrus]
  • Why there really are no prohibitive costs in Modern
  • The card LITERALLY NO ONE should talk about in Modern [Weather the Storm]
  • Klothys, God of Destiny; Glorybringer; Bonecrusher Giant… All in a viable Modern deck? [aka “the good guy”]
  • … And so much more

But Our Favorite Deck is Colossus Hammer Beatdown!

Let’s start with Bogles; aka “Infect that’s great against Burn” according to Mike. While Patrick isn’t super happy with that description, the decks are often spoken about in relation to each other. Both are about playing small creatures with specialized abilities that specialize in putting a ton of pants on one of those creatures to win in a small number of attacks.

Infect is historically much more explosive, and a bit faster; but can be vulnerable to point removal.

Bogles, with mostly hexproof creatures, is far more resistant to removal, but less explosive than Infect. But Bogles is slower and — at least prior to the recent availability of Lurrus of the Dream-Den — could collapse like a house of cards if the one creature it drew was dealt with via discard or a Liliana activation.

But now we have Colossus Hammer!

What makes this deck so exciting?

  • Colossus Hammer plays actual good cards. Don’t forget: Stoneforge Mystic spent most of Modern on the Banned List
  • This deck can be as explosive as Infect. Kor Duelist + the Hammer itself is worth more than 20 damage
  • Though the Hammer is a permanent, this deck has some instant speed play. Sigarda’s Aid and Magnetic Theft can act as lethal “Giant Growth”-type cards.
  • It can defend its combo. Giver of Runes (or Spellskite in some versions) can keep your attacker alive to attack for lethal.
  • It’s ALSO an Infect deck. What’s better to give +10/+10 to than an Inkmoth Nexus?

Ready to pound the opponent for 20+ (or lethal Infect)? What are you waiting for?

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