Hello everyone, thanks once again for joining me on this journey through the deep grass of the Modern Magic orchard. We always have fun, regardless of the win loss ratios…
This week I want to take a look at the power of 2.
No, I’m not going to give you a math lesson, or ramble on about The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2, or Evil Dead 2 (all sequels clearly superior to the originals….)
No, I want to talk about the power of 2 when it comes to mana cost in magic. Specifically effects that reduce costs by 2.
THE MAIN DECK
Long ago, the release of original Innistrad, gave me a card that I have been completely unable to shake. It always begged me to build a deck around it, but never has the right shell appeared so consistency was always a major problem.
Heartless Summoning offers a minor draw back in the size reduction for your creatures, but reducing their mana cost by 2 is like giving you two extra turns. It’s a very powerful effect.
That said, only having 4 of this effect in a deck makes it difficult to build an effective deck around since you won’t always have access to the effect. To that end over the years I’ve looked for other effects that could replicate this one to build an effective deck around.
Before the release of Innistrad, Rise of the Eldrazi gave us a land that could generate 2 mana for casting only Eldrazi cards. Unfortunately, at that time and for a long time afterwards, all the Eldrazi were simply too low impact, or high cost to be able to slot them in a deck without risking terrible draws. Battle for Zendikar changed that drastically giving us powerful Eldrazi creatures at very reasonable mana costs. One of those creatures is Conduit of Ruin. This midsized Eldrazi has a bunch of text, but tucked away at the end is what we’re looking for. This creature can be our second copy of Heartless Summoning. The downside to this of course is that at 6 mana, Conduit doesn’t come down early without the help of Heartless Summoning, thus negating it as a fantastic duplicate. But we’ll set it to the side for now and get back to it later.
M19 rolled out fairly recently and introduced a card to Modern that was met with some controversy.
The online arena’s exploded with criticism that Magic’s first Legendary Bear wasn’t a 2/2 Grizzly Bear with upside. Because of all this talk, what Mama Bear here DID have going on was mostly ignored.
But her first line of text is very very interesting.
If we reconsider Heartless Summoning for a moment, it’s at its best cheating expensive creatures into play for cheap. The advantage of this often results in creatures with a high power being least effected by the -1 / -1 drawback. Goreclaw only reduces mana costs for creatures with power of 4 or more, making it a natural fit in a heartless summoning style deck looking to cheat large creatures. and at 4 mana, it’s pretty much right on curve for us as well. little off, but we’ll work with it.
Now, I had said I wanted to consider the power of 2, so lets take a look at a realistic line of play just based on what we’ve seen already
Turn 1 – Overgrown Tomb tapped
Turn 2 – Swamp into Heartless Summoning
Turn 3 – Goreclaw for 2 mana, play Eldrazi Temple and tap for Conduit of Ruin for 2
Now, ordinarily I’d be the first to laugh and call this Magical Christmas Land, but lets dig a little deeper into the rest of the shell around this, and investigate what we’re going to be looking for in our deck with the first half of Conduit.
So at this point, if our opponent doesn’t interact with our board by killing a creature, we have 6 total mana in cost reduction, and 3 or 4 mana depending what we want to cast. After casting our Conduit of Ruin, we had the option to search our deck for a creature with CMC 8 or greater, so what did we tutor up?
At this point, we have the mana available to cast any of these tutorable Eldrazi. Obviously our biggest payoff is Ulamog, this is an almost unbeatable card when we cast it. However, it’s also our highest risk play in this situation. If our opponent can interact with any of our cards on board we don’t have enough to cast the Ceaseless one.
Elder Deep-Fiend and World Breaker are castable even if our opponent is able to interact with one of our creatures. Deep-Fiend even lets us tap down our opponents board so we can swing in for some damage right away. World Breaker lets us deal with troublesome cards like Ensnaring Bridge.
All of these plays can be considered based on your current hand. If you are holding an additional Eldrazi Temple when making your tutoring choice, suddenly Ulamog can be cast even if our opponent kills one of our reduction effects.
But this can’t end up being the whole game plan of the deck, we need to be resilient enough to fight through hate and various strategies in Modern. To do that, we start by leaning on the less expensive, but highly powerful spaghetti monsters
Thought-Knot Seer provides the deck with a possible turn 2 4/4 that interacts in a very meaningful way with our opponents hands. He can hold down the ground, and get rid of combo cards, or removal for our bigger threats. Even with a heartless summoning, Seer’s 3/3 body is still respectable. Matter Reshaper plays a totally different role. Some amount of the time he will trade with our opponents creatures and ramp us or cast a Heartless Summoning if we’re really lucky. Otherwise, he draws us a card, and often our top decks are going to be more powerful and scary than our opponents.
Endbringer is like the Swiss Army Knife of the Eldrazi world. He pings small creatures like Pyromancer or mana dorks, allows us to get through with other threats, but most importantly he allows us to draw cards on our opponents end step, and on our end step and still stands in the way as an excellent blocking body or aggressive attacker if we’re willing to give up some amount of card draw.
Already this shell provides us a very threatening board presence that can spiral out of control quickly. However, we should try to ensure we’re able to find our threats in an efficient manner. The obvious answer to this is seeing play all over the modern scene currently
Although it can’t grab our Heartless Summoning or Goreclaw, it can grab our Eldrazi, and any lands we need to ensure we can cast our cards each turn (or with Temple, slightly ahead of curve). Sanctum of Ugin is a great utility land for tutoring up our threats and finishers. We only run 2 of these because we have a need for colored mana in our deck, but it’s too powerful chaining Elder Deep-Fiends or finding a much needed Thought-Knot to strip our opponents hand. With Matter Reshaper drawing us cards or ramping us, and Conduit of Ruin providing more than enough tutoring and card draw for our finishers we don’t need to concern our selves with additional card draw outside our Endbringers.
That said, it’s a good idea in any deck trying to kill through damage to provide ourselves with some additional reach. For that, we’ve leaned on a few older cards.
Oblivion Sower provides us a difficult to interact with answer that helps us ramp or acts as a nearly unkillable blocker with his giant backside. Ruric Thar is a highly under appreciated creature. He has a huge body, pushes constant pressure on the opponent, and makes combo and control decks basically just scoop on the spot. For decks focused on dragging the game into deep waters, our Unbowed friend puts a huge tax on their life total to even remove him from the board.
Speaking of removal, it’s a good idea to ensure we’re able to interact with our opponent in the early game if we stumble setting up our cost reducing effects. To handle that we’re running a few Terminates and a copy of Maelstrom Pulse to catch anything we want dealt with, or an army of tokens that are trying to block our path.
Terror Jund – Jeff Roberts
4 Matter Reshaper
3 Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
2 Oblivion Sower
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Conduit of Ruin
2 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
1 World Breaker
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Ancient Stirrings
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Heartless Summoning
2 Blood Crypt
4 Eldrazi Temple
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Graven Cairns
2 Llanowar Wastes
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sanctum of Ugin
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sulfurous Springs
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Verdant Catacombs
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Carnage Tyrant
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 World Breaker
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Our sideboard game plan is pretty straight forward. We’re going to continue our game plan of beating down our opponents. However, some of our initial plan can be a little slow vs decks like Burn. To that end we’re running some hard to deal with life gain options
Although our deck is more setup to cast and find Wurmcoil, it is slightly slower than Thragtusk. Against the average burn list, we need to sometimes concern ourselves with dying on turn 3. With a heartless summoning we’re able to land a Thragtusk on turn 3 to stop the bleeding, and it will also deal with burns suite of creatures very effectively. We run the single Wurmcoil because it’s such a hard to deal with card for many decks, and pretty much always provides us some amount of value.
Against control lists, we’re already well setup because of our main deck Thought-Knot’s, and Mogis, but to ensure we have the best suite of creatures that can be cast a bit earlier against those decks we run a few very hard to deal with finishers and planeswalker answers
Carnage Tyrant is HUGE. Counterspell decks look at this and just pray for a board wipe. He will likely make our control matchups much better. Dreadbore is a great catchall. Hits creatures early, or takes out Planeswalkers like Tefari who have started to show up all over the place in control lists. Kozilek provides us a huge burst of cards vs control, and forces them to either side in generally useless grave hate against us, or risk us being able to tutor for him over and over again.
We close out our sideboard with some general utility cards. Spellbomb to slow down graveyard decks, can be fetched with Stirrings. Ancient Grudge clears out Ensnaring Bridges and Hollow Ones, Flashback is helpful against fringe decks like mill. The Extra World Breaker gives us a little extra hate against enchantments attached to a very large body.
That’s our list for this week. I suspect this will be one of the more powerful Participation Award decks so far, it’s using quite a few powerful Modern staple cards, with just enough crazy jank to make it my own.
Hope you enjoy, and I’ll see you soon for a review of the new Ravnica set.