Tag: snapcaster-mage

Gregoire Thibault - June 17, 2016

Eternal Cards For the Casual Player

Optimum Jank – Eternal Cards For the Casual Player


IMAGE - CRYPT - Matt Stewart - Mana Crypt


The Best of The Rest


Eternal Masters is finally here and there’s a lot to be excited for. Everyone is ready to play the Booster Pack Lottery hoping to open any of the set’s marque cards. And what a lottery it is, with the possibilities of opening Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Karakas, Wasteland and Mana Crypt.


CARD - Mana Crypt OldCARD - Mana Crypt New

Mana Crypt is a particular interesting story: It has only ever seen two unconventional printings before this one. It was initially redeemable through a mail-in coupon offer in the old line of Magic novels and its only other printing was a Judge Programme promotional card. This is the first time that players will be able to play with Mana Crypt in an actual non-Cube Magic set. As you can imagine, its extreme rarity combined with its popular demand means that it caries a pretty hefty price tag. A price tag players are hoping will come down with this fantastic new printing.


What does that mean for you, the Casual Magic player? Is Mana Crypt a card you should play? The answer is unequivocally yes, because fast mana in Magic is pretty broken. But is it the card you can afford? Is it a card you need? Do you really need to oppressively crush your friends in casual games with powerful cards like the Crypt?


The strongest aspect of Eternal Masters is that it is truly offering something for everyone. In this article, I’d like to highlight a number of cheaper but nevertheless interesting and exciting reprints you can pick up. These certainly won’t be close to the most powerful cards in the set, but they’re all fun cards to build around and definitely worth considering when brewing.


IMAGE - ELVES - Kev Walker - Llanowar Elves


Anything but Common


Our first card in the spotlight is Elvish Vanguard. With its only other printing as a Rare way back in Onslaught, Elvish Vanguard has been downgraded to a measly Common in Eternal Masters, which will simply crush its current price of $3 USD.


CARD - Vanguard Old CARD - Vanguard New


Elvish Vanguard is a pretty fun card because it is an Elf version of another fan favourite: Champion of the Parish (which grows larger whenever a Human enters the battlefield). The advantage of Champion is its lower mana cost (W vs Elvish Vanguard’s 1G) meaning it has the capability to start swinging on turn 2 for two points of damage. What I like about the Vanguard, however, is that Elves tend to “go wide” faster than almost any other tribe in Magic. While it is not uncommon to have a 6/6 Champion of the Parish with a few Humans backing it up by turn six, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to have a 12/12 Elvish Vanguard with a ridiculous amount of Elves backing it up by turn six.


Are there more broken things one can do with Elves? Absolutely. Elves are so powerful that one can build competition worthy decks in Pauper, Legacy and sometimes even Modern. The number of broken combos one can power out with Elves certainly overshadows a pump/boost plan with Elvish Vanguard, but the tactic is still a fun one and something that you can certainly build around to challenge your friends with.


What I like most about Elvish Vanguard is the possibility of his being a double edged sword. Unlike Champion of the Parish which only looks for Humans that enter under your control, Elvish Vanguard grows whenever any Elf enters the battlefield. This means that if your opponents are playing Elves as well, he’ll get bigger whenever they play an Elf spell… which sounds great! They play Elves and my Vanguard gets bigger?! Sign me up! Well, remember: If your opponent is playing a Vanguard as well, their Vanguard will benefit from your Elves too. Something to keep in mind during the Vanguard mirror matches.


As a final incentive, this is the first time this card has been printed in the new M15 border and sports some fantastic new art by Steve Prescott (which I unfortunately could not find at a higher resolution). If nothing else, this is a fun and modernly beautiful addition to consider in any type of tribal Cube, Pauper or Commander deck.


IMAGE - BURNING - Raymond Swanland - Burning Vengeance


Once Again for the Second Time


One of my favourite Uncommons found in Eternal Masters is Burning Vengeance. I returned to Magic when New Phyrexia hit shelves and remember the excitement for the original Innistrad, the set immediately following New Phyrexia. Innistrad was the first set I ever attempted to play Sealed with, but I was still unsure about drafting at that time. I unfortunately missed out on drafting what has since been refereed to as one of the best Draft environments of all time. Even though I never had the chance to play an optimal Burning Vengeance Draft deck, I did open a Sealed pool with two Burning Vengeance and effectively went all-in on the card.


It. Was. Glorious.


CARD - Burning Vengeance


If you’ve never played with Burning Vengeance, it is extremely fun and challenging. It requires a solid understanding of your deck and an ability to quickly evaluate multiple lines of play. Constantly evaluating the cards in your hand and the cards in your graveyard and the best way with which to sequence your next few moves makes for very exciting Magic games.


I’m not sure how easy Burning Vengeance will come together in an Eternal Masters draft, but it’s definitely worth a try if you can open it early pack 1.

In terms of casual games, Burning Vengeance works fantastically well with Secrets of the Dead; drawing cards for doing what you already want to be doing is great value. Eternal Masters already pairs Burning Vengeance with Flashback and Retrace, two mechanics that allow you to cast cards from your graveyard. Outside of Eternal Masters, there are a handful of cards that grant Flashback or pseudo-Flashback to cards in your graveyard such as Past in Flames, Snapcaster Mage, Toshiro Umezawa and Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Another neat deck for Burning Vengeance is the Zombie Vengeance deck. There are a surprising number of Zombies that can be cast from your graveyard such as Gravecrawler, Risen Executioner, Scourge of Nel Toth and Skaab Ruinator; all of which will trigger Burning Vengeance or Secrets of the Dead when doing so.


IMAGE - HONDEN - Jim Nelson - Honden of Nights Reach


Come Honden


Last but not least, I want to mention the Honden cycle of cards.


CARD - HondenW CARD - HondenU CARD - HondenB CARD - HondenR CARD - HondenG


The Honden cycle was originally printed in Champions of Kamigawa and has been a staple in many Cubes. The cycle produces a bonus during your upkeep that is multiplied by the number of Honden you control. Controlling one of each Honden would net you 10 life, allow you to draw 5 cards, force your opponent to discard 5 cards, do 5 damage to a target creature or player and put 5 1/1 Spirit tokens onto your side of the battlefield during your upkeep.


So… That’s fun.


Casually speaking, the Honden cycle is a fantastic addition to any Cube that already has a 5 colour theme. For example, I once played a Cube with a 5 colour Allies theme and adding the Honden to that Cube would have given drafters an extra incentive to go deeper into the particularly daunting territory of drafting a 5 colour deck.


When drafting Honden in Eternal Masters, I would highly suggest focusing on Honden of Night’s Reach and Honden of Infinite Rage. They are, in my opinion, the most powerful of the five, despite Honden of Seeing Winds providing straight card advantage. The reasons why I feel Red and Black’s Honden are stronger is that they are the cheapest in casting cost and they actively affect your opponent’s game plan as quickly as possible. Honden of Infinite Rage takes care of early creatures and chump blockers and Honden of Night’s Reach forces your opponents to discard at every one of your turns, preventing your opponents from holding answers and providing you with card advantage quickly.


IMAGE - BBE - Raymond Swanland - Bloodbraid Elf


To Eternity, And Beyond


That’s it for this week’s look at Eternal Masters. My only regret is not having more space to talk about all the other cool cards that permeate this set. There are so many neat cards at all rarity levels being reprinted that I could probably write five more articles and still not be able to cover them all. Hopefully this small look at some of the niftier build around cards will excite you enough to take a look at the set and pick up some of the other offering found therein. Did you find this article helpful and informative? Leave a comment in the Comments section below!


Daniel Clayton - September 4, 2014

The Pinnacle: Designing Monstrosities (Part 2)

Progenitus - Top creatures in Magic the Gathering

The Pinnacle: Designing Monstrosities (Part 2)

Top creatures in Magic the Gathering

By: Daniel Clayton – The Will of the Floral Spuzzem
(Link to part 1)

Today I want to talk about some of the most utilized creatures in the game as a whole and what makes them good. I’ll also try to pull some decks in and show just how good they are with their performance throughout time since their printing. Some of the cards on this list are a part of the most expensive cards in the game club while others are not quite as flashy. My requirement is that they are creatures and they have had some type of impact on the game at some point. While I will try my best to put the best creatures in the game on my list I am only human and as such make mistakes so I apologize in advance if your favorite did not make it on my list. As this is a type of card versus a specific card I figured I would drop them out in a top 6 list going from number 6 to number 1. I’ll also be pulling in some honorable mentions from throughout the years. In the previous article we started talking about creatures numbers 6 through 4 and some decks that they exist in that have done fairly well in over the years. To give a little review, at number 6 we had our super mana-producing creatures Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Metalworker with a spotlight on a powerful and fast deck: Metalworker (MUD). Sitting at number 5 we went over our unique creatures Arcbound Ravager and True-Name Nemesis, as well as the uniquely difficult decks that they exist in. Finally, sitting at number 4 is our combo creatures Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Stoneforge Mystic, along with the powerful modern creation Kiki-Angel deck (My name for it… I think). In this article we’ll hit numbers 3 through 1 and try to find out what the best creature in the game is… well the best one in my opinion anyway.


Honorable Mention


In the early days of Magic they printed a card called Oath of Druids and a whole deck was designed around it. The deck became a huge contender long after it was printed, the major idea of the deck was your opponent put out one creature then you could cheat the most powerful creature in your deck into play. This card and others like it made the deck a huge challenge for its time. One of the major fuels for the deck was Forbidden Orchard, a Legendary Land from Kamigawa that tapped for one mana of any color and put a 1/1 colorless spirit token into play under your opponent’s control. This card exists as part of a triumvirate of the most powerful creatures in the game. With protection from everything and the creature being a 10/10 it’s almost always an unstoppable 2 turn clock.




So the major idea for this deck is to get Oath online and then win by taking infinite turns with Time Vault, and swinging for victory with the Progenitus. This deck is almost card for card the same deck that was created by Starcity games a while ago, with a couple differences to suit my own tastes; the two differences are the adding in of Progenitus and the adding of Tezzeret. Tezzeret combined with Time Vault is basically a win condition on its own; it acts as a replacement for Voltaic Key and even does it better than Voltaic Key sometimes; it can be put into exile to activate Force of Will; and his final creates attackers if you don’t have any others. I put in Progenitus, because if I can get it online on my turn and I’ve got infinite turns it’s almost impossible to stop. If you do decide to get into Vintage and build this deck there just note that it typically gets beaten out by more true to name control decks for their ability to counter spells and abilities.



Number 3

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn Blightsteel Colossus

Clocking in at number 3 are the other members of the triumvirate, and also the 2 strongest creatures in the game, these cards are so powerful in fact that many decks that run these two creatures don’t typically run too many other win conditions. Emrakul is so powerful for all of the things that he has; the strongest creature in the game at 15/15, he can’t be countered, he grants you an extra turn when he’s cast, he has flying, protection from colored spells and most importantly he has annihilator 6 (this means your opponent sacrifices 6 permanents every single time he attacks). To show you how good this creature is it is the creature that has replaced Progenitus in almost every deck that Progenitus has held sway over in the past. At 15 power it wins the game in two swings and can take down just about anything that blocks it, and at 15 toughness there aren’t many things that can take it down in a fair fight. Flying gives this card a fair amount of evasion, and the protection from colored spells gives him protection from most of the removal that he has to deal with; the ability to take an extra turn means that this card has an ability which is strictly better than haste. The real ability that wins games is none of these however, Annihilator 6 is the knife that ends the games in most situations; it is typically just too hard to recover from sacrificing 6 permanents and blocking with one for you to fight against this card in most situations. On the other side of the bench is one of the only creatures that has an ability to deal with Emrakul reliably, Blightsteel Colossus; this is the other member of the triumvirate and is my personal favorite. He is big, he is bad and he is the card that ran to replace Darksteel Colossus. He is an 11/11 for 12 with Trample and Infect; he is indestructible and if by some off chance he would be put in a graveyard, he is shuffled back into his owner’s deck instead. This is one of those cards that typically wins the game the first turn he’s out, unless your opponent finds an answer the game is over before they can find one. These are the two most powerful creatures in the entire game based on brute strength. Now if we compared how good cards are by how well they are able to defeat other cards of the same type then these two would be the most powerful cards in the game hands down, but they don’t do much for you early to mid-game if you don’t trick them out leading to their rating of 3 instead of 1As for a deck list for these two look up the last article to see Blightsteel Colossus in the Metalworker deck and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn easily takes over Progenitus’s spot in the Oath of Druids variant.



Honorable Mention

Dark Confidant and Snapcaster Mage

Now, I’m sure there are some of you wondering why these two cards did not make the list, surely there are cards on this list that are less than these two creatures and the short answer is debatably yes there are worse cards on this list than these 2 cards, but I wanted to show diversity of creatures and different scales on which they could be graded, essentially where the essence of the most powerful creatures in the game fit when compared to the essence of the other most powerful creatures in the game, as for why these 2 cards aren’t taking up the spot for their creature essence type, that will become apparent when I reveal our number 2 card; the overall theme of this card is card advantage. These two cards have become staples in just about every format they are legal in, in just about every deck that has their color, and for good reason.


Number 2


People have been calling for this card to get banned almost since its printing as many people complain that it’s just too powerful. The card is beautiful and simple, but a post-editing R&D pulled the card away from too broken card-hood; it’s a 7/7 Flyer with Lifelink that you can pay 7 life to draw 7 cards, so obviously it costs 7 to go with the theme? Wrong, it costs 8 mana probably to keep it from once again being too broken. But does increasing its mana cost make the card unbroken? According to many of the players who have been faced down by the Demon not by a long shot. With tons of ways to cheat this into play the card may be facing the ban-hammer one day very soon, but for now it sits in a very powerful spot at number 2 on our list. The traditional list for Griselbrand involves ways to cheat it out and runs alongside the ever-powerful Emrakul, and a lot of the time people would much rather have a Griselbrand rather than an Emrakul. The reason for that is the draw ability which lets you draw almost a quarter of your deck in just a turn, it costs you some life, but the trade-off is easily worth it, especially when you consider he regains you the life you lost for drawing 7 cards. This card is so strong it’s not even funny. Plus when you consider the fact that in the 7 cards you draw another Griselbrand shouldn’t be too far off from feasible in just your first try. The flavor text on the card seems fitting for not only his opponents in the story but also for any player who’s had the misfortune of being faced down by this demonic power house. For this deck I look back to 2013 and look at a deck that took 1st place Sneak and Show.


Sneak and Show Legacy Decklist


The major game plan of the deck is to get a Sneak Attack or Show and Tell online and put an Emrakul onto the field and win the game from there. The deck may pretty much be a one-trick pony, but who needs other tricks if it works? The deck is highly competitive and the inclusion of Griselbrand makes the deck much, much faster. Everything in the deck, Griselbrand included, is used either to get pieces for your combo, to defend your combo or to get your combo out sooner. It is a very aggressive and powerful deck.


To Recap

I’m pretty sure at this point just about everyone can think of at least one of the cards at our number one spot, but let’s go through our list one more time in case you missed one. At number 6, we have Rofellos and Metalworker or just mana producing creatures in general, being able to ramp is a powerful ability and these two seem to do it better than anyone else, they may not get you there by themselves but they’ll provide the fuel to do it. At number 5, we have Arcbound Ravager and True-Name Nemesis, these creatures may not be the biggest they may not offer much by themselves, but for their weirdness and uniqueness you have to give it up to these 2 powerhouses, capable of getting in there and pulling out a game for their sheer adaptability as hard to hit and hard to get rid of is the name of the game with these lovable weirdos. At number 4 sits our combo suite, with cards like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Stoneforge Mystic; these two powerful cards may be almost useless by themselves, but in the right deck these two grow to legendary proportions and can hold their own in any fight. At number 3, are our Heavy Hitters, these are cards that are nearly unparalleled in their power and winning potential, not much needs to be said about these 2 goliaths. Sitting lonely at number 2 is the diabolic Griselbrand, a card which is so powerful it’s being called for a banning in Legacy by some players, a format where Jace, the Mind Sculptor is legal.



Number 1

Tarmogoyf and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration

I’m sure that the Tarmogoyf might have been expected as it is currently the most expensive creature in the game, but people may find Delver of Secrets a little bit more exciting. If we had to name this category of creatures, it would probably be cheap, efficient beaters. It might be surprising to people to find out that when Tarmogoyf first came out it was actually one of the lower cards in the set. Goyfs with similar abilities had been seen before and none of them had been very good, so people logically thought that Tarmogoyf would follow suit, but he didn’t and has turned himself into a staple in just about every deck that runs green and is allowed to be played in. He didn’t even start off that strong with the inclusion of planeswalkers and fetch lands in Modern buthe’s truly built himself up as a powerhouse. He is mostly commonly run in the current mondern deck Jund:


Jund modern decklist:


With only a few exceptions the lands in the deck are used to either find or produce mana. The exception to this is Raging Ravine, which is in the deck not only to produce mana, but also to act as a reliable way to get in for some damage. Courser of Kruphix allows for fixing of your draw, lifegain and a slightly more reliable way to get out mana each turn. Scavenging Ooze, while it is sort of a counterpart to Tarmogoyf, acts as both a potential big beater creature for cheap and potential life gain. The Dark Confidant acts as card draw and can be a beater if you need him to. Chandra and Liliana basically act as a mop for anything you miss with the rest of your cards and can even deal a little bit of damage themselves. Almost all of the Instants and Sorceries are aimed at making your opponent discard, dealing damage to them or having a reliable way to deal with any problems you might run into for the most part. Overall, the deck just acts as a get in there type of deck getting in there for quite a little bit of damage between Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze.

More surprising to readers might be my choice of Delver of Secrets, but of course if you’ve been to Legacy, Vintage or Modern tournaments recently you’d probably be less surprised by this choice. There aren’t many flyers in the game that cost 1 to play unless they come with drawbacks or are 1/1’s or less. There is only one flyer in the game that has none of these and is in fact a 3/2. The card is outstanding for control decks, which typically only want to get 1 creature on board and just keep up the clock by slowly wasting your opponent’s life and this card performs this duty heroically. This card just placed first in a Legacy tournament on July 6th of this year in


American Delver Legacy decklist (UWR Delver)


The lands in this deck are used exclusively to either produce mana or find other lands. I have seen a lot of variants of this deck that run basic lands in the main board just in case the opponent runs Path to Exile. Other variants of this deck run Green instead of White while some stay dual colored with only Red and Blue. This deck, however is an American variant of the Delver deck that runs only Red, White, and Blue mana. The True-Name Nemesis is a card that we went over earlier in the article and you can read about it there, but in this deck it gets in for a hit each turn which can mean a lot especially when equipped with an Umezawa’s Jitte and is exceedingly hard to kill. The Delver of Secrets in this deck mean that you are going to be able to deal 3 damage each turn pretty reliably from turn 2 on. Finally, the Stoneforge Mystic in the deck basically acts as a combo on its own fetching up various equipment from your deck and is able to put them directly onto the battlefield for cheap, and it is the reason that the deck runs the 2 artifacts that it runs. Umezawa’s Jitte is a powerful card that earned a banning when it first came out for just being too good. The card basically does just about everything you’d want a card to do as soon as it gets to hit an opponent, it acts as removal, makes your creatures bigger, and gains you life. Realistically, the only 2 things you could want more of are static abilities (Flying, First Strike, etc) and card draw. On the other side of the artifact spectrum is Batterskull, which acts as a reliable blocker through vigilance, reliable life gain through lifelink, and recursion through its activated ability to return to your hand; when coupled with Stoneforge Mystic, these two cards can be a powerful one-two-punch. The sorceries in the deck act as both knowledge generator, whether that knowledge come in the form of knowing what your opponent has (Gitaxian Probe) or knowing and controlling what you’re going to draw next (Ponder), and card draw (both Gitaxian Probe and Ponder). The instants in the deck either act as removal (Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares), Card Draw/Knowledge Generation/Card Fixing (Brainstorm), or Counterspells (Spell Pierce, Daze, and Force of Will).

By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 15, 2014

Kiki Control by Shaun McLaren (3rd at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11t...

Deck of the Day

Restoration Angel - Kiki Control

White-Blue-Red Control by Shaun McLaren

3rd at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11th 2014

Shaun McLaren has already proven his dominance of the UWR Control deck in Modern so it looks like he felt it needed a tweak to keep performing for him. And while it was not able to propel him to the top spot, it was good enough to push him into the top 4 of a very strong field. His deck still has the classic control elements of draw, permission and removal but adds an interesting creature twist to grind out all the value.


Let’s start from the top with the title card which adds the new spin with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker who is no stranger to Modern but has traditionally been found in either the Twin or Pod decks. Here we find him used to grind out some mega-value or even surprise combo for the kill. So looking first at that combo kill, when we pair Kiki up with Restoration Angel you create a possible infinite loop of tapping Kiki to copy Resto then blinking Kiki with the copies into play trigger to rinse and repeat. You can also flash in Resto as a blocker if Kiki is in play and create enough blockers to shut down an alpha strike from a Twin deck, very sneaky. The other key target for Kiki is Wall of Omens which works to shore up some ground defenses while providing a solid and steady stream of card advantage. There is also Snapcaster Mage which can continue to rebuy spent spells in the grave with Kiki. A singleton Vendilion Clique is extremely useful in the deck as a way to not only gain information about your opponents plan but also to help disrupt it as well. The manabase also affords us the inclusion of a set of Celestial Colonnade which are a key beatdown element and one of the main avenues to victory. As advertised this is a control deck and thus has a well rounded permission suite starting with a set of Mana Leak, a pair of Remand, and singletons of both Spell Snare and Cryptic Command. The removal is also very heafty including Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze to either burn creature or straight to the dome, and Path to Exile to decisively remove any creature threat in the way. The deck is also able to squeeze two Tectonic Edge into the manabase as an additional hedge against manlands or Scapeshift combo. The draw power of the deck lies primarily with the Wall, Electrolyze, Remand and Cryptic, but the are also singletons with a Sphinx’s Revelation and a Desolate Lighthouse to bolster the draw package.

So once again Shaun shows us it was no fluke that he won Pro Tour Born of the Gods almost fighting his way to another victory. He clearly enjoys this style of deck and has a finger on the pulse of the metagame. It is going to be exciting and interesting to see what sort of evolution he continues to push with this deck, and also if it continue to be a strong metagame choice.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 14, 2014

UR Delver Legacy by Andrew Schneider (1st at SCG Knoxville on May 11t...

Champion’s Deck

Grim Lavamancer - UR Delver Legacy

UR Delver Legacy by Andrew Schneider

1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open on 5/11/2014
This is one of my favorite decks in legacy as it plays a very straightforward package of death and disruption in a counter/burn style package using my favorite guild color combo Izzet. UR Delver Legacy deck combines an extremely low mana curve using some of the most efficient and best spells with a marriage of the best elements of Blue in counter and draw power. It is destructive and decisive in obliterating its opponents and can seal the deal in a fast’n’furious fashion.

We start off with the namesake of the deck or what I like to call The Flying Lightning Bolt in Delver of Secrets which is supported by 28 ways to flip, and should always be close to 50/50 on a blind flip if deployed on turn one to really lay down the beats. That is coupled with beatdown king Goblin Guide as a second option for a great first turn play to start laying down the beats. Given the plethora of instants and sorceries in the deck we also have Snapcaster Mage to rebuy a key spell that you’ve already used and then work on laying down the beats. As you can see this deck is truly a weapon of mass destruction. Support player Grim Lavamancer can either help clear the way for your army or throw additional fire in their face and will often find the graveyard stocked with any of the many spells or fetchlands. The deck has a stockade of burn with full sets both of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning which at one Red mana for three damage are amazing, and easily reused by a Snapcaster. There is also a one of Forked Bolt which can clear two defenders or a dude and to the dome, and a pair of Price of Progress which in Legacy will mostly net either six or eight damage quite often sealing the deal. The counter suite is modest but necessary including format staple Force of Will to keep combo decks in check and Spell Pierce. We round it out with some draw power from Brainstorm, Ponder and Gitaxian Probe to ensure a steady stream of low cost threats continue flowing to your hand.

This deck never ceases to amaze me with its shear brilliance and simplicity. An incredibly powerful package of spells is woven together to provide the pilot with a simple yet deadly implement of annihilation ready to take on all comers. While it is truly an Aggro deck in its heart there is just enough countermagic to keep the unfair decks honest. And while there are several flavors of Delver decks to choose from this one is definitely a great choice given its consistency and will be a top contender for years to come.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 13, 2014

Scapeshift modern by Jun Young Park (1st at GP Minneapolis on May 11th...

Champion’s Deck

Scapeshift Modern

Scapeshift Modern by Jun Young Park

1st place at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11th 2014

Long has the tyranny of the awesome volcano Valakut reigned as a brutal strategy to incinerate opponents to ashes. This deck originally reared its ugly head in Standard using Primeval Titan to power out your Mountains to a quick and decisive victory. But once the Modern format was born the interaction between Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Scapeshift was too powerful to not be abused. There have been other variants of this deck as well which have used Prismatic Omen and Wargate to turn all your lands into Mountains but this straightforward style relying upon countermagic to control the game into a surprise combo finish is what has been most successful.

So the game plan of this deck is to burn your opponent to death using multiple triggers from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle with Mountains entering the battlefield. Valakut will trigger for three points of damage whenever a Mountain enters as long as there are five other Mountains already in play. And in Modern with the fetch/shock manabase that most decks are using this means that six triggers will often be enough to blast the opponent to bits. With Scapeshift you are able to combo out those triggers in one big shot by sacrificing any seven lands to it and searching your deck for a copy of Valakut and six Mountain cards, shocklands count as they are subtype Mountain, for a big finish. Now one of the golden rules of Magic is that you can play but one land per turn which when you are attempting to combo finish with seven or more lands in play can be a devastating restriction. So in order to skirt this restriction we have ways to search out more lands and put them directly into play with the decks main turn one play of Search for Tomorrow which can be suspended for just one mana and also perennial chump blocker Sakura-Tribe Elder which can often act as blocker to soak some damage then after it is declared as a blocker can still sacrifice itself to go and find a land to put into play. To ensure that you are going to hit your land drop each turn the deck has Serum Visions and Telling Time to dig through your deck, and also Electrolyze which does have damage attached to it as well but is used mostly for more draw. In fact, almost every spell in the deck has some sort of drawing effect attached to it and a solo Halimar Depths in the manabase will also help set up you next critical draw steps. The other huge facet of the deck is that it runs a very strong permission package with Remand, Cryptic Command and Izzet Charm to assure that even if it starts to stall that it won’t be falling behind and gets to continue digging with more draws. The removal is small but headed by Repeal which can get rid of any problem permanent such as the variety of hate bears that will thwart your plans, but also Charm, Cryptic and Electrolyze double themselves as additional removal. Finally we get to the last piece in this puzzle with Snapcaster Mage which is able to rebuy any of your spells in the graveyard especially a surprise counter when you need it most, and is also able to beatdown some life points if that’s what is necessary.

While the deck was said to be well positioned in the field due to the high concentration of Birthing Pod decks which it is a good match up for it I’m sure we will not see any major shift in the meta to specifically combat it. It is a very powerful but all in strategy which is rewarding only if you are able to master the Math of the Mountains. The decklist is very tight and the number of Mountains very specific where you need to be always wary of how many remain in your deck and how many you need to kill your opponent. But if you are a fan of Combo decks then this is definitely a deck that you should try. I guarantee that the results will not disappoint you, but remember to practice, practice, practice.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 15, 2014

Deck of the Day – UB Faeries by Alex Sittner (15th at Grand Prix...

U/B Faeries
Alex Sittner
15th Place at Grand Prix on 3/9/2014
When the last Banned & Restricted announcement was released one of the cards that was unbanned was Bitterblossom. Bitterblossom was one of the cards that was placed on the initial banned list when the Modern format was born mainly because of the dominance that Faeries had during its lifetime in Standard. A highly repressive Aggro-Control deck that used the tribal synergy of Faerie creatures to create a very streamlined and highly efficient machine. That unbanning of Bitterblossom was heralded by some as the beginning of a second coming of the Fae, but so far the deck has under performed expectation.

A huge part of the functioning of this deck comes from that newly legal enchantment which provides every turn a new 1/1 Flying Faerie with which to either continue a beatdown strategy or defend your life total, which can be very important as it slowly bleeds you one life each turn. The other Fae in the deck are not just aggressive creatures but are efficiently equipped with additional abilities and all are able to appear at will with Flash. Starting with a look at the permission package we have Spellstutter Sprite which with so many Faeries around to support it will more often then not be able to counter any spell threatening you. It is complimented by Mana Leak, Spell Snare and Cryptic Command to ensure dominance over the opponent. Next we look at the disruption which is rooted in the legendary Vendilion Clique which can appear out of nowhere to remove a key piece of action from their hand and then move into a beatdown role. There is also a mix of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize which coming out turn one plays to the harsh opening into Bitterblossom turn two which can often spell doom for the opponent. Our last true Faerie is Mistbind Clique which is used as a virtual Time Walk by flashing out on the upkeep of your opponent to tap down his lands for that turn. The Champion ability can also be your savior in a long game where Bitterblossom, which is coincidentally also a Faerie, is taking down your life too low and you’re able to make it disappear for as long as Mistbind is around. To round out the creatures there is also a pair of Snapcaster Mage which help take full advantage of the decks instants and sorceries, and also manlands in the form of the evasive Creeping Tar Pit and Mutavault which when active is also a Faerie to help either Spellstutter or Mistbind if necessary. A bit of spot removal is found in the form of Tragic Slip and Go for the Throat to contain the most important of threats. Finally there is the powerful Sword of Feast and Famine which will allow you to play spells or activate manlands before combat and then untap your lands to keep up mana to counter the enemies plans as well as forcing incidental discard.

While many pros have already dismissed the Faeries deck as an under powered option in this powerful format I’m not convinced that it has been put through the ringer yet. Only time will tell what new interactions people will think up to push this deck back into the top tier.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 14, 2014

Deck of the Day – UWR Twin by Samuel Tharmaratnam (10th at Grand...

Splinter Twin
U/W/R Twin
Samuel Tharmaratnam
10th Place at Grand Prix on 3/9/2014
From the time it was discovered that Splinter Twin could be paired with Twin in order to create an infinite army to smash your opponent it has been abused in every way possible. Its short life in Standard left people wanting to continue to abuse this interestingly unique interaction and has lead to several different iterations of this combo kill. Traditionally Blue/Red was the build of Twin but lately there’s been a new spin adding Green while this version of the deck goes for White.

While the main combo finish involves enchanting an Exarch with a Twin there is a redundancy package which includes Restoration Angel that can interact with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker as a secondary plan to create infinite token creatures. One way the White splash helps in this deck comes from Wall of Omens which is part of the decks draw engine and especially abusive if you Twin in, but more importantly in a new meta which is partially defined by recently unbanned Wild Nacatl a four toughness two drop can be the sole difference between holding off a ruthless assault and holding on to combo the win. Additional draw comes from format staple Serum Visions with its Scry ability to not only draw valuable cards but also filter unneeded cards away and a one of Desolate Lighthouse allows you to dig through the deck to find answers or missing combo pieces. For removal with this deck having access to both Red and White we find the requisite format all-stars Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile both efficient and effective for their purpose. There is also Swan Song as a light permission suite to handle at an very cheap cost many of the problems that the deck might face and the token you give usually not problematic, with the removal able to handle most other problems. A full set of Snapcaster Mage are able to rebuy all of your used instants and sorceries to effectively double the amount of draw, removal and counters in your deck. As an alternate beatdown plan the deck sports a full set of Celestial Colonnade to bring the ‘death from above’ should the game stall into a draw out affair. Finally a one of Spellskite in the maindeck is there as a hedge preboard in the mirror and also a way to draw removal away from your combo creatures so you can go off unhindered when you’re ready for the kill.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 13, 2014

Deck of the Day – Scapeshift by Andrew Calderon (13th at Grand P...



Andrew Calderon

13th Place at Grand Prix on 3/9/2014

As is the case with many decks in Modern the basis for the original design was found in Standard which was adapted and improved upon by the cards available in the expanded pool. This one is no different and comes from a very powerful deck which was known as Valakut. The basic premise of the deck revolves simply around the land Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and its interaction with Mountains which can turn a Mountain entering the battlefield into an uncounterable Lightning Bolt. The original design of the deck in Standard used Khalni Heart Expedition and Primeval Titan as was to get Mountains into play faster but Modern had a very different way to combo for the kill…Scapeshift. Once you have achieved a critical mass of lands in play you are able to use Scapeshift to sacrifice all your lands to search for either one or two Valakut and usually six or seven Mountain in order to kill your opponent on the spot.

There are a few pieces to the puzzle to help get lands into play ahead of schedule in the form of Sakura-Tribe Elder, Search for Tomorrow and two Explore. Since you need the lands in play for Scapeshift to do its magic these cards are critical and opening turns will often go turn 1 Suspend Search into turn 2 Elder which basically advances your combo by two turns. With Blue in the deck and a combo finish that needs protection we find a permission suite that consists of Remand and Cryptic Command, the latter usually the reason the deck will float four mana when going for the kill. There is also the utility player Izzet Charm which can act either as additional counter, dig to draw into answers or combo pieces, or even a way to burn small pesky creatures especially hate bears. There’s also a pair of Lightning Bolt, an Electrolyze and an Anger of the Gods to help as removal or a small amount of reach if needed to finish them off. And that Electrolyze pairs up with Peer Through Depths as the draw power of the deck with Cryptic and Explore as well. And finally what has quietly become a format all-star Snapcaster Mage is able to rebuy any of the already cast instants or sorceries and even do a little beatdown himself to work your way towards victory.

Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter