We have a guest article today from Alex Wilson, lover of Modern and all things Blue and Red. He recently got to the Top 8 of GPT Manchester (tourney report on the way) and is here to lay down some KNOWLEDGE about his (2nd) favorite Modern Deck.
Take it away!
As I’m sure a number between some and none of you are aware, I was a big fan of Splinter Twin before January 2016.
Pure UR, none of this weird splashing colours nonsense.
I enjoyed being able to win aggressive matchups by comboing off and punishing the lack of interaction. As those who know me will tell you, the ban upset me significantly.
Suddenly I was pushed into a cold, harsh world. I couldn’t sit back pretending that the 1/4 I’d thrown on to the board was going to do anything other than twiddle their land in a slightly frustrating way.
I spent the weeks post Oath pre-release in a kind of haze, jamming UR Delver and UR Storm whilst I wondered what I was going to play in modern now. I dabbled briefly in Esper Mentor, followed by UB Faeries and continued on the hunt for something to fill the 75 card shaped hole left by the twin banning.
Eventually Pro Tour OGW rolled round and with it my hopes of finding out what the new pillars of Modern were looking to be. After my dire prophecies of Tron dominating the meta, boy was I shocked. I dismissed the newfound “Eldrazi menace” based on not wanting to buy a deck getting banned in a few months, and also not being a massive fan of how the deck played out.
After some digging I discovered Jason Chung had piloted a UR control list to a near Top Eight finish. Here was a deck running all the great cards from Twin and with more than a touch of spice.
Here is the list I’ve been running which is based heavily on Jason Chung’s list from Pro Tour OGW. I’ve tinkered it just a little for better or worse, you decide:
4x Snapcaster Mage
2x Thing in the Ice
2x Burst Lightning
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Serum Visions
2x Spell Snare
2x Mana Leak
4x Blood Moon
4x Ancestral Visions
2x Cryptic Command
2x Steam Vents
2x Sulfur Falls
4x Scalding Tarn
2x Polluted Delta
2x Flooded Strand
1x Engineered Explosives
2x Dragon’s Claw
1x Vendilion Clique
2x Anger of the Gods
1x Izzet Staticaster
3x Flex Slots
I’ll be honest, I was more than a little excited to test it out. Blood Moon is, after all, my favourite card in Modern, multiple people tell me this makes me a bad person. Whilst I’ve heard some call for a ban, I can’t help but love the card.
It levers so much advantage, even against partially prepared opponents, simply due to the fact that the way Modern mana bases are built means that it’s unlikely for my opponent to see any colours other than basics they already have in play.
Blood Moon punishes my opponents for fetching greedily and rewards me being in only two colours, one of which is red. Boarding it in to do just that in twin was one of my favourite things about the deck.
Blue Moon feels a lot like Twin, particularly the aforementioned post-board games in which it was fairly commonplace to board out the combo into a UR control/tempo deck.
Unlike Twin though you don’t have terrible 1/4s that twiddle and never end up with the horror of a Splinter Twin in hand and nothing to attach it to. Instead you have Batterskulls, Thing in the Ice and an expanded suite of disruption and value cards.
The similarity to Twin is likely due to the fact that twenty of the maindeck cards (not including lands) are the same and the games can often play out in similar, tempo-esque ways.
Blood Moon, the namesake of the deck, is the lynchpin of the strategy and whilst drawing the second and third copies is often miserable, not drawing the first is often more so.
Since the mana base is built around the expectation that there will be a Blood Moon on the field turn three, you do begin to lose out as the game goes on without it, due to the inbuilt constraints on your mana. That said turn three Blood Moon will frequently just lock out the unprepared opponent, whilst you sit pretty with both your colours, doing great stuff.
Even when people fetch out basics, one of each colour is frequently not enough to enact turns as desired, looking at you Liliana!
So I wrote this article roughly a week before the SOI B&R announcement. Since then two important things have happened, Thing in the Ice has been printed, and Ancestral Vision has been unbanned.
With these changes in mind I cut a Spell Snare, and Electrolyze and two Spreading Seas for four Ancestral Vision. The logic is that with Eldrazi gone, I was less in need of extra ways to hate out nonbasic lands. If I was going to be running cards that drew three cards I was less in need of hyper efficient answers.
Since then I’ve found Ancestral to be far from the insane game winning card it was hyped to be when B&R were changed. It is very powerful though and helps lock up the mid-late game as well as helping keep up with GBx.
What is far more than decent is Thing in the Ice. I replaced Pia and Kiran with Thing in the Ice as I wasn’t particularly happy playing P&K and Cryptic together. Having a mana base where you can cast either on Turn Four under Blood Moon is actually impossible.
P&K felt more like a grindy value card than a “I’ve screwed your fun up with Blood Moon, now I’m going to jam a threat and kill you with it” card.
Let me tell you, Thing in the Ice is everything I’d hoped it could be and more. Playing against Burn/Zoo/Affinity/some other odd aggro deck? Well my friend, if you want to resolve that Blood Moon and not die you’re going to need to have a way to not get punched to death, Snapcaster does not count.
Oh look, an 0/4 for 2, messes up attackers nicely. Also wanting to turn the corner? Well, we can flip in to a 7/8 with minimal effort. Not only that, but when it does flip, it does some kind of bizarre displacement wave impression.
I haven’t even started talking about the fact it rebuys Snapcaster.
To cut a long ramble short: Thing in the Ice has turned out to do many, many excellent things for me and I’m pretty happy about it. If you’re considering picking up this deck (and I highly recommend you do in the twinless void), then Dat Thang is an include I’d highly recommend testing.
Bonus points for taking lines that go Bolt and hold priority, Remand my bolt in people’s end steps to draw a card and get two counters off. Next turn, all you need to do is flip it and kill your opponent!
Batterskull is practically unbeatable.
The ‘Skull itself is nigh impossible to dispose of if a player untaps with it thanks to the second ability. Buying back the germ repeatedly is also a good way to deal with massive Tarmogoyfs when paired with bolt without falling miles behind on cards.
Whilst both pale in comparison to Twin as a way to end the game instantly, Twin is banned 😦 so we take what we can get.
Our countermagic suite is a little more comprehensive than Twin. We’ve got space for two Mana Leaks, an extra Spell Snare, as well as the traditional two Cryptic Command and old faithful, Remand.
All of the above have been Modern staples for a while, so I won’t go in to too much detail, except to extol the values of Spell Snare. Whilst I considered going down to two copies, I’m glad I didn’t. A large percentage of great spells in Modern are two-drops and a well-placed Snare recovers almost all the tempo traditionally lost to being on the draw. It’s also easier to Snapcast than Mana Leak or Remand, so it’s got that going for it too.
The list’s removal is actually heavier than I’m used to in UR lists. I’d traditionally lean on the four Bolts to clear the way early on, then maybe a Roast and an Electrolyse later in the game. The addition of Burst Lightning was one I was highly skeptical about, I mean seriously, shock with a four mana kicker? C’mon! but after testing I’ve found it to surpass all my expectations. It does a passable impression of bolt early on, even killing a T1 Wild Nacatl, and late game being able to turn it into a Stoke the Flames (is that the correct term? I have no idea. A Fireblast?) is often relevant *cough* Restoration Angel *cough*.
As an additional benefit, nothing, not even Blood Mooning against a landbase of entirely Shocklands, will beat the look on my opponents face when I Burst Lightning’d them for exact lethal as my last card. They’re also really cheap in foil thanks to Modern Masters Two!
All of the above said I have considered Harvest Pyre as a replacement for the Burst, since I rarely point it at face, and Harvest Pyre is a much more mana efficient way of dealing 3+ damage, and this deck really doesn’t make much use of its graveyard otherwise (barring Snapcaster).
Electrolyze also feels great, as it borders on the definition of efficient removal spell and helps you cycle through your deck when digging for specifics. Whilst three mana is a lot dealing with cards like Lingering Souls, Snapcasters and almost any card Merfolk plays gives a lot of value.
I’m a big fan of value, and will advocate multiple copies of Electrolyze in almost any non-storm UR list.
The board runs largely broad answers because that’s how I like to roll. I recommend using Italian Staticasters because:
A) Nobody can remember what it does.
B) Lanzastaticasta Izzet sounds way cooler, and both do the same job against x/1s.
The extra Batterskull comes in mostly against very disruptive decks as it is much harder to lean on just one in those matchups. I have been considering my old twin standby for the board, Keranos, God of Storms. Whilst he doesn’t gain life he provides a combination of reliable clock and an increase in card density against Liliana of the Veil. He’s also basically impossible to get rid of without Celestial Purge.
I’ve got Shatterstorm as every good board should have hard Affinity hate and Dragon’s Claw which is mostly to help us get to a stable board state against burn. The broad nature of the board also means that you have plenty of room to take out cards from the maindeck, whilst still having enough cards to bring in.
This is especially pertinent against decks like Burn, where Remand does almost nothing 9/10 times, and drawing a Cryptic Command is essentially mulling down a card.
The best matchups for Blue Moon are those running 3+ colours. A resolved Blood Moon against many of these decks is frequently a death sentence. Even with two on- colour basics they often struggle to cast their spells.
The other favourable matchup is Affinity. The high density of maindeck removal, combined with the fact that Spell Snare stops three of the primary Affinity payoffs, Archbound Ravager, Cranial Plating and Steel Overseer means that you have ok odds of winning pre-board. Post board you get all the juicy hate making the game very 1 sided.
Linear Aggro – they don’t care much for a 3 mana enchantment that does nothing to their board.
Lantern Control – which seems to exist in its own bubble of fun denial. It cares not for Blood Moon as it has Mox Opal and relies hardest on colourless cards.
Bogles – They laugh at your Lightning Bolts….
To sum up: I highly recommend Blue Moon to the UR mages left stranded by the Twin banning. You can likely finish it at minimal expense since, unless you panicked and sold them, you’ve got the Cryptics, the Snapcasters, the land base, probably two Blood Moons and even the terrible Modern-legal cantrips.
Batterskull is fairly low currently and can be found for £10-15 each. The other two Blood Moons will probably set you back around £25 each. Personally I’ve had a total blast playing this deck (massive Tarmogoyfs notwithstanding) and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a more controlling, resource denial strategy.
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