Modern Horizons 2 is shaping up to be possibly the most powerful Magic set of all time. At the end of the second week of previews we’re starting to get a more complete picture of the whole set and oh my Scarab God, things are looking exciting.
Intros are boring, let’s talk about some cards!
These two cards each ask the same thing of your mana base: assemble all five basic land types. Once you do so, you are rewarded handsomely, with Scion of Draco becoming a two-mana 4/4 flying with significant upside and Territorial Kavu becoming a two-mana 5/5 with decent upside.
Eighteen months ago, assembling all five basic land types (aka “full domain”) in good time would have been moderately challenging, but now that we have Ikoria’s Triomes, it’s trivially easy. If you fetch a Triome (e.g. Raugrin Triome) on turn one then a shock land (e.g. Overgrown Tomb) on turn two, then that’s full domain achieved ready for a turn-two Scion of Draco or Territorial Kavu. That’s a lot of flexibility and minimal deck building restriction for such a high payoff.
Given that we are playing such a density of multicoloured creatures, the new General Ferrous Rokiric seems absolutely insane here. Hexproof from monocoloured is nothing to sneeze at–short of a Liliana edit or a Teferi bounce, this is immune from basically all of Modern’s removal. If I can invite you to Magical Christmas Land for a moment, can you imagine playing Rokiric and then Bloodbraid Elf into Shardless Agent into Territorial Kavu? Casual 22 power, no big deal.
So, what kind of shell is best going to maximise these powerful two-drops? Domain Zoo is an old archetype in Modern that has never really gone anywhere, but now might finally be the time for some of its pieces to shine. Wild Nacatl is reliably enough a one-mana 3/3 in these decks—so reliable that it was actually banned from Modern way back in 2011, a situation that seems laughable these days. Our need to fetch Triomes on turn one means that I think we want to avoid other powerful aggro one-drops like Goblin Guide or Noble Hierarch, but Wild Nacatl is too powerful in this shell to leave on the bench.
The other pull into a domain deck is Tribal Flames, which snuck into Modern thanks to Time Spiral’s Timeshifted sheet. Five damage to any target for two mana is a rate any burn player would eat their Boros Charms for, and all this asks is that we do what our deck is trying to do anyway.
From here, we start to deviate from traditional Zoo decks in order to maximise Scion of Draco. The Scion’s final ability rewards us for having multicoloured creatures; while traditional Zoo decks turn to threats like Tarmogoyf, Death’s Shadow, or Kird Ape, we want our remaining threats to be multicoloured but still aggressively slanted.
Mantis Rider is the most obviously powerful option, since it also gains first strike and hexproof from Scion of Draco. This will mean that if your opponent cannot remove Scion of Draco (and it is immune to both Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt), then you will also have a Mantis Rider that can’t be touched.
One of the most exciting new additions to Modern is Shardless Agent, a card I expect to see in a wide range of decks, including this one. Cascading into Territorial Kavu will mean seven power across two bodies for three mana, and if we have a Scion out the Agent will have hexproof and trample to boot.
Finally, Bloodbraid Elf is similarly at home in a deck like this. All of the threats in the deck have ridiculous stats, so you will be flipping either a metric buttload of power or a gigantic burn spell with your Cascade trigger.
Here’s my final list. I took significant inspiration from @d00mwake’s list on Twitter (particularly for the nightmare of a mana base), with some modifications made by myself.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is kind of mind blowing. It doesn’t seem that long ago (though it probably was) that Jackal Pup and Savannah Lions were constructed-tier cards, and now we have this. A single-mana 2/1 with a Thief of Sanity ability that also nets you mana to pay for the cards and it has Dash! What the hell!?
But think about it: what deck actually wants this? Burn doesn’t—Ragavan doesn’t have haste, and Burn wants to spend mana on burn spells, not whatever the opponent has on top. And this strikes at the heart of the problem: Modern is a format about hyper-linearity, where doing one focused thing is heavily rewarded. This means that most decks don’t have time for card advantage when the cards don’t come from their own deck.
So what kind of deck does want Ragavan? It would have to be a deck that 1) wants to pressure the opponent’s life total, 2) wants card advantage, even if those cards come from the opponent’s deck, and 3) isn’t embarrassed to play a monkey pirate. And I think I have the answer: Delver.
Ok, yes, I know, we all know that Delver decks are never good in Modern. But I think things might be different for two reasons. The first, obviously, is Ragavan, since this is the perfect deck for him. The second is Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Here we have another ludicrously powered-up one-drop that rewards you for playing non-creatures and, with a little bit of work, becomes a three-powered flier that can kill the opponent while you disrupt them.
And how will we be disrupting our opponent? Force of Negation is our dear format’s best analogue of Legacy’s Force of Will, so we’ll be playing a playset of those. Force plays very nicely with Ragavan, since you can tap out on your turn to play whatever you hit off the monkey, and then have Force up on your opponent’s turn to protect your board.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell to hit Modern since, well, last week’s spoilers is that Counterspell will finally be legal in our favourite format. Counterspell is the gold standard for counter magic, so we’ll naturally have a playset of those too, thank you very much.
Fire//Ice is another huge new addition to Modern that I think our Delver deck will want. We need another removal spell beyond Lightning Bolt to clear the way for Ragavan and while we could turn to something like Burst Lightning, I think Fire//Ice offers much more flexibility for our needs. It can also be pitched to Force of Negation.
Expressive Iteration is our source of cheap card advantage in addition to Ragavan. It plays a little awkwardly with Counterspell, but it’s powerful enough that I think it’s worth it.
Finally, we round things out with a suite of cantrips. Mishra’s Bauble and Thought Scour are concessions to Dragon’s Rage Channeler needing to turn on Delirium. I could see turning to something like the new Seal of Removal to get another card type in there, but I’m not quite brave enough to put what is essentially Unsummon in my Modern deck.
Here’s the final list:
Feel free to customise this to your own taste. I would be very interested in a Grixis build to splash for Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, and Drown in the Loch. You might also be tempted to try a green splash to get access to Abundant Harvest (and hence fewer lands) and Veil of Summer. Go nuts!
There are two important things that you need to know about Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar:
1) If you learn to pronounce Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and then do so around your friends constantly, they will automatically think that you are very cool and totally not a gigantic nerd.
2) She’s kind of busted.
The second point has been somewhat overshadowed by the first, so let’s dive into that. Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar is effectively a one-mana 3/3 with some card advantage stapled on so long as you have discarded a card that turn.
In addition to Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, MH2 has given us Blazing Rootwalla, which fits this deck’s needs perfectly. Between Hollow One, Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar, and Blazing Rootwalla, we now have a significant chance of being able to play multiple creatures on the turn we go for our big discard. This means there is a new tool we have at our disposal that wasn’t possible with the old Hollow One decks: Vengevine.
In case you aren’t familiar, Vengevine has been at the forefront of multiple ban-worthy decks in Modern and Legacy, most recently the format-destroying Hogaak deck that arose after MH1, but has so far escaped the ban hammer itself. Vengevine’s storied history has shown that if you can build your deck right, you can put a significant amount of hasty damage onto the board in the early turns of the game.
So, how are we setting all of this up?
Our suite of discard outlets is largely unchanged from the deck’s first incarnation, minus the loss of Faithless Looting (which is, admittedly, a major blow for the archetype). Cathartic Reunion is our “controlled” discard outlet, being the only one that actually lets us choose what we will discard. Goblin Lore and Burning Inquiry are much more “exciting”, letting the fates decide whether you’ll be discarding your Vengevines or your Hollow Ones.
The original Hollow One decks typically played Flamewake Phoenix as a hasty threat that can be discarded and then reanimated as soon as you land a Hollow One. It seems even better in our current build with Vengevine, so that seems like an easy inclusion.
The card that has me really excited, however, is Zombie Infestation. Now that we have a deck that is even more reliant on a big discard turn, it’s not hard to imagine some serious fireworks that could go off with Zombie Infestation involved.
Here’s my final build.
4 Blazing Rootwalla
I’m almost certainly going to pick up the pieces for the Hollow Vine deck once MH2 is released (and those pieces were hard to come by last time this deck spiked), but any of these three decks looks like a sweet way to start week one of the new Modern format.
As always, get in touch with me on Twitter if you end up using one of these decks, I’d love to hear how you go!
Sam Maher has been playing competitive Magic since 2003. In the last two years he has accumulated multiple Grand Prix day 2 appearances, PTQ top 8s, and MCQ top finishes. He is generally happiest when stealing his opponent’s cards with Thief of Sanity and The Scarab God. You can follow him on his Youtube drafting channel Draft Punks and on Twitter @Calm_Mirror.