Threat Evaluation, Part 2: Swamp, Go

What is the point of knowing what your opponent is playing early on? There are multiple advantages in the current game you’re playing and the future games against the same deck.

First of all, it is such a good thing to record your results in tournament practice and ticketed events. If you want to grind or go infinite, you have to know what wins and losses you expect or if it’s time to pack the deck up (RIP Mono Green Infect).

Do you have the win next turn, but it requires a little set up this turn that will leave you open to blow-outs? Knowing what your opponent might have in his deck and his board state will help inform you whether to go for it or not.

Are you having trouble against a certain match-up? Well, the first step is to identify the problem. And that’s what we’re doing here with decks that contain Swamps, the second most powerful basic land over Island. Although Swamp hasn’t earned quite as many (half-joking) pleas for a ban as Island, interestingly, in Modern there are more commonly archetypes with mana-bases containing mostly Swamp than Island. Island merely has the Merfolk archetype, while Swamp has these two:

Mono-black archetypes

Both of these decks are rather similar in their strategy: rip your hand apart and win with whatever. The decks run the same amount of lands and the same 16 discard spells.

8-rack

So named for having 8 cards like [c]The Rack[/c]: 4 more [c]Shrieking Affliction[/c], this deck tears apart your hand and controls your topdecks with [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c] and [c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c].

Tell-tale signs: When you see only Swamps, you’re expecting this or Mono-Black Infect. Cards played in this deck and not the other include [c]Thoughtseize[/c], [c]Bitterblossom[/c], and [c]Darkblast[/c].

Mono-Black Infect

Coming in at a full $500 cheaper than the other Swamp-heavy list, this deck is also seen more commonly cashing in at Daily Events. This is probably because more people run it. Here you will lose to having 10 or more poison counters from [c]Phyrexian Crusader[/c] and, more hilariously, [c]Phyrexian Vatmother[/c].

Tell-tale signs – Infect trades the [c]Thoughtseize[/c] from 8-rack for the swiss army knife [c]Funeral Charm[/c]. An early Swamp and [c]Inkmoth Nexus[/c] is rather clear also. Finally, few other lists play [c]Disfigure[/c] at all, let alone 4 of them.

Of course, not all lists containing Swamps will be mono-black. We have already covered Cruel Control, Ad Nauseam, Faeries, and other lists in our previous Threat Evaluation article, so here are multi-colored Modern lists that include Swamps:

Yawgmoth’s Bargain

I’d wager if you saw a Swamp early on, you’re playing one of these lists.

Pod

Oh, Pod. The toolbox’s toolbox, and Twin’s main competitor as the most played and victorious deck in Modern. Whether they use [c]Birthing Pod[/c] to assemble [c]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/c], [c]Viscera Seer[/c], and [c]Murderous Redcap[/c] or [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] with [c]Spike Feeder[/c] for the instant kill or grind you out with [c]Reveillark[/c] and [c]Entomber Exarch[/c], there are so many paths to victory that it is very difficult to hate. This deck, more than any other, rewards knowledge of the deck and good plays. You will find that if you identify this match-up as troublesome, most likely it will continue to be so.

Tell-tale signs: Other BG decks have more specific mana requirements than Pod, so here is the only case that you will see [c]Noble Hierarch[/c] turn 1 with an [c]Overgrown Tomb[/c]. So many cards in this list are 1-ofs other than Hierarch, 4 [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and some number greater than 1 [c]Kitchen Finks[/c].

Jund

Jund is carefully maintained by Wizards of the Coast with the restricted list: first, [c]Bloodbraid Elf[/c] got the ban despite the lack of broken Cascade triggers (like those seen in Living End lists), and secondly, the 1-mana planeswalker [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c] was stripped from this and most other lists with green mana. Jund is a fair midrange deck, complete with discard, removal, and a card advantage engine in [c]Dark Confidant[/c]. Most of the removal spells are 1-for-1 with the exception of [c]Maelstrom Pulse[/c] on occasion and [c]Anger of the Gods[/c], which conveniently kills a troublesome Bob and not [c]Courser of Kruphix[/c], [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], or [c]Scavengine Ooze[/c], usually.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Raging Ravine[/c] turn 1 is the most obvious and common one. Jund plays more discard than Pod, so if you see [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c], you can either sigh relief or be more scared, depending on your favorable match-ups.

The Rock

This has been an archetype since Invasion block’s [c]Spiritmonger[/c] showed players what power creep was. Here the builder removes the red from Jund, but essentially you’re dealing with the same strategy.

Tell-tale signs: This deck simply fills out the complements of [c]Inquisition of Kozilek[/c] and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] rather than playing them at 3-of. Here we will also see [c]Thrun, the Last Troll[/c] come out to play. This is a relatively new archetype currently being explored in Modern, so some beaters like [c]Putrid Leech[/c], [c]Desecration Demon[/c], and [c]Bitterblossom[/c] show you that you’re not up against a mana-screwed Jund player while the builders are settling on optimized lists.

Living End

This deck controls the board with [c]Fulminator Mage[/c], [c]Beast Within[/c], and [c]Shriekmaw[/c] while cycling for any cascade spell. The very creatures that it is cycling all come out to play once [c]Living End[/c] resolves off a [c]Violent Outburst[/c] or [c]Dread Within[/c]. Hate their graveyard? Fine, they’ll just resolve the big cycling beaters themselves instead.

Tell-tale signs: Easy, they cycle [c]Monstrous Carabid[/c] or [c]Street Wraith[/c] turn one.

B/W Tokens

Imagine a Modern Event deck. Now imagine it optimized, and you have the Tokens deck. Your hand is discarded, and you’re up against eight creatures; perhaps one of them is equipped with a sword. Surprisingly, [c]Bitterblossom[/c] hasn’t made it into many lists.

Tell-tale signs: Early [c]Tidehollow Sculler[/c] disruption, and this is the only deck with the good soul sister, [c]Auriok Champion[/c].

Lurking Evil

These encounters aren’t as likely, but they do show up from time to time.

Dredgevine

Beautifully powerful when it gets going, tragically susceptible to hate, recurring threats like [c]Gravecrawler[/c] and [c]Vengevine[/c] really add up quickly while [c]Lotleth Troll[/c] provides the fuel and holds down the fort. Other variants simply include Zombies!, which skimps on the Vines and goes full tribal (most likely for budget reasons).

Tell-tale signs: Most creatures with “graveyard” in their text: [c]Gravecrawler[/c], [c]Bloodghast[/c], and [c]Vengevine[/c].

Tin Fins

This second graveyard-based strategy attempts to abuse [c]Goryo’s Vengeance[/c] by reanimating [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] or [c]Griselbrand[/c]. The former can awkwardly allow your situation to rebuild and win at five life. The latter can attack three times with [c]Fury of the Horde[/c]. Some variants include [c]Borborygmos Enraged[/c] and/or [c]Necrotic Ooze[/c] with other reanimation spells.

Tell-tale signs: When you see [c]Faithless Looting[/c] plus a source of black mana, you can rule out storm, and when you see it with a source of blue mana, you can rule out Assault Loam.

Elementals!

Dan famously posted a Youtube video with a turn 2 kill with this deck on his channel of this site’s name. That list was similar to Gerry Thompson’s. A new breed has arrived with [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] in place of the [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c], and it’s cashed in a few dailies. [c]Nivmagus Elemental[/c] and [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] have been the classic beaters.

Tell-tale signs: This deck is so fragile to all the removal in the format that its plan is to win by turns 3 and 4. In the early turns you may see a [c]Thoughtseize[/c] before a big beater, but probably not. Once you see a lot of phyrexian mana spells, it’s likely too late.

Mono-Black Devotion

When [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c] (I had to re-type “Gray” twice there, after typing “Gary” twice and catching the mistake twice) was spoiled, people looked for lots of black mana symbols. And boy did they find them with [c]Phyrexian Obliterator[/c]. Despite the two very powerful cards, the deck hasn’t taken off.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Bloodghast[/c] and [c]Gravecrawler[/c] with no real way to abuse them, [c]Gatekeeper of Malakir[/c], and [c]Phyrexian Arena[/c] are good indicators.

Odious Trow

These lists, mostly played by trolls, are very rare, but it helps to pick them out early on.

Pixy Stix

I kid you not: people build this and must, in some sadistic way, think that it’s fun. [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and its ilk are weakest to topdecks, so what has the Pixy Stix player added to its discard suite? [c]Lantern of Insight[/c], [c]Codex Shredder[/c], and [c]Pyxis of Pandemonium[/c]. I’ll give you some much needed time to read those cards.

Rats/Crystal Rat

Although other rats are never used with [c]Pack Rat[/c] in Standard, some players read the card and thought about its Modern implications with decent rats. After all, [c]Chittering Rats[/c] is a house in Pauper.

Death Cloud

Mirrodin block is the cutoff point for Modern, and it still has some of the most powerful effects in the format: Affinity, the $4 common [c]Serum Visions[/c], [c]Auriok Champion[/c], and [c]Crucible of Worlds[/c]. A good place for people to start their brewing is Mirrodin standard and old Extended which included Mirrodin. Unfortunately, lists around [c]Death Cloud[/c] are the exceptions to the rule. Part Golgari super-friends (Liliana and Garruk), part The Rock, it’s hard to believe such powerful cards couldn’t work together.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Sakura Tribe-Elder[/c] with a source of black mana lets you know that your Rock opponent is setting up for a [c]Death Cloud[/c].

Judging by the lack of comments to the last article, I know what you guys are about: decklists. Be it far from me to disappoint; here is a Modern Silverblack brew in the spirit of the current Event on the site.

[d title=”Silverblack MonoBlack Infect”]

Lands

2 Bojuka Bog

2 Dakmor Salvage

18 Swamp

Creatures

4 Reaper of Sheoldred

3 Scourge Servant

1 Whispering Specter

Artifacts

1 Trepanation Blade

Spells

4 Disfigure

1 Doom Blade

3 Go for the Throat

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

1 Night’s Whisper

4 Raven’s Crime

4 Sign in Blood

2 Smother

2 Tendrils of Corruption

4 Wrench Mind

Sideboard

4 Drown in Sorrow

1 Nausea

2 Nihil Spellbomb

2 Relic of Progenitus

2 Tendrils of Corruption

4 Vampire Nighthawk [/d]

Thanks for reading; see you next week!