A Bite Out of Modern #3: Fighting Ascendancy

Khans is halfway here on MTGO, and already it’s made its mark in all formats. Well, obviously it’s impacting Standard because it replaces an entire amazing block. In fact, the Theros Block Constructed archetype (that was dismissed after Born of the Gods) UW Heroic seems to be the go-to aggro deck right now. We can trust Tom Ross to provide us with the optimal aggro list for most environments, so fans of Aggro and Bogles apply inside.

But Khans is also seeing action in Modern and Legacy as well. In the latter, [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] and [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] are already finding their way in U/R Delver, and Cruise will most likely stay. In Modern, there are already pleas for an emergency ban. Smdster and others have used [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] combo to earn themselves packs for undefeated (in games, even) finishes in Daily Events, and some of those wins were on turns 2 and 3. I suppose people have been turning their heads and looking the other way to turn 1 [c]Amulet of Vigor[/c], turn 2 [c]Summer Bloom[/c] for months (years?) now because they’re asking Wizards to uphold the principle of no Modern wins before turn 4.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Jeskai Ascendancy

Now, I’ll admit that I missed the interactions. I thought that we’ve already seen [c]Intruder Alarm[/c] and only saw how Ascendancy could replace it with something like [c]Sprout Swarm[/c]. I also thought of [c]Lifespark Spellbomb[/c] and concocted a crazy [c]March of the Machines[/c] or [c]Ensoul Artifact[/c] brew with Borderposts. So I goofed. Still, I really don’t think [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] can remain a big contender. Here is what is good against it, and here is what you can use to take advantage of it if it pops up too much:

1) Spot removal. All removal except for [c]Smelt[/c] is good here. If you can kill a creature or enchantment, you’re well on your way. Yes, [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] runs tutors and cantrips, so you will be expected to have some more disruption, a fast clock, or a good draw engine to accompany your removal. Because of this, UWR Control, The Rock, and U/R Delver, ever-present forces in the Modern metagame, will keep Ascendancy combo in check.

2) [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c]. Insert everything I’ve posted about Modern Burn here.

3) Hate-bears. [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c] and [c]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/c] severely handicap or shut down the Ascendancy combo. For a whopping GGWWR2, the opponent can cast [c]Glittering Wish[/c] to target [c]Fiery Justice[/c] against multiple hate-bears, or for GGBW2, the opponent can cast [c]Abrupt Decay[/c] on a single one. Either way, the tempo gained for the hate-bears player before the opponent can even start to combo is significant. Death and Taxes and G/W hate-bears also run [c]Path to Exile[/c] for the mana dork.

4) Mass removal. Be it [c]Anger of the Gods[/c], [c]Living End[/c], [c]Wrath of God[/c], etc. you have an answer even to [c]Sylvan Caryatid[/c] should the game make him relevant.

5) Discard. It’s a combo deck.

So if you ever see three or more [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] combo decks place on mtgo-stats, snap submit this deck for a free match of four.

[d title=”Modern Mono Black Infect”]
4 Inkmoth Nexus
17 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

4 Phyrexian Crusader
4 Phyrexian Vatmother

2 Devour Flesh
4 Disfigure
3 Doom Blade
4 Funeral Charm
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Phyrexian Arena
4 Raven’s Crime
2 Runechanter’s Pike
3 Sign in Blood
3 Wrench Mind

2 Bile Blight
2 Blackmail
4 Duress
1 Geth’s Verdict
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Slaughter Pact[/d]

I haven’t run the numbers, but the deck is cheap. It does get some free wins, especially against combo and Burn.

Budgetized Modern Decks

Now on to the stuff you came for. Lately there have been a lot of goodies hidden on results pages because they’re mislabeled as Burn decks. Here is the first one from MTGO user Second_Sunrise on September 22 that you may not have caught:

[d title=”Second Sunrise Token Goblins (Modern)”]
16 Mountain
4 Mutavault

4 Foundry Street Denizen
3 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Guide
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Mogg War Marshall
4 Goblin Chieftain

3 Dragon Fodder
3 Goblin Grenade
3 Krenko’s Command
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Shared Animosity

3 Combust
2 Dismember
4 Goblin Assault
2 Relic of Progenitus
4 Smash to Smithereens[/d]

He brought home some packs with only $80 invested, including the Daily Event entry fee. I assumed some people would run goblins after Rabblemaster was released, but he is absent from this list despite the obvious synergy. Maybe he pushed too high on the curve.

I love [c]Goblin Grenade[/c] in Modern. After the damage done to oneself by their mana-base alone, drawing into 2 grenades over the course of the game gets really close to lethal. Your opponent can never really trust his life total as you assess what he virtually has due to the cards in your hand.

I don’t love [c]Shared Animosity[/c] in this deck. I preferred the decks that maxed out with 12 Goblin Lords (Chieftain, King, and Bushwhacker) and rounded out the deck with 8 burn spells to finish the opponent off. I hate Animosity as a topdeck, especially against B/G or U/W/R when the opponent has been answering our creatures anyway.

It is interesting that Modern Goblins don’t have a good presence when they are powerful in Legacy. Then you consider what elements the Legacy Goblins deck has: a draw engine in [c]Goblin Ringleader[/c], tempo in [c]Goblin Lackey[/c] and [c]Goblin Warchief[/c], a fast clock with [c]Goblin Piledriver[/c], and disruption with [c]Wasteland[/c] and [c]Rishadan Port[/c]. None of these cards are available in Modern, so if one was looking for a disruptive tribal aggro deck, they looked to Merfolk. Still, while those cards weren’t available, I think that people have been too quick to dismiss a midrange or aggro-control Goblins list. We have [c]Aether Vial[/c], [c]Blood Moon[/c] and [c]Magus of the Moon[/c], [c]Thorn of Amethyst[/c], and [c]Warren Instigator[/c] at our disposal. I’m not ready to discredit these options and just go for a deck that only aims to draw, cast, turn creatures sideways, say “go” just yet.

A Snow-Control red deck sneaked into the results pages disguised as a Burn deck as well. You can look to this for some free wins against [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] as well, and it only runs you 100 tix.

[d title=”GG_Glen Snow Control (Modern)”]
2 Scrying Sheets
22 Snow-Covered Mountain

4 Boros Reckoner
4 Demigod of Revenge

Other Spells
4 Anger of the Gods
4 Blood Moon
1 Burning Earth
4 Koth of the Hammer
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Pyroclasm
4 Skred
2 Volcanic Fallout

2 Boil
1 Combust
2 Dragon’s Claw
4 Guttural Response
2 Molten Rain
2 Shattering Blow
2 Shatterstorm[/d]

I have to admit I’m impressed and confused at the same time. In the main, I’m not sure what the Demigods are up to hanging out with [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] except that maybe a flying haste attack for 5 is sometimes enough to call it a day. I suppose I can accept them as a budget alternative to [c]Thundermaw Hellkite[/c] and [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c], but I really like the latter a lot in these lists.

In the sideboard the number of [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] is surely off if that is a strategy to defeat Burn. Otherwise, the Burn matchup looks horrid, and the odds of drawing 1 of 2 are low. Otherwise I love the deck strategy and think it can be a contender in the post-Khans metagame if Ascendancy and Zoo come out of the woodwork.

Imagine a Standard deck

Now imagine it with [c]Goblin Guide[/c] and [c]Vexing Devil[/c].

This week there is further evidence that sometimes Aggro is just barely good enough to get there. What should a player do when their pet deck is rotating out of Standard? Play it in Modern, of course! At least, that’s what user b3nnybnyhc did on October 6. This deck looks familiar to those that follow multiple formats, especially those that scour the formats for well-priced decks that place.

[d title=”Modern Boss Sligh by b3nnybnyhc”]
18 Mountain

4 Ash Zealot
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Goblin Guide
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Legion Loyalist
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Vexing Devil

4 Brute Force
1 Forked Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Titan’s Strength

1 Blood Moon
1 Dismember
1 Forked Bolt
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Gut Shot
1 Leyline of Punishment
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Shattering Spree
2 Skullcrack
2 Smash to Smithereens[/d]

So will Burn players breathe some fresh air from the prison of [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] and try this out? I question it, and the bulk of the expense in this deck is cards that are also in Mono-Red Burn. Still, it is something to consider if enough players are giving themselves Hexproof or gaining life. Each of the creatures may only amount to a [c]Shock[/c], but they can also amount to more than a [c]Lava Axe[/c] for one or two. Seeing the deck reminds me that [c]Vexing Devil[/c] should have gone into my [c]Experiment One[/c] R/G beats last week, and I’ve been brewing that list backwards and forwards, trying things like [c]Keldon Marauders[/c], [c]Lightning Crafter[/c], etc. I’m sure I’ll settle on something by the time [c]Wooded Foothills[/c] drops to a reasonable price.

What do you all think about [c]Jeskai Ascendancy[/c] combo? Is it just a Glittering Wish, or will it continue to show its Prowess? Is Aggro the most reliable way to win packs on a budget?