Happy New Year!
It has been a privilege to be a part of this great site. There are a lot of great resources for Magic players out there, but I’m particularly proud to be a part of this one. After selling out of paper Magic, I became interested in Pauper online, and Dan contributed, by far, the best content for learning Pauper play at the time. It’s an honor to be working alongside this team, and I resolve to do contribute the best content I can here.
All that mushy stuff aside, let’s get down to it. It’s an exciting time for Magic: Spoiler season! Including basic lands, 57 cards have been spoiled at the time of this writing, and while Peyton has covered my favorite of the bunch, Soulflayer comes in a close second. I am excited to try it out in Modern!
Now, I can guess what you might be thinking. Many strategies have been dismissed since the release of Khans because of the graveyard-hate designed to neutralize Treasure Cruise. The truth is, though, that there seem only to be more decks built around graveyard strategies, including Dig Through Time in Scapeshift-centered decks and U/R Delver with Treasure Cruise. Additionally, the B/G decks utilize the graveyard as a resource in their game-plan. Jeskai Ascendancy decks mock the suggestion that the graveyard is an unreliable tool. In fact, it seems that all of the best brewers, grinders, and pros have taken a gentleman’s agreement to live and let live.
With this assumption that we can trust our opponents not to mess with our delving abilities, I maintain optimism about Soulflayer.
Another argument against Soulflayer is the design space it occupies; we have seen something like it before in Cairn Wanderer. Although the latter has existed since October 2007, we have never seen it post even one result, so why should something just like it be any better? Well, let’s take an honest look at the two:
-Costs 5, always
-Can have fear, landwalk, protection, and shroud keywords, whereas Soulflayer cannot
-For what it’s worth, has changeling, so tribal bonuses boost it
-Is only a 4/4 if your graveyard is hated after resolution
-Is better against Remand, but not particularly good (2 mana versus 6 mana investments)
Also, to save you all some time, both creatures can have flying, first strike, double strike, deathtouch, haste, lifelink, reach, trample, and vigilance. Neither creature can have the keywords Annihilator, Infect, nor Prowess, which are interesting for future possibilities of this sort of mechanic.
Comparing the two, I genuinely believe that hexproof, keeping the keywords, and the lower cost put Soulflayer over the top enough to make it the foundation of a viable strategy. Let no one forget that a 2-cmc 4/4 beater is nothing to scoff at. It passes the most basic of tests for creatures in Modern: the Lightning Bolt test. Any creature that costs more than one to resolve needs to be immune to Lightning Bolt, particularly in these Delver-ridden times.
In today’s metagame, I am most excited about Soulflayer having some form of evasion, whether it is trample or flying, some form of protection in indestructible or hexproof (preferably the latter), and lifelink to shore up the Burn matchup. Doublestrike is, of course, a fine addition.
Once we have landed on an answer to the viable or unviable question, we have to decide what sort of shell to put this guy into. My favorite is one that can either reanimate fatties or use them to delve. One unfortunate element of this brew is that both its angles of attack are vulnerable to cards like Rest in Peace, but remember that everyone is under the aforementioned gentleman’s agreement.
Here is my brew for you all to enjoy this fine new year.
Soulflayer Reanimator (Modern)
While looking through for the relevant keywords (hexproof, flying, lifelink, etc.) one comes across a number of reasonably costed value creatures that you could cast in an aggressive deck that has a late-game plan in Soulflayer. These include Vampire Nighthawk, which certainly belongs in the sideboard of the deck above. Additional elements would be targeted graveyard disruption or Leyline of the Void, extra discard spells such as Duress to remove Remand and others from your opponents’ hands, and cards that work against aggressive strategies like Drown in Sorrow.
To Wrap Up
Well boys, more spoilers have been unleashed even as I’ve typed this article. This set is full of powerhouse cards, and I look forward to exploring it with you. Even while new and better Young Pyromancer cards are being shown, I still believe that Soulflayer is a contender. What do you think?