Hello! Some of you may remember me from about three years now of making the occasional video and writing an article here and there. If you like rogue, semi-stupid decks and sarcastic commentary, then you might like what I write. If you don’t, there is always the back button. Or, you could pull an Internet and pointlessly bash me in the comments. To each their own.
Anyway, I was going to write an article about the new banned list. But let’s be honest – that topic has been beaten to death. Literally every major Magic YouTube channel and / or website has done a piece about the fact that the Amulet Bloom deck is dead (like we didn’t see that one coming), and that the Splinter Twin banning was uncalled for. I will not subject you to an article’s worth of words about the bans; you can look at Binkabi’s video here if you want more detailed content on that.
I will, however, subject you to this minor rant. Whatever the “Evil Gestapo” at Wizards of the Coast do with the Modern banned list does not matter. While I can agree that their motives for banning Splinter Twin seem ulterior, why waste time trying to figure them out? It could be monetary, it could be for a little spice in the format, or it could be for publicity. Who cares? Unless you invested a lot in Twin, and are very sad that you have lost your money slash favorite deck, there is ONLY one reason to be mad. That reason is that Red Green Tron is about to be a major nuisance. It yanks my chain that one of the very few decks capable of keeping Tron in check is gone. POOF!
Tron destroys midrange and has a good matchup against control and weenie decks. Combo archetypes, Twin in particular, are Tron’s nightmare matchups, as it has little to no meaningful interaction in the first game and even post-board. Sure, Wizards, just take away our best respite from the wrecking ball of Modern decks. We all love getting Karn Liberated to death and having our heads relieved of their eyeballs and ears via Wurmcoil Engine. Hell, it’s like Wizards knew that Tron would dominate after the Twin banning. So much so that they printed that Crumble to Dust card.
The following is a real and unscripted conversation that took place in Wizards of the Coast’s R&D Department sometime before the 18th of January.
Dude 1: “Hey man, we want to ban Splinter Twin in Modern.”
Dude 2: “Oh yeah that’s a nice mix up. All those Twin players are gonna be super butthurt!”
Dude 1: “I know right? Hey at least I play R/G Tron. I hate the Twin Matchup, but I fear that now that it’s out of the way EVERYONE will want to play Tron!”
Dude 2: “Yo we could totally research and develop a card to make the Tron mirror interesting…”
Dude 1: “So you mean… A functional reprint of Sowing Salt that can be found with Ancient Stirrings and that is easier on the Tron manabase?”
Dude 2: “Umm I was thinking something like an Eldrazi that could Crucible of Worlds so that there would be like some forced Ghost Quarter interaction or something… But that card would be too busted and I’m lazy so that works too!”
In that matchup, it will be whichever player resolves that Crumble to Dust first that will probably win. Imagine the days in Legacy when Mental Misstep was legal… Aka my worst nightmares. Half of your meta will be the Urza Abomination, and since your Twin deck is no longer useful, you’ll probably just end up playing Tron with the rest of them. Assuming you were a Twin player, that is.
(Insert great segue here)
And this is why I choose to play brews and decks that are fun yet still maintain a decent win ratio. There’s a good chance that your deck will be completely shafted by some mildly senseless ban. Plus you will be that “one guy” playing your jank brew. You will be adored or hated based on that brew. In this read, I will share with you my take on a deck that is so Troll it’s not even funny. The deck is called Troll Worship for two reasons. One – it literally worships trolling your opponent by stopping them from winning. Two – it plays the cards Troll Ascetic and Worship.
Is it cheap? By Modern standards, it’s not too hard on the pocket. Does it win? The deck has a The Rock-y feel, meaning it has few “bad” matchups and mostly okay to good ones. Is it stupid, janky, and sure to make some opponents pull their hair out as you remain at one life until they die? Oh, absolutely. Let me hit you up with my list before delving into the intricacies of Troll Worship.
Troll Worship 2K16 (Modern)
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Troll Ascetic
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare
Other Spells (9)
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Spectral Flight
4 Windswept Heath
2 Flooded Strand
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Gavony Township
2 Breeding Pool
2 Temple Garden
3 Ghost Quarter
1 Hallowed Fountain
3 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Pithing Needle
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
The Big Picture
At base, this is a fairly aggressive Bant Midrange deck that tries to resolve the card Worship with a creature in play in order to soft lock the game against most decks. Being one of the most resilient creature types in Magic, with both Hexproof and Regeneration, trolls play very well with Worship as they can be near-impossible to get off the board. Other hexproof creatures, most notably Geist of Saint Traft, are included to ensure a high density of threats that also make great targets for equipment or enchantments. Some spot removal and utility spells will round out the typical Troll Worship deck.
With a top-end of four on the mana curve, this deck likes mana dork acceleration in concert with plenty of lands to be able to cast spells on time or a turn early. Such cards are easy in Bant colors, with the three dorks of choice being Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, and Sylvan Caryatid. Optimally, the deck plays eight because it almost always wants one in the opening hand. I’ve seen some people play nine to ensure a turn one or two mana creature, but this is up to personal preference. Hierarch is obviously the best of the three. Exalted in an aggressive deck cannot be undervalued. The only reason it is not in this particular list is that budget is a concern. If you have Hierarchs, play them over Caryatid. The dryad is nice in that it has Hexproof, which has better synergy with Worship, but the extra mana can slow the curve and detract from the speed of the deck. In this list I have opted for a 2/2 split between the plant and Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Pilgrim is the best 1-mana replacement for Hierarch, and contributes to better turn 2 plays than Caryatid, even though it is more likely to bite the dust.
Other than the accelerants, the land base shown is not bad on the wallet and will consistently provide all colors of mana. The new Khans reprint fetches go for surprisingly little, and as a primarily two color deck, only five shock lands are needed. The four basics are a great hedge against Blood Moon, work well against opposing Path to Exiles, and most importantly do not affect consistency like they might in more color-intensive decks. Razorverge Thicket is an all-star which allows the deck to save a fetch and not take any damage to cast a turn 1 mana dork. Gavony Township is a bullet land that helps mitigate stall-outs and add relevance to our smaller creatures. Most importantly, Ghost Quarter is one of the few main deck ways this deck has to interact with Tron. Do not fear Quartering early; if anything, it will help you race and try to win before an O-Stone can come down. This will be discussed further in the sideboard and matchup analysis.
As discussed, the deck runs a nice helping of mana acceleration creatures to make things faster and smoother. But what to do with it? Well, in a deck that plays with Worship, we want to play a number of creatures that are both threatening and resilient, the first of which is Geist of Saint Traft. Good ol’ GST is insanely good right now. With fewer Remands being played, and most conventional removal being worthless, Geist is a card that can and will end games on its own. Even with hexproof, the 2/2 will be swinging into the red zone pretty often, and with only 2 toughness, he is not liable to survive all of the action. For this, we need those trolls that I mentioned earlier. You know, the ones that leave unintelligible garbage comments all over the internet insulting people. Those trolls.
Troll Ascetic is our main man for this sort of activity. The “moderators” Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt cannot target our mischievous friend, and he shrugs off the beatings he would receive in combat with a simple “u mad?” for . Costing only 3, Ascetic is the best troll for the deck. “But what about Witchstalker?” This is honestly a metagame call. If you expect a lot of Grixis control-style decks, against which Witchstalker is an inescapable threat, then it can certainly replace Ascetic. When faced with *cough* Oblivion Stone and the like, the regeneration ability is significantly more valuable. In general, four trolls will not cut it. We want at least one more, just for good measure… And that’s when big poppa Thrun comes in.
Thrun, the Last Troll will be the dude to survive everything. It is hard to say that he is strictly better than Ascetic, despite being uncounterable, because he can be cast at turn three at the earliest. When it comes down to it, speed trumps all. Remember that even though the deck is slightly higher curved than most aggro decks, it still wants to be attacking with its creatures on time and trying to get ahead just enough so that Worship seals up the game. Thrun is great in combo matchups, and it’s a good idea to play another in the sideboard. In the matchups where he is good, he is really good. Otherwise, he can be a hard to kill 4/4 for 4 at worst. Not too bad, right?
For value dudes, // has a lot of good options. For this list, I have opted to play 4 Qasali Pridemage in the maindeck. It’s decent against Tron and Affinity, can remove a troublesome Blood Moon or AEther Vial, and in a similar manner to Thrun, there are not really any downsides to playing it. In most matchups it is just a reasonably-costed beater that works well with other creatures. If you do not like QPM, there are many other options. Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks, and Scavenging Ooze come immediately to mind. This is also a relatively budget deck, and Pridemage is the cheapest of the bunch. I have also opted for a 1-of Knight of the Reliquary, which is not a necessary inclusion. Some people like to use a playset, which allows for the use of more “value” lands, but just the one is fine. In particular, it finds Gavony Township and Ghost Quarter, and some sideboard lands such as Bojuka Bog. Knight can also be a huge threat in the mid to late game, especially with fetch lands in the deck. Again, this is a flex slot so take your pick. You’re playing the creature colors, so it’s tough to go wrong.
Let’s think about this for a second. We have a lot of hexproof creatures. We have good mana. Let’s throw some pants on those dudes and go to town! Spectral Flight is a severely underrated card in Modern. It is a cheap and very effective way to make a creature powerful and evasive. The operative word in that statement is “cheap.” Both in price and mana cost, Flight blows the Swords of X and Y out of the water. For only two mana, the creature that it enchants gets the same boost to power and toughness, and a form of evasion. Swords do the same thing for five mana, except their evasion is color-specific, and they have an upside when combat damage is dealt, and they stick around when the equipped creature dies. This is a bit of a toss-up. For budget reasons, this list runs Flight, but in some matchups, the Swords are just better. In fast matchups, Spectral Flight is better. It’s honestly up to the pilot.
In addition to the pants for our hexproof guys, this deck does well with the tailor herself – Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Every single one of her abilities is relevant. She can stitch up some nice Khakis to get GST into the red zone without dying, make a dude to turn on Worship, or make us Wrath of God – proof. Most lists that run her run three copies, but I have opted for two here. This is to make a little bit of room for some extra interaction. Four Path to Exile are very important removal spells that deal with threats before we can land a Worship. I have also opted for three 1-mana counterspells. The two Spell Pierce and one Spell Snare serve as a way to interact with the opponent in the early turns and disrupt their game plan without having to hold up more than a little bit of mana for something like Remand. Pierce counters early Lilianas or Karns that we might have trouble dealing with otherwise, and Snare handles Tarmogoyf, Bitterblossom, Spellskite, Atarka’s Command… Basically all relevant two-drops. It’s a pretty darn good card.
Also a quick note about the card Worship itself – it states that DAMAGE cannot reduce your life total to lower than one. Loss of life effects can still kill you. Keep this in mind! While not common, occasionally you may run into something like a Bloodchief Ascension deck that can drain you even with Worship on the table.
Sideboarding and Matchups
This section will be pretty short and will cover basically two decks – Infect and Tron. Our game against most other decks is pretty strong. Game 1 against Burn is just fine once we land a Worship, but in game two, Destructive Revelry means that a Kor Firewalker or two is nice to shore things up. Jund and Junk present little to effectively disrupt the deck and their creatures aren’t a big deal. Infect is a serious problem deck. Worship does nothing to stop poison counters, so short of playing a few copies of Melira, Sylvok Outcast in the sideboard, the best thing to do is play a few more Spell Pierce. Tron is potentially even worse. Game one, Ghost Quarter is our only way to interact profitably. Quarter early and often, and try to cast Knight of the Reliquary quickly to tutor up more Quarters. Post-board, Pithing Needle shuts down planeswalkers, and Stony Silence makes Oblivion Stone, Expedition Map, and Relic of Progenitus worthless. Most importantly, Surgical Extraction in concert with Ghost Quarter stops tron outright. They might still be able to cast something like Wurmcoil Engine in later turns, but without the fast mana, R/G Tron gets considerably worse. They will likely never resolve Ugin, the Spirit Dragon if you’ve taken them off of their lands.
The board that I have laid out is pretty bad. Any and every sideboard should be metagame dependent, and tweaked to what you need it to do. If no one plays Tron at your LGS, or you do not expect to see a lot of Burn in the two-mans for whatever reason, change up the game plan.
Adding Money and What You Can Do
The great part about Troll Worship is that it is a highly customizable deck based on what you want to play and how much money you have. If you want to play with more copies of Knight of the Reliquary and Voice of Resurgence, go for it. Have a playset of Noble Hierarch already? Cut those Pilgrims. If you want to play Misty Rainforest in lieu of the Foothills and Strands, that is just fine. Besides adding money, you can also change the deck’s game plan entirely. While an aggro deck at heart, Worship is a great defensive card. It is feasible to play more a controlling Troll Worship deck that runs not only more copies of Worship, but also cards like Oblivion Ring and Bant Charm. Sylvan Caryatid is much better in this type of strategy. If you want to be even more aggressive, cut another Worship and some counterspells to play more creatures.
It’s up to you what you do with the archetype. Whether you play a budget version, or a tricked out, KOTR-package infused monstrosity, you are sure to enjoy trolling your opponents with this deck. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it, and maybe you’ll consider picking up a list that works for you. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get back to you ASAP.
Thanks for reading, and see you in future articles and videos!
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