Tribal Fun in Modern #5: Fiery Elementals

incandescent soulstoke

This week we I have yet another fun tribe for you. Although this deck may not be quite as competitive as the last, it is an extremely fun aggro deck. So, here is the list.

[d title=”Elementals in Modern”]
3 Cavern of Souls
18 Mountain

4 Ball Lightning
3 Coal Stoker
4 Nova Chaser
4 Spark Elemental
4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Incandescent Soulstoke
3 Fulminator Mage

Instants and Sorceries
2 Fling
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
3 Rift Bolt

2 Ingot Chewer
2 Smash to Smithereens
2 Molten Rain
4 Rending Volley
3 Blood Moon
1 Dragon’s Claw [/d]

So, the deck looks a bit like some very strange Red Deck Wins. Following tradition, I am going to give you the run-down on card choices, strategy, play style, matchup and sideboarding guide, and some different versions of the deck.

Card Choices

The lands are pretty self-explanatory. The deck is aggressive so the list only runs 21 lands and wants to play all of its burn so it doesn’t run the full playset of [c]Cavern of Souls[/c].

Going down the list, a large portion of the creatures are simply meant to be aggressive creatures that are also elementals. These include [c]Ball Lightning[/c] and [c]Coal Stoker[/c] who can allow very explosive turns. We also have [c]Spark Elemental[/c], and then [c]Nova Chaser[/c], who can champion[c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] for an extra tutor.

After those there is [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] who obviously tutors for an elemental, [c]Incandescent Soulstoke[/c], who is the one lord in the deck and also allows for you to play some of your other creatures that already are going to die at a slightly cheaper cost, and [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] who does an amazing job at destroying man-lands, punishing greedy mana bases, and just general land destruction.

The instants and sorceries are a fairly straightforward burn package. The [c]Fling[/c]s synergizes well with the high power / low toughness creatures ([c]Fling[/c] plus [c]Nova Chaser[/c] could be game).

Flamekin Harbinger


The strategy is much like any other aggro deck. Play all of your creatures, attack with them, burn the face or a threat. The only thing to note really is that [c]Nova Chaser[/c] can champion [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] for an extra tutor.

As well, the play style is much like a RDW. There is significantly less burn and of course it doesn’t splash white, but the feel is generally the same. As well, although the deck is quite aggressive, it isn’t that aggressive as the average RDW or Boros Aggro deck.

As I mentioned earlier, the deck isn’t horribly competitive. Its very fun to play with, don’t get me wrong, but the results from testing don’t exactly show me that this is going to win the next Pro Tour. In general it beats most control decks. It can have some trouble against Tron. The deck has survivable matchups against Abzan, Affinity, and Merfolk and generally loses against most forms of aggro and fast combos (RDW, Boros Burn, Infect, Twin, etc.) and basically everything else.

This is finally a sideboard that I am fairly happy about. The [c]Ingot Chewer[/c]s and the [c]Smash to Smithereens[/c] are both for Affinity, the [c]Molten Rain[/c] is for Tron and other greedy mana bases, even Abzan (it can replace [c]Fulminator Mage[/c] if he isn’t working), [c]Rending Volley[/c] is for Abzan, Twin, and anything else in the colors, [c]Blood Moon[/c] can be a good sideboard backup plan for Abzan, Tron, the mirror, and many other decks, and [c]Dragon’s Claw[/c] is good for the mirror and against other aggro decks.

The variants are when things get even more fun with the deck. As I said earlier, for the $150+ spent on [c]Fulminator Mage[/c]s and [c]Cavern of Souls[/c], the deck isn’t up to par on competitiveness. For that reason, here is a simple budget fix (including the sideboard).


[d title=”Budget Elementals in Modern”]

4 Ball Lightning
3 Coal Stoker
4 Nova Chaser
4 Spark Elemental
4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Incandescent Soulstoke
3 Spark Elemental

Instants and Sorceries
2 Fling
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
3 Rift Bolt

21 Mountain

2 Ingot Chewer
2 Smash to Smithereens
2 Molten Rain
4 Rending Volley
1 Dragon’s Claw
3 Searing Blood [/d]

And there is the deck for less than $100, and still basically just as good (especially if you are playing this at your kitchen table). A [c]Malignus[/c] or two could be added to the deck to spice things up a bit too.

As well, the other major change that could be made is to make it a 5 color [c]Horde of Notions[/c] deck. This would be a major revamp of the deck, so I am not going to talk about it in detail (if you would like I can discuss more in the comments) but here are two good decklists and deck techs for 5 color [c]Horde of Notions[/c] decks:

5-Color Elemental Blitz

Elemental Awareness

That’s it for this week. Again, feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments and I can talk with you about them.

Thanks! -Dylan

Commander Corner: Horde of Notions

Welcome Back,

On the plane of Lorwyn, how elementals are created is an interesting thing. The grander elements are actually ideas. They are manifested dreams and ideas that have taken the form of bizarre and often animalistic beings.

One of these manifestations is [c]Horde of Notions[/c]. This being is known to many as the eldest elemental. It has been around for many years, even older than the oldest treefolk and elf.  It contains the answers to many of Lorwyn’s deepest and darkest secrets. It is the embodiment of these truths that have been a part of the underbelly of Lorwyn since the beginning of time.

Its whereabouts are a mystery. No living mortal has been able to spot this bizarre creature in the wild. Its power over nature, though, goes without question. Let’s take a dive into this manifestation of all that Lorwyn was, is, and ever will be.


This unique creature reminds me of a whale, a bear, and a tree merged together into some unique otherworldly being.

[d title= “The Leader of the Elements (EDH)”]


1 Horde of Notions


1 Azorius Guildgate

1 Blood Crypt

1 Bloodstained Mire

1 Boros Guildgate

1 Breeding Pool

1 Cavern of Souls

1 City of Brass

1 Command Tower

1 Dimir Guildgate

1 Flooded Strand

1 Forest

1 Godless Shrine

1 Golgari Guildgate

1 Gruul Guildgate

1 Hallowed Fountain

1 Island[/d]


Lands Cont.

1 Izzet Guildgate

1 Mana Confluence

1 Maze’s End

1 Mountain

1 Orzhov Guildgate

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Plains

1 Polluted Delta

1 Primal Beyond

1 Rakdos Guildgate

1 Reflecting Pool

1 Sacred Foundry

1 Selesnya Guildgate

1 Simic Guildgate

1 Steam Vents

1 Stomping Ground

1 Swamp

1 Temple Garden

1 Watery Grave

1 Windswept Heath

1 Wooded Foothills[/d]



1 Animar, Soul of Elements

1 Ashling, the Extinguisher

1 Birds of Paradise

1 Brighthearth Banneret

1 Composite Golem

1 Flamekin Harbinger

1 Forgotten Ancient

1 Fusion Elemental

1 Incandescent Soulstoke

1 Ingot Chewer

1 Inner-Flame Igniter

1 Liege of the Tangle

1 Maelstrom Wanderer

1 Mulldrifter

1 Nevermaker[/d]


Creatures Cont.

1 Nova Chaser

1 Shriekmaw

1 Skullbriar, the Walking Grave

1 Slithermuse

1 Smokebraider

1 Soul of the Harvest

1 Spitebellows

1 Spitemare

1 Supreme Exemplar

1 Thicket Elemental

1 Thornling

1 Vigor

1 Voice of Resurgence

1 Whisperwood Elemental

1 Wispmare[/d]



1 Dismember

1 Eladamri’s Call

1 Enlightened Tutor

1 Hero’s Downfall

1 Lightning Bolt

1 Path to Exile

1 Swords to Plowshares


1 Conflux

1 Cultivate

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Kodama’s Reach

1 Shard Convergence

1 Sylvan Scrying

1 Titanic Ultimatum[/d]



1 Genju of the Realm

1 Heartbeat of Spring

1 Maelstrom Nexus

1 Mana Flare

1 Mana Reflection

1 Mirari’s Wake

1 Oblivion Ring

1 Prismatic Omen


1 Chromatic Lantern

1 Commander’s Sphere

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Door of Destinies

1 Fist of Suns

1 Gilded Lotus

1 Obelisk of Urd

1 Oblivion Stone

1 Quicksilver Amulet

1 Sol Ring


Just like its commander, this deck is a little weird. It sort of lends itself to a toolbox strategy with a heavy tribal theme. Many elementals do different things, and the only thing they share in common is that they can attack decently and have the same creature type in common. So to leverage this, we make a simple yet effective toolbox.

You do have ways to deal with a multitude of different permanents while having recursion of your tools via [c]Horde of Notions[/c]. He creates a fun and interesting style of tribal deck that’s not just focused on smashing your opponent as quick as possible. It also doesn’t fall into the same trappings that normal tribal decks do. It can actually survive mass removal, which is key when going into the later stages of the game.

This deck pretty much does it all. It has bits of card advantage with [c]Slithermuse[/c] and [c]Mulldrifter[/c], ways of dealing with non-creature permanents via [c]Ingot Chewer[/c] and [c]Wispmare[/c], and ways of smashing your opponents face with [c]Liege of the Tangle[/c] and [c]Maelstrom Wanderer[/c]. Each card has some specific use that you can tutor up with this decks various tutoring effects. These tutors go a long way to keep the deck together and make sure you have what you need at the right time.

There are two ways to win with the deck. One is by beating your opponent down with all of your powerful threats. The other is by using [c]Maze’s End[/c].

[c]Maze’s End[/c] wasn’t originally intended to be in here as a win condition, but as a mana fixer. During testing though, this card did come up a handful of games. More often than not you’re going to be winning through combat damage, but sometimes the board just gets clogged up and it’s nice to still have a viable way to win over the course of the game. It’s more of an incidental win condition, but it’s still a win condition all the same. The importance of [c]Maze’s End[/c] does highlight one of the decks major shortcomings, which is its mana base.

As with any five color deck, the mana base is generally not the best. As I was tweaking it, I found that this is the most ideal mana base I could come up with without spending a ridiculous amount of money. You have enough fetchlands to be able to search for what you need and, as I said before, [c]Maze’s End[/c] will definitely help you fix your mana. There are a handful of five-color lands in here as well which will help smooth things out for you. You really have to put in a lot of effort to make these mana bases work, and even then they still might not cooperate.

There are some games that you simply won’t get the right color you need at the time and just lose the game. It’s the risk you have to take whenever you play with a deck with five colors. If you can make it sing though, you will have a hard time losing.

Once you can establish your mana base, you can pretty much handle whatever comes your way. This deck has the tools it needs to survive almost any situation. What leads to this resiliency is its commander. [c]Horde of Notions[/c] makes this deck shine. Having the ability to reanimate your threats and answers is wonderful, as you basically get to do what not may tribal decks get to do, survive into the late game. With Horde in play, you will be able to beat your opponent down after they cast their wrath effects.

It puts you into an interesting position. Sometimes you almost want them to wrath the board, which is why I included [c]Oblivion Stone[/c] in the list as a way to break stalemates. You get to wrath the board and then easily bring back your threats and crush your opponents.

This deck can be tons of fun for people who are looking for a different style of tribal. Its toolbox nature helps it last into the late game by providing flexibility, which not many other tribal decks have. This is not a linear strategy. It’s about answering your opponents’ threats and surviving.

Once you establish yourself, it’s time for the beat down. Or you can just clog up the board and win with [c]Maze’s End[/c]. It never ceases to put a smile on my face when I win with that card.

Thank you for checking out this week’s Commander Corner. If you have any suggestions for commanders that you want featured in a future article, please let me know in the comments below. Next week, I work with one of my enemies.

See you soon, my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

Season’s Beatings 2: Element of Surprise

Hi all,

Merry Christmas! This is my last article of 2014, so here are some of my resolutions.

-Continue to avoid Jell-O.
-Learn a Jellyroll Morton song on piano.
-Cash with a deck cheaper than any other I can find on results sites. This gives me a budget of $10 in Modern because of an Elf-tribal aggro deck that placed years ago. As of this week, I have $21 to work with in Legacy. A player ran Burn with neither [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c] nor [c]Goblin Guide[/c] to a 3-1 finish. For these lists, refer to the links at the end of this article.

I have no idea what I can do with either of those budgets at the moment. Check back with me in a year; I work well under a budget.

What draws players to budget Magic is enough content for an article series, I’m sure. The articles could cover strategy, economics, sociology, psychiatry, the gamut. Suffice it all to say, if you run across a list with two digits before the decimal point, it catches your attention. This week, MTGO user Asthenic’s Mono Red Elementals deck is that list. Take a look for yourself:

[d title=”Asthenic Elementals (Modern)”]
16 Mountain
1 Smoldering Spires

3 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivmagus Elemental

Other Spells
4 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Assault Strobe
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ground Rift
4 Gut Shot
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
2 Noxious Revival
2 Titan’s Strength

4 Young Pyromancer
4 Dragon’s Claw
3 Clout of the Dominus
2 Vandalblast
2 Pyroclasm[/d]

Phyrexian mana spells have really been popular lately, and their volatile price peaks and troughs are evidence of their power without a definite home. I like the deck; it is rather soft, but the element of surprise is enough to steal a few game ones in a Daily Event. By the time your opponent knows what you’re up to, they’re regretting their early-turn decisions while shuffling up for game 2. The sideboarding plan is surely a mess, and I would enjoy better Affinity hate, some number of [c]Sudden Shock[/c], and maybe even a [c]Surgial Extraction[/c] or two. Regarding the main-deck, I personally hate to see 17 land outside of Pauper, and I suspect that Pauper players are chronically using too few lands themselves. Your [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] plan requires 2 lands on turn 2 to be effective, and the math just isn’t there.

The history of this deck begins with Gerry Thompson, who piloted a Rakdos list of the same archetype to a high finish for a Return to Ravnica Pro Tour event. Most recently, Dejohne Umtuch placed second at the SCG Premier IQ Portland with a list that replaces the [c]Flamekin Harbinger[/c] with copies of [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] to reduce tempo loss and have more threats. Additionally, Khans sweethearts [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c] and [c]Treasure Cruise[/c] join the party. The former is yet another combo enabler with the free spells, and the latter gives us enough gas to keep the pedal to the metal. Here is Dejohne’s deck:

[d title=”Dejohne Death’s Shadow (Modern)”]
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Polluted Delta
1 Steam Vents
4 Sulfurous Springs
1 Watery Grave

3 Death’s Shadow
3 Kiln Fiend
3 Monastery Swiftspear
3 Nivmagus Elemental

Other Spells
3 Apostle’s Blessing
1 Dismember
3 Gut Shot
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
3 Tainted Strike
2 Assault Strobe
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Ground Rift
4 Thoughtseize
3 Treasure Cruise[/d]

What a wild assortment of amounts these cards have! I’m convinced that all the 3-ofs must be the either the result of so much or so minimal testing. If I saw this list outside of the event results, I would probably tell myself that someone just wanted to play all of the cards with no regard for when they drew how many of them.

The greater strike I have against this deck, or the reason that it is so tainted in my opinion, is … did you figure it out? That’s right: [c]Tainted Strike[/c]. In the old haymaker lists, you had three creatures to attack with at the most: [c]Kiln Fiend[/c], [c]Nivmagus Elemental[/c], and [c]Death’s Shadow[/c]. Whenever any of these creatures reached nine power, [c]Tainted Strike[/c] dealt a lethal blow in its one swing.

This deck is different. Here, our plan B is to build lethal incrementally using [c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c], and it’s a darn good plan, especially with the support from [c]Treasure Cruise[/c]. In a format where mana-bases deal five damage to their players, let’s take advantage of being the deck that can most quickly deal 15 more. Let’s not allow our opponent to be functionally at 25 life before the game begins, dealing 19 points of regular damage with Swiftspear and 10 more with a [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] targeted by [c]Tainted Strike[/c]. It works for Affinity, but that’s a different animal altogether.

So, taking a more streamlined, regular damage approach, here is my build of Grixis Elemental combo:

[d title=”Drinkard Elementals (Modern)”]
4 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 City of Brass
4 Polluted Delta
1 Steam Vents
1 Watery Grave

3 Death’s Shadow
3 Kiln Fiend
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Nivmagus Elemental

Other Spells
4 Apostle’s Blessing
2 Assault Strobe
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ground Rift
4 Gut Shot
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
3 Treasure Cruise

4 Not of this World
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Shattering Spree
4 Thoughtseize
3 Young Pyromancer

After tinkering around with the list, I can definitely understand the number of three-ofs. I may drop [c]Assault Strobe[/c] altogether, as many Pauper U/R Delver Fiend players have done. It may prove to be overkill. On the other end of the spectrum, I may be too greedy by dropping the maindeck [c]Thoughtseize[/c]. The thing is that I don’t expect there to be a faster combo, and [c]Apostle’s Blessing[/c] plus the regular suite of pump effects protect our creatures.

The sideboard is my favorite part of the deck. We get another free spell in [c]Not of this World[/c]. It has been used in [c]Dark Depths[/c] Legacy combos to protect Cthulhu, and similarly it can save a [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] after two others instants or sorceries have resolved, a [c]Death’s Shadow[/c] when we are at six life, or a [c]Nivmagus Elemental[/c] after three activations. We bring these guys in to support [c]Apostle’s Blessing[/c] in the matchups where we expect to see [c]Path to Exile[/c] and even [c]Slaughter Pact[/c].

It’s not the cheapest deck I could enter into a Modern Daily Event, but it would probably be the most fun. Enjoy the free spells, and enjoy the free wins!


As promised, here are the benchmarks for cheapest decks (that I’ve found anyway) in Modern and Legacy:

User mlschultz’s absurdly cheap Elf Lord deck in Modern:

User alexstrasza_95’s 20 ticket Legacy burn deck:

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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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”]


2 Bojuka Bog

2 Dakmor Salvage

18 Swamp


4 Reaper of Sheoldred

3 Scourge Servant

1 Whispering Specter


1 Trepanation Blade


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


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!