December ’20 Brew Report, Pt. 2: Loose Ends

It may well be January, but we’re not out of the woods yet—2020 and I have some unfinished bidness to attend to, or specifically, the final brew report of the year! That players are still brewing novel decks bodes well for the new year, as such trends will probably continue.

Creatures Galore

Modern’s always been a format defined first and foremost by its creatures, unlike the older formats better known for powerful spells. So of course new brews are going to tap that reservoir!

Death's Domain Zoo, FAISAL (5-0)

Creatures (20)
Wild Nacatl
Death’s Shadow
Scourge of the Skyclaves
Tarmogoyf
Street Wraith

Planeswalkers (3)
Wrenn and Six

Sorceries (10)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Tribal Flames

Instants (8)
Boros Charm
Lightning Bolt

Lands (19)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Godless Shrine
Marsh Flats
Nurturing Peatland
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Swamp
Temple Garden
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Boil
Cleansing Wildfire
Grafdigger’s Cage
Lightning Helix
Nihil Spellbomb
Path to Exile
Pithing Needle
Rakdos Charm
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Death’s Domain Zoo follows a blueprint now well-known: backing up a couple massive threats with a highly efficient Stage 1 combat creature. But a few things are different. For one, there’s no Monastery Swiftspear, that role filled by the splash-intensive Wild Nacatl. I’m reminded of my experiments with Counter-Cat, which had me looking to Nacatl after finding Swiftspear decidedly lackluster in a shell more interested in sticking stand-alone threats. Next, there’s the extreme density of large creatures; while Death’s Shadow Jund traditionally employed just Goyf and Shadow as beaters, and Scourge Shadow hires Scourge and Shadow, DDZ runs all three to keep the pressure on no matter the number of removal spells it walks into. This is not a deck that wants to hit the mid-game!

Playing to that plan is the additional payoff for splashing so much: Tribal Flames. In Counter-Cat, I neglected to run black after realizing that Boros Charm, with its versatility in being able to protect our creatures, was generally better than Flames. Here, both are ran at max, and the extra burn saves pilots from even wanting countermagic. Go ahead and resolve that Ugin; I’ll just dome you 9! Tying everything together is Wrenn and Six, a superb enabler in this kind of shell as it lets players fix their mana at their leisure.

Yorion Taxes, FABEE1 (5-0)

Creatures (41)
Akoum Warrior
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Auriok Champion
Flickerwisp
Giver of Runes
Glimmerpoint Stag
Leonin Arbiter
Magus of the Moon
Skyclave Apparition
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Wall of Omens

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Instants (8)
Ephemerate
Path to Exile

Lands (27)
Field of Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Inspiring Vantage
Sacred Foundry
Snow-Covered Mountain
10 Snow-Covered Plains
Sideboard (15)
Archon of Emeria
Kor Firewalker
Phyrexian Revoker
Rest in Peace
Yorion, Sky Nomad
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If you thought 12 big threats was a lot, wait until you’ve seen Yorion Taxes! Like most Yorion decks, it’s chock-full of guys, although these are less about beating down than applying disruption. Here, the fish-style taxing strategy of Death and Taxes is mashed with a creature suite more about generating value. Since these decks can flounder in the face of removal spells, and such midrange decks are on the rise as Jund Rock converts to Mardu, employing both value creatures and Yorion as a failsafe is a strategy that aims to stick it to the Fatal Pusher while nonetheless boasting game against combo.

To me, the deck seems a bit unfocused; I can see it drawing the wrong half against the wrong deck, and finding itself randomly soft to something like Storm or Belcher. Still, the red splash has got to dig up some points, as Magus of the Moon is no joke this format.

It does boast a very spicy interaction though: Akoum Warrior isn’t just here as a sometimes-six-drop. Flickerwisp can blink the land and have it return as a creature!

Yorion Incarnation, DAVIUSMINIMUS (5-0)

Creatures (24)
Birds of Paradise
Brain Maggot
Charming Prince
Deputy of Detention
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Flickerwisp
Glasspool Mimic
Goblin Cratermaker
Huntmaster of the Fells
Ice-Fang Coatl
Magus of the Moon
Meddling Mage
Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Renegade Rallier
Seasoned Pyromancer
Skyclave Apparition
Spellskite
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Enchantments (26)
Abundant Growth
Enigmatic Incarnation
Lithoform Blight
Oath of Kaya
Omen of the Forge
Omen of the Sea
Utopia Sprawl
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Yorion, Sky Nomad

Instants (2)
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy

Lands (28)
Breeding Pool
Indatha Triome
Ketria Triome
Misty Rainforest
Overgrown Tomb
Prismatic Vista
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Brain Maggot
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Auriok Champion
Dovin’s Veto
Izzet Staticaster
Knight of Autumn
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
On Thin Ice
Spell Pierce
Yixlid Jailer
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A second Yorion deck, and the one that’s been performing the best this month, is Yorion Incarnation. It looks at first glance like any old 5-0 deck, but as it’s placed multiple times, the pile may merit a closer look.

It’s Enigmatic Incarnation itself that makes this deck so unique, turning its many ramping enchantments (including the eyebrow-raising Lithoform Blight) into whatever utility creature happens to be the most useful at the time. Since players have already cashed in on their enchantment, which cantrips, throwing it away for a valuable creature is great advantage, especially since the creature in question can be chosen from an impressive roster. Incarnation isn’t totally dead in multiples, either, since now it can search up a five-drop like Yorion or Niv-Mizzet.

Combos—Some More!

We’ve talked at length about how Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath has come to define the present format, whether or not its numbers place it at the top of the heap. But there are other ways to generate value in Modern, and even other ways to play Simic.

Temur Time Warp, TALOS41 (5-0)

Creatures (12)
Ice-Fang Coatl
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Arbor Elf

Planeswalkers (9)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
Wrenn and Six

Enchantments (6)
Abundant Growth
Utopia Sprawl

Sorceries (4)
Time Warp

Instants (8)
Lightning Bolt
Remand

Lands (21)
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest
Prismatic Vista
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Aether Gust
Blood Moon
Flame Slash
Obstinate Baloth
Veil of Summer
Wilt
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Here’s a snowballing-value deck in the same vein as the regular Uro piles, but conspicuously lacking Omnath. Temur Time Warp instead makes use of Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to copy its own Time Warps, setting itself up to generate massive value over the course of multiple free turns wherein it’s free to cast and activate different planeswalkers to its heart’s content.

But at this deck’s own heart is the assumption that in a midrange deck with Wrenn and Six to help hit them land drops, Time Warp might just be a reasonable card to cast for five mana some portion of the time.

Underworld Paradox, BILLSIVE (5-0)

Creatures (12)
Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Gilded Goose
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

Planeswalkers (4)
Karn, the Great Creator

Artifacts (20)
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Grinding Station
Mishra’s Bauble
Mox Amber
Paradox Engine

Enchantments (4)
Underworld Breach

Lands (20)
Breeding Pool
Ketria Triome
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Grinding Station
Paradox Engine
Ensnaring Bridge
Lightning Bolt
Liquimetal Coating
Mystical Dispute
Nature’s Claim
Tormod’s Crypt
Torpor Orb
Veil of Summer
Walking Ballista
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Underworld Paradox takes the word “combo” beyond merely copying a sorcery, and also proves players don’t need Uro to be in UGx. This deck looks a lot like the Oko Urza decks from late 2019, but minus the emphasis on playing a fair game with the Artificer. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy replaces Urza, jump-starting the mana engine so players can resolve Karn, the Great Creator to dig for a combo piece or otherwise go off with what they have.

There are even new variations of this deck in Sultai that do run Urza, as well as Uro, and rely on Thopter-Sword to out-grind players that manage to disrupt it. Based on these developments, will be interesting to see the different directions artifact-based combo-control piles elect to take in 2021 with Mox Opal gone for good.

Rakdos Waste Not, TOYA (5-0)

Creatures (6)
Dreadhorde Arcanist
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Artifacts (5)
Mishra’s Bauble
Necrogen Spellbomb

Enchantments (4)
Waste Not

Sorceries (13)
Burning Inquiry
Inquisition of Kozilek
Raven’s Crime
Thoughtseize

Instants (11)
Cling to Dust
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt

Lands (21)
Arid Mesa
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Castle Locthwain
Marsh Flats
Mountain
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Anger of the Gods
Crumble to Dust
Dreadbore
Feed the Swarm
Nihil Spellbomb
Pillage
Surgical Extraction
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Combo-control, eh? Who needs Islands and Forests at all? Certainly not Rakdos Waste Not, an update to a fan favorite featuring welcome additions like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and the Dark Confidant upgrade Dreadhorde Arcanist. Drawing an extra card for life is a lot worse than flashing back your best one every turn, in this case Burning Inquiry or even a Thoughtseize.

Even if this deck shreds everyone’s hand without the enchantment in play, it doesn’t have to wait for a topdeck to take a lead; Lurrus of the Dream-Den, the sideboard companion, waits in the wings to retrieve whatever Burning Inquiry decides to discard. Alternatively, there’s just Kroxa.

Cheers to That

New year, new decks, new fun. Or is it old fun? Modern’s always had ample room for brewing and innovation. “The more things change,” they say… let’s all hope the saying only applies to some aspects of the new year!

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