28, Jun, 24

Amusing MTG Meme Deck Puts Up Riveting Results!

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Article at a Glance

A couple days ago, before decklists for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 became available to the public, professional player Eli Kassis decided to highlight a sweet Hollowvine decklist on Twitter. Of course, this left many people hoping this masterpiece was indeed what he registered for the event. Could this deck really be a hidden gem, or was revealing it simply an elaborate form of trolling?

Unsurprisingly, the latter turned out to be true, as Eli Kassis was playing Bant Nadu combo all along. This was a bit disappointing to see, but the Hollowvine deck still sparked plenty of discussion. After all, even if no one was bold enough to play the deck at this level, that doesn’t necessarily mean the deck doesn’t have legs.

As it turns out, there may be something to this shell after all. Aaron Barich decided to give the deck a spin on stream, and quickly went undefeated in a Magic Online Modern League! There’s clearly room for this strategy to evolve, so perhaps the deck isn’t just a meme after all. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what the deck is trying to accomplish.

Enabling Hollow One

Hollow One

The main goal behind this archetype is to maximize a variety of discard synergies. This deck is fully capable of putting a lot of power into play rather quickly, thus threatening some quick kills. Some of the most broken starts possible involve one card in particular: Hollow One.

Hollow One is undoubtedly a powerful card and was once a Modern staple. Back in the day, players would pair Hollow One with Burning Inquiry, Faithless Looting, and Street Wraith in order to make Hollow One cost as little mana as possible. Getting a vanilla 4/4 out of the deal may not sound super powerful, but when Hollow One comes down early, it can be threatening (especially in multiples). It also dodges some of Modern’s best removal spells, such as Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push.

Since Faithless Looting got banned, Hollow One has struggled to make a resurgence. Without other strong, efficient ways to discard multiple cards at once, Hollow One just hasn’t been as reliable of a tool anymore. However, adding Psychic Frog to the mix is a huge help.

Psychic Frog is a good card on its own. It threatens to generate card advantage if the opponent can’t kill it, Thanks to its ability to grow at will, it is very difficult to block down. This deck in particular, though, abuses Psychic Frog like no other. Much like Burning Inquiry, Psychic Frog can enable you to cast your Hollow Ones for free. Obviously, having to discard three cards can be a big cost. Luckily, as we will see, there are a multitude of ways in this deck to reward you for discarding cards, making Psychic Frog an absolute monster.

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Enabling Vengevine

Vengevine

Discarding cards to Burning Inquiry and Psychic Frog clearly synergizes well with Hollow One, but this deck can get a lot more value out of these cards than that. Vengevine, for instance, is the perfect card to pair with these discard outlets. Once you cast two creatures in the same turn, Vengevine goes straight into play from your graveyard and can attack right away.

The presence of Blazing Rootwalla makes it easier than you might think to return Vengevines. By discarding Blazing Rootwalla, you get to cast it via Madness without paying any mana. As such, discarding two copies of Blazing Rootwalla in the same turn can let you bring back Vengevines with zero mana input needed.

Besides Blazing Rootwalla and Hollow One, another cheap creature to play after discarding Vengevine is Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. Asmo is a solid threat that works well in conjunction with this deck’s various discard outlets, including The Underworld Cookbook.

Between Asmo, Blazing Rootwalla, Vengevine, and Hollow One, Psychic Frog pulls a lot of weight as a repeatable discard outlet. Psychic Frog really is the glue that holds this deck together.

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Combo Kills

Echo of Eons

If that weren’t enough, this deck has one more trick up its sleeve to make Psychic Frog even scarier. There is a full playset of Echo of Eons in this decklist which, alongside Psychic Frog, can let you deal a boatload of damage out of nowhere.

On turn three after casting Psychic Frog the turn prior, start by discarding a bunch of cards including Echo of Eons. Then, exile three cards other than Echo of Eons to give Psychic Frog Flying. From there, cast Echo of Eons, refilling your hand. At this point, depending on your opponent’s life total, you may be able to one-shot them with a single Psychic Frog attack!

If you happened to draw Echo of Eons without Psychic Frog, there’s no need to fret. There are more combos where available. For example, if you can get Echo of Eons into your graveyard via Burning Inquiry or The Underworld Cookbook turn one, Orcish Bowmasters now becomes an incredible turn two play. Then, on turn three, you can cast Echo of Eons, thereby forcing the opponent to draw seven cards and trigger Orcish Bowmasters seven times.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

Ultimately, this deck makes good use of a lot of really cool ideas. Psychic Frog is clearly a messed-up card in the deck, and it’s easy to put a ton of power on board in the early turns in games where you draw it. Unlike traditional Vengevine strategies, this deck doesn’t rely as much on the graveyard to get its engine rolling. Hollow One completely sidesteps pieces of graveyard hate, making them less concerning.

This deck definitely can have issues with consistency, though. Spymaster’s Vault, while nice as a discard outlet, can be awkward on the mana. Burning Inquiry is nice with Hollow One, but it is not reliable as a discard outlet for copies of Vengevine or Echo of Eons. Aaron Barich mentioned possibly abandoning Burning Inquiry, focusing less on red cards to improve the manabase. The problem is that there aren’t many good alternatives in blue and black when it comes to cheap discard outlets. Maybe Collective Brutality or another repeatable discard outlet like Olivia’s Dragoon can fill the void, but I’m skeptical.

Without access to much interaction, this deck doesn’t seem like it’s well-suited against the two most popular decks at the Pro Tour, either. Both Bant Nadu and Ruby Storm can often assemble combos faster than this deck can close games. Flare of Malice and Damping Sphere out of the sideboard can help in these matchups, respectively, but things are far from ideal.

Nonetheless, this deck is capable of some powerful starts that can overwhelm decks like Boros Energy or Jeskai control. There’s clearly room for innovation, too. While it’s unlikely this deck becomes a tier one powerhouse, Psychic Frog is such a strong card that it’s worth exploring different shells for it. It’ll be cool to see if this deck can continue to make waves after starting out as an amusing meme.

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