It’s been nearly a month since the huge Banned & Restricted announcement on February 15th that shook up most of Magic: The Gathering‘s competitive formats. Since then, these formats have been in flux as players adjust to life without Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Modern, in particular, has looked like a new format, with several contenders looking to sit on the throne left empty by the death of the 4 Color Omnath deck that lost Uro, Mystic Sanctuary, and Field of the Dead. In this article, I want to take a closer look at one of these pretenders to the throne, the Heliod Company archetype. This Green-White aggro-combo deck is powerful, resilient, and flexible. It lost nothing in the ban, and it’s my pick for the new best deck in Modern
Respected streamer, content creator, and Modern Dredge archetype specialist SodekMTG recently tweeted out his take on the Modern tier list. Perhaps unsurprisingly to players who’ve been grinding the format since the ban, he put Heliod, Blue-White Control, and Mono-Green Tron in the top tier. His tweet generated some interesting discussion, so I suggest checking that thread out after you read this article!
In the following sections, I’ll first explain what the Heliod Company deck is, how it wins games, and why it’s so good right now. Then, I’ll go over some of the card choices that make it such a cohesive, versatile, and synergistic package. Finally, I’ll share the list I’ve been using and some pointers on matchups and sideboarding.
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Heliod Company: A Combo For Aggro Decks
This archetype came into existence when Heliod, Sun-Crowned was printed in Theros: Beyond Death. Heliod forms a two-card combo with the Aether Revolt creature Walking Ballista that can end the game on the spot. How does the combo work exactly? You need a Ballista with two +1/+1 counters on it and a copy of the 5/5 White God in play. You activate Heliod to give the Ballista lifelink. Then, you remove a counter from the pinger to deal one damage to the opponent. Since it has lifelink, the damage will trigger Heliod’s ability that lets you put a +1/+1 counter on a creature or enchantment whenever you gain life. You put the counter on the Ballista, you remove another counter to deal one damage, you put another counter on Ballista, rinse, and repeat.
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These two cards originally combined to spawn one of the best decks in Pioneer, Mono-White Devotion. That deck utilized efficient creatures with heavy White mana costs like Thraben Inspector, Daxos, Blessed by the Sun, and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit to turn Heliod on. It was a formidable beatdown deck that also threatened a combo finish. Opponents had to fend off attackers every turn while also holding up mana to disrupt the combo.
Devotion formed a triumvirate of powerful combo decks in Pioneer alongside Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach. It was personally my favorite format to play. Alas, Wizards of the Coast decided to ban key cards from all three archetypes. But I digress.
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Modern Heliod Company Card Choices
The Modern version of the archetype has performed very well since the bans. The deck made Top 8 of the Nerd Rage Gaming $2K Modern MTGO Open in the hands of Justice Wright. Meanwhile, Heliod made the finals of the February 21 Modern Challenge on Magic: The Gathering Online. The next day, both the champion and runner-up of the Sunday Challenge played Heliod.
The vast card pool of Modern compared to that of Pioneer means that the combo comes with a better supporting cast and more bells and whistles. For starters, the Fetch and Shockland mana base gives the archetype easy access to a second color. Green brings a lot to the table, including as many as eight mana accelerants so you can go off earlier. The Selensya build also provides tools that both enable the combo and provide another angle of attack.
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This additional angle of attack comes in the form of an infinite life gain combo with Heliod and Spike Feeder. With a Feeder and a Heliod in play, you can remove a counter to gain two life. As with the lifelinked Ballista, the God will trigger, allowing you to put a +1/+1 counter on the Spike. You can repeat this loop as many times as you like to get to a trivially large life total. This interaction doesn’t exactly kill the opponent like the Ballista combo does, but not many Modern decks can ever beat infinite life. Even if they somehow can, or if they try to deck you instead, the life cushion gives you more time to beat them down or find the kill combo.
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Collected Company and Eladamri’s Call
Collected Company is the perfect card to help you assemble either combo, because it can put both Heliod and Spike Feeder in play, and at instant speed to boot. The most common winning play pattern with Company is to cast it on the end of your opponent’s turn, put a Heliod into play, then cast a Ballista when you untap to kill them.
While it can’t profitably put a 0/0 Walking Ballista into play, this deck also plays the Modern Horizons card Ranger-Captain of Eos. The 3/3 acts as extra copies of Ballista, while also providing tons of utility. It can fetch mana accelerants in a pinch, but its true power lies in its sacrifice ability. You can protect your combo by sacrificing it before you try to go off, or you can mess with your opponent’s game plan by sacrificing this on the upkeep of their crucial turn.
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While not every list plays it, Eladamri’s Call is another instant that makes the deck more consistent and lends it the toolbox feel that I believe makes Heliod Company so powerful in the metagame. You can play one or two copies so you maximize your chances of drawing one of these incredible spells when you need them most in the midgame.
Because of Company and Call, the deck gets to play the best Green and White creatures in the format that complement the combo. Not all lists look alike, but these are the three most common threats the deck plays apart from Ranger-Captain.
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Auriok Champion from Fifth Dawn is a pretty underwhelming card in a vacuum. It sees play out of the sideboard of Modern 5-color Humans against Burn and Prowess. Its synergy with this deck’s combo make it a mandatory inclusion in the main deck of Heliod Company.
This 1/1 has a lot of things going for it. It holds the fort against Red and Black aggro decks while you assemble one of your combos. It helps you make Heliod a creature with its two White pips and it triggers Heliod off every creature, accelerating the beatdown. Crucially, it lets you combo off with less mana by allowing you to cast a cheaper Walking Ballista. With this in play, you can cast Ballista for two mana instead of four. The 1/1 will enter the battlefield, trigger the Champion, and get its essential second counter from Heliod. This frees up mana to activate the lifelink ability to kill your opponent.
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Conclave Mentor is another unassuming card that has found an important role to play in this deck. Like Auriok Champion, Mentor lets you play a discounted Ballista that’s still big enough to combo off with Heliod. Even when it isn’t enabling the one-shot kill, Mentor is a key part of the value beatdown plan that this deck threatens fairly easily. You can turn one +1/+1 counter from Spike Feeder into two counters for the reasonable price of two mana. If you’ve got nothing else going on, you can make a gigantic Spike by using its ability on itself, then distribute the counters across your team to attack for a huge chunk of damage. Mentor is yet another card that keys off Heliod, doubling the counters the God places on creatures whenever you gain life.
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Skyclave Apparition from Zendikar Rising is a newer addition to the deck that has played a big role in its ascension to the top tier of Modern. Even if it doesn’t directly enable the combo, this 2/2 Spirit is an awesome hit off Collected Company. It deals with most of format’s biggest threats, helps buy you time against aggro decks, and deals with pesky hate pieces like Grafdigger’s Cage.
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Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight one of the most powerful interactions in the deck. If you enchant a Forest with Utopia Sprawl, Arbor Elf can untap it, effectively generating three extra mana per turn! Generally, you want to lead with Arbor Elf on turn one, so you can Sprawl on turn two and gain access to a whopping four mana. It’s going to be pretty hard to lose a game where you cast Collected Company before your opponent plays a second land!
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My Current Heliod Company List
I’ve played a few different lists of Heliod Company on MTGO, and the one I’ve liked the most is this list from JUJUBEAN__2004. They finished second in the February 20 Modern Challenge, and I like their sideboard choices a lot.
If you’re not a fan of this build, there are a couple of changes you can make without making the deck much worse. First, you could play Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise as your package of accelerators instead of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl. It can be a little bit tricky to set up the big mana turns that this synergy enables, especially if your opening hand lacks a Forest. For that reason, I understand opting for these tried and tested one drops. Hierarch also lends a little extra oomph to your beatdown plan with its Exalted ability, while Birds can be a surprise flying attacker in conjunction with pump effects.
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Archangel of Thune
I have also played with a list that ran Archangel of Thune over Eladamri’s Call. I liked having an additional threat that is immune to both Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt, and that reinforces the beatdown plan. On the other hand, I believe the true strength of this deck lies in its ability to combo off at a moment’s notice.
Collected Company, Eladamri’s Call, and Ranger-Captain of Eos all let you find the combo consistently without taking up too many dedicated slots in the deck. I’ve won games where Collected Company found me two value creatures and I beat my opponent down before finishing them off with a small Ballista. Unlike a two-card combo like Inverter of Truths and Thassa’s Oracle, Heliod and Ballista are two great cards in their own right. Ballista is great as an early removal spell, a must-answer threat in the midgame, and lethal damage out of nowhere late. Meanwhile, Heliod has synergy with most of the creatures in the deck, and can take over a game by itself with its lifelink ability.
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I have really liked how the sideboard of this list lines up against the wide open field that Modern is right now. Rather than talking about how I would side in different matchups, I’ll talk about the card choices and why I think they’re good in this open metagame.
Of course, Path to Exile and Veil of Summer are just two of the best spells in the format, so they’re pretty much auto includes and intuitive to play with. One note I did want to bring up though is that I avoid bringing Path in against midrange creature decks like Jund. I want them to adjust to my game plan, so siding in removal for their Tarmogoyfs and Bloodbraid Elves makes it harder for me to threaten the combo.
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Giant Killer is a sweet addition to this deck that 100% merits inclusion over the fourth Path to Exile. It kills a lot of important threats like Death’s Shadow, and it gives Ranger-Captain another great creature to fetch. On top of that, it’s a removal spell you can bring in that doesn’t reduce your Collected Company hits. I definitely want to keep all four Companies in my deck against the rest of the field, so keeping it powerful should be a priority when sideboarding.
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Deicide is a narrow answer that nonetheless makes the 75 because of how good it is in the mirror. If you can snipe their first Heliod before it does too much damage, their deck basically becomes a bad Collected Company deck with poorly statted creatures. While I generally like to wait for the Heliod, don’t be afraid to hit a Utopia Sprawl with this if it looks like your opponent’s mana is awkward.
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This deck needs a lot of Damping Spheres in the sideboard because Tron decks are on the rise and can present a tough challenge for the deck. Sure, you can sometimes combo off before they exile all your permanents, but you need a powerful hate piece to get an edge in the matchup post-board.
There are a couple of things I wanted to mention about the Tron matchup. It might pay off to play around cards like Oblivion Stone, Blast Zone, and All is Dust out of Eldrazi Tron. You can build out a pretty big board with this deck, but you also should consider that just a Ballista will demand an answer before you can slam a Heliod. It’s also worth knowing that Damping Sphere doesn’t mess with your Utopia Sprawl, as it’s the aura adding the extra mana and not the land itself. Finally, I would probably side down to two copies Skyclave Apparition. Even if the card isn’t that impactful, it can still be game-breaking to exile an Oblivion Stone they play early.
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Wheel of Sun and Moon
Wheel of Sun and Moon is a quirky graveyard hate card that rose in popularity because it basically counters the Mill Deck in Modern. If you enchant yourself, any card they mill will make a quick return to your deck. Of course, you should also be siding this in against GY decks like Dredge.
At first glance, Heliod Company might look like an underpowered pile of cards built around a vulnerable combo. It takes actually picking up the deck or watching good players stream matches with it, to realize how well all the cards work together. I highly suggest giving it a try if you can, because it’s very well positioned in this volatile Modern metagame.
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