Arboreal Grazer
10, Jun, 24

Incredible Bird Combo Deck Spreads its Wings Early in New Modern!

Article at a Glance

The official release of Modern Horizons 3 is just around the corner, but we’re already starting to get a glimpse of how impactful the new cards are in Modern. On Magic Online, a multitude of content creators had early access to the new cards. Players tried out all sorts of interesting builds against each other to see what would stand out.

In paper, players in tournaments over the weekend were also able to make use of any MH3 cards they could get their hands on. At SCG Con Las Vegas, a big Modern $5k gave players the opportunity to show off their early deckbuilding skills. Between this event and initial online testing amongst content creators, it’s quickly become apparent just how strong Nadu, Winged Wisdom is as an addition to Modern.

Some players are calling it the best card in MH3, and the results from SCG Con Las Vegas don’t dispute that. Three Nadu decks made top 16, each of which were structured differently. The best performing version is perhaps the most intriguing, as it clearly eschews some powerful cards in order to maximize speed. Let’s take a closer look at this unique Nadu decklist and how it compares to other variants that have also had early success.

Nadu, Shuko, and Ways to Find Them

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

While there are variations to each Nadu deck, there are a few constants that make up the core of the Nadu shell. First and foremost, each deck plays a playset of Nadu alongside a few copies of Shuko. You’re rewarded whenever any of your creatures become the target of a spell or ability with Nadu in play, and Shuko provides you with a way to repeatedly target your Creatures without investing any extra mana. Simply move Shuko from creature to creature and profit.

Nadu is a little restrictive, as you can only trigger the card advantage ability twice per creature you control. However, the fact that you get to put any Lands you reveal directly into play untapped means that you can often chain together a string of cheap creatures to target. Some players choose to utilize Springheart Nantuko as a creature-producing engine that makes winning the game trivial, but as this version of the deck shows, you can win without the Insect.

The goal with all Nadu shells is to churn through your entire library and win by resolving Thassa’s Oracle. This gameplan, while powerful, does require you to find both Nadu and Shuko in a timely manner. As such, most Nadu decks play cards like Chord of Calling and Stoneforge Mystic to tutor up the requisite combo cards. This decklist goes even harder and boasts playsets of Summoner’s Pact and Urza’s Saga, ensuring that you can execute the combo consistently.

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The Need for Speed

Arboreal Grazer

Outside of Shuko and Lands, nearly this entire Nadu deck is made up of extremely efficient Creatures and ways to find them. Arboreal Grazer enables you to play Nadu as early as turn two. Zero-mana creatures in the form of Ornithopter and Memnite help speed up your Chord of Calling process.

Rather than mess around with value-oriented options cards like Coiling Oracle, this deck is trying to get the game over with as soon as possible. With such a high density of low-cost creatures, you’re unlikely to fizzle while trying to combo. To further help in this department, the deck even plays four copies of Khalni Garden and three copies of Dryad Arbor as Lands that naturally increase your creature count for Shuko.

The biggest downside in constructing your deck this way is that the backup plan of winning via combat damage is much more difficult. While Springheart Nantuko can flood the board with tokens that you can attack with, cards like Arboreal Grazer and Ornithopter do almost nothing individually. However, this deck’s all-in nature comes in handy when trying to get the game over with quickly.

From Golgari Yawgmoth to Amulet Titan, Modern is chock full of other combo strategies. Because Nadu decks in general lack interaction, there’s pressure to end the game before the opponent can do the same. This deck is fast, reliable, and surprisingly resilient. As a four-toughness threat, Nadu isn’t the easiest creature to kill. If you expect disruption like Solitude or Fatal Push from the opponent, tutoring up Sylvan Safekeeper is a safe bet.

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Ways to Fight the Nadu Menace

Hedron Crab

There’s still plenty of time for players to adapt to Nadu’s rise to power, but it’s easier said than done. The fact that Nadu triggers when your opponent targets it with removal means that you almost always get a favorable exchange when you can land the powerful Bird. Meanwhile, neither combo piece costs much mana at all, so racing the Nadu deck can be difficult. We expect Nadu to dominate the format for weeks to come.

If you’re looking to beat the archetype, there are a couple considerations that can give you a solid fighting chance. Right off the bat, we can look towards the deck that ultimately won the SCG Con Las Vegas $5k: Dimir Mill. Dimir Mill attacks on a very unique axis that many decks, including Nadu combo, aren’t exactly prepared for.

Rather than try to remove Nadu from play once it hits the battlefield, Dimir Mill players have the luxury of potentially milling over Nadu or Shuko, and then they can use a Surgical Extraction effect to break up the combo forever. Not to mention, if the Singleton copy of Thassa’s Oracle gets exiled, say by Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, the Nadu deck may struggle mightily to close the game.

Beyond exiling combo pieces, another reasonable strategy is to try to fight over Nadu or tutors on the stack. Azorius control decks have the ability to counter Nadu, Chord, or Pact at will preventing you from generating any value.

Ultimately, Modern Horizons 3 is bringing a lot of strong options to Modern, so it’ll be interesting to see how the metagame unfolds. For now, though, Nadu remains the talk of the town. Make sure you’re prepared, and if you can’t beat them, you might want to consider joining them.

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