Lord of the Rings drastically changed the landscape of the Modern format. Obviously The One Ring is an absurdly powerful card in the format, but it doesn’t stop there. From elite mana dorks like Delighted Halfling to efficient Landcyclers like Lorien Revealed, LOTR introduced a lot of very powerful cards to Modern, completely shifting the metagame.
At this point, Lord of the Rings has been out for a while, which might suggest that the best shells for all of these newer cards have already been established. This also might lead you to believe that there isn’t a lot of room for innovation, especially given the dominance of the One Ring and Rakdos Scam at the Pro Tour.
Well, quite recently a unique decklist with lots of underrepresented gems caught the eyes of a bunch of Modern players. Not only does this deck have a very interesting gameplan, but it also makes use of a handful of cards that rarely see any Modern play at all! Despite being largely a mono-white deck, this archetype is quite capable of playing a long, grindy game thanks to some strong interactive elements. To understand why this deck had success, it’s important to look at these pieces of interaction that give this deck excellent staying power.
Lots of Interaction
Part of what makes this deck stronger than it might initially look is the sheer number of ways to disrupt the opponent. Of course, there are some of the usual suspects like Solitude that a mono-white deck absolutely needs, but there are plenty of other cards that help this deck make it to the late game. Skyclave Apparition answers most cheap, problematic non-Land permanents that the opponent could play. Whether they try to pull ahead on cards with the One Ring or keep recurring Land drops with Wrenn and Six, Skyclave Apparition acts as a nice catch-all.
While Skyclave and Solitude help deal with problematic non-Land permanents that hit the board, Reprieve can help prevent potential game-winning spells from resolving in the first place. Reprieve is a great addition to this style of deck, especially because of its favorable interaction with various popular Cascade combo decks in the format. By waiting until the Cascade payoff is on the stack, be it Living End, Crashing Footfalls, or Glimpse of Tomorrow, you can force the opponent to get stuck with the Suspend card in hand, effectively countering the spell and drawing a card for only two mana.
In a similar sense, Ranger-Captain of Eos also works quite well against Cascade combo decks. Ranger-Captain is a strong card as a three-power Creature that lets you tutor for a one-mana Creature, but it has another very relevant ability. You can sacrifice Ranger-Captain to prevent your opponent from casting any additional non-Creature spells during the current turn. This means that if your opponent casts one of their three-mana Cascade spells, you can sacrifice Ranger-Captain in response, effectively preventing them from casting their Suspend payoff. Each of these cards help this deck get into the late game, and that’s where the real fun starts.
Read More: Top 10 MTG Best Modern Decks!
While Ranger-Captain and Solitude can technically win games on their own simply by attacking, this deck has more going on than that. Ranger Captain’s ability to tutor for a one-drop is super important, allowing the deck to maximize the power of Abiding Grace. Abiding Grace allows you to return a Creature with mana value one from your graveyard to the battlefield every turn cycle, and this deck plays a lot of powerful one-drops. Thraben Inspector is a decent roadblock against Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and can provide card advantage through the Clues it makes. Thraben inspector is a great one-drop, but there are three interesting options in particular that work extremely well with Abiding Grace specifically.
The first of them is Haywire Mite. If the opponent is playing a deck with lots of Artifacts or Enchantments, you can keep sacrificing Haywire Mite (so long as you have access to Temple Garden) and then bringing it back on your end step. The second Creature is Kami of False Hope, which provides a decent Fog effect. With Abiding Grace, you can keep yourself alive by preventing combat damage over and over until you assemble a big enough battlefield to win with. Finally, Martyr of Sands can give you a big life buffer against aggressive decks. Martyr works exceptionally well with the One Ring. Not only do you gain a life cushion to help you draw more cards with the One Ring, but the cards you draw help you gain more life from Martyr in the future.
Abiding Grace provides this deck with an elite recursive engine, but it’s not the only engine this deck has access to. This deck also plays Emeria, the Sky Ruin as a way to bring back your big Creatures later in the game. Emeria works quite well with Eagles of the North, which can be cycled early to find a Plains and brought back later as a big Flier that pumps your squad. This deck certainly has a lot going on, but how effective is it in the current metagame?
Strengths and Weaknesses
This mono-white deck has a lot going for it against the other top decks in the metagame. The combination of Solitude and continuous Creature recursion provide a solid gameplan against Rakdos Scam. Solitude allows you to deal with an early Fury, and Abiding Grace provides a sea of chump blockers that is quite difficult for Rakdos to deal with. Against the Cascade combo decks, Ranger-Captain and Reprieve really shine. Martyr can singlehandedly win games against Burn, and the copies of Field of Ruin and Demolition Field give this deck a better shot against Tron and Amulet Titan.
The reality is that this deck checks a lot of the boxes against a lot of the top decks. The difficult thing is simply drawing the cards that matter in each matchup. This deck is quite slow in general, so it relies on interacting with the opponent’s gameplan. However, outside of The One Ring, this deck doesn’t have much card draw or card selection. Given that certain cards are stronger or weaker depending on the matchup, it’s quite possible to lose game one by simply drawing the wrong part of your deck.
Still, the engines of this deck are quite powerful, and if you can survive the early turns, things can get out of hand rather quickly. The One Ring can completely take over in combination with Martyr of Sands, and the Abiding Grace package can lock aggressive decks out of the game. It’s cool to see so many unique commons and uncommons find a home, and it will be interesting to see what this archetype can do moving forward.