For those who have been playing Modern over the last few months, it’s no surprise that Rakdos Scam continues to dominate the format. There are a decent number of other decks that have been putting up results, including classic burn and multi-color Up the Beanstalk Cascade shells. However, none of these decks have been consistently representing quite the percentage of the metagame that Rakdos Scam has been for a long time. It’s clear that if you want to have success in Modern, you need to have a plan for Scam.
Not only is planning for Scam very difficult, but the nature of the top decks of the format have reduced the ability for players to innovate. Midrange decks with lots of removal spells that could theoretically gear towards beating Scam would have a tough time beating Up the Beanstalk or The One Ring decks. As a result, players are pressured to be proactive, but the existence of cards like Fury and Orcish Bowmasters out of Scam makes aggressive Creature-based decks much worse. There’s a reason one of the best “aggressive” archetypes is designed to win on the back of burn spells more than Creatures.
This greatly reduces the number of different angles players can take their decks to attack the metagame. For players to innovate, it requires thinking outside the box.
Well, professional MTG player Gabriel Nassif did exactly this, making top eight of a 325-player Magic Online Modern Qualifier with a unique Izzet Artifacts list. An anti-metaish brew, this deck has game against Scam as well as Cascade variants and big mana decks like Tron. The deck has specific packages to fight against multiple strategies, making it very intriguing.
The Indestructible Land Package
Each of these packages revolves heavily around a specific subset of cards: Indestructible Artifact Lands. Beyond Darksteel Citadel, Modern Horizons II brought us a slew of Indestructible Artifact Lands that tap for multiple colors of mana, but enter the battlefield tapped. Of course, the untapped Artifact Lands like Seat of the Synod are currently banned in Modern, forcing players to look elsewhere for Artifact Lands.
While these Lands do enter the battlefield tapped, there is plenty of upside surrounding them that this deck takes advantage of. First of all, as an Izzet deck, Silverbluff Bridge helps fix this deck’s mana. Second, having Indestructible opens the door for playing cards like Boom/Bust. Boom is a two-mana card that is symmetrical, blowing up one of your opponent’s Lands at the cost of one of your own. With these Indestructible Lands, though, this card functions just like a two-mana Stone Rain.
These Lands also let you make use of Cleansing Wildfire. By targeting one of your Indestructible Lands, Cleansing Wildfire acts as a Rampant Growth that also draws you a card, which is very powerful.
Indestructible Artifact Package
The fact that these Indestructible Lands are also Artifacts opens up the door for you to maximize Ensoul Artifact. Ensoul Artifact can turn any of these Artifact Lands into 5/5 Creatures with Indestructible. This presents a quick clock against combo decks, can’t be removed by most non-white removal spells, and can block large ground Creatures like Fury forever.
Much like Ensoul Artifact, this deck also plays Rise and Shine. Rise and Shine only makes the Creature into a 4/4, but because it’s not an Aura, your opponent can’t remove this effect with something like Boseiju, Who Endures. Additionally, Rise and Shine has Overload, so if the game goes long, you can present a bunch of pressure out of nowhere. Both of these cards work well with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer Treasure tokens too, assuming your opponent is light on removal.
The Burn Spell Package
Beyond being able to target your Indestructible Artifact Lands with various effects, their sheer existence on the battlefield also enables you to play some extremely strong burn spells. The biggest of these is certainly Galvanic Blast. In this deck, Galvanic Blast is often going to be strictly better than Lightning Bolt. This not only helps you remove four-toughness Creatures, like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, but it also gives you a lot of reach.
Between Galvanic Blast, Lightning Bolt, and Shrapnel Blast, you can often burn the opponent out from even decently high life totals. The presence of The One Ring to dig for these burn spells is a huge bonus, letting you close out games you couldn’t otherwise win. Getting to suit up The One Ring with Ensoul Artifact is cute, and you can even sacrifice it to Shrapnel Blast if the life loss from burden counters is becoming problematic.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As mentioned, this deck’s ability to attack from multiple different angles is likely a large part of the reason it overperformed. Against Rakdos Scam, Galvanic Blast can answer a quick Fury in conjunction with Not Dead After All. Ensoul Artifact can also enable you to block Fury at will. As for Grief, there are lots of removal spells to topdeck as well as The One Ring to dig you out of the hole.
Against multi-color decks, Cascade strategies, Amulet Titan, and Tron, the land destruction package is unbelievable. Spell Pierce is awesome against Cascade and helps push through your Ensoul Artifacts. These decks are also vulnerable to simply getting burned out. This Izzet archetype covers a lot of its bases, giving it the necessary elements to succeed.
The key, though, is consistency and knowing your role. Against decks with Solitude, Ensoul Artifact is much less reliable, and Spell Pierce doesn’t protect your threat. As strong as Ragavan is, it might get blanked by an opposing copy of Orcish Bowmasters in some matchups. While you have some burn spells, you aren’t a dedicated burn deck, so finishing off multi-color Solitude decks without sticking The One Ring can be tough.
What’s nice, though, is that you can kind of pivot your gameplan depending on what you know about your opponent’s deck. If you are facing Tron, you may want to mulligan more aggressively for your Land destruction spells, for example. Against Solitude decks, you may want to mulligan a hand that is super reliant of Ensoul Artifact. Casting Bust later in the game instead of Boom can also be excellent in these slower matchups, potentially winning the game singlehandedly. If you’re looking for a cool new Modern deck with some versatility, or simply love punishing Tron decks and greedy manabases, definitely give this deck a whirl.