Since the recent banning of Fury and Up the Beanstalk in Modern, the expectation was that the metagame would see a reasonable shift from where it was. After all, Rakdos Scam was such a huge portion of the metagame. With Fury banned, it would make sense for other decks, including some Creature-based decks that were kept in check by the powerful Elemental, to rise up once more. In reality, though, this hasn’t really been the case.
While Fury is now banned, that hasn’t stopped Rakdos Scam players from adapting. In fact, Rakdos Scam won a recent 702-player event, showcasing the power of Grief alongside Not Dead After All that still exists in the format. Despite the banning of Up the Beanstalk, multi-color Leyline Binding decks are still pretty popular.
In most cases, players have simply moved back to the four-color Omnath, Locus of Creation lists utilizing The One Ring for card advantage with the goal of winning grindy games. Interestingly, though, a unique four-color variant has popped up that has added the underused Felidar Guardian combo to the mix. Overperforming in a recent Magic Online Modern Challenge and Preliminary event, this is an intriguing spin on a popular archetype that has a lot going for it.
Before we get into the archetype’s powerful supporting cast, it’s important to understand how the Felidar Guardian combo works. This combo requires two pieces: Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai, and it functions quite similarly to the Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin combo. The goal is to create infinite Hasty copies of Felidar Guardian.
Once you have both Saheeli and Felidar Guardian in play, the combo is rather trivial. As long as Saheeli has three or more Loyalty counters on it, you can use the -2 ability to create a token copy of Felidar Guardian. When this token enters the battlefield, you can blink Saheeli, resetting its Loyalty counters. Then you just use the -2 ability on Felidar Guardian again, repeating this process until you can attack your opponent for the win.
What’s nice about this combo is that, unlike with the Splinter Twin combo, the Creature in this case can be affected by Summoning Sickness. It’s quite common for this deck to get to six mana and cast both combo pieces in one turn. With access to a playset of Wrenn and Six, continuing to hit your Land drops is rarely an issue. Felidar Guardian can blink any permanent, including a Land, which allows you to cast Felidar Guardian and Saheeli off of only six mana.
Traditional Four-Color Suspects
From there, this archetype uses a ton of the typical four-color options. Delighted Halfling is an extremely powerful one-drop that can make all of your Planeswalkers as well as The One Ring unable to be countered. Getting to curve Delighted Halfling into Teferi, Time Raveler is incredibly strong. Not to mention, Teferi is extra good in this deck, as it helps ensure that your combo cannot be disrupted by Instant-speed removal.
Additionally, Felidar Guardian naturally plays well with Teferi and The One Ring. Felidar Guardian’s ability to reset the Loyalty counters on Planeswalkers you control means that you can use Teferi’s -3 ability aggressively, with the intention of blinking Teferi and using the -3 ability again. In the case of The One Ring, you can afford to draw cards proactively, knowing that you can blink it and it will come back to play with the burden counters removed. Between Felidar Guardian, Teferi, and Omnath, Locus of Creation, the life loss associated with The One Ring is much less concerning.
Finally, Leyline Binding and [tooltips]Solitude are great pieces of interaction that can help keep you alive. Solitude can also act as a win condition in its own right. Getting to trigger Solitude multiple times with Felidar Guardian or Saheeli’s -2 ability really helps keep Creature decks in check.
The Bans Opened the Door
As mentioned, the bans didn’t have a massive impact on the shape of the metagame, at least for now. What they did do, however, was encourage players to look for ways to replace the elite missing pieces in well-established archetypes. For instance, with Fury unavailable, some players have looked towards Orzhov Scam to utilize Solitude alongside Grief. Rakdos Scam is still solid, but players have been forced to adjust with one of their best cards missing from the strategy.
Similarly, now that Up the Beanstalk is gone, the door is open for different builds of multi-color Leyline Binding decks. This has incentivized some innovation. Adding the Saheeli+Felidar Guardian combo to this archetype was never really worth considering when Up the Beanstalk and Fury were around. This combo-centric build of the strategy is rather interesting, though, and it certainly has some things going for it.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The strengths of this deck lie with its versatility. The addition of the Saheeli+Felidar Guardian combo helps give you a better shot at beating opposing combo decks. Considering how popular Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, Amulet Titan, and various Cascade combo decks like Crashing Footfalls are, adding a quick win condition makes a lot of sense.
This deck can still play a longer, grindier game when necessary, though. With Up the Beanstalk out of the picture, it is once again The One Ring’s time to shine, and this deck makes excellent use of the Artifact. The difference here, however, is that this build has a much easier time closing the game than traditional four-color versions. Teferi becomes even more threatening, as your opponent knows that if they can’t remove it, they risk dying to the combo out of nowhere.
The one area of weakness that this four-color variant has in comparison to the more typical builds is that Saheeli specifically is a fairly weak card without access to Felidar Guardian. By running these cards, you have less room for flex slots like Prismatic Ending and even have to trim down on Omnath, which is amazing in attrition-based matchups.
Additionally, without Teferi in play, executing the combo can be a tall order in the face of opposing interaction. Given that decks like Amulet Titan and mono-green Tron with minimal interaction have grown in popularity some since the bans, though, this isn’t necessarily a big deal. The fact that this deck has the ability to execute a fast combo kill helps a lot in these matchups. Even in grindier games, the threat of killing your opponent out of nowhere can make it quite difficult for them to ever tap out.
Saheeli and Felidar Guardian have largely been obsolete in Modern for a while, so if you’re a fan of this style of combo, now’s your chance to maximize it.