Over the past month, the Modern metagame has been relatively stable, all things considered. Decks like Crashing Footfalls Cascade and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo have been as popular as ever. Despite the recent bannings of Up the Beanstalk and Fury, Rakdos Scam is still a top-tier archetype. With this in mind, it can be tough to innovate in a field with minimal metagame evolution.
Still, though, there’s room even within tier one archetypes to think outside the box to help fight against other Modern powerhouses. The Magic Online Modern Showcase Challenge that took place yesterday put this notion on full display. From an Ixalan Dinosaur making its way into the winning Amulet Titan decklist to the utilization of an unusual Dredge card within a Yawgmoth combo shell, there were plenty of interesting deckbuilding decisions made for this tournament.
Today, we are going to highlight a few of the more intriguing forms of innovation among some of the top performing decks in the tournament. With just under 350 player, this massive event gave rise to a few unique ideas that are worth taking a closer look at. Let’s start first by talking about the winning decklist and the featuring of an uncommon Ixalan Dinosaur.
Itzquinth as a Tutor Target?
First up, we have a relatively stock Amulet Titan list, at least within the maindeck specifically. The goal of the deck is to maximize the power of Amulet of Vigor. By providing the ability to untap Lands that otherwise enter the battlefield tapped, you are able to abuse the strength of bounce Lands like Simic Growth Chamber by getting multiple mana right away. With multiple copies of Amulet in play, things can get out of hand rather quickly.
From there, you want to get to six mana as quickly as possible to resolve a copy of Primeval Titan. Titan can tutor up a slew of different utility Lands to help make winning the game rather trivial. This archetype is rather consistent and is capable of winning the game very quickly. The main drawback is that it is vulnerable to a handful of specific hate cards.
One of the most effective hate cards out there is Magus of the Moon. By turning all non-basic Lands into Mountains, this deck’s wide range of utility Lands become rather ineffective. Additionally, it can be tough to even get a copy of Primeval Titan into play in the first place, as you may not have access to much green mana.
In some matchups, Blood Moon is a better hate card, as it doesn’t die to Creature removal like Lightning Bolt. However, Amulet Titan typically plays a bunch of copies of Boseiju, Who Endures, making it easier to answer Blood Moon in general. Answering Magus can be a bit tougher. This, in theory, is where Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath comes into play.
For four mana, you can use Itzquinth to kill opposing copies of Magus and free up your manabase once more. Given that Summoner’s Pact can only tutor for green Creatures, the range of answers to Magus that can be tutored is fairly limited. If you manage to get a single basic Forest into play, Itzquinth can function as that answer, which is a nice tool to have from a one-of out of the sideboard.
Necroplasm as Tech for Rhinos
In a similar vein to how the winning Amulet Titan list made use of Itzquinth as a tutor-able answer to an opposing silver bullet, one high performing Yawgmoth player from the tournament used Necroplasm as a strange silver bullet in a couple different matchups. Typically, cards like Chord of Calling or Eldritch Evolution are used by Yawgmoth players to tutor the namesake card. Given the card’s importance to the deck as a whole, Chord and Evolution are mostly there to add redundancy to the archetype.
However, they do also offer some flexibility, especially in games two and three, to help fight against certain strategies. For instance, Fulminator Mage is a nice option to tutor for against mono-green Tron. With Agatha’s Soul Cauldron in play, it’s easy to blow up a ton of your opponent’s non-basic Lands over the course of the game by sacrificing Fulminator Mage, exiling it from your graveyard with Cauldron, and giving your other Creatures with +1/+1 counters Fulimnator’s ability.
Well, while Necroplasm doesn’t synergize the same way with Cauldron, it’s still a neat card to be able to find. Necroplasm is a weird card that, on your end step every turn it’s in play, destroys opposing Creatures with mana value equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on itself. It then accrues counters on your upkeep.
The main use for a card like this is that you can use it to help kill a wide battlefield of Creatures with mana values of zero. This includes Creature tokens, such as from the Crashing Footfalls decks, or even Creatures with X in their mana costs, such as Walking Ballista and Hangarback Walker out of Hardened Scales decks.
Even though Necroplasm gains a +1/+1 counter on your upkeep, you can actually use Yawgmoth to put a -1/-1 counter on Necroplasm and keep it around as a constant answer to tokens. Thanks to its Dredge ability, even if Necroplasm dies, you can choose to bring it back to your hand when necessary. It’s unclear if Necroplasm or Itzquinth will indeed become archetype staples, but it’s cool to see these hidden gems prosper, nonetheless.
Some Archetype Innovation
Beyond players making unique deckbuilding decisions within tier one strategies, some players also found success playing some interesting deck choices that got better since the recent ban announcement. First, Merfolk placed third in the tournament, boasting its prowess as a legitimately strong archetype. Part of what held Merfolk back was its vulnerability to Fury, which is no longer a concern.
This deck does a great job of using a mix of disruption and pressure to cross the finish line. Tide Shaper is excellent against decks with Urza’s Saga, while Force of Negation and Vodalian Hexcatcher work overtime in the Cascade matchups. Merfolk also gets to abuse some elite sideboard cards, such as Chalice of the Void and Cursed Totem.
Beyond Merfolk, we also saw a distinct Scam variant make top 32 that may deserve further exploration. With Fury out of the picture, rather than playing red for cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, this player decided to stick to a mono-black shell. You still get the absurd starts with Grief and Undying Evil, but your manabase gets some immense upgrades.
Both Field of Ruin and Demolition Field provide you with great answers to Urza’s Saga and can even execute a good Stone Rain impression if the opponent runs out of basic Lands to search for. To further maximize these interactive Lands, this decklist shows off another Ixalan card in the form of Sunken Citadel, which can let you use Field of Ruin or Demolition Field as early as turn two. Additionally, you get to run a full playset of Castle Locthwain as a great source of card advantage in grindy matchups.
This tournament goes to show that, even if a format looks a bit stale at first glance, there’s always the opportunity to think outside the box. From new Ixalan cards that haven’t necessarily found good homes to old forgotten goodies like Necroplasm, there’s plenty of room to find useful tools that have flown under the radar.