Day one of this weekend’s Regional Championships in Canada and the United States is in the books, and there’s a lot to take away from the data. Unsurprisingly, many well-established archetypes like Temur Crashing Footfalls and Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician shells had solid showings at both events. However, there were also some new or otherwise unexpected strategies that thrived.
As far as new Karlov Manor cards are concerned, it appears as though Leyline of the Guildpact is the breakout card of the week. We’ve already discussed its impact in Modern Domain Zoo decks given its incredible synergy with Scion of Draco. This combination of cards, though, is also beginning to show up in Crashing Footfalls decks. In fact, one of two undefeated players in the U.S. Regional Championship after day one is playing this unique Domain Rhinos archetype.
While this Domain Rhinos deck is certainly the new hotness, it isn’t the only intriguing deck to have a dominant win rate this weekend. Today, we are going to focus on a deck that started 7-0 at the Regional Championship in Canada with 15 Lands in the sideboard! Interestingly, only one player in the whole tournament played the deck. Even more strange, this deck features no new Karlov Manor cards. Is this the breakout performance the archetype needed to finally get the recognition it deserves or is it still just a flash in the pan? Let’s take a closer look.
Winning the Game
This strategy is entirely built around one card and one card only: Calibrated Blast. Calibrated Blast is a three-mana Instant that lets you reveal cards from the top of your library until you hit a non-Land card. From there, you get to deal damage equal to the mana value of the revealed card to any target. The way this deck is configured, this will more often than not result in your opponent taking a whopping 15 damage.
See, the only cards in the deck with low mana values are Calibrated Blast and Throes of Chaos, which essentially acts as additional copies of Calibrated Blast since you are guaranteed to Cascade into the powerful Instant. Other than that, the deck is made up of massive threats that aren’t intended to be cast. Cards like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Autochthon Wurm are simply in the deck as cards to reveal with Blast.Shadow of Mortality will occasionally get cast, but even this is an oddity. Scion of Draco is nice as it helps fill both roles as a threat on its own and a high mana value threat to reveal to Blast. Obviously, sometimes you will end up revealing another copy of Blast to the one you cast and miss out on a ton of damage. Luckily, the card has Flashback, so you can get another crack at it. This helps let you play through counter magic from the opponent.
The most interesting aspect of this deck is that it plays an absurd number of Lands that all have vital roles in helping your main gameplan. The most important of these Lands is an addition from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. This card is Hidden Volcano. Hidden Volcano isn’t super efficient to activate, but much like Throes of Chaos, it will allow you to cast Calibrated Blast reliably when you sacrifice it.
To help make Hidden Volcano a little less mana intensive to activate, this deck makes use of a playset of Sunken Citadel. Sunken Citadel can also help pay for activations of Ramunap Ruins or Mount Doom, which are in the deck to help deal the last points of damage when necessary, after a big Calibrated Blast. Gemstone Caverns is another great card at helping you stay ahead of schedule, letting you eliminate some of the tempo loss you would naturally have by being on the draw.
If it weren’t clear how impactful the wide range of utility Lands available are for the archetype, this deck’s 15-Land sideboard does a great job showcasing their importance. Both Boseiju, Who Endures and Otawara, Soaring City allow you to interact with your opponent to buy time. Boseiju, Who Shelters All helps you resolve Blast through counter magic from the opponent, while Nephalia Academy helps make sure you can fight through discard spells like Thoughtseize and Grief.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Even though this deck might look like a bit of a glass cannon at first, it does have some nice things going for it in the current metagame. There are plenty of top tier decks, such as Amulet Titan or Hardened Scales, that simply can’t interact with Blast in a favorable manner. Meanwhile, even though decks like Azorius control can interact with Blast, they don’t put much pressure on you at all. This lets you develop your mana, which includes Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and play a longer game.
The biggest weakness this deck has is consistency. Given that you are reliant on Blast to win the game, you will need to mulligan a fair bit to find your win conditions. That being said, the presence of Hidden Volcano is a game-changer in this regard.
As far as matchup weaknesses are concerned, decks that put up a good mix of pressure and early disruption can be problematic. Izzet Murktide can easily start chipping away with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, then use the extra mana to develop their board further and still hold up Counterspell when applicable. Rakdos Scam can also be a bit tough, since Grief in conjunction with Not Dead After All may provide a fast enough clock to win before you rebuild.
Even there, though, Nephalia Academy can bail you out. Additionally, Grief and Thoughtseize can’t take Hidden Volcano, further highlighting its value in the deck. Even though this archetype isn’t too popular, there’s no denying its massive success early on this weekend in a field of juggernauts. At minimum, this should draw attention to the deck, which can punish you if you aren’t prepared. Make sure to keep this deck under your radar if you plan to play Modern in the coming weeks.