According to some, a ban of Mishra's Bauble and Manamorphose is long overdue. These two have been fueling various spellslinging decks in Modern basically since forever, mainly because they both cost neither a card nor mana. When you combine them with powerful creatures that care about spells being cast or cards in graveyards, you get shells that are consistent, at times explosives, and difficult to dethrone.
Blue-Red Murktide, the latest and possibly strongest iteration in a long line of such decks, uses delve and delirium and consequently shows more interest in the Bauble. But several examples where Manamorphose pulls more weight persist to this day too. Here is one that makes good use of both!
|Blue-Red Prowess Sample List|
If you've been around in the Magic community for some time, you will have heard the term "role assessment." Implementing a strategy based on your assessment is where blue-red decks shine, whatever the format. The recipe is simple: efficient creatures, burn spells that double as removal, countermagic. With these three components you can assume any role in any matchup. If you're playing against an aggressive creature deck you can either try to outrace it or assume a control role, overloading on removal. If you're playing against ramp, control, or combo, you can side in the countermagic, play a disruptive tempo game, and burn your opponents out.
This flexibility, the fluid nature of the deck, also makes it supremely difficult to attack blue-red. Their removal can also go to face and kill you, countermagic such as Spell Pierce can impede any deck's game plan countering a removal spell, card draw, or a big threat, and cantrips glue everything together nicely. The recipe for success is here.
Upon Strixhaven's release, many of us Modern players felt like we were left out, without any new toys to play with. Much to everybody's surprise, and some people's demise, there was one card that could be described by two of the most feared words in card design according to Patrick Sullivan—"seemingly innocuous." The card I am talking about is of course Expressive Iteration. At first, most people saw it as "draw a card, play a land this turn" for two mana. This is not far from truth. In practice, however, the effect proved to be much stronger.
First of all, it's not merely drawing a card but rather card selection—the best of the top three. In addition, in a low-to-the-ground deck you can easily choose to take a one-drop, play a free land, and proceed to cast that one drop. Making you hit both an otherwise missed land drop and still add something to the board/hold up cheap interaction is a strong sequence. Last but not least, it doesn't take that long before you can put a spell into exile, at which point you get the best two of the top three cards, a deal that's unrivaled at two mana.
Expressive Iteration immediately made its way into most of Modern's blue-red decks, and it notably improved the prowess shells.
Modern Horizons 2 has blessed us with a plethora of new tools to use in various shells. Before, one of the tier one decks, as mentioned above, was Blue-Red Prowess. Unfortunately, this already strong deck got five new cards. Yes, five. And they proved so strong as to make almost everyone abandon the actual prowess theme. Let's take a look at all five newcomers, which really took the deck to next level.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer—One of the most expensive cards to come out of the set is also quite polarizing, both within the community and within the game. It either eats removal like any creature would or completely runs away with the game. Playing it on turn one on the play demands an immediate answer, among which Lava Dart is the most brutal, but any will work. In theory, posing a blocker also does the job but walks right into the Ragavan player's removal spells, of which they typically run at least eight. What if you don't interact with it? Early in the game it will provide mana advantage, which is scary in a deck full of interaction and cantrips. A bit later in the game, it acts as a card advantage engine and steals your valuable spells. Playing control? Look at them cast your own Teferi, Time Raveler. Jund? You can be hit by your own Thoughtseize and see for yourself how awful that feels. Even when Ragavan is topdecked, it can dash into play to have an immediate impact. A spectacular one-drop for both early and late game.
Dragon's Rage Channeler—There's this sentiment by Aspiringspike, which is frequently shared on Magic Twitter: "Ragavan steals games, DRC wins games." It's now commonly accepted to be a better Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration. In theory, there is a strict condition to be met—delirium. In practice, for a deck full of creatures, fetches, instants, sorceries, and even artifacts (looking at you, Bauble) it's trivial, especially as DRC itself surveils, which fuels the graveyard like crazy. Pair it up with Thought Scour and delirium is always on. What's insane about the card later in the game is that when it becomes a 3/3 it retains the surveil ability. With so many free spells and cantrips in the deck alongside surveil, you always draw the good stuff which makes your endgame so strong.
Unholy Heat—Speaking of delirium … As we've established, it's almost a given that we have it. With that in mind, it's a single red mana for a Magmatic Sinkhole. Only, 6 damage actually kills every commonly played creature in the format, except one. (Read on!) It even takes out planeswalkers, making it active in almost every matchup. A+ removal spell.
Murktide Regent—A spell with delve? There is no way anything could go wrong with that, right? Right?? Wizards will never learn that cheating on mana costs is dangerous and just begs to be broken. Now, is it just a blue Tombstalker? No, it's much better, first of all because it is blue. Blue is by nature a cantrip color, which makes it trivially easy to put cards into the graveyard. (Here's looking at you, Thought Scour.) In addition, it can enter the battlefield as an 8/8, which arguably makes it effectively the biggest creature in the whole format. On top, the second and each subsequent Regent grow the previous Regents, because delving a card away means it "leaves the graveyard." Despite what's printed in the bottom right corner, it's untouchable by Lightning Bolt and sometimes even Unholy Heat. Meanwhile, mana value 7 makes it invulnerable to both Fatal Push and Prismatic Ending. One could say that this card basically has hexproof considering Modern's removal landscape.
Counterspell—Counter target spell. Any spell. No more silly Mana Leak or Remand but a straight-up hard counter regardless of the stage in the game. Another reason why the deck has such strong endgame.
The final outcome? An outrageously flexible and adaptable shell that plays the best permission, the best removal, the best threats, and the best card draw. Such power is tough to overcome as there are no cards which singlehandedly deal with it. However, it's still Modern, so expect the metagame to adjust as it always does. After all, there is nothing wrong with a tier one deck, and tier zero this is not.
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of the deck. Sick of Ragavan already? Think it's overrated? As always, hold my hand and let's pass the turn together. Cheers!
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