A Faithless Looting Eulogy, Part 2: In Memoriam
The mourning continues in this series about the monumental banning of Faithless Looting from Modern. This time, Rone dives into the rest of the affected strategies in order to find the best future build for Mono-Red Prowess, Hollow One, and Mardu Pyromancer, to name but a few!
Howdy folks! First of all, let me state that I am feeling a lot more on the bright side after my last article—in which I wrote about Hogaak, Dredge, and Phoenix decks. Over the past weeks I have been researching every possible Modern League looking for new incarnations of old Looting decks and there is indeed life after the banning. It's pretty obvious that the format has adapted and is way slower than it was with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Arclight Phoenix on turn two. Now, the crucial turns are three and four where we might find an uncountereable Batterskull, a Karn Liberated, or Urza, Lord High Artificer thanks to Mox Opal.
So, let's continue our journey and discover old Looting decks trying new tricks in order to compete in this Modern era where the graveyard should matter less and where artifact hate almost qualifies as a mandatory main-deck inclusion.
4. Mono-Red Phoenix
Among all Looting decks, this is the one I feel sad about the most. It's not just that I was working on a deck primer that will never see the light now. It also was a nice budget choice to get a start into Modern and it legitimately looked like the best option for red mages for a second:
|Juan José Rodriguez López's Mono-Red Phoenix at Mythic Championship IV|
|15Mountain||4Arclight Phoenix||4Faithless Looting|
|3Sunbaked Canyon||1Bedlam Reveler||1Finale of Promise|
|4Monastery Swiftspear||4Lava Spike|
|4Soul-Scar Mage||4Light Up the Stage|
|1Alpine Moon||1Ravenous Trap||2Shrine of Burning Rage|
|1Dragon's Claw||2Saheeli, Sublime Artificer||3Tormod's Crypt|
I simply love this list. It's fast, efficient, and has a decent late-game plan. Combined with cheap interactive spells, the prowess creatures turn into huge threats, and the Phoenixes provide a solid backup plan if you manage to discard them with the Looting.
No longer having the red draw spells hurts a lot, not least completely invalidating the Phoenix inclusion. You might as well forget all about this strategy since Burn is much better positioned at the moment, armed with Searing Blaze to wreck opposing Stoneforge Mystics. However, there is still a tiny bit of hope for the Mono-Red Prowess deck, something I was brewing with before the banning and that's especially interesting for anyone who's committed to the deck …
|Oosunq's Mono-Red Prowess in Modern League, September 6|
|3Fiery Islet||4Bedlam Reveler||4Crash Through|
|15Mountain||3Kiln Fiend||2Forked Bolt|
|4Monastery Swiftspear||4Lava Spike|
|4Soul-Scar Mage||4Light Up the Stage|
|3Abrade||3Dragon's Claw||1Saheeli, Sublime Artificer|
|2Apostle's Blessing||1Kozilek's Return||2Shrine of Burning Rage|
|2Blood Moon||1Lightning Axe|
Enter Crash Through. Some of you might never heard of this card. Well, for starters, it is a sorcery cantrip for 1 mana that grows your team without losing cards and at the same time it makes chump blocks useless. One of the ways this deck can lose is simply that the opponent manages to block our creatures long enough, as they don't stay large indefinitely. Giving our army trample makes things easy. The card's main downside is that it does nothing on an empty board, but at least you can always cycle it.
Not having Looting means those extra copies of Bedlam Reveler might end up stacked in your hand, but that's the price you pay when you run a full playset of the red Horror. Another addition I love is Kiln Fiend. The Fiend is such a fragile threat—but with Crash Through you don't care if it dies as long as you are winning the game on the spot. I'm tempted to add some copies of Temur Battle Rage too.
The deck remains interesting from a financial perspective as well. The above list contains one mythic rare, 13 rare cards, 18 uncommons, and 28 commons total. Most of the cards have a reasonable price, except for Manamorphose which is a key piece in a lot of decks. Currently, the total cost would be around 220 € not counting shipment expenses, so I'd still recommend it as a good starting point for Modern. Later, one step after another, one could built up to a Burn list.
5. Mardu Pyromancer
Poor Mardu Pyromancer! It was such a fair strategy that used Faithless Looting purely to send Lingering Souls and Smiting Helix to the graveyard from where to replay them. This deck did nothing broken and yet it had to bite the dust because Looting was the card that made the flashback spells worth playing. Modern Horizons had even brought new material to the strategy, mainly Seasoned Pyromancer to work with the younger colleague. Moreover, Unearth, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, and Smiting Helix found their place in the main deck, while Plague Engineer and Kaya's Guile were perfect in the sideboard.
Well, that's all gone for good. Without Looting, Lingering Souls is not worth it anymore, as is the rest of the white splash. Hence the deck needs to reinvent itself some way or another. Here is one:
|John Lim's Rakdos Midrange at SCG Open Dallas, September 8|
|2Mountain||3Bedlam Reveler||3Blood Moon|
|3Swamp||4Dreadhorde Arcanist||3Fatal Push|
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Seasoned Pyromancer||2Kolaghan's Command|
|2Blood Crypt||2Hazoret the Fervent||1Lightning Axe|
|4Bloodstained Mire||4Lightning Bolt|
|4Marsh Flats||3Inquisition of Kozilek|
|2Chandra, Acolyte of Flame|
|3Liliana of the Veil|
|2Nihil Spellbomb||2Surgical Extraction||3Collective Brutality|
|2Plague Engineer||1Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet||3Pillage|
|1Kolaghan's Command||1Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
There are many things to consider, lots of new cards making their appearance: Dreadhorde Arcanist and Chandra, Acolyte of Flame have seen little Modern play, but they have potential. They both let you replay spells from your graveyard, although that doesn't make up for the loss of Looting and there's the anti-synergy with Bedlam Reveler to take into account, but I'm not here to judge. My overall impression has been that this deck could be positioned well in the current metagame. It provides high impact cards like Kolaghan's Command, a clean answer to Stoneforge decks and consistent card advantage; also main-deck Blood Moon is insurance against Tron decks, and finally Collective Brutality and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are extremely needed when facing the Burn matchup.
6. Hollow One
If I had to choose a deck that is highly unlikely to see Modern play in the future, Hollow One would be my bet. Looting was simply too good in this shell, enabling two 4/4s on turn two or discarding Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix at will.
|Pmizz's Hollow One in Modern League, August 27|
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Bloodghast||3Burning Inquiry|
|2Blood Crypt||4Flameblade Adept||4Faithless Looting|
|3Bloodstained Mire||3Flamewake Phoenix||3Goblin Lore|
|3Scalding Tarn||4Hollow One||3Lightning Bolt|
|1Stomping Ground||4Lightning Skelemental|
|1Alpine Moon||4Fatal Push||2Tormod's Crypt|
|4Ancient Grudge||4Ravenous Trap|
Even eight random discard spells like Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore aren't enough. The best choice might be Cathartic Reunion, though this isn't Dredge and discarding as a part of the cost is not particularly convenient. The latest versions added Lightning Skelemental plus Unearth for crazy shenanigans where you'd wreck your opponent's hand and at the same time bring back a hasty Phoenix on turn two, but those days are gone. Honestly, I think it's time to say goodbye to this deck. It was my favorite strategy from 2018, but I don't see this deck existing without Looting. Thanks for all the good moments we had together and see you in Vintage Dredge, my beloved Golem!
Next on our list is a deck I never had the chance to play, so I cannot go deep into details. But it also relied on Looting to enact its main game plan.
|Rinko's Vengeance in Modern League, August 27|
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Emrakul, the Aeons Torn||2Collective Brutality|
|2Blood Crypt||3Generator Servant||4Faithless Looting|
|2Mountain||4Ilharg, the Raze-Boar||2Abrade|
|2Polluted Delta||4Simian Spirit Guide||4Goryo's Vengeance|
|3Swamp||4Through the Breach|
|2Temple of Malice||4Pentad Prism|
|2Thoughtseize||2Chalice of the Void||4Leyline of the Void|
|2Anger of the Gods||2Defense Grid||1Shatterstorm|
The basic idea was to ditch a legendary fatty into the graveyard and then proceed to reanimate it via Goryo's Vengeance. Looting was crucial to find all pieces of the puzzle and contributed one piece—the discard—itself. The addition of Ilharg, the Raze-Boar allowed you to kill on the spot if you combined it with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from your hand, dealing 21 damage and sweeping your opponent's board at the same time.
The alternative routes to victory with Generator Servant into Ilharg or Pentad Prism into Through the Breach still exist. But again, as with Hollow One, the future of the Rakdos version looks bleak. It'll remain buried to never rise from the grave again. However, that doesn't mean you cannot bring Griselbrand back to life anymore. Just switch to Esper and find yourself at home:
|Alexasm_ao's Vengeance in Modern League, September 3|
|2Creeping Tar Pit||1Emrakul, the Aeons Torn||1Liliana of the Veil|
|3Darkslick Shores||4Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound||2Teferi, Time Raveler|
|2Godless Shrine||3Obzedat, Ghost Council||4Chart a Course|
|1Hallowed Fountain||1Vendilion Clique||2Collective Brutality|
|1Island||2Inquisition of Kozilek|
|3Marsh Flats||4Lingering Souls|
|1Silent Clearing||3Fatal Push|
|2Watery Grave||2Path to Exile|
|2Ashiok, Dream Render||1Gonti, Lord of Luxury||1Pithing Needle|
|2Damping Sphere||2Kambal, Consul of Allocation||2Plague Engineer|
|1Detention Sphere||1Liliana, the Last Hope||2Rain of Tears|
Don't expect turn two Goryo's Vengeance that often, unless you Thoughtseize yourself on turn one. Instead of Looting, you rely on Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound to cycle through your deck along with Chart a Course and Liliana of the Veil. Is this deck likely to win the next Modern Grand Prix? I hardly doubt it, but it'll have to deal with far less graveyard hate nowadays.
8. Other Minor Looting Decks
Our last stop in this review brings us to a couple of decks that also counted Looting as part of their main-deck line-up at some point, but not as an integral part. In general, the following are more happy with the card banned than anything. I have found several lists of Grixis Death's Shadow, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, and As Foretold decks flying the red flashback card; however they can easily adapt.
Shadow decks find themselves in a great spot at the moment. The Grixis versions had often included a single Looting to combat mana flood. But with Hogaak and Phoenix gone, and White-Blue Control becoming more of a midrange deck, they lose more enemies than Looting ever added in value. Currently, the Mardu version is also posting good results. As long as you are packing Temur Battle Rage to win quickly and have Kolaghan's Command to win midrange battles, it seems you're doing great.
The other two are fringe decks, and they didn't have any real impact on the vast Modern metagame yet. So the banning didn't affect many Ascendancy and As Foretold players—if you are one of them tell me you experience with the deck! Finally, there was indeed a Rakdos list that I really enjoyed, a hybrid between Hollow One and the deck mentioned before, with Unearth alongside Lightning Skelemental, discard spells, and Dreadhorde Arcanist. That idea is also gone for good.
We've reached the end of the Faithless Looting memorial service. Is there any deck I missed? I encourage you to leave a comment about how the banning has affected you!
As in life, Magic is all about enjoying the present, accepting whatever it brings and adapting to new circumstances. We all had our fun with Faithless Looting in Modern; that cannot be taken from us. You can also play the card in some other formats: Legacy, Commander, Cube Draft—so this doesn't mean you'll never use the card again. In summation, Modern is in a much healthier state now. Let's enjoy it, either turning our old Looting decks into something else or embracing new strategies entirely, whatever you prefer.
As usual, thank you so much for reading and please leave your comments or questions below or you hit me up on my shared Twitter account.
Until next time,
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.