Bridgevine's Missing Piece
- Andreas Reling
It was obvious that Modern Horizons would introduce some cards to the Modern metagame to help fringe strategies push their way into the meta. Nobody expected the monster that Wizards would unleash with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Read about Bridgevine's rise from fringe status to potentially format defining.
New Strategies Emerge in Modern
Modern has become a format with an incredibly large card pool. This means, in my opinion, that many archetypes still need to be found and that any progress that will be made will likely be made slowly. Whenever a new set is released, players have to look at Modern's vast card pool to find the most powerful synergies between the old and the new, and this is no easy task. As these old cards get more and more help, they become better and better, and very occasionally a previously fringe archetype might catapult into the meta.
In the summer of 2018, when Core 2019 was released, a whacky graveyard deck became playable.
Vengevine has always been a broken Magic card, but it struggled to find a successful home in Modern.
When Core 2019 brought Stitcher's Supplier, the longtime fans began to brew again. The card solved some of the problems Vengevine decks usually had as it was the perfect way to not only find your Vengevines but to also help to return them from the graveyard to the battlefield. Cards that serve multiple purposes are usually what make combo decks really good. The icing on the cake is that Stitcher's Supplier is a Zombie and helps you cast Gravecrawler, while also putting gravecrawler and its ilk into the graveyard.
The deck had some decent finishes throughout the year but was eventually written off by most players as it felt like it was still lacking the consistency necessary to make it truly powerful. The Sacrifice outlets of Viscera Seer and Greater Gargadon didn't do enough on their own and where too one-sided to make the deck a true contender for the top spots in the Modern metagame.
The end result was that, after Takumi Utsuomiya's Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Atlanta with the following list, the deck basically vanished for the next six months or so.
Bridgevine by Takuma Utsomiya, Top 8 at Grand Prix Atlanta
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Bloodghast||4Bridge from Below|
|2Blood Crypt||3Goblin Bushwhacker||2Collective Brutality|
|4Bloodstained Mire||4Gravecrawler||4Faithless Looting|
|1Overgrown Tomb||4Insolent Neonate|
|1Stomping Ground||4Stitcher's Supplier|
|4Verdant Catacombs||4Viscera Seer|
|4Assassin's Trophy||1Blasphemous Act||2Damping Sphere|
|1Darkblast||4Leyline of the Void||1Necrotic Wound|
A New Threat on the Horizon
One of the things Modern Horizons was supposed to do was introduce cards to the Modern format that were specifically designed to help solve some of the format's problems without messing up Standard. Cards in Horizons aren't legal in Standard, instead going directly into Modern. Personally, I was concerned about Modern's linearity, which had been creeping upward for a while, and this set offered the perfect opportunity to provide cheap and generic answers to help fairer decks in the format. Reprints like Swords to Plowshares, Counterspell, Diabolic Edict, Baleful Strix, Council's Judgment, Cabal Therapy, Flusterstorm and even Force of Will were on my short list to make Modern a healthier environment with flexible interaction.
While some of these cards got introduced into the format in some form (Looking at you Force of Negation, Ice-Fang Coatl, Cabal Therapist, and On Thin Ice), they also made a pretty big mistake in Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. I think they did a pretty good job printing balanced versions of the cards many players wished for. But this 8/8 trampling Avatar for zero Mana threatens to break Modern open.
It essentially is a better version of Vengevine in the deck I showed you before as it rewards you for stocking your graveyard and convokes into play simply by tapping two black or green creatures. Modern Horizons also solves the problem I discussed earlier in giving access to two tremendously powerful sacrifice outlets in Carrion Feeder and Altar of Dementia.
A New Horror is Born
While Modern Horizons releases June 14th in paper, Magic Online players were able to play with the cards for the last couple of days and the new Bridgevine deck has been crushing tournaments left and right. 10 versions of the deck made it into the Top 32 of the latest Modern Challenge, with four copies reaching the Top 8 of the tournament.
Dredge enthusiast and successful Modern player Sodeq made the playoffs of the Challenge with the following list:
Hogaak Bridgevine by Sodeq
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Carrion Feeder||4Bridge from Below|
|3Blood Crypt||4Golgari Thug||4Altar of Dementia|
|4Bloodstained Mire||4Gravecrawler||4Faithless Looting|
|4Marsh Flats||4Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis|
|2Overgrown Tomb||4Insolent Neonate|
|4Leyline of the Void||2Lightning Axe||4Nature's Claim|
While different builds are floating around and we certainly haven't found the optimal 75, one thing is clear – the deck is incredibly fast and resilient and it's capable of winning the game on the third turn of the game a good percentage.
Last year's version of the deck lacked in redundancy and resiliency but Altar of Dementia and Hogaak enable some kind of combo kill that can even win without attacking as you just loop your Hoogak while producing more and more Zombie Tokens with Bridge from Below and eventually end up with enough creatures to just put your opponent's complete library into their graveyard before you pass the turn. Also, having more graveyard payoffs alongside Vengevine makes you more resilient against soft sideboard cards like Surgical Extraction and Relic of Progenitus while Carrion Feeder and Altar of Dementia help to make the deck more consistent and provide more flexible sacrifice outlets than the cards you had to use before. This deck performs also better against absolute graveyard hate like Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void in comparison to traditional graveyard decks like Dredge as you can simply cast a bunch of cheap creatures and even hardcast a hasty and beefy Vengevine while your opponent mulled down to view handcards in order to find his strong sideboard card just to find himself not being able to stop a bunch of small creatures being cast the traditional way.
As I said, the perfect build of the deck hasn't been found yet and with Cabal Therapist and Thoughtseize, the deck has the potential to adapt post-sideboard to beat even decks that prey on it -like faster combo decks that will benefit from the London Mulligan the most. With many players who playtested the deck all week long since the Magic Online release claiming an 80 % win-rate and those strong tournament results, I strongly believe we've found one of the most broken Modern decks of all time and I dearly hope Wizards of the Coast will do something to combat its hostile influence on the metagame. There will be a banned and restricted list announcement on July 8th, three weeks before the Mythic Championship in Barcelona, which will feature the Modern format at the highest level of the game and, at least until then, I will convoke and delve Hoogak, the Arisen Necropolis as often as I'm allowed to and I encourage you to do the same, or, if not, be sure to have a plan for the deck.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Check out our Modern Horizons page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on!