Deck Review - Hollow One in Modern
- Rodrigo Martin
Hollow One has become one of the most played decks in Modern since his first major appearance at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Rodrigo has been spending tons of time with the deck and aims to explain its growing popularity alongside with some deck variants and sideboard strategies.
To cut a long story short, before Pro Tour RIX, early Hollow One versions were played in Magic Online Leagues, but they were not explosive enough until Ken Yukuhiro and other Japanese Pro players added Goblin Lore, the discard outlet needed to fully exploit the deck's potential.
We must, to begin with this deck, analyze main deck card selection, so that we can more fully explore the decks variants and wrap up with a sideboarding guide as well as some tips and tricks when playing the deck.
Main Deck Choices
Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan (Bilboa) - Ken Yukihira's B/R Hollow One
|1Arid Mesa||4Bloodghast||4Burning Inquiry|
|3Blackcleave Cliffs||4Flameblade Adept||2Collective Brutality|
|3Blood Crypt||4Flamewake Phoenix||4Faithless Looting|
|4Bloodstained Mire||3Gurmag Angler||4Goblin Lore|
|2Mountain||4Hollow One||4Lightning Bolt|
|1Scalding Tarn||4Street Wraith|
|1Stomping Ground||1Tasigur, the Golden Fang|
|2Ancient Grudge||2Big Game Hunter||2Blood Moon|
|1Collective Brutality||2Fatal Push||3Grim Lavamancer|
|3Leyline of the Void|
Ken Yukihira's popular list from PT RIX played a total of 24 creatures, all of them possible threats except Street Wraith which serves to thin the deck, reduce Hollow One casting cost and power up Flameblade Adept, which is our only one-drop creature.
Normally we sleeve up eight fatties between the namesake Hollow Ones and Delve creatures. The first one is, as the name of the deck suggests, the most busted creature for the deck, which can be cheated into play in multiples if we roll well and avoid discarding them with Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore. They also hit the battlefield for free when you both Faithless Looting and cycle a Street Wraith.
The other four pay-off creatures are Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang in proportion 3 and 1 and even many lists leave the legendary Human Shaman aside in favor of a full zombie fish playset.
The recurring creature package consists of Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix. Both can be returned from the graveyard repeatedly either by the vampire's landfall ability or thanks to the ferocious trigger of the Phoenix.
As for the rest of spells, the draw and discard spells necessary for the strategy are Burning Inquiry, Faithless Looting, and Goblin Lore. The first one is a symmetrical effect that affects both the player and their opponent, but our deck is better tuned to take advantage of the card, so it's more likely to hurt them than us (unless they're playing Dredge).
Goblin Lore is similar, except it only targets you, allowing you to draw four cards and then discard three at random. Faithless Looting and Collective Brutality allow us to discard cards, but we actually get to choose in exchange for seeing fewer cards (or no cards) from the top of the deck.
The mana base is pretty straightforward: the vas majority of lists run 18 lands, with 3-4 basic, 8 fetch lands, 4 shock lands and 3 fast lands, plus a green splash for the sideboard. Apart from Bloodstained Mire, the other fetch lands are always meant to search for red.
Hollow One Variants
The deck has some variants that see less play but are worth mentioning and interesting enough in some specific meta-games.
The first one was discussed a few months ago, the HollowVine version with Vengevine and green instead of black. It is faster than the average version but also more unstable and hasn't had a particularly strong showing in big tournament, yet.
MKM Series Rome 2018 - Santiage Marcet's G/R Hollow One
|1Arid Mesa||4Burning-Tree Emissary||2Cathartic Reunion|
|4Bloodstained Mire||2Flamewake Phoenix||4Faithless Looting|
|3Copperline Gorge||4Goblin Guide||4Lightning Bolt|
|2Stomping Ground||2Hooting Mandrills|
|4Wooded Foothills||4Insolent Neonate|
|3Grim Lavamancer||2Life Goes On||2Tin Street Hooligan|
Recently, I discovered a janky second variant that combines the deck's core with Soul Flayer + Zacama, Primal Dawn in addition to other delve creatures.
This list was streamed by the famous content writer and Twitch player Jeff Hoogland and can be very surprising, especially against opponent who mistake our deck for conventional B/R Hollow One.
Basically if we delve Zacama and Striped Riverwinder with our Soulflayer will become an outrageous killing machine, with more keyword abilities than we can read, ending the game in a couple of turns.
Grixis Hollow Flayer - Jeff Hoogland
|1Island||1Gurmag Angler||2Izzet Charm|
|1Mountain||1Tasigur, the Golden Fang||4Thought Scour|
|2Swamp||2Gifted Aetherborn||2Collective Brutality|
|1Steam Vents||3Flamewake Phoenix||4Burning Inquiry|
|2Watery Grave||4Hollow One||4Faithless Looting|
|3Bloodstained Mire||4Street Wraith|
|4Polluted Delta||4Striped Riverwinder|
|4Zetalpa, Primal Dawn|
|2Big Game Hunter||2Gifted Aetherborn||2Flaying Tendrils|
|3Leyline of Sanctity||2Lightning Bolt||2Stubborn Denial|
Another more conventional take on the deck has been my pick of choice for testing lately. It simply adds white to include three copies of Lingering Souls. It was first introduced by Mike Sigrist playing at a GP. He made some minor changes: -2 Collective Brutality -1 Gurmag Angler + 3 Lingering Souls and adapted the mana-base adding 1 Sacred Foundry for 1 basic Mountain.
This way we increase the amount of graveyard flashback spells, making the deck more resilient to the slow starts with a more powerful mid-late game.
Lingering Hollow One - Adam Herbers
|1Arid Mesa||4Bloodghast||4Burning Inquiry|
|3Blackcleave Cliffs||4Flameblade Adept||4Faithless Looting|
|2Blood Crypt||4Flamewake Phoenix||4Goblin Lore|
|4Bloodstained Mire||3Gurmag Angler||4Lightning Bolt|
|2Mountain||4Hollow One||3Lingering Souls|
|1Sacred Foundry||4Street Wraith|
|2Ancient Grudge||2Big Game Hunter||2Collective Brutality|
|2Engineered Explosives||2Fatal Push||2Grim Lavamancer|
|3Leyline of the Void|
Matchups and Sideboarding
As for every sideboard in Modern, 15 cards can't cover the wide variety of matchups that players run into, but there are some regulars that all lists include:
- Creature hate: Fatal Push, Grim Lavamancer, Big Game Hunter.
- Graveyard hate: Leyline of the Void, Nihil Spellbomb.
- Artefact dedicated hate: Ancient Grudge.
- Grind matchups & catch-all answers: Engineered Explosives, Thoughtseize,
- Others: Blood Moon, Liliana of the Veil.
I have been changing it from time to time in order to try some cards that nobody expects like Hazoret the Fervent ,which I love, Liliana, the Last Hope, or even some enchantment hate cards in the shape of Destructive Revelry. Anyways, this is my actual configuration:
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Fatal Push
2 Grim Lavamancer
2 Big Game Hunter
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Collective Brutality
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Hazoret the Fervent
As for the lack of some common sideboard cards - I am not a fan neither of Blood Moon or Leyline of the Void. As the Hall of Fame Gabriel Nassif once mentioned on his sideboard guide review: "pretty much every list has them in the board, your opponents will play/sideboard assuming you do as well, giving you extra edge at no cost".
Most decks bring in artifact/enchantment hate, so I feel the cards underperform, but perhaps I'll add them later if I notice those cards less often postboard.
As for the matchups, I won't discuss every deck in the format, but I can at least discuss some of the more common ones that I've practiced enough to state general opinions regarding the Lingering Souls version, so keep that in mind for the card choices:
Humans: Unfavorable. Arguably the best deck in Modern at the moment, really fast and difficult to fight. If we do not have an explosive start, we will lose in the late game since their Reflector Mage on our fatties is really painful. In this matchup, Blood Moon might be very useful but even so, if Aether Vial hits the board, they are fine.
Bloodghasts are easy to block by humans so put all them aside and keep your Lingering Souls in, since they're very effective at blocking Mantis Rider. Finally Explosives on 2 is pretty good against them and you can pay only two even if Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is in play due to the interaction between her and sunburst.
Jeskai Control: Favorable pre-board, paired post-board.
Green Tron: Favorable. You run too much for them and you have recurring threats that are hard to deal with. Postboard, they will try to kill your Hollow Ones with Nature's Claim so keep that in mind when mulliganing. Lingering Souls is too slow for this matchup.
Affinity: Even. They can kill faster than you if they're on the play so you might need to play the defensive role. The spirit tokens are again amazing against their flying threats and postboard you can bring a lot of hate and you end up a bit favored.
Post board you bring in lots of good quality removal so Lightning Bolt becomes less exciting. Hazoret is totally unexpected and they often have no chance of killing her since they normally board out all of their Lilianas.
Burn: Favorable. This aggressive matchup heavily relies on the dice roll. If you are on the play you will likely win with a medium-fast start. As long as you keep Eidolon of Great Revel at bay, things go well.
Tips and Tricks
Flameblade Adept: Always play it before any discard on Turn One and play around potential flashy double blockers like Snapcaster Mage when you are attacking. Don't forget that Flameblade + Goblin Lore/Inquiry also triggers Flamewake's ferocious.
Street Wraith: If you have a hand with Wraith+Looting+Fetchland and you aren't looking for any specific card then fetch first before cycling and finally loot so you will (slightly) reduce your chances of flooding out and then you will have full information about what to discard.
Always cycle after any looting effect in order to find the free Hollow One. After turn 3-4 I tend to discard them with looting rather than cycling and finally, remember that you can cast Street Wraith, although I have barely ever done it.
Hollow One: If you run out of looting effects in the late game, don't forget to cycle these when you need some business spells.
Gurmag Angler: When delving your graveyard, I usually exile all the non-recurring creatures first to prevent any Scavenging Ooze interactions and then go after the instants and sorceries to shrink opposing Tarmogoyfs.
Bloodghast: when looting and discarding, always play the spell first and after it has resolved, play your land so you will maximize your chances of bringing back the vampire spirit. Against targeting graveyard hate like Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus or Tormod's Crypt hold your fetch-lands in play so you can bring them back after they pull the trigger on the exiling effect.
Lingering Souls and Fetch sequencing: when developing your mana base start by getting double red and double black to play Bloodghast from hand if necessary. Later search for Sacred Foundry, so Lingering Souls can be cast from hand and the Foundry doesn't get discarded randomly. Also remember that you can dodge some graveyard hate if you have 5 mana so you play it first and once is resolved you hold priority and cast it with flashback.
Discarding extra lands: Sometimes, you will get mana flooded while not having recurring threats to throw into your graveyard. When you're forced to discard lands in a flooded hand, be sure to hang onto Bloodstained Mire of other lands, as it searches for any land. The order I generally use is shock-lands first, then basics, and lastly other fetch-lands.
All in all, this is my review of B/R Hollow One and its variants in the current metagame. The deck has proven highly divisive because of its randomness and explosive starts. I figured I'd share my two cents on the deck and its place in the format:
Chance has played an incredibly important role in Magic: The Gathering since Richard Garfield first conceived of the game. Early on, ante cards created a large degree of randomness in the game (as well as other issues). These were eventually eliminated from the game and random-chance effects that involve flipping coins and the like began to gradually decrease in the competitive environment to reduce RNG, but RNG will always be a part of Magic, right down to its core.
I think Hollow One gives us a little bit of the original RNG flavor from the games beginning and the strategy has proven itself a strong contendor in Modern and I, for one, feel that it's as valid as any other strategy people might want to play.
As always, thanks again for reading and leave your comments below. Until next time.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.