Deck Review - Hollow One in Modern


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.

Hollow One

Main Deck Choices

Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan (Bilboa) - Ken Yukihira's B/R Hollow One 

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.

Burning Inquiry Faithless Looting Goblin Lore

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.

Vengevine Soulflayer Lingering Souls

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

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

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

Matchups and Sideboarding

Fatal Push Leyline of the Void Engineered Explosives

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:

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.

In: 2 Grim Lavamancer, 2 Fatal Push, 2 Engineered Explosives, 2 Ancient Grudge (optionally)
Out: 4 Bloodghast, 1 Gurmag Angler, 1 Goblin Lore, (1 Flamewake Phoenix, 1 Burning Inquiry)

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.

In:  2 Collective Brutality, 1 Hazoret the Fervent
Out: 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Goblin Lore

Watch out for board sweepers, Rest in Peace, and graveyard hate in general. Even if they pack Path to Exile, Hazoret is a good choice to finish off the game if they run out of exiling effects.

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.

In:  2 Ancient Grudge, 2 Collective Brutality
Out: 3 Lingering Souls, 1 Lightning Bolt  

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.

In:  2 Ancient Grudge, 2 Engineered Explosives, 2 Fatal Push, 2 Grim Lavamancer
Out: 2 Goblin Lore, 2 Flamewake Phoenix, 2 Burning Inquiry, 2 Gurmag Angler

Jund: Favorable. Pre side they have lots of dead cards, Liliana of the Veil is awful and their main threats are Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze. L. Souls shines once again in this matchup.

In:  1 Engineered Explosives, 1 Hazoret the Fervent, 2 Fatal Push, 2 Big Game Hunter
Out: 3 Burning Inquiry, 1 Gurmag Angler, 2 Lightning Bolt

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.

In:  2 Fatal Push, 2 Collective Brutality, 2 Grim Lavamancer
Out: 2 Lingering Souls, 4 Street Wraith

Tips and Tricks

Flameblade Adept Bloodstained Mire Bloodghast

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.

Wrap Up

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.


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RonePro(16.06.2018 12:14)

Although it's a pretty fast resilient deck it also has its downsides and Rest in Peace / Leyline of the Void are pretty hard to beat. For now I really think the format is balanced. If you think the deck is busted you should try to play some games with it and realize it doesn't perform crazy all the time.

Thanks for reading and your comments, really appreciated!

Crampus(14.06.2018 14:21)

Too fast, too consistent and game breaking...
Ban it

Ganymedical(13.06.2018 17:48)

Awesome deck. When hollow one was spoiled i thought of something like that but also thought "would be nice if there are more cards like faithless looting". Thats all. Were too lazy to look for those cards :( fun fact: i have everything except the looting cards besides faithless looting. So i wait for a reprint of those quite pricy cards at the moment.