Modern's One-Hit Wonders
Every time a new deck pops up in Modern, there’s a rush to play the deck, it becomes a flavor of the month, and then is shelved indefinitely. This week Hans revisits four decks that saw some time in the limelight within the past year. Do any of these decks have any shot at redemption? Let’s find out!
Welcome to this week's article, where I look at four one-hit wonder decks from the past year – decks that made a wave in Modern in some form or another, but, since then, haven't made any noise. The four decks I'm going to be talking about are Blue Steel, Soulflayer Surprise, Mardu Burn, and Mono-Blue Living End, and I'll discuss the pros and cons of each deck before giving a final verdict on whether the deck has any chance at seeing success in the future. Without further ado, let's dive right in.
Blue Steel by Zac Elsik June 17-18, 2017
|4Blinkmoth Nexus||4Chief Engineer||4Smuggler's Copter|
|1Cavern of Souls||4Etherium Sculptor||2Throne of the God-Pharaoh|
|1Oboro, Palace in the Clouds||2Judge's Familiar|
|4Master of Etherium|
|1Aethersphere Harvester||1Basilisk Collar||1Ceremonious Rejection|
|2Grafdigger's Cage||1Hangarback Walker||1Kira, Great Glass-Spinner|
|1Pithing Needle||1Relic of Progenitus||2Thorn of Amethyst|
|2Trinket Mage||2Unified Will|
Development of Blue Steel had been bubbling on MTGSalvation's forums for a while, but the deck made its mainstream debut last year when GP Oklahoma City champion Zac Elsik took it for a spin at Grand Prix Las Vegas. The deck's plan is to play out blue creatures in the form of Master of Etherium, Etherium Sculptor, and Mausoleum Wanderer which are in turn buffed by Grand Architect. Grand Architect then can tap these blue creatures to power out Lodestone Golems, large Walking Ballistas, and Throne of the God-Pharaohs to beat the opponent down. Due to the modularity of its cards, the deck can be quite complex in the decisions you have to make, and the games are interesting, though greatly draw dependent.
Zack's deck was featured in a coverage article on Wizards' website, and he was at one point 9-2 in the tournament, which prompted players to buy out cards such as Grand Architect in the hopes that the deck would have staying power. However, we haven't heard from the deck since then, and we're left to ask ourselves whether or not the deck could make a return in the near future.
- Powerful against some of the unfair decks of the format, such as Living End, Ad Nauseam, and Burn. Also has a good Grixis Death's Shadow matchup.
- Walking Ballista provides a great answer to creature decks of the format, such as Merfolk.
- Not a meta-deck, so players aren't familiar with the deck lists and the cards that are played in the 75.
- Deck is affordable, which makes it easy for players to pick it up.
- Not a fundamentally powerful deck, and can't race the speed of Hollow One or Humans.
- Terrible matchup against decks packing removal, such as Jund and Jeskai Control.
- Gets hit by splash hate in the form of Blood Moon and Stony Silence, as well as general artifact hate, which are all highly played right now.
- Lack of resources discussing the deck due to it's rogue status.
Blue Steel is a fun deck to play on a budget, and it's possible for it to take down a FNM or a smaller event. The price of Modern has been historically high, and if you'd like to enter the format without breaking the bank, this deck could be a solid option for you. That being said, this deck doesn't look like it's got the power to go toe-to-toe with the best decks of the format (namely Hollow One and Five-Color Humans), and unless the meta changes in a drastic way, it's unlikely that this deck will make another competitive splash.
Soulflayer Surprise by Andreas Schulte, 9-6 at GP Lyon 2018
|2Blackcleave Cliffs||4Bloodghast||4Grisly Salvage|
|1Blood Crypt||4Drogskol Reaver||2Commune with the Gods|
|4Bloodstained Mire||1Falkenrath Aristocrat||4Faithless Looting|
|1Blooming Marsh||4Lotleth Troll||3Lingering Souls|
|1Godless Shrine||3Spark Elemental|
|2Overgrown Tomb||4Sylvan Caryatid|
|1Stomping Ground||4Zetalpa, Primal Dawn|
|3Abrupt Decay||2Ancient Grudge||3Collective Brutality|
|2Lightning Axe||1Lingering Souls||3Savage Summoning|
|1Wear // Tear|
Andreas Schulte shocked GP Lyon this year when he brought his Soulflayer Surprise to the tournament and enamored the coverage team with his unique deck list. The deck throws creatures with keywords into the graveyard through Commune with the Gods, Faithless Looting, and Grisly Salvage and then casts a Soulflayer that gains the keywords of creatures it delved away. Despite the fairly straightforward game plan, it's not an easy deck to play against. According to Andreas, many opponents misunderstood how priority works in regards to cards being discarded via Faithless Looting and him casting a Soulflayer, with opponents trying to exile graveyards in between even though they didn't have priority. With a 9-6 finish at the GP, the deck didn't put up the best results, but is there a chance that the deck could find itself back in the limelight?
- Being a rogue deck means that it can steal games from players who don't know how the deck works.
- Despite the deck relying on its graveyard, graveyard hate doesn't completely cripple the deck.
- A four-color mana base means that the deck has access to powerful sideboard cards in games two and three.
- Greedy mana base means that cards such as Field of Ruin and Blood Moon are particularly potent against the deck.
- Graveyard hate backed by a clock is difficult to answer regardless.
- The issue of having greedy mana and being a synergy deck means that it has consistency issues.
One of the biggest problems with synergy decks right now is that the overall meta is extremely fast. Decks like Hollow One, Humans, and Affinity punish decks that take the time to assemble the right pieces, as those decks can easily kill their opponents on turns three and four. It's a fun deck that could serve as your second or third deck to keep your LGS opponents honest, but I don't expect this deck to pop up in tournaments results anytime soon. This was a one-hit wonder, albeit a fun one to watch on coverage.
Mardu Burn by Robert Smith, 26th Place at GP Vegas 2017
|2Arid Mesa||4Goblin Guide||4Boros Charm|
|3Blackcleave Cliffs||1Grim Lavamancer||4Lightning Bolt|
|1Blood Crypt||4Monastery Swiftspear||4Lightning Helix|
|3Bloodstained Mire||4Searing Blaze|
|2Inspiring Vantage||2Shard Volley|
|2Sacred Foundry||4Bump in the Night|
|1Wooded Foothills||4Lava Spike|
|4Eidolon of the Great Revel||1Painful Truths||3Path to Exile|
|4Searing Blood||3Smash to Smithereens|
Mardu Burn gained popularity for a short time last year when the archetype showed up in several MTGO 5-0s results. Bump in the Night theoretically makes the deck faster due to it being another playset of pseudo, one-mana burn. Every few months in Modern a different flavor of Burn playing an unusual card or two pops up, and this deck isn't any different. The significance here is the fact that Robert Smith took this deck to a 26th place finish at Grand Prix Las Vegas last year, which is no small feat. Does this mean that that the deck has legs to become the de-facto version of Modern Burn?
- Bump in the Night gives the deck another four copies of Lava Spike.
- The black splash is only for Bump and a one-of Painful Truths in the sideboard.
- Black splash means that the deck is taking extra damage from its mana base and makes it weaker in the aggro mirrors.
Props to Robert Smith for piloting the deck to a top 32 finish at GP Las Vegas, but I don't see this deck being viable over Boros Burn in the larger meta. Not only is the mana base greedier, the splash doesn't seem justified when the sideboard takes advantage of the splash with only a single copy of Painful Truths. If I were recommending a Burn deck to a player, I'd have them stick to Boros Burn. This deck was definitely a flash in the pan.
Mono-Blue Living End, MTGO 5-0 2017
|1Bojuka Bog||3Architects of Will||3Cryptic Command|
|3Field of Ruin||4Curator of Mysteries||2Mana Leak|
|12Island||1Drift of Phantasms||4Remand|
|4Tolaria West||3Street Wraith||2Supreme Will|
|1Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth||4Striped Riverwinder||4Ancestral Vision|
|2Dismember||2Dispel||4Leyline of Sanctity|
|4Leyline of the Void||2Nimble Obstructionist||1Tormod's Crypt|
Mono-Blue Living End broke out onto Modern when the MTGO 5-0 League results posted the archetype piloted by 1310Hazzzard on December 4th of last year. With its unique use of As Foretold in conjunction with cycling creatures and Living End, the deck caught the attention of players such as Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif, who played the deck on his stream multiple times. The game plan of dumping creatures into the graveyard, casting Living End via As Foretold, and having counter spells to interact with the opponent is a powerful one, certainly, but due to the aggressive nature of Modern and the deck's reliance on As Foretold, it hasn't seen any major success outside of MTGO. Does this lightning in a bottle have what it takes to take down a GP?
- Not to be confused with the ultra-linear Jund Living End deck, Mono-Blue Living End employs counter spells and As Foretold to have a more flexible and interactive game plan.
- Plays flexible and powerful cards such as Cryptic Command and Ancestral Vision, which give the deck a range of play against different archetypes. As Foretold is also an underrated engine card.
- Cycling ensures a level of consistency due to the number of cards you see.
- Mono-Blue Living End is susceptible to graveyard hate, and if the hate backed up by a clock, the deck can have a hard time against the faster decks of the format.
- Deck needs to see certain key cards for it to function – without an As Foretold, for example, the deck plays out as a bad control deck.
The deck feels like it's still missing a few pieces, such as a more consistent way to find As Foretold. This is Modern, however, and if more players were to take this deck to bigger tournaments, I don't see why it couldn't put up a good result. Then again, as of right now, there are objectively better decks in the form of Hollow One and Humans. This deck seems like the deck that has the biggest chance of breaking out with a significant tournament finish, and if you're looking for a deck to play in Modern, this would be as solid of a choice as most other decks.
Which of these decks do you think have a chance at reclaiming the spotlight and breaking out in a large tournament? Are there any other one-and-done decks that I should have mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.