The Reign of Four-Drops in Modern - A Guide to Survive
Since the last banned announcement unchained Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, Modern has shaken up drastically - or has it? Although most players are brewing decks that include these cards, I've decided to make the ultimate survival guide for fighting against them.
Before the B&R announcement, the majority of the Modern community believed that the metagame was one of, if not the greatest in Magic History. The format was fun, diverse, balanced and interactive (well sometimes not so interactive). For instance, seven unique archetypes made Top 8 at Pro Tour RIX and then, only a week after, another seven different archetypes showed up at GP Toronto Top 8.
Then, Wizards made one of the boldest unbannings they've ever done in the format, giving life to Magic's most powerful planeswalker - Jace, the Mind Sculptor - and a certain elf - Bloodbraid Elf - who helped push Jund to the top when last it was legal. These cards, JTMS and BBE respectively, are so powerful that players worry Modern might lose some, or all of its trademark diversity.
At first, I was, like many Modern players, rather reluctant about the unbannings, especially regarding Jace, since he exponentially increases the price of any deck he's in. His price will drop slightly because of his reprinting in Masters 25, but the set doesn't look like it will significantly reduce the planeswalker's price and I didn't think Modern needed this iconic and highly expensive card when Modern was already in such a good place (and quite expensive too).
Enough complaining, formats will always change, banlists or no. Now that we have a new Modern to play with, it's important to know how to fight against these new powerful tools players will have. This guide is for those looking to play a non Jace/BBE deck and will give you some great options for fighting these powerful cards.
Option 1 – Go Under
Both the planeswalker from Worldwake and the elf from Alara have one basic thing in common: they are four drops. In order to minimize their impact on the board one way to go is simply kill the opponent before they can drop the cards.
Mindcandy - Hollow One - 8-0 in a Modern Challenge League on Feb 24th, 2018
|4Arid Mesa||4Bloodghast||4Burning Inquiry|
|3Blackcleave Cliffs||4Flameblade Adept||2Collective Brutality|
|3Blood Crypt||4Flamewake Phoenix||4Faithless Looting|
|4Bloodstained Mire||2Gurmag Angler||4Goblin Lore|
|2Mountain||4Hollow One||4Lightning Bolt|
|1Stomping Ground||4Street Wraith||1Blood Moon|
|1Swamp||1Tasigur, the Golden Fang|
|3Ancient Grudge||1Big Game Hunter||2Blood Moon|
|1Collective Brutality||2Fatal Push||3Grim Lavamancer|
|3Leyline of the Void|
The BR Hollow One deck has been pretty successful since his debut on camera at Pro Tour RIX; the mainboard hasn’t changed that much from Ken Yukuhiro’s list. This list only trims down one Gurmag Angler for Blood Moon.
The Jace Unsummon might be annoying for your delve threats, but the deck runs eight hasty creatures and dodges fate-steal with looting effects.
Angrams - Hollow One - MTGO Modern Challenge League on Feb 25th, 2018
|3Bloodstained Mire||4Bomat Courier||4Faithless Looting|
|4Copperline Gorge||4Burning-Tree Emissary||4Goblin Lore|
|3Mountain||4Flameblade Adept||2Lightning Bolt|
|3Stomping Ground||4Hollow One|
|4Wooded Foothills||2Hooting Mandrills|
|2Ancient Grudge||3Flamewake Phoenix||2Blood Moon|
|2Roast||3Leyline of the Void||3Grim Lavamancer|
Another safe route to victory against Jace and BBE is Burn. The Red Deck is always a good place to start when a format rotates or starts from scratch as sending three damage upstairs seven times will beat pretty much any deck and, if you do it as fast as burn, certainly beats Jace and BBE.
BERNASTORRES - MTGO Modern Challenge on Feb. 25th, 2018
|19Lands||14Creatures||27Instants and Sorcery|
|2Arid Mesa||4Eidolon of the Great Revel||4Lava Spike|
|3Inspiring Vantage||4Goblin Guide||4Rift Bolt|
|3Mountain||2Grim Lavamancer||4Boros Charm|
|2Sacred Foundry||4Monastery Swiftspear||4Lightning Bolt|
|4Scalding Tarn||4Lightning Helix|
|1Stomping Ground||4Searing Blaze|
|1Deflecting Palm||4Destructive Revelry||2Grafdigger's Cage|
|3Kor Firewalker||3Path to Exile||1Rest in Peace|
As for my personal choice, I used to play a lot of the Kiln Fiend deck back in the Gitaxian Probe days so I am looking forward to test it again. The deck is able to win on Turn Three with Kilnd Fiend followed by Manamorphose into Temur Battle Rage plus free spell or protection.
UR Kiln Fiend By Me
|18Lands||13Creatures||29Instants and Sorcery|
|1Breeding Pool||4Eidolon of the Great Revel||1Faithless Looting|
|2Island||1Bedlam Reveler||4Serum Visions|
|1Mountain||4Kiln Fiend||2Dive Down|
|3Polluted Delta||4Monastery Swiftspear||4Lightning Bolt|
|4Scalding Tarn||4Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror||4Manamorphose|
|4Spirebluff Canal||4Mutagenic Growth|
|1Stomping Ground||2Stubborn Denial|
|4Temur Battle Rage|
|2Ancient Grudge||2Bedlam Reveler||2Blood Moon|
|1Izzet Staticaster||2Surgical Extraction||3Young Pyromancer|
Some other good choices that neither interact with Jace or BBE nor need them are combo decks such as Ad Nauseam, UR Storm or Ironworks Combo but they are not hugely popular at the moment, with the potential exception of storm.
Option 2 – Go Wide
Our second suggestions, going wide, is especially good against Jace. These decks don’t need to rush to victory, although they can play aggressively off of an explosive opener. Either way, Jace can only bounce one creature, so going wide will make playing Jace impossible.
Oinkmage playing Humans - MTGO Modern League on Feb 23rd, 2018
|19Lands||37Creatures||4Instants and Sorcery|
|4Ancient Ziggurat||4Champion of the Parish||4Aether Vial|
|4Cavern of Souls||1Kessig Malcontents|
|3Horizon Canopy||4Kitesail Freebooter|
|2Seachrome Coast||4Noble Hierarch|
|4Unclaimed Territory||4Phantasmal Image|
|4Thalia, Guardian of Thraben|
|2Dismember||2Grafdigger's Cage||1Gut Shot|
|2Izzet Staticaster||1Kataki, War's Wage||1Kessig Malcontents|
|1Mirran Crusader||2Sin Collector||1Vithian Renegades|
Another Pro Tour RIX winner, Humans doesn’t need much to fight against the new metagame. Meddling Mage can name the new threats so they cannot be played and even if you wanted to play Jace, an army of humans would quickly dispatch the planeswalker.
BBE is a little more effective against humans, though Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the perfect blocker for the Elf.
Speaking about Elves, this tribe is not celebrating the comeback of BBE, as she is way to slow for the decks low curve. As a four drop, she doesn’t pair well with Collected Company and, considering the deck runs four CoCos, she would clog up the four-drop slot. Although some versions are running BBE instead of the green instant I would stick with the original plan.
Mrounds1216 - Elves
|18Lands||38Creatures||4Instants and Sorcery|
|4Cavern of Souls||4Devoted Druid||4Chord of Calling|
|3Forest||4Dwynen's Elite||4Collected Company|
|4Horizon Canopy||4Elvish Archdruid|
|3Razorverge Thicket||1Eternal Witness|
|1Temple Garden||4Ezuri, Renegade Leader|
|2Windswept Heath||4Heritage Druid|
|1Vizier of Remedies|
|1Aven Mindcensor||1Burrenton Forge-Tender||1Eidolon of Rhetoric|
|2Kitchen Finks||1Kataki, War's Wage||3Path to Exile|
|2Reclamation Sage||2Rest in Peace||1Selfless Spirit|
|1Thrun, the Last Troll|
Another tribe that loves to go wide is Goblins. The more the merrier they say, since they tend to share their abilities like haste, trample or even pumping effects with the others. This deck is halfway between the “go fast” and “go wide” plans since it can kill on turn three or four very consistently and it does that by going wide. Plus, Goblin Grenade is the sweetest way to end a game.
Another great upside of 8-Whack Goblins is the price tag, which is very budget by Modern standards and, additionally, will be getting cheaper when Blood Moon sees a reprint in Masters 25.
SaffronOlive - 8-Whack Goblins - MTGO Modern League on Feb. 20th, 2018
|19Lands||33Creatures||8Instants and Sorcery|
|19Mountain||4Foundry Street Denizen||4Lightning Bolt|
|4Goblin Bushwhacker||4Goblin Grenade|
|4Mogg War Marshal|
|1Blood Moon||2Dragon's Claw||1Goblin Rabblemaster|
|1Grafdigger's Cage||1Reality Hemorrhage||2Relic of Progenitus|
|2Shattering Spree||2Skullcrack||2Smash to Smithereens|
Option 3 – Go Your Own Way
As Forrest Gump did in his own movie, you can always choose your own path in the vast Modern metagame; just make sure you have the tools you need to either ignore or overpower Jace and BBE.
Tron is a good example of how you can overpower your opponent’s plan by slamming a Turn Three Karn Liberated. If you are sick of Jace’s unsummon ability, slam your Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, World Breaker or Thragtusk. They probably won't elect to bounce those creatures.
MiguelCaster - Mono-G Tron
|1Field of Ruin||2Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger||4Ancient Stirrings|
|4Forest||3Walking Ballista||4Sylvan Scrying|
|1Ghost Quarter||1World Breaker||2Dismember|
|1Sanctum of Ugin||3Wurmcoil Engine||4Chromatic Sphere|
|4Urza's Mine||4Chromatic Star|
|4Urza's Power Plant||4Expedition Map|
|4Urza's Tower||4Oblivion Stone|
|2Ugin, the Spirit Dragon|
|2Choke||3Nature's Claim||2Relic of Progenitus|
|1Spatial Contortion||2Surgical Extraction||2Thought-Knot Seer|
The deck first won GP Toronto and last weekend at the Magic Online Championship gave the deck's pilot, Dmitriy Butakov, his second victory in a row at this particular tournament.
Dmitriy Butakov - GW Auras - 1st Place at Magic Online World Championship
|1Dryad Arbor||4Gladecover Scout||2Path to Exile|
|1Forest||4Kor Spiritdancer||4Daybreak Coronet|
|4Horizon Canopy||4Slippery Bogle||4Ethereal Armor|
|1Misty Rainforest||2Gryff's Boon|
|4Razorverge Thicket||4Leyline of Sanctity|
|4Windswept Heath||4Spider Umbra|
|3Gaddock Teeg||1Grafdigger's Cage||2Path to Exile|
|2Rest in Peace||3Seal of Primordium||1Spirit Link|
As obvious as it is, the deck is very well positioned in the current metagame. Its main issue is Liliana of the Veil since neither Jace’s abilities nor most BBE cascades seem to be a huge deal against the Auras archetype.
Maindeck Leyline of Sanctity protects you against JTMS fate-steal and finisher abilities, it also avoids any sacrifice outlets and keeps you away from Bolts and other burn to your face.
Truth is, it is not the most interactive strategy, but it is very effective at beating pretty much any fair, interactive deck in the field.
QUICK TOOL GUIDE
Wrapping things up, there are some cards against our four drop “nightmares” in each color that you could consider to include in your sideboard for the upcoming events:
Blue: Jace’s Defeat is great at fighting the namesake card and any other blue spells. Disdainful Stroke counters both Jace and BBE but not the cascaded spell.
White: Leyline of Sanctity as we mentioned before protects against Jace’s abilities. Thalia does a great job delaying Jace and blocking BBE as well.
Black: Hero’s Downfall deals with both and it’s a mono-colored answer if you are playing 8-Rack or another black deck.
Red: Boil is a nice, surprising answer if you expect a lot of blue-based Jace decks.
Green: Thrun, the Last Troll is the ultimate hate card for the blue planeswalker, he cannot be bounced, destroyed, targeted, and, additionally, he'll run down the planeswalker in two hits if they choose to fateseal and can easily block Bloodbraid Elf forever. Choke also might be worth considering, given its ability to shut down any blue deck that likes to untap its lands.
Multicolour: Dreadbore is the cheapest way to deal with Jace and it also kills any creature. If you are desperately in need for some counterspell for BBE and her cascade, try Double Negative and/or Counterflux with its Overload cost.
And that should do it for this week. Let us know in the comments which other decks you think are good against Jace and BBE and some other hate cards that you are trying at the moment. Thanks for reading and until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.