April 28, 2016

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Going Rogue: Blink and You’ll Miss it.

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Going Rogue, where winning isn’t the goal but it often happens anyway.

Way back in time, during Lorwyn block, I could be found sitting around my kitchen table with friends, cruising my way into an unstoppable wave of value by casting Momentary Blink on my evoked Mulldrifter. With some copies of Reveillark, Venser, Shaper Savant, Vendilion Clique, and Mystic Snake in the deck, there was really not much my opponents could do once the ball got rolling.

When this deck enters the battlefield, be prepared to get outclassed.

The History of Blink in Modern

Sadly, the archetype has never been successfully brought forward into the competitive realm, always falling just a tiny bit short for a few reasons. Perhaps most significant among them is that Momentary Blink, the archetype’s namesake card, is very narrow in its function. That, and the fact that most creatures with exploitable triggered abilities (primarily “Enters the Battlefield”, or ETB effects) are fairly low-impact at two or less converted mana cost, so set-up time was a barrier to success.

The main go-to effect to try to mitigate these downsides was Ghostway, which became a staple in the fringe archetype.

Ghostway rewards a board with wide ETB effects, and therefore doesn’t lose value quite as easily against removal. And in combination with creatures who also sport blink effects, a single Ghostway resolution could effectively end the game. Casting it with a Restoration Angel, Flickerwisp, and Siege Rhino on the board for a svelt life swing for 18 points is no joke.

In addition to these kinds of shenanagins, it also answered a key weakness of width-based strategies, which is the ability to survive board wipes. You can’t counter a Supreme Verdict, but you can still jump over it.

However, Ghostway had downsides of its own which impose awkward construction limitations on the rest of the deck. A mandatory board-blink renders Blade Splicer sadly unplayable, and can also give your opponent easy timing decisions on using removal during your combat phase.

Thankfully, we’ve received two massive gifts over the twelve months that offer the archetype far more potential.

                   

Collected Company was a huge boon for this deck. Suddenly the three-mana “sweet spot” for playable ETB effects became a blessing rather than a curse. A dearth of impactful two-drops is quickly mitigated by a new incentive to ramp, and as Mulldrifter isn’t actually playable in the deck, the card advantage offered bolsters one of the deck’s key strengths.

But it’s Eerie Interlude that is really going to make the difference here. First of all, previously not being able to play Blade Splicer was painful, simply put. An army of golems is exactly what these decks should be aiming for, and finally we can do it. Add that fact that we can now more profitably use Voice of Resurgence to punish effects that would aim to stifle our blink nonsense, and we have ourselves a winner.

To Splash or Not to Splash?

A good question. Obviously from the cards we’ve discussed above, the deck has its roots in Green and White. But this is Modern, home of the three-colour shell. It’s very easy to dip into a third colour, so let’s quickly see what we stand to gain.

Blue

Blue is going to do the best job of complementing the instant-speed nature of the deck. Under the 3CMC mark, we most notably gain access to Vendilion Clique and Reflector Mage, which both offer strong interactive elements to a creature-focused deck. Spellstutter Sprite is cute but doesn’t pair well with Interlude’s return speed, but fringe cards like Quickling might prove useful.

Meanwhile, although Mystic Snake is unfortunately mismatched for the same reasons as the Sprite, Glen Elendra Archmage is an incredible shut-down card in this deck, rendering Eerie Interlude effectively uncounterable. Options like this make Reveillark look like respectable post-board inclusions to handle the grindier matches.

Black

Black offers three main contributions. The first is Siege Rhino, whose power in the deck was already discussed above. A finisher that doesn’t need to attack is a real advantage in this deck, even if it does sit outside CoCo range.Secondly, black also lets us attack our opponent’s hand with Tidehollow Sculler and Sin Collector. When played conventionally, Sculler’s role in a blink deck will just delay certain cards from being available (valuable, but not back-breaking), but its trigger stacking can be messed with by instant-speed blink effects such that it takes the cards permanently.

And finally, Orzhov Pontiff is too good of a sideboard answer to overlook. The only decks likely to beat our width will likely feature tokens or other small creatures, which are a pleasure to deal with in one fell swoop.

Red

Meanwhile red sadly pales in comparison to our other two options. Abbot of Keral Keep just isn’t that good at the end of our opponent’s turn, and Boros and Gruul creatures tend to focus more on combat than ETB nonsense. The only good reason to play red would be for a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker-Restoration Angel finisher, and frankly I think we can do better.

 

The Future of Blink in Modern

Personally, I’m going the Bant route, Siege Rhino be damned. The interaction in blue is miles better, and since I’m likely to want Noble Hierarch anyways, staying on its colours while also increasing the number of 3/1 fliers I can cast alongside it seem like winning propositions.

Enough theorycrafting though, let’s get down to what I want the deck to look like.

Alex’s Bant Blink

Creatures: (26)
Blade Splicer
Eternal Witness
Flickerwisp
Kitchen Finks
Trinket Mage
Noble Hierarch
Quickling
Reflector Mage
Restoration Angel
Vendilion Clique
Voice of Resurgence
Wall of Omens

Spells: (12)
Chord of Calling
Collected Company
Eerie Interlude
Path to Exile
Relic of Progenitus
Aether Spellbomb

Land: (22)
Breeding Pool
Flooded Strand
Forest
Gavony Township
Hallowed Fountain
Horizon Canopy
Island
Misty Rainforest
Plains
Celestial Colonnade
Stirring Wildwood
Temple Garden
Windswept Heath

Sideboard: (15)
Worship
Spellskite
Mangara of Corondor
Grafdigger’s Cage
Kataki, War’s Wage
Meddling Mage
Aven Mindcensor
Kitchen Finks
Chord of Calling
Engineered Explosives
Reclamation Sage
Vendilion Clique
Glen Elendra Archmage
Venser, the Sojourner

Choosing Among Many Options

First of all, the number of possible tricks to pull in a blink deck run a very, very long list. Surely you have some of your favourites that didn’t make the deck list, and a strong case can indeed be made for many options.

In general, I tried to avoid creatures with self-negating enters and leaves-play abilities, such as Fiend Hunter, despite it helping with interaction. They might be the more versatile card overall, but for the purposes of demonstrating the archetype, I prefer things like Mangara of Corondor, whose effect can be made one-sided with a timely blink effect.

Playing the Deck

The deck plays like a fairly straight-forward aggressive CoCo deck, but has a few unique considerations. For one, it actually only gets aggressive after the third or fourth turn. There’s a brief setup period where you establish your mana, and an early blink target, and then aim to take over the game from there. Consider it like a control deck that turns the corner at four mana. Here’s why in a little more detail:

  • Noble Hierarch is very important. For one, the deck is light on two-drops, so it really wants to get to three or more mana as quickly as possible. But also, with evasive threats like Flickerwisp and Vendilion Clique, or otherwise tough-to-block Golem tokens from Blade Splicer, good use of Exalted can really start to add up quickly.
  • The two drops we do play, though, are quite key. Voice of Resurgence gives us maindeck punishment for interfering with our instant-speed effects, and Wall of Omens is a great blink target that also helps gum up the ground while we attack around other angles.
  • Poor Bant has a sad removal situation, but thankfully some of our creatures let us play a convincing tempo game. Treat Flickerwisp and Reflector Mage as temporary solutions to your problems, and use the time you have to have to get the job done.
  • Finally, the real advantage at the heart of our deck is the value engine inherent in our blinking, which can produce an obscene number of Golem tokens and help us out-grind a lot of other high value or attrition style decks.

The option between the wide/value and the aggro/tempo angles is a valuable one, and the deck can do a lot of crafty things to interact as well.

One of these things is a mini-toolbox in the form of Trinket Mage. As a 1-of that’s accessible by either Collected Company or Chord of Calling, we get good access to hate effects via one-mana artifacts.

In the mainboard, I’ve paired the mage with a Relic of Progenitus and an Aether Spellbomb, as both can be effective against unfair strategies, and simply cycle if not. (Heck, the spellbomb even plays into other elements of our overall game plan.) Out of the side, Engineered Explosives serves as a great catch-all, and Grafdigger’s Cage offers a more stable graveyard solution doesn’t interfere with our Eternal Witness (but does with our Kitchen Finks).

To assist with the deck’s toolbox element, the sideboard features a fair number of low-count inclusions, as well as an extra Chord of Calling for when silver bullets are called for in the matchup.

The exception to this is the lone Worship. The deck can have a somewhat challenging aggro matchup, on account of its limited low-curve interaction. Sticking a Worship on turn three or four is simply lights out against a lot of the decks that would otherwise give us trouble.

The deck seems to have a reasonable matchup against most opponents except for red-based aggro and combo decks. Some sideboard work certainly helps there, but most likely I will need to keep playing the deck and tweaking it over time. Got ideas? Send ’em my way in the comments!

It’s a ton of fun to play, and I hope you take the time to try it out.

That’s all for now though – stay tuned for next week as we resume the next edition of Rogue Tech Report, and look ahead to more spicy brews in May. Until next time, have fun, and may the force be with brew.