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July 7, 2016

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Rogue Tech Report: July 2016 Edition

Hello and welcome back to Rogue Tech Report, where we take a look at some of the stranger plays going on in established Modern decks that might just actually be good.

First up this week, we have a couple Standard all-stars creeping their way into Modern together with Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker.

Standard Pillars as Modern Engines

                   

While neither of them are the stuff dreams are made of when played on curve, they each make fantastic use of extra mana, and bring some much-appreciated card advantage into aggressive creature-based decks. Duskwatch Recruiter has been spotted as a one-of in Kiki-Chord decks, where he can use mid-late game big mana to act as a reasonable Chord of Calling facsimile. Meanwhile Tireless Tracker is started to see experimental use in Abzan Midrange, as a way to generate card advantage versus control decks and keep the gas coming.

I think both cards play especially well with both Aether Vial and Collected Company, though, where it becomes particularly easy to set them up into excess-mana situations. (Not to mention that Vialing in a Duskwatch Recruiter on a quiet turn can generate an immediate flip – and you can even use its activated ability while the flip is on the stack. Filter and ramp all out of a 2-counter Vial activation? Good god yes.)

There’s certainly a brew coming later this month with these badboys, but don’t let my love for them in a rogue deck sully their suitability for real decks. These are are here to stay.

Hallowed Moonlight in any High-Shenanagins Meta

Next up we have a card that was hyped extensively upon its release, but since hasn’t gone on to do much other than fend off some Collected Company decks in Standard. But it turns out that some of the recent developments in the Modern meta game have left us with a decent collection of cheating-in abilities that Hallowed Moonlight counters better than anything else in the card pool. What exactly does it accomplish?

  • It shuts off the Kitchen Finks loop in Melira, Sylvok Outcast + Viscera Seer combo decks, which is great as it is, but it also viciously shuts off everything that makes that deck good. Collected Company? Nope. Voice of Resurgence? Nice Grizzly Bear, bro. It even deals with Finks in non-combo situations, preventing its recurrence without spending a card. Anytime you’re playing white and Abzan Coco is around, you want Hallowed Moonlight in multiples.
  • Through the Breach or Goryo’s Vengeance got you down? These cards do literally nothing with Hallowed Moonlight around, again at the cost of zero cards. It’s not often that you get a two mana white spell that says “You don’t lose the game this turn,” never mind one that draws you a card too. It’s a bit imperfect that your opponent can still choose to keep their Breach target in their hand, but in most cases, their hopes of casting it another way are dimly lit.
  • Similarly, Nahiri, the Harbinger is miles worse when her ultimate doesn’t work. Sure, removal is removal, but is anyone ever playing Nahiri without a target for her -8?
  • Hey Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, take a turn off. Often enough, that will be all you need. Plus, it shuts off everything else Chord of Calling does.
  • Got a problem with Prized Amalgam and/or Vengevine? Not anymore. It doesn’t care where the card comes from – as long as its not the hand, you’re in a good spot.
  • And even when your opponent isn’t trying to end the game on the spot, Moonlight even does great work against tokens, including those in non-dedicated decks like Lingering Souls

All in all, it’s a bit of a surprise that this card hasn’t seen much Modern love to begin with, but as more and more months go by, its relevance seems to multiply. I’m now running two in the just about every white deck’s sideboard.

Disdainful Stroke in Tempo Decks

Finally, we wind up at a really unexpected one in Disdainful Stroke. Yeah, the same one you threw out a stack of when Khans rotated out (but can thankfully recoup for about a quarter apiece.)

Don’t believe me? Just ask Ray Perez Jr., who piloted a blue-white control deck to the top 16 of GP Detroit this spring with one in the sideboard.

At least for the time being, Modern as a format is slowing down, and we’re starting to see more cards like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Primeval Titan, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Ad Nauseam, Collected Company, Thought-Knot Seer, Nahiri, the Harbinger and others pop up – not to mention just about every card in Tron.

The question you should be asking here is why not simply play the more flexible Mana Leak instead. But the issue is that many control decks are already well-equipped to deal with early threats of all sizes thanks to Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, but as mana costs creep up, you start to encounter spells whose impact is already felt by the time its resolved, regardless of if it sticks around. Tron isn’t only scary because it gets to seven mana on turn 3, it’s also scary because it gets to ten or more just as quickly. Want a bulletproof way to keep Karn Liberated off the board, but can’t play Cryptic Command? A sideboard Stroke is the answer.

Wrapping Up

As the metagame gets slower, games go longer and cards get bigger. Natural answers to this development are improvements in efficient card advantage, and ways to keep yourself from dying to a giant threat or a cheated rule. If I was asked about these cards this time last year, I likely would have been hesitant to advise anyone to bother keeping any in their collection, but the times, they are-a-changin’.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Rogue Tech Report. Join us again next week when I put Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker into action in a great new home.

Until then, have fun, and may the force be with brew.