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March 3, 2016

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Rogue Tech Report: March 2016 Edition

Hello and welcome back to Rogue Tech Report, where quality decks meet creative tomfoolery!

Today we’ve got three spicy new pieces of tech, and in keeping with Modern’s linear progression of how-to-beat-the-Eldrazi beast, each one of them gives you at least a glimpse of an edge against Modern’s new bogeyman.

I’m sure many of you are with me in being sick and tired of playing against this overpowered titan, and are praying for something to get the axe. However, until it does, we’re stuck trying to make the most of the options we have available to us – so without further ado, let’s get to what some of those new options look like.

           

Having recently rode the price train up to $40, Painter’s Servant was rapidly hyped as powerful anti-Eldrazi tech, given that it effectively wipes out the advantages gained by Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple. Unfortunately, it’s also a 1/3 vanilla creature, which doesn’t get that far in Modern – so further applications are required before the card stands a chance at seeing competitive action.

Welcome to 2016, where we discover combos using cards from 2005 and 2008. Painter’s Servant and Teysa, Orzhov Scion form a powerful but strange two-card combo. Powerful because it gives you an enormous advantage. Strange because it doesn’t win you the game.

By declaring Black with the Servant, you can then use Teysa to start off a chain reaction where you sacrifice three White creatures you control to exile target creature, and because those White creatures are also Black, you create three White (and Black) spirits using her second ability. You then use those three White (and Black) spirits to exile target creature, and because… and because… you see where this is going.

It’s not quite truly a two-card combo though, because you need three White creatures to get the engine started. But if that sounds like a lot of kindling for your fire, consider how easy spare White bodies come in a deck that already plays Lingering Souls, Kitchen Finks, and Voice of Resurgence. With this mix of synergy, the combo fits really well into Abzan Collected Company.

Skeptical if the effect of the combo is worth assembling? Consider the following:

  1. As mentioned, Painter’s Servant on its own is natural tech against Eldrazi. When all your opponent’s Eldrazi are Black (or any other colour), Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple suddenly don’t work anymore.
  2. Got a problem out-valuing Reality Smasher, or dealing with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Both of these Eldrazis protective effects do nothing against creature abilities, so Teysa, Orzhov Scion can get rid of them easily.
  3. No role for the Servant’s effect or the combo against an opponent? Side out the Servant but leave Teysa in as an alternative win condition to Murderous Redcap. If you set up a Viscera Seer-Kitchen Finks-Melira, Sylvok Outcast loop with Teysa in play, you generate infinite 1/1s and swing for the win next turn. (You can even do it without the Seer if you start the loop with two extra White creatures!)
  4. No role for Teysa or the combo? Swap her for Mirran Crusaders and use Painter’s Servant to build your own Etched Champion. Or if Aggro’s got you down, declare Red and watch how much extra work Kor Firewalker does.

It’s a bit of a silly new option, but it’s brilliantly positioned in the meta of Eldrazi winter, and has a ton of flexibility in one of the format’s best toolbox decks. My name is Alex Wolf, and I approve of this new nonsense.

           

They can go big, but we can go bigger.

While Iona, Shield of Emeria doesn’t do a lot against colourless foes, Blazing Archon poses a different kind of lockdown on our spaghetti-limbed friends. Sitting outside of Dismember range, it’s nearly impossible for Eldrazi decks to remove (except those running White for Path to Exile, in which case Dispel is your friend), and is otherwise game over if unanswered. Just make sure not to cast Gifts Ungiven while they have a Relic of Progenitus up, and you’re good to go.

It’s actually an effective card against a lot of different strategies. If you can pull it off through countermagic and incidental graveyard hate, Blazing Archon is also a reasonable reanimation target against Jund, Affinity, and Merfolk, as well as various combo decks that rely on attacking such as Grishoalbrand and Breachscape.

Depending on your meta, this is most likely a sideboard move, but one that gives Gifts decks a very strong answer to our new overlords, as well as other aggressive decks with poor removal options.

           

No, not all three in the same deck, but Commune with Lava has been showing up a little bit as a 1- or 2-of in Red-based combo decks. And while not technically a strong anti-Eldrazi move, it does produce some marginal benefit, either by being able to set up the win earlier, or by generating “cards in hand” that don’t get picked off by Thought-Knot Seer. But where should you play it?

It’s a natural fit for Scapeshift decks, as an excellent way to make use of excess mana. When you’re sitting on a not-quite-enough six land board (Scapeshift decks tend to need either seven or eight land before comboing off for the win), looking at four or more extra cards for your next turn is likely to seal the deal. Unlike Peer Through Depths and the like, Commune with Lava lets you use its cards to both hit a land drop and try to enact your combo, which is a critical improvement for this deck specifically.

It’s also useful in more controlling variants of Storm decks. While Eldrazi decks were running a full set of Relic of Progenitus, and graveyard interactions were momentarily suppressed in Modern, a kneecapped Past in Flames led some Storm players to get creative. Adding Remands and Commune with Lavas into these traditional turn-four killers change the game plan to one that draws it out as long as it can survive, sculpting its hand and maximizing available mana before going for a big turn to close it out. It’s different, and certainly less explosive than traditional Storm builds, but also effective.

In either case, Commune with Lava is certainly a strong play, and I will be playing at least one in the Scapeshift main deck.

Defeating our new Overlords with Ingenuity

As a rule, I stick to three pieces of new tech for this column, but the reality is that so many strange cards have come out of the woodwork in the last month, all in response to dealing with the new Eldrazi menace (for as long as it remains unbanned…) From cheap, penalty-free ways to deal with Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, like Big Game Hunter and Loyal Sentry, to obscure ways of dealing with big mana, like Spreading Algae + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, you can complain about Eldrazi decks dominating the format, but you can’t deny the innovation that has emerged as a result. (Whether or not this is considered “meta-warping” or not is another question… and an easy one to answer.)

Anyway, that’s all for this week. I hope you enjoyed this edition of Rogue Tech Report. Until next time, have fun, and may the force be with brew.