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The Three Best Decks from Pro Tour Born of the Gods You Missed


What a weekend that was.

As I sit in Newark waiting for my connecting flight to finally make my way back to Austin, the peculiarities of the weekend keep ringing in my brain. The Threads of Disloyalty plays in the Top 8 that led to such blowouts, the ubiquity of Steam Vents, the mass draws in the final round as everyone got antsy about staying in the Top 25, the palpable let down of the coverage team when Frank Karsten (and a few of our other favorites) fell just short of the Top 8, and a finals match that was as fraught with tense moments as any I can remember.

My view from behind the curtain doing coverage is always quite different from the viewer back home. In some ways, I see more of the tournament than anyone. More games, more data, more access to the players when I wanted it.

In other ways, I see way less. I didn’t know what Patrick Dickmann was playing, for example, until I started doing research in advance of writing his Top 8 match. He had been covered by others on the team, but not by me. And I don’t get to watch coverage. Sometimes you just don’t get to see big picture when you’re that deep in the weeds.

But one thing I do certainly see are the interesting decks that fell just short, the truly creative endeavors that could break out given some care. When I did this look for Pro Tour Gatecrash, for example, I pointed out a cool little Humans Reanimator combo deck played in the main event. The very next week it got second at Grand Prix Quebec City. Catching on to these things can mean winning a tournament the very next week.

Granted, there wasn’t a ton that ended up being new in Valencia, but there were three decks I wanted to highlight, plus one kind of honorable mention, for all of your rogue Modern needs.

Everyone knew about Living End coming into the weekend, and it was a good day one story when Michael Hetrick went undefeated. It was a less good day 2 story when he succumbed to enough losses in a row to knock him out of contention.

But lost in all of that was the fact that not everyone was cascading into the same Suspend spell. Alfonso Barcelona Cabeza dared to cascade into Restore Balance, a wildly powerful spell that severely limits the way you build your deck in order to utilize it.

Borderposts, for instance, let you Balance away land. But they also require basic lands in a format with a lot of great nonbasic lands. And because Balance often involves sacrificing a bunch of permanents to Greater Gargadon, beating counterspells can be very difficult.

But Cabeza seemed to make it work. His version differs from others that have popped up now and then with the addition of Thassa, God of the Sea and Riftwing Cloudskate, plus a more liberal use of Planeswalkers.

It was also the first Cascade deck I saw to transform in the board away from its main cascade plan, as Cabeza clearly decided he wanted to cascade into Kor Firewalkers against Red decks rather than Restore Balance, which makes sense given aggressive Red decks ability to keep their land and hand counts low anyway.

So if you’re looking to cascade but want to stay out of the graveyard, this might be the right angle for you.

Another deck that’s not new, per se, but certainly underappreciated. Boettcher actually finished in 9th place, going 7-2-1 with his combo deck over the Modern rounds and remaining in contention right up until the end.

The basic combo is Ad Nauseam plus either Phyrexian Unlife or Angel's Grace to draw the entire deck, killing with Lightning Storm and the mana from Simian Spirit Guide once the entire deck is in their hand, often as early as turn three or four. The deck is pretty much entirely ways to produce mana and ways to find Ad Nauseam, making it a reasonable analogue to Legacy Ad Nauseam decks, even if they share very few cards.

The deck is interesting because Phyrexian Unlife is actually really good against Zoo just on its own, effectively gaining 10ish life for three mana. Being able to buy that kind of time lets the deck combo out comfortably whenever it feels like it against one of the most popular decks in the format. Its goldfish is a bit faster than Storm’s average draw (though not their nut draw) and doesn’t rely on creatures like Splinter Twin decks.

It does have problems Game 1 against Remand, Mana Leak, and Cryptic Command (which are significant portions of the field), but it certainly has ways around that post-board.

This is definitely the kind of deck you want to play if you’d rather ignore your opponent.

Here we have my pick for the coolest deck of the tournament. It’s a deck built around Krark-Clan Ironworks, a card that has been this close to broken for as long as it’s been around. I don’t think Taisuke Ishii broke it with what is essentially just another entry into the format’s combo pantheon, but the deck is seriously cool and has a number of interesting features.

The first is Open the Vaults, a wildly powerful card that is certainly at its best here. Open the Vaults was a viable Standard strategy for some time that never quite made the port to Modern until Ishii fused it with Ironworks, a strategy that was overshadowed by Affinity for its entire run in Standard.

We also have a deck that utilizes Thirst for Knowledge, the best Modern-legal card drawing spell that no one plays. It’s clearly ideal for this deck, as is Tezzeret.

But the seriously cool thing is that Ishii grafted a Tron deck onto the engine. And why not, we’re already playing pretty much all colorless spells? Granted, the actual Tron pieces don’t do a ton here since, outside Emrakul, we aren’t really using that much colorless mana. Still, the deck clearly has both short game explosiveness and long-game potential.

Really, though, the best part is the look on your opponents’ faces when Krark-Clan Ironworks leads to a hard-cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Seriously priceless.

While it was a wild weekend, these three decks were among the best surprises (that and some of the best Threads of Disloyalty ever). Will they reshape the format? Probably not.

But can they shake things up?


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