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Five Decks You'll Play This Weekend


Welcome to Gathering Magic's weekly quintet of decks you should be aware of this weekend, whether you're playing a major online event, going to a Grand Prix, or hitting Friday Night Magic. This week, we'll look at the diverse Modern metagame, which took a weird turn over the holiday week, and peek in at Standard and Pauper.

Mode RN: The Nursing Challenge

Here's what 3–1'd or better at least twice over this week's Dailies (Bold = won a Daily):

  • Living End: 5
  • Affinity: 4
  • Red-Green Tron: 3
  • Amulet Bloom: 3
  • Storm: 3
  • Blue-Red Twin: 2
  • Jeskai Ascension: 2
  • Jund: 2
  • Ad Nauseam Combo: 2
  • Grixis Twin: 2
  • Infect: 2
  • Death and Taxes and Martyr of Sands each won a Daily in their only 3-1 or better appearance.

Is the beginning of Combo Autumn? Living End, Amulet Bloom, and various Storm/Pyromancer Ascension builds showed up frequently, including this Thursday's winner:

There doesn't seem to be any big finish here—just a load of value wrapped up in a Pyromancer Ascension shell. As weird as the deck looks—no Grapeshot, no Empty the Warrens, no Past in Flames—it's a reminder that decks like U/R Twin don't run a load of cards that can independently win the game either; they're looking to burn and counter and draw cards until they can put a combo together. Pyromancer Ascension isn't different in that regard; it's just assembling a different combo, one that doesn't instantly win the game. And since Pyromancer Ascension is susceptible to a narrower range of main-decked cards than Splinter Twin combos, there can be good metagame reasons to run something like this. It was at least good enough to win a Daily; it ought to be good enough to win a little more.

Living End has had reasonable results for a while, but this week, it exploded:

Until cascade comes back (fat chance) or cheap cycling creatures come back (thinner chance—does that mean better chance?), the main deck is set to within a card or two—maybe more Faerie Macabres this week, maybe more Beast Withins the next week. The game plan is straightforward: Cycle a load of creatures into the graveyard and then cascade into Living End (the only thing into which you can cascade) and return a lethal, if motley, menagerie. If that doesn't work, the creatures are eventually castable, many of them are decent size, and there are a load of them. Either the metagame's definitely prepared for it or it definitely isn't, and in the latter instance, Living End's a superb deck choice.

The sideboard is restricted by needing cards that aren't cascaded into (i.e. ones that cost 3 or more mana), so you get some evoke creatures (Ingot Chewer), Traps (Ricochet Trap), and other cards that can give value when not cast the normal way. Besides the cards listed in this sideboard, Sudden Death, Jund Charm, Slaughter Games, and Boiling Seas (Boil isn't strictly better when Dispel is popular) showed up this week. It hasn't been the weirdest deck in Modern for a while—not since Lantern Control became a thing—but it's still plenty potent (though not plenipotentiary).

One Spicy Metaball

I wrote about a new angle to Hexproof decks last week. This deck is definitely about hexproof creatures and Auras, but it as far in leftfield as this deck type has ever been:

This deck works not because of the raw power of Ascended Lawmage (I've seen that card a million times but still needed to look it up because I wasn't connecting it with Modern), but because a few things are true about Modern right now:

Ascended Lawmage

So while the traditional Hexproof lists have been able to gain a fair amount of life with Daybreak Coronet and Spirit Link, they are highly vulnerable to the removal people are already playing for other decks. So instead of playing 1-drop.dek and trying to gain life with creatures, this deck goes for the next sizes up in hexproof creatures—Sylvan Caryatid, (sometimes) Fleecemane Lion, Geist of Saint Traft, Ascended Lawmage, and Sigarda, Host of Herons—and plunks down Worship as a trump to several decks, particularly in Game 1. While Destructive Revelry can still take the combo down, if it's not there immediately, Steel of the Godhead can have enough time to make a difference. And while a stream of burn at the face might be faster than Worship shows up, this deck's creatures are naturally large enough to tussle occasionally with Goblin Guide and Wild Nacatl.

The sideboard's two-ofs look tentative, as though Bunnykept expected too many things and had put so much work in the main deck that the sideboard needed to be something. My favorite card in there is Nature's Claim; as painful as it can be, it can function as emergency life-gain if you have it in hand, there's a Keen Sense on one of your creatures, and a lethal Lightning Bolt is headed to your face. I would like to see Dromoka's Command somewhere in the list; with all the hexproof creatures, the fight option is a lot more likely to resolve than with other decks, and having built-in burn protection is valuable. I hope more people try this deck to tweak the sideboard—the core idea is very strong for however long Modern's metagame remains in its current form.

Standard: Catacomb Sifter's Tarkir Vacation

Sidisi is a brood tyrant. Four of Magic's twenty-two brood cards belong to the Eldrazi. Is it a Natural Connection?

It's been awhile since Sidisi, Brood Tyrant was a hit in Standard. It was a much more obvious hit when Whip of Erebos could pair with it; now using Sidisi requires a bit more creativity. Here, Sidisi has a few partially overlapping synergies that hold together just enough to work. The Zombie chain plus Catacomb Sifter is not only a significant ground speed bump, but also a boatload of scrying. Sidisi and Gather the Pack put several things in the graveyard, fueling either the delve spells and Kolaghan's Command. There's also the combination of Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector, with Rattleclaw Mystic's morph a nice redundancy if drawn late. The graveyard is a pretty safe zone to leave things right now, and as patched together as this deck looks, it also seems to be a nightmare to defend against.

Pauper: Leeching and Raging

It has been awhile since Putrid Leech got some glory, but it used to be part of Standard's ruling class—read about Owen Turtenwald's quarterfinal match from Grand Prix Washington (with Pentad Prism repeatedly written instead of Prophetic Prism) to gain a sense of how good it can be. It hasn't had a Pauper home for a while, but maybe this is it:

A large portion of the deck is reusable, from the flashback of Chainer's Edict and Firebolt to the retrace of Flame Jab to the recover of Grim Harvest to dredge creatures; Gurmag Angler gives use to the other cards. But this deck only puts cards in the graveyard on an as-needed basis: Satyr Wayfinder is the only reliable graveyard-filler. As often as the deck engages in graveyard shenanigans, it's also a beatdown deck backed by copious removal, and Putrid Leech leads the beatdown, dodging Lightning Bolts and dealing 4 damage as it always has.

The sideboard is notable for having Quiet Disrepair. While it reads as an underwhelming card, its two disparate modes allow it to be effectively a split card, saving valuable sideboard space. Although it doesn't always have targets, there aren't comparable cards in Pauper for repeatable life-gain (Ajani's Mantra waves feebly), so when it's good, it's very good. The Time Spiral block has a lot of texty commons; some of them might find a niche in your Pauper decks.


It's rare to see a shift like this in Modern without an obvious cause. Maybe only fair-deck players took Thanksgiving off . . . or maybe the Affinity-heavy Grand Prix Pittsburgh skewed deck choices. Either way, it was nice to see an offbeat slate of successful decks this week, even if they're not the most interactive bunch.

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