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Faithless Looting Replacements: Updating Dredge, Izzet Phoenix, and Mardu Pyromancer

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Well, whether we agree with it or not, Faithless Looting is no longer part of the Modern format.

Faithless Looting

So what does that mean for graveyard decks? Do we throw them all in the garbage? What if you already have your Dredge deck? Or your Izzet Phoenix deck? It doesn't look like they're going to print Careful Study anytime soon, so where do we turn... are there viable replacements for Faithless Looting in Modern? Well, there's good news and bad news.

The bad news is that there really aren't great one for one replacements for Faithless Looting. The card was by far the most efficient version of the effect available in the format - there was a reason it was one of the best cards in the format and why it was banned. However, don't fret... There's good news too!

The good news is that with Faithless Looting gone, the graveyard has just become a much safer zone to play from. Without decks like Hogaak, Dredge, and Izzet Phoenix making graveyard removal not only mandatory in sideboards but also a sometimes necessary edge in maindecks, the graveyard becomes less of an "all in" proposition. This means we don't need to be doing something as powerful as Hogaak with our graveyard to overcome the trouble of playing around the hate.

This is because, frankly, there isn't really any hate right now. A quick look at the results from SCG Tour Dallas last weekend reveals very few graveyard decks, and most importantly a definitive lack of graveyard hate across most of the top decks from the event. So while Faithless Looting may be gone, there's far less pressure on your graveyard deck to be amazing because you'll be able to do your thing unimpeded much more often.

Leyline of the Void

What would you rather play; fully powered Dredge in a world where everyone has four Leyline of the Void? Or a slightly weaker but still fundamentally powerful Dredge deck in a world where almost nobody has intense graveyard hate? It's not about how powerful these decks are in a vacuum, it's about how powerful they are in the current format.

So let's take a look at three of the best Faithless Looting decks from the last year or so and see what we can do.

Dredge

Perhaps one of the most consistently powerful graveyard decks of the last few years, Dredge was a deck that used every part of the Faithless Looting buffalo. Obviously using it to put cards into the graveyard was nice, but using the two draws to enable fast dredging once you already had a dredge card in the graveyard sped you up considerably, and flashback was also super relevant as it allowed you to keep dredging without ever even drawing Faithless Looting. That's a lot of power and utility to replace. However, Faithless Looting isn't even the most powerful enabler in Dredge.

Cathartic Reunion

While Faithless Looting was a great piece to the puzzle that worked from all angles for a cheap cost, Cathartic Reunion is the true powerhouse card in Dredge that does literally everything. One Cathartic Reunion and a dredge card or two will usually flip almost a quarter of your deck in one shot, even starting from a completely empty graveyard. It's this amount of speed that gave Dredge it's most broken openings and we've still got it. The question, of course, is what do we use to bridge the gap when we don't draw Cathartic Reunion?


While the main event was devoid of graveyard decks, Jake Peralez would simply swap his Faithless Lootings out for Tome Scours, change a few lands, and go on to win the Sunday Modern Classic with his slightly modified Dredge deck. Given how little has changed here and how much optimizing there still is to do, it's not hard to see that Dredge is a deck that still has legs. The problem is that 12 Blue sources is not nearly enough to cast Tome Scour on turn one making it very unreliable. I would venture that Jake won in spite of Tome Scour/his mana base, not because of it.

So alongside Tome Scour, let's look at our options:

Hedron Crab
Drowned Rusalka
Glimpse the Unthinkable
Magus of the Bazaar
Ideas Unbound
Tormenting Voice

There are others, but Blue offers a number of significant mill options that can be turned toward our own library for fun and profit. If you were looking to dredge Stinkweed Imp twice off of Faithless Looting anyway, Glimpse the Unthinkable does the exact same thing, while Hedron Crab and Drowned Rusalka provide cheap engines for milling that scale far better into the game than something like Shriekhorn. These cards have a pedigree too:


Sure it was a different format and Bridge From Below, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Dread Return were all legal, but the concept is there. Without Bridge From Below, Drowned Rusalka doesn't look as impressive, but the ability to keep dredging over and over via Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam is pretty good.

A first attempt:


We've maintained the Red for Cathartic Reunion and the Green for Life from the Loam, avoiding Glimpse the Unthinkable for now, but it's very possible you just want to beub.

Dredge is still very powerful and can certainly survive this banning, but retooling the deck will be necessary.

Izzet Phoenix

Ah yes, Izzet Phoenix, the scourge of Modern since my friend and former teammate unleashed Arclight Phoenix on an unsuspecting Modern format. This is probably where the Faithless Looting ban hits hardest, as Faithless Looting was definitely the singular best enabler for Arclight Phoenix available. The deck already wants a huge density of one-mana cantrips, so having a cantrip that binned Arclight Phoenix quickly and easily was a large part of what allowed multiple Arclight Phoenix attacking on turn two or three.

There are possible replacements, but they aren't super exciting:

Chart a Course
Izzet Charm
Seasoned Pyromancer

...that's basically it.

Seasoned Pyromancer doesn't jive very well, but Chart a Course and Izzet Charm are both serviceable. Chart a Course is a much better card to loot with as you maintain card parity, while Izzet Charm's flexibility makes it tolerable. The reality is that what made Izzet Phoenix such a good deck was not the times it had two Arclight Phoenix attacking on turn two, but the fact that it was a really good fair deck that could occasionally do broken things as well.

Thing in the Ice
Aria of Flame

Thing in the Ice and Aria of Flame are both still awesome Magic cards, providing very unique and powerful effects for the low cost of playing a lot of cantrips in your deck- something you're more than happy to do anyway. With both cards operating at almost full capacity despite the Faithless Looting ban, we've still got a lot of a deck here. Furthermore while Arclight Phoenix won't be as consistent as it was, it will also be seeing way less graveyard hate as well.

Let's give it a shot:


It's hard to feel out exactly how many Chart a Course/Izzet Charm you want, especially with Lightning Axe also helping out to get Arclight Phoenix into the graveyard for value, but there's still some serious things happening here that need to be respected.

Mardu Pyromancer

Of course, Faithless Looting had its effect on the fair decks too!

Faithless Looting was the backbone of Mardu Pyromancer, giving the non-Blue deck the ability to manipulate its draw steps while also gaining value of graveyard effects. Losing that hurts, but Modern Horizons brought some goodies for Mardu Pyromancer as well to help fill the void:

Seasoned Pyromancer
Ransack the Lab
Smiting Helix

Seasoned Pyromancer steps right in as a great graveyard value card that falls perfectly in line with Mardu Pyromancer's gameplan. You have plenty of spells you want in the graveyard anyway, so Seasoned Pyromancer does a great job of filling the Faithless Looting role of doing that, finding the right cards, and making sure you don't flood.

However, the card I'm secretly very excited about is Ransack the Lab. Yes this is just a colorshifted Strategic Planning, a card that does not see play in Modern, but that's because Blue has an embarrassment of riches in the cantrip department; Red and Black do not. Ransack the Lab can help us find the cards we want, provide fuel for Bedlam Reveler, and dump cards like Lingering Souls and Smiting Helix in the graveyard as well. Yes two mana is more than one, but Mardu Pyromancer isn't exactly a deck known for being fast, and our large amount of 1 mana interaction helps to make sure we don't fall behind.

Finding the right mix of graveyard cards is tough, but here's the first draft:


It's possible you want the third Bedlam Reveler and some numbers certainly need to be tweaked, but we've got a very nice start here that seems great against creature decks and Stoneforge Mystic decks alike. Hell, maybe you want Stoneforge Mystic too.

Nahiri, the Harbinger
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

It's also possible you want to let go of Bedlam Reveler and go for the Nahiri, the Harbinger + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn plan as well. There are a lot of options!

Don't Fret!

Yes, Faithless Looting is gone. However, in a weird way this opens up the format to a lot of possible graveyard shenanigans. Don't be afraid to experiment, as this is a very different format than it was a few weeks ago. We are going to need to realign our perceptions of the format, so don't be afraid to slay some sacred cows and push those unexpected buttons.

Good luck!