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Living End Deck Tech

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Hey everyone!

It has been a couple weeks since I've written an article. A lot has changed in that time; I was previously torn between Living End and Four-Color Elementals and now I'm all in on bringing creatures back from the graveyard.

I had reservations about declaring my allegiance to Living End in the past because I was nervous about the amount of graveyard hate emerging to fight the powerful strategy. We're now in a Living End metagame where it's both powerful and other decks are finally playing enough hate to respect it. Embrace this and get comfortable in the pocket of graveyard hate.

Here are the decks I need to consider (in no particular order):

  • Izzet Murktide
  • Azorius Control
  • Four-Color Elementals and traditional Four-Color piles to a lesser extent
  • Living End Mirror
  • Temur Rhinos

As you can see we have many decks to face packing either Counterspells or Endurance. The top decks can't exist while being behind against Living End.

Here's my current list:


Like other cascade decks there's a core that's hard to change:

Here are my flex slots:

Living End is a strange deck. The customization lies less in the individual card choices and more in the play style. I play a focused combo game plan preboard, but the sideboard offers plenty of customization to play around graveyard hate and counterspells.

Let's start with the core spells:

4 Grief - This is a key part of the maindeck interaction.

Living End is luckily not a dead draw because they can be pitched to evoke Grief. I cycle Architects of Will after Curator of Mysteries and Striped Riverwinder on the first turn in case I draw Grief in future turns.

I like to cycle on my first turn if I have a Black card in hand so I have the option to Grief. It's better to cycle at the end of turn to conceal information. Most of the proper mechanics of playing Living End include making decisions with maximizing opportunities with Grief.

When selecting a card to take from Grief, remember opposing creatures will come back from Living End. It's not always correct to take the scariest card because if they're cast the Living End will put them in the graveyard.

Grief plays out differently in each matchup. Sometimes you need to stop Teferi, Time Raveler from entering the battlefield on the third turn. Other Blue decks, like Four-Color Omnath and Izzet Murktide, you need to make sure the coast is clear of Counterspells before cascading into Living End. It's a judgment call on when to wait to evoke Grief because a scary spell may resolve that you could have discarded.

Free spells are a boon in this deck as they can all be jammed through on the same turn. I've won plenty of games where I missed by third land because that meant there were plenty of free spells to cast at once.

Grief is a generic form of interaction that becomes weaker after sideboard. This is because Architects of Will is the weakest cycler so you have fewer cards to pitch. Neither of them can be hard casted. As post board games get messier you're more likely to win a scrappy game of casting four and seven-mana creatures.

Supreme Verdict is a powerful way to clear a pile of creatures brought back from Living End, but will be discarded by Grief. Veil of Summer is able to grant your opponent hexproof from Black on the turn you put all of the creatures on the battlefield which makes Verdict more likely to resolve.

When I sideboard I like to at least trim Griefs for either Subtlety or counterspells depending on the matchup. My board is versatile enough to narrow down the interaction in some way.

4 Force of Negation - The second pitch spell in the maindeck that helps close the game against uninteractive spell-based strategies. There are times you hold a Blue cycler in hand to pitch to Force.

Violent Outburst is better than Shardless Agent because you can cascade on the opponent's turn and counter their interaction with Force without paying mana.

The hate cards, like Rest in Peace and Relic of Progenitus, are more likely to be faced after sideboard which changes the way you need to view Force. Just because Force isn't good in Game 1 doesn't necessarily mean it should be cut after sideboard.

Here's a Living End hate matrix:

Hate Matrix Pre Board Post Board
Azorius Control (Kaheera) 2-3 Chalice, 4 T3feri 2 Rest in Peace
Azorius Control (Snapcaster+Opt) 3-4 T3feri 2 Relic of Progenitus, 1-2 Chalice
4 Color Control 1 Endurace, 4 T3feri, 2 Eladamri's Call 2 Endurance, 2 Relic
4 Color Elementals 1-2 Endurance, 4 t3feri, 4 Eladamri's Call 2 Endurance
Izzet Murktide 2-3 Relic of Progenitus
Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Endurance, 4 Chord of Calling 2 Endurance, 2 Necromentia, 1-2 Chalice
Temur Rhinos 3-4 Endurance
Living End Mirror 0-2 Endurance 4 Endurance

Note that Endurance is the only popular hate card that dodges Force of Negation and you can even counter tutors for the powerful Elemental, such as Eladamri's Call and Chord of Calling.

I'm able to board out Force in clear situations that I would prefer Subtlety or I can lean into Blue interaction and have a critical mass.

Games will slow down after sideboard where I'm able to hard cast it more often. I'm focused on comboing in the first game, so I pitch Blue cards frequently.

4 Violent Outburst - I only need Red mana in the deck to cast Violent Outburst. If I search for Forest I'm able to use Violent Outburst through a Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon.

I don't typically cascade on the opponent's draw step even when a Grief is in the graveyard because the opponent can draw a counter or Endurance. Not worth the risk as the pile of creatures should be enough to get the job done.

A Violent Outburst at the end of the opponent's turn can play around a Supreme Verdict when I don't have Grief in the graveyard.

If you're worried about drawing a Living End you can cascade and then retain priority to continue cycling while locking in your spell.

To play around graveyard hate you can slowroll cyclers to bait interaction and then continue cycling. This is another reason it's not automatic to immediately cycle all Street Wraiths.

I don't board out Violent Outburst because the instant speed Living End is much stronger than the 2/2 from Shardless Agent.

4 Shardless Agent - Game 1 is all about finding one of your eight Living End outlets. After sideboard be comfortable boarding out a couple Shardless Agent since the opponent will have more ways to fight your graveyard.

Not only can Violent Outburst on the opponent's turn enable pitching Force of Negation, but when given the option to cascade you can hold the Shardless as the Blue card.

4 Curator of Mysteries - A 4/4 flyer for four mana is strong when the opponent is focused on mulliganing to hate cards.

The scry ability isn't important when you cast a big Living End, but the filtering is key in scrappy games. A 4/4 flyer is difficult to block in Modern and it's highly relevant it runs over Endurance.

I haven't run into a situation where I wanted to board out Curator as it's powerful in combo and fair games.

4 Striped Riverwinder - Since Curator can be realistically hard cast and Architects of Will can be pitched to Grief I find Striped Riverwinder is the first creature to cycle. A 5/5 with hexproof is strong against control decks as they can attack through Solitude and cannot be exiled.

When the opponent boards in graveyard hate and mulligans aggressively to find it the game goes later and a 7-drop is a legitimate threat. Living End's plan A is fast enough that opponents typically play the defensive role. You direct the flow of the game.

Like Curator of Mysteries, I don't cut Striped Riverwinder because it's useful in both combo and fair games.

4 Architects of Will - This creature can't be hard cast unless the opponent has Urborg on the battlefield. It's the cycler I look to board out the most because Griefs can be cut for more targeted interaction.

I look to target the opponent with Architects of Will more often than myself because it only enters the battlefield from Living End. The Cascade decks don't have great topdecks once their namesake spell resolves so I would rather prevent the opponent from enacting their gameplan.

3 Waker of Waves - Waker of Waves is the one creature that's able to use the single Forest to cycle. The average first two turns are cycling a Striped Riverwinder and Waker of Waves before cascading.

I don't board out Waker as it's a beefy creature to bring back in the combo games and provides extra selection in fair games.

4 Street Wraith - A Black cycling creature to pitch to Grief and jumpstart a big Living End. I board out Street Wraith against Burn. It's a great cycler for unfair games and helps refill the graveyard for Living End against Relic and Endurance. Swampwalk can occasionally come up, but Black is currently the least played color in top tier Modern decks.

1 Subtlety - I want four Subtleties in the list because it's great interaction against Endurance and Teferi, Time Raveler. It's another pitch spell to cast ahead of a big Living End.

Subtlety is great against Hallowed Fountain decks as I can transform into a flash deck. It's a way to interact with creatures without putting them into the graveyard.

1 Endurance - The maindeck Endurance is able to shuffle opposing creatures back into the deck or provide an effective counter to Living End in the mirror.

Endurance is also able to target yourself to shuffle back Living Ends to the bottom of your deck. There are so many cyclers in your deck that a single copy has a lot of value when the game goes long.

1 Colossal Skyturtle - I haven't used the Green channel ability yet to return a card to my hand, but the bounce ability is solid. I've bounced my own Street Wraith on more than one occasion. Brazen Borrower isn't an ideal way to interact in the first game because it doesn't play well with Living End and I'm looking for a powerful effect in Game 1.

Skyturtle combined with the three Brazen Borrowers are my interaction for hateful creatures like Lavinia and Meddling Mage.

19 lands - The mana base is stock. I've been happy with the lands, but I sometimes cut a Spirebluff Canal if I expect the post board games to play out slower. This is because the large amount of cyclers could lead to flooding and I only need one Red mana for Violent Outburst.

Sideboard

2 Mystical Dispute - Interaction for Teferi, Time Raveler and counters against Murktide. Even when you rely less on Living End after board you can force it through for one extra mana.

3 Endurance - The best graveyard interaction for the mirror and part of your flash game plan against Izzet Murktide and Azorius Control.

3 Subtlety - Interaction against Endurance and part of the flash game plan against Four-Color Omnath decks and Azorius Control.

3 Brazen Borrower - Interaction for hate such as Teferi, Chalice of the Void, and Relic of Progenitus. It plays nicely with the flash game plan against Azorius Control and Izzet Murktide without having to board in Foundation Breaker or Force of Vigor.

2 Force of Vigor and 2 Foundation Breaker - Since I have three Brazen Borrower as general interaction for hate the artifact/enchantment destruction is specifically for Urza's Saga decks.

Sideboard Guide

Azorius Control

In:

Out:

A Living End can come out because I will Endurance myself to put them back into the deck. I ultimately want to win with flash creatures and sneak in a Living End after the flash creatures are stopped.

Striped Riverwinder is reasonable to hard cast because it won't get eaten by Solitude or bounced with Teferi.

4 Color Elementals

In:

Out:

Watch out for Endurance and Eladamri's Call to find more graveyard interaction. Chalice of the Void, Endurance, and Dovin's Veto are the primary cards to expect after sideboard.

Living End Mirror

In:

Out:

The name of the game is having plenty of cyclers for a big Living End since both sides can cast it. There are times you can slowroll a cycler to hide who's battlefield will be bigger when it resolves.

Be leery of maindeck Endurance, but you will face four copies after boarding.

Temur Rhinos

In:

Out:

Force of Negation is the maindeck interaction to play around. Some versions have additional counters in Archmage's Charm.

Your cascade payoff trumps theirs so it's on Rhinos to make sure your spell doesn't resolve.

Subtlety isn't good against Rhinos Game 1, but I expect at least three Endurance to mess up your game plan. Make sure to also play around Mystical Dispute, too.

Izzet Murktide

In:

Out:

Again, you can trim a Living End because many Endurances will resolve and you can recycle them. Fewer Black cards are needed because Grief is taken out. There isn't a point trying to discard a Counterspell because they will have multiples.

Watch out for at least two Relic of Progenitus and a couple extra Spell Pierces and Flusterstorms.

That's all I have for today. Give Living End a try. It's weird, but more intuitive than you might think.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle

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