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Black-Green Midrange in Modern


Hey everyone!

Modern is in a very interesting place where the format is constantly changing. Last month was littered with combo decks which caused Bant Spirits to break out. It seems natural to fight spirits with removal heavy decks. Creatures can be fought by Hallowed Fountain decks or Overgrown Tomb decks and I’m going toward the latter.

I have been trying different Modern decks lately because I’m teaming with Andrew Elenbogen and Max McVety early January at SCG Tour: Columbus. There are some great competitors on the SCG Tour so we need to practice.

Why Black Green?

I would like to have a good shot at fighting the top dog, Bant Spirits, without sacrificing too much in other matchups. Historically Tron was a rough matchup due to the lack of interaction with lands, but that’s no longer a problem with Assassin's Trophy and Field of Ruin.

As the Modern card pool becomes larger I’m able to add more powerful cards to my deck. Rock decks typically have the problem where they need cards to fight combo, aggro, and control with little overlap. Assassin's Trophy is a tool in my arsenal that ignores text boxes.

Mono-Black Devotion was great in Standard because Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall interacted with anything and bg in Modern is in a similar position. This is a valuable trait because it’s less about drawing the right spells in the right order and more of having a solid curve that fights many different opponents.

RIW Hobbies teammate, Stu Parnes, qualified for Pro Tour Cleveland at the Chicago RPTQ piloting bg Midrange:

Here’s a modern take on the bg archetype. Kalitas, Traitor to Ghet is currently the best end game. Burn hates facing lifelink with 4 toughness, Dredge creatures will die and stay dead, and surprisingly helps stabilize against Tron’s Wurmcoil Engines.

I like the mix of creatures Stu chose to play. Tireless Tracker, Dark Confidant, and Scavenging Ooze are all powerful creatures but have diminishing returns. The last card you want to flip over with Dark Confidant is a second copy. Multiple copies of Scavenging Ooze is awkward when you have to balance feeding the entire family.

Four Tarmogoyfs is reasonable because it’s a well-rounded clock, but I still have games where I draw too many. A total of ten 2-drops is a sufficient number to have one in the early game. Field of Ruin making colorless mana makes me not want to play Grim Flayer.

Maelstrom Pulse is still good enough despite there being some overlap in effect from Assassin's Trophy. It can kill all of the goblin tokens from Empty the Warrens, both Wurmcoil Engine tokens, and multiple spirit tokens from Lingering Souls. Remember it destroys permanents you control with the targeted name, too.

Here’s the list I have been playing:

Dark Confidant
I have kept the core of the deck around only making some tweaks.

The most important change is the discard suite. Thoughtseize and Dark Confidant deal damage to me so I would play to play as few copies as possible- two and three respectively. Inquisition of Kozilek is the best discard spell on the first turn because it stunts the opponents development setting up nicely for a turn two creature.

Blackmail is the seventh discard spell because it functions like Thoughtseize but doesn’t deal damage. I don’t want to draw too many copies because it is the weakest of the bunch while having the highest upside if you work for it. If I get a spell in the early game I’m happy because bg doesn’t finish games quickly. In the mid and late game Blackmail discards the high impact card such as Ulamog or Primeval Titan.

I’m sticking with Stu’s creature base as it has been powerful so far. Jundine Klomparens has gone so far as to cut Bloodbraid Elf from Jund in favor of Kalitas. There are also plenty of matchups I want to trim on Dark Confidant so I’m happy to have enough other 2-drops to ensure a coherent post board plan.

The Liliana numbers are different for a couple reasons. The first reason is I can have two different Lilianas in play at the same time. This is key because the games go long and I need as many card advantage engines in play as possible to ensure topdecks don’t get my opponent back in the game.

Liliana, the Last Hope
The second reason is I want three Liliana, the Last Hope in my 75. To avoid having too many Lilianas in my deck I needed to cut the fourth Veil. The sweepers such as Languish and Drown in Sorrow are not great. What I really want in play is the Last Hope every time. Languish doesn’t play well with any of my creatures except Tarmogoyf and none of them have synergies with Damnation. Drown in Sorrow plays better with Scavenging Ooze and Kalitas while Flaying Tendrils exiles Arclight Phoenix and Dredge’s creatures.

When Liliana of the Veil is weak in a matchup it’s likely the Last Hope will be powerful as they accomplish different agendas. Dark Confidant and Thoughtseize are also weak when I want to cut on Veils so I need a coherent deck when that’s the case.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth has been great and is rarely played. Stu suggested this after the RPTQ as a way to keep more opening hands. Treetop Village and Field of Ruin are powerful lands, but they aren’t great at producing black mana. Urborg allows you to hold onto Fields and Verdant Catacombs until Tireless Tracker enters the battlefield. It also casts a discard spell on the first turn and allows many land sequences to cast a turn three Liliana.

I prefer Urbog to Twilight Mire because it doesn’t filter Field of Ruin into colored mana. There is the upside with Scavenging Ooze, but it will create awkward opening hands.

The removal suite is fairly straightforward. Fatal Push is the most efficient kill spell in Black or Green. If a creature costs too much mana to dodge it I can hit with Assassin's Trophy or Liliana of the Veil. It’s easy to get revolt using Verdant Catacombs, Field of Ruin, clue tokens, or Liliana’s legend rule and minus abilities.

Assassin's Trophy has a drawback of giving your opponent a land, but it’s mitigated by attacking their hand. Since I go after their spells they will likely be relegated to playing one per turn anyway. The versatility of destroying any permanent is certainly worth it.

The Sideboard

Collective Brutality
Collective Brutality comes in against small creatures and Burn. The only way to gain life in the first game is Kalitas and I would like some help. It also kills Phantasmal Image and discards Path to Exile or Collected Company against Bant Spirits.

The second Blackmail is for when Thoughtseize is weak or I need an eighth discard spell. Collective Brutality doesn’t typically count for this because only hitting instants and sorceries is very restrictive. I can discard Valakut which is helpful as savvy Titanshift opponents are weary of Field of Ruin plus Surgical Extraction after sideboard.

The graveyard hate is diversified.

I want a Nihil Spellbomb against decks that use the graveyard, but don’t need to. It’s another way to interact without really spending a card. Soft graveyard interaction is good against Snapcaster Mage and Logic Knot.

Surgical Extraction shines against big mana decks because I can destroy their key land and exile all of the copies. It’s also cheap interaction against a quick Goryo's Vengeance. Since I only want two Surgical Extraction against Arclight Phoenix, Tron, and Scapeshift that’s how many I play.

Grafdigger's Cage
Grafdigger's Cage got a big boost in the power rankings lately due to Bant Spirits dethroning Humans. Collected Company is back and I’m thrilled, but that means you gotta play through the hate. I don’t want to draw to cages versus Bant Spirits so I play a single copy. It also prevents a horde of Arclight Phoenixes rising from the ashes, but remember they can still be cast for four mana.

With their powers combined I will board in these five graveyard hate spells to fight Dredge. It has been on the downswing lately due to the excessive amounts of hate, but that’s when I fear the deck in the winner’s bracket.

Fulminator Mage comes in against big mana decks. I will consider bringing them in against Hallowed Fountain Control on the play, but this plan was weakened by Assassin's Trophy giving the opponent a land. When I need to cut a lot of removal I can add Fulminator Mage is a playable replacement. It was better than I expected against such a wide open Modern field.

I prefer Fulminator Mage to Damping Sphere because the games can go long and the opponent can break out of the sphere in time. The same logic for avoiding Blood Moon in slow decks.

I think of Nissa, Vital Force as a Reality Smasher that doesn’t get hit by Terminus or Path to Exile. It’s an incredible threat against control while also buying back Fulminators against big mana without looking so mopey like Liliana, the Last Hope. Nissa can buy back any permanent which means Field of Ruin can also be working overtime.

Slaughter Pact picked up some points with the rise of Infect and the small numbers of Death's Shadow. It costs zero mana which is relevant with Dark Confidant. I like being able to double-spell with Kalitas on the fourth turn to immediately make a surprise zombie.

Cast Down kills most creatures in the format. It misses Kalitas, Thalia, Baral, and Tasigur. I think of Cast Down as the fifth Assassin's Trophy and that’s the maximum amount of 2-drop removal spells I want in a matchup. Both of my spot removal spells destroy big Eldrazi and Primeval Titan.

Tips and Tricks

The first discard spell you play should typically be Inquisition of Kozilek because you will likely use it to disrupt your opponent’s curve. Thoughtseize and Blackmail can take the payoffs which don’t need to be taken until later.

I like to play Dark Confidant first of my 2-drops because the longer Bob’s in play the more cards you draw. You must put Dark Confidants trigger on the stack, but you’re allowed to miss it if you go too fast. If you miss the trigger your opponent has the option to let it happen as it may harm you.

Tarmogoyf is the next creature to cast, but it only attacks and blocks. Establishing a clock is important in this deck because the top of the opponent’s deck is difficult to stop.

Scavenging Ooze is best in the later stages of the game when there’s plenty of long pig in the graveyard. It’s not only hungry for flesh, but also mana. The second forest is there to activate it multiple times in a turn. If there is a creature to be left standing I want it to be this gooey friend.

Urborg allows your opponent’s Horizon Canopy to tap for pain free Black mana. It might be right to not play it at times. Both players can hold onto their fetch lands.

I like to find Overgrown Tomb with Verdant Catacombs because Field of Ruin thins my deck of basic lands. It’s valuable to find these basics in the late game to trigger Tireless Tracker’s landfall.

Treetop Village becomes an ape for some reason. Just thought you should know.

Field of Ruin
If your opponent flashes in a Phantasmal Image to copy your creature land it will enter the battlefield tapped as an unanimated land. It will untap as a normal land and have the activated ability to turn into a creature until end of turn. If it becomes targeted as a creature it must be sacrificed.

Make sure to shuffle your deck quickly from Verdant Catacombs and Field of Ruin. bg is a very grindy deck and takes time even when you’re far ahead. I rarely take a draw with Hallowed Fountain Control, but Overgrown Tomb is much slower.

Put a die on top of your deck if Slaughter Pact is successfully cast as a reminder of what will happen if you don’t. Should the creature be removed before the spell resolves you don’t have to pay the upkeep cost.

Try and save Tireless Tracker for a time you can immediately get landfall triggers. Playing a land doesn’t use the stack; after your tracker enters the battlefield on your turn you regain priority. If the land you play is Verdant Catacombs or Field of Ruin wait to fetch for a land because the opponent can kill Tireless Tracker in response. Wait for them to kill the Tracker and then find the land because they will have to pull the trigger before your next main phase.

Fatal Push can target creatures with larger converted mana costs than it can kill. This is relevant when facing off against a Phantasmal Image copy or trying to dump your hand before Emrakul, the Promised End takes your turn.

Assassin's Trophy and Field of Ruin can only target your opponent’s permanents. Each player must search their library for a land with Field of Ruin, but are allowed to fail to find. You must remind your opponent to search for a land.

Field of Ruin cannot destroy your opponent’s basic lands. If the ability fizzles, if you target a fetch land for example, then neither play search their libraries for a basic. Assassin's Trophy can destroy basic lands; this is relevant if you note how many basics are in the opponent’s deck.

Remember to actually exile the card in your opponent’s graveyard with Surgical Extraction. You are allowed to leave copies of the targeted card in their hand, graveyard, and library. This is more relevant on Magic Online, but someone can call you on this in real life, too.

Grafdigger's Cage doesn’t do anything against Living End. This is because the creatures in the graveyard are first exiled and then returned to the battlefield. They do not come back from the dead. Flavor fail.

I like to sequence my spells in a way to get hellbent as quickly as possible when I have Liliana of the Veil. This means I may cast a removal spell instead of using her -2. There are times where I will discard an Inquisition or Thoughtseize to Liliana instead of cast it.

Both Lilianas are able to kill your own Dark Confidant should your life total get too low.

That’s all I have for today. I have been enjoying modern lately despite how hectic it can be. Each week I can try a new deck before I can try my hand at winning SCG: Columbus with Max and Andrew.

Thanks for reading!