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A Plague on Modern


Looking over spoilers for Modern Horizons there were some clear standouts. Some cards will always end up slipping past everyone's view and the card I think needs more traction definitely is: Plague Engineer. It's true that Modern has quite a few decks but the ones that end up standing out are usually tribal or synergistic. Even the new Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis deck is filled with mostly Zombies meaning that one Plague Engineer can close off quite a few paths for that deck.

Trying to find the best deck for Plague Engineer may be a challenge, though. The first instinct is certainly a Vial deck so you can always put it into play and hold it for instant speed shenanigans. One of the biggest pros of being a Vial deck is the ability to reset it (with Flickerwisp/Eldrazi Displacer) or being able to put it into play with a creature on the stack (Think Vizier). However if you're being proactive I can certainly see it going in some discard based decks. Instead of creating new decks with Plague Engineer I'm going to look at established decks as a baseline to show how impactful the card will be in sideboards and in Modern.

First up is a deck that people keep coming back to for some reason despite its mostly poor performances. Ally Warfield has been known for her love of Overgrown Tomb and recently streamed a bit with this pile:

Jund often has to rely on clunky sweepers (like Anger of the Gods) in order to manage most of these Tribal decks. Adding Plague Engineer lets Jund be proactive in nature. Getting to the board in your hard hitting creature deck lets you better use removal and smaller creatures effectively. It's also something on an empty board you can cascade into. I'm not sure Jund is going to be the deck to play anytime soon but having access to Plague Engineer is excellent and the deck is positioned well to take advantage of the card. I like Ally's main deck but I think I would move to more Engineers in the sideboard.

Last week I suggested playing an Orzhov Taxes list to utilize Giver of Runes. However, I really missed out on Plague Engineer in that list.

The exceptional part of playing Plague Engineer in a deck like this is the ability to reset almost at will. When you're playing against some of the less focused "Tribal" decks, being able to switch up Engineers means you can keep your opponent off balance. Against those decks they will be gunning hard to kill them to make sure those Engineers just to be able to keep playing. Having the flexibility in this deck to be able to protect and switch roles makes this a scary contender. Often in these Vial decks there are some tensions in deck-building with Plague Engineer helps alleviate.

The real deck I want to slot Plague Engineer into is Humans. For quite some time Humans was relegated to the back burner of Modern, not really able to compete with Amulet Titan or Izzet Phoenix. With those decks on a downswing in favor of different faster combo decks, Humans is in a prime position to come back roaring. Now this may seem like backward thinking but the issue with Humans previously was its inability to grind through these decks. Not only did Humans get some new toys, the deck also is able to play very impactful cards. One of the downsides to Humans has been its inability to play ways to interact with opponents creatures. While Reflector Mage and Mantis Rider offers ways to move through or around these kinds of decks, having multiple colorless lands in the deck provides no way to interact in a favorable manner. Even with Dismember the plan falls to pieces easily in a racing situation. Plague Engineer lets us make use of Vials and Ancient Ziggurats to interact better with these kinds of Tribal decks while sticking to our game plan. Unfortunately there is the downside of not being able to pump our little Carriers, so the impact will always be felt. One of the top decks at the moment is the Devoted Druid deck which can be rough to deal with. However with Plague Engineer you get moments like this that are just *chefs kiss*:

Nice Vizier jerk.

Hogaak is definitely one of the best decks in the format at the moment and I wouldn't be surprised to see something from the deck eat a ban. Until then, if you're trying to play something else I've had some success battling the menace with a mix of sideboard hate and Plague Engineer.

Here's the list I've been playing:

A MASSIVE benefit to playing Humans is you get access to Phantasmal Image. It lets you double up on Plague Engineer against those decks with a little more toughness and spreads out the hate amongst a variety of creatures.

The Phyrexian Revoker in the sideboard is fantastic in the current metagame. Naming Altar of Dementia or Carrion Feeder can significantly slow down the deck and give you room to work and enact your own game plan. With Urza decks also starting to pop up, Revoker gives a way to cold Urza or Thopter Foundry.

Collector Ouphe is a fantastic addition to the deck as well and I'm thrilled to have a few copies in the sideboard.

The standout here might be my diversion from the classic "Just play four Leyline of the Void" crowd. Instead I'm playing Ravenous Trap and a singular Tormod's Crypt. My reasoning behind this is Leyline of the Void is uncastable and completely and wildly useless outside of your opening hand in this deck. If I wanted to fill my deck with blank cardboard that didn't do anything I can find less expensive ways to do so. Humans doesn't mulligan well and trying to shove in a card they can interact with easily that you're forced to mulligan to doesn't play with your game plan. Having access to these cards can help alleviate any undue pressures of mulliganing or feeling like you are just going to lose. It's entirely possible Crypt should be Grafdigger's Cage but I don't have enough anecdotal experience to safely say one is better than the other.

If you're looking for a deck to play other than Hogaak I think all of these are fine choices, but specifically I'd recommend the Humans list. My record so far has been solid and Humans is one of those decks that is great at punishing the decks that pop up to try and beat Hogaak decks.