Modern Experiments

Posted in From the Lab on May 27, 2013

Welcome back to the Lab, comrades! It's Modern Masters week here on Daily MTG, and in honor of the set, today I'll be showing off a pair of combo decks that are Modern-legal. The popularity of the format has continued to grow over the last few years, and many stores are even holding Friday Night Magic events using the Modern format. Feel free to try out one of these decks at a local tournament or just use them against your friends.

    Yes Zur

Zur's Weirding is an odd little card that allows you and your opponent to control each other's draws. You can pay 2 life to stop your opponent from drawing any card, and with all hands revealed, you can determine exactly what to allow and what to pay 2 life for.

Then again, why let your opponent have anything at all?

If you have two Firemane Angels either on the battlefield or in your graveyard, you will gain 2 life every upkeep, allowing you to stop your opponent from drawing cards ever again. Eventually, your opponent will just die to one of the Angels, since you can return them to the battlefield from your graveyard for a mere ten mana.

Zur's Weirding can be a difficult card to play correctly. You can't just slam it down as soon as you hit four mana every game. Since your opponent will be able to stop you from drawing cards as well, you need to be sure that the cards in your hand will deal with the cards in your opponent's hand, as well as anything on the field.

One of the best tools for obtaining that certainty is Supreme Verdict. It will destroy any creatures your opponent has on the battlefield, and it can't be stopped by counterspells. It usually provides a fair amount of card advantage and also stops your opponent from killing you, which is generally a good thing.

Path to Exile can be used early to keep you alive long enough to clear the board with a Supreme Verdict, but it really shines afterward, where it can eliminate your opponent's last creature for only one mana.

Lightning Helix can be used similarly, and also gives you a bit of extra life to help keep aggressive strategies at bay, or to allow you to pay 2 for Zur's Weirding a few more times if you don't have two Firemane Angels yet.

Mana Leak buys you some time against faster decks and can be used to protect Zur's Weirding if you can wait until you have six mana. It's also a catch-all for making sure you can deal with the spells in your opponent's hand once Zur's Weirding has resolved.

Cryptic Command is an incredibly versatile spell that most often functions as Dismiss or Lost in the Mist, but it can also tap all your opponent's creatures for a turn in combination with any of the other effects.

Forbidden Alchemy and Thirst for Knowledge can dig for Zur's Weirding at instant speed, allowing you to leave mana open for your counterspells. You can also put Firemane Angel into your graveyard to start gaining your life. Note that once Zur's Weirding is on the battlefield, your opponent can pay 6 life to stop you from drawing any cards with Thirst for Knowledge, forcing you to simply discard two cards, so don't cast it unless that's worth it. Forbidden Alchemy, on the other hand, bypasses Zur's Weirding entirely, putting the card straight into your hand.

Snapcaster Mage also gives the cards put into the graveyard with Thirst for Knowledge and Forbidden Alchemy additional value, letting you give flashback to whatever instant or sorcery you need. You can re-cast a Mana Leak to counter a key spell, use Path to Exile to get rid of your opponent's last creature, or clear the board a second time with Supreme Verdict.

Zur's Weirding

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    Ad Nauseam, Subtract Life

Ad Nauseam has been central to a number of combo decks since its printing. My first experience with the card was in a deck that used it to get to 2 or 3 life and draw a large number of cards, then cast multiple copies of Death's Shadow along with a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker to give them haste and attack for lethal in a single turn.

In this deck, however, we'll be going a bit further. By casting Angel's Grace, you prevent yourself from losing the game for one turn. If you then cast Ad Nauseam, you can put your entire deck into your hand. Even though your life total will be negative, you won't lose the game until the effect of Angel's Grace wears off. You just need to win before that happens.

Although there are a number of ways to accomplish this, there are two that immediately come to mind. Both of them require three red mana, but Simian Spirit Guide can handle that. Since you'll have your entire deck in your hand, you can exile three Spirit Guides to get the three red mana you need immediately.

The first win condition is Conflagrate. You can cast it with X as 0 to get it into the graveyard, then pay its flashback cost and discard fifty cards or so to deal that much damage to your opponent. The second option is Lightning Storm. It's not as reliable as Conflagrate, since if your opponent has gained life, you might not have enough lands to discard to finish him or her off. The upside, however, is that unlike Conflagrate, it is an instant. Since Angel's Grace and Ad Nauseam are also instants, you can make the entire combo happen at any time, waiting until your opponent taps out or is about to kill you. Including one copy of each card gives you some flexibility and ensures that your opponent can't win just by getting rid of your Lightning Storm with Inquisition of Kozilek.

Phyrexian Unlife can substitute for Angel's Grace, and in some situations can do the job even better. Although it requires two more mana than Angel's Grace, it can be cast in advance, allowing you to combo off with only five mana rather than the six needed to cast both spells.

Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand help you find the mana and combo pieces you need to go off, and only require a single mana. Peer Through Depths is more expensive but can dig deep to find Ad Nauseam or Angel's Grace. Mystical Teachings will just grab whichever instant you need and put it in your hand with no fuss, although it charges a hefty four mana for the service.

Pact of Negation will stop anything that tries to mess with your combo, without charging you any mana. You won't even lose the game on your next upkeep, since if you don't win by the end of the turn you'll die from a severely negative life total anyway.

Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism give you extra mana with which to cast Ad Nauseam and win the game, usually on turn four or so. This acceleration really turns up the heat on an otherwise fairly slow combo.

Ad Nauseam

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    Modern Master of the Arena

Now that we have our two competitors ready to go, let's take things to the arena and find out who the real master is. Well, out of these two anyway. I'm obviously the master here. It is my Lab, after all.

    Game 1

Ad Nauseam won the roll and started off strong by playing Gemstone Mine and suspending two Lotus Blooms. Zur's Weirding played a Hallowed Fountain and passed, and Ad Nauseam passed back with no play. Zur's Weirding played another land and ended the turn, and Ad Nauseam played a Misty Rainforest, sacrificing it to get a Hallowed Fountain. It paid the 2 life, then exiled a Simian Spirit Guide for red mana and cast Phyrexian Unlife.

Zur's Weirding paid 2 life to put a Watery Grave onto the battlefield untapped before ending the turn. Ad Nauseam cast the two Lotus Blooms and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding cast Thirst for Knowledge during the end step, discarding Path to Exile and Firemane Angel. It gained 1 life from the Angel at the beginning of the upkeep step, then paid 3 life to get Hallowed Fountain with a Misty Rainforest.

Zur's Weirding passed the turn, and Ad Nauseam sacrificed a Lotus Bloom to cast Mystical Teachings. Zur's Weirding cast Cryptic Command to counter it and return the second Lotus Bloom to its owner's hand. Ad Nauseam suspended Lotus Bloom again and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding gained 1 from Firemane Angel, then cast its namesake card.

Zur paid 2 life to stop Ad Nauseam from getting a land, and Ad Nauseam passed and let Zur's Weirding have the Scalding Tarn. Zur's Weirding played the land, sacrificed it for Steam Vents, and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding paid 2 life to put Simian Spirit guide in the graveyard, and Ad Nauseam conceded.

    Game 2

Ad Nauseam sacrificed Scalding Tarn to get a Hallowed Fountain and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding did the same. Ad Nauseam paid 3 life to fetch a Watery Grave and ended the turn. Zur's Weirding played Steam Vents and passed, and Ad Nauseam cast Peer Through Depths during the end step, getting Angel's Grace.

Ad Nauseam cast Pentad Prism with two charge counters and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding played Watery Grave and passed. Ad Nauseam played Gemstone Mine and cast Phyrexian Unlife, but Zur countered it with Mana Leak. Ad Nauseam passed the turn. Zur's Weirding played Ghost Quarter and passed the turn. Ad Nauseam played Misty Rainforest, sacrificed it for an Island, and passed the turn.

Zur cast Thirst for Knowledge during the end step, discarding Firemane Angel and Path to Exile, and Ad Nauseam took the opportunity to cast Mystical Teachings, finding its namesake. Zur's Weirding played an Island and passed the turn. Ad Nauseam cast Angel's Grace, then Ad Nauseam. Zur hit it with a Cryptic Command, but Pact of Negation countered the counter, and Ad Nauseam drew its entire deck to win the game with Conflagrate.

    Game 3

Zur's Weirding played Steam Vents and passed the turn, and Ad Nauseam played Scalding Tarn, searching up a Hallowed Fountain, and suspended Lotus Bloom. Zur's Weirding fetched for a Hallowed Fountain as well, and Ad Nauseam played Gemstone Mine and cast Pentad Prism. Zur's Weirding played an Island and passed.

Ad Nauseam played another Mine and passed the turn, and Zur's Weirding cast Forbidden Alchemy, getting Zur's Weirding and putting a Fireman Angel in the graveyard. Ad Nauseam cast Peer Through Depths while Zur was tapped out, finding Ad Nauseam. Zur's Weirding paid 2 life for an untapped Hallowed Fountain and passed the turn.

Ad Nauseam cast Lotus Bloom off suspend and passed the turn. Zur's Weirding cast another Forbidden Alchemy during the end step, and Ad Nauseam responded with Angel's Grace and Ad Nauseam, winning the game with Lightning Storm before the Alchemy ever resolved.

    Into the Maze

I hope you enjoyed this look at some fun combo decks that are legal for Modern. Although these decks might not be winning any Pro Tours, they're a great option if your local game store runs Modern tournaments.

Join me again next week, when I'll be taking some time off from my creations and looking at some of yours. I asked all of you to send me fun combo decks featuring your favorite card from Dragon's Maze, and I received quite a number of responses. The winners have been selected, so be sure to tune in next Monday to see if your deck is one of the lucky few to be featured here on From the Lab. See ya!

Mike CannonMike Cannon
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Mike Cannon signed on to write From the Lab at the end of 2012. An ardent casual player and lover of bizarre synergies, he'll be bringing you a selection of crazy combo decks every Monday.

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