An Odder Modern

Posted in From the Lab on May 18, 2015

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome, laboratorians! It's Modern Week here on DailyMTG, and that means I'll be doing things a little differently than normal. While my articles usually focus on casual play, today I'll be showing off two decks that you can take to a local Modern tournament if you're feeling adventurous. Although they won't be winning a Pro Tour anytime soon, I tried to make these decks powerful enough to win a few matches without sacrificing that good old From the Lab flair.

Rising Above Your Station

My first deck today was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. We were discussing Modern Masters 2015 Edition, and he mentioned that despite being legal in Modern, this will be the first time Mystic Snake has been printed with the new card frame. It's an odd corner case shared by a few dozen cards from Time Spiral. These timeshifted cards were reprinted with their old frames intact, and many of them haven't been printed since.

I decided to scour through the list of timeshifted cards, and see what Modern-legal gems were hiding under the guise of the old card frame. It wasn't long before I found a card I knew I had to build a deck around.

Enduring Renewal is not new to the world of combo decks. It has seen tournament success a number of times, including a Pro Tour Top 8 in 1999. However, the card has been off the map for quite some time, left by the wayside in favor of faster combo decks or those requiring fewer pieces. Today, I'm bringing it back into the spotlight.

Although Enduring Renewal can be used to enable a number of different combos, the easiest to assemble centers around a rather innocuous creature: Ornithopter. The creature is free to cast, and Enduring Ideal will put it right back in your hand when it dies. That means you can use any sacrifice outlet an infinite number of times. The original deck used Goblin Bombardment, but I'll be using Blasting Station to avoid the red mana requirement.

I want to give the deck some redundant pieces to work with, so I've included Memnite in addition to Ornithopter. Since both creatures are also artifacts, Grinding Station can serve as a backup to Blasting Station.


Now the only question is what to do with the rest of the deck. At first I tried keeping it mono-white as a pure, dedicated combo deck. However, that game plan didn't seem very resilient. I then tried adding black for hand disruption like Thoughtseize, only to realize that the deck wasn't nearly as consistent as I had hoped. I needed a way to disrupt the opponent while making it easier to assemble the combo. For that, I turned to blue.

Serum Visions is the gold standard for card selection in Modern, and given the number of artifacts in the deck, Thirst for Knowledge  seemed quite good as well. As an instant, Thirst for Knowledge  also plays quite nicely with the other part of the deck: counterspells. Remand was my first choice. It slows down the opponent while helping you draw into your combo pieces. After that came Mana Leak, which can provide a more permanent solution to any threat you might face.

I didn't want to rely on the counterspells for everything, so I also included a full four copies of Path to Exile. That should help you protect your life total from large creatures, and can even disrupt many other combo decks.

Speaking of which, that's one area where Enduring Renewal might have an advantage over other combo decks in the format. Removal spells like Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt don't do anything against this deck so long as you play your cards right, and most decks just aren't prepared to deal with a four-mana enchantment. Of course, the deck comes with a weakness as well. It requires three cards to combo off, while many similar decks only need two. Enduring Ideal also costs a fair bit of mana, meaning the deck can only combo off on turn four at the earliest. That means fewer free wins. Fortunately, the counterspells and card draw leave this deck well-prepared to play a longer game if necessary.

Renewal Station

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Blink and You'll Miss It

This next deck is the latest take on a concept I've been toying with for a long time. You see, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is my favorite card in Magic. It also happens to be pretty darn good. The obvious place for it is a deck with Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch, so of course that idea is off the table. I wanted to try using it in a different kind of deck. One that doesn't necessarily have to combo off to win the game.

Although I've played with a number of different versions of this deck, the core has remained the same. Kiki-Jiki, Restoration Angel, and Blade Splicer are all fairly powerful cards in their own right, and any one of them will become more powerful with the aid of either of the others. Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel allows you to win the game instantly. However, use the Goblin with Blade Splicer and you still get a 3/3 every turn. Combined with Restoration Angel, Blade Splicer lets you surprise your opponent with 6 power at instant speed.

The original build of the deck focused on Kiki-Jiki, using cards like Hero of Bladehold that make good use of a hasty copy. Therefore, this time I'm focusing more on Restoration Angel. There are plenty of cool things you can do with a flicker effect, but how many of them are good enough to warrant inclusion in a Modern deck? One in particular seemed to stand above the rest.

Akroma, Angel of Fury is an impressive creature who also happens to be immune to just about every common removal spell in Modern. Protection from white stops Path to Exile, and she's too big to be killed by Dismember or Abrupt Decay. Or course, this kind of power comes at a price, and in this case the price is eight mana. Fortunately, this Akroma has another ability: morph.

Cast the Angel face-down, and you can flicker her with Restoration Angel the following turn to get her face-up without paying the six-mana morph cost. That's a pretty big creature for turn four, not to mention the 3/4 that comes along with it.

Although Restoration Angel may offer the best flicker effect, it's far from the only one. Flickerwisp costs one less mana and gives you just as much power, although it doesn't come with flash. For that, you'll have to use Cloudshift. It helps you dodge removal spells and get value for just one mana.

With all these flicker effects, it should be fairly easy to turn Akroma face-up on turn four. However, by calling in another color you can get the job done even more quickly. Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch allow you to cast Akroma face-down on turn two, setting up a turn-three Restoration Angel and an attack for 9 damage on turn four, provided you don't just go infinite with Kiki-Jiki.

The deck could also use a few more ways to take advantage of the power of Restoration Angel. Kitchen Finks seemed like an easy one to include. Although the 2 life isn't very impressive, flickering the Finks will also remove the -1/-1 counter if it has one, and this creature is already more than good enough on its own.

I also added in two copies of Zealous Conscripts. While probably a stretch as far as playability goes, I couldn't resist the allure of the ridiculous plays the card enables. First of all, it gives you another way to go infinite with Kiki-Jiki, which is always good. You can also use it to steal opposing Planeswalkers and fire off their ultimate abilities. With some help from Cloudshift or Restoration Angel, you can seriously muck up combat by stealing an opposing creature and using it to block. Finally, Zealous Conscripts provides the opportunity to live out an insane dream. If you're lucky, you might get the chance to steal Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from your opponent, using the Eldrazi to strike down its former master.

The deck's only missing one last piece, and that's Path to Exile. This is the best removal spell in Modern, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a white deck that doesn't play a few copies. It permanently deals with creatures of any shape and size, and all for the low cost of one white mana.

Angel Surprise

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I've Got the World on a String

I'm afraid that's all I have for you today, but join me next Monday when I'll be helping to kick off a theme week inspired by a popular yo-yo trick. Okay, so maybe yo-yos had nothing to do with it, but there's really no way to know for sure. I suppose you'll have to check back then to see what I'm rambling on about. See ya!

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