What's Next for Hollow One and Vengevine?

Posted in Play Design on August 10, 2018

By Tom Ross

Graveyard decks have always been a mainstay in Modern. Various incarnations of Dredge have come and gone. Life from the Loam has been spotted here and there. Bloodghast pops up in assorted decks when people are playing removal-heavy decks.

Before I get into the results of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and what Modern graveyard decks will do moving forward, let's look back to March at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.

Ken Yukuhiro's Black-Red Hollow One

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  • Hollow One
  • Burning Inquiry
  • Flameblade Adept
  • Goblin Lore

Hollow One (the deck) has several good openings that can play multiple Hollow Ones (the card) as early as turn one. Burning Inquiry can do it in one fell swoop. A combination of Faithless Looting and Street Wraith does it too. There are redundant elements that are all slightly different, which makes proper sequencing so important.

Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix provide resilience against spot removal and sweepers . . . or anyone intending on blocking you. It also has big creatures in Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler and a suite of burn/interaction like Lightning Bolt and Collective Brutality that can finish the job.

The Hollow One decks were dismissed at first because of their random discard elements, which are generally unappealing for those aiming to maximize every edge. Turns out, the deck is super strong, and the cloud of variance was merely a distraction from its high power level.

For a while, Black-Red Hollow One was consider a top deck, and perhaps even the deck to beat. Opponents had to learn that a single Surgical Extraction or Relic of Progenitus wasn't enough to tame Hollow One.

A few months ago, I saw a sweet Vengevine deck that I just had to take for a spin.

Tom Ross's HollowVine

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This version packed two new angles to attack from:

All while still preserving a lot of the potency of multiple turn-one Hollow Ones. The piece seemed to fit well, which had me excited. Also, I like simply getting my beatdown on with a smattering of random small creatures.

The variety of explosive opening hands is what had me hooked to this build. Every hand was a surprising combination of synergy.

While the green version was beloved to me, most players kept to the more established black-red Hollow One deck. That is until Core Set 2019 brought Stitcher's Supplier to Modern.

Then Pro Tour 25th Anniversary happened. From that tournament emerged a powerful Vengevine deck that's prominently red and black.

The deck has been going 5-0 in Magic Online Leagues for weeks now. Of course, it takes a while for Magic Online results to affect the real world. Let's take a look at a list from the Pro Tour.

Yuuki Ichikawa's Black-Red Vengevine

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  • Vengevine
  • Bridge from Below
  • Hangarback Walker
  • Walking Ballista
  • Insolent Neonate
  • Faithless Looting

The deck has several explosive starts. The namesake Vengevines can enter the battlefield as early as turn one if you play a Faithless Looting, discard a couple, and cast two zero-mana creatures in Hangarback Walker or Walking Ballista. Insolent Neonate is particularly powerful since it's a one-cost creature that can discard and help set up Vengevine on its own, all while digging you deeper into your deck.

Bridge from Below also benefits from you casting 0/0s that immediately die. A common opening is to bin a Bridge from Below and make two or three Zombies to get the pressure going. Insolent Neonate, Viscera Seer, and Greater Gargadon are ways to have agency over your flow of tokens. The recursion of Bloodghast and Gravecrawler give you plenty of food.

Stitcher's Supplier is a double-duty enabler that puts cards from your library into your graveyard . . . twice. The fact that it's a Zombie to go along with Gravecrawler is what really makes it shine.

Since you actually cast Gravecrawler from the graveyard (as opposed to simply entering the battlefield like Bloodghast), that means Vengevine will see it; Gravecrawler will count toward the two creatures required to bring Vengevine back.

While Black-Red Vengevine might've been the breakout deck a week or two ago, it still has room to innovate. I've seen people dabbling in various additional discard outlets.

They're all well and good on their own. They get the cards that you want in your graveyard there pretty efficiently. Then I saw a list playing a card that serves multiple roles.

A well-sized creature that triggers Vengevine as well as a discard outlet. You even get a discounted 4/3 if it's your last card in hand.

Perhaps Bloodrage Brawler is the next move?

Matthew Lackey's Black-Red Vengevine

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The flex slots of Black-Red Vengevine are still up in the air. Many don't even play green sources at all. Some are playing cards that mill and get you a creature, like Corpse Churn or Grisly Salvage.

Hollow One, Vengevine, Bridge from Below, and Stitcher's Supplier are all very strong cards. Could mushing them all together be the thing to do?

H0lydiver's 5-0 Black-Red HollowVine

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Jamming all four elements into the same deck has this version packed with velocity. To make room, the resilient elements had to go—namely Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, and Flamewake Phoenix. There's also no delve creatures to take advantage of a full graveyard. However, when you have cheap 4/4s and a pile of 2/2 Zombies, do you really need much more?

While going back and forth over the numbers of Goblin Bushwhacker, zero-cost Constructs, and various discard outlets I should play, I remembered what Owen Turtenwald did to Black-Red Hollow One.

Now that's a strong Magic card.

Owen Turtenwald's BRw Hollow One

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If Owen Turtenwald says it's good, it probably is.

Owen updated Black-Red Hollow One to include Lingering Souls as a card that's generally good on its own. One Sacred Foundry isn't a huge cost, especially since you'll be casting the back half most of the time.

Could the Lingering Souls technology improve the new Black-Red Vengevine deck?

Tom Ross's BRw Vengevine

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I always like presenting a new axis to pressure my opponents when the price is right; including one Sacred Foundry is a price I'm willing to pay.

I like Collective Brutality as the deck's discard outlet. It provides the most amount of interaction compared to the others. The choice also takes a page from the Hollow One book, where I noticed the lists gravitate toward Collective Brutality instead of the narrower discard outlets.

Of course, the flexible discard outlets are so close in power that it's a matter of preference. Perhaps after a few months of the world grinding out games a "best version" will emerge.

Thanks for reading!

—Tom Ross

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