It's Always Sunny in Modern

Posted in Reconstructed on August 21, 2012

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Click to cast Second Sunrise.

Goodbye! No. Not goodbye. What's the other one?

Oh! Right. Hello. Ah, Second Sunrise combo. You'll have to excuse me—being yanked back from the graveyard is awfully disorienting. But casting Second Sunrise over and over and figuring out where to go from there is just something you're going to have to get used to with a deck like this.

Joe Januck's Second Sunrise

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What in the world is going on with this deck? How does it win?

If you looked at this mass of cards in confusion, you're not alone. This deck doesn't really look like anything cohesive. As an incredibly convoluted combo deck, not everything makes sense at first. So let me back up and explain everything.

The early turns start off innocuously enough. All you're going to be doing turns one and two is playing cheap artifacts that draw you cards in the process of dying. You're not going to be activating any of these artifacts until turn three or four—the turn when it's time to kill your opponent.

At the basic level, you sacrifice all of your artifacts for their various trinket effects, draw a bunch of cards as you sacrifice them, then cast Second Sunrise and repeat. The idea is that you draw enough cards on each iteration that you can find another Second Sunrise. (Or Magic 2013 newcomer Faith's Reward.)

How do you generate enough mana to do all of this? Lotus Bloom. The oddball card Reshape can turn any of your artifacts into a Lotus Bloom for only two mana—and then once the Lotus Bloom is in the Second Sunrise loop, you create three mana each time you Sunrise.

Additionally, and as odd as it might sound, Ghost Quarter also gives you mana off of Second Sunrise. By Ghost Quartering yourself, it puts two lands in your graveyard that will come back each time you Sunrise!

The win condition? You can kill your opponents via Disciple of the Vault, infinity Pyrite Spellbombs with a Conjurer's Bauble loop, or Grapeshot.

If this all sounds extremely odd, you're certainly not wrong. It's not only a combo deck—which very often play counter to most games of Magic—but it's an exceedingly strange combo deck at that. And this basic description is only just the beginning—there are all kinds of tiny intricacies throughout the deck that are worth knowing.

But those will come up later. I want to run over what's in the deck, then talk about how to properly pilot all of it. For now, let's look at the role each card plays!

    Card Egg-splanation

Click to cast Second Sunrise.

Where were we again? Aha, right—looking over each card!

Eggs

The one-mana trinkety "eggs"—cheap artifacts that give you a trivial effect and draw a card, named after the Skycloud Egg cycle—are the core of this deck. Without them, the deck fails to function at all. The two-mana ones fill the gaps and provide enough artifact draw density to fill out the deck. But which ones are the best? Can any be cut or switched around?

The best ones by far are the single-mana ones that enter the battlefield untapped and draw you a card for effectively no mana. Conjurer's Bauble, Chromatic Sphere, and Chromatic Star fit this description. These are absolutely staples of the deck that cannot move.

Note that Terrarion doesn't fit into this category. I'm actually not a big fan of the card in this deck. You often have to loop artifacts many times while Second Sunrise-ing, and entering the battlefield tapped is a big blow, since you can't easily loop it unless you're Reshape-ing it away. And if you draw it as you're going off, it's often a dud. I might want one or two just to create enough one-drop density, but that's it.

After the single-mana spots, you begin looking at the far less attractive two-mana options. This deck has Elsewhere Flask, which is reasonable since it can at least sacrifice itself. Ichor Wellspring, on the other hand, is a two-mana cantrip that you have to remove to get anywhere with. There are enough cards that we can sacrifice to Reshape that Wellspring doesn't impress me so much. I'd rather have another self-sacrificing two-mana cantrip like Kaleidostone.

The Engine

The cheap artifacts might be the tools that come back again and again to get you further, but the mechanism behind it all is Second Sunrise (and Faith's Reward). These are the cards that allow your eggs to cycle over and over again. Additionally, Reshape makes the deck tick by providing you added mana on each Sunrise.

The four Second Sunrises are not optional. It's one of the most important cards and is what makes your combo tick. At three mana, it's the perfect cost to cast off of Lotus Bloom as well.

How many Faith's Rewards is a bit more variable question. You don't want your hand to only have these and no eggs to sacrifice. At the same time, you must draw a Second Sunrise or Faith's Reward to win the game.

In the end, even though it's four mana, I still want four Faith's Rewards. It's incredibly important that you draw enough of these to go off. Even if you get a little Sunrise flooded, as long as you have a Lotus Bloom and a couple of eggs you're probably in good shape, since you can draw so many cards.

Reshape is also incredibly important, since you have to find a Lotus Bloom to get your combo rolling with enough mana. I would definitely play the full four. I'm perfectly happy drawing three since it means I can find plenty of Lotuses. If you're already satisfied on mana, don't forget you can always Reshape into one-mana trinkets in a pinch to draw extra cards on each iteration. I'd definitely rather have the fourth Reshape over a Wargate.

On that note, you need Lotus Blooms to operate. While in the old Extended build I couldn't see playing fewer than four copies, after goldfishing this deck a little bit it can actually kill on turn three a scary amount of the time. That means suspending Lotus Bloom is a less viable option, so I don't want to draw a lot of them. You need three so you can find two via Reshape even if one is stuck in your hand, but I'm fine excluding the fourth.

Noxious Revival just helps with consistency a little, allowing you to bring back cards like Second Sunrise again. It's not a card I want a ton of, since it doesn't get you started, but I always liked a Reclaim in the old Extended versions of this deck and having one or two for redundancy is completely reasonable.

The one card I don't like out of Joe's engine pieces is Krark-Clan Ironworks. At four mana it's a pretty hefty cost to play on the battlefield, and all it does is provide you with gobs of colorless mana. You don't really need a ton of mana in this deck; you just need enough to keep casting a couple eggs and drawing cards during each Sunrise.

At a four-mana investment, you likely already have everything you need to win during the games when Ironworks is good, and it won't help dig you out of a rough situation. I'd rather just have other cards that help fuel the combo.

Kill Conditions

Joe has quite the kill spread: Disciple of the Vault, Grapeshot, andPyrite Spellbomb are all ready to go. While in general I like having options, in combo decks I feel the exact opposite. I want to figure out what the bare minimum I need to win is and play just that.

Combo deck win conditions often eat up space and are dead draws until the end. The fewer I can play, the better. One reason to have different options is to change up your threats to fight against hate, but I don't really feel a need to diversify in Game 1. Any of these options will be just fine.

Let's look at each one and decide which is the best. But first, let's think of what the end-game scenario will look like.

When this deck goes off, it cycles through its entire library. Thanks to Conjurer's Bauble, it can redraw any card it wants any number of times. With no library you can Bauble a card, draw it, cast it using your Lotuses, repeat twice, and then use the last Bauble on Second Sunrise to start the process anew.

With this trick, you can sacrifice unlimited artifacts, achieve unlimited storm, draw whatever card you want any number of times, produce unbounded amounts of mana, and so on. So, in other words, it's just about what's most efficient. We could kill with Blaze if we wanted to, but ideally our win condition should be versatile elsewhere in the deck's combo.

Disciple of the Vault has the upside of creating life loss instead of damage to fight cards like Worship. However, that's not too relevant in Modern right now, and otherwise it doesn't really do anything until our endgame (except for maybe chump block) so he's right out as a main deck option.

Grapeshot is a nice way to quickly end the game, and has the upside of also killing random creatures on turn two or three on occasion. However, that's not going to do a better job than our third card...

Pyrite Spellbomb! Yes, the Spellbomb is the big winner here. Not only does it kill our opponent, but it's an artifact that can even be sacrificed to draw us cards while going off as well! All the while it can fight off pesky cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Spellbomb seems far and away the best choice.

Best of all, playing multiples to fight against exiling effects is alright since it cycles away and can also hit creatures. Perfect!

    Egg-cellent Additions

Click to cast Second Sunrise.

Division? Multiplication? No, wait—it's time for addition!

While not too much can change from the core, there are a couple of cards I wanted to add in.

Eggs

To replace the hole created by cutting a few of the eggs, I added in a few other substitutes that I think fit a little better. Kaleidostone isn't incredibly easy to sacrifice in this deck, but I'd rather have it than Ichor Wellspring. You can usually sacrifice it once you're on your second iteration of Sunrise-ing, so you do get some very real value out of it.

In a split with Kaleidostone is the fleshiest egg around: Alchemist's Apprentice. He's easier to sacrifice to your engine over and over and even has the upside of buying you some time from creatures in a pinch.

However, he's not an artifact and doesn't cantrip right away to let you know if you're ready to go off on turn three or not. Additionally, your opponent is going to be holding all of his or her removal spells and this guy is a prime target for them. I eventually settled on just one—enough that he adds to your engine late in the combo when you draw him, but he won't interrupt you early on while setting up very often.

Mox Opal

This deck was a little land light, and so in addition to an extra land there are two Mox Opals. Not only can one of these power you to a crucial fourth mana on turn three, but you can also Reshape it away and pick up an extra mana on your next Sunrise. They are legendary so you definitely don't want multiples, but a couple makes for a nice jump ahead since the metalcraft is basically always on.


Shattered Perception

This might look like a very weird inclusion, but it's good in a lot of scenarios. I played the Extended version a lot, and I always liked having one Tolarian Winds in my deck. Here it's even more true since you don't have Cephalid Coliseum either.

First of all, if you end up drawing two of your Lotus Blooms, you might have trouble killing them with a Spellbomb. Perception ensures you can discard those Blooms so you can Bauble them back into your deck, and then Reshape for them.

Second, you'll often end up about two or three Sunrises in with a handful of cards... but you're just holding a ton of lands! Trading up six lands for six fresh cards at this point should pretty much always win you the game.

For the one slot this takes up in the deck, I'm happy spending it.

This brings my list to:

It's Always Sunny in Modern

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    Egg-boarding

Click to cast Second Sunrise.

Surfboarding? Snowboarding? No, sideboarding! Right. Okay then.

Sideboarding with a combo deck is tricky business, so it's difficult to provide a straight in-and-out guide. Often it just depends on what your opponent has. However, I will give you the most important element of sideboarding with a combo deck: don't!

By far the largest mistake I see people make with sideboarding as a combo deck is doing too much of it and diluting your deck. If you bring in eight answers to their hate cards, sure, you can probably fight back the hate cards... but you're going to have a ton of dead cards for your actual combo! And if they don't have the hate cards, you just sideboarded in useless drivel.

The one card I think you will want to sideboard in reasonably often is Dark Confidant. When the opponent sideboards out their removal, you can bring in the Confidants and accrue massive card advantage that will give you enough tools to fight whatever attrition weapon your opponent brings to the table.

Leyline of Sanctity and Silence will come in against opposing combo decks to buy yourself some time. Leyline can also come in against heavy discard, and Silence against control decks.

Pithing Needle and Echoing Truth will come in to fight Tormod's Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Leyline of the Void, Rule of Law... and more. My general advice here would be to not bring them in unless you're sure your opponent has something you'll want to use them on. Bringing on one Echoing Truth and/or Pithing Needle is usually safe as well, since cards like Leyline of Sanctity you can bounce once you've drawn your entire deck and you can always Reshape for the Needle.

The one Grapeshot should come in when you suspect they have a permanent answer for your Spellbombs—Extirpate, or similar—and you want to diversify your kill conditions.

As for what to take out, the cards you will shave the most often are one of the Pyrite Spellbombs against noncreature decks, one or two Faith's Rewards in matchups where the game will go long, and some of your two-mana eggs. Just be careful not to cut too much of your core—you're always going to need it to win.

    Playing like an Egg-spert

Click to cast Second Sunrise.

Is this actually the end now? I'm having trouble telling. All of this Sunrise-ing is making me dizzy!

But before I go, I want to leave you with some general tips on comboing out with the deck. It's a very tricky deck to play, and I can't stress enough to playtest (and even goldfish) it plenty to get the hang of it. While you're playing, keep these things in mind:

  • You want to use your Ghost Quarters on your own lands to generate mana, as the lands come back each time you Sunrise. As you go off, sacrifice your Quarters on your other lands and float mana to maximize your overall mana production.
  • Although cute, it's almost never right to Ghost Quarter a Darksteel Citadel.
  • Thinning your deck out of lands provides you with a very small, but relevant, statistical advantage. After Second Sunrise resolves, with any card-draw triggers like Elsewhere Flask on the stack, float mana and use your Ghost Quarters to thin your deck of a land or two.
  • Time your Conjurer's Baubles perfectly. Put cards you want back in your deck right before you shuffle with a Reshape or Ghost Quarter. However, if you don't have a shuffle effect, wait—you could draw Noxious Revival. In many situations it's right to put nothing on the bottom.
  • Reshaping away Chromatic Star and Terrarion gives you a card. Reshaping a Kaleidostone gets it into your graveyard when you might not have mana to sacrifice it otherwise. Reshaping a Mox Opal or Darksteel Citadel will net you a mana on the Sunrise. Try and set it up so you can sacrifice these instead of a Chromatic Sphere or Conjurer's Bauble.
  • Second Sunrise returns your opponent's cards. Faith's Reward does not. If your opponent is relying on a card like Tormod's Crypt to beat you, you can try and get fancy in a long game with multiple Faith's Rewards to get around it.
  • Make sure not to accidentally deck yourself in the endgame by sacrificing Kaleidostones and Elsewhere Flasks while your library is low.
  • Play enough so you can learn which hands are turn-three hands and which hands are turn-four hands. Things like Lotus Bloom in your opening hand lean you toward going off turn four, while a good draw with a Sunrise, a few eggs, and a Reshape could make for an easy turn-three victory.
  • It's impossible to go off without access to Lotus Bloom and Second Sunrise or Faith's Reward. Mulligan appropriately.
    Honorable Mentions

There were a ton of really, really great looking Modern decks submitted this week. If combo isn't your thing, take a look and see what strikes your fancy!

Adam Shaffer's Best Fiends

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Jan Beetz's Modern MUD

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Sean Carroll's Mishra Ironworks Combo

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Andrew Blume's Intruder Alarm

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John Dale Beety's Turbo Poison

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Jonas Halver's White-Black Smallpox

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Kyogo Kawada's Equipment Storm

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Adam W.'s Grixis Delver Modern

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Dan Vogelsong's HaakonShrike

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Dylan's Bant Spiritdancer

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Derek Augarten's Deathand Taxes

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    Ravnica Awaits!

It's hard to believe, but Return to Ravnica previews are right around the corner! In just two weeks, I'll be back with a preview card. I'm very excited to show it off. Why? It's the first card of mine to see print!

Because of the preview nature of the column making it hard to prepare for (half of Standard is rotating out, after all!) it'll be a Zero to Sixty kind of week where I deckbuild from scratch. I'll be back to taking open submissions next week.

If you have any comments on this deck or article, feel free to send me a tweet or leave a comment in the forums. It's always great to hear from you! I know a lot of you have tried similar decks, and, if you're one of them, I would be especially interested in hearing what you think.

That's all for now. See you all next week, when we take one final look back at the Scars of Mirrodin block.

Gavin
@GavinVerhey



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