Modern Masterpieces

Posted in Top Decks on December 11, 2015

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

I've been enjoying Modern lately, and more specifically, playing very sweet decks in Modern. Between the printing of Bring to Light and the realization that Mono-Blue Tron gets to play four copies of Repeal, I've been as happy as a Prickleboar in a Bojuka Bog (as a flavor judge, I can assure you that the comparison works perfectly).

The recent addition of Modern Leagues to Magic Online has given me the perfect opportunity to play all of these sweet decks at my convenience, and today I want to go over the two I liked best. All these decks are powerful, though the level of consistency varies.

Mono-Blue Tron

I'd like the rebut the notion that Red-Green Tron is the only way to play Urza's Tower, as this deck offers a very different approach.

LSV's Mono-Blue Tron

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Despite the four copies of Expedition Map, the goal of this deck isn't necessarily to just play all three Urza lands (Tron) on turn three. You often want to play an Island on turn two, even if you have all three, as keeping up Condescend and Remand is very important. That speaks to this deck's role as a control deck that can have explosive turns, rather than the pure combo feel of Red-Green Tron.

The counterspells help you interact with the opponent while drawing cards and scrying, and Thirst for Knowledge and Anticipate reward you for keeping mana up on the opponent's turn. All of these cards together provide a ton of digging, which means that assembling Tron by turn four or five is not hard to do. Even without Tron, Talisman of Dominance and Solemn Simulacrum can get you to six mana the hard way, at which point you can start casting Mindslaver or Wurmcoil Engine if you so desire.

I might be a bigger fan of Repeal than most, but it does exactly what this deck wants. It slows the opponent down while drawing cards, and is yet another card you can leave mana up for and cast at instant speed. It can even bounce giant things with the additional mana from the Urza lands, and overall it fits very nicely into this deck. The fact that I get to play a deck with so many Repeals is just a bonus, but I'm not even the person who put four Repeals into the deck to begin with (is my justification).

Treasure Mage offers additional copies of all four big artifacts, and is why you can get away with only playing one of most of them. Mindslaver is of particular note, because it's one of the two best win conditions. The easiest way to win the game is just cast a fast Sundering Titan, because it provides a clock and a means to stop the opponent from casting any spells. Plus, I've been able to Repeal Sundering Titan for value, and that's where the real payoff is.

The harder way of winning the game (at least online) is to lock the opponent out with Academy Ruins plus Mindslaver. Once you have thirteen mana, which is easier than it seems, you get to take every turn, both yours and theirs. It isn't impossible to set up, as you essentially have four copies of Mindslaver and five copies of Academy Ruins thanks to Treasure Mage and Expedition Map. The first Mindslaver activation often buys a couple turns at the very least, which lets you get to the point where the opponent is forced to do your bidding.

I played this deck to a 5-0 in a League on a recent stream, and it was a ton of fun. It can have trouble with extremely fast decks (like Burn, for example), but crushes any sort of midrange, and all the instant-speed interaction makes it substantially better against Splinter Twin than Red-Green Tron. There are metagames where Mono-Blue Tron is awesome, and as long as you aren't facing down too many Wild Nacatls or Goblin Guides, it can do some sick stuff.

Bring to Light Version 2.5

My fascination with Bring to Light is well-documented, and I wrote the first article on the subject right after Battle for Zendikar came out. I've played a lot since then and the list has evolved, so I wanted to give an update.

Here's where the list is currently at:

LSV's Bringing Gifts

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The relevant changes:

I added Birds of Paradise to make the deck faster, and am pleased with the results. I dislike that Birds die to Lightning Bolt, but in non–Lightning Bolt matchups they make the deck much more explosive. I still have some Sylvan Caryatids, but starting to accelerate on turn two instead of turn one was not really doing it for me.

Birds was the biggest change, but I also made some removal swaps (Golgari Charm wasn't pulling its weight) and finally took out Baneslayer Angel. Look, I like Baneslayer more than most, but as cool and powerful as it is did not justify the inclusion. Casting Bring for five was way more likely to result in Thragtusk, and having Baneslayer as the backup five-mana Bring to Light target wasn't an efficient use of space.

I'm not taking this package out yet, but it's officially on notice. I haven't found myself tutoring for it as often as I thought I would, especially given that Tron and Amulet Bloom are very capable of outpacing it. I still do like it as a way to close out the game if you've managed to slow them down, and Loam does still present a big problem for control decks, but I don't know if that's enough to keep it. There just aren't many blue control decks running around anymore, as Splinter Twin takes up so much of that space, and this package is not what you want against Twin. I haven't pulled the trigger yet, but keep an eye on this space.

The sideboard changed too, most notably with multiple copies of Stony Silence getting the nod. You may be wondering why I added another card that can't be searched for with Bring to Light, and the answer is that Stony Silence is relevant against both Affinity and Tron (tough matchups) and it comes out way earlier than all your other cards. The deck is very high on awesome things to do at four-plus mana, and I wanted to balance the range of threats it could provide. Granted, I chose a card that only impacts two matchups—but hitting two tier 1 decks is pretty good, and both decks being hard for this deck to beat made it even more logical.

I only mention Timely Reinforcements because it's been so good. I wouldn't consider cutting it, and it's been a true all-star. It hits the decks that can kill you before your engine gets going, and my decision to play two has been reinforced every time I cast it.

Main Game Plans

What this deck is doing hasn't changed: It's trying to Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites and Iona/Elesh Norn as early as possible, and Bring to Light acts as extra copies of Gifts. It can also Gifts for four value cards, and Bring to Light for all sorts of powerful one-ofs. Bring to Light shines after sideboarding, and adds many copies of hate cards to your deck.

I still very much like this deck, and think it's doing some good and powerful things. I also like that it can be tuned in just about any way you desire, as the core engine doesn't require that many cards. If you have good predictive skills, I believe this deck can beat anything you want it to (though clearly it's not beating everything at the same time). That's a powerful ability to have, and most decks are way less flexible, so Bringing Gifts could be the perfect choice if you can successfully anticipate what you are going to face.

Bonus Esper Gifts List

Brandon Nelson, my friend and coworker (who I like despite the fact that he beat me in the Top 8 of the last US Nationals ever in 2012) has been playing a version of Esper Gifts that looks pretty sweet. I got to watch some of his matches as he went 6-2 at a recent tournament, and I liked the look of the deck. I haven't had a chance to take it for a spin, but I wanted to mention it as an alternative take on the Gifts engine, because I think it has potential.

Brandon Nelson's Esper Gifts

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It basically replaces green acceleration with various disruption spells like Inquisition and Thoughtseize, and uses Serum Visions to up the consistency. It has no Bring to Lights, but the four copies of Gifts and four copies of Visions combine well with a full four copies of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

It also can play the midrange game well, as three copies of Lingering Souls, a Grave Titan, and a Tasigur add a ton of solid and very castable threats.

Choosing Your Champion

As always, I say that you should pick the deck that speaks to you most. I enjoy writing about decks that I enjoy playing, and all of these decks are right up my alley. If you expect a ton of midrange, I like Mono-Blue Tron best. I would go with Bringing Gifts if you expect more aggro or affinity. Esper Gifts looks to be the best against combo, as tons of hand disruption goes a long way. Between the three decks, you have the metagame completely covered. Okay, that is a bit of a stretch, but all these decks are awesome.

LSV

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