An (Eldritch) Evolution in Modern

Posted in GRAND PRIX GUANGZHOU 2016 on August 27, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Modern is a non-rotating format which means that the card pool is not only ever-growing but also extremely large. In correlation, this means that the power level for the format is high and the cards which do make it to competitive play are usually very strong.

In every expansion, several cards will make an impact on Modern and Eldritch Moon is no exception as evidenced by some of the new tools in various players' decks this weekend. Aside from Grim Flayer in Jund shells, what other cards have been spotted around the tournament hall?

Kentaro Yamamoto is one of the core members of Cygames who jointly designed the infamous Goryo's Vengeance deck. He seeks to get Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into the graveyard, preferably via Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, such that it is ready for instant reanimation. Two copies of Collective Brutality were deemed worth inclusions, replacing Jace as a discard outlet which does not suffer from summoning sickness.

"Collective Brutality is a very versatile card. I can use it as a discard spell in control matchups and it is also good against aggro because it gains me some life and kills a small creature. This buys me more time to set up my combo. The fact that I can discard Emrakul makes it a nice card for my deck."

Kentaro Yamamoto has replaced Jace, Vryn's Prodigy with Collective Brutality.

Gold Pros Huang Hao-Shan and Jason Chung are piloting a new rendition of W/G Tron, which features Blessed Alliance as an important sideboard card. The Eldritch Moon uncommon was sold out at dealer tables, even the premium foil versions. Using the momentary respite from their 3 byes, they tried to secure the cards they needed but as time ticked away, they felt that it was a lost cause. Nobody in the room had it. This prompted Huang and Chung to cash in all their prize tickets at the prize wall for Eldritch Moon booster packs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and they managed to find three copies in 50 packs (17 from Huang and 33 from Chung), completing both their decks just in the nick of time for Round 4. What are some of the reasons they were so adamant about having this seemingly innocuous instant in their sideboards?

"Blessed Alliance is one of the best cards to come out of Eldritch Moon. It's extremely versatile against a wide range of decks that you normally wouldn't sideboard a card against. For example, you wouldn't usually sideboard Celestial Flare specifically to beat Bogles or Rest for the Weary just to beat Boros Burn, but now you have Blessed Alliance who can fill both roles. It also scales well as the game progresses, which means that casting it for 6 mana and choosing all three modes is not only possible but doable."

Spotted around the room was also Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8 competitor and three-time Singapore National Champion, Kelvin Chew, sighted untapping Knight of the Reliquary and Izzet Staticaster with its second mode.

Oh, by the way, Blessed Alliance is not the only Eldritch Moon card he is sporting. Chew is also running Selfless Spirit as a cost-effective replacement for Dauntless Escort, as well as Spell Queller, which he describes as "a very good card in Modern". With majority of cards in Modern costing 4 or less, Spell Queller is usually effective and it is especially devastating against removal-light decks.

World Magic Cup 2012 Champion Tzu Ching Kuo was the first of Chew's victims when they got paired against each other in Round 3. Kuo was on Mono Green Elves (without Eldritch Evolution, sadly) and was on the receiving end of double Spell Queller.

Kuo explains that, "even with Cavern of Souls, he can exile any of my Elves when I'm trying to cast it. Eating up Ezuri, Renegade Leader was probably the sickest play of our games. Since I have no removal in my maindeck, Spell Queller might as well be a three-mana Mystic Snake with no drawback."

The 2/3 Spirit has also found its way into existing Merfolk shells, the white splash conveniently supported by the presence of Flooded Strand and Wandervine Hub. In a tempo-oriented creature strategy, a light touch of countermagic on a body is certainly welcome!

Last but not least, Bant Eldrazi has been heralded as "one of the most unfair fair decks" in the format, after it was popularized by Pascal Maynard at Grand Prix Los Angeles just three months ago. Despite Eye of Ugin receiving the ban-hammer, Maynard found ways to still power out premature Thought-Knot Seer and Drowner of Hope but some players have went one step ahead to include Elder Deep-Fiend in their creature suite.

Upgrading Eldrazi Skyspawner into a 5/6 beater never felt so good.

It is certainly interesting to have an Eldrazi Octopus emerge in Modern! As we head into Round 4, the pro players are getting ready to play and I'll spend some time weeding through the decklists in a moment. What will be the breakout deck this weekend and how will Eldritch Moon cause Modern to evolve? Whatever it is, we know that things will never be the same again.