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The Modern Bible (Part 4 of 8) By Nick Rennard

Storm (my list):

Manabase (18):

  • 3x Misty Rainforest
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 3x Shivan Reef
  • 4x Steam Vents
  • 3x Island
  • 1x Mountain


Mainboard (42):

  • 4x Gitaxian Probe
  • 4x Serum Visions
  • 4x Sleight of Hand
  • 3x Faithless Looting
  • 3x Grapeshot
  • 4x Desperate Ritual
  • 4x Manamorphose
  • 4x Pyretic Ritual
  • 4x Pyromancer Ascension
  • 4x Goblin Electromancer
  • 3x Past in Flames
  • 1x Empty the Warrens


Sideboard (15):

  • 3x Defense Grid
  • 2x Echoing Truth
  • 1x Empty the Warrens
  • 2x Torpor Orb
  • 2x Lightning Bolt
  • 2x Shatterstorm
  • 3x Blood Moon

This deck has dealt with more bannings than any other deck in Modern. As a recap, recall that Ponder, Preordain, Rite of Flame, and Seething Song have all been banned from this deck in order to nerf its power level. As L’il Wayne once said, “Yeah, the tables turned, but I’m still sittin’ at ‘em.” Storm seems to remain as the everlasting titan of Modern combo decks. Impressively enough, even after so many bannings, Storm is still a viable and competitive deck today. This deck is very explosive and easily capable of turn 3 wins. This particular list has a very powerful sideboard. Defense Grid has always been one of my favorite sideboard cards in Modern against counterspells. I also like how well this deck utilizes Blood Moon since many decks that play with Blood Moon in their sideboards aren’t as immune to its own effect (i.e. Affinity) as decks like Storm and Splinter Twin. Speaking of Affinity, Shatterstorm is also one of my favorite cards to sideboard against Affinity (along with Ancient Grudge, Creeping Corrosion, and Stony Silence).

That’s a lot of good things to say about the deck, but it has a lot of weaknesses as well. Decks like Jund that play hand disruption effects (namely Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize) can be extremely effective against Storm. Liliana of the Veil is also one of this deck’s worst enemies. Even Scavenging Ooze and Deathrite Shaman are effective at preventing some of their powerful cards like Past in Flames and Pyromancer Ascension from getting out of control. This deck is also weak to decks that have a high density of counterspells. This is apparent with the presence of Defense Grid in the sideboard to help Storm fight against those styles of decks. The deck can be difficult to pilot, so picking up a deck like this will help test your ability to effectively play combo decks.

Overall, I like this deck and consider it to be Tier 1. It’s not my favorite Tier 1 deck, but I feel that cards will eventually get printed to push this deck over the top again (which could even cause another banning). We’ve already seen people attempting to make Young Pyromancer work (although I personally don’t think Young Pyromancer is an improvement for this deck). I’m still waiting for someone to start brewing with Strionic Resonator. Remember that you can copy the storm trigger itself with the Strionic Resonator in order to get twice as many copies of whatever your storm count is at. I haven’t personally brewed up any lists with this idea myself, but it definitely has some potential if one were to look further into it. One of the reasons that I like Strionic Resonator as a potential tool for Modern in Storm is that it acts much like Pyromancer Ascension. One of Pyromancer Ascension’s biggest strengths is that it avoids almost every piece of removal in Modern (exceptions: Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse). One of Goblin Electromancer’s biggest weaknesses is that he can be targeted by all the spot removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile. Replacing the Goblin Electromancer with an artifact like Strionic Resonator would strengthen its resilience against the general spot removal spells of Modern.

Scapeshift (Joe Demestrio Top 8 GP Portland 2013):

Manabase (26):

  • 1x Breeding Pool
  • 2x Steam Vents
  • 4x Stomping Ground
  • 3x Forest
  • 1x Island
  • 6x Mountain
  • 2x Misty Rainforest
  • 4x Scalding Tarn
  • 3x Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle


Mainboard (34):

  • 4x Search for Tomorrow
  • 4x Sakura-Tribe Elder
  • 3x Farseek
  • 3x Izzet Charm
  • 3x Prismatic Omen
  • 4x Pyroclasm
  • 3x Remand
  • 2x Obstine Baloth
  • 4x Scapeshift
  • 4x Primeval Titan


Sideboard (15):

  • 2x Combust
  • 1x Dismember
  • 2x Dispel
  • 1x Firespout
  • 1x Izzet Charm
  • 2x Obstinate Baloth
  • 1x Remand
  • 2x Sowing Salt
  • 2x Spellskite

One of my favorite things about this list in particular is you can see that the creator of the deck was aware of Scapeshift’s biggest weakness: Liliana of the Veil (backed up by Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek). Scapeshift requires most of its cards in the opening 6 or 7 to effectively combo against its opponents (meaning that this deck mulligans poorly, especially when up against discard effects). The presence of Obstinate Baloth in the mainboard as an answer to Liliana of the Veil and also as an alternate win condition is a great call for the metagame. Obstinate Baloth dodges most removal spells (Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Abrupt Decay, etc), gains you life, and puts up a fat blocker for you to have enough time to set up your combo.

As I’ve already stated, Scapeshift’s biggest weakness is hand disruption. It’s also weak to cards such as Sowing Salt and Slaughter Games, which most people already have in their sideboards to deal with Tron and other combo decks. Counterspells can be good against Scapeshift as well, but since Scapeshift ramps a bunch of lands onto the battlefield they can generally still beat UWR or any other blue deck in a counterspell war. Scapeshift needs a full 6 or more lands on the battlefield in order to combo off, so land destruction (Tectonic Edge, Fulminator Mage, etc) is also very effective against them. I’m a big fan of this list because it’s running multiple win conditions in the form of Obstinate Baloth and Primeval Titan. Prismatic Omen also allows the deck to surprise its opponents and kill them earlier than they may have been ready to deal with a bunch of Valakut triggers.

Scapeshift is a fine deck in Modern, but with the prominence of Liliana of the Veil backed up by hand disruption spells, and also with its vulnerability to certain sideboard cards (Slaughter Games, Sowing Salt, land destruction, etc), I consider Scapeshift to be a Tier 1.5 deck in Modern.

BUG Gifts (list from GP Portland 2013 that I liked):

Manabase (25):

  • 1x Hallowed Fountain
  • 3x Creeping Tar Pit
  • 1x Temple Garden
  • 1x Watery Grave
  • 1x Godless Shrine
  • 3x Marsh Flats
  • 1x Overgrown Tomb
  • 3x Verdant Catacombs
  • 1x Breeding Pool
  • 2x Misty Rainforest
  • 1x Island
  • 1x Forest
  • 1x Plains
  • 2x Swamp
  • 1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
  • 1x Tectonic Edge


Mainboard (35):

  • 2x Inquisition of Kozilek
  • 1x Raven’s Crime
  • 2x Thoughtseize
  • 2x Path to Exile
  • 2x Birds of Paradise
  • 4x Deathrite Shaman
  • 1x Life from the Loam
  • 3x Abrupt Decay
  • 1x Go for the Throat
  • 4x Lingering Souls
  • 1x Dismember
  • 3x Liliana of the Veil
  • 2x Kitchen Finks
  • 4x Gifts Ungiven
  • 1x Unburial Rites
  • 1x Sun Titan
  • 1x Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite


Sideboard (15):

  • 1x Batterskull
  • 1x Darkblast
  • 1x Thragtusk
  • 1x Dismember
  • 1x Go for the throat
  • 2x Kitchen Finks
  • 1x Scavenging Ooze
  • 2x Spellskite
  • 3x Stony Silence
  • 1x Surgical Extraction
  • 1x Thoughtseize

This is a deck that I have always had appreciation for due to its versatile threats. It has both a fair and an unfair game. Having multiple win conditions is a powerful weapon to have in the current Modern metagame. I haven’t played with this deck in a while, but I feel that the printing of Scavenging Ooze will end up hurting it quite a bit. This is always a deck that I keep my eye on, but overall I consider this to be a less-than-Tier 1 deck.

I like Gifts Ungiven because there’s a lot of value when you cast Gifts Ungiven digging up more Gifts Ungivens. Also, being able to use it for the reanimator combo is quite powerful. My only issue with the Gifts package is that it fills up the whole top-end of your curve no matter what deck you play it in. It’s hard to play anymore 4+ drops in your deck when you’re jamming 4 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Elesh Norn (or other fatty of choice), and 1 Unburial Rites. Overall, I think that the concept of this deck is quite powerful, but with the increasing popularity of Scavenging Ooze, I’d probably try to stay away from any deck that’s too graveyard dependent. As far as other fatties you can reanimate for this deck, I’ve always loved Iona, Shield of Emeria and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.


Living End (11th place GP Portland 2013 by Michael Simon):

Manabase (19):

  • 4x Blackcleave Cliffs
  • 1x Blood Crypt
  • 3x Copperline Gorge
  • 1x Dryad Arbor
  • 1x Forest
  • 1x Godless Shrine
  • 1x Mountain
  • 1x Overgrown Tomb
  • 1x Stomping Ground
  • 1x Swamp
  • 4x Verdant Catacombs


Mainboard (41):

  • 2x Avalanche Riders
  • 4x Deadshot Minotaur
  • 4x Fulminator Mage
  • 4x Jungle Weaver
  • 4x Monstrous Carabid
  • 3x Pale Recluse
  • 4x Street Wraith
  • 2x Twisted Abomination
  • 3x Beast Within
  • 4x Demonic Dread
  • 3x Living End
  • 4x Violent Outburst


Sideboard (15):

  • 1x Beast Within
  • 2x Gnaw to the Bone
  • 4x Ingot Chewer
  • 4x Leyline of the Void
  • 4x Shriekmaw

Living End will steal some wins against opponents who are trying to play out creatures in the early turns (Merfolk, Bogles, etc). It can also just Fulminator Mage and Beast Within all of your lands, which can be very good against Tron or any deck with a greedy manabase. Land destruction will also win games against opponents who miss their land drops. One of the things that I like about the deck is the presence of Leyline of the Void in the sideboard. I feel that Leyline of the Void doesn’t see enough play in Modern because it’s one of the few pieces of graveyard hate that only affects your opponents.

Those are some of its strengths, but now for its weaknesses:

I feel that Living End is an overrated deck in Modern. This hasn’t always been true. In fact, before Return to Ravnica, I felt that this deck was reasonably well-positioned against most decks in the Modern metagame besides decks running counterspells or Tron (4 maindeck Relic of Progenitus and 4 maindeck Ancient Stirrings to find them). However, since the printing of Deathrite Shaman, decks like this that rely heavily on the graveyard are difficult to pilot against a turn 1 Deathrite Shaman. Let’s also not forget that Scavenging Ooze is now legal in Modern, and the Ooze is even more efficient at exiling cycled creatures from the graveyard. I also feel that it’s easy to sideboard against this deck for much of the same reasons that I explained about sideboarding against Splinter Twin (see previous article on Splinter Twin). Even bad players are easily capable of determining which cards in their sideboard are good against Living End and also which cards in their maindeck are bad against Living End. Another thing that I don’t like about this deck is that resolving the combo doesn’t necessarily win the game right away like it does with Splinter Twin or Storm. Personally, I mostly play UWR, and I’ve had plenty of people resolve a big Living End against me, but I was still able to stabilize and grind out the win by using Path to Exile, Supreme Verdict, Cryptic Command (tap draw), Snapcaster Mage, and other removal spells to get there. There are also plenty of games where you can just counter their three Living Ends and it becomes very difficult for them to win by hardcasting their janky and clunky creatures.

I am a fan of Travis Woo’s ability to create original and powerful combo decks in every metagame in Magic. I definitely don’t think that Living End was a bad idea for a deck, and I think there was a long period of time where Living End was a key deck to look out for in Modern. Unfortunately, with the prominence of Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, and Mana Leak, this isn’t a deck that I would recommend someone taking to a competitive tournament. This is a match-up that you’ll definitely want to test against and feel comfortable playing against, but overall I consider Living End to be a strictly Tier 2 deck in Modern.

If you still avidly want to play Living End at competitive tournaments, then I recommend you use Simian Spirit Guide to speed up the combo. Speed is always a good thing in Modern, but you’ll want to be careful that you don’t sacrifice too much of its consistency.

That’s it for this week, but join us next week when I go over Infect, Goryo’s Reanimator, RG aggro, RDW, and much more!

Feel free to leave any questions or comments or contact me via:

Facebook: Nick Rennard – Oregon State University

MTGO: nrjets99

e-mail: nickrennard@yahoo.com


Thanks for Reading!

-Nick Rennard