Four Cards to Play in Twinless Modern

Last week’s metagame snapshot article was a big hit, making the January 28 Daily Magic Update and releasing one of the only evidence-based portraits of our new Modern. You can be sure we’ll add to that dataset and revisit it in a few days. For today, instead of taking the Ornithopter’s-eye view to analyze broader metagame forces, we’ll zero in on four cards poised to benefit both from Twin’s departure and from the changed Modern climate. Some of these technology pieces are already seeing play in a post-Splinter Twin environment. Others are currently homeless, waiting patiently for an enterprising brewer to reverse their fortunes. With a format pillar toppled from the Modern structure, there are big shoes to fill and bigger gaps to exploit: we’ll need to think outside the box if we want to succeed at shaping this Wild Twinless West anew.

Shape Anew art

My initial list for today’s article exceeded twenty cards, ranging from splashy sluggers (Phyrexian Obliterator, Zur the Enchanter) to demanding build-arounds (Restore Balance, Trash for Treasure). Also, Seance. Because Seance. Instead of spending the article cobbling together Goblin Charbelcher brews and Crucible of Worlds experiments, I want to look at the four cards with the highest chance of post-banning success. Well, maybe three cards plus the zany Johnny piece I’ll start the article with. As we continue our quest for URx Twin’s successor, we’ll want to keep an eye out for these cards, and our minds open to the possible decks and strategies which could welcome these sleepers into their ranks.

Shape Anew

Shape AnewI know there are readers out there with 100s of these squirreled away like American gold-purchasers after Obama’s election. Whether you’re a speculator trying to cash in on a never reprinted Scars of Mirrodin rare, a Tinker expatriate who wants to live the Blightsteel Colossus dream, or a starry-eyed brewer who forgot Darksteel Citadel is more bombo than bomb, everyone has a secret love affair with Shape Anew somewhere in their past. Twin’s departure means it’s time to bring that fling into the open.

The Twin bans opens up both direct and indirect space for Shape Anew to shine. From a pure positioning standpoint, Shape Anew into some massive win condition like Colossus is no longer strictly worse than Deceiver Exarch into Splinter Twin. More importantly, the cards you need for Shape to work are significantly better in a no-Twin Modern. Take Blade Splicer. Here was a three-drop which profitably blocked Goblin Guide and Wild Nacatl all day long. You couldn’t Lightning Bolt it at parity and a pair of the Splicers (or a blinked one) killed even big Tarmogoyfs.

Blade SplicerUnfortunately, Splicer cost three. Same as Exarch, one less than Twin, and one more than would ordinarily pass Modern’s URx Twin barometer.

Today, Splicer, a fat Blightsteel Colossus, and the Ux(x) shells to support all these synergies are much better off than before the ban. You know who else can join the fun? Jund and Grixis breakout celebrity couple Pia and Kiran Nalaar, another strong card I’d want to play with or without Shape Anew. Indeed, this is the sticking point of the Shape combo and why I’m rooting for it in Modern: you can jam 2-3 copies in along with your win condition and then play whatever else around it. Unlike Polymorph, an almost identical card that also excites me in the new Modern, Shape’s deckbuilding requirements aren’t as stringent. This edge, coupled with the other advantages of the package, have me brewing up all kinds of blue-red strategies to adopt Tinker-lite. Jund, not Abzan, is even on the upswing, which means more Bolts and fewer Path to Exiles to ruin your Blighsteel fun.

Blightsteel ColossusControl mages are all scrambling to get the Jeskai configuration right, and I’m pumped to get these cards rolling alongside Restoration Angel. Bolt, Path, Lightning Helix, and Electrolyze offer early protection before the deck transitions into a Chapin-worthy grindfest of artifacts tokens, blink effects, and Snapcaster Mage value. Opponent miss a beat? Shape Anew out a Golen for the Pyrexian Iron Giant. Or bring in Platinum Angel or Platinum Emperion to seal the aggro deal. I’m sure there are other ways to build this, but Blightsteel Jeskai has a ring to it and I promised a more offbeat combo to start off the article. I’m sure a turn four Colossus delivered!

Kitchen Finks

Twinless Modern is likely to be a more diverse format in the longrun, but short-term trends point squarely to a linear occupation. We’re already Kitchen Finksseeing this in last week’s metagame update, and (spoiler alert) data from this weekend is likely to confirm those initial observations. When it comes to jamming up aggro, especially Burn, Kitchen Finks wears the crown. None of the Burn or Zoo creatures can safely attack into the Finks squad (ignore Zoo’s Tarmogoyf, who at least gets chumped), which can easily lead to effective three-for-ones if an opponent manages the Ouphes poorly. These conditions make Finks a critical sideboard card and even a candidate for maindeck inclusion depending on the metagame.

We’re already seeing this play out in both UW Control and Jund lists over the past week, not to mention a slot alongside Death and TaxesDark Confidant MM2015Flickerwisp engine. The aggro roadblock really excels alongside Jund’s Dark Confidant, offsetting the lifeloss and ensuring the BGx deck can stabilize into the midgame. Finks gets a bit weaker in the Affinity and Infect contests, where aggressors can ignore the hapless milk-chuggers with flying or poison, but there’s enough Burn and Zoo tromping around to justify the Finks. You’ll need to be wary of Tron’s and Eldrazi’s Relic of Progenitus playsets, but Finks will give damage-based decks (and those dependent on one-for-one spot removal) fits. Just run them in a shell which can handle those matchups and you’ll be fine: Wx Death and Taxes, or Hatebears depending on your preference, are both worthy homes. Jund, Abzan, and UW Control also fit this profile.

Damnation

DamnationThis was initially Supreme Verdict and Wrath of God before that. However, the article was reading too much like I was Iowa caucusing for blue-based control, so I’m moving back to the four-mana sweeper Wizards absolutely refuses to reprint. Magic’s classic board wipes just couldn’t find top-tier footing in URx Twin Modern. Not only was Twin taking up all the blue control space, but the sweepers themselves were pretty abysmal against the combo king. Nothing says desperation like Verdicting a solo Pestermite to slow the Twin clock. Twin also policed too many aggressive decks for Wrath effects to realize their two-for-one (or more) potential. Wizards knocked down those barriers on January 18, which signaled a triumphant return to the control board-clearers of old.

If you’re playing Damnation, you’re probably doing it in a Gerard Fabiano Sultai throwback or an attempt to resurrect the defunct Supreme VerdictEsper wedge. Lacking Bolt, both color combinations struggle with early aggression, relying on watered-down removal like Disfigure and proactive walls such as Tarmogoyf and Lingering Souls to relieve pressure. Modern’s new focus on linear and creature-based strategies make Damnation a nasty turn four knockout against aggro decks already on the back foot. Supreme Verdict occupies a similar spot in blue-based control, picking up percentage points in Merfolk (Cursecatcher laughs at vanilla Wrath) and Delver-invested metagames. You’re even getting mileage in the BGx matchup, where the average Damnation is sure to kill at least a Tarmogoyf and a Siege Rhino, if not more. In all these cases, don’t look for three or four-for-one exchanges to justify the sweepers’ inclusion. If you can force two kills for one card, that’s good enough in most matchups. As another metagame consideration, the Wraths dodge Eldrazi’s Inquisitions and then blow up their early groundforce.

Night of Souls’ Betrayal

Night of Souls' BetrayalOr Curse of Death’s Hold, if you want to be a little worse but save a little money (Editor’s Note: More than a little money, Sheridan). Curse’s asymmetric upside isn’t worth the mana-cost downside, so I’ll be sticking with the Champions of Kamigawa version instead. Besides, one of those arts is a lot scarier, and it’s not the Liliana wannabe painting the ground purple. Aesthetics aside, Night is a monstrous four-drop in a metagame overrun with linear decks. Unlike the fallback Wrath effects, Night interacts decisively with Affinity and Infect. Burn’s Guides and Monastery Swiftspears scrape through the Betrayal, as do Merfolk and Jund, but the enchantment still causes serious headaches for aggro players. The global -1/-1 also harries BW Eldrazi (Lingering Souls and Blight Herder hate it), but some versions are actually running the card themselves, so don’t overestimate its impact.

Curse of Death's HoldIn presenting Damnation and Night side-by-side, I’m definitely making a statement about different control options in a linear format. To be sure, Souls’ Betrayal wasn’t irrelevant against the 1/4 and 2/1 workhorses of Twin, but you weren’t jazzed about the four-mana commitment with the Twin combo (and Remand) waiting in the wings. The overall metagame presence also wasn’t as decidedly linear as we’re seeing today. All of this has changed, which make both Night and the Wrath sweepers much more competitive than they were in December. If you’re looking at a field thick with Affinity and Infect, Night of Souls’ Betrayal is exactly where you want to be. Abzan Company, Elves, and BW Tokens will also push you to the enchantment. Burn and Zoo formats favor conventional Wraths, as well as those with Merfolk, Delver, Ux midrange, and the BGx overlords.

Hunting for Technology

Everyone from pros to weekend grinders is on the prowl for the next big Modern thing, and I’m sure we’ll see breakout performers as Pro Tour coverage begins. Keep those TCGPlayer.com accounts handy and get ready to check out with a cartful of staples if you see something you like. Just be sure to stick with reputable vendors, lest the fruits of your speculation labor be reclaimed due to the dreaded “Out of Stock” excuse. Some Modern detractors are convinced the Pro Tour is going to be nothing but Affinity, Burn, and Tron, but if our early metagame numbers hold, I bet we see at least a few pioneers push the format to its next stages.

As much as I’d love this article to be “Twenty Cards to Play in Twinless Modern,” my editor would lose his mind since there’s no way I could discipline myself to write less than two paragraphs per highlight (Editor’s Note: *Threatening eye twitch*). In case you’re clamoring for more cool technology beyond these four cards and the morsels in the Death Cloudintroduction, here are a few more to get the brews flowing:

What other cards do you have on your post-Twin radar? How are you updating and creating new decks with Twin out of the picture? Any reactions to the cards presented today or where they might find homes? Join me later this week as we unpack more Modern data in advance of the Pro Tour, and I look forward to chatting with all of you in the comments.

Sheridan is the former Editor in Chief of Modern Nexus and a current Staff Author. He comes from a background in social science data analysis, database administration, and academia. He has been playing Magic since 1998 and Modern since 2011.

30 thoughts on “Four Cards to Play in Twinless Modern

  1. Glittering wish is on my list. You have pillar of the paruns and reflecting pool to power a deck full of lightning helix, abrupt decay, planeswalkers like Ajani vengeant, creatures like broodmate dragon, kitchen finks, etc. I think the reduction in blood moons is going to make the opportunity for a dedicated multicolor-only deck to take advantage of painless rainbow lands and the power of glittering wish to snag brutal sideboard outs to most matchups. everything from gaddock teeg, to sphinx’s revelation or slaughter games. Even fulminator mage.

    1. I played a deck very similar to this when I got into Modern about three years ago. Although I sold off most the pieces, it still holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite all-around decks of all time–and I’ve recently thought about putting it back together. The original author of the deck (who posted it on reddit about six months or so before Brian Kibler streamed with a very similar list he called Paruns Aggro) recently updated his original list on TCG Player: http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/deck.asp?deck_id=1258487

      I think it’s a great starting point, but there are so many awesome multi-color cards to consider in Modern it can be hard to whittle them down. The deck used to run two Ajani Vengeant, which I could see going back to, and with all the affinity and tron in the meta I would love to see Fulminators in the SB and Kologhan’s Command in the Main. Not running a few Siege Rhinos is also probably an oversight, and I would consider Kitchen Finks over war monk in the main. It’s also possible that the Pridemages need to be Main as well, as this deck has no other game 1 outs to Blood Moon, which absolutely destroys it otherwise. That was one of the main reasons I stopped playing the deck originally.

      With all the changes to the Meta, though, it could be a great time to sleeve something like this up.

    2. I’m also loving Wish right now, especially in an open format that rewards flexible sideboards and rapid-response answers. I’m a little nervous about going too deep into the Wish plan with something like Pillar, but even just sticking in Abzan colors gives you a ton of reach. Fetching Fulminators in Game 1 is nasty, and I love being able to pick up things like Decay, Gaddock Teeg, Finks, etc.

  2. There are a few UR/x brews floating around out there with a Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn combo to replace twin. Through the Breach has already gone up with expectations of Grishoalbrand being better, but if that ends up being the UR/x replacement, the card will be a must have for UR mages.

    1. Through the Breach almost made the cut for this article, but a) the card was already good before Twin and b) there were so many ways to build Breach decks that one section didn’t do them justice. We have not only the URx Breach lists floating around (as seen on CF recently, for instance), but also Summoning Trap/Chalice builds, trusty Grishoalbrand, old-school Griselbrand with Emrakul, and some more corner-case stuff like Breach Tron, Izzet Tron, Possibility Storm, etc. Lots of room for Breach fans!

  3. I like this sort of speculative article. Sometimes it’s what you need to get the brewing part of your brain going. Thanks for taking the time. As for the ideas themselves…

    A Jeskai Blink deck with a random artifact-based combo attached sounds like it’s trying to do a lot of things at once, but it might have the sort of late-game inevitability that I feel is the current weakness of the archetype (Restoration Angel beatdown takes a while to get there). However, packing in Restoration Angel, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and Shape Anew sounds like it would be a bit heavy on the 4-drops (you can kiss Cryptic Command good-bye in that scenario), and any deck that has Restoration Angel and red mana brings up the inevitable “where’s Kiki-Jiki?” question, which may or may not be fair, but it always has to be addressed. I think I’ll brew with it a bit and see if I’m satisfied with the end result.

    I can certainly vouch for Kitchen Finks, though, both in the Jeskai Blink deck in question as well as in several other shells that figure to have trouble with aggro decks otherwise. Night of Souls’ Betrayal has performed phenomenally against Affinity in some testing I did with Eldrazi (where I played Affinity, and simply could not get past it), so I think that’s a good idea too. Damnation seems interesting for the likes of BC Eldrazi (it’s basically your second line of defense after Flaying Tendrils/Drown in Sorrow) or the Sultai Control shell you mentioned (I think Esper still prefers Supreme Verdict). Now, if we could only get a reprint…

    I’m a bit surprised that Jace, Architect of Thought didn’t get any mention here (stuffs aggro decks, solid source of card advantage), or that Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is getting next to no buzz (3-mana Walker with 3 useful abilities, anyone?), especially in RUG Scapeshift (you have enough ramp to be able to afford to cast Nissa and a counterspell to protect her, her +1 helps protect you in the early game, and her ultimate will put you further ahead than a Cryptic Command ever could). On the non-planeswalker front, What are your thoughts on these cards, Sheridan?

    1. The key to the Jeskai Blink deck is making Shape Anew incidental to everything else you are doing. You could even throw in a singleton Kiki-Jiki as an added “oops, I win” bullet. I wouldn’t want the entire combo package to exceed 4, maaaybe 5 cards, however, so it’s important to balance your cool combo factor with the more traditional Jeskai shell.

      Finks is beastly and I expect we’ll see a lot of it in the coming weeks. We’re already seeing it a lot in Jund shells, both in the sideboard and even 1-2 in the maindeck. UW Control is adopting it too and I’m sure others will follow suit.

      I’m less sold on Jace in certain matchups, although maybe he’d be a nice one-of in certain maindecks. Still, I’m nervous about Jace against Infect, Merfolk, Burn, and the ramp decks, which is enough of a metagame subset for me to stay away. Great sideboard card though!

  4. I know that for Merfolk lists Phantasmal Image has gone up in stock since the amount ofcreatures with ETB kill target Phant. Image in the meta has gone down. And, I cant believe that a card that powerfull could only find a place in Merfolk. Not much of a brewer myself, but I do believe it’s a card with more potention now.

    1. Interesting observation! Image could be a very strong piece of tech with the Exarchs and Mites on the downswing. Maybe we’ll see it return like in the old Kiki Pod days. Too bad Image can’t steal the on-cast triggers of the Eldrazi.

  5. Oops, forgot to finish my thought on non-planeswalkers. The cards that I was thinking about were Oath of Gideon (potential in BW Tokens or Bant Superfriends?), Wilt-Leaf Liege (punishes targeted discard and is a trump card in aggro mirrors), and Crackling Doom (tapping out for it on T3 feels a lot less bad nowadays).

    1. CRACKLING DOOOOM. That was on my list of 20 cards, along with a few other Mardu staples like Smallpox and Monastery Mentor (Ajani did make that cut). Doom gets way better if we start seeing more Jund-style decks, although there are worse things to cast against Zoo and Merfolk assuming you’ve stayed on removal curve.

  6. Death cloud.deck can profitably play kitchen finks and damnation maindeck and night/course in the side, also is very good positioned in an aggro meta, sadly the tron MU is terrible 🙁

    1. I hope we see some Death Cloud at the Pro Tour. Even if the Tron matchup sucks, there are ways to fix that courtesy of Fulminators, Ghost Quarters, and other anti-Tron bullets. If you can keep them off balance until the turn 4-5 Cloud, you can really set them back to the stone age.

  7. i think as someone mentioned previously the shape anew/blightfeel combo is best with thopter engineer… the problem with it is it’s very vulnerable to disruption.. so the shell outside of that has to be pretty decent… that and it takes some setup…

    as far as cards that gets better… i would have to say that restoration angel is a lot more prevalent… since white is a lot more popular now… the white snapcaster?

    it does look like jeskai control is the first candidate to police the format from the look of things….

    1. Thopter Engineer is nifty but isn’t itself a card I’m dying to play in Modern. There are way better things to do for three mana, and the key to the Shape Anew shell is that it needs to function optimally without Shape in the equation. That said, I’m with you on Angel being a big player in the new format. She’s got a lot of synergies, solid 3/4 stats, represents a respectable clock, and threatens wins off Kiki.

  8. I really like the Shape Anew idea – was testing with a friend a Polymorph approach, but I have to say the not so limiting deckbuilding with Shape Anew is far superior. Combined with a Thopter Engineer I am really looking forward to a hasty Blightsteel Colossus on Turn 4!

    1. Agree about Polymorph having too many deck constraints. One of the sticking points of post-ban Jeskai is their dependence on 4 Snapcasters, which is immediately off the table once we run Polymorph instead of Shape Anew. Engineer definitely makes for a faster combo-kill, but if the combo doesn’t get online we are playing a suboptimal card. We’ll have to see if the deck is better with a more dedicated Colossus plan or something more midrangey!

    1. Esper has great positioning now but I’m seeing metagame forces shift more towards Jeskai. A big reason for this, I think, is Snapcaster’s stronger showing in Jeskai relative to Esper: Bolt-Snap-Bolt is better than most Snapcaster synergies in Esper. That said, Souls is spectacular and Inquisition is perfect in this varied field, so Esper has a lot going for it. Love Stubborn Denial too!

  9. Shape Anew looks like fun! Here’s my first draft for the “lone child” deck

    4 Blade Splicer
    2 Blightsteel Colossus
    1 Choking Fumes
    2 Mana Leak
    4 Master’s Call
    4 Path to Exile
    4 Remand
    4 Serum Visions
    4 Shape Anew
    4 Snapcaster Mage
    1 Vendilion Clique
    3 Wall of Omens
    4 Flooded Strand
    8 Island
    7 Plains
    4 Prairie Stream

    1. I feel like we have to go Jeskai with the shell or we lose a lot of Snapcaster and Restoration Angel synergies. I also really want to play Bolt, Helix, and Electrolyze in this aggressive metagame. That said, if you are going a straight UW approach, I like the cantrips and Walls here.

      1. Your missing his best card in this deck list, master’s call.
        It’s an instant “pestermite” that can’t be bolted nor path’d unless they use two cards, or they have to have an instant that can clear the board on turn three.
        It’s playing a lot along the line of Deceiver/exarch on the end-step into a turn four “win”.

        I’ve also seen a few decks go temur – green for the ramp in birds and arbor elf, blue for the shape anew, red for the thopter Engineer allowing a turn four win due to haste.

  10. Definitely agree on the kitchen finks. Also, 3 drops in general now look way better. Besides my love for the pancake flipper, Rhox warmonk, I feel like Knight of the reliquary is better than ever: able to come down as a 3/3 or 4/4 it can help against early aggression and on the late game, it can easily be an 8/8 for 3 mana. It also kills manlands on demand and helps a bit with the tron matchup.

    1. There are a bunch of three-drops I want to test now, especially Knight. She even gets bonus points for offering the combo kill alongside Retreat, if you want to pursue that route. Makes for an interesting follow-up article too: three-drop creatures you want to play in Twinless Modern.

    1. Sure is! X=3 on turn 4-5 will seal it for most matchups, and the deck has enough early interaction to survive that long in most cases. Especially with Finks!

    1. Nothing was more deflating than getting the X=2 or X=3 Death Cloud chain Remanded by Twin, only to have it Commanded two turns later. The constant threat of Exarch death didn’t help much either. Cloud looks much better without Twin in the picture.

  11. A card nobody’s playing right now that white decks should play more of is Condemn. Its not path to exile, but when you want one mana spot removal that’s not lightning bolt, its pretty damn good.

  12. I really like the “Shape Anew” combo idea.
    Do you think it can be added to the “U/W Emeria Titan Control” shell as a secondary win condition ?

    This deck is rather resilient and has enough flex slots for the combo in my opinion.

    “Muddle the Mixture” can be played as both a counterspell and tutor for “Spellskite”/”Defense Grid” which will be sacrificed to “Shape Anew” to bring “Blightsteel Colossus”.

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