Modern is in Good (GW) Company

Greetings, Valuetownspeople. A few weeks back, I wrote a primer on G/W company, its position in the meta, and how to take down some of its matchups. I’ve been playing a lot of modern lately, and the climate is currently looking very friendly to G/W company. If you haven’t read the original article, you can find it here and that’ll catch you up to speed. Since then, a few interesting things have happened, and we’re going to address them all.


Meta (Scape)shift

I can’t stay away from terrible Magic puns. There has been a very clear shift in the meta as of late. For a good while, the dominant decks in the format seemed to be Storm, Tron, and Scapeshift. They were just everywhere you looked. We have a good Tron match-up, an okay Scapeshift match-up, and a bad Storm match-up. That put us in an “okay” position because we could still catch match-ups against fair decks. Evidently, the format has shifted away from this kind of big mana and combo meta (for now) and it’s a good time to capitalize on the change.

Why did this happen?

A large proponent of the meta shift is due to what I believe is the presence of a handful of Team Constructed SCG events. Where there is a high volume of major team events, the metas from those events tend to trickle down to smaller events like IQs and so on. At team events, the meta is often rather ‘inbred’ and people will lean toward a deck that they think will get them the most free wins–these are typically decks like Affinity, Burn, Scapeshift, Dredge, etc. The difference between those and normal events is that in a normal event, you’re a lot more self-minded and focused on winning your own match, and sometimes that just means playing the pet deck that you’ve played for years with consistency. Though I was unable to make it up to Philadelphia, I made some predictions about the results. I predicted that the top 5 decks we’d see there are Death’s Shadow, Jeskai, Burn, Affinity, and Humans.

To check the accuracy of my prediction, here’s the metagame breakdown for Day 2 of SCG Philadelphia:

  • Grixis Death’s Shadow – 3
  • Jeskai Control – 3
  • Affinity – 3
  • Burn – 3
  • Humans – 2
  • B/G Midrange – 2
  • Scapeshift – 1
  • G/B Tron – 1
  • Bant Spirits – 1
  • Merfolk – 1
  • Dredge – 1
  • Grixis Control – 1
  • B/W Eldrazi – 1
  • U/R Gifts Storm – 1
  • G/R Madcap Moon – 1

Guys. Only 1 of these decks is an actual bad matchup for us and 1-2 of them are a little shaky. Overall, a deck that plays a lot of hard-to-remove creatures and a playset of Ghost Quarter and Collected Company is very favored in this sort of meta. The format is an absolute stomping ground for this deck right now. Counters Company, Elves, Storm, and Scapeshift are all on a downtick…and why is that? They’re afraid of “Lightning_Bolt.dec”, so they’re not showing up to tournaments. The presence of a high number of fair and control decks just puts us ahead, as we are a midrange creature deck.

All that being said…how has my list changed from before and why?

Zach Goldman’s GW Valuetown (1/2018)

Creatures (29)
  Birds of Paradise
  Noble Hierarch
  Lotus Cobra
  Scavenging Ooze
  Voice of Resurgence
  Aven Mindcensor
  Azusa, Lost but Seeking
  Courser of Kruphix
  Eternal Witness
  Knight of the Reliquary
  Ramunap Excavator
  Tireless Tracker

Spells (8)
  Path to Exile
  Collected Company
Lands (23)
  Gavony Township
  Ghost Quarter
  Horizon Canopy
  Temple Garden
  Verdant Catacombs
  Windswept Heath

Sideboard (15)
  Reclamation Sage
  Thalia, Heretic Cathar
  Linvala, Keeper of Silence
  Sigarda, Host of Herons
  Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  Surgical Extraction
  Dromoka’s Command
  Eldritch Evolution
  Engineered Explosives
  Stony Silence

At one point, I cut the Scavenging Ooze from the mainboard and moved it to the sideboard.  I didn’t like it there and eventually moved it back to the main.

-1 Birds of Paradise+1 Lotus Cobra

I found I was just drawing Birds of Paradise too often. I was eager to try out the snake and, since it produces so much mana, I was able to justify shaving a bird to include one. The synergy with fetch lands and Tireless Tracker is insane. It also enables some explosive starts that help us get ahead even earlier. One of my favorite Cobra moments was playing a turn three Sigarda on the draw against Eldrazi Tron…after my first turn Birds of Paradise got “Ballista’d”.

I am very interested in trying a Bojuka Bog over one basic Plains, as it is nice hedge against the graveyard-based decks and can randomly blow your opponent out at instant speed with a Knight of the Reliquary. I haven’t gotten to try it just yet but I’ve heard great things from people who have tried it. A lot of people have been cutting Aven Mindcensor but I just think the card is too good to lose. It’s a flying clock and, as early as turn two on the play, you can randomly “Stifle” your opponent’s fetch land. At that point, you’re three mana up to their zero. The game is often just over from there. It’s got great synergy with Ghost Quarter and it helps with match-ups that play Gifts Ungiven and Chord of Calling.

-2 Eidolon of Rhetoric+1 Dromoka’s Command+1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar.

Storm is not a major factor in the meta right now. Sure, there are other match-ups where Eidolon is good, but I think, in some of them, we’re already favored, so I’ve been trying the deck without them anywhere in the 75. I can honestly say that I haven’t missed them. 

Thalia is great vs decks that play a lot of creatures intended to block or creatures with haste as well as decks with a lot of nonbasic lands that they need to play untapped. This gives you a strong edge against Burn, Death’s Shadow, Eldrazi decks, Tron, and Humans. A 3/2 first strike creature is nothing to scoff at either, especially when we can play it consistently on turn two.

Dromoka’s Command shines in the same ways it did in Standard. It removes creatures, makes our guys bigger, blows up enchantments, and it counters an Anger of the Gods, Lightning Bolt, Conflagrate, etc. I don’t think this needs too much explanation. It’s been excellent every time I’ve drawn it

Dinos, Fish, and Pirates

Rivals of Ixalan hit shelves a few weeks ago, and while it’s impacted standard in a big way, what does it mean for Modern? Well, as far as I can see, the only real impact it has had on the format is validating the green splash in Merfolk. Lots of Valuetowners are asking if the following three cards are worth a slot in this deck. SPOILER: I believe none of them are good enough.

Thrashing Brontodon

“Big Booty Judy” reporting for duty.

Can it be found on collected company? Yes.

Does it evade lightning bolt and fatal push (without revolt)? Yes.

Does it immediately impact the board or generate value on its own? No.

The first two traits make this card a green mage’s wet dream…there’s just one slight issue. Why don’t we run Qasali Pridemage over Reclamation Sage in the sideboard?  The need to sacrifice and lack of an “ETB” trigger.

Sure, Pridemage is a grizzly bear with exalted which makes the body alone better than Reclamation Sage…but remember, we’re a go-wide deck. Look at the mana investment we spend to naturalize something. We want all of our creatures to have immediate impact and we need bodies on the table. If Qasali Pridemage is blowing up an artifact or enchantment, we lose the body; Rec Sage gives us immediate impact upon resolution without additional mana investment, which makes it a better hit off CoCo. If we end step a CoCo and are tapped out, we are immediately sniping an artifact or enchantment as opposed to having to invest an additional mana into our “free” creature. The Brontodon can be looked at in the same light. Sure, it costs three mana like Rec Sage and it gets us a 3/4 instead of a 2/1 but if we need to sac it for the most relevant part of the card, then we’ve just spent four mana and it didn’t matter if the body was a 3/4 or a 0/1 anyways. Are there situations where a bigger body is better? Sure. Is it something that we should be concerned about when our focus is on value? No.

Verdict: Good, but not good enough; I’d also say not better than Qasali Pridemage since it costs more mana and doesn’t have exalted. I’d consider this in a Chord deck, but still would probably choose Pridemage first.

Jadelight Ranger

To be honest, I got very excited when this card was spoiled. It’s a three mana 2/1 with a sweet ETB effect. What’s not to love? Let’s take a closer look…

At worst, it’s a 3 mana 2/1 that draws us two lands. At best, it’s a three mana 4/3 that gives us pseudo-scry but no actual card advantage, just information. So you’re telling me I can have a slightly above-the-curve creature for three mana? Sure that sounds okay, but what do we cut? This sounds like a worse version of some kind of hybrid between Tireless Tracker and Courser of Kruphix. Courser generates card advantage by giving us information about the top of the deck, as well as giving us extra draws of lands, along with incidental life gain. Tireless Tracker is a slightly below curve 3/2 for three that almost always generates value if you’re playing your deck correctly. Sure, the clue tokens require mana investment, but they draw a card AND grow the Tracker. One of these two cards could be the only one I could see even trying to justify for the Ranger. Granted, Ranger synergizes well with Courser, as you’ll already have information about the top of the deck, and with E Wit, you can get stuff back if you throw it in the bin.

Verdict: No, No, Jadelight Ranger. This card is good, but it’s no Power Ranger. I just can’t justify making any cuts for it, as it just doesn’t generate nearly as much value as any of our other creatures.

Wayward Swordtooth

This is the big one. I’ve been asked more times about this card than any other card from RIX. “It’s like a budget Azusa!” Yeah, no.

You want to generally play Azusa, Lost But Seeking on turn two-four if possible. When we windmill slam her, we get to do the closest to an unfair thing that we can do in our G/W midrange fair creature deck. For anyone that has played Pokemon competitively, she’s basically Shaymin EX. She just generates so much advantage on the board, it’s insane. She’s very below the curve at 1/2 but my, if she isn’t great. The lost butt-seeker can attack and block, plus she soaks up removal. Let’s take the same converted mana cost, change the text box to say “one” instead of “two” and make it a 5/5…wait no that’d be insane…how do we balance that? I know. It can’t attack or block unless you control ten permanents. Carry on my Wayward Swordtooth.

Sure, it’s resilient to removal. Sure, it can be hit off Collected Company. Isn’t this just a three mana Exploration that can die to creature removal? Yes. When you control ten permanents, you’re likely already winning the game. Frankly, at this point, there are better creatures we can play. I’d much rather see Azusa every single time. Even though she’s only a 1/2, she can still attack and block, which means we are impacting the board even more. Furthermore, playing three lands per turn (especially if it’s Ghost Quarter) is better than two. But Zach, what if I have Azusa and Swordtooth in play? Well, then you’re already winning…see above.

Verdict: Good card, very close to being playable. Good budget alternative to Azusa, however, it deserves no dedicated slot in the current list.

How do we move forward?

Develop your skills. Learn the lines with the deck. Tune your list for your local meta. Have fun out-valuing your opponents and crushing them with your mighty green/white creatures deck. We are very well-positioned in the current meta, and there are lots of SCG Invitational Qualifiers and other large Modern events coming up to take advantage of this. With all the Team Opens, I suspect the meta will remain mostly the same, which leaves us in a great position to crush the other fair decks and stay the course to victory. I’ll be grinding lots of events from now until at least June (SCG Con).  Stay tuned for more updates as I do.  

Best of luck, everyone.