My favorite color combination in all of Magic is RUG. Despite playing Delver in Standard and UW in Modern almost exclusively since returning to Magic, my heart lies with RUG. These colors embody some of the things I love best about the game: tempo, aggression, and value. And burn to the face. Never forget burn to the face.

Back when RTR first released, I tried for all of about five minutes to make RUG happen in Standard. That fell apart real quick—if you weren’t playing Sphinx’s Revelation at the time, you were losing. So I turned to Modern. Shouta Yasooka’s Eternal Command deck was insanely sweet, yet also insanely difficult to pilot, especially with the printing of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay. On top of that, having Tarmogoyf as the only true threat made the deck incredibly weak to Path to Exile.

Again, it all came back to the central problem of a bunch of sweet cards that failed to form a cohesive deck. So I waited…and waited…and waited.

Finally, the day came. When Scavenging Ooze was spoiled for M14, I immediately went back in the lab. People were quick to dismiss the card, citing the existence of Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf. I’m here to tell you that those people are oh so wrong.


Creatures: 15 (15)
Scavenging Ooze
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Spells: 22 (22)
Lightning Bolt
Serum Visions
Spell Snare
Vedalken Shackles
Cryptic Command
Lands: 23 (23)
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest
Raging Ravine
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground

Sideboard:15 (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Ancient Grudge
Blood Moon
Sulfur Elemental

The Game Plan

You have eight Tarmogoyfs. Fuck everything else, you have eight Tarmogoyfs. Try Pathing eight Tarmogoyfs. Four of them are also incidental speed bumps for many of the popular decks in the format. Snapcaster decks have to deal with Scavenging Ooze before playing their namesake card; Melira Pod suddenly can’t pull off their infinite combo without a second persist creature; hell, Gifts can’t play half its spells. I’m probably missing a ton of other applications for Scooze, but you get the idea. The card is awesome.

You also have all the tools of a Modern tempo deck: Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Remand, Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, Cryptic Command. These cards tend to do some nasty things together. And if those things aren’t enough to win and the game gets grindy, you can always fall back on manlands, Vedalken Shackles, and Batterskull.

Did I mention you get to play Blood Moon after sideboarding? Few people will play around it without seeing it first, and fewer still can win after it’s resolved.

The Weaker Matchups

I strongly believe that the deck has a close to 50% matchup in game one against most of the field. The troublesome matches are against Tron and Tokens.

Being a blue deck, it’s a dog to natural Tron, but that’s to be expected—you can’t prepare for everything in the format. Blood Moon provides a fighting chance in games two and three, and I would mulligan aggressively to find a copy, it’s just such a beating. From there, it’s a matter of resolving anything that attacks as quickly as possible, then protecting the Blood Moon from a Nature’s Claim.

As for Tokens, you really need things to work out in your favor. You need to hit first their anthem with a Spell Snare, and if you’re lucky, you can catch the second half of a Lingering Souls with a Remand. Electrolyze is amazing, but even when there are no anthems out, they always get more mileage out of a Spectral or a Souls than you do your Electrolyzes. Not to mention, your Bolts, Shackles, and Cliques are effectively dead. You’ll need to get pretty lucky to win the first game.

The matchup can be rough even after bringing in all your answers from the side, because a timely hand disruption spell from the opponent can just end the game on the spot. Assuming you don’t get your answers stripped away, however, Sulfur Elemental and Pyroclasm can keep the deck from reaching critical mass.

The Cards that Didn’t Make the Cut

Thrun, the Last Troll—I played with Thrun for a while, mostly because it dodged removal and helped win grindier games. In the end, he’s just a dumb 4/4 that really doesn’t do much else. You don’t want to tap out to play him against combo, and you can’t even play him with a Blood Moon out. I replaced him with the third copy of Electrolyze for that extra bit of consistency.

Plow Under—Another one of those cards that no one plays around. In the right circumstances, it’s as close to two Time Walks as it gets; but at the end of the day, it’s just too cute. If it cost four, I wouldn’t hesitate to play a three/one Cryptic/Plow Under split.

Thirst For Knowledge—I love instant speed draw, but three artifacts just isn’t enough, especially when the only time you want to pitch one of them is if you get the second copy of Shackles, in which case you’re probably way ahead already.

Ponder—Because it’s banned 🙁

The Closing Thoughts

Modern is a format where you want to play proactive threats. It’s not enough to just sit on a bunch of answers, you want to be the one asking the questions. This RUG deck does that, even if it’s as rudimentary as, “Do you have a Path my Ooze or my Goyf?” You’d be surprised how many decks can’t produce the correct response.

I strongly encourage you to put this list together and try it out. I’m quite proud of this little brew I put together (drawing inspiration, of course, from Shouta’s original deck as well as Reid Duke’s top 64 list from GP San Diego), and truly believe it can hang with the current tier one decks.

Li Xu (@ChinamanLX) was one of the original writers for Hipsters of the Coast and the author of the Pondering column, but quit writing when he realized Ponder wasn’t legal in any of the formats he loved. These days he divides his time between Magic and competitive Street Fighter.

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