Welcome to Modern Hero

Where do I even begin? This is a question many Magic players ask themselves when they get ready to play a new format for the first time. Maybe you’re completely new to the game. Maybe you played for a bit a decade ago and just found your way back. Maybe you’ve been playing Standard for a couple years and you’re looking to branch out. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to play Modern.

Where do you even begin? Wizards of the Coast has attempted to help you answer this question. They have created the Modern Event Deck. This B/W Tokens mid-range deck costs $75, a reasonable price compared to the hundreds of dollars required to play a deck with Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest, Tarmogoyf, or Dark Confidant. But, is it even worth the investment?

That’s where Modern Hero comes in. I’m going to buy the Modern Event Deck and put it to the test. Here’s what you need to know:

  • I will be using the actual event deck purchased from my local game store
  • Every week I will enter a four-round Modern tournament hosted at my LGS for a $10 entry fee
  • After each tournament I will post a report on the deck’s performance that week
  • The tournament reports will end with a poll for voting on improvements to the deck
  • A budget of $10/week will be used for making the improvements
  • Any prizes I win at my LGS will also be used to make improvements
  • After 8 weeks of testing, I will play the deck at Grand Prix Boston/Worcester
  • Once all is said and done, post-GP Boston, we will be auctioning off the final deck for charity

The total budget for this project is $275 which includes the $75 event deck, nine weeks of tournament entry ($80), nine weeks of improvements ($80) and the $40 entry fee to Grand Prix Boston/Worcester. You’ll get to follow along week-by-week and see the improvements and help direct the changes made to the deck. In the end, we’ll have a community-built deck to be proud of.

Last Week on Modern Hero

Just a week ago we kicked off this three-month long look at the Modern Event Deck with a test session at Twenty Sided Store to get used to the deck. We went 2-2 over the course of four rounds, winning against Splinter Twin and Storm, losing against Mono-U ‘Tron and U/W ‘Tron. We did not make any changes to the deck afterwards as this was simply a warm-up week.

Four Rounds of Modern

Round 1 – RWU Control

Round 1

Before the tournament began, Hipsters tech guru Dave McCoy helped me re-sleeve the deck. With a shiny set of black Casthaven sleeves I was ready for another week of battle. Last week was a warm-up week, and as such I did not make any changes to the deck.

My first opponent, John, was a bit nervous about the match, having been tinkering with a lot of different deck ideas recently. He told me he was preparing for PTQ season and wasn’t yet sure what he’d be playing. Tonight he was testing one of the decks he was thinking of bringing to PTQ events.

John won the die roll and kicked off with a Scalding Tarn. I followed it with Windbrisk Heights hiding an Intangible Virtue under the Lorwyn land. John fetched up a Sacred Foundry at the end of my turn and then played an Arid Mesa and passed the turn. I untapped and, while my notes are a bit rough here, I believe I had my Tidehollow Sculler remanded. John went down to 16 life, fetching out Hallowed Fountain to do so.

The next turn he played a Steam Vents untapped and followed it with Geist of Saint Traft, now sitting at 14 life. I followed it up with Spectral Procession, sitting at 18 life myself from Caves of Koilos. John managed to get one attack in with Geist before I played out two anthems (one from Windbrisk Heights) and was able to win the match.

I sideboarded out Soul Wardens, Shrine of Loyal Legions, and Sword of Feast and Famine. I brought in Duress and two copies of Relic of Progenitus (for Snapcaster Mage). In game two I did not have much luck. I opened with a turn two Duress and saw Thundermaw Hellkite. I tried to power out a win, but did not draw into an anthem to keep my tokens alive from Hellkite.

Before the final game I boarded in my two Burrenton Forge-Tenders for the Relics I had previously brought in. Game three ended up being a very tight affair. Early in the game I played Tidehollow Sculler and revealed Wrath of God, Engineered Explosives, Anger of the Gods, and two Path to Exiles. Yikes. I tried to play around all the removal, but overextended into the Explosives and lost the game.

The best cards in this matchup were the disruption package and Windbrisk Heights. The biggest improvement would have been if I had Thoughtseize instead of Duress to take away his Hellkite.

Event Deck 0—Not Event Deck 1

Round 2 – Affinity

Round 2

Mark was a very jovial opponent who was very enjoyable to play against. He seemed a bit new to Affinity and was still figuring out exactly how his deck is supposed to work. He recognized me from the discussions around Modern Hero, so he knew what my deck selection would be.

Game one opened very aggressively for Mark. I had won the die roll and led with Caves of Koilos. Mark followed with Signal Pest, Ornithopter, two Memnites, Inkmoth Nexus, and a Mox Opal. I used Path to Exile on a Signal Pest and then played a few tokens. Mark had Arcbound Ravager a couple turns later and beefed up his Inkmoth Nexus for the win.

I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of starting the event with two match losses. Luckily the Modern Event Deck has a strong sideboard plan for Affinity:

In game two, Mark had a small army of Vault Skirges. He dragged me all the way down to 7 life, bringing himself up to 27 in the process. Around that time I was able to stabilize my board with a handful of flying tokens and anthem effects to make them 3/3. This gave me enough time to draw into Soul Warden and Kataki which won me the second game.

In the final game I had Kataki early on and was able to stop several shenanigans early on with Zealous Persecution. Without being able to develop his board very well I managed to play out my game plan unhindered and handily won the match.

Kataki worked out fine in this match, but I think Stony Silence would have done an equally effective job of shutting down Arcbound Ravager, which is what got me in game one. Stony Silence also helps against Birthing Pod, Oblivion Stone, and a few other goodies I’m sure.

Zealous Persecution and Soul Warden were pretty valuable in this match. I probably could have kept the Shrine of Loyal Legions in for Elspeth and Sword of Feast and Famine which likely would not have helped too much against Affinity.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 1

Round 3 – Faeries

Round 3

I’ve been playing magic against Brayan since I moved to New York City in 2007. Back then we were still playing at Neutral Ground and Brayan was infatuated with Faeries. His nemesis, of course, was the Cloudgoat Ranger/Spectral Procession-fueled Kithkin decks of the day. So this match-up was a bit nostalgic.

Brayan won the die roll and played a turn two Bitterblossom. Ruh roh shaggy. I untapped, played a land, and cast Shrine of Loyal Legions. Sean McKeown was sitting next to us and gave Shrine it’s new nickname: Biggerblossom. Brayan’s life total slowly ticked down from Bitterblossom and he eventually got a Mistbind Clique into play. He followed up with a second Bitterblossom. Luckily my Lingering Souls were holding back his army of Fae.

At one point we had an interesting series of plays. I cast an Intangible Virtue off of Windbrisk Heights. Brayan responded with Spellstutter Sprite. In response to the trigger, I cast Zealous Persecution. I thought I was in the clear because he would be left with only Bitterblossom as a Faerie in play. Unfortunately I forgot that Brayan could activate Mutavault to successfully counter the Virtue.

I still ended up winning the game as Brayan died to his own Bitterblossoms (after I removed his Clique with Path to Exile). Sideboarding as follows:

Game two went pretty fast. Brayan had another turn-two Bitterblossom. I had Windbrisk Heights, Tidehollow Sculler, Spectral Procession, and then Intangible Virtue. In reality I couldn’t have asked for a better draw with this deck.

One of the best cards in this match, similar to Affinity, was Zealous Persecution. The ability to create a mini-Plague Wind effect is very powerful. Shrine of Loyal Legions was cute, but not really necessary. I’d like to think Soul Warden is pretty decent in this match as well, but didn’t get a chance to test that theory.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 1

Round 4 – RUG Twin

Round 4

You might recognize this guy. Li used to write for Hipsters of the Coast in the early days. His weekly column, Pondering, was a very good look at playing competitive Magic. Li eventually moved on and now splits his time between PTQs and professional Street Fighter. I had previously beaten two current writers for this site, could I beat a former writer?

Li opened with Gitaxian Probe but he already knew what I was playing. He followed with Misty Rainforest and Tarmogoyf soon joined the fray. Meanwhile, I kept a two-land hand with no black mana sources. I ended up never seeing a third land and stuck with three copies of Tidehollow Sculler that I couldn’t play. A few tokens from Raise the Alarm and a single Intangible Virtue kept Li at bay, but a second Tarmogoyf sealed the deal.

In game two I had an early Tidehollow Sculler and took away a Lightning Bolt. I was able to start attacking but soon that Tarmogoyf was in the way. A few sequences later I was facing down two 5/6 Tarmogoyfs. Still, I was able to get things going and the board was clogged with 3/3 tokens swinging in the air as well. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to dig into a Dismember or Path to Exile to keep those Goyfs from doing their damage and lost a very close game.

No single cards really stood out in this match. I likely should have boarded in Duress, but on the play I wanted a faster clock against the inevitable Tarmogoyf beat-down. This is also the only match so far, in eight matches, that I would have been happy to see Sword of Feast and Famine.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 2

Wrap Up

I consider a 2-2 finish a very solid performance for this deck in its unmodified form. The first match loss, against UWR Control, was a winnable match-up. The second match loss, against RUG Delver was a situation where I was out-matched, but upgrades to the deck and maybe a better mulligan decision in game one make that winnable as well.

Even though I wasn’t able to pick up a winning record, a 2-2 finish is good enough for one free prize pack. I took a pack of Journey into Nyx and opened a Deicide which is worth $1.00 of store credit. We’ll add that to our budget for upgrading our deck.

Next Time on Modern Hero

So now it’s time to make changes to the deck. Please use the below poll to vote for the two changes you would most like to see for next week’s tournament. Voting will be open until Tuesday afternoon and I will acquire the new cards Tuesday evening just prior to the tournament.

Our current budget for upgrades is $11. A lot of these changes are over $11. If the most popular selections are out of our budget then we will wait until next week to make changes. Similarly, if multiple selections can fit in one week’s budget then we will make those changes. Feel free to add comments for other changes you’d like to see as well.

Also, you’ll notice that all of these options are swapping one card for a similar card or upgrade. Right now I am not comfortable changing the dynamic of the deck. After another week or two we will start to see more dramatic changes being proposed.

Modern Hero - Week 1 Upgrades

  • Replace 1-3 Duress with Thoughtseize ($18 ea.) (27%, 260 Votes)
  • Replace Elspeth, Knight Errant with Hero of Bladehold ($8) (17%, 160 Votes)
  • Replace 1-4 Caves of Koilos with Godless Shrine ($12 ea.) (15%, 146 Votes)
  • Replace 1-3 Kataki, War's Wage with Stony Silence ($2 ea.) (13%, 129 Votes)
  • Replace 1-2 Ghost Quarter with Oblivion Ring ($0.50 ea.) (11%, 108 Votes)
  • Replace Sword of Feast and Famine with Brimaz, King of Oreskos ($20) (9%, 89 Votes)
  • Replace 1-2 Soul Warden with Auriok Champion ($15 ea.) (4%, 42 Votes)
  • Replace Vault of the Archangel with Contested War Zone ($0.50) (3%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 716

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Overall match wins: 4-4-0 (.500)
Overall game wins: 9-10-0 (.474)
Match wins vs. HotC writers: 2-1-0 (.667)
Game wins vs. HotC writers: 4-3-0 (.571)

Vs. Affinity: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-1-0 (.667)
Vs. Faeries: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-0-0 (1.000)
Vs. Mono-U Tron: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. UW Tron: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. RUG Twin: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. RWU Control: 0-1-0 (.000)/1-2-0 (.333)
Vs. Splinter Twin: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-1-0 (.667)
Vs. Storm Combo: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-0-0 (1.000)

Rich Stein is a former amateur Magic player turned Magic journalist. He came very close to making day two of several Grand Prix tournaments before metaphorically hanging up his playmat. He now returns to the table to sling spells in the guise of investigative journalism. You can also check out his weekly news column: What We Learned, which appears on Mondays on this very site.

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