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. 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, eight weeks of tournament entry ($80), eight 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

Last week was a very challenging one as we finished 1-3-0 on the night. Our only victory came in round four against a Splinter Twin combo deck. Prior to that we suffered losses to Jund, Mono-U ‘Tron, and a Rock deck. The theme of the week was two-fold. First, we were often mana-flooded with no outlet for our additional land. Second, we lacked enough main-deck removal to address some major threats such as Platinum Angel and Tarmogoyf.

To address these issues I decided it was time to cut back from 24 lands in order to add more removal to the deck. This would address the flooding issue and also augment the three copies of Path to Exile already in the deck. Additionally this would free up some space on the sideboard. Here’s how you voted for these changes:

Which Two Lands Should We Remove From the Deck?

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Which Two Sideboard Cards Should We Add to the Deck?

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Which Two New Cards Should We Add to the Sideboard?

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Wow, you guys really don’t like paying life for mana! I can’t say I blame you, but over the past few weeks I have not seen a noticeable amount of life tick away due to either City of Brass or Caves of Koilos. However, the community vote stands and I will be removing the two copies of City of Brass tonight in favor of the two copies of Dismember from the sideboard.

With a budget of $11.50 to work with, I added two copies of Stony Silence and one copy of Torpor Orb to the sideboard to replace Dismember and Kataki. This left me with $5.50 in the improvement budget, which meant that next week’s $10 would get us a third copy of Thoughtseize!

March of the Multitudes

Creatures (6)
Hero of Bladehold
Soul Warden
Tidehollow Sculler

Spells (32)
Honor of the Pure
Inquisition of Kozilek
Intangible Virtue
Lingering Souls
Path to Exile
Raise the Alarm
Spectral Procession
Sword of Feast and Famine
Zealous Persecution
Lands (22)
Caves of Koilos
Isolated Chapel
Vault of the Archangel
Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Ghost Quarter
Kataki, War’s Wage
Relic of Progenitus
Stony Silence
Suppression Field
Torpor Orb

An Interview with Ben Hayes

Before getting into the recap of this week’s tournament we have a special treat! This week Ben Hayes, the Wizards of the Coast designer who is responsible for putting the Modern Event Deck together, was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the deck’s origins, design challenges, and how to play.

Hipsters of the Coast: Where did the idea for the Modern Event Deck come from?
Ben Hayes: It’s hard to say exactly where or who it came from. We want people to be able to experience as many different ways to play Magic as they want and we know that Modern can have a high barrier to entry, so having a product like the Modern Event Deck just kinda makes sense.

HotC: Who are the players you had in mind when designing the deck?
BH: Primarily I designed the deck for someone who wants to play Modern in tournaments or with their friends and doesn’t already have an extensive collection of Modern staples. A goal I set for myself in design was to find a deck that could function well with a couple of splashy exciting cards and support a high number of abstractly powerful cards that any player trying to build a Modern collection would want to own.

HotC: Mark Rosewater has instilled in the community that ‘restrictions breed creativity.’ Can you give me an example of how that applied to designing this deck?
BH: We tried our best to make sure that this product would get to the people who wanted to use it to play Modern, so a lot of the restrictions I had were related to the MSRP we chose. I do believe I had to get fairly creative to find a deck that I could make competitive with my restrictions.

HotC: How early or late in the design process did you decide on B/W Tokens?
BH: There was quite a bit of exploration done into which decks could be viable for this. That said, once I started sketching out B/W Tokens designs, which happened pretty early in the process, it quickly became clear to me that I had found an archetype that would help me accomplish my goals for the deck.

HotC: Did you have to play the role of designer and developer to manage the power level of the deck?
BH: I would say that my design process was exploring archetype options and trying to find the one that would give the developer (which also happened to be me) the best framework for delivering on the goals of the product. The development process involved running playtests of the deck against a gauntlet of tournament winning Modern decks and making adjustments to try to make the deck as competitive as possible.

HotC: What were some of the unique challenges to building the Modern event deck?
BH: Modern has such a wide variety of extremely powerful archetypes, many of which attack on wildly different axis from each other, which made building the sideboard for this deck very challenging. With a Standard Event Deck the goal is very to cover broad archetype match-ups (control, mid-range, aggro) but with this deck I had to be tactical in my decisions about how many sideboard cards to have against more specialize threats and combos. Finding cards that players would want to bring in against multiple different decks was an especially unique challenge.

HotC: Are there any fundamental design differences between designing an event deck for Standard and an event deck for Modern?
BH: Standard event decks typically want to be on the aggressive side, because it’s difficult to build a control deck that has the proper tools within the constraints of that product. With the Modern event deck we had a lot more deck options to explore because of the larger card pool which contains many cards that serve similar purposes in marginally different ways.

HotC: What advice on playing the deck would you give to someone who has very little experience with the Modern format?
BH: For someone coming from Standard, I would say that this deck is probably not as aggressive as it looks. Despite having the ability to curve out and beat opponents down quickly, one of the advantages of going with tokens as opposed to single creatures is that you have a wealth of blockers and bodies, making you more resilient to single large attackers and pinpoint removal, respectively. Playing a slightly longer game also allows you to get down Intangible Virtue and Honor of the Pure, which gives you the ability to go from 0 to 60 with relative ease.

Four Rounds of Modern

Round 1 – Damon with Merfolk

Unfortunately my phone’s battery died on me before the tournament so I wasn’t able to take pictures of my opponents. In lieu of their faces, I will just present an iconic card from their deck. First up is Lord of Atlantis, who featured heavily in Damon’s Merfolk deck. Damon is relatively new to Modern Magic, having recently made the jump from Commander to Modern. He chose Merfolk as his deck because he was able to pull a lot of the cards from his Sygg deck.

Unfortunately, Damon was not able to find Mutavaults for his deck, making it noticeably less competitive. He was also running Cosi’s Trickster, which is a neat card, but very ineffective against my Marsh Flats-less version of BW tokens. For much of the early game Damon and I went one-for-one with creatures. Eventually though I was able to equip a Tidehollow Sculler with Sword of Feast and Famine. A few spot removal spells cleared the way and I took the first game. Of note was the fact that Sculler was sitting on Kira, allowing me to use my spot removal to clear a path.

Game two was a very interesting opening. He opened with Trickster and I followed with Duress seeing 2x Cavern of Souls, Spreading Seas, Ghost Quarter, and a Master of the Pearl Trident. With the intention of casting my Spectral Procession on turn three, I took away Spreading Seas. Damon proceeded to draw two more copies of the blue enchantment setting my mana back significantly.

Lucky for me I was able to still play Dismember to keep myself in the game until I could draw an Isolated Chapel and resume playing black spells. As expected, Damon’s singleton useful creatures were out-classed by the massive army I was able to eventually assemble.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 0Draws 0

Round 2 – Mike with Mono-Red Burn

Mike has a blazing fast deck. He opened with Lava Spike. I cast Tidehollow Sculler on turn two and saw Mountain, Searing Blaze x2, Flames of the Blood Hand, Incinerate, and Lightning Bolt. Assuming he’ll need to Bolt my Sculler, that’s 13 more points of damage, plus the three he already dealt equalled 16. I took Incinerate, though I should have taken Searing Blaze, even though it ultimately didn’t matter. He ended up finding Rift Bolt and another Lava Spike to finish me off.

  • +2 Duress
  • +2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
  • -2 Dismember
  • -2 Zealous Persecution

In the second game Mike had double Lightning Bolt and double Keldon Marauders to open the game up. My opening seven had one land and two Forge-Tenders but I shipped it for a six-card hand that had no land. I eventually settled on a reasonable five-card hand. I had Lingering Souls with Intangible Virtue but after some chump blocks I didn’t have much of an army left. Mike made quick work of me again with his very fast burn deck.

In retrospect I should have boarded in Torpor Orb to save me from some of the Keldon Marauder damage. Having Auriok Champions may have also been very helpful, but in general this is the hardest match I’ve played and the only one in four weeks that I felt was vastly out of my reach.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 1Draws 0

Round 3 – Benton with RUG Twin

Benton opened with a Serum Visions so at first I assumed he was playing a storm deck. The next turn though he played Breeding Pool and I revised my plan. Thoughtseize revealed Cryptic Command, Pestermite, Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt. I took Pestermite. I never hesitate to take away combo pieces. My deck is more than fast enough to beat a stalled combo. I followed up with Spectral Procession and we were quickly onto game two.

  • +2 Duress
  • +2 Suppression Field
  • +1 Torpor Orb
  • -3 Tidehollow Sculler
  • -1 Hero of Bladehold
  • -1 Sword of Feast and Famine

After the match, Benton questioned my decision to take Tidehollow Sculler out. Between the addition of Torpor Orb and the fact that Benton runs Lightning Bolt, this seemed like the best candidate to remove. I led with a turn two Torpor Orb and then cast Path to Exile on a Pestermite. Benton had Engineered Explosives to take care of the Torpor Orb. A Thoughtseize revealed that he was holding Snapcaster Mage and two copies of Splinter Twin. I had two copies of Zealous Persecution in my hand though, and was able to power through a victory before Benton found a win condition.

Event Deck 2—Not Event Deck 1Draws 0

Round 4 – Joe with BG Rock

My match with Joe was a re-match from round three last week. That time I mistakenly thought he was playing Jund, and lost, but now I know better. In game one Joe shocked himself for a turn two Dark Confidant after my turn two Intangible Virtue. Joe had kept a hand of six cards and I decided not to let him use his Bob to recover. I removed it with Zealous Persecution. Joe followed up with Inquisition of Kozilek revealing double Spectral Procession and double Lingering Souls. With a sigh he took one of the Lingering Souls. He played a Tarmogoyf and a Thoughtseize but it wasn’t enough to handle my Sword of Feast and Famine..

  • +2 Duress
  • +3 Relic
  • -3 Zealous Persecution
  • -2 Soul Warden

I’d like to say that my first week with a winning record was the result of the deck being competitive or my own superior skill play. Joe kept a hand full of green mana sources and black spells on the basis that if he ripped Twilight Mire he’d be in great shape. He played a turn one Treetop Village and a turn two forest. I cast Tidehollow Sculler and saw Forest, Tectonic Edge, Inquisition of Kozilek, and two copies of Liliana of the Veil. Liliana, on the play, could have caused serious trouble for me, but Joe never found a black mana source until it was far too late.

Event Deck 3—Not Event Deck 1Draws 0

Wrap Up

Finally! A winning week! There was a lot of good fortune involved but three wins is still good for $20 in store credit. I think that over the past four weeks the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is how to evaluate my opening hands. In the first few weeks, you may have noticed, there was a lot of problems not shipping bad hands or getting rid of good ones. That’s gone down significantly. Here are a few more lessons from this week.

  • I noted how much damage I took from Caves of Koilos in each match. In Round 1 the total was 1 point of damage. Round 2 was also 1 point. Round 3 was 0 points. Round 4 was 3 points. While Godless Shrine, in a vacuum, is the right choice, I haven’t even come close to losing a game due to life lost to Caves of Koilos or City of Brass.
  • There was a lot of concern that going down to 22 lands was too few. I decided to write down the number of times I had an opening hand with a Dismember that I wished was still City of Brass to make the hand playable. The number, across 8 games (small sample size, I know) was zero. In one game I top-decked a Dismember that I would have preferred to get a land from, but all-in-all 22 lands seems fine. I have a theory about this, which is that people are used to thinning out their decks with fetch-lands. The result is that it’s more difficult to draw lands if you need to.

Next Time on Modern Hero

So, with our new prize earnings we  have $25.50 to work with for improvements next week. We’ll also have the $10 for next week’s improvements giving us a whopping $35.50. I don’t think anyone will argue if we go ahead and spend $32 on adding two more copies of Thoughtseize to the deck. That leaves us with $3.50 to make more improvements. Below are two polls. The first one asks which cards should we remove from the main deck to make room for Thoughtseize. The second is for further improvements.

Modern Hero - Week 4: What to Remove for Thoughtseize?

  • Soul Warden (49%, 278 Votes)
  • Sword of Feast and Famine (plus another card) (16%, 89 Votes)
  • Dismember (goes back to SB) (13%, 71 Votes)
  • Inquisition of Kozilek (goes to SB) (11%, 62 Votes)
  • Tidehollow Sculler (8%, 48 Votes)
  • Hero of Bladehold (plus another card) (3%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 565

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Modern Hero - Week 4: What to Add with our $3.50?

  • Save for Godless Shrine ($12.00) (33%, 184 Votes)
  • Save for Auriok Champion ($15.00) (26%, 146 Votes)
  • Stony Silence ($2.00) (20%, 110 Votes)
  • Torpor Orb ($2.00) (12%, 67 Votes)
  • Oblivion Ring ($0.50) (8%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 551

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Polls close on Tuesday at 4pm!


Money Spent on Deck: $75
Money Spent on Entry Fees: $40
Money Contributed to Improvements: $40
Money Earned from Cards Sold: $6
Tournament Winnings: $21
Money Spent on Improvements: $41.50
Remaining Budget for Improvements: $25.50

Total Expenses: $155
Total Winnings: $21
Cards Sold: $6
Net Expenses: $128

Overall match wins: 10-11-1 (.470)
Overall game wins: 20-22-1 (.465)
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. BG Rock: 1-1-0 (.500)/3-2-0 (.600)
Vs. Faeries: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-0-0 (1.000)
Vs. Jund: 1-1-0 (.500)/3-3-0 (.500)
Vs. Kiki Pod: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. Melira Pod: 0-1-1 (.000)/2-3-1 (.333)
Vs. Merfolk: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-0-0 (1.000)
Vs. Mono-R Burn: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. Mono-U Tron: 0-2-0 (.000)/0-4-0 (.000)
Vs. UW Tron: 0-1-0 (.000)/0-2-0 (.000)
Vs. RUG Twin: 1-1-0 (.500)/2-2-0 (.500)
Vs. RWU Control: 0-1-0 (.000)/1-2-0 (.333)
Vs. Splinter Twin: 2-0-0 (1.000)/4-2-0 (.667)
Vs. Storm Combo: 1-0-0 (1.000)/2-0-0 (1.000)

Change Log

Week 4:

  • +2 Dismember (MD)
  • +2 Stony Silence (SB)
  • -2 City of Brass (MD)
  • -2 Dismember (SB)

Week 3:

  • +2 Thoughtseize (MD)
  • +2 Suppression Field (SB)
  • -2 Shrine of Loyal Legions (MD)
  • -1 Duress (SB)
  • -1 Kataki, War’s Wage (SB)

Week 2:

  • +1 Hero of Bladehold (MD)
  • -1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant (MD)

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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