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, 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

Over the past two weeks we learned some valuable lessons about the deck. In the meantime, we piloted it to a respectable 4-4-0 record against a wide range of challenges (though no Birthing Pod opponents just yet). After last week I put up a poll for everyone to vote on the changes they’d like to see going into this week.

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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The resounding answer, with 36% of the vote, was in favor of upgrading the three copies of Duress for Thoughtseize. This change makes a lot of sense. We lost a game to American Control because we did not have an answer for Thundermaw Hellkite in a game where we played multiple copies of Duress/Inquisition of Kozilek. Having Thoughtseize there possibly translates to a victory. There are plenty of other problematic creatures in the format that we might want to force our opponent to discard as well.

However, Thougthseizes are expensive and as such we’re going to look at the next most popular choices. Almost an even tie with 157 and 140 votes apiece were Hero of Bladehold (over Elspeth) and Godless Shrine (over Caves of Koilos). I’m not very concerned about the mana to be honest. Outside of one poor mulligan decision, I’ve never worried about having the right combination of lands to win. Elspeth, on the other hand, has not impressed me the few times I’ve resolved her.

As such, I will be using our budget this week to swap out Elspeth, Knight-Errant for Hero of Bladehold. Luckily, my LGS had a promo version for only $6 instead of the $8 that the normal version commands. This means we were left with $5 in our budget which will be saved for Thoughtseizes in the future.

Four Rounds of Modern

Round 1 – Derek with Angel Pod

Round 1 - Derek

It’s entirely possible that Derek had the Melira combo in his deck, but I never saw it so I’m going to assume he only had the Archangel combo. Also, this was my first run-in with any sort of Birthing Pod deck at all, so I was excited for the challenge. Derek is a good guy and was also excited to be playing against the Modern Hero.

Game one was a pretty close one in which I made a few key mistakes while learning the matchup. I slowed my own clock down when I forgot to cast Raise the Alarm at the end of Derek’s second turn. I followed up with Windbrisk Heights and Tidehollow Sculler snagging Birthing Pod. Things were going well but Derek was able to keep himself alive with Kitchen Finks and then assemble Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder off of Chord of Calling to generate infinite life.

I thought about keeping Soul Warden in the deck but it would really only be effective if I had seen Melira, which I had not. So I wasn’t expecting any infinitely recurring Kitchen Finks to show up. For the first, and certainly not last, time during the event I woefully wished that my sideboard contained Thoughtseize. Derek took a six-card mulligan in game two on the draw. He struggled a bit with mana as I was able to assemble my legion of tokens. Derek tried to mount a counter-offensive with some creatures attacking back at me, but they didn’t fly so they couldn’t block and we were onto game three.

Game three was an exciting experiment in variance. Derek and I both settled on five-card hands to start the game. I believe I kept three lands, Intangible Virtue and Lingering Souls. I’m not sure what Derek kept but this game went very long. We eventually had time called on us. The board state was Archangel, Reveillark, and Eternal Witness for Derek, with Intangible Virtue and about five tokens for me. I did some quick math to see if I could possibly win, but ruled it out and played for the draw.

Event Deck 0—Not Event Deck 0 – Draws 1

Round 2 – Sean with Kiki Pod

Round 2 - Sean

You might recognize Sean from any number of things he is actively involved in. For the purposes of this column, he’s best known as a writer for StarCityGames and has a weekly column there called Dear Azami which he co-writes with Cassidy McAuliffe. Sean is also a very skilled Magic player who I’ve known from the NYC Magic community for many, many years.

Sean was playing Kiki-Jiki/Birthing Pod combo which is a very powerful combo and very difficult to deal with. In game one I managed to do a few points of trivial damage to Sean before he tutored up Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel to finish me off. Yikes. I was fairly dismayed with the speed of the deck and how little I could do with my sideboard to answer it. Again, I stared at those three copies of Duress, and willed them to transform into Thoughtseize, but alas that form of alchemy is beyond me.

I boarded in two copies of Dismember and boarded out Shrine of Loyal Legions. It didn’t do me much good. In game two I used Tidehollow Sculler to see what Sean had and it was a hand stacked with powerful combo creatures. I took a copy of Birthing Pod from him but it was only a matter of time before he drew another one. Unfortunately for me it was not enough time. He assembled Kiki-Jiki and Zealous Conscripts. The first time he cast Zealous Conscripts he stole my Soul Warden. So, Sean dealt me infinite damage after generating infinite life. Nicely done.

Event Deck 0—Not Event Deck 1 – Draws  1

Round 3 – Billy with Jund

Round 3 - Billy

Billy was not happy to be down two matches. I, on the other hand was in pretty good spirits. I knew that without Thoughtseize and Stony Silence in the sideboard, my odds against Birthing Pod decks were very slim. When Billy opened up with a Jund deck I was just glad to not have to face a third Pod deck. Game one saw Billy devastate my hand with Liliana of the Veil and Inquisition of Kozilek. Olivia finished me off and we were fairly quickly onto game two.

  • +2 Dismember
  • +3 Relic of Progenitus
  • -2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
  • -3 Zealous Persecution

The next game was not even close. Billy had to settle on a hand of five cards. I opened up with Raise the Alarm into Intangible Virtue. Billy was stuck on one land and when I cast Tidehollow Sculler he decided to scoop instead of give me information. Before game three I realized I was an idiot for leaving Burrenton Forge-Tender in the sideboard and swapped them in for the Soul Wardens.

Game three was an epic slug-fest back-and-forth for the first few turns. Billy ran out double Dark Confidant while I swung in with all manner of tokens. Eventually he brought himself down to 7 life and had to give up the Confidants. He wiped the board with Anger of the Gods and we both ended up in top-deck mode. I won with a top-decked Dismember to clear the path for my flying army.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 1  Draws 1

Round 4 – Juan with Melira Pod

Round 4 - Juan

I had one final round to salvage my .500 record. Juan was playing Melira Pod for the first time and was shaky with the mechanics. Perhaps I would manage to eek out a win against Pod finally. We shuffled up and I ended up sending back my opening seven which only had one land. The next six had two lands, a Windbrisk Heights and a Caves of Koilos, and I kept it. I played a Tidehollow Sculler on turn three and saw a bunch of lands after Juan played Voice of Resurgence and Birthing Pod. Juan was having trouble getting the combo going, but I was having trouble finding a third land. He eventually worked it out and we were onto game two.

  • +2 Dismember
  • -2 Shrine of Loyal Legions

I wish I had more to sideboard in against this deck. Duress just seems unnecessary though it can hit Birthing Pod. I kept in Inquisition of Kozilek which I can use to pull a couple cheap creatures out of his hand. In game two I use Zealous Persecution to kill off his one-drop mana-producer. I then start producing tokens and manage to bring Juan down to zero before he can assemble a game-winning combo. I am happy to have another game win against Pod at least.

In game three I curved out well and was able to get Juan down to two life. Close, but not close enough. Juan was able to stabilize his board with a couple of Kitchen Finks and lasted long enough to recur Murderous Redcap and kill me. If only I had Thoughtseize.

Event Deck 1—Not Event Deck 2 – Draws 1

Wrap Up

Yikes. Well I was bound to face Birthing Pod decks eventually. I wasn’t expecting to see three of them in one night though! The shortcomings of the sideboard against one of the format’s top strategies was exposed in these four rounds. The lack of both Thoughtseize and Stony Silence in favor of Duress and Kataki make sense from a budget perspective, but limit the ability of the deck to win the post-board games in this match.

The win against Jund, the draw with Derek in round one, and the game wins in the first and final round all help to reiterate the fact that this deck is competitive and can be successful with improvements that have absolutely nothing to do with the mana-base. Small changes to the main-deck cards and significant improvements to the sideboard will bring this deck into a position to put up more and more wins.

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 $15. A few of these changes are over $15. 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.

This week there will be two polls. The first is the normal poll to vote for upgrades as described above. The second is a special poll. At the end of this week’s tournament two gentlemen came up to me and told me they really enjoy this column and really think it’s a great idea. Then they donated a Theros Thoughtseize for the deck, knowing that it was being donated to charity after GP Worcester/Boston.

I want this series to best reflect the challenges of getting into the Modern format on a tight budget with limited resources. From one point of view, I should still count the generous gift of Thoughtseize against my improvement budget. From another point of view however, it could be seen as the overall charity of the community in helping new players. Personally, I am torn on the issue, and hopefully you can all vote on the matter to help guide my decision.

Modern Hero - What to do With Donations?

  • Accept them as goodwill and a representation of the community helping new players. (39%, 249 Votes)
  • Accept them but still count them against the improvement budget. (34%, 216 Votes)
  • Don't accept donations because they hurt the legitimacy of the project. (26%, 163 Votes)
  • Don't accept donations for another reason. (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 631

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Also this week we’re going to try something a little different. Because Thoughtseize is so important to the deck, and was the overwhelming winner in Week One, we’re going to go ahead and acquire the Thoughtseizes we need. However, I still need to make small incremental changes to the deck (such as adding Stony Silence and/or Oblivion Ring). As such, this week’s voting options are all in the perspective of how to make changes alongside saving for more Thoughtseizes.

Modern Hero - Week 2 Upgrades

  • Save 100% ($15) for Thoughtseize (44%, 272 Votes)
  • Save 66% ($10) for Thoughtseize and spend up to 33% ($5) on minor upgrades (37%, 229 Votes)
  • Save 50% ($7.50) for Thoughtseize and spend up to 50% ($7.50) on minor upgrades (11%, 67 Votes)
  • Forget Thoughtseize. When are you gonna buy some Godless Shrines? (4%, 22 Votes)
  • Spend up to 100% ($15) on minor upgrades (3%, 19 Votes)
  • Save 33% ($5) for Thoughtseize and spend up to 66% ($10) on minor upgrades (1%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 617

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Both polls close on Tuesday at 4:00PM EST.


Money Spent on Deck: $75
Money Spent on Entry Fees: $20
Money Spent on Improvements: $6
Budget for Improvements: $15
Tournament Winnings: $1

Total Expenses: $101
Total Winnings: $1
Net Expenses: $100

Overall match wins: 6-7-1 (.429)
Overall game wins: 13-16-1 (.433)
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. Kiki Pod: 0-1-0 (0.000)/0-2-0 (0.000)
Vs. Melira Pod: 0-1-1 (0.000)/2-3-1 (0.333)
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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