Alright everybody gather round. I am told today’s topic of discussion is The Rock. First of all let’s just state the obvious. It is a great movie. Michael Bay directing Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage through a cloak and dagger summer blockbuster. It is pure mid 90s overblown action-movie gold. Now granted the plot takes forever to kick in, and Nicolas Cage has become a meme of himself, but all in all it….

“Wait, what’s that?”

“We are not talking about one of Ed Harris’s greatest performances of all time?”

“We are talking about the Magic Archetype that has been around since America Online was the top internet provider? If that’s what you really want to talk about instead of Ed Harris, I guess we can.”

Look at what you’ve done, look how sad you have made Ed Harris

Look at what you’ve done, look at how sad you’ve made Ed Harris


According to MTGSalvation, The Rock is defined as:

Short for “The Rock and His Millions,” a term referring to WWE wrestler The Rock, who always spoke of his millions of fans. Describes most Black/Green control decks. The original version of the deck abused the combo of Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit.

The resemblance is uncanny

                  The resemblance is uncanny

The Rock


While over the years the cards have changed, the basic principle of the deck has remained the same. Play Green/Black, sometimes splash a third color, and grind your opponents out of the game with favorable trades. The Modern Jund deck is probably one of the most recognizable examples of a current-day The Rock build. But I think we can do better than that. As a famous Irish folk-tale tells us, even stone soup can taste delicious if you add a little spice.

Between the Rock and a Hard Place

Creatures (15)
Maralen of the Mornsong
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Dark Confidant
Scavenging Ooze
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (22)
Time of Need
Abrupt Decay
Inquisition of Kozilek
Maelstrom Pulse
Slaughter Pact
Liliana of the Veil
Teferi's Puzzle Box
Lands (24)
Ghost Quarter
Hissing Quagmire
Overgrown Tomb
Treetop Village
Twilight Mire
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Woodland Cemetary
Llanowar Wastes

The Combo

Maralen of the Mornsong and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled are the Godfather of Modern. They make an offer you can’t refuse, and you’re not going to be happy about it. Maralen prevents players from drawing cards, then every draw step she forces players to pay three life and search for a card from their deck. This is not a may ability. Ob Nixilis, on the other hand, says anytime your opponent searches their library, they have to sacrifice a creature and pay ten life for the privilege. That’s a combined thirteen life loss all on your opponent’s draw step. Even if they tutor up an answer to your combo, you are probably going to win at that point no matter what.

Time of Need is an amazing card that I am suprised does not see more play. Throughout the history of Magic, so-called “tutor” cards have been among the most powerful and ban-worthy cards. Tutors allow you to run fewer copies of important cards, which frees up slots in your deck for other threats and answers. This is especially important with Maralen and Ob Nixilis. As they are legendary, we do not want to draw extra copies of them once we have one in play. Time of Need adds consistency as well, since we can tutor whichever half of the combo we need. The fact that it can also grab Tasigur, the Golden Fang is just the cherry on top.    

Extra Synergies

Through a quirk of text templating, Dark Confidant ends up being so much better than you would expect in certain circumstances. What you might not realize on a cursory glance of the rules text is that absolutely nowhere in the text box do the words “draw a card” appear. Dark Confidant reveals the card, makes you lose some life, then puts the card into your hand. As such you are still able to gain card advantage with Maralen of the Mornsong in play. By breaking the symmetry of the lock, The Rock grinds its opponents out of the game. As an added bonus for you all, this interaction is similar to the way Dark Confidant plays with one of my favorite cards, Chains of Mephistopheles. If only Chains of Mephistopheles were Modern legal…

If you enjoyed reading the rules text of Illusionary Mask in the last article you’re going to Love Chains of Mephistopheles!

If you enjoyed reading the rules text of ]Illusionary Mask in the last article, you’re going to Love Chains of Mephistopheles!

Lucky for you the Proxy Guy has your back. If you don't know who the Proxy Guy is go check him out, like right now, I’ll wait.

Lucky for you the Proxy Guy has your back. If you don’t know who the Proxy Guy is, go check him out, like right now, I’ll wait.

Ghost Quarter becomes Strip Mine with Ob Nixilis, Unshackled in play. While this interaction will not be super relevant in most games, as land destruction after turn six is less than ideal, it is still worth keeping in mind. To take this to the next level, you can splash white for Path to Exile and Leonin Arbiter. (If you like that idea, check out Aaron’s BW Hatebears deck.)

Plan B

If you have read my other articles you probably know that I like my combo decks to have multiple paths to victory. I absolutely hate the feeling of helplessness when your opponent resolves a sideboard card that completely shuts down your combo. That is why when all else fails, you still have The Rock to fall back on.

I mean if you have to rely on someone to save your butt when things get tough... The Rock is not the worst choice.

I mean if you have to rely on someone to save your butt when things get tough… The Rock is not the worst choice.

Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang are beefy threats that can win the game on their own if left unchecked. Hissing Quagmire and Treetop Village supplement your attack force while fulfilling land drops at the same time. Liliana of the Veil is an all star in this deck style. She clears out any troublesome creatures, eats away at your opponent’s hand, and provides inevitability in long grindy games through her ultimate.

The rest of the spells in the deck are efficient one-for-one answers that are the hallmark of The Rock. Keep trading answers and threats, while grinding your opponent out with card advantage and tight play. Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize help keep the combo decks in check while also clearing the way to make sure your own combo pieces stick around. Abrupt Decay is the auto include answer for most threats in any deck that can play it, while Maelstrom Pulse is there to clean up the bigger stuff. Dismember and Slaughter Pact do a fine job of keeping the aggro decks in line.

Fun Fact: Teferi was banned by the World Rubik’s Cube Association for cheating

Fun Fact: Teferi was banned by the World Rubik’s Cube Association for cheating

The Spicy 61st

Thanks to Eighth and Ninth Editions, a bunch of old-school favorites snuck into Modern. Teferi’s Puzzle Box is one such card. It was a favorite of mono black control players back in the day, who paired it with Underworld Dreams. In our situation we can use it as a way to lock our opponent out of the game. If you happen to be so lucky, you can curve Maralen of the Mornsong into Teferi’s Puzzle Box. With both of these in play you get to choose the stack order of triggers for both you, and your opponent’s draw step. On your draw step you put Maralen’s trigger on the stack first, followed by Teferi’s. Thus Teferi’s hand empty takes place and then you tutor up a card to use on your turn. On your opponent’s turn, you reverse the stack order, so that your opponent tutors up a card and then places it on the bottom of their library. Because Maralen also prevents players from drawing cards, your opponent is stuck with an empty hand for the rest of the game. Granted the combo is very fragile, as pretty much any instant speed removal will disrupt it; but isn’t it more fun to live in Magical Christmas Land?   

See you all next time!

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