I spend a lot of time looking at decklists. I peruse the 5-0 lists from MTGO Leagues, pour over the top 32 of recent SCG Modern Opens and Classics, and spend a gratuituous amount of time going through the top eight of each TCGplayer State Championship. I am pleased when I see rogue lists, innovative choices, and the occasional concession to budget as Magic is a stupidly expensive game. In a world where Standard has a two deck metagame—Four Color Saheeli and Mardu Ballista—I find myself appreciative of the Modern landscape, especially of those players who forgo tested tier one and two decks for something truly unique.

It takes a lot to surprise me at this point. But after finding Gracen Atkinson’s Seismic Swans list from Idaho States, I was speechless at first, then laughed out loud in the middle of my office, then screenshot-ed the monstrosity and sent it to one of my Magic group texts. Here it is in all of it’s glory:

42 Land Swans

Creatures (4)
Swans of Bryn Argoll

Spells (14)
Lightning Bolt
Serum Visions
Treasure Hunt
Anger of the Gods
Day’s Undoing
Molten Vortex
Seismic Assault
Lands (42)
Island
Izzet Guildgate
20 Mountain
Shivan Reef
Steam Vents
Swiftwater Cliffs
Temple of Epiphany
Wandering Fumarole

Sideboard (15)
Tormod’s Crypt
Lightning Bolt
Molten Vortex
Rending Volley
Spell Pierce
Mana Leak
Smash to Smithereens
Anger of the Gods
Laboratory Maniac
Sphinx’s Tutelage

I had so many questions. Why 42 lands? Twenty Mountains? What’s with the one-ofs? Do you ever actually bring in the [casthaven]Laboratory Maniac[/casthaven] from the board? How many people were at Idaho states? What did you play against during the Swiss?

I of course did what any reasonable human being would do: I added Gracen Atkinson on Facebook. Of course they did not accept that friend request because I’m a stranger on the internet who uses a fake name on their profile. So without Atkinson’s help, I am left to break down this beauty by myself. Before I do, I want to say a few things.

One, as someone who was once a broke kid, I really do love the fact that occasionally a budget deck can take down a tournament.

Atkinson’s deck cost $78 or 39 MTGO Tix to build. For context, my rarely played Soul Sisters Modern deck is worth $352 and my pauper deck online cost 68 Tix to build. Hell, most of SaffronOlive’s budget Modern builds cost more than this deck. I kind of love the idea that in the finals Atkinson played against Eldrazi Tron, his opponent casting $70 [casthaven]Chalice of the Void[/casthaven]s while the Seismic Swans deck was flinging an [casthaven]Izzet Guildgate[/casthaven] at a [casthaven]Swans of Bryn Argoll[/casthaven] via [casthaven]Seismic Assault[/casthaven]. I’m also going to choose to believe that all twenty Mountains were mix-and-matched white border lands with different frames because I can do that.

Two, I want to believe that anything can happen in Modern. Even though [casthaven]Death’s Shadow[/casthaven] may be the best deck in the format right now, I like the idea of 8-Rack, Slivers, or Skred taking down a tournament. Atkinson, in some small way, proves the concept of Modern being a wide open format. I don’t know how big Idaho states was but even if was legitimately just the eight players in the top eight, I wouldn’t put my money on Swans to take it down. Yet, here we are.

So yeah, let’s analyze this thing. Atkinson basically took a Seismic Swans shell, an archetype that has been on the fringes on Modern for a while, and mashed it together with the [casthaven]Treasure Hunt[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Zombie Infestation[/casthaven] deck. With 42 lands, a [casthaven]Treasure Hunt[/casthaven] is likely to yield multiple lands that can be used to draw more cards thanks to the [casthaven]Seismic Assault[/casthaven]/Swans interaction. After chucking some lands at the Swan, you should have drawn most of your deck and can then use [casthaven]Seismic Assault[/casthaven] to start chucking lands at an opponent’s dome.

Aside from the core of the deck, four Swans, four [casthaven]Seismic Assault[/casthaven], and four [casthaven]Treasure Hunt[/casthaven], Atkinson chose to add [casthaven]Molten Vortex[/casthaven] as copies five and six of Assault. Then we are left with a bunch of fun-ofs: [casthaven]Serum Visions[/casthaven] can help dig toward the combo, [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven] can stop creature based decks from running you over, [casthaven]Day’s Undoing[/casthaven] can help you reload, and [casthaven]Lighting Bolt[/casthaven] is . . . well, [casthaven]Lighting Bolt[/casthaven].

My favorite part of the deck is the manabase of course. It looks like Atkinson had some serious budget concessions and rather than run [casthaven]Scalding Tarn[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sulfur Falls[/casthaven], or the full set of [casthaven]Steam Vents[/casthaven] we get [casthaven]Swiftwater Cliffs[/casthaven], [casthaven]Izzet Guildgate[/casthaven], and a one-of [casthaven]Wandering Fumerole[/casthaven] that I desperately want to believe had at least one kill that day. I actually think the [casthaven]Temple of Epiphany[/casthaven] are pretty excellent in this deck as it is really important to scry toward combo pieces or put non-lands on the bottom in anticipation for a [casthaven]Treasure Hunt[/casthaven].

The sideboard is a bit all over the place. [casthaven]Tormod’s Crypt[/casthaven]s come in against Dredge/Goryo’s. [casthaven]Smash to Smithereens[/casthaven] is for Affinity/Lantern. Anger is great against Elves, Affinity, Dredge, and Zoo. The countermagic probably comes in against Grixis/Jeskai control, and the Lab Maniac is most likely a concession to [casthaven]Leyline of Sanctity[/casthaven]. I imagine it’s probably okay to cut a few lands to bring in the relevant sideboard cards, as you’re still at an absurd land count somewhere in the high thirties.

Moving forward, I can’t say I would recommend this deck to play at a major tournament but it looks like an insane amount of fun and something I would love to jam at a weekly Modern event or at the kitchen table. Congratulations to Atkinson for taking down a tournament with a list like this. I imagine the story equity from this event alone will carry on for quite some time. To everyone else who is brewing up some spicy lists, I wish you all the top decks in the world.

In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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