Chances are if you’ve played Modern since the release of Modern Horizons, you’ve been paired against the format’s newest superdeck starring Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Today I’m here to give you some tips on how to beat that deck. When decks this powerful come around, a lot of players shout into the void for a ban.

I don’t believe that this deck will survive in its current iteration for very long, but that isn’t the format we are playing now., Until something changes, we need to try to beat the deck. And before we can figure out how to beat Hogaak, we have to know what Hogaak does.

Hogaak Bridgevine

Creatures (28)
Carrion Feeder
Insolent Neonate
Stitcher’s Supplier
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (13)
Faithless Looting
Altar of Dementia
Bridge from Below
Lands (19)
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Overgrown Tomb

Sideboard (15)
Leyline of the Void
Assassin’s Trophy
Lightning Axe
Nature’s Claim

Hogaak attacks on a few different axes. First are the explosive Vengevine draws where they put multiple copies of the 4/3 haste creature attacking very early in the game. Second, they cast Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis as early as turn two and simply attack with the 8/8 trampler to close the game. Finally, they have a combo kill involving Hogaak, Altar of Dementia, and Bridge from Below: loop Hogaak to mill themselves for tons of zombies, then sack those zombies to mill away your entire deck.

You can beat Hogaak in a couple ways: stacking graveyard hate, or ignoring their plan and enacting your own. Each comes with its own cost. If you draw too many redundant pieces of hate, you could lose to a pile of 2/1s. But if you choose to try and ignore them, your draw could be too slow and there isn’t much you can do about that.

Stacking Graveyard Hate

The best sideboard hate card against the Hogaak deck is Leyline of the Void, though Surgical Extraction, Tormod’s Crypt, Ravenous Trap and Rest in Peace also do work. You can also play Scavenging Ooze as a secondary piece of graveyard interaction.

Leyline of the Void continues to be the most powerful choice, but it remains unreliable. Shutting down everything they can do until they find an answer is generally a winning strategy because most of their cards aren’t of modern power level without the graveyard. Putting out your hate before the game starts is the fastest speed at which you can interact, but you have to be careful about mulliganing aggressively to get a Leyline in your opening hand. Bridgevine will have some answers to enchantments, so you don’t have long to win even after opening with a Leyline. A bad hand leaning on Leyline may not be enough.

Rest in Peace is consistent and powerful, but in a number of situations can be too slow, especially on the draw. Hogaak is quite good at adding power to the board as early as turn two. So if you’re playing Rest in Peace you’ll want to pair it with other hate such as Surgical Extraction to slow down their fast hands. White removal like Path to Exile can help handle Hogaak and friends to buy you enough time to cast a sweeper. Rest in Peace plus Supreme Verdict is almost always good enough to win the game, as the Hogaak player likely won’t have any meaningful plays left to follow up.

Surgical Extraction is great at buying time if you can tag Bridge from Below or Hogaak itself, but usually won’t win you the game on its own. You generally want to follow Surgical Extraction with some strong pressure to end the game before they can rebuild. Either builds of the Arclight Phoenix deck are great at executing this plan.

Snapcaster Mage decks like Azorius Control tend to favor Surgical Extraction because they can get multiple uses out of the same copy, which buys a lot of time.

Ravenous Trap and Tormod’s Crypt can both tag the entire graveyard in one shot. Both cards gain a lot of stock against Hogaak because they cost zero mana. The Hogaak decks have started evolving to include copies of Thoughtseize in their sideboard to attempt to beat cards like Ravenous Trap, so timing this one can be tricky.

Tormod’s Crypt is less powerful because it often sits in play and your opponent can play around it. On the other hand, if your opponent tries to interact with it, you’ll still get the whole graveyard at that time. This choice largely relies on whether your deck has artifact- or spell-based synergies to favor one or the other.

What decks should I play to do this?

If you want to play a deck that stacks graveyard hate, I recommend a proactive midrange deck that can play main deck hate with little cost to its game plan. Given that it is tough to lock out a deck like Hogaak entirely, it is important to close the game without giving them time to find an answer.

Izzet Phoenix lacks a little back up disruption, but can provide the most pressure of the midrange decks here. Drake Sasser wrote a comprehensive Izzet Phoenix guide already, so I suggest you check it out. Jund has a unique mixture of pressure with Tarmogoyf and discard spells to protect your hate pieces. Azorius Control lacks pressure in almost any form, but has a number of ways to defend their hate pieces plus wraths the catch up in the mid-game.

Jund, by cmeks

Creatures (13)
Dark Confidant
Scavenging Ooze
Seasoned Pyromancer
Bloodbraid Elf

Planeswalkers (6)
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope
Wrenn and Six

Spells (18)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Nihil Spellbomb
Lands (23)
Bloodstained Mire
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Raging Ravine
Nurturing Peatland

Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Anger of the Gods
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Collector Ouphe
Fulminator Mage
Leyline of the Void
Plague Engineer
Weather the Storm

Jund is a deck that for a long time has played copies of Scavenging Ooze and Nihil Spellbomb in the main deck. These aren’t the most effective cards on their own, but combining them with other disruption like Thoughtseize plus ways to answer Hogaak and Altar or Dementia will give you a fighting chance in game one.

Tarmogoyf is excellent at providing a cheap clock after you disrupt your opponent, especially when you realize that the Hogaak deck has a number of creatures that can’t block. As always Jund improves for the sideboard games, gaining access to Anger of the Gods to clean up annoying Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts, and Leyline of the Void to shut down the whole plan. I think Jund has the tools to make the Hogaak matchup much better than people think.

Azorius Control, by McWinSauce

Creatures (6)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (7)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Time Raveler

Spells (23)
Path to Exile
Spell Pierce
Force of Negation
Logic Knot
Mana Leak
Surgical Extraction
Supreme Verdict
Timely Reinforcements
Cryptic Command
Fact or Fiction
Lands (24)
Flooded Strand
Prismatic Vista
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains

Sideboard (15)
Force of Negation
Teferi, Time Raveler
Timely Reinforcements
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Celestial Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Dovin’s Veto
Lyra Dawnbringer
Rest in Peace
Restoration Angel
Stony Silence

Azorius Control is another deck that has main-decked either Surgical Extraction or Rest in Peace for some time now. Back these up with counter spells to deal with Hogaak or the Altar, and you can buy yourself enough time to set up a wrath into a planeswalker to pull ahead.

Like the rest of the decks on this list Azorius Control adds additional hate after sideboarding with Rest in Peace and Celestial Purge. Not having a real clock makes finding your hate early in the game quite important, so be prepared to take disciplined mulligans in order to do so. Savvy control players should have all the cards they need to navigate the match to a win.

What if I want to ignore Hogaak?

If you want to avoid the “play a bunch of hate, hope to draw it” subgame, you can play a deck that doesn’t care what your opponent is doing. Good decks for this strategy are Devoted Druid Combo, Mono Red Phoenix, and Tron.

Druid Devastation, by Kat Light

Creatures (26)
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Walking Ballista
Giver of Runes
Deputy of Detention
Scavenging Ooze
Tireless Tracker

Spells (13)
Eladamri’s Call
Finale of Devastation
Incubation // Incongruity
Postmortem Lunge
Lands (21)
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Razorverge Thicket
Horizon Canopy
Temple Garden
Breeding Pool
Overgrown Tomb

Sideboard (15)
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Collector Ouphe
Plague Engineer
Rest in Peace
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Path to Exile
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar

Druid Devastation, particularly this build of the deck, is very focused on assembling Devoted Druid, Vizier of Remedies, and a tutor to produce infinite mana and win the game. Decks like these tend to be lighter on the hate.

Here we see just one Scavenging Ooze and three Rest in Peace as ways to hedge for the matchup. Given that the Hogaak deck doesn’t interact much at all, the small creature combo gets to largely do as it pleases and aim for maximum speed.

Mono Red Phoenix, by Qel33

Creatures (13)
Arclight Phoenix
Monastery Swiftspear
Soul-Scar Mage
Blistercoil Weird

Spells (29)
Faithless Looting
Finale of Promise
Light Up the Stage
Lava Spike
Lightning Bolt
Gut Shot
Lava Dart
Crash Through
Lands (18)
Sunbaked Canyon
15 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Alpine Moon
Flame Slash
Kozilek’s Return
Ravenous Trap
Shrine of Burning Rage
Surgical Extraction
Tormod’s Crypt

Mono Red Phoenix is another deck that largely gets to ignore Hogaak and try to drop them from twenty to zero as fast as they can. In some matchups Mono Red Phoenix functions as a weird burn deck that has Arclight Phoenix. In this matchup, Arclight Phoenix gives you the explosive speed that the deck needs to actually cross the finish line in time.

In the sideboard you see small amounts of Ravenous Trap, Surgical Extraction, and Tormod’s Crypt. This deck doesn’t have expendable mana in the early turns, so the hate has to be free. Mono Red Phoenix will almost always be the aggressor in this matchup, putting its blinders up and going as fast as possible.

Tron is the last deck to mention here, and is possibly the deck that ignores Hogaak as much as possible. Relic of Progenitus is a mainstay in Tron and gains a lot of value right now. Once Tron has the ability to cast its cards, cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon outclass the cards in Hogaak. The trick is getting there. Emma Partlow wrote a guide to navigating the new Modern metagame with Eldrazi Tron. She explains how Karn, the Great Creator can thwart Hogaak in various ways.

Hopefully I’ve given you an idea on how you want to approach the Hogaak matchup, and with what deck. Naturally you’ll still have to beat the rest of the field, and I believe these decks are robust enough to do so. In the coming weeks Hogaak will continue to shape the format until either something else breaks, or for one reason or another the deck stops seeing play. Until next time, best of luck battling, and beat the Hogaak menace!

Michael Rapp is a Boston-area grinder who started playing competitively in 2014. Loves Modern but plays everything. His favorite card is Thoughtseize has a soft spot for Tarmogoyf. GP Toronto 2019 Champion. Always happy to answer questions or just chat on Twitter or Facebook.

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