A long time ago, back when i played lots of Legacy, Aggro Loam was my deck of choice. You could get so much value from Life from the Loam and powerful lands, especially before Deathrite Shaman was printed.
the little engine that could
With the banning of Deathrite Shaman in Modern there is a window for graveyard decks to become better. Some people have been trying to port the Assault Loam strategy to modern. I’ve seen many different lists pop up online in the Magic Online Daily Events : some run the same creature package as the old Legacy version (Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher), some splash white for Knight of the Reliquary and Lingering Souls, some lists play blue instead of black and others play Young Pyromancer with Smallpox.
This is my current list:
3 Seismic Assault
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Arid Mesa
2 Graven Cairns
2 Stomping Ground
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Horizon Canopy
2 Raging Ravine
1 Treetop Village
1 Ghost Quarter
The main win condition is supposed to be Seismic Assault + Life from the Loam but in reality I’ve won many more games with Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls. With Retrace spells, Young Pyro turns all your discarded lands into 1/1 s and with Loam you can get a lot of those tokens. Casting Lingering Souls with a Young Pyromancer on the field gets you 3 tokens, 6 if you cast Lingering Souls from your hand and Flashback it. You can easily build a scary board from scratch with these cards. Every time you Dredge a Lingering Souls you basically get free tokens.
The downside of Young Pyromancer is that as the only creature in the deck, it will eat all the opposing creature removal so you have to be careful when casting them. You can wait until you destroyed your opponent’s hand with the discard spells or play it while having some untapped lands to cast spells so you get some guaranteed value from it. Also, they are our best win vs uninteractives decks. If we manage to slow down their combo, we can then kill them with tokens.
The tokens can be used both for offence and defence, Spirit tokens trade with most flying creatures in the format (aside from Restoration Angel and Celestial Colonnade) and chumping with tokens until you stabilize is fine. The Godless Shrine one-of is here solely to cast Lingering Souls from your hand and to activate Vault of the Archangel from the board, but in most games you won’t even need it.
The most powerful interaction in the deck is Seismic Assault + Life from the Loam. These cards together can both control the board and win you the game. Six damage a turn is a real clock and the ability to kill any creature your opponent draws makes it very hard for most decks to win after you’ve assembled the two pieces. This is less true versus Abrupt Decay decks and is the reason why drawing multiple Seismic Assaults isn’t always a bad thing. Seismic Assault puts a lot of strain on your Red mana so I’ve built my mana base accordingly.
Manlands are the last win condition. The ‘enter the battlefield tapped’ drawback often doesn’t matter much. They truly shine on empty boards, a board state that is likely to happen with all the discard and removal. They can also be recurred with Life from the Loam. Also, game 2 and 3 they become better since our opponents are very likely to side in some graveyard hate.
Raven’s Crime is the main reason to play black in this deck. Combined with Life from the Loam, you can literally annihilate your opponent’s hand. The strong presence of combo decks in the format makes this interaction very potent. The deck also plays 25 lands so Retracing it a few time shouldn’t be a problem even if you don’t start with Life from the Loam in your opening hand. Every time you Loam and cast Raven’s Crime you basically 3 for 1 your opponent until he has no cards in hand. This strategy is very good against control decks as well, counterspells are pretty useless versus Raven’s Crime. If they can counter your Life from the Loam, sometimes this will be annoying if your hand is left with no lands but you can always Dredge it back later. Playing Raven’s Crime makes having access to multiple black mana a must, especially on the first few turns of the game. This is why I run as many black mana-producing lands as I can. Just beware of cards like Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege and Obstinate Baloth !
A 1-1 split between Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize is best i think. We already take some damage from our lands so just one Thoughtseize. Inquisition is better vs aggro and Thoughtseize is better at taking away things like Cryptic Command.
I believe Abrupt Decay is a very good card right now. It can kill most relevant creatures in the format and is also is an answer to problematic hate cards such as Rest in Peace. Also, it can safely halt most creature-based combos and it kills random non-creatures too.For smaller creatures we have Flame Jab. Flame Jab is pretty good vs. specific decks, namely decks with mana dorks, decks with tokens and Affinity decks. It is also very useful combined with Young Pyromancer, just throw Jabs to the face and make lots of tokens. Flame Jab can also finish off a planeswalker or bigger creatures with lots of red mana and Life from the Loam.
Darkblast is sort of like Flame Jab, except it is instant speed, fills up our graveyard, can’t be thrown to the face and is harder to use multiple times against large creatures. This is why i think a 1-1 split between it and Flame Jab is the best. It can be a nice surprise with Young Pyromancer, just Darkblast an attacking creature, make a token and ambush the creature ! You can cast it additional times if you use it during your upkeep and then Dredge it. The card disadvantage isn’t that bad since you are filling your graveyard anyway (which is what we’re aiming for). You can do more tricks with it and Horizon Canopy.
Smallpox is a very disruptive spell and it doesn’t affect us as much as our opponents (most of the time). Discarding a card isn’t a problem, we can Loam back sacrificed lands and our only creature is Young Pyromancer plus we can sacrifice the token Smallpox created. ‘Edict’ effects are good at taking down bigger threats that the deck can’t handle without Seismic Assault, provided we kill small creatures beforehand. On the play we can hit an Urzatron lands if our opponent leads with them and Celestial Colonnade which UW/x players often play first.
Life from the Loam is the centerpiece of this deck, but it is possible to win without them (usually via Lingering Souls and Young Pyromancer). In this deck, getting 3 lands is the equivalent of getting 3 spells a lot of the time.
Faithless Looting is basically draw 2 for one mana with Flashback since many of our cards operate from the graveyard. You can also Loam and just discard 2 lands. Also, if you draw multiple Seismic Assaults and don’t need them you can ‘loot’ them away. You can also discard Lingering Souls when you don’t have access to your Godless Shrine or Horizon Canopy.
25 lands is the minimum requirement for this deck since you get lots of value from them. Topdecking a land isn’t as bad as it can be in other decks because you can generally do something with it. The basic lands are a concession to Blood Moon, Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter. If you expect your opponent to play Blood Moon , then you should always search for your basic Forest so you can keep on Loaming. Also sometimes you don’t want to take damage from fetched lands, so having the option of getting a basic is nice.
Horizon Canopy can do a lot of work. Firstly, it is an additional white source which is sometimes useful. Secondly, you can Loam it and still draw your card for the turn. Lastly, with Horizon Canopy as your sixth land and with 2 other Green mana sources: you can Loam 2 times a turn. Just Dredge and cast Life from the Loam, play Horizon Canopy, Dredge Loam with Canopy’s draw ability and Loam again. With Seismic Assault you get 5 lands to discard to it each turn, which is very useful when you need to end the game quickly. The damage from the mana ability can be an issue so one copy of Horizon Canopy is the maximum we can run in my opinion.
Ghost Quarter is general hate vs. special lands. It helps against Tron and kills Celestial Colonnade as well as other manlands that are found in a lot of decks in the Modern format. The deck is pretty color intensive so we only run one in order to avoid mana problems. Having a recurring way to handle problem lands seems good enough. Against a few decks that run almost no basic Lands you can even cut them off from a color and mana screw them. This won’t happen often as most decks run enough basic to prevent that from happening. In match-ups were Ghost Quarter is useless, we can side it out for Vault of the Archangel.
In Conclusion …
Aggro Loam is a hard deck to classify. It has aggro elements in the form of token beat down (or Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary and Countryside Crusher in the other version), lots of control elements with all the discard and removal as well as combo-ish interactions with Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam.
The deck is vulnerable to graveyard hate but we have access to Abrupt Decay and Engineered Explosives to get rid of those. Explosives is extra good vs specific deck like Aura Hexproof, Merfolk, Affinity, etc. We have access to 4 colors so we can even kill the occasional Leyline of Sanctity and Restoration Angels, if need be. Ancient Grudge can be an answer to Pithing Needle (on Seismic Assault), Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, etc. You get extra value from them when they get Dredged. Anger of the Gods can replace some Smallpox vs. Birthing Pod decks. Duress is good additional discard and can replace removal vs. creature-light decks. Combined with Surgical Extraction, we can get free wins when facing combo decks. Syphon Life is here vs. burn, which is probably this deck’s worst match-up. Vengeful Pharaoh is tech vs. creature decks. When it triggers and goes back on top or your library, you can Dredge Life from the Loam and send it back in the graveyard or just discard it to Faithless Looting or Smallpox. Vault of the Archangel can make our tokens trade with anything and the life gain as well.
The worst thing that can happen to us is Surgical Extraction on Life from the Loam, it becomes very difficult (but not impossible) to win after that. Remember, if you have Horizon Canopy on the battlefield, you can play around Surgical Extraction by ‘cycling ‘ dredging it in response. Just keep Loaming and play Hoprizon Canopy after Life from the Loam has resolved without passing priority. Scavenging Ooze can be a problem but we have main deck answers to that. Just kill it on the spot (if you can) whenever you see it! A trick to kill them with Flame Jab is to cast it on ooze and retrace multiple times without passing priority, your opponent will then not have the opportunity to exile your Flame Jab since it will always be on the stack when the opponent gets priority. Another weakness of the deck is GR Tron namely because of their maindeck Relic of Progenitus.
Life from the Loam is a powerful card advantage engine. If you like playing with your graveyard, then I suggest you give this deck a spin!