by Francis ‘ACE’ Jodin
Are you the kind of magic player that enjoys winning without turning creatures sideways? Do you like long games consisting of denying your opponent from doing anything? Then i might have something for you!
Prison-style decks have seen play in Vintage and in Legacy, but in Modern there doesn’t seem to be any equivalent. Most likely because all the broken enchantments, lands and artifacts are too old. Well, most of them. There is one card that can lock your opponent from doing things if his deck is about winning with creatures:
Think of it as proactive creature control
Now if we are to take full advantage of this infamous artifact, we first need to be able to empty out our hand quickly. The traditional draw-go control style, were we hold on to removal and counters does not synergize with Ensnaring Bridge. We want to play mostly cheap permanents. We also want our permanents to hate out our opponent’s strategy. Turns out many cheap artifacts do just that. We also need a way to win and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is probably the best way to do do that with artifacts while hiding behind a Bridge.
This is my current list:
1 Expedition Map
2 Thopter Foundry
1 Crucible of Worlds
3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Trading Post
3 Engineered Explosives
2 Pithing Needle
1 Lantern of Insight
1 Codex Shredder
1 Scroll of Griselbrand
3 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Liliana of the Veil
3 Chromatic Star
2 Scroll of Avacyn
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Mox Opal
1 Talisman of Dominance
4 Trinket Mage
4 Darkslick Shores
4 River of Tears
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tolaria West
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Buried Ruin
1 Academy ruins
4 Surgical Extraction
4 Chalice of the Void
2 Defense Grid
2 Pithing Needle
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Welding Jar
Notably absent from the deck
I’ve seen some lists run Tezzeret the Seeker instead of Agent of Bolas. I’m not sure which is best but Bolas can provide a steady stream of card advantage and can quickly win the game with a +1 followed by a -4. We don’t want to give our opponents more time than required to find answers! Also, sometimes you’ll win the game with a few activations of his -1. With an artifact in play, he can actually protect himself if you don’t have a bridge. Making a Darksteel Citadel into an indestructible 5/5 can be a powerful play.
Make some beefy protectors
Artifacts are good at hating. I have selected those that are best against the widest array of decks.
Explosives can pretty much answer most of the commonly played permanents in theModern format. We can make x = 3 or 4 with some Chromatic Stars, Mox Opal and Glimmervoids. We just make sure we don’t blow some of your own important stuff! Also, in a pinch your can cast them for zero if you need to empty your hand for Ensnaring Bridge or need that extra artifact for Tezz’s ultimate to get lethal damage.
That’s pretty ‘Ultimate’
Pithing Needle is totally maindekc-worthy in a deck like this. Just try and think: which modern deck doesn’t use any activated abilities? Yeah, not many. The fact that it can hose lands is a big deal with all these manlands in control/midrange decks. Oh, and remember: Deathrite Shaman’s first ability isn’t actually a mana ability since it targets and therefore uses the stack! We can even max on Pithing Needles from the sideboard for when you really can’t get enough of them, mainly against Tron and Pod decks.
It’s not even a defender!
Spellskite is another maindeckable “hate” card, even in a creature-light deck. First of all, it is a 0/4, which is nice to have against aggressive decks. Secondly, Abrupt Decay is a card and Spellskite answers it. We don’t want to lose the game to a couple of Tarmogoyfs because your opponent just killed your Ensnaring Bridge ! Lastly, it hates on some decks: Infect, Kiki Twin, Aura Boggle, burn, and non prismatic omen scapeshift to a lesser extent come to mind.
A single Nihil Spellbomb deserves a spot in this deck. Is is obviously good against graveyard combo decks (glass cannon, living end, melira pod, storm) but also against all black/green/x decks. It is better than relic of progenitus here because we don’t want to exile our own graveyard. Also, it can be sacced to thopter foundry/trading post for extra card draw, when the graveyard hate isn’t so relevant.
Lantern of Insight + Codex Shredder is the last of the hate engine. Usually, if you draw one of the two, you want to fetch the other with a Trinket Mage. Controlling the top deck can win us the game in the long run. When we see something we don’t care about on top of our opponent’s deck, we get the opportunity to filtering our own draw as well. Codex Shredder’s second ability is also actually pretty decent.= as well. We can get back any card, not just artifacts, from our graveyard. For instance : we can ultimate a non-lethal Tezeret, Agent of Bolas if we fear for our life total, then get it back later. It’s also good when Tezzeret gets countered earlier on.
Looks strangely enough like the expansion symbol from another artifact set …
Everybody likes card advantage and recursion. Well, this deck is full of that. Aside from Tezz himself, Trading Post does everything we want in this deck. It can discard a card from our hand to keep our Bridge active and gain us precious life points against aggresive decks. It can recycle our non optimal hate artifacts into more juice. It turns any Chromatic Star into a Divination (you draw the card when the Star is put into your graveyard, not when you activate it). Just be careful when you do that, drawing multiple lands can ruin your Ensnaring Bridge lock as it will prevent you from emptying your hand … Lastly, it can recur any artifact in your graveyard by making a Goat Token and sacrificing it on the next turn. Combined with Thopter Foundry, you can recur any artifact. Just sacrifice the artifact to Thopter Foundry (in response to a removal spell, for instance) and then sac the Thopter Token to your Trading Post.
Not quite as broken as it was with the Modern-banned Sword of the Meek
Speaking of Thopter Foundry, it can actually be a win condition when we hide behind an Ensaring Bridge. Just draw your card for the turn, attack with your token(s) and then play your drawn card on your second main phase! Foundry also turns any Chromatic Star into a “free” token. I’ve won some games by sacrificing all of my board to Foundry during my opponent’s end step and swinging in for lethal on my turn. The lifegain clause is also relevant and sometimes we’ll also want to produce 1/1 Thopters in order to trade with Modern Affinity’s numerous 1 toughness flyers.
Trinket Mage is soooo good here! He can pretty much find any card we need against any deck in almost any situation. He also sometimes beats for 2 or chump blocks, which isn’t that negligible. Any chunk of life points we can take away from our opponent makes Tezzeret’s Ultimate that much more effective and game-clinching.
Liliana of the Veil does her fair share in this deck. Her +1 ability is often free since we can empty our hand quickly. We can pitch extra lands to her ability thus keeping our Bridge active. Behind a bridge, going ultimate is a very common occurence for this deck . Her -6 ability is very good against the opposing hate cards, as we can make a pile with hate and another pile with everything else. We can then restart +1’ing her again for even more value and Bridge protection. Planeswalkers are this deck’s main way of winning through a Stony Silence (it is quite feasible as i’ve done it multiple times in the past).
On of the many opposing hate cards to be aware of
The lands play a key role in this deck. Since most of the deck runs on colorless mana, we can afford to play many colorless lands. We still need some color and since we are Blue/Black, we have an alternative to painful shock lands and fetchlands: Darkslick Shores, River of Tears and Glimmervoid (as well as 2 basics)! I’ve played the deck a lot and most of the time the mana is just fine. The singleton Talisman of Progress and Mox Opal help, but we don’t want to draw them in multiples. Also, the Chromatic Stars can fix when you need them to.
The less pricy alternative
Crucible of Worlds turns your special lands into a steady stream of card advantage . Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge need no explanation. Buried Ruin is surprisingly effective, turning extra lands into more artifact resources . Academy Ruins works as another recursion engine (and can also randomly wins against mill decks) . We can fetch Academy Ruins with Expedition Map and then get back the map with Academy Ruins in order to find any land we need!
Mutavault is the most recent addition to the deck. With Crucible of Worlds he is an ‘immortal’ blocker. Much like Trinket Mage, it can ‘Shock‘ our opponent when we have the opportunity. More importantly however, Mutavault works with…
Yeah, this is my personal secret tech. When Scroll of Griselbrand and Scroll of Avacyn were spoiled, I really wanted to find a deck for them. Playing actual demon + angel tribal seemed pretty bad. That was until I realized that Mutavault is every creature type once activated. Scrolls are actually pretty good with Mutavault. We get to cycle and gain five with Scroll of Avacyn. If we can recur it with Academy Ruins, the scroll also grants us our regualr draw for the turn as well. You can do the same thing with Scroll of Griselbrand. Instead of replacing our draw, it denies your opponent’s non-instant draw, provided we activate it during his/her draw step! It also takes hits them for 3 ! We need to be cautious with thise strategy though as our opponent can destroy our Mutavault in response to the activation of one of the Scrolls.
Yet even more hate …
The Sideboard must always be adapted to your local metagame, but some cards are essential.
We want a Grafdigger’s Cage somewhere in our 75. It pretty much prevents Birthing Pod decks from working properly. The only game I have lost to Pod with a Cage out was when the pod player topdecked his single Harmonic Sliver and then triple Restoration Angel’ed it the following turns… Yeah, that was really painful! We need Welding Jar for tutorable protection fetched via our Trinket Mage. If we can recur them we can always protect our board from some kind of hate. Defense Grid is pretty good against all those American/UWR decks full of counterspells.
Some really really old school hate
Conclusion: should i play this deck?
If the metagame in your area is filled with creatures then i would recommend this deck if you want to try something different. You’ll be crushing your opponent’s hopes and dreams with Ensnaring Bridge, A lot of decks have zero ways of winning the game when this card hits the table (before sideboard). Black/Green/x midrange is harder because of Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse (although i’ve seen some lists without them), but is still winnable. Just be sure to pack some Welding Jars in your sideboard or perhaps even in the main. Scapeshift is probably the deck’s worst matchup, especially the Prismatic Omen version. You pretty much need Crucible of Worlds + Tectonic Edge/Ghost Quarter to beat them. If you see a lot of those in your meta be prepared to have a hard time. Also, be aware that if your opponents are packing some Shatterstorms in their side, you’ll suffer when this spell is randomly cast. It even says “can’t be regenerated” for some reason, as opposed to Creeping Corrosion, making Welding Jar useless!
An odd yet effective inclusion to the deck