#theweeklywars #2 — Living End & the Modern format

#8 — Blowing up lands in Modern is very powerful.

So I’ve picked up Living End in Modern. Boy is Fulminator Mage a crazy card. Living End might be a graveyard engine deck, but the combination of Fulminator Mage and Beast Within can lead to some very lopsided games. We all know how unfair it is to deny your opponent the ability to even cast spells in the first place, but I feel it is more pronounced in Modern than Legacy, where running into a couple Wastelands is an inherent risk of the format.

Thus, in Legacy, efficiency is the name of the game. In Modern, however, people expect to be able to aggressively curve out. So while blowing up an opponent’s land in Legacy (especially at the cost of one of your own lands in the case of Wasteland) might only slightly meddle with their gameplan, in Modern, it often means they don’t do anything for a full turn. In the same vein, it is much easier to mana screw your opponent in Modern, leaving several dead cards to rot in their hand.

Of course, this is not limited to just Living End. When I was playing Twin, I knew that tapping down an opponent’s land in their upkeep could be a very strong play, but now I believe that I never fully appreciated just how strong it really was. Well, I guess I won’t put that knowledge to use anytime soon. Still, I wonder how much further this idea can be pushed, and it really makes me want to try some of the hatebear strategies we have available in Modern.

#9 — The Cascade spells do some real work.

When I initially picked up Living End, I simply considered the Cascade spells combo enablers — you cast one of them, you resolve a copy of Living End. I quickly learned they provided some much appreciated reach. Sometimes the amount of creatures in your graveyard will be insufficient to kill your opponent in one or even two swings, but then a Violent Outburst might be just what the doctor ordered.

Other times you would kill them next turn, but they play a giant Lifelink creature, like, say, a Wurmcoil Engine. That’s not nice, but Demonic Dread will help you there. Likewise, you can hardcast your creatures when your graveyard is blocked or you don’t have access to any copies of Living End. Also, even if you don’t get any creatures out of the deal, a three mana instant speed Plague Wind is nothing to scoff at.

#10 — Living End is hard to read.

Over the course of the past couple days, I had several players run into my tricks. Players look at Living End and see the limitation of not running spells that cost less than three mana. However, that only counts for the actual converted mana cost of the cards. Ricochet Trap and Dismember are obvious examples that break this rule, but I’ve also won games because my opponents tapped out to Snapcaster Lightning Bolt me for lethal damage, only to have that plan foiled by a Faerie Macabre. Then I would resolve a Living End, when all they had to do was keep up Remand and win in combat on their next turn.

To make matters even worse, there’s also Simian Spirit Guide, which can be a pest to play against. Especially double Spirit Guide draws have a tendency to catch players by surprise. So if you’re playing against Living End, be sure to keep this in mind.

#11 — The new Eldrazi decks spend a fair amount of time doing nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth plus Eye of Ugin engine is very powerful. It can generate mana like the Urza Tron, but it doesn’t leave you with a bunch of lands that just tap for one colourless mana at a time when you don’t have the trio complete.

However, the deck is less consistent than Tron at putting these together, while also being less reliant on them. The amount of mana sources that produce coloured mana to enable discard and removal spells as well as the occasional Lingering Souls also stands in stark contrast to current Tron lists by virtue of being infinitely more interactive in the early turns. Still, sometimes the deck needs the full six lands to cast an Oblivion Sower or simply doesn’t draw any Eldrazi, so it can end up not affecting the board for too long in the early stages of a game. I’m certain that with the incredible resiliency and powerlevel the deck has, this one drawback can be heavily exploited.

#12 — Anything can happen in Modern.

In the interest of keeping the format fresh, Wizards tries to shake up Modern with the Banned List Announcements preceding the Pro Tour. To be fair, I haven’t really paid much attention to the format for the past two years or so, but I must say the banning of Splinter Twin surprised me. It was one of the true pillars of the format; a deck with some great bit of history behind it. Obviously, Samuele Estratti’s PT Philadelphia winning decklist had little to do with recent lists simply because of how much better a combo deck it was than its modern brethren. Still, I thought Twin as an archetype had a special spot in the format.

Alas, it seems nothing in Modern is save. If an archetype is oppressive, something will get banned. I’m not saying that I like or dislike this fact, but it’s worth noting that it might not be a great idea to buy a new Modern deck shortly before a B&R announcement, especially the ones that will define the metagame of a Pro Tour.

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