I don’t know about you, but I was underwhelmed by the amount of brewing on display at Pro Tour: DC. Modern has always been my format of choice. It has the perfect-sized card pool for brewing and isn’t as reliant on a subset of cards as a format like Legacy (*cough* Force of Will, Brainstorm, and Wasteland or GTFO *cough*). But, when the world’s premier Magic players took center stage, instead of innovation (outside of Patrick Chapin’s “Gurmag Angler.dec”… he didn’t earn the nickname “The Innovator” for putting his pants on weird), it seemed they fell back on decks they were already familiar with, or Burn decks. Burn decks are never the answer (flame away Red Mages).
Some of this can be understood. Modern just went through one of the biggest upheavals in years, with the core deck of the format losing its engine, pour one out for my homie B. Pod, and two of the most warping cards to escape RnD in years getting the axe. Add the introduction of a new set and you get a format ripe for exploration, with a player base that probably didn’t have the time to focus on the new options. Coupled with the fact that Modern is a format that rewards familiarity, and you get a Pro Tour full of Abzan decks and Infect. I can’t blame the pros for showing up with the usual suspects, but this Pro Tour did nothing to feed the insatiable beast that rests in the heart of a brewer.
So, dadgumit, if they won’t come up with something different, I’ll just do it my dern self.
Manifest is weird. Not in its application, we’ve had Morph for *checks calendar, realizes he is old as dirt* thirteen years now. Morph is now the pimply teenager of Magic mechanics. We get the whole facedown creature rigmarole. But, the implications of being able to turn ANYTHING into a facedown 2/2 and then flipping it up if it’s creature, or using shenanigans to get an artifact, enchantment, or planeswalker… well, it’s an ability that we’re going to need to explore.
There are a ton of different ways you can take a Manifest deck in Modern. I think there’s still a Polymorph version waiting to be found (and I will probably explore that avenue in the future). The most broken versions look to use library manipulation to ensure that they Manifest something like Omniscience or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and then use a blink effect to get the bomb onto the battlefield in its final form. I like the idea, it doesn’t take much to get me on the “blink” bandwagon.
The problem with this version of the deck is that you end up leaving a lot to chance. Scry helps, but you still have to find the right cards at the top of your deck or it’s all for naught. I hate being a slave to the top of my deck. Variance is a bitch and Scry is a fickly mistress.
Why rely on chance when you can play with a stacked deck?
Travis Hall – Answer The Call
Ideally, this deck allows us to play the Scry game while also giving you the surety of stacking the deck via Congregation at Dawn. Sure, you can just look at the top with Courser or Serum Visions (and in some cases this will be a faster route to victory), but Congregation gives you the surety that you’re going to have your heavy hitter where you want them when you need them.
There are a whole lot of shenanigans in this deck, so let’s look at some of the individual cards.
– Noble Hierarch: It speeds the deck up a turn, fixes mana, and adds extra damage along the way. You can Manifest it and later turn it face up for a jump in mana or color fixing. I wish I could play eight (Birds of Paradise is nice, but it’s not the same).
– Congregation at Dawn: The engine of the deck. It’s usually best to cast this at the end of your opponent’s turn and then stack your deck with Restoration Angel or Spellskite on top (so it is drawn) and the card you want to Manifest as the second card down. You can then play Spellskite, to draw the removal, and Manifest your Emrakul, or Manifest with Restoration Angel protection. If you’re in a grindy match, like Abzan, I usually prefer to put Spellskite on top, your monster second (usually Emrakul, but there will be situations where Elesh Norn or Blightsteel Colossus will be the right call), and Restoration Angel third. This also lets you play around the Thoughtseize.
– Path to Exile: Because every non-combo deck needs some way to interact. It doesn’t hurt that you can use it to ramp on occasion too.
– Spellskite: One of the best cards in Modern. It buys you time, prevents damage, forces your opponents to go through multiple spells to get rid of your Manifest creatures, and I even hear it makes julienne fries. You can also severely mess with your opponent if you Manifest a Spellskite. The rest of the match will be the “Is that really a Spellskite hiding under there, and if so how screwed am I” game.
– Aethermage’s Touch: The other way to sneak out a victory. It forces your opponent to fight the deck on two axes. They can’t just wait to kill a manifest creature, as you can end of turn a game winner onto the board. Cast at the end of an opponent’s turn, you will get one attack step with the creature before it returns to your hand (baring Cloud Shift/Restoration Angel shenanigans). With Emrakul or Blightsteel Colossus, that may be enough. This gives you another out against decks that sit back with a ton of creature removal (Manifest creatures are awful easy to kill at 2/2). You can also use it to ambush an attacker, or drop a surprise Spellskite with a juicy spell on the stack (why yes, Splinter Twin, it would be nice of you to target my Spellskite).
– Wild Call and Cloudform: Your Manifesters. Wild Call is the cheapest (if you’re going for speed) and most versatile, but Cloudform comes with hexproof. Remember that Wild Call can also be used in the late game to just pump out a huge creature if needed.
– Venser, the Sojourner: He’s more than an extra blink effect on a stick. You want to see your opponent rage quit? Cast Aethermage’s Touch at the end of their turn to put in Blightsteel Colossus and then drop Venser to make him unblockable (which you can do as early as turn four).
– Emrakul, Blightsteel, and Elesh Norn are the best game enders I could come up with (that can still be tutored with Congregation at Dawn), but I would definitely consider Iona, Shield of Emeria for the sideboard. I would also consider a transformational sideboard, going for a straight Bant value deck against Abzan and Burn (Thragtusk and Restoration Angel can still wreck face).
The deck is a blast to play and attacks from weird angles. If you’re looking for something new for your next FNM let this deck “Answer the Call”.
If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day. You can also hear me on the Horde of Notions podcast each week, discussing deck ideas for FNM level events and the PTQ grinders.