This article has nothing to do with the fetch lands. They kick ass, and they should never be banned in any format ever, despite what that filthy degenerate Jay Jay Lansdaal says.

No, this quote comes from the movie Mean Girls, an ancient relic from that age when dinosaurs ruled the earth and Lindsay Lohan wasn’t a smelly pirate hooker.

This quote is about the Try Hards.

What is a Try Hard? A Try Hard is the deck builder or brewer that gets tunnel vision on a card, combo, or style of deck. They fall in love with a particular card and try to construct a deck to fit the card regardless of the best choices for a metagame. You’ll find them playing Geist of Saint Traft in RWU tempo one week, in Bant aggro the next week, and in a weird Boggles concoction the next. Or, the most popular decks and shape of the format be damned, they will play their White Weenie deck until it is tier 1.

I strongly suspect that there is a serious overlap of the Try Hard and Johnny psychological profiles.

There’s nothing wrong with being a Try Hard, so long as you adjust your desires accordingly. Someone like Shaheen Sorani seems fine with being the UW control guy, and whenever the format takes a turn in that direction, he reaps the benefits. However, knowing when to cut your losses and move on is a skill that separates your average brewer from the best deck builders.

You can show Sam Black and me both a new card, and we may have an idea for a deck featuring that card, maybe even the very same deck. But, whereas I might discard the deck and try another and another and another because I like the card, Sam can discard the idea as sub-optimal and move on to wrecking a format.

Why do I bring all this up? I’m afraid that I’m falling for a Try Hard card again in Modern.


It burns my green mage heart to say this, but I secretly love playing Jeskai decks in Modern. When Snapcaster Mage hit the scene, I dropped my long-time partner in crime Eternal Witness like I was a Republican politician and she was my cancer-stricken wife. Combining it with Lightning Bolt just gives me the warm and fuzzies. I thought that was all I needed, some fire, some flashback, maybe a bit of card drawing, and I was good to go. I’d slap a Geist of Saint Traft in there, out tempo my opponent, and be home in time for supper. But, I don’t have copies of Geist of Saint Traft on MTGO, so I looked around my collection for another temp card in Jeskai that could fill in (since I don’t like spending $40+ on a card for testing purposes).

So, long story short, this week I started testing with Ojutai Exemplars and now it’s like I tried meth for the first time and I’m homeless, face down in a gutter and why do I smell cat piss and when did I last eat and who has my clothes?

I’ve been infatuated with the card since it was spoiled. The abilities give the card an amazing versatility and for a while, I was certain that it would be a major player in Standard.

But then, I realized that the proactive instants in Standard suck.

When I initially reviewed the card, I thought it might have a place in Modern, but I hadn’t had time to give it a go, instead focusing on building Collected Company decks for every tribe in the format. When I finally got around to squeezing two copies into the deck and jamming a few games, I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Apparently, the worst that can happen is addiction, kids. Don’t ever take crack.

Ojutai Exemplars. Not. Even. Once.

Let me sing to you the virtues of my new found love:

1. It can’t be Inquisition of Kozileked out of your hand. With burn being a legit threat in Modern, most black decks run more Inquisitions than Thoughtseize, so having a threat that is resistant to the most prevalent discard spell in Modern is awesome.
2. It doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt.
3. It doesn’t die to Abrupt Decay.
4. It does die to Path to Exile and Maelstrom Pulse, but only if you don’t have an instant in hand.
5. The lifelink mode can race a burn deck, especially in conjunction with Lightning Helix.
6. The tap ability is very relevant, allowing you to race the decks that rely on 1-2 big creatures to win. “Nice Primeval Titan you got there. Sure be a shame if he is tapped pre-combat.”
7. Chaining abilities.
8. If they happen to have an answer for him, like say a Path to Exile, it can turn your removal into a counterspell. Pathing in response to their Path is SICK.
9. The Exemplars don’t care how Angry your Gods are.
10. Exemplars and instants can block anything for days.

The first game I drew Ojutai Exemplars I was at four life, Jund was at 16, and I had five mana with only a Lightning Bolt in hand. My opponent had one card in hand and a Tasigur in play (he uses the ability at the end of my turn and I give him a Thoughtseize from his graveyard). I play the Exemplars and pass. During his turn, he goes to make me discard, I Bolt him in response and tap Tasigur. He plays a land and passes. I draw a Lightning Helix, attack and Helix him and go to 11 while he drops to 7. He draws, can’t attack. On my turn I draw a Snapcaster and Snapcaster + Bolt him, tapping Tasigur for the win. The tempo the card generated was unbelievable, and I immediately upped the main deck count to three copies. I haven’t looked back.

A lot of this is also timing. When Ojutai Exemplars was first released, Lingering Souls was seeing serious play. Their presence has diminished, as most of the Abzan decks seem to have shifted to a creature heavy focus for Collected Company. This allows the versatility of Ojutai Exemplars to shine, effectively allowing you to race in most games.

It may be that I’ve once again found myself becoming a Try Hard, but this time feels different. Ojutai Exemplars feels like a card that could be good enough for Modern. Given that the Jeskai decks want to focus on spells anyway, there seems to be room for a card that has fallen by the wayside in standard to make a name for itself. If this isn’t the built, maybe a Mardu version would work…

Oh hell, if I can’t make peace with being a Try Hard, I’ll just have to Try Harder.

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.