Discarding Vengevine for Fun and Profit

Hi, my name is André Mateus and I have Brewer’s Disease.

Don’t laugh, it’s a serious condition! I must have caught it the day Wizards of the Coast announced that both [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and [card]Punishing Fire[/card] were banned from the Modern format and it has been escalating ever since. It started with the unsuspecting choice to not play with any of the already established decks, then evolved to always having to keep a notebook around and now I’m waking up in the middle of the night, desperately searching for a pen because I just dreamt about the perfect card to transmute [card]Muddle the Mixture[/card] for in that crucial match-up.

I can’t even think of playing a deck anymore without imagining the look of disbelief in my opponent’s eyes as he watches me using [card]Soul Manipulation[/card] to counter his [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and returning an [card]Architects of Will[/card] to hand, which I, obviously, cycled the previous turn, or cast a [card]Stonecloaker[/card] in response to his [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], returning a Snapcaster Mage of my own to hand while removing the card he intended to give flashback to from the game! But trust me, for each time these interactions work, there are ten times in which they simply crash and burn. Having said that, sometimes, on very rare occasions, you happen to come across an amazing interaction, an undiscovered synergy that works so well and looks so sweet that even your opponents end up asking for your decklist.

That time when I cast [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] and discarded two [card]Vengevine[/card]s… was one of those rare times.

[deck title=BantVine]
[Lands]
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Verdant Catacombs
3 Temple Garden
2 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Celestial Colonnade
1 Tolaria West
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Academy Ruins
3 Forest
2 Island
1 Plains
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
1 Memnite
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Loam Lion
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Trinket Mage
1 Ranger of Eos
4 Vengevine
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Path to Exile
4 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Bant Charm
[/Spells]
[Artifacts]
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Basilisk Collar
[/Artifacts]
[Sideboard]
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Pithing Needle
2 Negate
1 Bant Charm
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Meddling Mage
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Ranger of Eos
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]
[card]Memnite[/card] in a deck that isn’t Affinity? [card]Loam Lion[/card] in a non-Zoo list? [card]Basilisk Collar[/card]? [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] in the maindeck? Really?! Well, it seems I have some explaining to do!

How it all began:

I was getting totally crushed by Jund while playing a less than perfect version of Boros in a local Modern tournament, trying to decide which two of the three [card]Zektar Shrine Expedition[/card]s in my hand I should to discard to a [card]Blightning[/card], when I decided to look around and see if any of the players in the nearby tables were being faced with similar decisions. Guess what? They were. A Melira Combo deck was playing against a Grixis Delver deck featuring [card]Rise // Fall[/card], another Jund deck was battling against a Rock deck packing the likes of [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Death Cloud[/card] and [card]Stupor[/card] in the seventy-five and a Merfolk deck was facing yet another Jund deck!

It just seemed like the perfect time to dust off the old [card]Vengevine[/card] and bring it to battle!

Why Bant?

Well, I was pretty much set on GW right from the start, since [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] fits great in this kind of strategy, accelerating and triggering your Vengevines, and white means we get to play with the best removal spell in the format, [card]Path to Exile[/card], as well as [card]Squadron Hawk[/card], which can both discard and trigger the angry plant. It also gives us access to cheap hate bears like [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] or [card]Meddling Mage[/card]. It was when I thought about a [card]Trinket Mage[/card] package in the deck, fetching a [card]Memnite[/card] to trigger [card]Vengevine[/card] and a couple more useful artifacts that I stumbled upon the interaction between [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] and [card]Vengevine[/card], and I was more than sold on the three-color combination.

Alright, tell me how good [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] + [card]Vengevine[/card] is…

Soooooo good! [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] is a very underrated card at the moment. With both [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] and [card]Ancestral Visions[/card] in the Modern banned list, the best blue card advantage spells available in the format are [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card] and [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card]. Gifts has been getting all the attention but the Mirrodin spell is not far behind and it show its power in this deck, acting as an amazing discard outlet for [card]Vengevine[/card], which we can easily bring back with the cards that Thirst drew us, or simply as a really cheap and effective draw spell, since we have a small [card]Trinket Mage[/card] package and [card]Academy Ruins[/card],  so that we can actually discard an artifact and then put it on top of the library when and if we need it. We even have [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] to speed it up the a crucial turn!

Ok, you got me…but what about those bizarre card choices?

The Mana Base

The mana base is pretty straightforward, featuring a couple of Zendikar fetchlands and Ravnica duals, with three copies of [card]Temple Garden[/card] since the deck is green-white based and making sure Loam Lion is fully powered in the early turns is pretty important. [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card], [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] and [card]Academy Ruins[/card] are just some useful singletons that can be searched by [card]Tolaria West[/card].

The Creatures

[card]Vengevine[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] are your major threats. [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] provides all the colors of mana in the deck, speeds up the [card]Vengevine[/card] clock and it also has the exalted ability that creatures like [card]Squadron Hawk[/card] can really take advantage of. [card]Loam Lion[/card] is just a really cheap and aggressive creature that, along with his buddy [card]Ranger of Eos[/card], has no issue with triggering [card]Vengevine[/card]. Finally, [card]Trinket Mage[/card] gives the deck a bigger depth, being able to consistently trigger the hasty 4/3 by fetching a [card]Memnite[/card] or deal with tricky situations by searching for an impactful artifact.

The Spells

[card]Path to Exile[/card] is, as mentioned before, pretty much the best removal spell in the format, while [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] is one of the best blue card advantage spells available in the format, drawing us three cards with almost no drawbacks or acting as a great discard outlet for [card]Vengevine[/card], but [card]Bant Charm[/card], an insanely versatile card, is also one of the best cards in the deck, being able to act as a removal spell for a pesty creature, kill a [card]Cranial Plating[/card], a [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card] or an [card]Azorius Signet[/card], or even counter a [card]Cryptic Command[/card] or a crucial [card]Seething Song[/card] from a Storm deck.

The Artifacts

[card]Engineered Explosives[/card] is a [card]Trinket Mage[/card] and [card]Tolaria West[/card] target with several applications, among them destroying all of Zoo’s one-drops, a horde of [card]Empty the Warrens[/card] tokens or just a cheap but troublesome permanent, while [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] is another Tolaria and [card]Trinket Mage[/card] target, quite helpful against UR Storm and decks with multiple Snapcasters, as well as other fringe decks like Aggro Loam or [card]Living End[/card]. [card]Basilisk Collar[/card] is yet another [card]Trinket Mage[/card] target that breaks open the aggro match-ups, letting you get an even bigger advantage out of your exalted triggers, as well as giving your most unimpressive creatures the power to hold back your opponent’s monsters.

The Sideboard

1 [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], 2 [card]Pithing Needle[/card]: A couple more versatile artifacts that [card]Trinket Mage[/card] can fetch. The second [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] is for the aggro decks, the Needles to shut down Planeswalkers, man lands or an occasional [card]Cranial Plating[/card] or [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], as well as any graveyard hate your opponent might sideboard in out of fear of [card]Vengevine[/card], in the form of [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card], [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] or [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card].

2 [card]Negate[/card], 1 [card]Bant Charm[/card]: Additional counterspells for the control and combo match-ups and another way to fight the graveyard hate, either it being Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus or Surgical Extraction.

2 [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card], 2 [card]Meddling Mage[/card], 2 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]: Helpful hate bears, the Pridemages coming in against Affinity and combo, [card]Meddling Mage[/card] against combo and [card]Mystical Teachings[/card] decks and the Images mainly against aggro or rock-ish type of decks, killing [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], Melira and Thrun or simply copying things like [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] or your own creatures for extra value in the more grinding aggro match-ups.

1 [card]Ranger of Eos[/card], 2 [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]: The second Ranger comes in against Jund and Zoo as a way to out-card advantage them and keep consistently triggering Vengevine and the Thruns usually only come in to fight other Thruns or against control decks with access to [card]Extirpate[/card], which tends to cause a big dent in the Vengevine plan.

Modern has a very, very large cardpool, filled with nothing but endless possibilities, but betting on a deck that makes the best use of a couple of the most powerful cards in the format, [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Path to Exile[/card] and [card]Bant Charm[/card], as well as one of the most powerful interactions available, [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] and [card]Vengevine[/card], can never be a bad bet and I really think you should give it a try.

Until we meet again, may you always discard two [card]Vengevine[/card]s to your [card]Thirst for Knowledge[/card] and have a [card]Memnite[/card] to search for with [card]Trinket Mage[/card]!

Thanks for reading,

André Mateus.