Neobrand Primer Update

Analyzing the past 500+ Matches with London Mulligan and Wishing for a Glittering Future for the Deck

Hello everyone!

It has been over half a year since I last wrote about Neobrand! Modern has gone through some seismic changes since then.  However, it’s evident that more and more people have slowly picked up Neobrand through the highs and lows, which I’m excited to see!  Given that the archetype has been evolving and given that I now have over 500 matches with the deck under London Mulligan, I thought an update to the archetype as well as some thoughts about the archetype as a result of these 500+ matches would be warranted.  I’ll impart some wisdom I gained in those matches as well as share my thought process on a new build of Neobrand that I’ve been preferring.

  • 532 Matches Under the London Mulligan with Neobrand (Both Wish and Non-Wish)

Here’s a summary of my key stats under the London Mulligan:

    • Record: 323-209 (60.7%). This peaked at around 67% during Hogaak summer, but the last few months have seen a lot of blue Force decks and therefore the rate has been on the downswing, unfortunately. 
  • Win rate before and after OUAT under London Mulligan: 
      • 180-115 (61.0%) without OUAT
      • 143-94 (60.3%) with OUAT

  • Surprisingly, I have not seen a big win rate delta between decks with OUAT and without.  It’s hard to say where the truth is from these numbers, but I will say empirically it has felt that OUAT is a good addition, but nowhere near the gamebreaker than people thought it was for Neobrand
  • Glittering Wish Neobrand vs. Non-Wish (both with Once Upon a Time for control):
      • 99-55 (64.3%) with Glittering Wish
      • 55-45 (55.0%) without Wish
      • This didn’t surprise me as much. Even though it’s still hard to quantify or pinpoint how much, if at all, the Wish version is better, the Wishful version has played better in my experience.  Glittering WIsh has outperformed as a redundant Neoform that you can cast on turn 1 and serve as a swiss army knife (Neoform is the card you wish for the most by a wide margin. But Guttural Response, Eladamri’s Call and Decay/Trophy have also served me very well). Given that counterspells are expensive in Modern (before Force of Negation, anyway) it’s plausible to take a turn off to wish for a Guttural Response to fight blue decks.  I’ve also recently enjoyed having access to multiple Abrupt Decays for Ashiok, T3feri, Blood Moon, etc.
  • Turn 1 Kill Rate: 9.5%-14.0% at 95% CI. Readers of my previous article will note that under mostly Vancouver mulligan, my turn 1 kill rate was at 9.0%.  Not a surprise that London Mulligan has materially increased the turn 1 kill rate
  • # of Games With Mulligans:
  • 45.8% under London Mulligan
  • 28.1% under Vancouver Mulligan
    • That I mulligan over 60% more under London Mulligan than with Vancouver Mulligan should not be a surprise.

Data is only good as the inputs and the interpretation.  So what have I taken away from my first 500 matches with London Mulligan Neobrand?

  • Neobrand Has Proven to be One of Many Reasonable Mainstays in Modern, With the Ability to Crush Certain Metagames – Maintaining a 60%+ win rate on MTGO, while not exceptional, should indicate that the deck’s concept is robust and can be a reasonable choice in any Modern tournament.  Nothing has changed about the thesis for playing this deck: If the metagame is a linear arms race where decks like Shadow and UWx Control have been chased out, Neobrand will ambush everyone trying to go under or over the top decks. For example, I still maintain that I had the best deck for GP Vegas, the last hurrah for Hogaak.
  • London Mulligan Has Helped the Archetype Significantly, and Is a Big Reason for its Viability – We suspected that the London Mulligan would be a significant help for a deck like Neobrand, and the results do not dispute that between the significant increase in mulligan rate and the increased turn 1 kill rate.
  1. Once Upon a Time is Not the Difference Maker that Many Thought It Was – Many people, most who hadn’t played the deck before, lamented on Twitter that this was what was going to break Neobrand.  I was a bit more lukewarm about it and it has basically played out like I imagined: A good role player but not a gamebreaker.  It’s very nice that it can act as fractionally extra copies of a land or Allosaurus Rider. In a deck where I’ve always wanted 0.5-1 more than stock, having a free green card that can also get Riders was a welcome addition.  However, that it cannot get ⅓ of the combo (I consider these to be a Rider, an Evolution spell and mana which is a constraint in a 13-14 land deck) means that on average it’s not as impactful as you think it can be. In fact, noted degenerate deck builder Matsugan has played 0 Once Upon a Time (for Serum Visions).  I personally only play 2 in the Glittering Wish version, which I consider to be the better version. Speaking of..
  2. Glittering Wish Feels Like the Better Version – Noted old time MTG pro Øyvind Wefald Andersen was the first one to pioneer this Glittering Wish build (4 Wish maindeck, 1 Neoform sideboard).  Admittedly, I was skeptical at first – Why would you slow down your deck by a turn in a deck that’s designed to go fast?  After playing matches with it, I’m mostly sold on the Wish version being better. The last few cycles of the Modern metagame have featured relatively slow formats.  Basically, if the format is slowing down by 1.5 turns on average, then you can afford to slow down 1.0 turn on average for more consistency. The redundancy that the Glittering Wish for Neoform offers has been incredible.  The other main benefit is the line to fetch a Guttural Response. Because most counterspells in Modern are expensive (curse you Force of Negation. . .) you can now afford to take a turn off to set up a turn with Neoform+Guttural Response.  Basically, unless the format is super fast (such as during Hogaak summer) I think the Wish version is better than the UG version.  
  • Introducing Wishful Neobrand

[deck title=Wishful Neobrand – finalnub]
[Creatures]
1 Laboratory Maniac
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Allosaurus Rider
4 Chancellor of the Tangle
2 Griselbrand
2 Autochthon Wurm
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Summoner’s Pact
1 Life Goes On
3 Veil of Summer
4 Glittering Wish
4 Manamorphose
3 Neoform
4 Nourishing Shoal
2 Once Upon a Time
4 Eldritch Evolution
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Botanical Sanctum
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Mana Confluence
1 Snow-Covered Forest
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Eladamri’s Call
1 Guttural Response
1 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Neoform
4 Pact of Negation
1 Spell Pierce
1 Veil of Summer
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/2787050#paper

I suspect that the first question for many of you will be: Why this over the UG version, and what does Glittering Wish do for this deck?

  1. Glittering Wish improves its goldfish consistency by providing 4 more copies of Neoform or 4 more copies of Allosaurus Rider in instalments (Eladamri’s Call).
  2. Glittering Wish can wish for an answer to random hate permanents (Abrupt Decay or Assassin’s Trophy).  This is especially important nowadays because decks are playing a variety of answers for you, many instances of which you cannot credibly guess and prepare for until you see them first in game 2 (for example, any deck can run Damping Sphere or Grafdigger’s Cage, and a wide range of decks can play Ashiok, Dream Render).
  3. Glittering Wish can wish for Guttural Response.  Given how expensive Modern’s counterspell suite is (well, was, before Force of Negation), it’s now possible to beat one piece of counterspell if you just take a turn off to wish for Guttural Response.
  4. Glittering Wish is a green card, so the floor of the card is super high to begin with.
  5. Glittering Wish often getting you Neoform means that there’s a better balance of the A+B combo (OUAT being fractional copies of Allosaurus Rider, and Wish being fractional copies of Neoform).
  6. The 55th+ slots in the UG version were uninspiring.  These consisted of noted powerhouses such as Edge of Autumn, Safewright Question (though this still has its place in some builds, IMO), Street Wraith, and even Serum Visions.  These cards certainly do their jobs, but in a mediocre way.
  7. Glittering Wish widens the range of your turn 2 kill hands when you can reveal Chancellor and turn 1 wish for Neoform.

The play pattern does not change that much from the traditional UG build, though you will see decline in your turn 1 kill rate because of the decrease in OUAT and 1 less Neoform.  I believe that the consistency and the resilience offered by Glittering Wish to be worthwhile, however, and I believe this is my preferred build going forward unless something drastically changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why aren’t you picking up the new hot tech Thassa’s Oracle?

A: This is by far the most asked question for me.  I just don’t get the hype though and perhaps you need some reps with the deck to separate theory from reality.  In an ideal world, you can always get your library down to 1 so you can Manamorphose into the Oracle and it’s a clean kill.  This would likely let you go down to 3 SSGs or let you add the second Life Goes On. However, games rarely go that cleanly, even though perfect library manipulation with Summoner’s Pacts and Manamorphoses. Sometimes you have to wait a few turns and have to pitch some of those cards to Nourishing Shoals or Allosaurus Riders to get going. Sometimes you draw all the green creatures first and Summoner’s Pacts later so Pacts cannot help you manage library size.  Weird things do happen such that you cannot perfectly manage the library size and I don’t see the benefit being high enough to run Oracle. Also, if your library is 1 or 2 cards deep, then all of the sudden previously blank cards such as Abrupt Decay become real cards against you. In conclusion, I’m not buying it and someone will have to prove to me that this is worthwhile.

Q: What about former mainstays like Edge of Autumn, Street Wraith, Tranquil Thicket, Safewright Quest, Wild Cantor, etc.?

A: These all serve their purposes for sure, but I believe they were mostly fillers to fill the UG decks to 60 cards because Modern doesn’t have anything better.  I think a 1 of Edge of Autumn is still OK because I’ve often wanted to ramp to 3 or 4 mana so I can combo with Veil or Guttural backup, and it’s still useful to have a way to freely cycle on your last turn or to win after Griselbrand has been removed before you could cast Laboratory Maniac.  I don’t miss the other cards though. I just think that the hardest part of the deck is to cheat a Griselbrand into play and we’ll figure out a way to cobble together a win from there, and as a result want to streamline the deck to optimize for that.

Q: Can we cut Life Goes On? It looks so dorky!

A: Absolutely not! I often call it the secret best card of the deck.  It is a green card and a 1 mana mitigation tool for the most common ways you fizzle (fizzled Summoner’s Pact combo turn on your first draw 14) that fits with your most common mana configuration during combos (lands are tapped out and you have 4 Simian Spirit Guides and 3 of them need to be devoted to Laboratory Manic, so you have 1 “free” mana). I’d play two if I could!

Q: Why only 2 OUAT? Wasn’t this card the best thing for the deck since sliced bread?

A: I think the first 55 cards in the deck are more or less set in stone (you could make the argument to cut down to 1 Griselbrand and I have played that before, but the format is slower right now).  The last 5 slots in the maindeck (3 Veils, 2 OUAT) are merely a function of me mapping out the optimal post-board 50 for the top matches and optimizing my 75. I figured my configuration does want access to 4 Veil of Summer in some matchups, and Veils are the most maindeckable of the sideboard cards, being green and having random utility.  The remaining 2 slots were free so I filled it with the next best card, OUAT, which is great considering I’ve often wanted to go up 0.5 or 1 land.

Q: Can the land base even support the GW and the GB spells on time?

A: It mostly hasn’t been the issue with 8 rainbow lands for me.  Remember you also have Manamorphose. Also keep in mind that post-board games are slower so you’ll have more time.  I’ve played 10 rainbow lands out of fear but I think 8 is fine to be honest.

  • Sideboard Guide

Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite, the #sideboardguide.

Caveat: Modern evolves very quickly nowadays, so be flexible and dynamic when you see things you weren’t expecting.  For example, Red Prowess lists now run 2-3 Cages as the norm whereas they didn’t before.

Vs. Red Prowess (Favored)

-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Nature’s Claim
+2 Abrupt Decay

Your plan A trumps their plan A by far, although they are capable of killing or shrinking a Griselbrand.  There are many close spots where you are at 16 life for example and decide whether to go all in or not. Context is everything, but I generally like to draw the first 7 and evaluate from there.  There are spots where it’s definitely correct to pass with Griselbrand though.

Post-sideboard, games will be slower as they bring in Blood Moons and Grafdigger’s Cage.  Consider bringing in your Spell Pierce on the play.

Vs. Amulet Titan (Very Favored)

-3 Veil of Summer
-1 Once Upon a Time
+4 Pact of Negation

They are dead in the water in game one save for their one Pact of Negation, so you can realistically wait until the turn they can Titan or the turn they can pay for Pact. I rarely see Grafdigger’s Cage nowadays from them.  It’s mostly been Mystical Disputes and Aether Gusts, so plan accordingly and bring in the blue Pacts.

Vs. Eldrazi Tron (Unfavored)

-1 Once Upon a Time
-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Nature’s Claim
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Abrupt Decay

They have a lot of angles of attack that’s sometimes hard to combat if they line up correctly (Chalice0, KGC into Needle/Spyglass/Cage, turn 2 TKS).  Hurkyl’s is an all star here. If they are telegraphing Warping Wail so hard, you could just try to beat down with Allosaurus Riders, which I have done. Most of the time you cannot do anything about it though.  A braver person than I can try leaving in Veils to counter Chalice0 and Wail, but it’s not like the deck gives you a lot of time to build your mana before they lock you out or kill you through other means though.

Vs. Jund (Favored)

OTP

-1 Chancellor of the Tangle
-2 Manamorphose
-2 Once Upon a Time
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+2 Leyline of Sanctity
+1 Abrupt Decay

OTD

-3 Chancellor of the Tangle
-2 Once Upon a Time
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Leyline of Sanctity
+1 Abrupt Decay

Their clock is still slow and you can work through their discards with Veils and Leylines.  They have now adopted Ashiok, Dream Render as an answer to Primeval Titan decks, which is obnoxious.  More Chancellors come out on the draw as you are highly unlikely to turn 1 on the draw through discards.

Vs. Bant Snowblade or UWx Control (Very Unfavored)

-1 Griselbrand
-1 Chancellor of the Tangle
-2 Manamorphose
-1 Life Goes On
-2 Once Upon a Time
+4 Pact of Negation
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Abrupt Decay

Very tough matchups.  They have a variety of 2, 3, 4 and free counterspells in the maindeck.  Some lists even have Spell Quellers which you cannot Veil! In the sideboard I’ve seen Ashiok, Dream Render and Blood Moon too. Everything they do is good against you.  Try to cheese them out on turn 1 or mulligan aggressively to a hand that can answer one or two of their hate pieces/counters.

Vs. Dredge (Very Favored)

OTP

-1 Once Upon a Time
+1 Spell Pierce

OTD

-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+2 Leyline of Sanctity

Game 1 is a race that you win most of the time.  Post-board they have Magus of the Moon and Thoughtseize, which the sideboard plan reflects.  Value your Manamorphoses slightly higher with the Magus in mind

Vs. Burn (Favored)

-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Pact of Negation
+2 Leyline of Sanctity

You should be able to win this race handily and they generally don’t play Cages so sideboard minimally.  Blue pact looks weird but it’s for Skullcrack and Path to Exile.

Vs. Grixis Shadows (Unfavored)

OTP

-4 Glittering Wish
-2 Once Upon a Time
+3 Pact of Negation
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Leyline of Sanctity

OTD

-4 Glittering Wish
-3 Chancellor of the Tangle
-2 Once Upon a Time
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Spell Pierce
+2 Leyline of Sanctity
+1 Abrupt Decay

This deck has an extremely wide range of attacks that are mostly effective against you, but you can still cheese them out in game 1s if they draw the wrong quarter of the deck.  Some play Ashioks for the Titan decks which explains the Decay. Decay also kills a Shadow which is nice. On the play though you just want to race them.

Vs. UGx Titan (Very Favored)

-2 Once Upon a Time
-3 Veil of Summer
-1 Manamorphose
+3 Pact of Negation
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Nature’s Claim
+1 Abrupt Decay

Vs. UB Whriza (Probably Very Unfavored)

-1 Griselbrand
-1 Chancellor of the Tangle
-1 Manamorphose
-2 Once Upon a Time
-1 Veil of Summer
+3 Pact of Negation
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Abrupt Decay
+1 Spell Pierce

The new menace. Not sure if the deck is any good but it’s probably a very bad matchup for us, as they have discard, counterspell, artifact lock pieces and Whir of Invention to tutor for them.  My philosophy is to sprinkle in a small number of answers to everything but don’t dilute too much and cross my fingers.

Vs. Green Tron (Very Favored)

-1 Once Upon a Time
-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Nature’s Claim
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Abrupt Decay

Still a very easy matchup.  You win the race on average in game 1.  In post-board games expect some Cages and infrequently Warping Wail.  This is one of the few matchups where it’s often correct to just play your Rider on turn 1 and start beating down.  Some Tron players will just keep a junky Cage/Warping Wail hand that doesn’t do anything else because the matchup is so hopeless.

Vs. Humans (Unfavored)

-1 Griselbrand
-4 Glittering Wish
-1 Veil of Summer
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Nature’s Claim
+1 Neoform
+1 Eladamri’s Call
+1 Abrupt Decay

Wishes go out because timeliness is very important and Wish is embarrassing against Meddling Mage.  This is another matchup where playing out a turn 1 Rider is often correct just so they have to guess which evolution spell to Meddle with.  Sure, Deputy and Reflector will get you sometime, but especially post-board they are more likely to keep Meddling Mage hands than Deputy/Reflector hands, IMO.  Also Veil of Summer randomly protects your Griselbrand from those!

Vs. Infect (Very Unfavored)

-1 Griselbrand
-4 Glittering Wish
-3 Veil of Summer
-1 Once Upon a Time
+3 Pact of Negation
+1 Hurkyl’s Recall
+1 Nature’s Claim
+1 Spell Pierce
+1 Neoform
+2 Abrupt Decay

Their goldfish is almost as fast and they have a light sprinkle of hate from different angles (Spell Pierce, Cage), so this is not a great matchup at all.  Turn 1 Glistener Elf is deadly. Hope you can cheese them out on turn 1 or 2 or they jam into your surprise Decay.

Vs. Devoted Druid Combo (Favored)

-3 Veil of Summer
+1 Pact of Negation
+2 Abrupt Decay

I haven’t seen lists play black for Thoughtseize in a bit.  Blue pact looks weird but the Veils are useless and it can snag their Path to Exile and also their combo if you have to pass with Griselbrand up and you can pay with SSGs.

Vs. Heliod Company (Probably Favored)

-2 Once Upon a Time
-2 Veil of Summer
+2 Leyline of Sanctity
+2 Abrupt Decay

They have both the infinite life combo and the Ballista combo (with Heliod, not infinite mana with Devoted Druid). I’ve seen a variety of hate pieces from them, from Eidolon of Rhetoric to Aven Mindcensor to Damping Sphere to Thoughtseize.  Leyline should be pretty good here both to buy time from the Ballista instant kill and against their discard. Decays are a catchall on the lethal Ballista and hate pieces.

Vs. Storm (Even?)

-4 Glittering Wish
-2 Once Upon a Time
+4 Pact of Negation
+1 Veil of Summer
+1 Neoform

They are almost as fast and have permission so this matchup shouldn’t be great but I keep winning against it.  Veil is very good against their permission (even Flusterstorm sometimes!) and Gifts Ungiven. I do think you cannot afford to tap out for Glittering Wish.  If you see fetchlands it’s possible they have Blood Moon. If that’s the case I like some number of Abrupt Decays, both for the Moon and their bears.

  • Conclusion

I’ve been working hard on this archetype for over half a year and I can safely say that it’s a legitimate strategy that you can bring to high level tournaments without feeling silly! I don’t think it’ll ever be the best deck because it can easily be hated out, but for certain metagames it can be THE metagame call to ambush people with (metagames filled big mana and linear but not as fast decks. I keep referring back to the Hogaak summer because it was a prime example).  I hope that these findings from someone maniacal enough to play this deck for more than a few hundred matches have been helpful to some people. I think the Wish version is the real deal for sure and the future of Neoform.

Until next time, keep on turn 1ing!