June 09, 2015

Modern, Renewed

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Two weeks ago, I featured 30 decks sent in from around the world and asked for you—my lovely readers—to tweak your favorite and send it in to me, then I'd feature it in my column.

Well, that time is now. And the deck I'm about to feature…has a bit of a history behind it.

You see, way back in 1999 the incredible Kai Budde piloted a deck called Fruity Pebbles.

Besides crucially paving the way for numerous future combo decks to be named after breakfast cereals, this deck was also unique in that it was a powerhouse "infinite" combo deck. By using Shield Sphere, Goblin Bombardment, and Enduring Renewal in concert, you could plink your opponent for 1 an endless number of times.

This deck, as well as—what else—Cocoa Pebbles right behind it (which was a similar deck that had the innovation of adding Necropotence) became a well-known deck in the field. Cards cropped up to fight it, and eventually it fell; but it definitely held its own.

Then, like the One Ring, it laid dormant in history. Until, like anything else related to history, Time Spiral dragged out Enduring Renewal again. The R&D team at the time was frightened they might have just unleashed combo on Standard—but it turns out Enduring Renewal was just fine. (And perhaps they should have kept a better eye on Dragonstorm.) I remember building an Enduring Renewal combo deck with Wild Cantor, and it was close…but not quite strong enough.

Then, the card went dormant again…Until the eternal deck resuscitator of Modern cast its eye upon it!

And this, my friends, is what we'll be looking at today:

Daniel Pareja's Steel Pebbles


The Battle Plan

Inspired by Tony Youssef's Pebbles deck from two weeks ago (as well as local-player-to-Daniel, David Ball), this deck seeks to walk down the same path that Budde trod all those years ago. While some of the pieces may have changed, the core of the Enduring Renewal combo—Enduring Renewal itself—remains intact.

The combo works like this. First, you need an Enduring Renewal, a Blasting Station, and either an Ornithopter or a Memnite. Then, the process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Sacrifice the creature to deal a damage with Blasting Station.
  2. The zero-mana creature returns to your hand
  3. Cast it again. Blasting Station untaps
  4. Repeat 1–3 until your opponent is out of life.

It's an efficient and rather elegant…and like many combos before it, the prettier it looks, the more likely it is to kill you.

An interesting note is that creature removal doesn't disrupt this deck at all. Unlike something like Splinter Twin, which can be susceptible to a timely Combust, the creatures are instantly sacrificed so you're going to need some other way to fight this combo!

While Tony's original build (which you can check out here) had Tempered Steel as a backup plan, this deck is pretty all-in on its combo. And that's perfectly solid—I'm going to leave it that way. The key is just going to be finding ways to make it as consistent and efficient as possible.

What are some other ways to help out the combo? What are some pieces you could use to make it more effective? Let's take a look!

Deck Breakdown

What pieces can stay and what pieces can blast off? Let's go through this deck card by card and take a look!


The deck's only two creatures, this tag team duo are your win conditions. You need to draw exactly one of them by the time you're ready to combo off. However, until then you don't really want it, and drawing extras can make for dead cards. Most of the time, with all of the card filtering you have, you'll be able to find plenty of these.

At that point, it's all about what you expect to see and whether Memnite or Ornithopter is better. You will find yourself using them to chump block often, so it depends on how much flying you expect to see versus one toughness creatures and removal.

It's pretty close, so overall I'm going to split them three and three.


This is the card you really can't find any replacements for. You have to have it to combo off, and there isn't another card with an effect like it. You need to draw one every game, and so you definitely need to play all four copies.


Similar to Enduring Renewal, this card is crucial. It is a primary combo piece.

However, unlike Enduring Renewal, it isn't irreplaceable. There's actually a card that costs one mana less and will do a lot of the same work. It's even of the same kin! That card is Grinding Station.

Blasting Station's easily forgotten brother, Grinding Station is a pretty good substitute in this deck. Since all of the creatures you're looping with are artifacts, you can mill all of their cards.

Notably, this is a little worse if they have a legendary Eldrazi like Emrakul in their library. However, outside of matchups like that one, this tends to just be a less expensive win condition. And hey, maybe, even in some farfetched world, you play against some glacial control deck and end up milling them out!

I'm going to go with four copies of Grinding Station and two of Blasting.


This trio shows up often in Modern, being the crucial card filtering and velocity that digs you into your combo pieces. You aren't going to do much better. Serum Visions and Sleight help you find what you need, and Gitaxian Probe helps inform you when the coast is clear without much of a cost to it.

I definitely want four copies of each these pieces.


A powerful card in blue decks, and especially blue combo decks, Remand serves to buy you some time while digging you deeper into your deck. If you can set it up right, Remand can cover some serious ground early in the game.

However, one problem with Remand is that this deck is often going to want to be tapping its mana to cast card-filtering spells early on rather than leave mana up. Furthermore, it doesn't really help protect your combo since you'll likely be tapping out to cast your Renewal or Station.

Instead, what I'd like to try here is Spellskite. It blocks effectively, and can also redirect most effects that target artifacts or enchantments to itself for no mana, helping your combo go off. It's being proactive rather than reactive, which is what I'm looking for in a deck like this one.


Tapping out for a three-mana tutor to find a four-mana card in Modern does not excite me—but it can be effective. The real problem is that if you already have an Enduring Renewal, Idyllic Tutor is a dead card. At best, you could play one Artificer's Intuition if you have everything else and are in need of a Memnite or Ornithopter.

What I'd like to do is move down to two Idyllic Tutors to reduce the percentages of drawing a lot of them, and then play a single copy of Anticipate to help with card flow in other circumstances. While certainly weaker in this deck than a Sleight of Hand or Serum Visions, it's the next best option (I'd rather bottom the cards than leave one on top like Telling Time does) and I'm okay playing one.


This is an entirely effective removal card in a deck like this—it's just going to depend how badly you want access to some removal. And since it's weak in some matchups and doesn't directly help you combo off, I definitely don't want all four.

Depending on your metagame, I could see going anywhere from none-to-two copies, main deck; with the rest in the sideboard. In this case, I'll play two.


You may have noticed I've carved out some extra space. That's because the final card I want to add is another metalcraft card: Mox Opal. This card provides a nice mana boost, letting you get to three or four mana a little ahead of schedule, and increasing how fast you can win. It's a huge leap for this deck, and definitely one I want to support.

With all of those changes made, plus some slight tweaks to the mana base to accommodate for Mox Opal, that brings the decklist to:

The number of decks you can build in Modern continues to tickle me—and this one is no exception.

If your opponent stumbles at all, this is the kind of deck that can really finish them off in short order. With a normal Mox Opal draw, you can kill as quickly as turn three! (And with a really good draw a turn-two kill is possible as well!)

The landscape of Modern just received another entry in its array of unexpected combo decks. Have fun with this one!


McArtor's Mentions

Here in the McArtor's Mentions section, I show off some of the other neat decks that were sent in for this challenge. There's a wide range of decks in a wide range of formats because of the nature of my article two weeks ago—so let's take a look:

FROGUE'S MODERN JESKAI GUTTERSNIPE

CHRIS MOORE'S COLLECTED COUNTERS

Mark Ian Alloso's Allies


Onward to the Beginning

Two weeks from now, Magic Origins previews will be here! Since it’s a preview week that week, there’s no deckbuilding challenge this week. But stay tuned for previews to kick off in just two weeks!

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments at all, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send them my way either by sending me a tweet on Twitter or by asking me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

I’ll be back next week with something a little out of the ordinary. Until then, may you name a deck after your favorite breakfast cereal!

Talk with you next week,

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight



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