Who am I?
Hi my name’s Peter Ward and I’m a Hareruya Hopes from Bath, England! I’ve played the RB Hollow One deck to a number of good finishes including 29th place at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary! But more importantly I’m just some guy that feels very hollow and also passionately about not playing 《Swamp》 in the deck.
Why Hollow One?
I’ve been told many times that RB Hollow One is not well positioned in the meta. With the help of the namesake card, this deck can produce starts that are not beatable for any deck. Our cards grind and attack on many different angles. This deck has game against everything, making RB Hollow One the new Jund, except I’ve never died on turn 3 playing against Jund.
Another thing I often hear about this deck is that it’s all luck. To that I say, just try playing it. There are tons of small decisions that all contribute to gaining an advantage. It can be difficult but also incredibly fun and rewarding!
This is the list I played at the RPTQ last weekend, to a 5-2 finish and 10th place.
2 《Blood Crypt》
1 《Stomping Ground》
2 《Bloodstained Mire》
2 《Arid Mesa》
2 《Scalding Tarn》
2 《Wooded Foothills》
4 《Blackcleave Cliffs》
-Land (18)- 4 《Flameblade Adept》
4 《Flamewake Phoenix》
4 《Street Wraith》
4 《Hollow One》
2 《Tasigur, the Golden Fang》
2 《Gurmag Angler》
4 《Faithless Looting》
4 《Burning Inquiry》
2 《Fatal Push》
4 《Goblin Lore》
The Basics with a Sample Opening Hand
Let’s play, starting off with this sample hand.
《Flameblade Adept》 is usually the best turn 1 play. Here are some examples of when I would not lead with Adept:
Cashing in a fetch land on turn 1 allows us to have the maximum number of cards in our graveyard for “Delve”. We should grab a 《Mountain》 here because the deck only requires 1 black source to function and this can be acquired later.
On turn 2 we should play the second fetch land and cast 《Burning Inquiry》. If our 《Gurmag Angler》 survives the wild ride then we can fetch a 《Blood Crypt》 and have exactly 6 cards in our graveyard. In this example we would need to “Delve” away our 《Bloodghast》 if it was discarded, unless we draw into a 《Street Wraith》.
Also it’s interesting to note that 《Faithless Looting》 would not have given us enough cards to “Delve” out the big fish. You know you’ve got something special when it’s better than 《Faithless Looting》!
To keep or not to keep?
Consider these opening hands.
The Answer: Keep
This is one of the worst hands to keep at 7 cards. Without the 《Gurmag Angler》 or a similar payoff card this is a mulligan. The deck can function very well off 6 or even 5 cards. I’ve won epic games before from 4 card hands.
The Answer: Keep
This is a keep on the play and on the draw. The combination of 《Street Wraith》 and 《Faithless Looting》 is one of the most powerful starts. It guarantees any 《Hollow One》s can be cast immediately with no risk of being discarded. It’s worth the risk of not finding a land. A Scry plus an extra draw from 《Street Wraith》 makes this hand worthwhile.
You’ll notice my list contains the optimal split of Red fetch lands, this is possibly the smallest edge you gain by not playing 《Swamp》 but it still matters!
Once my Lantern Control opponent 《Mishra's Bauble》 me on the play, saw a 《Burning Inquiry》 and decided to cast 《Pithing Needle》 named 《Bloodstained Mire》. My only land in my hand was thankfully a 《Scalding Tarn》!
There are two main arguments I hear for playing 《Swamp》:
RB Hollow One has a lot of moving parts and we don’t want to dilute our own game plan unless it’s for something really strong. The sideboard is constructed in such a way that we have enough cards to bring in against a wide variety of decks. This allows us to not leave any bad cards in our deck after sideboarding.
Modern is such a diverse format and people can show up with almost anything from their trade binder. Try to keep in mind being flexible and use my advice as a starting point.
Never cut all of the 《Burning Inquiry》 in any matchup. The card just makes the deck hum. Even against Dredge sometimes they don’t have a Dredger in the graveyard and we just need a way to cheat some 《Hollow One》 into play and steal a win. The deck loses a lot of consistency if you cut too many ways to do this. Also sometimes we have 《Leyline of the Void》 in play and it doesn’t even matter that they are discarding.
《Goblin Lore》 trades quite badly against 《Mausoleum Wanderer》 and 《Spell Queller》. Whilst the same can be said for 《Collective Brutality》 it’s very good against them. It also gives us an out to 《Worship》 although that card doesn’t tend to see much play at the moment.
《Hardened Scales》 Affinity
Try to save the premium removal spells for 《Steel Overseer》 and large 《Inkmoth Nexus》. 《Flameblade Adept》 is a real menace here as their plan often involves chump blocking and sacrificing to 《Arcbound Ravager》. Don’t forget we can play a 《Flamewake Phoenix》 post-combat to block 《Inkmoth Nexus》!
Often the games go super long and we can make a decent effort to grind them out. 《Street Wraith》, 《Thoughtseize》 and aggressively fetching shocklands to play around 《Path to Exile》 and 《Field of Ruin》 all do a decent job on our life total. We should leave in 1 《Fatal Push》 as an out to any pesky 《Celestial Colonnade》. The flavors of UW that splash for Red are easier because they have a hard time dealing with our larger threats.
Usually it’s good to trim on “Delve” creatures when boarding in 《Grim Lavamancer》. Sometimes post-board we can actually grind out the 5C Humans player or the game will stall out on the ground and we can win with a 《Flamewake Phoenix》.
RB Hollow One Mirror
If our opponent has 《Gurmag Angler》 in their deck however, we want to take out 《Tasigur, the Golden Fang》. It’s not worth putting all the work into a threat that pales in comparison to the big fish. Cut at least one “Delve” creature against decks that will very likely have 《Leyline of the Void》.
We can get very creative in this matchup with our “Delve” creatures, often using them to shrink opposing 《Tarmogoyf》. Also make sure to prioritise delving away unnecessary creatures before they get gobbled up by a 《Scavenging Ooze》.
Our threats are incredibly difficult to deal with for Tron. Their most effective fatty is 《Wurmcoil Engine》. Even then I’ve had many opponents lose to an army of menace creatures and flyers after tapping out for their best card!
We shouldn’t dilute our game plan too much with all 4 copies of 《Leyline of the Void》. It’s also not very effective in every game because their best path to victory is 《Death's Shadow》 with 《Temur Battle Rage》.
Most decks in this archetype revolve around 《Bedlam Reveler》 and 《Arclight Phoenix》, 《Leyline of the Void》 is incredibly effective at shutting down those cards. Their sideboard plan usually revolves around 《Thing in the Ice》 which is why I like bringing in 《Fatal Push》. This archetype is also very new so this is subject to change.
In this matchup we take full control. They can have annoying sideboard cards like 《Kitchen Finks》 and 《Shapers' Sanctuary》 but for the most part we can bury them in card advantage because they will have so many dead pump spells.
《Krark-Clan Ironworks》 (KCI)
《Sai, Master Thopterist》 has to be on our radar after sideboarding. 《Leyline of the Void》 is so powerful in this matchup as it shuts of all of their eggs, I’ve won far too many games by casting it for 4 mana!
If by now you’re not convinced, I’ll leave you with a quick summary of why RB Hollow One is one of the best decks in Modern.
Thank you for reading and may your days be forever hollow.