Mythic Championship London is in the books. We won’t learn whether Wizards of the Coast chooses to implement the new mulligan rule before Mythic Championship Barcelona, but there was a brief period where both War of the Spark cards and London Mulligan coexisted on Magic Online. If you played Modern on MTGO at that time, you probably are familiar with this new combo deck:
16-9 total and ended up on this list after playing with this, but many of my wins happened on turns one or two, including a poor soul who only got to play a single land pass thorough the match – kind of spooky that this deck seems to be competitive pic.twitter.com/zc1mRslm8D— Piotr 'kanister' Głogowski (@kanister_mtg) 2019年4月30日
The goal of this deck is to combine 《Allosaurus Rider》 with either 《Neoform》 or 《Eldritch Evolution》 to summon a way-to-ahead of schedule 《Griselbrand》. Once you do this, the kill mechanism is borrowed partially from previous 《Goryo’s Vengeance》/Grishoalbrand and 《Ad Nauseam》 decks – you chain 《Nourishing Shoal》s with obscenely expensive green cards to draw your entire deck, at which point you should be able to exile 《Simian Spirit Guide》s for mana and point a huge enough 《Lightning Storm》 at their forehead.
What’s new is just the 《Neoform》s – the deck was able to exist before, but now you get actual redundancy on both of your combo pieces, allowing for two full playsets of either piece, with 《Neoform》 costing just two mana leading to an anxiety-inducing amount of turn one or two kills.
My perspective to the London Mulligan
First, I want to talk a little about the London Mulligan rule.
Ari Lax wrote an excellent blog post about his thoughts and view of the new rule. It took me a while to change my position on how good it would be for Magic in general, but as of now, I am not looking forward to the London Mulligan rule being employed in the older formats.
Many of the newly proposed change detractors seemed focused around the potential competitive imbalance it would cause by increasing the power level of linear strategies that could supposedly win games from very low resource bases – Dredge and Tron being the frontrunners. That argument seemed weak to me from the start, and from my own experience, observing other players, metagame shares at the Mythic Championship, and anecdotes, I believe it was misguided. Tron ended up being the most popular deck in London without sporting an excellent winrate, and the two other most popular choices were 《Arclight Phoenix》 decks and Humans decks, both known for being just incredibly solid decks, both agreed upon as decks that do not seem to benefit exceedingly from the new form of mulliganing.
Truth is, as Ari points out in his post, no matter how you slice that, any system that leaves you a card down per mulligan will ultimately result in people battling fives versus sevens. If card advantage is what matters in the matchup, the player who begins two pieces down is not going to realistically be much better off even if they get to choose those five cards a little more carefully. An area where you are gaining is perception moreso than evening the odds for the mulliganing player. Simplifying, instead of missing your second land drop and dying, you’ll get to play a few spells and then die, as far as fair Magic is concerned.
What you are losing out on, is nuance and novelty in games. The most beautiful and interesting games I played in Modern are the scrappy ones, where I had to get very creative to win in ways that I would not have ever thought of. I am talking about using my Lantern lock to never let my opponent draw any creatures after they Surgically Extracted my 《Ensnaring Bridge》s turn one; beating a Humans player with 《Stony Silence》 with KCI even though I have not brought in any 《Nature’s Claim》s, because their early stumble allowed me to capitalize with 《Sai, Master Thopterist》; or getting to hardcast my 《Gurmag Angler》s for seven mana while facing 《Leyline of the Void》 and beating down with them.
Those are extreme situations, but they are very rarely going to happen under the new rule, and in general, the replayability of matchups, especially in older formats, seems to go down for me, as you can expect a narrower set of patterns happen significantly more often, in the end making the gameplay experience just less rich.
Similar complaints have been issued before around Mythic Invitational. Magic Arena’s way of smoothing your opening hands in best of one, combined with the nature of White Weenie, Mono Red, and Esper Control, for some players, including me, made the experience extremely repeatable, to the point where it barely felt fun anymore. I have not thought about the comparisons that could be drawn here before, but they certainly arise.
The reason why I love Magic and Modern is that the game is so incredibly complex, and offers new scenarios with the infinite iterations of cards either player can draw; reducing that pool also reduces my interest in the game ever so slightly. For those reasons, I’m very uncertain about how good the widespread adoption of the new mulligan rule would actually be for Magic.
Talking about Neoform Deck
Alright, so where does the 《Neoform》 deck fit in all of that?
The gut reaction is that it’s another one of those decks that supposedly abuse the rule. A reasonable concern, as what we are aiming for with the 《Neoform》 deck is mostly to just play off your opening hand to produce a Turn 1-3 kill. It’s not as simple though, because 《Allosaurus Rider》‘s double pitch cost is extremely taxing on your hand, making mulligans down to 5 cards a very risky proposition. In addition to that, being a glass-cannon deck, 《Neoform》‘s win expected win percentage is going to drop A LOT every single time your opponent is going to find an interaction piece or hate card in their opening seven.
Since 《Allosaurus Rider》 will always require you to spend three cards on it, you can’t really find ways to reliably beat hate. London mulligan works for both players, after all, and so if your Humans opponent ever gets to second mana, the likelihood of them dropping an unbeatable 《Meddling Mage》 on you is extremely high. You definitely end up benefitting from the London Mulligan rule comparatively to other archetypes in the format, but not as much as some would make you believe, and I am pretty sure it is impossible for a deck to be great under the new mulligan while being trash under the old one.
All things considered, however, at first I was sure I have another joke glass-cannon deck on my hands, similar to that 《Goryo’s Vengeance》/《Narset, Enlightened Master》 brew, but I quickly realized that this one is way stronger. The amount of early kills is a little anxiety-inducing., as uninterrupted this deck is REALLY strong at presenting an early 《Griselbrand》. Opponents who are not the quickest nor present interaction early, like Dredge, Tron, or Amulet, are going to have baseline terrible matchups versus 《Neoform》 unless they pack specific hate. The ease with which the combo is stoppable makes me think that in a competitive environment 《Neoform》 would actually turn out to be no better than a 40% winrate deck, but at this point, the question whether such deck should be allowed in the format becomes very interesting.
Grishoalbrand has been legal in the format for years, despite its ability to threaten turn two kills – for a multitude of reasons, Grishoalbrand is terrible enough at actually winning matches that it has not been a problem; similar to Legacy 《Goblin Charbelcher》. 《Neoform》 might be pushing it a little bit too high on it’s turn one and two frequency, both with London and Vancouver mulligans, although it’s complete lack of results on Magic Online so far despite being the talk of the town on Twitter for a day makes it a tough question to answer. At some point reducing games to ‘having it’ or not becomes unfun enough that an action towards the offending cards might be a reasonable route.
In the meanwhile, if you feel like trying to glass cannon down some MTGO opponents, this is my recommended list:
2 《Breeding Pool》
4 《Botanical Sanctum》
4 《Yavimaya Coast》
4 《Gemstone Mine》
-Land (15)- 1 《Wild Cantor》
4 《Simian Spirit Guide》
4 《Allosaurus Rider》
4 《Chancellor of the Tangle》
2 《Autochthon Wurm》
1 《Pact of Negation》
4 《Serum Visions》
1 《Noxious Revival》
1 《Sleight of Hand》
4 《Nourishing Shoal》
2 《Dissenter’s Deliverance》
4 《Eldritch Evolution》
1 《Lightning Storm》
《Wild Cantor》‘s purpose is to be a Pactable way to filter your 《Simian Spirit Guide》 mana into 《Neoform》 mana. That matters for some turn one kill hands. When naturally drawn, you can ramp out a turn 2 《Eldritch Evolution》 with it or use it to store 《Chancellor of the Tangle》‘s mana. 《Manamorphose》 is another ugly way to filter your 《Simian Spirit Guide》 mana into a turn one 《Neoform》; it’s also necessary to cast a 《Laboratory Maniac》 after you tapped your lands. The second one is potentially cuttable. This deck would benefit greatly from having access to 《Elvish Spirit Guide》 over it’s Ape equivalent.
《Dissenter’s Deliverance》 is a green card for Allosaurus, another way to spend Chancellor’s mana on turn 1 to Cycle, and a non-invasive way to answer the only true sideboard hate permanent that people might have against you – 《Grafdigger’s Cage》.
Speaking of 《Chancellor of the Tangle》, it’s a card that suffers the most from returning to Vancouver mulligan. Given that it’s mana boost is only temporary, it frequently can be awkward ramping you for not enough for a turn one 《Eldritch Evolution》, then disappearing on turn two. Since the reason to play this deck is to get those obscenely early kills, I think it is unwise to cut those, especially since seven cost green cards are useful enough in this deck even with no text.
You can definitely do with just a single win condition in the maindeck, and 《Lightning Storm》 seems the best to me. It allows you to just pass after 《Neoform》ing a 《Griselbrand》 off of a naturally drawn 《Allosaurus Rider》s, keeping the option of comboing off at instant speed if necessary. 《Noxious Revival》 is the least invasive rebuy card for your win condition if it gets discarded, being green and offering a rebuy on a 《Nourishing Shoal》 when trying to draw your deck. I like a single 《Pact of Negation》 maindeck on top of that to push through countermagic and prevent your opponent from interacting with your win condition. Maniac gets brought in alongside of Storm or replacing it if your opponent is playing 《Dovin’s Veto》, 《Nourishing Shoal》, or any other wonky way of preventing your 《Lightning Storm》 from working.
Plenty of decks have a hard time beating a a 7/7 or 8/8 flying lifelinker, so don’t rush if you didn’t need to Pact for your Riders – you can just pass, and start drawing only if your opponent puts a threatening card on the stack.
Blue cantrips help you increase your turn 2 and 3 kill consistency, although they play badly enough with 《Allosaurus Rider》s and 《Chancellor of the Tangle》 if you draw too many of them, so finding the sweet spot is a little hard to do. 4-5 feels roughly okay. They are also amongst your few cards that are cuttable post-board.
Some decklists include card slike 《Children of Korlis》, 《Expedite》, or 《Samut’s Sprint》 as extra ‘Shoals’, as giving you an extra attack with 《Griselbrand》 equals extra seven cards; I don’t think the deck can spend slots on cards of this type trying to reduce it’s fail rate once it already has a 《Griselbrand》 in play; had I been worried about this aspect, I think I would try to incorporate more 《Noxious Revival》s first.
The sideboard is a hodgepodge of different countermeasures. If you don’t clearly need some of the cards, just don’t sideboard.
If your opponent has counterspells, bring 《Defense Grid》s and 《Pact of Negation》s. Mono-《Pact of Negation》 doesn’t work, since 《Dovin’s Veto》 is played by UW control players nowadays. Fortunately, 《Defense Grid》 plays nicely with 《Chancellor of the Tangle》.
If your opponent is on Humans, know you are probably going to have a hard time and try to include 《Engineered Explosives》 and 《Pongify》 / 《Rapid Hybridization》 to not get locked down by a 《Meddling Mage》.
If your opponent is on Grixis Death’s Shadow, you have very little chance of performing the combo, so try to cheese them with a combination of 《Leyline of Sanctity》 and turn one 《Chalice of the Void》.
After all, that’s mostly it about the deck. It can get somewhat tricky when you are trying to combo off with 《Griselbrand》, as you should try to use 《Noxious Revival》, 《Manamorphose》s, 《Serum Visions》, and 《Summoner’s Pact》s to try to get your deck size to be a multiple of seven in order to avoid getting stuck with 《Lightning Storm》 in your bottom 5 or so, but other than that, you have a somewhat limited agency over the outcome of your matches. You mull; you jam, and you often scoop if they ‘have it’. Other times you wonder what archetype your poor opponent was playing because you only saw them making one land drop.
Either way, the experience is somewhat surreal, so take it for a spin if you are into that.