Recently, we got the official approval of the London Mulligan and lots of players (I’m not an exception) think it will have a high impact on Modern and older formats. I don’t have the statistics Wizards gathered in London, so I’ll keep my thoughts on the change itself to myself. It is clear the combo decks will benefit the most from the change (Actually all of the decks will, but the fact your opponent doesn’t know what you are playing allows you to just focus on assembling a hand with the combo base. While any other strategy will use the time to play cantrips or creatures).
That leads us to an old question: what deck should I pick? Recently, I’ve found the answer in the form of Cheerios (And it’s been quite a while until I realized deck is called after that 0-shaped snacks, never saw them in Russia).
Here is my list, it did 7-1 (Lost against Grixis Shadow, wins against 2 UW, 3 Tron, 1 Izzet Phoenix, don’t remember the last one) on MOCS preliminary and 2-2 on the 2018 Magic Onine Championship with it.
3 《Hallowed Fountain》
1 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Flooded Strand》
2 《Arid Mesa》
2 《Marsh Flats》
1 《Seachrome Coast》
-Land (15)- 4 《Puresteel Paladin》
4 《Sram, Senior Edificer》
1 《Monastery Mentor》
2 《Noxious Revival》
1 《Hurkyl’s Recall》
4 《Accorder’s Shield》
4 《Bone Saw》
4 《Cathar’s Shield》
4 《Mox Opal》
4 《Paradise Mantle》
4 《Spidersilk Net》
Why I Chose Cheerios?
So, why Cheerios? I’ll quote my friend who took the list and played a single day with it: “I’ve never won that much on turn 2 in my entire career”. The deck has the same strong sides as UR Storm, but is more capable of turn 2 kill, kinda less picky about the parts that makes you roll (although is weaker against opposing removal) and requires a very specific hate to deal with.
How to Win?
How does the deck win? You play a Paladin (I’m gonna call all 8 of them Paladins out of respect for older age) turn 2 and start cycling 0 mana Equipments, if you’re lucky you’ll find a 《Mox Opal》 + 《Retract》 and that will seal the game in most of the cases, your Storm counts goes up and eventually you will find a lethal 《Grapeshot》.
The deck has a lot advantages, but as with any deck that has to hit the correct metagame, let’s have a look at it’s weak sides first, the facts you know and even your presumptions for an exact tournament may convince you to play play some other 75.
1) Cheap Removal + Discard Based Decks
The deck is extremely weak against cheap removal + discard based decks, Grixis Shadow and Mardu Pyromancer just rips you to shreds. You can oppose one of the attack angles, but not 2 at the same time.
2) BG Based Decks
The deck is still weak against BG based ones. It goes worse against BGx with a pack of 1 mana removal, 《Lightning Bolt》 + 《Fatal Push》 for Jund and 《Path to Exile》 + 《Fatal Push》 for Abzan. BG is easier thanks to its higher curve and clunkier threats. I mean it’s still bad, but the number of openings they give you is way higher.
3) Counting Storm is not that Hard
It’s kinda stressing out to play it in paper due to lost of mechanical work, but it’s not that bad. Instead of increasing the Storm counts each time you can just put the artifacts in a side pile, if you 《Retract》 just count the pile, make a note and proceed.
4) Open Decklist is not a Problem
The tournaments with the open decklists are worse for you. But your biggest decision is made before the tournament, so if you’ve missed or hit the metagame, game 1 information won’t matter that much.
Now to the bright side – you kill faster than any non-interactive deck. Without opponent’s interference turn 2 kill is pretty possible, turn 3 kill is like 80%. The low fizzle chance is mostly thanks to a simplicity of combo, it’s basically a 《Puresteel Paladin》 and a timely 《Retract》, you’re not picky about the Equipments you play and they are 33% of the deck.
Here’s our good to average matchups (I’ve wrote this before Modern Horizons got released, right now 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》 is dominating the Magic Online metagame, I’ve played against the deck myself, but it’s hard to suggest how the metagame will shift to deal with it and how good Cheerios will be in the new world).
1) Old Styled Dredge (No Hogaak) and Tron
Old Styled Dredge and Tron, these are bye-like matchups. They have low-to-none interaction and very few possible sideboard countermeasures. After Tron switched to 《Karn, the Great Creator》 builds it can lock you down on Turn 3 with Karn fetching a 《Trinisphere》, that’s the only course of action you may have a problem. And there is no problem a 《Repeal》 cannot solve.
About that Hogaak build, at the moment I’ve played 5 matches against it and have won all of them. It still seems in the Cheerios favor so far, but their draws weren’t explosive. I would be dead on turn 3, but either I was on the play or had Turn 2 kill. Anyway I will tinker the sideboard a bit, back in the day all graveyard interactions was irrelevant because they were too slow. I’m not sure will the 《Surgical Extraction》s do the trick (and you already have 《Noxious Revival》), 《Leyline of the Void》 is the first candidate.
3) Straight Ramp Decks: Amulet, Valakut
4) Straight Aggro Decks: Both Hardened Scales and Regular Affinity, Mono-Red Phoenix, Hollow One
Although the last two have 《Lightning Bolt》s, it’s unacceptable for the deck with such game plan to keep one mana open for the 1st 3 turns.
5) Other Combo Decks: Griselbrand-Based Decks, Storm, Ad Nauseam
Like I said above you’re just faster and more consistent in assembling the combo. I know 《Neoform》 can win on turn 1, but so do you and the possibility delta is not that high.
6) 《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》 Decks: Humans, Spirits, Eldrazi&Taxes
At first those decks look terrifying, but it’s not that bad. It’s obvious the worst possible scenario is when opponent’s on the play and has a 1st drop followed by a couple of disruption creatures. It would be hard to catch up with that, but Paladins are immune to their disruption except 《Meddling Mage》, which still can name the wrong one, at least the most important parts of our machine will remain intact. The situation is pretty good on the play. If we start the things rolling on turn 2 and don’t have the kill, we still got a robot, some cards in hand and only one answer coming next turn.
Again, my first thought about the matchup was it would be a disaster-tons of removal, 《Eidolon of the Great Revel》, quick clock. But they have only one set of 1 mana creature removal and two sets of 2 mana ones (Including the conditional 《Searing Blaze》). Yeah, the matchup is unfavored, but not desperate, you still have some ways to win game 1, but it becomes interesting after the sideboard.
In games 2 and 3 your key cards are 《Burrenton Forge-Tender》 and 《Leyline of Sanctity》, I side 8 cards in and take out 1 《Sram, Senior Edificer》, 2 《Noxious Revival》, 2 《Repeal》, 1 《Hurkyl’s Recall》 and 2 《Paradise Mantle》. Leyline is your plan A now, if you don’t have the Kithkin your opponent has to tap out to keep pressure and it leaves them open to the combo plan, and if you have a 《Burrenton Forge-Tender》 + Leyline + any Equipment you can start attacking. Just don’t lose the Kithkin to a 《Skullcrack》. Plan B is to use Forge Tender to cover your combo, it shuts down Eidolon for an entire turn.
Tips and Tricks
Two more card to have a closer look:
I’d say it’s the most complicated card in the deck, but it is extremely useful. Here’s the list of what you can do with it:
《Repeal》 mostly have 2 functions – It’s an universal and relatively cheap answer to anything (Chalice, Thalia, 《Damping Sphere》, 《Meddling Mage》). Function 2 is just cycling it. You can cycle it on turn 1 into your artifact, with an active Mox it cycles for free, with a Paladin it cycles for 2 cards, with 2 Paladins it’s an 《Ancestral Recall》!
One more thing to keep in mind is if you don’t want to cycle your 《Repeal》 on turn 1, start with a tapped 《Hallowed Fountain》 or a Fetchland into it. It may convince your opponent to think you’re on UW Control, then they’ll play aggressive and will give you an opening.
That’s all for now, I’m still not sure how the deck will perform in Hogaak infested metagame, but it has not disappointed me so far.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found it useful!
Dmitriy Butakov (Twitter)