As Modern Horizons came out I had many different brews in mind that hopefully in the near future I will get to return to and write about. However, after the first weekend of Modern Horizons being legal on Magic Online, it became quickly apparent that Bridgevine had become one of Modern’s best decks, and seemingly the most powerful thing you can be doing.
The combination of 《Carrion Feeder》, 《Altar of Dementia》, and 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》 has given the deck a huge upgrade in power. The past couple weeks I had been doing some targeted testing involving Bridgevine with my roommate to prepare for GP Dallas. I was planning on writing an article focused more on the best ways of beating Bridgevine, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I should just be piloting the deck myself, and to be honest I actually quite enjoy a lot of the game actions the deck performs. So here I am with an article focused on picking the Bridgevine side of the equation.
To start, here is my current decklist:
2 《Blood Crypt》
2 《Godless Shrine》
2 《Bloodstained Mire》
2 《Marsh Flats》
2 《Polluted Delta》
2 《Verdant Catacombs》
4 《Blackcleave Cliffs》
1 《Gemstone Mine》
-Land (19)- 4 《Carrion Feeder》
4 《Insolent Neonate》
4 《Stitcher’s Supplier》
4 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》
Recently, it has seemed pretty standard to play the 40 spells I have that aren’t 《Cryptbreaker》 main deck. When lists first started showing up I would see more cards with Dredge, and people omitting cards like 《Bloodghast》 or 《Vengevine》, it seems everyone has come around and the only card I see get shaved occasionally is 《Bloodghast》. From there I have seen 18-20 lands, and 0-2 flex spots. I’ve really liked my main deck configuration, and while I’ve been trying a lot of different sideboards, I’m pretty happy with where I’m currently settled. Here’s a run down of the roles of all the cards in my current decklist:
It’s pretty noticeable that these cards are the only red cards remaining in the deck but it’s definitely worth it. Our deck has plenty of nice cards to discard, and with 《Vengevine》 and 《Bridge from Below》 doing nothing good until they hit our graveyard we need access to reliable ways to get them there. While Looting has a lot more raw power than Neonate, Neonate has the upside of being highly synergistic with both Bridge and 《Vengevine》.
Before Modern Horizons I would have called this the worst of the 1 mana enablers, but thanks to 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》 I am very happy to keep a lot of opening hands that are reliant on this card. Fueling Delve and being a black creature for Convoke means it’s pulling more than half the cost of Hogaak all on it’s own, making it really likely to cast it Hogaak on turn 2. On top of that, the addition of Hogaak just means we now have 4 more cards in our deck that do something in our graveyard, making the random aspect of milling less random than before.
This is now the best enabler in most draws. While technically not a 1 card combo, it works so well with so many different combinations of your draws that it basically is. In combination with Hogaak and 《Bridge from Below》, it gives the deck a non-infinite but good enough combo that allows you to mill your opponent.
For those unaware, if you have 《Altar of Dementia》 and Hogaak on the battlefield, and 2 《Bridge from Below》 in your graveyard, or 1 《Bridge from Below》, another Hogaak, and another untapped black or green creature. You can continually mill yourself 8 cards with 《Altar of Dementia》 sacrificing Hogaak, and recast a Hogaak with the 2 untapped black creatures and 5 of the 8 cards in your graveyard you just generated. As you do this you will find more 《Bridge from Below》s and eventually be able to mill your opponent 8 cards by just sacrificing Hogaak for the cost of exiling 2 cards from your graveyard and tapping the 5 black creatures you generated (4 Zombies and a 2nd copy of Hogaak), all at the same time generating usually at least 50 more power worth of zombies.
I believe this can technically happen on turn 2 with a really lucky turn 1 《Stitcher’s Supplier》, but it happens turn 3 a very high amount of the time. The games that involve this card feel very similar to playing 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》 (KCI) deck. If you have Altar, you can just combine it with something as simple as a 《Bloodghast》 and a fetchland to suddenly give yourself access to an increasing amount of resources, and eventually find the Hogaaks and Bridges to combo kill your opponent.
These cards are still so powerful that we build the deck around them even though we can’t use them unless we first get them in the graveyard. The power level of 《Vengevine》 and to a lesser extent also Bridge has fallen off with the lack of cards like 《Walking Ballista》 to let us do something busted on the first turn of the game, but they still are strong enough to include. That being said, if I had to rank all the cards in the deck by power level I would definitely put 《Vengevine》 on the lower end nowadays, but 《Bridge from Below》 is now much higher as it’s also part of our combo kill.
People always talk about how free spells are what leads to busted things in Magic. Well, Wizards’ decided to deny us the option of even spending mana on this 8/8 Trample that can be cast from your graveyard. Something as simple as a 《Stitcher’s Supplier》, a 《Gravecrawler》, and 2 fetchlands will allow us to cast this card on turn 2. Make sure to pay attention to the amount of cards in your graveyard and consider leading on fetchlands over something like 《Blackcleave Cliffs》.
A lot of my sequencing involves just trying to get Hogaak into play as soon as possible, and definitely one of the reasons why this deck is so busted is it has the potential to get an 8/8 Trample into play before your opponent has mana for 《Rest in Peace》.
These two have actually gotten quite the boost. The deck now plays 8 sacrifice outlets and these are the cards you can use with them very effectively. With one or more 《Bridge from Below》s you can generate a surprising amount of zombies very easily, but even without any Bridges these cards do a great job milling yourself with 《Altar of Dementia》 or just growing a 《Carrion Feeder》. On top of that Hogaak is frequently looking for any black creatures it can get to help cast it, meaning recursive ones like these pull extra weight against sweepers or lots of removal.
《Altar of Dementia》 and Hogaak are very obviously busted cards from Modern Horizons that make this deck what it is, but 《Carrion Feeder》 is no joke either. While people played with 《Greater Gargadon》 and/or 《Viscera Seer》 before Horizons in Bridgevine, 《Carrion Feeder》 outclasses both of them pretty easily. It can get large very quickly, still works nicely with 《Vengevine》, and is even a zombie for 《Gravecrawler》 and 《Cryptbreaker》.
While the simple combination of 《Gravecrawler》, 《Carrion Feeder》, and some black sources is just about the fairest thing this deck can do, it’s still somewhat powerful, and might be something you lean on in a game where you’ve faced some effective interaction like multiple 《Surgical Extraction》s.
This is my flex spot of choice at the moment. This card gets a lot better in spots where you’re facing hate, which is why I include more copies in the sideboard, but as a baseline it’s a 1 mana black zombie, which is still really helpful for Hogaak, 《Vengevine》, and 《Gravecrawler》. I think replacing this slot with something like 《Lightning Axe》 or 《Leyline of the Void》 is entirely reasonable, I just prefer the proactive choice.
The Mana Base (19 Lands)
After a lot of tuning I really like my mana base. While I don’t do a lot of math myself and rely on the math of others, I like having 19 lands. I’ve done a good amount of real matches with this deck so far, and much more goldfishing, and 19 has just “felt” right. On top of that, I like the inclusion of a 2nd basic 《Swamp》 and 《Gemstone Mine》 to help keep my life total higher on average. I found myself starting too many games at 14 or 15 life after my first two turns, and was worried that this would be a liability in some of my slower, more grindy games. I think having exactly 1 《Gemstone Mine》 isn’t too punishing, as you usually don’t have to rely on it as your first mana source.
I also think having access to the 2nd 《Godless Shrine》 is worthwhile, in case the first one gets milled or destroyed in a postboard game where you really need answers to enchantments. On the other end, going down to 2 《Blood Crypt》 hasn’t felt too punishing as it’s unlikely to mill both, and if you draw 《Blackcleave Cliffs》 you don’t even really need the first 《Blood Crypt》 a lot of the time. Fetchlands are incredibly powerful in this deck as they are synergistic with both Hogaak and 《Bloodghast》, but I’ve found 8 to be working for me, and have been glad to have 《Gemstone Mine》 instead of a 9th.
3 《Wispmare》 and 2 《Wear/Tear》
These are currently my answers to 《Leyline of the Void》 and 《Rest in Peace》, and the reason I play white sources at all. I like 《Wispmare》 a lot, because in games you aren’t disrupted at all they don’t even feel like a liability to draw, they still have a decent function alongside 《Vengevine》s or 《Bridge from Below》s as effectively a 1 mana creature that immediately dies. That being said, they can be mopey in games where your opponent uses non-enchantment graveyard hate to keep you off synergies.
I’ve decided I wanted access to a couple 《Wear/Tear》 because they still answer Leyline but also 《Chalice of the Void》 for 1, which is one of the best things to play against this deck that isn’t graveyard hate.
I am also tempted to play 6 total copies of these cards if I expect most hate to be enchantments.
I explained this card a bit above, where I also explained why they get better in postboard games. While not as powerful as 《Sai, Master Thopterist》 was in KCI, I think the comparison is justifiable. When this card goes unanswered it can provide a lot of value, even through hate. While more vulnerable than Sai, it’s still highly synergistic with our A plan in the games our opponent isn’t disrupting us anyways.
I’ve tried omitting these entirely and I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable. You already want to bring in your enchantment answers in the mirror so that leaves us with a lot of cards we want to bring in, and even more if we want 《Cryptbreaker》s.
That being said, after practicing some mirrors I’ve just decided I wanted them. You don’t always have the luxury of keeping a hand that has an answer to this card, and sometimes your opponent simply keeps because they have a Leyline of their own, or maybe they just mulligan and end up keeping a hand that leaves them crossing their fingers that they won’t be facing down this card. It is absolutely the best card against this deck, and with this deck being clearly the best deck I think it’s worth using 4 of my sideboard slots to include them.
2 《Fatal Push》 and 1 《Collective Brutality》
These are my current removal spells of choice. They all kill 《Devoted Druid》 which is my number one priority. They also kill 《Yixlid Jailer》 which is increasing in popularity, and 《Fatal Push》 kills 《Thing in the Ice》 as well.
I don’t have a great reason as to why I prefer Push over 《Lightning Axe》, I don’t think I ever want to sideboard in a way that I’m cutting other enablers for Axe though, so I figured Push could cover something like a large 《Scavenging Ooze》 or 《Tarmogoyf》, and not cost me a card that I may want to keep in a game I’ve been disrupted.
The 1 《Collective Brutality》 just serves to add some flexibility to once again is a nod towards our life total being somewhat vulnerable in attrition games, especially considering many of our creatures can’t block.
This is sort of my haymaker against specifically 《Devoted Druid》 decks. It’s cheap and gets through 《Giver of Runes》 or simply a second 《Devoted Druid》 if you were to kill the first. It also is a slight hedge against the Urza Thopter Sword decks I’ve seen getting popular. It also has an interesting application where if in game 2 you see a lot of 《Nihil Spellbomb》s or 《Tormod’s Crypt》s, you can bring it in for game 3 to name them to help protect your A plan.
Other Sideboard Cards
These are all cards I’ve used or seen that I think would all be reasonable to play with, I just didn’t have room for them and decided the cards I’m playing with are better right now.
I’ve seen this one multiple times now, and it makes a lot of sense. Our deck is mostly creatures so we don’t get hosed by the symmetry of it too much, and it’s certainly a high impact card in the right matchup. It also can let you feel safe against a tapped out opponent knowing they can’t use 《Surgical Extraction》 or 《Ravenous Trap》.
I loved when I first saw this and I would really like to play it, but I decided to use 《Wear/Tear》 instead because I wanted more protection against 《Chalice of the Void》. This card would have to proactively find 《Ingot Chewer》 to beat Chalice, and that seemed a little hard to set up in certain spots.
These would be in place of white sideboard cards. I simply find 《Wispmare》 very low risk to side in, so I like it as my anti-hate card. Picking green does you give you the ability to hardcast 《Vengevine》 which is appealing, but if you simply copied my mana base and replaced 《Godless Shrine》s with 《Overgrown Tomb》s, you’d have 11 green sources, which makes it unlikely to actually have double green, and even more so if you ever mill an 《Overgrown Tomb》. I also find the life gain from 《Nature’s Claim》 to actually be pretty relevant given you win a lot of sideboard games on thin margins.
I said before that I’m not certain if 《Fatal Push》 is better than this, but Push is where I’ve been leaning. It’s also worth noting that the deck has more black sources than red sources and also has the ability to fetch basic 《Swamp》 to cast Push to really help preserve your life total in aggro matchups.
For all the reasons 《Wispmare》 is highly synergistic 《Ingot Chewer》 is too. However, it’s a lot more likely there are enchantments I want to destroy than artifacts, so I’ve decided to utilize 《Wear/Tear》 to help conserve sideboard slots.
Another great artifact hate card and a reasonable 1 of. For Prison decks this card is a nightmare, and can even be Dredged in the face of 《Grafdigger’s Cage》.
A generically powerful card that can technically answer graveyard hate while also being good against combo decks. Just not really what I’m concerned with in my sideboard right now.
Game 1 you’ll be looking for your enablers and the mana to utilize them over everything. This deck can easily function on 2 lands but can definitely make use out of additional lands too, so don’t be scared to keep something like a 4 land hand if it has a lot of digging power with Looting, Supplier, or especially 《Altar of Dementia》.
Main deck graveyard hate has become more and more prevalent so keep that in mind. While you aren’t really going to have many decisions if you’re facing down 《Leyline of the Void》 or 《Rest in Peace》 in game 1, you can make decisions to play around something like 《Surgical Extraction》 pretty easily.
This may involve not going for your mill combo against a slower deck, and just keeping your Hogaak in play to not expose it to Surgical. Obviously this may be a difficult judgment call, but what you’re looking for is whether or not your opponent can beat the Hogaak and the rest of your board, or if you still have a very threatening clock despite your Hogaak being Surgical’d if you go for it.
Besides main deck graveyard hate the only other thing you’re really concerned with game 1 is dying quickly. Sometimes you have control of this in racing scenarios, and it may be correct to leave your creatures back to block and amass a board that overpowers your opponent later on. Don’t forget that trading off creatures can lead to your Bridges getting exiled, but if you have a sacrifice outlet you can just block and sacrifice the zombies, and usually use a 《Gravecrawler》 or 《Bloodghast》 to accumulate more zombies anyways.
That being said, don’t be scared to trade off creatures and exile your Bridges in order to properly pressure your opponent. While this deck can certainly play a long, grindy game, plenty of modern decks have immediate game ending combos or reach that don’t care about how many zombies you can generate.
Next I will give some details and sideboarding advice to some of the matchups I’ve been most focused on with Bridgevine.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
The Mirror Match
While not super exciting to play, there are still a few things that can help you get an edge. In game 1 you can use your own sacrifice outlets to exile their 《Bridge from Below》s, meaning getting a combo off can be somewhat difficult. With that being said, if you can get a Bridge into your graveyard while you have a significant board and a sacrifice outlet, you might be able to force a large exchange of back and forth sacrificing that leads to your advantage, especially if you have Altar and they have 《Carrion Feeder》.
I’m not entirely sold that the 3 《Cryptbreaker》 will be better than 3 more 《Bloodghast》s postboard, but I do believe that relying on Bridge is inconsistent, and therefore 《Altar of Dementia》 isn’t a combo piece and not as powerful. Also by sideboarding this way you don’t hurt your fast 《Vengevine》s or Hogaak draws very much, which is what you should be counting on if you’ve dodged or dealt with 《Leyline of the Void》. In a game where both players have Leyline I believe 《Cryptbreaker》 should be one of the better cards you could draw, providing a decent amount of board presence and helping you dig for answers.
This should be quite favorable game 1 if they aren’t playing 《Rest in Peace》 main deck. Most lists I see use 2 《Surgical Extraction》s, which gives them a shot, but I’ve beaten maindeck Surgical many times now, even in multiples. Your deck is just a lot of fast to the board, recursive threats, which is basically exactly what you can dream of having against a control deck.
If you have an opportunity to cast 《Altar of Dementia》 while your opponent is tapped out I’d likely go for it, as it’s very hard for them to beat the amount of value it can generate you.
An important trick I’ve learned in this matchup is try to save a zombie in your hand if you can. If you have access to a 《Gravecrawler》 in your graveyard post sweeper you can use the 1 mana zombie to get back the 《Gravecrawler》, which will also give you access to Hogaak or any 《Vengevine》s that are also in your graveyard.
Postboard this matchup gets much tougher, and I do my sideboarding for game 2 assuming they are bringing in 4 《Rest in Peace》.
On the draw I am looking to answer a 《Rest in Peace》 and still stick 《Altar of Dementia》, while using fair beatdown to pressure them. When I’m on the play I want to maximize my odds of casting turn 2 Hogaak, forcing them to have a turn 1 《Path to Exile》 into turn 2 《Rest in Peace》 to match my best draw.
In general, I think 《Vengevine》 is just too weak to various hate, and among your worst cards in general. A general rule I’ve learned across many matchups is most spots you could return 《Vengevine》 you also have the resources to cast Hogaak, so I almost find 《Vengevine》 to just be a strictly worse card than Hogaak when it comes to sideboarding. If for whatever reason they don’t draw hate I think this sideboarding plan won’t put you in a position where you felt like you overboarded. It certainly can be risky to give them too much time to find a 《Rest in Peace》, but generally when undisrupted you can still accomplish something powerful very quickly. If your opponent seems to be lower on 《Rest in Peace》 consider sideboarding differently.
This is a scary matchup because most of their deck is designed to win almost any time they untap with 《Devoted Druid》. They won’t always have the turn 2 《Devoted Druid》, but any game they do you likely will need to threaten a kill before they get another turn. 《Devoted Druid》 having the ability to effectively sacrifice itself means they usually can deny you the ability to mill them by exiling your Bridges, but at the cost of their 《Devoted Druid》 we will gladly accept this trade.
It might be overboarding to include the 《Wispmare》s but I normally see 3-4 《Rest in Peace》 in their sideboard. You are looking for very fast draws, usually with 《Altar of Dementia》, but Hogaak will also grant a lot of pressure. Beyond that your sideboard removal and 《Pithing Needle》 will hopefully keep you from getting comboed a few extra turns.
Beyond these three matchups I don’t have much specific advice. Honestly, I believe these to be the 3 matchups you’re most likely to lose, and the deck is just so incredibly strong that you can power through a lot of other matchups. In general when playing against decks with 《Rest in Peace》, if you have an answer in hand, try to plan a big turn where you obtain important graveyard cards and utilize them in the same turn. The entering trigger of 《Rest in Peace》 can still be very effective against us, so minimizing the damage of it when possible can be very important to winning games.
I hope this information is useful to you whether you plan on playing with or against Bridgevine in the near future. I know it’s pretty likely for something from this deck to get banned soon, and personally I hope it happens before Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona. I haven’t seen anything be successful except for this deck and decks with lots of graveyard hate since Modern Horizons was legal on Magic Online, and I just find it incredibly unfortunate that Modern is currently entirely warped by one deck.
Personally, I would at the very least ban 《Bridge from Below》, if not also 《Altar of Dementia》 or Hogaak. I would guess Wizards will try their hardest not to ban any cards from Modern Horizons though. I also wouldn’t mind a 《Faithless Looting》 ban, but perhaps if that card left the format UW Control strategies would become even more dominant than they already are. As always, if you have any questions about Bridgevine feel free to ask me @JacobNagro on Twitter.
Thank you for reading.
Jacob Nagro (Twitter)