Lurrus is Banned and Boseiju is Everywhere: The New Shape of Modern

Ding dong the cat is dead! Lurrus has been resigned to the dustbin of Modern history, and nobody has shed a single tear. Permanents with mana value 3 or greater are leaping out of trade binders and back into sleeves, the Reserve Bank of Australia is no longer investing in Mishra’s Baubles, and the remaining companions have been put on notice.

The banning of everybody’s least favourite cat nightmare is going to have profound consequences for Modern, both for the decks that played it, and the decks that did not. Moreover, the shakeup comes on the heels of the release of Kamigawa Neon Dynasty, which has had a couple of clear standout impacts on Modern. So, let’s dive into it, starting with the consequences of Lurrus’ shuffling off this mortal coil.

The biggest losers…or not?

Grixis Death’s Shadow

Two of the three best decks in Modern were Lurrus decks: Grixis Death’s Shadow and Hammer Time. Of the two, I think Death’s Shadow is going to be the hardest hit. Lurrus was a key part of the deck’s plan of stripping the opponent of resources and then slamming the door with the endgame of an uncontested graveyard engine. So, can the deck survive the banning? I think it will, but it will look quite different and it won’t be as strong a force in the metagame.

Now that Shadow has permission to play more expensive permanents again, many people are going to start trying different Delve creatures again. Given the strength of Murktide Regent in other Ragavan decks, it makes perfect sense that Shadow will start to test it out too. The trouble with Murktide Regent is that it is slow—the two blue pips in its mana cost are a significant limiting factor on a deck that really wants everything to cost one. So if that’s too expensive, people may just go back to old faithful Gurmag Angler. The greatest strength of Gurmag Angler was that you could reliably play it on turn 2 for one mana with the help of Thought Scour.

So where do I think the deck will land? It will depend on what it wants to be. If it wants to be an aggressive, disruptive, “tempo”-ish deck, then I think it will go back to Thought Scour and turn-two Gurmag Anglers. But I could just as easily see it being a midrange deck with Murktide Regent as a much more powerful finisher. Either way, I think Death’s Shadow’s days as the best deck of the format are probably over. I think it will most likely fall back to being a regular part of the metagame with the same strengths and weaknesses that the deck has had for many years now.

Hammer Time

Hammer Time decks, however, will be relatively unfazed. Lurrus was certainly a strong card in the deck, but it was very much just a backup plan, and I think the deck will adjust and look to different late-game strategies.

One of the strengths of Lurrus in Hammer Time was that the deck wanted to be almost entirely 1- and 2-mana spells anyway. I don’t expect that to change, with the exception of now including a broader Stoneforge Mystic package. With Lurrus gone, the deck can now include Nettlecyst, Sword of Fire and Ice et al., Batterskull, or Kaldra Compleat. I think the deck will most likely settle on a couple of copies of Nettlecyst and maybe a Sword or two, but nothing more expensive. Batterskull and Kaldra Compleat can take over a game, but they really rely on Stoneforge Mystic living. Hammer Time tends to be weak to decks that can remove all of its creatures, so I don’t see why it would want to exacerbate that flaw by getting uncastable copies of Kaldra Compleat stuck in hand.

So where do I think Hammer Time will land? I think it will mostly stay the same, but will make a few adaptations to give itself a new late-game plan. Once the dust settles, I think we’ll see Nettlecyst as a new Cranial Plating-style finisher for the deck, with maybe a Sword of Fire and Ice for good measure. I also expect that the new acquisition of The Reality Chip will rise in importance. A tutorable, two-mana Future Sight is a massive game for a deck full of 0- and 1-drops. The Reality Chip was already putting up strong results for the deck pre-ban, and I expect that to only improve. I think Hammer Time will remain one of the best decks in Modern, so either pick it up or have a plan for it.

The winners

Cascade Decks

Shardless Agent CardLiving End CardCrashing Footfalls Card

The first decks that will be celebrating the demise of Lurrus are the Cascade decks: Living End and Rhinos. These decks struggled against Death’s Shadow’s curve of Ragavan into Thoughtseize into counter magic, so they will be very happy to see that deck knocked down a peg. For Living End in particular, they will also be happy to see a potential downtick in graveyard hate now that Lurrus doesn’t need to be targeted and Nihil Spellbomb and Soul-Guide Lantern have lost their best friend. 

4c Omnath

Omnath Locus of Creation CardYorion Sky Nomad CardWrenn and Six Card

I said before that two of the three best decks in the format were Lurrus decks. The third remains untouched, and is also a companion deck: 4-Colour Omnath. The deck gets to enjoy playing all of the most powerful cards in Modern that aren’t black: Omnath, Teferi, Wrenn & Six, Counterspell, Solitude, Fury, and so on. And then on top of that also gets to play Yorion to flicker all of its Spreading Seas and Abundant Growths. Both the deck and its gameplan look completely untouched by the banning, so I expect it to start to show up even better results. If you are some sort of degenerate and actually miss Lurrus, this would be the best companion deck left in the format to play.

UR Murktide

Murktide Regent CardRagavan Nimble Pilferer CardDragon's Rage Channeler Card

If I had to take a stab at what the best deck in the new Modern will be, it would be UR Murktide. The deck was previously held down by Grixis Death’s Shadow being the best Ragavan + Dragon’s Rage Channeler deck, but I no longer think that will be the case. If you are previously a Death’s Shadow player, this is also an easy one to move over to, but regardless I think this will be a great choice moving forward.

Amulet Titan

Primeval Titan CardAmulet of Vigor CardDryad of the Ilysian Grove Card

There are some who maintain that Amulet Titan has no bad matchups and should always be considered tier 1. Those people are, of course, wrong, but the sentiment is in the right place. One of its bad matchups was, in fact, Grixis Death’s Shadow, so all those Primeval Titan players will be very happy to see fewer Thoughtseizes pointed their way. Amulet Titan also picked up a very useful new toy from the new set, which provides me a very neat segue to mention that…

…Boseiju, Who Endures is Everywhere in Modern

Boseiju who Endures

Kamigawa Neon Dynasty has had what I would consider the perfect impact on Modern for a regular Standard set, with a few popular hits but nothing broken. The biggest impact has been from Boseiju, Who Endures, which showed up in the latest Magic Online 5-0 deck dump in no fewer than 21 different decks. The card can essentially take the place of a basic Forest, so any deck that was running those gets to pick up Boseiju nearly for free. But there are some decks that benefit more than others.

Amulet Titan is the greatest beneficiary, and is now playing multiple copies in the maindeck. Titan benefits from Boseiju in two ways: firstly, the deck was always weak to artifact- and enchantment-based land disruption, whether in the form of Blood Moon, Alpine Moon, Damping Sphere, or anything else. So long as it can get a Forest in play, Boseiju is now a maindeckable answer to those permanents that also just hangs out in the mana base. But secondly, it is tutorable by Expedition Map and Primeval Titan. So not only is it a silver bullet to the deck’s greatest weakness, but the deck can search it up when needed also.

4c Omnath is the other big winner. Archetype master Gabriel Nassif’s list runs one maindeck and a whopping 3 in the sideboard, along with a copy of Boseiju’s red counterpart, Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance. These pair beautifully with Wrenn & Six, which allows you as many Naturalises or non-basic-land-erises as you would like against relevant decks, or a perfectly serviceable win condition by just channelling Sokenzan every turn. 

Tron benefits from Boseiju in many of the same ways as Amulet Titan, but unfortunately now faces a format where every green deck has maindeck answers to its Tron lands. It’s still early days, but I suspect you don’t want to be sleeving up Urza’s Tower for the time being.

The other hits from Kamigawa Neon Dynasty

EiganjoOtawara Soaring City CardTakenuma Abandoned MineSokenzan Crucible of Defiance Card

While Boseiju is the main attraction of the new set, there have been a slew of other cards that have found niche homes. The rest of Bosieku’s cycle are all seeing play: Eiganjo, Otawara, Takenuma, and Sokenzan are all seeing play as 1- or 2-ofs in any deck with basic land slots to spare. I expect all five of these to be mainstays of the format for a long time.

The Wandering Emperor Card

The Wandering Emperor has seen a massive spike over the last week, attributable to control master Guillaume Wafo-Tapa posting a flawless 10-0 record in the Modern Challenge with UW Control featuring The Wandering Emperor. It makes sense that a planeswalker with flash would pair perfectly with Counterspell, and this one does everything that a control deck might want: answer a creature, provide a win condition, sap your opponents of their will to live, the works. I would not be at all surprised if we start to see The Wandering Emperor inching into Jace, The Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s turf in the coming future.

Colossal Skyturtle Card

Colossal Skyturtle has established itself as a mainstay of new Living End lists. I’ve personally been running two in my build and been very happy with it. The deck has always needed a cheap interactive spell that doesn’t actually cost less than three, often turning to Brazen Borrower in the past. Skyturtle fits the Living End plan much, much better: I’ve even Living End’ed to bring back just the Turtle and won the game with that alone. Ward 2 on a 7-mana 6/5 flier might as well be hexproof against most decks. The Regrowth channel ability has also proved useful from time to time, particularly against discard or counterspell decks where you can regrow your Cascader if you don’t have another in hand.

Hidetsugu Consumes All Card

Finally, Hidegetsu Consumes All is starting to make significant waves, with multiple pros and streamers championing decks built around the card and lavishly singing its praises. The first mode is utterly devastating against some decks, particularly the former Lurrus decks. It might as well be a one-sided Planar Cleansing against Hammer Time and Death’s Shadow, it cleans up Urza’s Saga tokens, Ragavan and all his treasures, Rhino tokens, and much more. If you’re interested in the deck, check out this streamer with a Grixis build.

Conclusion

Phew, that’s it! Modern has gone through two massive shakeups in the last month, and personally I’m loving where the format is at. It is diverse, the gameplay is great, the decks are fun to play with and against, it’s great. If you’ve got any questions about any of the cards or decks I talked about in this article, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Calm_Mirror, I’m always happy to chat Modern with people. I also co-host a drafting channel on Youtube called Draft Punks, so if you’re into draft, we would love to have your company there as well.

Til next week!