Corey Murphy is one of two hosts of the Card Knock Life Podcast. He started playing magic in 1999, lives in Wisconsin, can touch his tongue to his nose, plays the trombone, and focuses his MTG content efforts on Modern. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You’re here for the magic content right? Ok, I’ll shut up now…
It is surprising to me that there are still doubters…
We’ve seen many recent MTGO League results slotting this pairing into Abzan company-style decks already packing Kitchen Finks/Viscera Seer as Vizier serves as a perfect pivot point between each plan. This new option provides not only MORE combo potential for this style of deck, but one that strikes on a different axis; a combo that does not use the graveyard and one that is extremely difficult to interact with once it is assembled.
Case in point, if your opponent were to target a Vizier of Remedies (with a Fatal Push, for example) in response to the first untap activation, you could simple place another untap activation on the stack and continue on your merry way. Honestly, it feels a little dirty. If Devoted Druid is in play and you resolve a Vizier of Remedies, there are very few ways to stop your infinite mana loop (short of any split second removal spells).
The second phase of this plan is to sink that mana into Duskwatch Recruiter activations to find Walking Ballista and fire 20 arrows in the direction of your opponent’s face.
I’m finding that this particular combo is strong enough and consistent enough that the “plan B” of infinite life via Kitchen Finks is not really needed. In fact, I’ve stumbled upon a decklist that a user named Munin40 took to a 6-1 finish in the Modern Challenge on 5/20 that trades this Kitchen Finks plan for a Knight of the Reliquary package eschewing black and the Finks combo altogether.
So far, I’ve taken this deck through 3 leagues and a modern FNM finishing 4-1, 4-1, 5-0, and 3-1 respectively. After making a few changes to the list along the way, my sideboard ended up quite different than the one Munin40 played in the Modern Challenge but my maindeck is quite similar.
When I came across Munin40’s list, I had been looking around at all of the Counters Company finishes trying to decide which version I was going to assemble. While the argument could be made that Viscera Seer and Anafenza are independently “good” cards, there are certainly moments where they are terrible things to draw. When a savvy opponent boards in the proper trump card to stop your combo engine and you are left with a bunch of mediocre creatures, you may be able to eek out a win at the hands of a Kitchen Finks beatdown, but it certainly takes some skillful playing and the right amount of inaction on the other side of the table. This deck assumes that “plan B” was that beatdown (and value) plan all along and trades lackluster combo pieces for high-value Collected Company fodder.
Imagine that you Collected Company on an empty board. On one hand you could be flipping this…
In the GW version, you might see this…
Neither of these two are particularly bad Collected Company draws, however, the second one provides quite a bit more value for just 4 mana. If you are interested in a combo finish, both options provide Devoted Druid and Duskwatch Recruiter and you will just need to find a way to locate Vizier of Remedies in the next turn (and with no interruption) to win.
This GW version just has so much more to offer if you so chose to play a ‘fair’ game of magic that the lack of the Finks combo seems quite worthwhile.
Why Two Colors?
Let’s consider other advantages to playing GW…
- Overall, more consistency. Fewer color-restrictions which allows us to run more colorless lands (ie. Ghost Quarter, Gavony Township).
- We are nearly unfazed by Blood Moon.
- You will RARELY need to fetch/shock saving you lots of life vs. aggressive decks. Most often, I will be finding basic lands with fetches unless I have no turn 1 play.
- GW provides adequate and abundant sideboard options. White is arguably the strongest sideboard color (see Kataki, Burrenton Forge-Tender, Path to Exile, Linvala, Eidolon of Rhetoric, etc).
Whereas Abzan versions of Counters Company run a very linear combo-focused maindeck, this GW version includes quite a bit of toolbox options.
Here are the 7 meta-game-informed inclusions in the GW Counters Company maindeck…
Courser of Kruphix functions spectacularly as part of a card advantage engine with Tireless Tracker and Knight of the Reliquary but is also a fantastic blocker and life gain option against aggressive decks. Skullcrack and Attarka’s Command can nullify ‘one-shot’ lifegain creatures like Thragtusk and Obstinate Baloths but repeatable occurrences like Courser of Kruphix are more difficult for burn players to interact with. Pair with Knight of the Reliquary and activate twice per turn for best results.
Fiend Hunter is typically included in both versions of the deck. When we run 0 removal spells in the main, we’ve got to have some answer to a pesky creature (ie. Emrakul the Aeons Torn).
Qasali Pridemage is a solidly aggressive utility creature so it doesn’t set you back terribly to run one or two in the maindeck. Additionally, just about every deck runs some sort of artifact or enchantment that is worth trading for. Most commonly, you’ll need to tutor up a Pridemage to destroy an opposing Cranial Plating or Ensnaring Bridge.
Scavenging Ooze provides a maindeck answer to decks like Dredge or Living End that can take advantage of a universal lack of preparedness for graveyard shenanigans in game 1. The main advantage to playing a deck like this is that you can run a single copy of a great answer and packing 4 Collected Company and 4 Chord of Calling give you 9 ways to find it.
Spellskite is a great force field to throw down vs. burn and control decks when you are trying to combo off. It’s even more effective when included in the maindeck because your opponent is typically packing less removal and not expecting that you’ve got it. Flashing it out via Chord of Calling in response to a removal spell pointed at a combo piece is usually enough to seal the deal.
Stirring Wildwood is one of the few additions I made to Munin40’s maindeck. The deck runs very few lands that will come into play tapped so the drawback is small. Having one Wildwood gives you another toolbox option to search out a ‘mass removal-proof’ creature via Knight of the Reliquary and a very rare flying blocker in a deck that only has Birds of Paradise to block opposing Spell Quellers, Vendillion Cliques, Delvers, and Lingering Souls.
Ghost Quarter improves the Tron match-up immensely and gives you an edge against decks that run manlands. This deck is not extremely mana-intensive and runs quite a few mana producing creatures so, at a point, sacrificing your own lands to hinder your opponent’s mana production does not come with a huge drawback. There is also the added bonus of Hatebears being rather popular right now so you can take advantage of your opponent’s Leonin Arbiters.
Tireless Tracker is on-theme with the plan of “putting lands into play” that is supported by Knight of the Reliquary, Courser of Kruphix, and running 7 fetchlands but also provides an opportunity to filter your infinite mana into card draw to dig for Walking Ballista or a reliable way to locate it.
I love this deck. Some games feel effortless. With regular consistency, I will draw a hand with all three combo pieces and simply play them with no interruption by turn three. Take a look at this screenshot of a game that went something like this…
- Wooded Foothills > Temple Garden
- Ghost Quarter > Devoted Druid
- Vizier of Remedies (infinite mana) > Duskwatch Recruiter > Walking Ballista
My opponent (playing Hatebears) had a very small window to interact with this combo during this game. Between turn 2 and 3, he would have needed to point a Path to Exile at my Devoted Druid. If he didn’t have one (which apparently he didn’t), there is almost nothing that could be done to stop the infinite mana engine on the next turn (short of Mana Tithe targeting Vizier of Rememdies).
In other games, it’s not that simple…
In this next game, the Devoted Druid combo seemed like my only out as my opponent’s Hangarback Walker provided too many chump blockers for me to get past and a growing Karn would soon end the game. When my opponent targeted my Spellskite with Karn’s -3 ability, I was happy to have a Chord of Calling in hand…
Step 1. Cast Chord for Fiend Hunter
Step 2. Attempt to exile Ballista before Karn’s ability resolves (forcing the opponent to remove counters redirected to Spellskite).
The hope is that with three clues I can draw into a Vizier or a Chord of Calling in the next turn. I did.
I’d say that about 60-70% of games are decided by the combo. The other 30-40% are won by sheer force or because I found the perfect silver bullet card in my toolbox. Storm basically folds against a resolved Eidolon of Rhetoric so I’m happy to have one of those at my disposal.
While lucking into a quick combo win IS possible, when games go long, this deck can prove to be very skill-intensive. This deck rewards players who have a good awareness of the Modern meta and have a thorough understanding of the cards that their opponent might try to use against them. Similar to Birthing Pod and Eldritch Evolution, each tutor decision is a crucial choice in paving your game plan. This particular deck challenges players to decide when to direct these decisions towards combo pieces, aggression, defensive, or value strategies and punishes you when you do not decide carefully.
I believe that Druid/Vizier decks are quite a bit more than a flash in the pan based on the combo’s simplicity, difficulty to interact with, and the fact that Devoted Druid is just a damn good card on it’s own. We already wanted to run Wall of Roots to power up Chord of Calling. Devoted Druid replaces it perfectly here.
Please share your thoughts, lists, and upgrades in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!