The Reign of Four-Drops in Modern - A Guide to Survive

Since the last banned announcement unchained Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, Modern has shaken up drastically - or has it? Although most players are brewing decks that include these cards, I've decided to make the ultimate survival guide for fighting against them.

Before the B&R announcement, the majority of the Modern community believed that the metagame was one of, if not the greatest in Magic History. The format was fun, diverse, balanced and interactive (well sometimes not so interactive). For instance, seven unique archetypes made Top 8 at Pro Tour RIX and then, only a week after, another seven different archetypes showed up at GP Toronto Top 8.

Then, Wizards made one of the boldest unbannings they've ever done in the format, giving life to Magic's most powerful planeswalker - Jace, the Mind Sculptor - and a certain elf - Bloodbraid Elf - who helped push Jund to the top when last it was legal. These cards, JTMS and BBE respectively, are so powerful that players worry Modern might lose some, or all of its trademark diversity.

At first, I was, like many Modern players, rather reluctant about the unbannings, especially regarding Jace, since he exponentially increases the price of any deck he's in. His price will drop slightly because of his reprinting in Masters 25, but the set doesn't look like it will significantly reduce the planeswalker's price and I didn't think Modern needed this iconic and highly expensive card when Modern was already in such a good place (and quite expensive too).

Enough complaining, formats will always change, banlists or no. Now that we have a new Modern to play with, it's important to know how to fight against these new powerful tools players will have. This guide is for those looking to play a non Jace/BBE deck and will give you some great options for fighting these powerful cards.

Option 1 – Go Under

Both the planeswalker from Worldwake and the elf from Alara have one basic thing in common: they are four drops. In order to minimize their impact on the board one way to go is simply kill the opponent before they can drop the cards.

Mindcandy - Hollow One - 8-0 in a Modern Challenge League on Feb 24th, 2018

The BR Hollow One deck has been pretty successful since his debut on camera at Pro Tour RIX; the mainboard hasn’t changed that much from Ken Yukuhiro’s list. This list only trims down one Gurmag Angler for Blood Moon.

The Jace Unsummon might be annoying for your delve threats, but the deck runs eight hasty creatures and dodges fate-steal with looting effects.

If you want to go even faster, you should also try the Vengevine version, including Bomat Courier and Insolent Neonate in order to bring back the green Elemental from the graveyard.

Angrams - Hollow One - MTGO Modern Challenge League on Feb 25th, 2018

Another safe route to victory against Jace and BBE is Burn. The Red Deck is always a good place to start when a format rotates or starts from scratch as sending three damage upstairs seven times will beat pretty much any deck and, if you do it as fast as burn, certainly beats Jace and BBE.

Great news about this deck: it will become even cheaper after Magic 25th Anniversary release, since both Eidolon of the Great Revel and Lightning Bolt are reprinted. 

BERNASTORRES - MTGO Modern Challenge on Feb. 25th, 2018

As for my personal choice, I used to play a lot of the Kiln Fiend deck back in the Gitaxian Probe days so I am looking forward to test it again. The deck is able to win on Turn Three with Kilnd Fiend followed by Manamorphose into Temur Battle Rage plus free spell or protection.

UR Kiln Fiend By Me

The main drawback is its poor matchup against Jund decks and Liliana of the Veil in general. That’s why I run the Young Pyromancer Bedlam Reveler package in the sideboard.

Some other good choices that neither interact with Jace or BBE nor need them are combo decks such as Ad Nauseam, UR Storm or Ironworks Combo but they are not hugely popular at the moment, with the potential exception of storm. 

Option 2 – Go Wide

Our second suggestions, going wide, is especially good against Jace. These decks don’t need to rush to victory, although they can play aggressively off of an explosive opener. Either way, Jace can only bounce one creature, so going wide will make playing Jace impossible.

Oinkmage playing Humans - MTGO Modern League on Feb 23rd, 2018

Another Pro Tour RIX winner, Humans doesn’t need much to fight against the new metagame. Meddling Mage can name the new threats so they cannot be played and even if you wanted to play Jace, an army of humans would quickly dispatch the planeswalker.

BBE is a little more effective against humans, though Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the perfect blocker for the Elf.

Speaking about Elves, this tribe is not celebrating the comeback of BBE, as she is way to slow for the decks low curve. As a four drop, she doesn’t pair well with Collected Company and, considering the deck runs four CoCos, she would clog up the four-drop slot. Although some versions are running BBE instead of the green instant I would stick with the original plan.

Mrounds1216 - Elves

Another tribe that loves to go wide is Goblins. The more the merrier they say, since they tend to share their abilities like haste, trample or even pumping effects with the others. This deck is halfway between the “go fast” and “go wide” plans since it can kill on turn three or four very consistently and it does that by going wide. Plus, Goblin Grenade is the sweetest way to end a game.

Another great upside of 8-Whack Goblins is the price tag, which is very budget by Modern standards and, additionally, will be getting cheaper when Blood Moon sees a reprint in Masters 25.

SaffronOlive - 8-Whack Goblins - MTGO Modern League on Feb. 20th, 2018

Option 3 – Go Your Own Way

As Forrest Gump did in his own movie, you can always choose your own path in the vast Modern metagame; just make sure you have the tools you need to either ignore or overpower Jace and BBE.
Tron is a good example of how you can overpower your opponent’s plan by slamming a Turn Three Karn Liberated. If you are sick of Jace’s unsummon ability, slam your Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, World Breaker or Thragtusk. They probably won't elect to bounce those creatures.

MiguelCaster - Mono-G Tron

The deck first won GP Toronto and last weekend at the Magic Online Championship gave the deck's pilot, Dmitriy Butakov, his second victory in a row at this particular tournament.

Dmitriy Butakov - GW Auras - 1st Place at Magic Online World Championship

As obvious as it is, the deck is very well positioned in the current metagame. Its main issue is Liliana of the Veil since neither Jace’s abilities nor most BBE cascades seem to be a huge deal against the Auras archetype.

Maindeck Leyline of Sanctity protects you against JTMS fate-steal and finisher abilities, it also avoids any sacrifice outlets and keeps you away from Bolts and other burn to your face.

Truth is, it is not the most interactive strategy, but it is very effective at beating pretty much any fair, interactive deck in the field.


Wrapping things up, there are some cards against our four drop “nightmares” in each color that you could consider to include in your sideboard for the upcoming events:

Blue: Jace’s Defeat is great at fighting the namesake card and any other blue spells. Disdainful Stroke counters both Jace and BBE but not the cascaded spell.

White: Leyline of Sanctity as we mentioned before protects against Jace’s abilities. Thalia does a great job delaying Jace and blocking BBE as well.

Black: Hero’s Downfall deals with both and it’s a mono-colored answer if you are playing 8-Rack or another black deck.

Red: Boil is a nice, surprising answer if you expect a lot of blue-based Jace decks.

Green: Thrun, the Last Troll is the ultimate hate card for the blue planeswalker, he cannot be bounced, destroyed, targeted, and, additionally, he'll run down the planeswalker in two hits if they choose to fateseal and can easily block Bloodbraid Elf forever. Choke also might be worth considering, given its ability to shut down any blue deck that likes to untap its lands.

Multicolour: Dreadbore is the cheapest way to deal with Jace and it also kills any creature. If you are desperately in need for some counterspell for BBE and her cascade, try Double Negative and/or Counterflux with its Overload cost.

Double Negative

And that should do it for this week. Let us know in the comments which other decks you think are good against Jace and BBE and some other hate cards that you are trying at the moment.  Thanks for reading and until next time!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

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