Category Archives: Modern

Martyr-Proclamation in Modern (and the bannings)

The banhammer has once again dropped on the nascent Modern format, brewers everywhere are once again donning their chapeaux de brewing to break the format before the Pro Tour Qualifiers start with earnest in the New Year. Being one of those brewers I naturally have something fermenting in the boiler right now, but before we get to that I want to talk about the banned and restricted announcement.

Let’s start with Punishing Fire. Leading up to the announcement you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t think that one half of the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo would or should be banned. Opinion was pretty much split right down the middle on which half would get the axe (can something get both the axe AND the banhammer?), but personally I expected the land to go. I guess WotC didn’t want another banned rare.

Taken individually each card is fair. Red getting a burn spell that fights one of its biggest weaknesses in a small but possibly effective way is fine, and a land that gives your opponent life in exchange for mana fixing is also not game-breaking. You could even argue that the combination of the two isn’t broken. What it is though is oppressive and unfun. It’s a two-card combo that is heavily resistant to countermagic and renders unplayable an entire swath of creatures. Merfolk, for example, has not taken hold in the format despite being a staple in Legacy and being largely transplantable to Modern. On top of that Grove/Fire is quite possibly the slowest and most grindy way to win a game from behind a creature stalemate that has ever seen play in a high-level aggro deck. With the prevalence of multicolour strategies in the Modern format, the combo was popping up in numerous decks that were already running powerful strategies, which likely made it feel even more dangerous. Although it would be unfair to call the combo “format-warping” it certainly defined what creatures were considered playable.

Wild Nacatl is a bit more perplexing. He becomes the first creature banned for being too aggressive since Kird Ape, which ironically will likely take the crazy kitty’s place in Zoo decks. There’s no question that a creature attacking for 3 on turn 2 is strong, especially in a format where players are effectively starting on 14 life due to shocklands and fetches. But strong enough for a ban? That’s pushing it somewhat. Especially when there’s a nasty-looking 2-drop sitting over there in the corner. Yeah Tarmogoyf, we’re talking about you. I’d ask if your ears are burning but I’m fairly sure you don’t have any.

Nacatl is ultra aggressive, no question. It’s probably in the top 5 one-drop dudes in the history of Magic. It’s also very easy to kill. Modern is not wanting for 3-damage burn at instant speed, and Nacatl has no innate protection. He also has no evasion. Tarmogoyf can easily have 4 in the caboose the turn he comes down, depending of course on the deck he’s in. He’s likely more widespread than Nacatl, since any deck playing or splashing green can squeeze him in. He’s generally played in the same Zoo decks as Nacatl too. The only thing that stops ol’ Tarmy and not Nacatl is Spell Snare, which seems an unusually narrow reason to call one fair and one bannable.

What it feels like to me is Wizards being careful, and not about the health of the format. After the Jace banning, they appear to be gunshy about banning another $100 card. You don’t have to be Jonathan Medina to understand that a banning in Modern would tank the value of Tarmy significantly, and that makes for unhappy players. So instead they ban a common. I wonder, when was the last time two commons got banned? Is Modern the format with the most banned commons?

Regardless of our thoughts on the bannings, we now have the parameters within which we will need to operate if we want a plane ticket to Barcelona. Our next challenge is to bust those parameters, and the format, wide open. Now I’m no Patrick Chapin or Conley Woods but I think I’ve hit on a spicy little number that can make an impact on this brand new meta. A quick note before we get to the decklist: this is built for my local meta which is light on control and heavy on Affinity, Storm and Twin. The nature of the deck makes it highly adaptable to suit your local meta, basically switching out main deck answers for sideboard ones.


4 Martyr of Sands

3 Figure of Destiny

2 Serra Ascendant

1 Weathered Wayfarer

1 Kataki, War’s Wage

2 Ethersworn Canonist

1 Gaddock Teeg

3 Fauna Shaman

4 Qasali Pridemage

1 Knight of the Reliquary

2 Aven Mindcensor

3 Ranger of Eos

1 Reveillark


4 Path to Exile

4 Aether Vial

3 Proclamation of Rebirth


1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin

3 Mistveil Plains

2 Ghost Quarter

4 Temple Garden

9 Plains

2 Razorverge Thicket


1 Kataki, War’s Wage

2 Ethersworn Canonist

1 Gaddock Teeg

3 Tormod’s Crypt

3 Leyline of Sanctity

2 Grand Abolisher

3 Brave the Elements

Now I will point out here that this list is running off some very limited testing. Locally the meta is Storm, Zoo, Goblins and MeliraPod.

The deck is fairly versatile and has main-deck weapons to shut down most of the popular decks. After boarding it dumps the useless cards to bring in more hate against whatever it’s facing. Martyr of Sands is one of the most powerful cards in the format, and in this deck Proclamation can also get back our win conditions in Serra Ascendant and Figure of Destiny. The toolbox nature of the deck makes Fauna Shaman very important, and pitching your 1-drops early is often the correct play as you just bring them back later with Proclamation, Mistveil Plains or Emeria, which of course can be tutored up with Knight of the Reliquary or Weathered Wayfarer. Ranger of Eos can also find you the pieces you need, either to beat down or to jack your life back up. Aether Vial is of course a key piece to the deck and should always be dropped turn 1 if you have it. It might seem like common sense, but you’re setting it to 2 and leaving it there. Reveillark is likely not needed in the deck, it might become a third Mindcensor or Ghost Quarter.

Although on the face of it the deck looks like an aggro deck, it isn’t. The Martyr-Proclamation combo will enable you to stay alive for a very long time, so there’s no hurry to win. You are equipped for the long game anyway with Emeria, Mistveil, Proclamation and Knight of the Reliquary, and Martyr is more effective with a full hand. Against decks with ways to kill your Martyr, you don’t want to drop him turn 1. Make sure you can sacrifice him in response to any kill spell they may have.

Decks that attack your hand are a scary but I don’t know how prevalent they will be. Blightning is a bit of a worry but Thoughtseize and Duress can take our Proclamation turn 1. Leyline in the board should help you post-board. Graveyard hate is also a concern, so using your Pridemages carefully against it will be crucial. You might also need to switch to beatdown mode a little faster against those strategies, or tutor up the Mistveils in a hurry. Teferi is something of a concern as he stops our Martyr combo, so it might actually be worth siding it out in that matchup for more beats and the Grand Abolishers.

Overall the deck is a blast to play and does some absurdly powerful things. I’d love to hear your thoughts and results with the deck, should you decide to take it for a spin.