I originally started out this article with a brief discussion of netdecking vs rogue brewing, but it quickly became apparent that that really is a topic for an article all on its own. Just to keep things simple, suffice to say there are sometimes edges and advantages to be found in playing something unexpected. Your opponent might misplay thinking you’re another more popular deck, fail to play around a card they don’t normally see or just flat out not know a card well enough to realize its full effect on the game. Recently I’ve been tuning a list that aims to take advantage of some of these aspects, something I’ve been affectionately calling –
2x [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls]1x [mtg_card=Eiganjo Castle]4x [mtg_card=Glacial Fortress]4x [mtg_card=Hallowed Fountain]4x [mtg_card=Island]2x [mtg_card=Marsh Flats]1x [mtg_card=Plains]4x [mtg_card=Scalding Tarn]2x [mtg_card=Tectonic Edge]
4x [mtg_card=Serum Visions]1x [mtg_card=Steelshaper’s Gift]
2x [mtg_card=Cryptic Command]2x [mtg_card=Mana Leak]4x [mtg_card=Path to Exile]4x [mtg_card=Remand]2x [mtg_card=Spell Snare]
1x [mtg_card=Sword of Fire and Ice]1x [mtg_card=Sword of Light and Shadow]
2x [mtg_card=Aven Mindcensor]3x [mtg_card=Geist of Saint Traft]4x [mtg_card=Restoration Angel]4x [mtg_card=Snapcaster Mage]2x [mtg_card=Vendilion Clique]
1x [mtg_card=Batterskull]2x [mtg_card=Dismember]1x [mtg_card=Dispel]1x [mtg_card=Grafdigger’s Cage]3x [mtg_card=Meddling Mage]1x [mtg_card=Relic of Progenitus]2x [mtg_card=Spellskite]2x [mtg_card=Stony Silence]1x [mtg_card=Sword of Feast and Famine]1x [mtg_card=Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir]
Fair warning, I don’t proclaim to be some masterful deck builder, this is just some 75 cards sleeved together that’s been working well for me. In truth, it’s more or less a restructuring of existing cards known to the format than it is a brand new deck.
The origin for this list came out of a desire to try a different style of deck in Modern. I’ve played everything from Twin to Affinity to Storm and even a healthy dose of Bogle mixed in. While all these decks are vastly different in gameplan and design, they are all based around a lot of synergistic cards working together. Synergy certainly has the potential to be very powerful, but it also tends to be easier to disrupt with a few key sideboard cards. The deep card pool for Modern opens up some pretty hateful sideboard options, and it can get frustrating to lose to essentially a single card. Wizard With A Knife was designed to be a “good stuff” deck, what it lacks in synergy it makes up in overall quality.
The first iteration was pretty rough, it focused too much on the idea of putting a sword on [mtg_card=Geist of Saint Traft], had a single [mtg_card=Swamp] to flashback sideboarded [mtg_card=Lingering Souls] and also had a playset of [mtg_card=Mutavault] instead of some more sensible utility lands, but it did solidify the deck firmly into two colors. While UWR is a pretty popular combination in Modern, the deck kind of builds itself and just becomes another [mtg_card=Geist of Saint Traft] midrange build as cards like [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt] and [mtg_card=Lightning Helix] are too good to ignore. Freeing up from a third color gives us the space to play around with cards, and after cutting some of the cards that weren’t working I’ve landed on the current build, which looks and plays very similar to a flash deck. The goal is to play a pretty controlling game with removal and counters until you can find a place to stick a threat. The gameplan then shifts to become more tempo oriented, using the spells to disrupt your opponent and protect what’s chipping away at their life total.
2x [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls], 4x [mtg_card=Hallowed Fountain], 4x [mtg_card=Island], 1x [mtg_card=Eiganjo Castle], 2x [mtg_card=Marsh Flats], 1x [mtg_card=Plains], 4x [mtg_card=Glacial Fortress], 4x [mtg_card=Scalding Tarn], 2x [mtg_card=Tectonic Edge]
Probably the section of the deck most in flux, and I need to run some of the math on what’s the exact number of white sources to splash in a deck that still wants to cast [mtg_card= Cryptic Command]. The current mana base gets the job done, though it’s a little weak to [mtg_card=Blood Moon]. The card I’ve been continually impressed with though is [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls]. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that can single handedly win games in the right situations. Not bad for a land. Between UWR, Twin, mono blue Tron, Delver, etc there are a fair number of counter spells in the format, and if you can slam a [mtg_card=Geist of Gaint Traft] into play Turn 3 or heaven forbid a [mtg_card= Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir] after sideboard it almost feels dirty. As one UWR opponent put it “You play [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls]?!?” as I slide my [mtg_card=Geist of Gaint Traft] into play in the face of his open mana.
4x [mtg_card=Snapcaster Mage], 2x [mtg_card=Aven Mindcensor], 3x [mtg_card=Geist of Saint Traft], 2x [mtg_card=Vendilion Clique], 4x [mtg_card=Restoration Angel]
The creature selection is pretty straightforward. Flash is a must since we want to hold up our mana on the opponents turn, unless it’s simply that good like our friend [mtg_card=Geist of Saint Traft], and being a wizard is a plus. [mtg_card=Snapcaster Mage], [mtg_card=Aven Mindcensor], [mtg_card=Vendilion Clique] and [mtg_card=Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir] can all be cast counter-free off of a [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls] on wizard. A lot of the creatures also get value for simply coming into play, so even if the opponent has removal we gained some advantage. The pair of [mtg_card=Aven Mindcensor] might get swapped out for a third [mtg_card=Vendilion Clique] and land 25, but I want to spend a bit more time with the current iteration before making more changes.
4x [mtg_card=Remand], 2x [mtg_card=Cryptic Command], 2x [mtg_card=Mana Leak], 4x [mtg_card=Path to Exile], 2x [mtg_card=Spell Snare]
The bread and butter of the deck, combing the best counter spells of the formats with arguably the best removal spell. [mtg_card=Remand] and [mtg_card=Cryptic Command] are just really powerful for their ability to replace themselves, there’s a reason why [mtg_card=Remand] is often jokingly compared to [mtg_card=Time Walk]. While it has its drawbacks which is a bit counteractive with [mtg_card=Mana Leak], [mtg_card=Path to Exile] is just a much too efficient way to get rid of practically any threat. Finally, [mtg_card=Spell Snare] is an excellent tool for capping off a counter war or for tagging a 2 CMC spell when you’re on the draw.
1x [mtg_card=Steelshaper’s Gift], 4x [mtg_card=Serum Visions]
If I play [mtg_card=Serum Visions] enough I can pretend it’s a better spell like [mtg_card=Ponder] or [mtg_card=Brainstorm]. Even if [mtg_card=Serum Visions] won’t ever be as good as those cards, it does a decent enough job of fixing and informing our draw steps. We’re not really a combo deck looking for pieces, but it’s still nice to hit everything on curve or be able to dig when needed. When combined with the [mtg_card=Scalding Tarn] during Game 1 it provides an excellent way to throw opponents off the scent, making them play towards Storm or Twin decks instead. The miser [mtg_card=Steelshaper’s Gift] serves as a third sword, which has the added advantage of being able to flashback with [mtg_card=Snapcaster Mage] if it’s relevant. Sometimes it’s effective simply to search and reveal out a sword and use it as counter bait to get something else through.
1x [mtg_card=Sword of Fire and Ice], 1x [mtg_card=Sword of Light and Shadow]
And here are the aforementioned swords. Originally the list was much more committed to them with three of the swords in the main and a second [mtg_card=Steelshaper’s Gift], but that was a bit too ambitious. I even briefly considered the hilarity of running all of them just to have that one in a thousand game that I get to equip them all. Having more than two or three was prone to having all these swords and nothing to suit them up, and frankly getting even one sword online is often enough to swing any game heavily in your favor. For the mainboard, [mtg_card=Sword of Fire and Ice] and [mtg_card=Sword of Light and Shadow] give us the best suite of protection and more importantly provide card advantage, something that say [mtg_card=Sword of War and Peace] doesn’t even though it’s protections line up nicely with the format staples. This makes them especially useful for breaking up long grindy games.
1x [mtg_card=Batterskull], 2x [mtg_card=Dismember], 1x [mtg_card=Dispel], 1x [mtg_card=Grafdigger’s Cage], 1x [mtg_card=Relic of Progenitus], 3x [mtg_card=Meddling Mage], 2x [mtg_card=Spellskite], 2x [mtg_card=Stony Silence], 1x [mtg_card=Sword of Feast and Famine], 1x [mtg_card=Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir]
Oh sideboards. As I mentioned earlier, Modern has a pretty deep card pool, and there’s just not enough space in your 15 to fit in all the cards you’d ideally want to run. This makes sideboarding a bit of an art form.[mtg_card=Batterskull] can come in against any grindy match-up, it’s a card truly capable of winning all on its own. Sometimes you’ll want it against fair decks, but the 5 mana cost can be pretty steep depending on how fast the opponent’s deck is. While the cost of 4 life sounds pricy, [mtg_card=Dismember] can still prove invaluable to have around as more spot removal. We also get to offset some of the life loss by not taking as much damage from our lands. Pretty much every controlling mirror is going to be decided over a counter war, so [mtg_card=Dispel] is just a very cheap way to come out on top once the dust settles. [mtg_card=Grafdigger’s Cage] and [mtg_card=Relic of Progenitus] go hand in hand as our graveyard disruption and [mtg_card=Grafdigger’s Cage] has some additional play against [mtg_card=Birthing Pod] decks. These slots have been tricky since not only do we also have access to [mtg_card=Rest in Peace] but the question of what to include hinges on how much we care about turning off our [mtg_card=Snapcaster Mage]s. Combined with [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls] on wizard, [mtg_card=Meddling Mage] gets to come down an heck all kinds of havoc. For instance, name [mtg_card=Living End] and watch your opponent squirm under needing to play out their 5 mana 4/4s fairly. [mtg_card=Spellskite] is just a work horse of the Modern format, it’s not always the best card, but it has a lot of play against a lot of decks. This lets you free up some space in the 15 for other cards knowing that [mtg_card=Spellskite]’s got your back. Affinity is a popular deck, usually around 10% of the metagame, and a fair amount of our mainboard is pretty bad against it. So having a pair of strong sideboard cards, [mtg_card=Stony Silence], against that deck is a must. [mtg_card=Sword of Feast and Famine] can slot in for whichever sword lines up worse against the current deck. [mtg_card=Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir] is just a beast. Once he’s in play it’s impossible for your opponent to have any counterspell fights with you as they can only play at sorcery speed. I’ve had opponents just scoop to him coming in end of turn with a [mtg_card=Cavern of Souls] in play.
So that’s Wizard with a Knife or UW Flash if you’re feeling more mundane. It might not suddenly be tearing up the pro tour, but it has served me wins at Win-a-Boxes and FNMs. I’m very keen to continue tuning the list and playing it extensively in the upcoming Modern PTQ season. What changes would you make to the deck? Let me know what you think in the comments.