April 6, 2017

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Modern Brewing with As Foretold

As a Modern-only player, spoiler season is usually something more of passing curiosity than active analysis. New cards cycle in, but with the exception of cards like Fatal Push or Collected Company, it's rare that anything particularly drastic ever comes of it.

Well, I think yesterday might have been one of those days, because there is a very real chance that As Foretold is one of those cards.

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Let me temper the excitement that has the internet all abuzz though - this is not the soul of a brand new Timecrafting deck. I know I've suggested some cheesy decks in the past, but some of the things I've heard in the last 24 hours have just been ridiculous.

Still, these sentiments only come out because the card is truly extraordinarily powerful, so let's take a moment to discuss some of the things it might actually be good for.

What does it do?
Contrary to what "without paying its mana cost" usually leads us to think, As Foretold actually excels best at casting cheap spells. Like, really cheap. Zero cheap.

This is the broken end of the spectrum, and is ultimately going to be what earns As Foretold a ticket into Modernland. Making effective use of Ancestral Vision has been priority #1 for an awful lot of deckbuilders since its unbanning last year, and this looks like a far more effective way to do it than with Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

The other interesting bit of text on As Foretold is the fact that it works on "each turn". This means both your turn and your opponent's turn. While there isn't much worth doing at zero mana on your opponent's turn (Slaughter Pact, while good, is awkward here to say the least), there is an awful lot of double-dipping to be done in the "one" slot.

Improving your hand on your turn then controlling the field on their turn, all without spending any mana, sounds like an excellent recipe for a true control deck.

Fitting it into a deck

The really important part, though, is where to go from there.

It's tempting to start crawling up the curve and winding up at the same old Jeskai deck every time. And while it's incredibly important to ensure that the other 56 cards work well and play smoothly together, I think As Foretold enables us to do a very unique thing:

Let's focus on four-drops.

Apart from As Foretold itself, the curve of this deck wants to and focus as much as possible on cards costing zero, one, and four mana.

The reason for this is simple: Once you've spent your third turn casting a so-called "do nothing enchantment", you're likely to fall behind a fair bit, and the four mana you'll have available on your next turn is the magic number at which cards in Modern help you turn things around. You can use a Wrath of God effect to reset the board, and use As Foretold to cast a Serum Visions and a Spell Snare to maintain your newfound advantage, or you can fire off Path to Exile to secure the board for a Planeswalker to arrive and start to take over the game.

The other thing is that with copies of Ancestral Vision running around, it's reasonable to assume that you will reliably make your fourth land drop on time.

To help make sure we get there and then hold our advantage, I want to include a few cards that deviate from the cost rule.

Snapcaster Mage, in Modern, really? Daring, I know. But in a deck chock-full of one-mana control spells, ol' Snappy is just way too at-home. Not to mention that you can cast either it or its flashbacked spell for free with As Foretold, as there isn't even a "cast from hand" restriction.

Disrupting Shoal is a fair bit less common, but is a very effective card in any deck where the card disadvantage is made up for in other ways, and where you desperately need to survive after tapping out for a crucial move. It also benefits from the high 1-drop deck basis, as most of your opponent's quickest ways to end the game cost exactly that. (Lightning Bolt, Might of Old Krosa, Goblin Guide, etc.)

Meanwhile Remand is a bit of a necessary evil. It's a flexible option to play on turn two, where your only other good option is one-drop plus Celestial Colonnade, and it also helps you dig for As Foretold if you don't already have it.

Putting it all together

This is a rough and obviously untested draft of what such a deck might look at, given that the card has been spoiled for less than 24 hours, but is probably a reasonable concept, at least to start out with.

There's a lot to say about this.

Choosing Colours

First of all, I've chosen to go Jeskai, but the only colour really required in the deck is Blue. I've chosen to go Jeskai here mainly because Ajani Vengeant is simply a fantastic planeswalker if you can protect him. This deck seeks to gum up your opponent's plans and eventually win with Celestial Colonnades, and lockdown-into-Armageddon is a great way to secure that. The Lightning Bolts are strange to see as only a pair and not a quartet, but it's really second-rate to Path to Exile in this deck where the damage from it will seldom matter.

Nahiri, the Harbinger is of course another option that I didn't include in the Jeskai variant, mostly because I just didn't feel like going down the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn route, though it may very well be correct to do so.

But I didn't have to go Jeskai. Switching gears to Esper would replace bolts with Fatal Push, and Ajani with probably just more copies of Gideon, possibly including Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Unfortunately, neither Tezzeret does anything here, the four mana Sorins are a poor fit, and Dovin Baan and Narset just aren't that solid in the main board.

Another angle is to not even run White. A Grixis list could have a similar control suite but with Damnation in place of Supreme Verdict, and rely on Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Creeping Tar Pits as the finishers. But the loss of White's sideboard options is probably too significant.

Green doesn't often offer control archetypes much, and it's no different here, so I haven't put any thought into Bant, Sultai, or Temur, and probably rightfully so.

A final option would be to run only Blue and White, but that's probably not viable in a world without Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Choosing Cheaty Cards

Even within the wedge I chose, there were some big decisions to be made, the biggest of which was probably whether to include Lotus Bloom.

Lotus Bloom can be absolutely astounding here. Being able to put it into play immediately after resolving As Foretold means you can leave up counter-magic or removal to keep you in the game. It also plays terrifically as a turn one option with Sleight of Hand (as Ad Nauseam players know), and could therefore justify increasing the deck's digging capacity. And finally its greatest asset in a control deck is providing a shortcut to probably the best control Planeswalker in the format, Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

What I don't like about it, however, is that in terms of reactive spells, it gets better the more efficiently it is used. That is, its inclusion is best justified with two and three mana defensive spells like Dissolve. However, As Foretold plays terribly with cards it has to wait that long for, so the whole deck loses a lot of synergy.

There's also Restore Balance, as an interesting option. (And clearly I'm not the only one to think so as it doubled in price overnight.) It lets you Wrath of God immediately alongside playing As Foretold, which is a respectable upgrade from waiting to Supreme Verdict the next turn. However it falls short in two key areas:

  1. Drawing Restore Balance without As Foretold is dreadful.
  2. Resolving Restore Balance will usually mean you discarding cards, and possibly a lot. This then puts you in the Lingering Souls or Think Twice direction, and frankly that starts to feel a little icky.

Choosing Archetype

Finally, there is even the option to play a completely different deck with this. I've chosen control, because it seems more likely, but As Foretold can also hypothetically be used in a tempo-y Aether Vial-esque fashion. I'm not going to speculate too deeply on that approach, but resolving it on turn two with a Birds of Paradise seems like it might be another winning angle worth exploring.

Wrapping Up

Any way you slice it, As Foretold is a very powerful card, and seems all-but-destined for some degree of Modern play. Then again, many said the same about Day's Undoing, so remember to take everything with the appropriate grain of salt.

Questions? Thoughts? Share them in the comments below.