Count Your Blessings

There are two things that make it worth revisiting a strategy in Modern. The first is the addition of one or more new Standard all-stars. If cards are powerful enough to take over Standard, it’s reasonable to assume they’d be good enough to hold their own in Modern. Similarly, a card may not dominate Standard, but it might add just enough depth to an archetype to help it hold up to the efficient disruption in Modern. There are lots of decks that incidentally interact with +1/+1 counters, but the printing of both Walking Ballista and Winding Constrictor may push this over the edge into a fully-fledged archetype:

Hardened Scales
There’s no question Hardened Scales is a powerful card. Something that efficient, with an effect that can be relevant multiple times per turn starting on the second turn of the game that also doesn’t become dead later on in the game? What more could you possibly ask for? I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a 2-drop that provides a redundant effect on an efficient body. That certainly seems fair.

The real question then becomes this: what cards do you use to take advantage of all the extra +1/+1 counters you’re getting? You can certainly imagine something slow and attrition based with the likes of Llanowar Reborn, Simic Initiate, and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. It’s also reasonable to imagine a disruptive version with Oona’s Blackguard.

As it turns out, the most efficient way to play this deck involves playing an artifact engine. Arcbound Worker is the most efficient creature, and can easily become a Wild Nacatl that pumps your other creatures when it dies. It’s hard to overstate how easily Arcbound Ravager can get out of hand in this deck when you start stacking up extra +1/+1 counters both when it enters the battlefield and for each subsequent artifact you sacrifice.

Then there’s the real payoff cards: Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista. These cards let you just take over a game, functioning as flexible early drops that play well with your engine and late game mana sinks that generate enormous amounts of value. Walking Ballista is particularly powerful in this format, since so many decks are dependent on the likes of Noble Hierarch, Inkmoth Nexus, and Dark Confidant.

All in all, this is a deck with a lot of powerful, redundant interactions that can get out of hand very quickly, and I can’t wait to see if it has what it takes to keep up with the likes of Affinity and Infect. It’s also exciting to note just how much flexibility there is in this style of deck. You could start trimming back on the White splash to play more cards like Inkmoth Nexus and Steel Overseer, or slow the deck down and add interactive elements like Thoughtseize and Path to Exile. It’s always exciting when a deck with this much raw synergy is first brought to light, and I’m certainly interested in taking it for a spin.

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