Last month, I wrote about a deck based on Nivix Cyclops. The deck proved to be among my more popular lists, and I've been asked about how it could be converted to serve as a Modern deck as well. I decided to take on the challenge, and I put together this list.
Kiln Fiend was the original Nivix Cyclops, and at 2 mana, it's faster and leaner, making it reasonably likely for you to be able to kill your opponent on turn three. All you need is one Assault Strobe and any two other instants or sorceries—for example a Distortion Strike to get past blockers and an Apostle's Blessing to foil a removal spell. An Assault Strobe and a Brute Force could also work if you can't cast a third spell.
Nivix Cyclops is a bit slower than Kiln Fiend, but it is immune to Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, making it tougher for your opponent to kill it at instant speed. Having eight copies altogether of these two creatures makes it more likely for you to have one on the battlefield by turn three every game. Thanks to the power of these creatures, the deck functions similarly to decks using pump spells and creatures with infect, save for the fact that if your opponent kills your creature at instant speed, you've often still accomplished something, such as killing a creature, returning it to your opponent's hand, or drawing a card and scrying. You're not locked into using pump spells to make your creatures larger, making the deck able to fight through obstacles more easily.
Assault Strobe allows you to kill your opponent out of nowhere. Even as the only spell you cast, it tacks on an extra 7 damage to your Kiln Fiend. If you do have other instants and sorceries to pump up your creature, Assault Strobe can easily threaten 20 damage in a single turn.
Apostle's Blessing can serve as a backup Distortion Strike to make your creature unblockable for a turn, but its main purpose is to foil removal spells. When your opponent smugly casts a Path to Exile on your giant Cyclops, you can give it protection from white with this . . . as well as another +3/+0.
Brute Force can be used to stop damage-based removal, and it effectively gives your creature 6 extra power. You can even pump up something such as Delver of Secrets instead, splitting your damage between two creatures to make removal less effective.
Lightning Bolt can get most creatures out of the way, and it can be used to finish off your opponent once you've dropped his life total down far enough. This card is played it nearly every Modern deck that uses red, and it is the most effective burn spell in the format.
Vapor Snag only temporarily removes a creature, but it does so regardless of size, and it forces your opponent to spend another turn putting that same creature back on the battlefield. It also makes your opponent lose 1 life as an added bonus, which can be surprisingly relevant in such an aggressive deck.
Flame Slash can't hit players as Lightning Bolt, and it can only be cast during your turn, but it does allow you to kill creatures such as Tarmogoyf that are often large enough to be immune to Lightning Bolt. Although there are a few different creatures with 4 toughness that see play in Modern from time to time, there are almost none with 5 or more, making Flame Slash quite effective at clearing the way for your creatures to swing in.
Smash to Smithereens also helps you fight Birthing Pod, destroying the troublesome artifact while getting in some extra damage to help fight through any life-gain your opponent might have. It's also effective against other artifact-based decks such as Affinity, giving you a removal spell and some extra damage in one spell.
Ratchet Bomb fights a number of decks that rely on cards of one low converted mana cost, such as Affinity and Merfolk. Any day you can kill Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager with a single card is a good day.
Combust stops Kiki-Jiki combo decks quite effectively, killing everything from Restoration Angel to Pestermite to Deceiver Exarch. Whatever creature your opponent is planning on using to untap Kiki-Jiki, Combust will kill it.
Dispel can be brought in if you need additional defenses against instant-speed removal, making sure your threats live long enough to deal a bunch of damage to your opponent. If your opponent does try something, you even get an extra +3/+0 for countering it!
Living End – Game 1
I drew Delver of Secrets, played my land, and cast Kiln Fiend. I ended my turn, and my opponent cycled Deadshot Minotaur. He paid 2 life to cycle Street Wraith and then played a tapped Stomping Ground and passed the turn.
I drew an Island, played it, and cast Nivix Cyclops. I attacked for 1 with Kiln Fiend and passed the turn. My opponent cycled a Deadshot Minotaur at the end of my turn. He played a Blood Crypt and passed back.
I drew Distortion Strike and cast it on the Cyclops. I attacked with both creatures, dropping my opponent to 8 and then passed the turn. My opponent cycled Jungle Weaver at end of turn and then paid 2 life to cycle Street Wraith. He played Verdant Catacombs, sacrificed it for a Forest, and cycled Monstrous Carabid. He cast Violent Outburst and cascaded into Living End.
I cast Delver of Secrets and passed the turn. My opponent cast Avalanche Riders, destroying my Shivan Reef, and then attacked with everything. I bounced Jungle Weaver with Vapor Snag and dropped to 2 life.
With my opponent at 4 life, I knew I had several outs in the deck. Vapor Snag, Distortion Strike, Assault Strobe, Lightning Bolt, and Brute Force would all win me the game on the spot. I drew my card for the turn, and found . . . Apostle's Blessing. I dropped my opponent to 1 with the transformed Delver and then paid my 2 life for Apostle's Blessing to lose the game.
I drew an Island and cast Apostle's Blessing on a Kiln Fiend to give it protection from black. I cast Assault Strobe on it and attacked for 14, dropping my opponent to 3. I ended my turn. My opponent played a Forest and passed the turn.
He played Copperline Gorge and passed the turn. I drew Serum Visions, played my Sulfur Falls, and cast Kiln Fiend. I passed the turn, and my opponent forestcycled Pale Recluse to fetch an Overgrown Tomb.
He played the Tomb, paying 2 life, and cast Fulminator Mage, sacrificing it to kill my Sulfur Falls. I drew Shivan Reef and cast Serum Visions, drawing Assault Strobe. I played my Mountain, cast Assault Strobe, and dropped my opponent to 2 with Kiln Fiend.
This deck can deal an astounding amount of damage in one turn, although you're definitely going to have to mulligan a creatureless hand every once in a while. Decks with little to no removal will have a hard time fighting this deck, and even opponents with removal can often be stumped by Apostle's Blessing and Dispel. If you're itching to try an oddball strategy in Modern, give this deck a shot.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, you can find me on the forums under Twinblaze, on Twitter under @MTGCannon, or simply leave a comment below.