Happy Wednesday everyone!
In an effort to continue with the spirit of last week’s article and keep things fresh, this week I am going to write about a brew I think has potential in post-Ikoria Modern. Now, there are a lot of cards that have been talked about from the new set. Cards like Yorion, Sky Nomad, Lurrus of the Dream Den, and Song of Creation have all been discussed as potential format-warpers, with the first two seeing extensive play in multiple formats already. But one card that I haven’t seen as much attention be paid to is Vadrok, Apex of Thunder.
Let’s do a quick, high-level overview of the card first. Vadrok is a three-mana 3/3 legendary flying first-striker. Vadrok also mutates to re-buy a spell that costs three or less for free. While it is a very powerful card on its face, the cost to cast and mutate Vadrok is pretty onerous which makes the challenge of building a deck that supports it more challenging, and also more exciting. There is a fairly robust amount of text on this card, and a lot of relevant abilities to play with, so I’ll walk you through my approach to this brew. Now to the deck:
Vadrok Control by Andrew Eaddy
I’ll start with the creature package. Looking at Vadrok, I felt the most appropriate shell would be an aggressive Jeskai deck, as it’s clear that Vadrok is going to be strong in a deck that takes advantage of playing a lot of cheap noncreature spells. And what other often overlooked Modern stalwart likes to fight alongside noncreature spells? You guessed it. Monastery Mentor. Monastery Mentor also provides bodies for Vadrok to mutuate onto which is an important part of the card that can’t be missed. This inclusion means we have the ability to allow Monastery Mentor to be our primary game plan, and fluidly shift into a Vadrok gameplan rebuying a crucial spell and turning the game.
After I was leveraging Vadrok’s affinity for noncreature spells sufficiently, I also wanted to take advantage of the card’s stats and body to get full value out of Vadrok given it’s mana restrictions. A 3/3 flying first striker is a pretty resilient, evasive threat. So in the model of True-Name Nemesis and Batterskull, I thought Stoneforge Mystic would be a threat that meshes with the rest of the deck and also provides another angle of attack. Suiting up a Vadrok with a Batterskull seems like an easy way to win a game quickly, especially because once Stoneforge Mystic has flashed in equipment, it can become a host for Vadrok itself.
Finally, if we are playing equipment in an aggressive, disruptive, Jeski shell, some number of Vendilion Clique are necessary as another versatile threat that can take advantage of equipment. It’s possible that this slot should be for Brazen Borrower but that will require some testing first.
After the creatures we get to the planeswalkers. Vadrok reads “Whenever this creature mutates, you may cast target noncreature card with converted mana cost 3 or less from your graveyard without paying its mana cost,” and this includes planeswalkers. So we are running four copies of Teferi, Time Raveler and two copies of Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, both of which interact very well with the deck.
Saheeli benefits from the suite of spells I will review next, and also creates bodies for the equipment package in the deck. Teferi will let us move around Oblivion Rings, prevent instant-speed sweeping effects, create tokens by re-buying noncreature permanents and re-casting them, and more. It goes without saying that this card is very powerful, and in this deck its synergy is maximized.
Finally are the spells. Many of these are “stock” card choices, the likes of Serum Visions, Lightning Bolt, and Path to Exile being pretty standard in any Jeskai Shell. The idea here is to have a critical mass of relevant spells to re-buy with Vadrok and to make best use of with Monastery Mentor. The most interesting card choices in this list, to me, are the two copies of Mox Amber, and one copy of Improbable Alliance.
The Mox Amber inclusion was not very difficult for me to justify. This is a deck that is able to turn a corner when it can cast two spells in one turn. It does a lot of powerful things, but it can definitely fall victim to dying with a lot of spells in hand. Mox Amber has 12 permanents in the deck that turn it on and it helps speed up the deck, at times, by a full turn.
The addition of Improbable Alliance is a bit more interesting. This deck has a lot of incidental synergy, and one interaction that happens a lot in this deck is drawing cards. Whether it’s casting Serum Visions or from the graveyard, or using Teferi, Time Raveler or Vendilion Clique, the deck is likely to draw an extra 4-5 cards a game at least. Improbable Alliance turns those draws into bodies that can pressure an opponent, be fodder for Vadrok, or even hold a piece of equipment. It also triggers prowess and can be re-bought with Vadrok, making it extra appealing.
The only other interesting piece of technology I’ve included is a copy of Retraction Helix in the main board. Typically a cast member in Jeskai Ascendancy decks, this card has legs in our Vadrok brew too. Retraction Helix can allow for mana efficiency, bouncing Mox Ambers to replay them, cast more spells, and trigger prowess. The card can also help move an Oblivion Ring to another target, or even act as a counterspell, removing a permanent from being destroyed. This deck thrives off of versatile threats and answers, and Retraction Helix facilitates both really well.
My sideboard is fairly standard for Jeskai decks in this Modern format: Amulet Titan hate, Dredge hate, and a few versatile answers that I can rotate in and out of my deck without disrupting the central gameplan of aggression.
This deck, and this archetype in general, still needs a lot of testing. Cards like Yorion, Sky Nomad and Sprite Dragon could both fit perfectly in this style of deck. Perhaps Jace, the Mind Sculptor is simply too good to omit from this list, and maybe three pieces of countermagic is insufficient in the 75. But this is a solid starting place to explore further iterations of the deck.
Ikoria definitely introduced some potent tools to the Modern format that will take some time to fully show their true power. If you have thoughts on the brew or have tested something similar, feel free to drop a comment under the article!
Until next time.