A Guide Through Modern's Road Less Traveled
Hello and welcome back to Tier Fun's Search for Spice!
After a brief Thanksgiving break --and entirely too much turkey-- your guide through Modern has returned. And, what better way to come back than with a card people have been asking me about for a while:
Glittering Wish. At this point in Magic's life, pretty much everyone knows that cheap tutor effects are good. Often too good.
This kind of redundancy is incredibly powerful in both spell-based decks (Make the storm count higher AND find my win condition? Thanks, tutors!) and fair decks (Find the perfect threat or answer for any situation? Tutors, you shouldn't have!). Judging by card design in the Modern era, gone are the days of Wizards printing cheap, restriction-free tutors. The only modern legal tutors we have are either for very restrictive card types (
Idyllic Tutor and
Steelshaper's Gift), restrictive casting costs (
Diabolic Tutor), restrictive situations (
Infernal Tutor and
Gifts Ungiven), or a combination of all three (
Glittering Wish. While technically a combination of all 3 restrictions --can only find multicolor cards, forces you into Selesnya colors, and you may only find sideboard cards-- Glittering Wish's saving grace is that its converted mana cost is in line with all the great tutors: 2 or less. Even lacking instant speed doesn't ovberride that value. Traditionally, the best peforming Glittering Wish decks in Modern's history have been combo-oriented. Specifically I'm thinking of Jeskai Ascendancy. But there has been another less celebrated archetype on the competitive fringes of the format: Glittering Wish Toolbox decks (Paul Heynen's Glittering Junk from Pro Tour Return to Ravnica is the first legit tournament finish I could find).
These decks typically have the kind of solid maindeck creatures and spells that can either win or stabilize most games, and they are accompanied by a litany of multicolor silver bullets in the sideboard for virtually any situation. What these toolbox decks haven't typically done, however, is stray too far from their Abzan roots. In this age of 5 Color tribal decks, can we do more?
@EvieEsper's 5 Color Wish Zoo
2 Anafenza, the Foremost 3 Assassin's Trophy 4 Birds of Paradise 3 Bloodbraid Elf 1 Breeding Pool 4 Cavern of Souls 1 Dreadbore 1 Forest 4 Glittering Wish 4 Mana Confluence 3 Mantis Rider 3 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager 4 Noble Hierarch 1 Overgrown Tomb 4 Pillar of the Paruns 1 Plains 2 Reflecting Pool 2 Rhox War Monk 3 Siege Rhino 1 Stomping Ground 1 Temple Garden 4 Voice of Resurgence 4 Windswept Heath 1 Abrupt Decay 1 Burning-Tree Shaman 1 Deafening Clarion 1 Detention Sphere 1 Dragonlord Dromoka 1 Fracturing Gust 1 Fulminator Mage 1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation 1 Knight of Autumn 1 Knight of New Alara 1 Kolaghan's Command 1 Maelstrom Pulse 1 Tamiyo, Field Researcher 1 Unmoored Ego 1 Wheel of Sun and Moon
I'd say that is a 10-4 on the "do more" front. Give up any semblance of mana base restraint and you'll find that Wizards has been busy printing a whole host of interesting and playable Wish targets. I'll save my editor some minor headaches by not listing off literally every sideboard card and its specific purpose but, suffice to say, we have direct answers, taxing answers, value packages, life gain, and even threats for basically every situation you can find yourself in during a game of Magic: the Gathering.
The cost of such delicious flexibility, you ask? Mana denial strategies become your absolute worst nightmare.
Blood Moon is the worst threat but is actually quite beatable, especially post-board. The deck can sidebaord into a relatively effective Selesnya deck with the upside of having access to multicolor haymakers when your opponent doesn't draw the Moon. That isn't to say an early Moon can't ruin our day --it can-- but Blood Moon in general is at a pretty big lull right now. According to results posted to MTGTOP8 (their search function isn't easily linkable but you can find the numbers here), maindeck Blood Moon has been played in 3.5% of decks the last 2 weeks. This is down from the 5.4% it was at the past 2 months and from a 7.6% mark for the entire year of 2018. If there was ever a time to get greedy with your mana base, that time is now. No, it isn't Blood Moon specifically you have to watch out for, it's hard mana denial like
Ghost Quarter and
Stone Rain in addition to Blood Moon. A decent draw from Ponza makes an early
Stony Silence against Affinity look tame.
That's the price you pay for never feeling truly out of a game against the field. You always feel like a top decked Glittering Wish away from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
The cards I've been most impressed with in my testing have been
Anafenza, the Foremost and
Tamiyo, Field Researcher. Tamiyo is a card I've had success and fun with in creature-heavy decks and this one's no different. Tamiyo is held back from the big time by her mana cost, which this deck doesn't care about. That and the fact that none of Modern's current boogiemen (KCI, Dredge, Tron, Hollow One, Phoenix, Storm, etc.) care about the combat step. Being able to fetch her from the sideboard when needed? An absolutely exquisite experience.
Speaking of the boogieman, how is Anafenza not seeing a massive uptick in play right now? She is GREAT against a lot of the popular decks (Dredge, Hollow One, Phoenix, and she even makes life a little more difficult for KCI). Going forward, I'd love to try and find a way to get access to more copies of Anafenza. Honestly, I could see an Abzan Anafenza list doing very well right now (but that's an article for another day).
I want to close by talking about Glittering Wish from a game design perspective. From that particular point of view, Glittering Wish feels similar to
Birthing Pod in a lot of ways, especially the Toolbox Decks. Both reward you heavily for embracing their own unique deck building restrictions, and both have the inherent risk of getting exponentially better with each new card printed that they can use. In Birthing Pod's case, Wizards realized that it wasn't going to stop printing better and better creatures (oh to be able to pod into
Knight of Autumn) so it got the axe.
Glittering Wish isn't quite there yet in terms of high level success, but you don't have to squint too hard to see how similar the pressures it puts on game design are to Birthing Pod. I'm not sure that Glittering Wish could ever actively put a similar stress on the format. It isn't nearly as repeatable an effect, but we inch closer to that day with each multicolored playable printed. In case you hand't notied, almost every card in this deck is from Khans of Tarkir onwards (#MulticolorPowerCreep).
You never know what multicolored goodies a new set will bring, and perhaps you'll be the one to break it!
Kudos to Twitter user @EvieEsper for the list and her awesome spreadsheet. The eagle eyed among you may have realized the deck I played in the video isn't 100% the list above. I made some minor changes due to card availability (assorted 5 color lands for 4
Cavern of Souls and Tier Fun Staple
Huntmaster of the Fells instead of 2
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager) and preference (a
Gaddock Teeg over a land and a
Notion Thief over
Detention Sphere). Thanks and happy spellslinging!