BAD BREWS: Modern Mardu Young Souls

In the game of Magic, nothing delights me more than denying my opponents the ability to play the game. My favorite type of card is one that takes away nice things, whether it's removal, discard, a tax or prison effect, or even a counterspell. To that end, I have found the Mardu colors of red, white, and black to be particularly adept at ruining the hand and board presence opposite my own and leaving their strategy in shambles. I also enjoy grinding out incremental advantages and playing powerful cards with powerful interactions. Enter my newest Modern creation: Mardu Young Souls.

This deck began as an attempt to "KILL ALL THE THINGS!" I found some decklists through Twitter from @MrScottyMac and @Pearlsalssblog, and they seemed to think you could combine Abzan and Jund into a Mardu shell. To the drawing board I went! Through a couple of months of testing and tweaking here's what I've put together:

The namesakes of the deck, Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls, make quite the team and this deck is designed to abuse them. Individually, these cards have been staples of the format, payed in a wide variety of decks. Together, their powers combine to make an unrelenting tide of tokens. Plan A for this deck is to "go wider" than just about any other deck and bury your opponents in value.

You may laugh at first, Butcher of the Horde is the real deal in Modern, folks. You heard it here first. When the token strategy isn't closing the game out fast enough, "Bobby Boucher" comes in and finishes. Feed him some high quality H2O (aka tokens) and watch how fast the game ends. If you're low, that same H2O can add a nice buffer to your life total.

The Resto Package, aka Value Town, is Plan B. Redcap and Finks play extremely well with both Butcher (Persisting sacrifice-able creatures) and Resto (blink to remove -1/-1 counter) and make for some seriously sweet value in the grindy matchups where you can end up with three or more enters the battlefield triggers with a single guy.

For longer, grindier games, nothing competes with the value of a good Planeswalker. Chandra removes blockers or "draws" you cards. She's a house against tokens or un-Lorded Elves. Ajani deals with large tramplers (the biggest problem for this deck) and threatens to ultimate and practically win the game on the spot.

 
 
 

The removal package is designed to be both flexible and super-powerful. Crackling Doom is one of the big payoffs for playing the Mardu colors. Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix play double duty as well, removing threats and blockers to progress the tokens plan or going for the Burn Plan C. Path to Exile is premium removal and is supremely important vs Twin, Abzan, and Amulet Bloom. Kolaghan's Command is simply one of the best cards in the deck because it is always a two-for-one. It can bring a Pyro back from the grave, force a control player to lose a card, it's maindeck hate for Amulet and Decepticons (what I call Modern Affinity), can kill a creature, or go to the dome.

This deck has game against any and all decks because it is so diverse in it's gameplan and a lot of it's cards can be both proactive and reactive. It truly shines against fair decks, but it can struggle against combo decks if it doesn't draw the right cards. It's true strength is in the powerful sideboard cards it has access to.

Decepticons - Their ability to dump their entire hand in a couple of turns is frightening. We must use our removal judiciously and really make it matter. The trick is to stay afloat long enough to get Butcher online and gaining life. Helix and Finks help keep us alive, and Crackling Doom can make them super sad when they go all-in on a single guy. Anger of the Gods and Rakdos Charm out of the board improve our chances greatly.
Amulet Bloom - Probably our worst matchup. We have virtually no way to interact with a Hive Mind and precious few outs to a Trampling Primeval Titan. Our sideboard helps considerably with Blood Moon, Duress, Rakdos Charm for the Amulet, and Slaughter Games for the Hive Mind. The match ends up being a race and they are often times a turn or two faster than us. Luckily they are inconsistent and
Twin - Another tough deck to beat depending on the version. Tarmo-Twin is relatively easy, but the traditional Control version is rather difficult. You absolutely HAVE to save Paths for their Twin targets. Just do it. Play a turn behind and always leave the mana open, even if you don't have it. The best way to win is on the Creature/Burn plan, overloading their counter magic. Duress, Slaughter Games, and Rending Volley come in and really do a number on them. Rakdos Charm is another cute effect when they make 100 copies of their guy and you just kill them with it.
Infect - I don't really struggle against Infect too much. Play defensive and lean on Path and Doom. They really hate Crackling Doom. A good rule of thumb is to always assume they have enough pump spells to get there, because they usually do. Chump blockers are great as they have no Trample to speak of. Duress out of the board helps strip them of their critical spells.
Tron - Another matchup that makes me wish we could run 8 Paths. Channel your inner Ricky Bobby and "go fast." They take a few turns to set up. You need to take advantage of these turns and build up as much of a board state as you can, then fly over top of them. Blood Moon out of the board is incredible here as it forces them to play fair. Duress cast just before they hit their Tron can strip their Karn or Ugin, or some of their setup material in the early game.
Abzan - Both decks are built to grind out value, ours just has a bit higher of a ceiling because we have some unfair draws. Keep your removal for their Tramplers (Siege Rhino and Treetop Village) and let Butcher and Resto fly over to victory. Ajani shines here at locking down their biggest threat. Protect him and ride his ultimate if you can. Blood Moon can really wreck their day in sideboarded games and Anger can mop up if their heavy on mana dorks.
Delver - This can sometimes feel like a mirror match. Stymie thier tempo with your cheap removal and overload theirs with tokens. Newer versions with Tasigur or Gurmag Angler require more emphasis on Path. In from the board comes Duress for targeted discard.
Jeskai Control - Every card in the deck is still live against Control, neutralizing part of their strategy. Crackling Doom is great at taking out Colonnades while still progressing the gameplan. Aim our burn at their face and try to race. Be careful not to overextend into a Wrath effect. As you might expect, Duress comes in to help you land your spells through counters.
Storm - We do our thing, they do theirs. See who gets there first. That's pretty much how everyone matches up against Storm. Kill Goblin Electromancers on sight. Rakdos Charm is our key sideboard card here, removing their graveyard in response to Past in Flames. Duress is also a great add.
Elves - Collected Company has launched this deck up from the lower tiers. Save your removal for their Lords and Heritage Druids. They're weak to Flying, so try to go over their heads. If you can keep them off Lords, Chandra can really ruin their day by picking off their otherwise weak dudes. Anger of the Gods is at it's best in this matchup out of the board.
Zoo - We play this like we would Elves, except we're a little more aggressive at chump blocking with our guys as we have to worry about their burn too. No matter, this is one of our best matchups and is almost difficult to lose.
Burn - Our close cousin, Burn is somewhat of an enigma. It really depends on how many Lightning Helixes we draw and if we can get Butcher online and Lifelinking. Our removal easily deals with their creatures, but we need our life buffers to stay alive against their spells. Play your Shocklands tapped and play the slower game. Rely on removal early, force a longer game, and then transition into aggressive mode. We can bring in Duress or Anger depending on their build.

One of my favorite things about the deck is how diversified the plan of attack is. It can play the token, value creature, or burn game and can transition between them quickly. By attacking on multiple axes, we limit our opponents' ability to counter us.

Recently, however, I have toying with some potential upgrades. Most of them begin with the removal of Restoration Angels and Persist Creatures and moving up to the full four Butchers. I would really like to get another Kolaghan's Command or two in there, as well as Thoughtseize. I feel like the combo matchups would get a ton better with maindeck discard. Another card I've looked at is Faithless Looting. I feel like I need the exact right card in some matchups, and Looting would greatly increase my chances of finding it.

I would love to hear your feedback! Leave it here, on Facebook, or through Twitter. Let me know what you think.