7/22/2019 We will be posting the updated Hogaak list on Wednesday, July 24th.

7/8/2019 Banned: Bridge from Below

This morning, the banhammer struck down Hogaak Bridgevine. While it’s future existence in Modern is uncertain, there may be a way to keep this list in Tier 2 this week. You can substitute the Altar of Dementia and Bridge from Below with Hedron Crab and Prized Amalgam. This helps maximize Vengevine and helps turbo out your Hogaak plays.

Others are opting to add extra dredgers and Cathartic Reunion. This resembles a hybrid of Dredge and Hogvine but opens up a Loam/Dryad Arbor package. We will be revisiting the list at a future date once the meta settles down after the ban.


Why did the Hogaak Cross the Bridge?

Magic is a game often prized for its complexity and diversity of game play, balancing both an innovative resource system and offering a customization lacking in most other competitive games. When discussing the variety of archetypes available, seldom are graveyard strategies excluded, as many players enjoy decks that fully utilize every resource available.

A consequence of powerful graveyard synergies is the inevitable discovery of a new archetype, utilizing freshly printed cards that create an engine to invalidate many other game plans. In many ways, that is what Bridgevine is — a deck so explosive, so polarizing, that it forces most games of Magic to be about exactly one thing: managing the graveyard.

While different than conventional Combo decks in terms of play patterns, Bridgevine models the design of a well constructed Combo deck by categorizing each card into a few categories — Enablers, Payoffs, and Utility cards. In this article, I’ll be evaluating the card choices for most Bridgevine lists, as well as what category they fall into. While ordinarily there would be a Utility or Supporting Cast section, the well oiled machine of Bridgevine relegates utility slots almost exclusively to the Sideboard.

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The Enablers

Faithless Looting | A defining aspect of graveyard decks since its printing, Faithless Looting enables the most explosive turns. Discarding a Vengevine or a Bridge from Below quickly turns on both the aggressive and combo aspects of the deck. A common card when discussing ban list updates, Faithless Looting gives red decks a significant increase in card quality over the course of a game due to flashback. This unique aspect of Faithless Looting highlights two incredibly powerful aspects of engine pieces — late game and early game functionality, and doubling as both enabler and payoff.

Insolent Neonate | Similarly to Faithless Looting, Insolent Neonate serves as additional methods for setting up the graveyard payoffs, but differs from Looting in a few important ways. Firstly, it’s a creature, which can trigger Vengevine or Convoke for Hogaak. Activating Neonate with a bridge in hand lets you discard Bridge before sacrificing Neonate, generating a Zombie token off of an activation. Some versions choose to play Stinkweed Imp as a dredge piece — Neonate can discard and immediately dredge an Imp.

Stitcher’s Supplier | An instant all star with the release of Core 2019, Stitcher’s Supplier mills yourself to set up explosive turns, but can double up when paired with Carrion Feeder or Altar of Dementia to quickly churn through your deck. As with Insolent Neonate, being a one mana creature enables Hogaak and Vengevine turns, while acting as additional fodder for Bridge from Below. Being a zombie allows Gravecrawler to consistently be recast, to further enable Vengevine.

Altar of Dementia | Seldom in magic has milling oneself been a horrible idea, and repeatable sac outlets likewise open up the avenue for abuse. Combining the two showcases the power of free resource exchanges, and with a critical mass of expendable bodies and graveyard payoffs Bridgevine proves the perfect home. Altar enables Hogaak, Bridge, and a variety of other payoffs, while serving to set up explosive turns.

Carrion Feeder | Similarly to Altar of Dementia, Carrion Feeder acts as an additional sac outlet to trigger Bridge from Below, while supplanting Viscera Seer as the go to enabler. This is largely due to supplementing an already aggressive game plan, while increasing the amount of Zombies in the deck for Gravecrawler. Though unable to block, Carrion Feeder’s large size allows it to race even the heavy hitters of Modern.

Cabal Therapist | By no means a regular inclusion, Cabal Therapist joins Necrotic Wound as a competitive option for a 60th card. With no clear card choices, I’ve chosen Cabal Therapist primarily as an additional means of disrupting combo decks like Neoform or Cheerios, without decreasing the creature count. While synergistic with Bridge from Below and other payoffs (you can target yourself to discard a payoff of your choice), Cabal Therapist is worse than Necrotic Wound in the Humans matchup, where killing Meddling Mage is of utmost importance (they can name Hogaak and stunt the engine of the deck).

The Payoffs

Vengevine | Once the menace of Legacy, Vengevine is one of the most powerful graveyard payoffs ever printed. Enabling absurdly explosive turns in Vintage, this aggressive threat makes its way into Modern alongside a cadre of supporting creatures. Triggering off of Hogaak and Gravecrawler makes Vengevine a nearly free recurring threat, while ending the game on its own in just a few turns. While some versions only play three copies, I’ve chosen four for improved consistency — a change with the recognition that Bridgevine’s Plan A is always to be aggressive.

Bridge from Below | An instant eternal staple since Future Sight, Bridge from Below accompanies Vengevine as a critical payoff. When paired with a sac outlet and Hogaak, Bridge can set up insurmountable board states as early as the second turn. Four copies is a must, as ensuring two creatures in play for Hogaak is mandatory to keep chaining.

Bloodghast | Long the menace of fair decks, Bloodghast serves as an additional recursive threat that pairs quite well with aggressive engine pieces like Carrion Feeder or Vengevine. While not a zombie, Bloodghast’s easy to recur landfall condition allows Bridgevine to overcome a variety of interactive elements, forcing most slower matchups to have dedicated graveyard hate.

Gravecrawler | An often referenced payoff in this article, Gravecrawler is an additional threat that puts early pressure on board, while triggering Vengevine. With the reprinting of Carrion Feeder a critical mass of zombies is easy achievable, making Gravecrawler a menace in most matchups.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis | Perhaps the singular most powerful card in Modern Horizons, this huge threat is enabled by a variety of cards, but combines with Altar of Dementia to mill an opponent out or set up massive board swings. Hogaak is the reason to play Bridgevine, and showcases the power of free spells. Play four copies and don’t look back.

The Combo

Many of the most powerful combos in Magic come as “free riders” onto already powerful archetypes. Many cards on the banlist have come from decks using this idea, like Birthing Pod or Splinter Twin. In Legacy, Dark Depths is one of the biggest offenders of this, with both prison decks and midrange decks utilizing its combo with Thespian’s Stage. Modern Horizons brought with it Altar of Dementia, a powerful tool that gives graveyard decks access to both an enabler and a combo kill.

While not a straightforward infinite loop, this newest version of Bridgevine features a powerful combo that can instantly kill an opponent through an Ensnaring Bridge. By using Bridge from Below, Hogaak, and Altar of Dementia, you can cast Hogaak with on board Zombie tokens. With two Bridge from Below, sacrificing Hogaak generates two Zombies, which can be used to recast Hogaak and repeat until you have a large enough board to either swing for lethal, or mill out the opponent with Altar.

With just one Bridge it is still possible to loop, but you need a second Hogaak or a couple Vengevine to mill enough. Vengevine also triggers off of the second Hogaak cast, setting up a big board swing or an additional free casting of Hogaak. This also translate to a potential 8-24 cards milled. While this combo is available, it is not the basic plan of the deck and only matters in games with Altar of Dementia. Without an Altar in play, the deck is an explosive aggressive deck that can end the game quickly.


The Sideboard

Cabal Therapist | As mentioned above, Cabal Therapist serves as an additional sac outlet, while doubling as hand disruption against combo decks like Storm or Amulet Titan. While much worse than Thoughtseize on the draw, coming attached to a creature gives Bridgevine the ability to fight a variety of strategies without sacrificing consistency. This argument applies to many of the convoke cards in the sideboard.

Necrotic Wound | While powerful enough to make the main deck of many versions, Necrotic Wound is one of the few removal spells available to Bridgevine that does not exile Bridge from Below. This important second clause on Bridge introduces a counter play opportunity for most decks, punishing Bridgevine for making chump attacks. Necrotic Wound and Leyline of the Void mitigate this drawback, as they exile creatures before they would hit the graveyard, and Necrotic Wound does an exceptional job at removing problematic creatures like Yixlid Jailer or Meddling Mage. At least two copies is mandatory, though I would play the full four if I expected a bunch of Humans.

Shenanigans | While not often shown in many lists, Shenanigans gives nearly any deck access to consistent and reliable removal for Grafdigger’s Cage or Ensnaring Bridge. While worse than Ingot Chewer specifically in Bridgevine, the ability to dig for it earns it a spot as a one of in my sideboard, due to the prevalence of Ensnaring Bridge locally. You can cut a Shenanigans for a fourth Leyline, third Ingot Chewer, or a third Necrotic Wound depending on what metagame you’re expecting.

Wispmare | A recent innovation fresh to the Modern Horizons induced metagame, Wispmare is the enchantment equivalent of the often popular Ingot Chewer. Important for removing Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void, Wispmare is a mandatory four of in all Bridgevine lists. The power and consistency of the archetype necessitates an answer from most decks, and not having to rely on a catch all answer like Assassin’s Trophy allows the creature count to consistently be high.

Leyline of the Void | Making its way into most sideboards, Leyline of the Void is quickly becoming the most important sideboard card in Modern. Representing a one sided Rest in Peace as a mirror breaker among graveyard decks, leyline gives every deck access to powerful graveyard hate that can warp most games. The mere existence of leyline requires most decks to board in answers to it, and reduces the effective size of most sideboards. At least three copies is mandatory, with most players opting for a fourth.

Ingot Chewer | A consistent presence in Modern sideboards, notably in older versions of Bridgevine or antiquated Living End lists, Ingot Chewer gives these decks an answer to Grafdigger’s Cage without sacrificing creature slots. While significantly worse than other artifact destruction spells, Ingot Chewer excels in decks playing Bridge from Below or other cards that care about creatures in the graveyard. The ability to generate a zombie with a Bridge from Below even with no artifact in play gives Bridgevine a near unrivaled level of consistency, and at least two copies should make their way into the sideboard. Play a third if you expect more Grafdigger’s Cage or Ensnaring Bridge.


Sideboarding

While not intended to act as a comprehensive guide to sideboarding, there are a few general theories applicable to Bridgevine sideboards. Like many cards in Modern, sideboard options for Bridgevine are narrow in scope and have fairly obvious applications, but for those unfamiliar with the format I’ll be discussing briefly some strategies for success.

  1. Don’t be afraid to cautiously sideboard | Navigating around Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void is difficult with a linear game plan, but knowing they exist is the first step. If you’re unsure of what to sideboard, bringing in the Ingot Chewers and 2 Wispmares never hurts.
  2. Trimming is better than cutting | With a wide redundnancy in graveyard payoffs, the difference between 3 copies of a four of versus 0 copies is substantial. While there are weak matchups for most cards, trimming payoffs retains the explosive nature of the deck while mitigating the effectiveness of graveyard hate.
  3. Cabal Therapist is either your worst or best card | With Cabal Therapist mostly for combo matchups like Storm or Amulet Titan, cutting it entirely in most matchups is a “free” spot for Wispmare or Ingot Chewer. Bring in additional copies against decks that don’t play the board.
  4. Cutting Lands | Most decks benefit from cutting lands on the draw, but knowing when to do so is crucial. In games involving Wispmare I prefer not to cut lands, as you need to ensure as many White sources as possible and need more lands in play to function. The rationale for this is that in games where you need to cast Wispmare you need the Godless Shrine, which means you don’t have as much available Red mana. Additionally, games go longer due to powerful hate, so hardcasting spells is more important. You should cut the Godless Shrine on the draw when you don’t bring in Wispmare, as you have no need for the White mana.

Thanks for checking out our Bridgevine Deck Tech, and as always, let us know what other decks you want in the comments below. For more competitive Magic content, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.