For the pre-Ban version of Hogaak, check out our Deck Tech here. It has all the information you need on the core pieces, and discusses other potential card options. 

Stitching a Win in a Post-Bridge World

While many players saw the Bridge from Below ban as a signal to explore other archetypes, a dedicated set of players decided to weather the storm of a more fair Modern. Early iterations involved splashing Blue for Hedron Crab, as well as utilizing Prized Amalgam as an additional payoff. This hybrid between traditional Dredge and the more explosive Hogaak shell proved successful in the early weeks, as it tried to draw from the best parts of both decks.

This approach was not without its flaws, as Hedron Crab proved vulnerable and clunky, and Prized Amalgam difficult to cast and cheat into play. Playing cards like Narcomoeba was not an option, as it adds little value to the board and does not develop your game plan. One approach was to turn to Life from the Loam and Hedron Crab together — this created an endless stream of milling, and ensured enough land drops to flashback Faithless Looting and deploy multiple Gravecrawler in a turn.

Somewhere along the way, players realized that Life from the Loam functions similarly to Satyr Wayfinder — they both put cards into the graveyard, and are used to hit land drops, but the Satyr had one substantial upside — it’s a Green creature. This makes it the perfect enabler for Hogaak and Vengevine, while still acting as fodder for an otherwise aggressive Carrion Feeder game plan. It also gets around Ravenous Trap in some capacity, as it puts a land into hand from the library rather than the graveyard — this comes up a fair amount against decks like Arclight.

Why then, should players choose to play New Hogaak instead of proven shells? Well, the upside is substantial. The current builds of Hogaak are capable of putting Vengevine or Hogaak into play on Turn 2 with incredible consistency, and this type of aggressive graveyard decks has shown to have a constant place in Modern. If we compare Hogaak to the success of Hollow One within the last year, we can see striking similarity between the two archetypes. Both can play a slower game, packed with both removal and hand disruption after sideboarding, while having an extremely proactive Game 1.

Notable Changes

Claim/Fame | Absent from the Altar of Dementia/Bridge from Below version, Claim improves the redundancy of the deck by animating a Stitcher’s Supplier or Satyr Wayfinder for a single mana, and creating a “combo” kill by giving Hogaak haste. I strongly recommend the first copy, and prior 5-0 lists have gone up to two. Claim/Fame contributes to consistent kills after a board wipe, and can even pressure opponents through a surgical extraction. One of the most effective ways to fight Hogaak itself is to simply clear the board or bounce it before it gets to attack — Claim sidesteps this weakness by enabling immediate combat, and in Azorius Control heavy metagames a second copy may be warranted.

Satyr Wayfinder | An innovation dating back to the first day of the post-ban era, Satyr Wayfinder is an inclusion that many of the Bridgevine groups have endlessly debated about. From the success story of Stitcher’s Supplier, the merits of Satyr Wayfinder are clear — 1/1s that help cast Hogaak have a relatively low bar, but ones that mill and find land drops have more merit in the slower take on this archetype. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the hoofed hero is one emblematic of the format as a whole — being in a convenient color that enables an engine. The Wayfinder is easier to cast than Hedron Crab in versions wanting to play Assassin’s Trophy/Vengevine, a clear shift in recognition of a slower and less consistent Game 1. Also notable is Satyr Wayfinder’s ability to “dodge” Plague Engineer — with most players choosing Zombie to shut down Carrion Feeder and Gravecrawler, the Wayfinder persists as an easy to convoke creature. I highly recommend the Satyr Wayfinders.

Golgari Thug | A deviation from the stock Stinkweed Imp of the prior format, Golgari Thug seems like a strict downgrade on the surface, but has a few functions important for consistency. Firstly, it’s a dredger, and the difference between Dredge 5 and Dredge 4 is quite small. Still, it’s worse, which indicates some other purpose for the Thug. With the banning of Bridge from Below, the deck no longer has a combo kill that is easy to turbo out — instead you have to win with the combat step, requiring the deck to adhere to a more streamlined plan. Golgari Thug is an upgrade to Stinkweed Imp in many games, as it costs one less to cast and can reset cards like Satyr Wayfinder or Stitcher’s Supplier that were milled over or sacrificed. In this way, Carrion Feeder turns into a pseudo reanimation engine, while buffering the amount of early game bodies to cast Hogaak.

Overgrown Tomb | Two copies of the Green/Black shockland is a standard feature now, as hardcasting Vengevine is a common play. If you’ve committed to Satyr Wayfinder it’s unavoidable to play an abundance of green sources. It should be noted that this also unlocks the sideboard, making Force of Vigor and Assassin’s Trophy castable consistently.

No Altar of Dementia | Without Bridge from Below, the primary combo kill involving Altar of Dementia is eliminated from the card pool, though Hogaak + Altar still results in an absurd ability to rebuild. Ultimately, the deck can’t function with too many two-drops, and with the need for more creatures Golgari Thug and Satyr Wayfinder push themselves into the “enabler” slot. While both options are worse than Altar at specifically setting up Hogaak, they are for more versatile and compensate by being creatures for Vengevine. Bridgevine before was more similar to an Altar of Dementia combo deck than a true Vengevine deck — a fact that is quite the opposite now.


Where does Hogaak go from here?

Players continue to put up results with the newest version, highlighted above, and Kanister’s 12-0 finish in the Modern Challenge is a testament to the potential of this fledgling archetype. Determining whether to play Claim/Fame or Unearth is one of the hot topics right now, as the cycling can enable additional dredging — though giving Hogaak haste invalidates many sideboard options against the deck.

Other decisions include a subtle but important debate — whether to play three or four Carrion Feeder. As the only real sacrifice outlet remaining, Carrion Feeder’s primary job is to act as an enabler for Gravecrawler that converts these easy to recur bodies into an ever growing board presence. It’s not unlikely for Carrion Feeder to grow to a 6/6 or larger, and having built in protection against Path to Exile is quite effective in a format filled with Azorius Control.

Sideboarding thus proves more difficult in an era without Bridge from Below, as trimming Vengevine in the Leyline of the Void matchups is not likely to be a recipe for success. Still, this barrier to entry for the archetype is hardly an effective deterrent in our era of accessible information. Players are likely to post sideboard guides, though I would be inclined to start cutting Bloodghasts instead of other graveyard payoffs.

Perhaps the most poignant lesson to be learned from this article is the relative speed of Hogaak — while the archetype can produce crazy Turn 3 kills, they are far less likely than before. Making the archetype a turn cycle slower opens up counterplay opportunities and increases the impact of sideboard cards like Rest in Peace or Relic of Progenitus. This vulnerability opens up discussion of potential transformational plans. Vengevine decks in prior formats often ran a Goblin Bushwhacker package as both a way to grant haste and an anthem effect for the enablers. If you’re already deploying a variety of 1/1s for 1, converting those bodies into substantial damage is one way to fight through graveyard hate.

Despite the uncertainty of Hogaak lists, the shell remains incredibly powerful, and very likely is the best deck at the moment. While I’ll be eagerly awaiting success stories at the Mythic Championship in Barcelona, a part of me remains skeptical — cries of falling skies have filled the Modern airwaves before, both with Death’s Shadow and Hollow One, and decks that fundamentally change the way the game is played tend to have a very polarizing effect on the player base. Even Arclight’s substantial metagame percentage resulted in adaptation, despite winning events at a periodic rate.

Still, for those wishing to try their hand at the newest hotness in Modern, I would recommend Kanister’s list — it’s an excellent starting point that is built of off the hivemind’s general consensus.