Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona was an intense experience. With the Team Series coming to a close and team Mage x MTGMintcard within grasp of at least a top 4 finish, there was a lot of pressure on me to have at least one respectable Mythic Championship finish this season.

With a bunch of drafts under my belt of Modern Horizons – a format I really love – and the decision to play relatively stock Jund Hogaak in Modern, I at least had made enough reasonable decisions pre-tournament.

I ended up 8-7-1, getting my first lifetime draw during the Limited rounds as my GenesisGenesis + Kess, Dissident MageKess, Dissident Mage deck was unable to best my opponent’s 4c Snow deck featuring Yawgmoth, Thran PhysicianYawgmoth, Thran Physician and Urza, Lord High ArtificerUrza, Lord High Artificer.

Even though Hogaak only put a single copy in the top 8 of the Mythic Championship, it still posted the highest win rate among the top decks. People often say that this is ridiculous given that there were about 2 Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void per player in the room, but actually I think this means people were unprepared. Honestly, the average number of Leylines per player should be closer to 4 for the field to be actually prepared. Of course UW Control doesn’t need to play it, but I think most other decks should heavily consider it going forward.
Despite not putting up more than one top 8 finish, Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis made up almost half of the 8-2 decklists, so there’s plenty of data to analyze to figure out how to build the deck going forward.

My own build

Not much fancy about this one

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis from Modern Horizons

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis from Modern Horizons

JundGaak by Team Bolt the Bird

Creatures (35)
Carrion Feeder
Cryptbreaker
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Insolent Neonate
Satyr Wayfinder
Golgari Thug
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (6)
Faithless Looting
Assassin’s Trophy
Lands (19)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Fatal Push
Force of Vigor
Leyline of the Void
Nature’s Claim
Thoughtseize

I knew right from the ban announcement that I wanted to play Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis at the Mythic Championship, so I had a lot of time to work on a list with my testing mates from Team Bolt the Bird, an assembly of Danish and Finnish Magic.

I tried a lot of Hedron CrabHedron Crab-builds, but in the end decided to go with the rest of the team and play the more consistent Jund version. The manabase here was certainly a big factor, as it’s lovely to get to play a bunch of fetchlands to make Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis better, and it’s also lovely to have both 2 Swamps and 3 Overgrown TombOvergrown Tomb to fetch up, especially against Field of RuinField of Ruin out of UW Control.

We couldn’t find any better replacements, so we just went with the unexciting and mediocre Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate and Golgari ThugGolgari Thug. Assassin’s TrophyAssassin’s Trophy was not commonplace though, and it’s a somewhat interesting inclusion for such a linear deck.
Basically, I wasn’t happy with the Trophy in my sideboard because it’s such a mediocre answer to Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void. Giving them a land is such a real downside, and on top of costing two mana it just sets you up to lose the tempo. But in game 1 it provided much needed interaction with any troublesome permanents like Ensnaring BridgeEnsnaring Bridge, Thing in the IceThing in the Ice or just an opposing Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis. And in game 1 you don’t care as much about their extra land because they usually don’t have the tools to stop you anyway.

We also grew very fond of Force of VigorForce of Vigor. It’s your best tool against Eldrazi Tron, blowing up both Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void and Chalice of the VoidChalice of the Void. Urza ThopterSword (we really need to come up with a good consensus name for this deck) can be a troublesome matchup if you’re not prepared, and so can Affinity variants. I even sometimes bring one Force of VigorForce of Vigor in against Jund on the draw to get around their plan of Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void into a discard spell to protect it.

The list from the Top 8

Team Mage representative Martin Müller

Assassin's Trophy from Guilds of Ravnica

Assassin’s Trophy from Guilds of Ravnica

TrophyGaak by Team Mage/Hareruya Latin

Creatures (31)
Carrion Feeder
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Insolent Neonate
Satyr Wayfinder
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (10)
Faithless Looting
Lightning Axe
Assassin’s Trophy
Leyline of the Void
Lands (19)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Snow-Covered Swamp
Stomping Ground
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Leyline of the Void
Assassin’s Trophy
Engineered Explosives
Fatal Push
Nature’s Claim
Rotting Regisaur
Shenanigans
Thoughtseize

The rest of Team Mage worked with Hareruya Latin as they have done for the past couple Mythic Championships. Martin Müller has gotten his fire back with the team series invite for this event and it showed!
He worked a lot on Hogaak, and came to the conclusion that he also preferred Jund over 4-color Hedron CrabHedron Crab versions, but mostly for the ability to maindeck Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void. This team correctly anticipated lots of Hogaak-mirrors, as well as some other graveyard related decks like ThopterSword, Dredge and Izzet Phoenix. And with open decklists, Leyline gives you such an edge in the mirror because you have a larger amount of hands you can keep as you can keep the regular turn 2 Hogaak hands, but also a mediocre hand with Leyline.

However, moving forward without open decklists, I would not recommend maindeck Leylines. If you don’t know what you are up against, it’s actually quite unlikely for Leyline to have a positive impact in game 1. It basically has to be in a keepable opening 7 against a relevant match-up, as it will often be the card you ship to the bottom after a mulligan in the blind. And it also will make fewer 7-card hands keepable because you have one less relevant card.

Rotting RegisaurRotting Regisaur is an interesting sideboard card that we also considered, but we thought it wasn’t impactful enough against Eldrazi Tron so we cut it again. Müller told me that he brought in the card against Eldrazi Tron as well as Jund, Burn and the mirror. The theory is that they’ll mulligan low looking for a Leyline, and then the big Dino can just beat them anyway. But if you’re going to move the Leylines back to the sideboard, there might no longer be room for the Regisaurs.

Another take on maindeck Leyline

Enter Lotleth Troll

Leyline of the Void from Core Set 2020

Leyline of the Void from Core Set 2020

TrollGaak by Genesis/Ultimate Guard

Creatures (32)
Carrion Feeder
Cryptbreaker
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Satyr Wayfinder
Lotleth Troll
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (9)
Faithless Looting
Lightning Axe
Leyline of the Void
Lands (19)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Blooming Marsh
Marsh Flats
Nurturing Peatland
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Leyline of the Void
Abrupt Decay
Ancient Grudge
Assassin’s Trophy
Force of Vigor
Nature’s Claim
Plague Engineer
Thoughtseize

Team Genesis/Ultimate Guard is the team with, among others, Corey Baumeister and Reid Duke, both of whom went 8-2 with this deck. They found a way to avoid Golgari ThugGolgari Thug and Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate entirely by maindecking Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void and digging deep into Golgari caves for a new nasty recruit in Lotleth TrollLotleth Troll.

The Troll isn’t the best enabler, but sometimes it will let you follow up after a turn 1 Stitcher’s SupplierStitcher’s Supplier by pitching a VengevineVengevine, some useless creature to fill your graveyard and cast a Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis to generate the ridiculous board states you’re looking for.

What Lotleth TrollLotleth Troll lacks in explosiveness it certainly makes up for in its ability to play a beatdown role well in the postboard games. Against an opposing unanswered Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void it’s not hard to just make a semi-big trampling creature with the ability to regenerate and just win the game with that, especially as the opponent might have mulliganned for their hate card and be low on resources.

On top of this it’s also a Zombie for the obvious GravecrawlerGravecrawler synergy and the occasional CryptbreakerCryptbreaker activation. And it’s another green card for Force of VigorForce of Vigor which might enable you to play 3 copies like this team has done.

Going to 4 colors

Is this a “crabby” list?

Hedron Crab from Zendikar

Hedron Crab from Zendikar

CrabGaak by Team Musashi

Creatures (34)
Hedron Crab
Carrion Feeder
Cryptbreaker
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Satyr Wayfinder
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (7)
Faithless Looting
Fatal Push
Lands (19)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Gemstone Mine
Mana Confluence
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Steam Vents
Swamp
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Assassin’s Trophy
Collective Brutality
Force of Vigor
Leyline of the Void
Plague Engineer
Thoughtseize

It seems like most of the Japanese players worked together for this event, as they all ran very similar versions with Hedron CrabHedron Crab. In my own testing I tried Grixis builds that let me run the crab in a clean manabase with lots of fetchlands. Grixis doesn’t have an answer for Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void, so that quickly got shelved for a version with a single Overgrown TombOvergrown Tomb in the sideboard to facilate enchantment destruction on the splash. Still, the manabase postboard was awkward, could never cast VengevineVengevine which comes up a lot postboard, and didn’t have the green cards to facilitate Force of VigorForce of Vigor.

We ended up agreeing that any Hedron CrabHedron Crab version needs to be straight 4-color with rainbow lands and Satyr WayfinderSatyr Wayfinder. This Japanese version ended up being very close to what Magnus Lantto from our team registered. I guess great minds think alike.

Worth noting is also the maindeck Fatal PushFatal Push. You might think that Lightning AxeLightning Axe is just better in this deck, but actually being black instead of red is a big upside and especially postboard or against decks like Jund, discarding a card can be a real downside.

The ChannelFireball take

Sacrificing it all at the Altar

Altar of Dementia from Modern Horizons

Altar of Dementia from Modern Horizons

AltarGaak by Team CFB

Creatures (31)
Hedron Crab
Carrion Feeder
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Satyr Wayfinder
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (9)
Faithless Looting
Fatal Push
Lightning Axe
Altar of Dementia
Lands (20)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Gemstone Mine
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Steam Vents
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Fatal Push
Assassin’s Trophy
Collective Brutality
Leyline of the Void
Nature’s Claim
Thoughtseize

Team ChannelFireball also ended up on a 4-color list very similar to these other versions I described. With one notable difference in Altar of DementiaAltar of Dementia over CryptbreakerCryptbreaker. It might have seemed like Altar got banned along with Bridge from BelowBridge from Below because there’s no use playing it if you don’t have the combo. But it’s actually still very reasonable to mill people out by playing Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis repeatedly, it’s just more of a turn 4 thing than turn 3.

Even though you don’t get to make Zombie tokens with each sacrifice, you will have an army of creatures you can recur, and each time you cast Hogaak you can tap one of those and a Hogaak you already have in play for convoke, then sacrifice the original Hogaak with the new one on the stack to either mill yourself for more Hogaak plays or target them once you have enough for their entire library. This way Altar of DementiaAltar of Dementia lets you beat Ensnaring BridgeEnsnaring Bridge or get an edge in the grind fest that is the mirror.

Unheard tech

Playing the tune of the Shriekhorn

Shriekhorn from Mirrodin Besieged

Shriekhorn from Mirrodin Besieged

ShriekGaak by Team Mintcard

Creatures (32)
Carrion Feeder
Cryptbreaker
Gravecrawler
Stitcher’s Supplier
Satyr Wayfinder
Golgari Thug
Bloodghast
Vengevine
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (9)
Faithless Looting
Fatal Push
Shriekhorn
Lands (19)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Snow-Covered Swamp
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Cryptbreaker
Fatal Push
Ancient Grudge
Assassin’s Trophy
Leyline of the Void
Nature’s Claim
Thoughtseize

The remains of Team Mintcard, spearheaded by Lee Shi Tian, figured out in collaboration with Zen Takahashi that ShriekhornShriekhorn is a much better fit for the deck than Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate.

While Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate does work very well with VengevineVengevine, that is just your Plan B anyway, and getting a single VengevineVengevine into play on turn 2 is not that impressive by itself. What you really aim for every game is that turn 2 Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis and the entire deck should be set up to accomplish this as often as possible.

Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate doesn’t do much towards this goal. But ShriekhornShriekhorn however, that’s exactly what we’re looking for to fill up the graveyard. Especially in combination with Golgari ThugGolgari Thug where your turn 1 ShriekhornShriekhorn can mill yourself at their end step and your own upkeep, looking for Golgari ThugGolgari Thug to dredge you even further in search of BloodghastBloodghast so that you can just cast Golgari ThugGolgari Thug and have two bodies in play to convoke out Hogaak.

I also like that this team built their manabase similar to our own but maxed out on fetchlands. These are important in some draws to just build up the graveyard for Hogaak. I’ve certainly lost games because I had a Blackcleave CliffsBlackcleave Cliffs instead of a Bloodstained MireBloodstained Mire and then couldn’t cast my 8/8 on turn 2, or at least had to delve away VengevineVengevine

The best of both worlds

Combining Dredge and Hogaak

Narcomoeba from Guilds of Ravnica

Narcomoeba from Guilds of Ravnica

DredgeGaak by Team Legion

Creatures (23)
Narcomoeba
Bloodghast
Golgari Thug
Stinkweed Imp
Stitcher’s Supplier
Prized Amalgam
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (18)
Creeping Chill
Cathartic Reunion
Conflagrate
Faithless Looting
Life from the Loam
Lands (19)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
City of Brass
Copperline Gorge
Dryad Arbor
Forgotten Cave
Gemstone Mine
Mountain
Stomping Ground
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Leyline of the Void
Lightning Axe
Nature’s Claim
Shenanigans
Thoughtseize

Traditional Dredge decks have started to pick up a single copy of Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisHogaak, Arisen Necropolis, but Team Legion (by an idea from Roshen Eapen as far as I know) decided to rebuild the Dredge shell to support 3 copies of the scary legend.

In Dredge the issue isn’t to get cards into your graveyard but rather to have the black or green bodies to convoke out Hogaak. BloodghastBloodghast is your best way to do this, but you can’t always rely on hitting two of them.

Step one is to replace ShriekhornShriekhorn with Stitcher’s SupplierStitcher’s Supplier. It doesn’t mill you as much unless you get to chump block, but it does enable Hogaak much better. The other addition, which is quite smart I might add, is Dryad ArborDryad Arbor. This one does qualify as a green creature and turns all your fetchlands into helping hands for Hogaak. Especially in combination with Life from the LoamLife from the Loam this makes it much easier to repeatedly set up Hogaak turns.

This deck had the best win rate at the Mythic Championship, but it also only had 9 pilots so I’m not sure how much you should read into that. Also remember that all Hogaak variants were just lumped together so it is entirely possible that any of these versions here actually had a higher win rate than DredgeGaak.

That said, there are certainly arguments for running this version over the more explosive traditional Hogaak builds. Creeping ChillCreeping Chill and ConflagrateConflagrate improve your matchup against Humans and Mono Red Phoenix. They also mean that you have an edge in game 1 against Hogaak decks. But this deck does also play worse postboard as it has no functional plan against an unanswered Leyline of the VoidLeyline of the Void, whereas turbo Hogaak decks can still beat down with random creatures.

No matter if this deck is better or not it’s still very much worth it to consider Dryad ArborDryad Arbor for these other builds, at least the Jund ones that can relatively easily change up their fetchlands to facilitate it.

Going forward

The builds I am looking at

Bridge from Below is banned in Modern

Bridge from Below is banned in Modern

The big question going forward is: Should I play Jund, 4-color or DredgeGaak?

I think it’s fair to set aside DredgeGaak if you’re not too familiar with the Dredge play patterns. Turbo Hogaak decks do have a completely different play pattern to them so if you can’t dedicate much time it might be fine to just stick with those.

The biggest argument for going 4-color is mostly just the raw explosive power level of Hedron CrabHedron Crab and the edge this gives you in the mirror especially. The manabase isn’t exactly bad, but it’s certainly a lot better in Jund, especially when playing against UW Control where the 2nd Swamp and 3rd Overgrown TombOvergrown Tomb come in handy frequently and Hedron CrabHedron Crab isn’t even that good.

The mana in 4-color is also a lot less ideal for maindeck Assassin’s TrophyAssassin’s Trophy as you often go for turn 1 Steam VentsSteam Vents for a Faithless LootingFaithless Looting into a turn 2 crab before you drop your land and then fetch up Overgrown TombOvergrown Tomb. I do like maindeck Trophy going forward, especially as I expect the number of Green Tron and Urza ThopterSword decks to increase, but if you run Altar of DementiaAltar of Dementia it doesn’t matter as much to have access to Trophy.

So the decks I’ll be starting with are my own Jund build from the MC with ShriekhornShriekhorn over Insolent NeonateInsolent Neonate and Lotleth TrollLotleth Troll over Golgari ThugGolgari Thug. And I’ll also have the ChannelFireball version of 4-color ready to go.

Now you must have me excused, because all this talk of Hogaak makes my fingers itch to play the deck again.

 

 

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com