Greater Good: Best Control Deck in Modern
I’m going to make an assumption about you, random magic player: you like drawing cards. You like to feel safe. You like to have as many ways to win the game as possible and maybe a few extra. Whether incremental card advantage over a long game is your thing, or if you prefer drawing a billion cards from one sweet spell, drawing cards makes you happy. Some people might say that makes you a control player – a blue mage. You want advantage; you want to be able to control your destiny. Everyone wants to control their fate, but you like digging deep and getting a grip.
The deck archetype I’m going to talk about today also likes to draw cards. Okay, that’s a little bit of an understatement. The deck I’m going to talk about today will frequently have you digging into the last 20 cards of your library! In addition to letting you rip, rip and rip, this deck can also do a pretty unique thing in magic – robbing your opponent of their untap step. How’s that for total control?
Let’s talk about the main source of all this advantage, the eponymous engine of the deck: Greater Good!
If you’re like me, you’re always thinking to yourself, “How do I get the VALUE?” Greater Good gets you delicious value, but it’s an enchantment in the long line of enchantments that read “Pay a large amount of mana; Do nothing.” We solve this problem by pairing Greater Good up with its long-time friend and comrade, Yosei, the Morning Star.
Let’s put these two together for a second.
I’m telling you that you can draw five cards and make your opponent skip their untap step. Anything your opponent tapped before Yosei was sacrificed will stay tapped on their next turn, including an additional five more before he hits the bin. That’s usually your opponent’s entire board of permanents. Now you might be thinking, “Hey Jared, I want to get the value, but I don’t want to have to discard three cards. What gives?” Well, after you draw five you just pitch all the blanks! It’s kind of like a Brainstorm – you just make your hand the best it can be! Pitch the land you don’t need, the extra copies of Greater Good, or any juicy Flashback cards (we’ll save that part for Innistrad) and keep the gas. Sometimes you can even chain Yoseis together!
We want three Greater Good because it’s quite poor to draw in multiples, but we also want to have one every game. We want four Yoseis because chaining them together through greater good sacrifices is very powerful and he’s a fine beater by himself.
You may have noticed that our central engine cost 4 and 6 mana, so we’re going to need some ramp in some form or another. There’s a few ways we can go about doing this:
- Use creatures like Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch and Lotus Cobra which are fast, but very weak to spot removal.
- Use creatures like Wood Elves, Coiling Oracle and Sakura Tribe Elder which are slower, but blank spot removal.
- Use spells like Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate and Search for Tomorrow which are slow, but completely avoid spot removal.
After experimenting with a number of different configurations, I unsurprisingly found out that having a mixture of these spells is the most efficient. Either way, we definitely want Lotus Cobra – he’s just too powerful to ignore. Yeah, he bites it to spot removal, but untapping with a Cobra and a fetch will make your dreams come true. Having other creatures in our deck that are must-answers takes the pressure off of Yosei for the late game, which is good because we’ll usually need a Yosei to win. However, the problem with running all fast mana creatures is that if they all get bolted you die, and that’s why we want some kind of value spell that does two things or a creature that does it’s work whether it dies or not.
My experience with Modern so far has convinced me that it’s a pretty fast format. Slow two-for-one ramp spells like Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach aren’t going to be able to keep up, and if we miss the turn one suspend on Search for Tomorrow it can be even worse. Wood Elves are great, but with three mana we’re going to have to actually play some threats. I think no matter what our final build looks like we’re going to have to stick with the snakes. Sakura-Tribe Elder interacts very smoothly with Lotus Cobra and also buys us time by blocking Tarmogoyf as he fetches us up a basic. Sometimes they bolt your Elder before combat, but then hey, they’re using a bolt on a 1/1. Good times!
Now that we have our ramp package and our main card advantage engine set up, it’s time to figure out how to kill them beyond locking them out and beating them with 5/5 flyers. We’re playing a G/W/x deck, so I can’t think of any reason not to play Knight of the Reliquary – she fights the fattest of fatties, tutors for utility lands and when she’s sacrificed to Greater Good you often draw 6-9 cards. If you draw another Knight off the Greater Good trigger after discarding even more land, she can usually lock a game up in two swings.
The Greater Good decks of old didn’t need a midrange threat because the format was much slower and they could grind out a long game with the inevitability of Gifts Ungiven. Back in 2005, the Gifts piles looked a lot better than they do now. Adding Gifts to this deck only slows it down, and it takes up a lot more slots than just the Gifts themselves – you need to start adding Eternal Witnesses and Noxious Revivals and a whole slew of spicy one-ofs to complete the toolbox. I love drawing cards, but I also love consistency and speed against combo.
That brings us to a crossroad in building: adding other colors. We want cheap answers against the slew of combo decks in Modern, but we don’t want to weaken our aggro matchup. This question comes down to achieving a proper balance between removal and counterspells. There are certainly decks in this format which are capable of playing both Bant Charm and Lightning Helix so it would not be unreasonable to create a four-color deck. I really like the Channel Fireball tech that plays Flashfreeze in the board, because stopping both Primeval Titan and Blazing Shoal is huge. But I also think red has a premium on spot removal and that after you cash in from a giant Greater Good activation, you want a lot of cheap damage in your hand. Modern is giving me a lot of ways to fix my mana, so I’m going to get greedy and fix it, damnit! I want red and blue!
Blue isn’t known for spot removal, but it sure can dig. We’re still a control deck, so we want a Preordain or a Ponder. I think Ponder is better here for a couple of reasons – we’re going to be playing a TON of fetch lands because we have a four color manabase and Lotus Cobra, and it digs one deeper than Preordain. Preordain would be best if we wanted a critical mass of good overall cards in our hand, but we’re trying to combo out to a specific piece. We still want the Greater Good. Essentially we’re trying to delay the game with spot removal until we can slam a fatty and draw to victory, so a couple of Remands would fit perfectly. While I am on the Bant Charm train with the rest of the world, I feel as though if you’re trying to dig, Remand is a little better.
Here’s what we’ve got! Four-CC? More like Four-GG!
Jared Maguire - Four-Color Greater Good
With four colors, our sideboard is going to be a little complicated, but now that the Modern metagame is fairly well-established we can begin to tech out our board with specific answers. We have to be able to beat Zoo, 12Post/Breach, Swath, Splinter Twin and Shoal Poison. Against the latter three, we’re going to be boarding out Greater Good and Yosei because they put too much pressure on too early for us to be playing six drops.
We want to replace these 7 cards with cheap answers and disruption. Flashfreeze is a great catch-all card against these 3 combo decks, as well as being good against all post variants. You’ll generally want to play at least three, depending on your local metagame. Qasali Pridemage is a card I would have loved to fit in the main deck because it kills both Inkmoth Nexus and Pyromancer Ascension in addition to getting in there for three, but the main deck is just too tight. Spellskite is also very good against the above combo decks.
We’ll sideboard close to this:
OUT: 4 Yosei, 3 Greater Good
IN: 3 Flashfreeze, 2 Qasali Pridemage, 2 Spellskite
As for 12 Post variants, you can’t go wrong with a little Bribery. The bonus in our deck is we can sometimes cast it faster than they can land a Primeval Titan. You can also board in Bribery against Shoal if you feel lucky and want to try to steal their Progenitus. The next best thing against them is Aven Mindcensor, as it stops their Zeniths cold. We usually don’t need spot removal against them, so we can cut the Helix and the Bolts altogether, meaning that we can also ditch a mountain for another Ghost Quarter.
12 POST VARIANTS
OUT: 4 Lightning Bolt, 3 Lightning Helix, 1 Mountain
IN: 3 Flashfreeze, 1 Bribery, 3 Aven Mindcensor, 1 Ghost Quarter
Lastly we want some game against aggro decks. In my early builds of this deck I had a couple Wraths main and I was never disappointed with them against most aggro decks. I think it’s also fairly accepted tech that Gideon Jura is good against Zoo, and he has the added bonus of being able to die for the Greater Good.
OUT: 2 Remand, 1 Greater Good
IN: 2 Wrath of God, 1 Gideon Jura
Our final board should look something like this:
Greater Good is a blast. I challenge anyone to sacrifice Yosei and not untap with a big smile and a bigger hand. I feel like this deck can be tuned enough to be one of the premier control decks in Modern, so if anyone feels righteous enough to hit some queues, drop me a line and we can get some value together!