Hello and welcome to Treasure Cruisin'! With Ixalan's release, we have a few new cards to toy around with in Modern. The cards that affect Modern in a new set are often few and far between, with only a handful of cards seeing top-tier play in any given set. But sometimes, a new card can be the last piece that makes a brew function properly. Today's deck is the latter. While not a new strategy, Miracle Grow has only been a flash in the pan during Simic Evolve's brief time in the limelight. That was several years ago, and faded into more obscurity as time went on. To add to this, Gitaxian Probe's banning was a crippling blow to tempo decks in the format. Thanks to the printing of Deeproot Champion however, budget tempo is possible once again. This week's deck clocks in at just over $100 (USD), and if you happen to have been an avid drafter for many years, you probably have most of these cards already. I present to you: Modern Miracle Grow!
|Miracle GrowMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
2 Cryptic Serpent
4 Deeproot Champion
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Quirion Dryad
2 Become Immense
2 Mana Leak
4 Simic Charm
2 Spell Pierce
4 Thought Scour
3 Vapor Snag
4 Botanical Sanctum
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Yavimaya Coast
2 Blossoming Defense
2 Echoing Truth
2 Mana Leak
2 Nature's Claim
2 Spell Pierce
2 Tormod's Crypt
Miracle Grow is a green/blue tempo deck that wants to resolve a threat while keeping the opponent off their game plan. Tempo decks have existed for a long period of time, starting with Turbo-Xerox in 1997. Miracle Grow sprung to life in 2001's Extended environment thanks to the printing of Quirion Dryad. Over the years the deck went through numerous iterations, utilizing cards such as Werebear, Mystic Enforcer, and other threshold cards to make their threats relevant in the late game. Our version is no different. The basic idea is that our tempo game also makes our threats more powerful, turning them into powerful haymakers over the course of a few turns. To start us off, we should discuss what we use to win the game.
At the bottom of the curve, we have Delver of Secrets. The card needs no real introduction; Delver has been ubiquitous to tempo strategies since its printing. Tempo decks have an arsenal of cheap, effective instants and sorceries, making the issue of transforming Delver trivial. Once it transforms, it becomes a 3/2 flying beatstick that outclasses almost every creature at its mana cost. As a testament to its power,
Evan Erwin created a masterpiece about how Delver has influenced every constructed format it is legal in. It revolutionized tempo strategies in every format, and that influence is still felt in Modern. The tempo all-star deserves inclusion, and we play the full four copies because of how many games we can win off the back of a flipped Delver.
At two mana, we have a pair of very similar creatures: Quirion Dryad and Deeproot Champion. This is where the "Grow" portion of our deck is found. Quirion Dryad is the marquee card of the original deck, and newcomer Deeproot Champion provides us with enough redundancy to make this deck work. Our general strategy is to resolve one of our growing creatures and proceed to counter our opponent's spells and remove their creatures. While we do this, our creatures get bigger and pose a larger threat with each spell we cast. This means we can out-tempo our opponent while increasing our clock each turn.
Despite their similarities, there is a key difference between Deeproot Champion and Quirion Dryad: what triggers their ability. Quirion Dryad triggers on any spell that is a nongreen color. However, it does not say "nongreen spell," it lists every nongreen color instead. This is important because the Dryad triggers on multicolor spells that are green, such as Simic Charm. Because Simic Charm is a blue spell, the Dryad gets a counter. Additionally, Quirion Dryad triggers regardless of whether or not the spell itself resolves because it is a "cast" trigger. Deeproot Champion is much easier to understand. As long as we cast a noncreature spell, it gets a counter. Just like Dryad, Champion does not differentiate between a resolved and a countered or fizzled spell, but it also does not care about the color of the spell. These two creatures are the heart of the deck, and we can easily attack with a 6/6 in three turns. While they are fragile in the early game, our counterspells protect them and but make them stronger. We can even cast cantrips as combat tricks or protection spells to eat opposing creatures in combat or grow them out of Lightning Bolt range.
While many of our creatures start small and take over the late game, our last threat will most likely be the biggest threat on the board when we cast it. A pair of Cryptic Serpents act as battering rams for the opponent's defenses. The Serpents are backbreaking for decks built on smaller creatures or damage-based removal. Due to its converted mana cost, it cannot be destroyed by Fatal Push, although this is not reflected in how much mana we actually spend to cast it. More often than not, we spend a measly two blue mana to slam this onto the table. Our critical mass of instants allow us to gradually reduce the casting cost while simply playing the deck. Counter a spell? Serpent costs one less. Cast a cantrip? One less land to worry about! Cryptic Serpent is powerful in combat and is an excellent finisher for pushing through hordes of creatures.
Tempo decks thrive off of cheap card draw and typically want to be casting these as often as possible. Many cantrips are sorceries, which decrease the amount of mana we can leave open on our opponent's turn to interact with their spells. To make this a non-issue, every noncreature spell in the deck is an instant. This creates an entire game plan based on instants, a tool that should not be underestimated. Additionally, all of our cantrips are one mana, which helps smooth out the curve and means we can dig for lands off of bad mulligans. Keep in mind that because all of our spells our instants, they become pseudo-combat tricks that let us win combat. My personal favorite technique is chaining cantrips together after blockers are declared to hit the opponent for lethal; it is sort of like Storm, but with giant dryads and merfolk instead of Grapeshot!
Luckily, Ixalan gave us one of the best cards for our deck: Opt. This is exactly what we want in a cantrip. We get a small preview of what is coming next and we can always scry it to the bottom if it is not what we are looking for. The only real downside to this card is it cannot set up a turn to transform Delver. So why would I choose Opt over Serum Visions? Visions is a sorcery. This makes playing counterspells difficult because we have to allocate resources to playing spells on our turn. We need as much mana as possible available on our opponent's turn, and sorceries directly contradict this. Being able to play almost our entire deck at instant speed keeps us always doing something in the game and never doing nothing. If we want to have the strongest ability to interact, we must be playing instant speed cantrips to keep drawing gas when our opponent does nothing meaningful.
Our other cantrip is Thought Scour, which not only draws a card but also fuels Cryptic Serpent. Thought Scour is yet another Modern tempo staple thanks to its milling ability. Typically, these deck include Snapcaster Mage and delve creatures such as Gurmag Angler. For our purposes, however, the mill is only useful for Cryptic Serpent. There is, however, a hilarious situation where we want to mill our opponent—messing with our opponent's scries! Other scenarios that are certainly niche and probably too unlikely to be helpful include hoping to mill Valakut against a Titanshift player and making a Gifts Ungiven player's Noxious Revival completely useless. Outside of negating scry, there is no real reason to mill our opponent unless we desperately need to mill a certain card. We are much better off targeting ourselves and decreasing Cryptic Serpent's cost. Plus, it draw us a card at instant speed, exactly what this deck wants.
The rest of our noncreature spells interact with our opponent. These are cheap counterspells, removal, and pump spells for reach. We also only play one mono-green instant in Become Immense, allowing us to trigger Quirion Dryad as often as possible.
We have three counterspells at our disposal: Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, and Remand. Spell Pierce is a one mana soft counter for noncreature spells. This is excellent in the early game to answer removal and draw spells. It also serves as a cheap answer for when our opponent taps out to cast something, but keep in mind that this card generally becomes less and less useful the later the game goes. For that reason, we only play two in the maindeck, placing the extra copies in the sideboard for when we need them. Mana Leak is a bigger, badder Spell Pierce. This can target any spell, and has a higher mana tax. Unlike Pierce, we can use this to dispose of problem creatures before they become a problem. However, it still suffers from the same issue as Spell Pierce in that it isn't a hard counter. There will be a point in the game where Mana Leak is not the counter we need, and as such we also only play two in the main deck and allocated the third and fourth copies to the sideboard.
Our only counter spell we have a playset of in the maindeck is Remand. Remand trades the tendency to be a preemptive answer for large tempo swings. Time Walking an opponent is not uncommon because our opponent will spend their next turn trying to cast the same spell or having to change their play sequence to account for their spell not resolving. Combined with our other counters, this can be backbreaking. To add insult to injury, Remand draws a card. We essentially didn't spend a card to make an opponent's play moot. We maintain card equity and they lose either the same or more mana than we did at the very least. This card is always useful, and even if it seems dead we can cycle it on our opponent's next spell. The tempo gains that Remand gives are too great to ignore, and thus we run a full playset.
Our next few spells are removal spells to clear the way for our giant threats. Vapor Snag is a card we use to generate tempo. By forcing our opponent to recast spells, they essentially are casting fewer cards than we are. If this persists, we will eventually take over the game with our growing threats. Cards like Remand and Vapor Snag help us accomplish this, albeit in different ways. Bouncing a creature makes our opponent dump more mana into maintaining their board state, rather than spending that mana on developing their board state. Additionally, this can turn good attacks into terrible ones by removing a threat and putting counters on our creatures. Vapor Snag also makes our opponent lose one life, a small but not insignificant aide to our aggressive strategy.
To supplement our Vapor Snags, we also play three copies of Dismember to actually kill creatures. -5/-5 will take down some of the largest creatures in the format, killing even Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer. It also can be cast for one mana, so we still have plenty of mana to play our counterspells. However, we have zero black mana sources in the deck. This means Dismember will always cost one mana and four life to cast, which forces us to use these carefully. We cannot afford to spend Dismembers on mana dorks and tokens. We only have three copies of hard removal in the deck, and these are for must-kill creatures like a combo piece or a game-ending threat. Paying four life can also be steep against enemy aggro decks. Despite these hurdles, Dismember is a powerful removal spell that trades life for mana, and the fact that it is so cheap to cast makes it well worth sacrificing a bit of life for.
Because we have so many cheap spells, we tend to fill our graveyard very quickly. While Cryptic Serpent takes advantage of this, we have one more way to utilize our graveyard: Become Immense. This absurd pump spell ends games out of no where. Getting five cards into the graveyard is trivial, and spending one mana for a souped-up Giant Growth is absolutely broken. We can use this to win creature combat, but I believe it is a waste of resources. Rather, we want to play this on an unblocked creature and end the game. Become Immense is not simply a pump spell; it's a win condition. Adding six power to any creature in our deck is a surefire path to victory, and with an evasive creature such as Delver, there is very little our opponent can do to stop us. While we can get blown out by a removal spell, if we time it properly, we'll simply crush our opponent underneath a giant creature. Because Cryptic Serpent requires instants and sorceries in the graveyard, we only play two copies of Become Immense. With all of our draw power, however, we should have no problem finding a copy to wreck havoc with.
We've discussed removal, protection spells, and pump as separate entities, but Simic Charm is all three in one card. This is a utility spell that is anything we need when we need it. +3/+3 is enough to beat most creatures in combat and even gives us a little bit of reach to squeeze in the last few points of damage. We can also clear the way for our creatures by bouncing blockers, or just use it to protect ourselves from an attacker. If our opponent tries to remove any permanent we control, we simply give all of them hexproof. It does everything this deck wants it to do, and we can take full advantage of all of the modes on this card. Its power comes from its ability to fill multiple roles, and it absolutely deserves four slots in our deck.
Due to our low curve, we only play eighteen lands. It should be rather difficult for mana flood to occur, and we only need two lands to function properly in the first few turns of the game. Because we want to keep our opponent off balance in the early game, we need to both colors as fast possible, prioritizing blue over green thanks to our counterspells and card draw. To make this work, we run a playset of Botanical Sanctum. Fast lands are very powerful in tempo decks because their drawback is never relevant to us. This is functionally a Tropical Island because if it does enter tapped we already have three lands in play, so hitting a fourth is just extra mana. To keep our mana consistent, we also play two copies of Yavimaya Coast. It always enters untapped, and taking a point of damage from our lands isn't exactly an issue. Later on, we can use it to generate colorless mana to stop the bleeding. We only play two of these because multiple copies will cause us to lose games, but having a few should not be a liability.
Our next land may be a little questionable, but it performed well enough in testing to be worth it. Two Lumbering Falls are here to be an extra threat when we draw too many lands. Having lands that enter tapped early is problematic, especially when we want to cast cheap spells often. However, putting this on the board on turn one isn't the end of the world, and the 3/3 hexproof body is almost impossible to deal with on an empty board. Furthermore, it still makes both colors of mana. Mana fixing is very important, and having a land that doubles as a creature can win games we otherwise would have lost due to not having a way to win the game. Out last lands are eight Islands and two Forests; enough to play around pesky Blood Moons and give us a smooth manabase.
As always, sideboards are meta-dependent. Adjust this to fit your metagame, but here is what I settled on in playtesting after a few adjustments.
- Our last copy of Dismember resides here. Bring this in to deal with massive creatures.
- As previously stated, a pair of Spell Pierces are also present here. Utilize these against anything that relies on noncreature spells to get going, such as Ad Nauseam Combo, Gifts Storm, Burn, and many more.
- Our final two copies of Mana Leak are for any matchup where we must counter as many spells as possible. On top of the archetypes already mentioned, Mana Leak is good against just about anything. If we have dead cards to bring out, consider slotting in some more Leaks.
- A pair of Blossoming Defense pull double duty as protection and pump. Bring these in against decks dishing out heaping doses of removal, such as control and midrange strategies.
- Two copies of Dispel are great for decks that rely on instants. While this may seem like overkill on the counters, keep in mind that all of them do something different. For example, Spell Pierce is abysmal against control decks, but Dispel is fantastic for fighting their own counter spells.
- Echoing Truth will temporarily remove what ever we need it to, from Planeswalkers to creatures. Use this to keep whatever we need off the board.
- Two Nature's Claim are our artifact and enchantment destruction of choice. If Chalice of the Void is giving us problems in the metagame, consider putting Naturalize in this spot instead.
- Tormod's Crypt makes short work of graveyards. Anything that is reliant on the graveyard will not be too happy to see this.
Upgrades and Adjustments
There are a number of small tweaks that can be made to this deck to fit your preferences. Cryptic Serpent could easily become Hooting Mandrills if trample is more attractive than the larger body. Alternatively, I think Thing in the Ice is worth testing. The numbers on the counter spells are flexible and we could certainly lean more heavily on one than another. Deprive also seems playable if Mana Leak proves lackluster. Playing more pump spells is also an option, such as Blossoming Defense, Vines of Vastwood, and Mutagenic Growth. The former two are maindeckable due to Fatal Push, although the card surprisingly never gave me much trouble. However, it is still one of the most played removal spells in the format. While it may seem like this deck cannot beat it, remember that we have a slew of counter spells to answer Push and can always adjust to play more cards that grant hexproof to beat it. While the green spells pump our creatures, playing more of them is a nonbo with our Quirion Dryads. Thus, we could turn to Dive Down and Mizzium Skin if we value the counter more than the immediate payoff of a pump spell. Taking a page out of the book of Infect, turning our two copies of Become Immense into Distortion Strike gives us another angle to attack through our opponent's creatures by simply not caring that they even exist.
There are also numerous upgrades that can be made to this deck. The manabase could certainly use an overhaul, with the full complement of Misty Rainforest and Breeding Pool. I would also pick up more additional blue fetchlands and at least one more that can fetch a Forest. Snapcaster Mage would also be an excellent pickup. Tarmogoyf is still the cheapest it's been in a long time, and I would absolutely get them if you can muster the funds at some point. If we take a look at the spice rack, Disrupting Shoal could be hilarious, and there's a strong argument for playing Manamorphose just as a free cycler that grows our creatures. It is also possible to add red and play Lightning Bolt and Young Pyromancer, both of which give us alternate angles of attack. To do this, we would need Steam Vents, Scalding Tarn, and probably at least one copy of Stomping Grounds. Keep in mind that when buying fetches and shocks that having four of each shock is not always correct. Having only two or three Breeding Pools in the upgraded blue/green version is probably fine, and actually where it wants to be. There is not only a financial cost to playing full sets of shock and fetches, there is also a life total cost—if the meta is particularly aggressive we will suffer for it. Playtest the deck and find the right ratio for you, then build towards that.
That brings us to the end of Treasure Cruisin'! How do you like Miracle Grow? I believed that Fatal Push was going to completely destroy this deck, but it honestly was not much of a problem. We have plenty of counter spells and Simic Charm's hexproof mode is very good against it. Miracle Grow is open-ended, meaning it can be built to fit a preferred playstyle or metagame, an aspect that is not shared among most budget decks. It is also just tons of fun to play, and if you like countering spells and smashing with giant creatures, this may be the deck for you! I know I'll be brewing with Quirion Dryad and friends in the future, and perhaps even revisiting the dynamic duo someday. If you have any questions, comments, or alternate card choices for those looking to build the deck—along with any obvious inclusions that I may have missed—feel free to write them in the comments, PM me, or now that I'm on twitter, tweet them at me @CavalryWolfPack. Until next time, keep on treasure cruisin'!