The Hog(aak) Days of Summer: A Tournament Report
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After Mythic Championship Barcelona, I found myself in an odd spot in regard to what I should be focusing on Magic-wise. Thanks to solid performances throughout the year, Team MassdropMTG finished in the top 8 of the Team Series which qualifies us for Mythic Championship Richmond. I briefly thought about catching up on Standard – the last time I focused on Standard was during MCQ season back in May. However, MC Richmond is not scheduled until November, which means the Standard format will not only be changing due to the addition of the new Edraine set, but more so by the rotation away from Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and M19. So then I figured I’d practice some limited. I opened up Mythic Spoiler to attempt to finally read through all of the M20 cards before doing a draft, but once I realized I would not be participating in any M20 limited events I quickly became bored and stopped reading. (It’s clear to me that playing Magic just to play Magic isn’t where I am at at the moment!). Looking at my local events calendar I noticed a Star City Games Invitation Qualifier in the coming week where the format was Modern. Historically Modern has been my least favorite format to play, mainly because I play it so infrequently compared to others and I feel like I’m at a significant disadvantage as I don’t know how many of the combo decks operate and what are the important factors in most match ups. But for whatever reason coming out of the MC in Barcelona, I wasn’t at all sick of playing the format. Plus after making the mistake of playing Infect at the MC, I wanted to try casting some 8/8s for zero mana! To start dipping my toes in the Hogaak pool, I referred to lists from two friends who had just won their respective events with the deck - Cedric Phillips (who won a MCQ) and Evan Appleton (who won an IQ) both piloted very similar versions of the Hedron Crab version. Here is a list I started testing with that amalgamates the differences in their lists and SBs: 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Gravecrawler 4 Hedron Crab 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Bloodghast 4 Vengevine 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 4 Faithless Looting 2 Assassin's Trophy 2 Fatal Push 1 Steam Vents 2 Overgrown Tomb 2 Blood Crypt 1 Watery Grave 1 Swamp 4 Gemstone Mine 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Polluted Delta 1 Verdant Catacombs   Sideboard 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Thoughtseize 1 Assassin's Trophy 3 Force of Vigor 1 Shenanigans 1 Fatal Push 1 Nature’s Claim 1 Engineered Explosives I immediately 4-1ed my first league and was really impressed by the consistency of the deck. Heading into MC Barcelona I had only tested version with a few sources of self-mill, so the deck felt a bit inconsistent and my results were quite poor. With the full complement of Stitcher’s Suppliers, Satyr Wayfinders, and Hedron Crabs, finding and casting Hogaak was rarely a problem. Of course I fired up a second league and promptly went 1-4 and immediately cooled on the deck! I spent the week chatting with Cedric and Evan and a few others trying to figure out the best configuration. Some folks hated the Steam Vents, so I cut it for a Mana Confluence and immediately missed not being able to fetch for the UR source. Others hated Hedron Crab and thought the addition of blue was not necessary since the deck was “secretly a grindy deck”. The more I played with the deck, the less I was convinced the aim of the deck was to grind (although it does have that ability to play a long game). Admittedly I was skeptical when I first saw the Hedron Crab builds, but the more I played with them in the deck, the more the power of the crab became apparent to me.
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Don't sleep on the power of the crab! After running the deck through a few more leagues and tweaking accordingly, here is the list I ended up registering: 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Gravecrawler 4 Hedron Crab 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Satyr Wayfinder 4 Bloodghast 4 Vengevine 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 4 Faithless Looting 2 Lightning Axe 1 Assassin's Trophy 1 Fatal Push 1 Steam Vents 2 Overgrown Tomb 1 Blood Crypt 1 Watery Grave 1 Mana Confluence 1 Swamp 4 Gemstone Mine 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Polluted Delta 1 Verdant Catacombs   Sideboard 4 Leyline of the Void 3 Thoughtseize 1 Assassin's Trophy 3 Force of Vigor 1 Fatal Push 1 Nature’s Claim 2 Collective Brutality As you can see I kept in the fifth 5-color land in Mana Confluence, but instead of cutting the Steam Vents I cut the second Blood Crypt. The option of fetching for the UR land was a flexibility I did not want to lose. The addition of 2 Lighting Axe (replacing 1 Fatal Push and 1 Assassin’s Trophy) was admittedly last-minute and a bit hasty. I had included Axe late in testing and never actually cast the card. I found Fatal Push to be fine, but there were instances where I was not able to easily trigger Revolt when I needed it. I also felt that Assassin’s Trophy was kind of slow and while giving my opponent an additional land vs this explosive deck “shouldn’t” matter, it sometimes gave them the small boost they needed to stabilize. Finally, given the nature of the event and having some knowledge of the local DC/Northern Virginia metagame, I decided to include 2 Collective Brutality to combat the expected uptick in Burn and Mono R decks. The IQ was hosted by Hashtag Gaming Arena in Chantilly, Virginia… merely a stone’s throw away from the Dulles Expo Center site of many a misnamed MagicFest “DC”. It was my first time at Hashtag, which is a relatively new addition to the DC area game store community. The store appears to be primarily set up for PC network games, but also has some of the nicest card gaming tables I’ve ever played on. The IQ was PACKED and the store was basically at capacity. There were a few DC area grinders in attendance, but the majority of the players in the room I didn’t really recognize. Modern appeared to be very healthy in terms of player interest, even though the format itself might not be in the best spot!
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Packed house at Hashtag Gaming Arena!

Round 1 – Steve Nagy on Hogaak Jund Ugh, getting paired with a friend in the first round of an event is the worst, especially when they are one of the best players in the room. We both knew what the other was playing – he was on the grindier Jund version with Cryptbreaker and Lotleth Troll. I lose the die roll and Steve elects to be on the play. We both mulled to 6, but unfortunately Steve was not able to find a second land with his Faithless Looting and I beat him over the course of several turns with the deck’s small aggressive creatures. I sided in 4 Leylines, 3 Force of Vigor, 1 Nature’s Claim, and 1 Assassin’s Trophy for 4 Bloodghast, 2 Lightning Axe, 1 Fata Push, 1 Gravecrawler, and 1 Verdant Catacombs. We both started game 2 with Leyline in play. I was able to quickly dispatch of the one targeting me with a Force of Vigor and deployed a healthy board before Steve could deal with my Leyline. Eventually he stabilized and we ended up in the Hogaak vs Hogaak combat equilibrium which is common in mirrors, but I had a much larger graveyard and was able to keep deploying Hogaaks while he eventually ran out of graveyard cards. I did make a big mistake of alpha striking one turn, leaving myself unable to recast Hogaak post combat which created a big opening for Steve to come back, but luckily for me he was not able to find the right cards to capitalize on my mistake. Lesson learned: make sure you will have at least two untapped black or green goons in case you need to recast Hogaak! Round 2 - Nadir Benbouchaib on Izzet Phoenix This was my first time meeting Nadir, a young, up-and-coming player who calls Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn, Virginia his home store. I lost the die roll again and Nadir started the game with a Serum Visions. I responded with a turn 1 Faithless Looting, discarding 2 Vengevines. The game was quickly over as I was able to trigger the Vengevines on turn 2 and Nadir did not have any answers. This was the first time I’d played against Izzet Phoenix, so I was not entirely sure what the match up was all about. I knew that Thing in the Ice is a big problem card for Hogaak, and also to try and play around Surgical Extraction. My sideboard guide for the day had me siding in 3 Thoughtseize and 1 Fatal Push, while siding out 2 Carrion Feeder, 1 Gravecrawler, and 1 Bloodghast. You can imagine my shock when Nadir keeps his opening hand and deploys a pregame Leyline of the Void! Needless to say, I really wasn’t able to operate under a Leyline and quickly lost to a flipped Thing. Game 3 I adjusted a bit by siding in 1 Assassin’s Trophy, 1 Nature’s Claim, and 1 Force of Vigor, while trimming 2 Thoughseize and the 3rd Gravecrawler. I kept an opener with several “answer” spells and 2 Hedron Crabs, while Nadir mulled to 6. On turn 2 I cast the second crab, played and cracked a fetch land, milling myself for 12 cards. This prompted a concession from Nadir. I was a bit confused by this because I did not mill anything of importance, and I only had reactive spells in my hand. I talked with him about it after the match and told him while it didn’t look good for him, he likely should have kept playing a few turns. Anything can happen in Modern and games can turn on a dime. He showed me his SB plan and added 2 Force of Negation, 2 Anger of the Gods, and 2 Leyline of the Void against me. Round 3 Lexi Zavaglia on Jeskai Phoenix I did not know Lexi previous to the event, but I recognized her from Twitter as she is friends with several of the people I follow! I lose the die roll yet again, but I’m able to deploy early an early Vengevine and Hogaak to which Lexi answers with Path to Exiles. I end up having a rather meager board of 2-power attacking weenies, but over the course of the last few turns Lexi is unable to cantrip her way to a meaningful threat and I take a rather strange game 1. I’m still a bit shook from last round being Leylined by a Phoenix deck, so this time I sided in the 2nd Assassin’s Trophy. Lexi keeps her hand on the play, while I mulligan once and draw a hand of Vengevine, Hogaak, Thoughtseize, Satyr Wayfinder, Faithless Looting, Stitcher’s Supplier, and fetch land. I decide to keep this hand and bottom the Vengevine. Lexi plays a turn one Serum Visions and passes. I draw a second Hogaak and tank. I eventually decide that if Lexi has a Surgical, I want to get rid of it before I do anything (like Loot away both Hogaaks) so I fetch for a Blood Crypt and cast Thoughtseize, going down to 15 life. Her hand is Arclight Phoenix, Aria of Flame, Faithless Looting, Thought Scour, Surgical Extraction, and Island. The two cards I’m worried about here are Looting and Extraction, but I settle on taking Extraction because my previous thoughts had basically convinced me that I wanted to get rid of it. Lexi untaps, plays Island, plays Manamorphose into Thought Scour, milling a Phoenix, into Looting discarding an additional TWO Phoenixes and attacking me for 9 on her second turn! Ain’t Modern grand? Game 3 was rather noncompetitive as she mulled down to 5 and I was able to quickly amass a large board. After our match I ask her about my Thoughtseize decision in game 2. Clearly it was incorrect, but I wanted to know how I could have arrived at the correct solution. She told me her turn 1 Serum Visions gave it away – something I paid literally zero attention to during the game. She said she chose to put both cards on top with the Visions, which should have indicated to me that with a Faithless Looting already in hand, one of those cards she topped was likely to be a second Phoenix. In addition, by taking Looting I would have stranded the Phoenix already in her hand and could have just played around Surgical the rest of the game. Round 4 - David Wilkinson on Small Pox What a surprise I lose my fourth die roll in as many tries! However, my opponent shockingly chooses to be on the draw which can mean only one thing – Small Pox!! I assumed this is a great match up for Hogaak, but being very green to Modern I really didn’t know what David’s deck did exactly. I mulled to 6 game 1 and kept a fairly slow hand full of small threats, assuming I would have time to draw into more powerful stuff. My small creatures whittled his life down while he deployed The Rack and several removal spells, which had little effect on my recursive creatures. Eventually I got out a Hogaak and although he was able to find an Ensnaring Bridge, I had the Assassin’s Trophy to clear the way for the kill. I was not entirely sure how to sideboard, but I anticipated David would bring in Leylines so I took out 2 Lightning Axe, 1 Fatal Push, and 4 Carrion Feeder and added 3 Force of Vigor, 1 Nature’s Claim, 1 Assassin’s Trophy, and 2 Thoughtseize. For game 2 David chose to be on the play, so on the draw I kept an opener of Force of Vigor, Assassin’s Trophy, Satyr Wayfinder, and 4 lands. David proceeds to play TWO pregame Leyline of the Void and a turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek. In response I pitch Assassin’s Trophy to Force of Vigor destroying both Leylines, discard Satyr Wayfinder to Inquisition, and am left holding just 4 lands before my first turn! The first several turns have me doing a bunch of nothing while he has two Mutavaults that are eating away at my life total. I eventually am able to find a Hedron Crab and Satyr Wayfinder that mill me into a few Vengevines and Lootings that I can flash back. The game ends up being very close as he had me under The Rack with a Liliana of the Veil out, but I was able to find enough threats to finish him off.   I’m feeling really good at 4-0 and after some quick, but I’m sure super, super complicated pairings calculations from mathemagician Jarvis Yu (also 4-0 with Hogaak), I am able to safely double draw into the top 8!
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Jarvis Yu, your fearless hero, and Steve Nagy

Quarterfinals - Devon Caldwell 4-color Hogaak Devon had been working with Evan Appleton on the same Hogaak list that Evan gave me earlier in the week, so we were essentially playing the same deck with the only differences being the ones I made from my individual testing. I was 7th seed so on the draw game 1. But no big deal – I was a giant die roll loser on the day so I felt confident continuing to be that loser. Game 1 was not super competitive as Devon was able to find Vengevines and Hogaak and I was not. My opening hand had plenty of self-mill enablers, but none of the haymakers were in the top fourth of my deck. For game 2 I sided in 4 Leyline of the Void, 3 Force of Vigor, 1 Nature’s Claim, and 1 Assassin’s Trophy while siding out 4 Bloodghast, 2 Lighting Axe, 1 Fata Push, 1 Gravecrawler, and 1 Verdant Catacombs. I chose to be on the play and we both mulled our first seven. My mulligan hand consisted of Vengevine, Satyr Wayfinder, Hogaak, Gravecrawler, Gravecrawler, Gemstone Mine, and Bloodstained Mire. I thought a lot about this hand before making the decision to keep it. Although the hand did not have any of the sideboard cards, I felt it was strong enough to keep as long as Devon drew the enchantment removal side of his sideboard and that it was worth risking that instead of going down to 5 cards. Turns out he did have a pregame Leyline and I was not able to find any enchantment removal and my day unceremoniously ended. After the match I chatted a bit with the other Hogaak pilots who were there about my keep. The room seemed split on my decision. Would you have kept?? The top 8 ended up being 5 Hogaak decks, 2 Burn decks, and 1 Mardu Pyromancer deck. Congrats to former Massdrop teammate Jarvis Yu and Devon Caldwell for winning the Invitational qualifications! Both of these gentlemen were piloting Hogaak decks. I felt very good about most of the changes I made to my final list and I felt like the list was prepared for my expected meta. Going forward I would cut one of the Lightning Axes and go back to 2 Assassin’s Trophy in the main deck. Having it as a catch-all answer and as a way to temporarily deal with opposing Hogaaks is important. Overall I was pretty happy with the sideboard, but I think the 3rd Thoughseize is flexible and the Collective Brutalities are basically metagame calls. I did hear about a Hogaak deck running 4 Surgical Extraction instead of 4 Leyline of the Void – I assume this is to invalidate the enchantment removal that opponents bring in for the mirror match. While this is a novel idea, I’m not sure it makes up for how much better Leylines are than Surgical Extraction. Also if your opponent does not have a pregame Leyline, you can just discard any extraneous enchantment removal to Faithless Looting.  I know there are only a few weeks left before the next Banned and Restricted List announcement, but I encourage you to give Hogaak a try while you still can! It was an extremely powerful, fun, and surprisingly intricate deck to play!
(Edited)
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