What Makes Someone Bogle?
Poignant words from a group chat:
As it turns out, I didn’t like the Laad Na and next time will get Panang or Pad See Ew. Also that’s a startling insight into Bogles there on the right.
At Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, I went 8-2 in Modern with Bogles, beating two monogreen Tron decks, Jeskai control (no Geist of St. Traft or Spell Queller), three Human decks with Collected Company, Hollow One piloted by Ken Yukihiro, and Affinity, and losing to Storm and Lantern. I also went 4-0 in the MTGO Pro Tour Challenge (four rounds against other PT competitors who qualified via Magic Online), beating Dredge, Affinity, Burn, and Vial Humans.
A week later, Dan Ward won Grand Prix Toronto with Bogles. Bloodbraid Elf and Jace the Mind Sculptor were then unbanned. Grand Prix Lyon took place, pre-bannings, and somehow was not won by Bogles. Then the Magic Online Championship happened, the community’s first look at Modern with the most powerful planeswalker ever printed. Dmitriy Butakov, playing Bogles, beat Jace in the semifinals and Bloodbraid Elf in the finals, instantly ascending to platinum-level pro status.
For the uninitiated, some citations: https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/ptrix/24-26-point-decklists-2018-02-03 (Thomas Ashton) https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/gptor18/gptor18-top-8-decklists-2018-02-11 (Dan Ward) https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/mtgochamp17/modern-decklists-2018-03-02 (Dmitriy Butakov)
What’s going on here? And why are we taking Bogles into serious tournaments?
In preparing for the Pro Tour, I favored power over flexibility. This meant that I was drawn in much more by Humans, Tron, Living End, and other single-minded strategies than I was by UW control, Jeskai, Abzan, or even Grixis Death Shadow. The latter decks are still obviously powerful - they’re all legitimate decks in a pretty powerful/unforgiving format - but they're susceptible to a wider range of opposing strategies or countermeasures than, say, Tron. Tron basically calls on an opponent to have land destruction or be faster than a turn 3 Karn or turn 4 board wipe; Jeskai has to pay attention to the cards the opponent plays, because it has to Bolt your two-drop, Path your larger creature two turns later, counter some spell that matters, and chip in damage over a series of turns. It doesn’t get turn 4 concessions, and it doesn’t put the opponent on a mulligan condition like Fulminator or bust.
On other narrow decks: I was out on Dredge because, although it frequently beat me, I could never win with it myself for whatever reason. I didn’t want to play Storm or Lantern because I didn’t understand how to successfully sideboard, and generally lacked experience overall with the decks. I ruled out Affinity because I felt very disadvantaged against Jeskai and UW, and Burn because of Jeskai in particular; I felt Humans had more tools for overcoming Snapcaster-Helix, and wasn’t going to roll over and die to a single sideboarded hate card.
I ended up solidly behind Humans, with Tron as a backup, until teammate Timothy Wu complained to me about only winning about half his matches (if that) with Humans at his local store; his cold feet for the deck were particularly motivated by a loss he took to a Bogles pilot who was no older than Slippery Bogle itself. Tim haphazardly suggested to me that maybe he should be the one playing Bogles, and his comment reminded me that Bogles had succeeded in both Magic Online Regional PTQs: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/modern-regional-ptq-2017-11-19 and https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/modern-regional-ptq-2017-11-26. I quickly took a copy into a league and promptly 5-0ed (somehow not drawing Triclopean Sight, a card I continue to never have cast in my life). More important than my record, I felt wholly impervious during my matches. Bogles vaulted from off the board to first among my considerations for the Pro Tour, because I had finally found a Modern deck that clicked with me.
The runners up.
My decision was solidified after I went over how I perceived Bogles matched up against the predicted field, particularly in comparison to my other frontrunners, Humans and Tron. I’d much rather play against Jeskai as Bogles or Tron than as Humans. I’d much rather play against Affinity or Burn as Bogles than as Humans or Tron. I didn't feel favored against Tron as Bogles, but at least I had sideboard cards, unlike Humans. I was happy playing against Humans as Tron, but even moreso as Bogles. I felt like I had no less of a shot against Titanshift as Bogles than as Humans or Tron, even though I hadn't played the matchup a ton. “I’d much rather play against X as Bogles” became a generalized “I’d much rather play Bogles” in all situations - I’d have had to expect to play against nonstop Lantern to want Tron, or nonstop Living End to want Humans, and in any varied metagame that resembled reality the Slippery One was just superior to the other decks I was entertaining, and with much less of a target on its back (a very flavorful quality for a Hexproof deck [and also the flavor text alludes to the Bogle itself being quite flavorful {making it literally “flavor” text}]).
I didn’t know exactly what outcome I was expecting when I locked in Bogles for the recent Pro Tour, but I didn’t not feel confident. I didn’t feel like I was taking my fate out of my own hands and putting it in a random number generator; I really felt like I would go into every match prepared: I’d know how I felt about my matchup, what cards I wanted to see, what cards I’d later be looking for to get me out a jam, and how many cards my opponent had that were truly threatening (the answers were, in order, pretty good; a Hexproof creature; Daybreak Coronet; and not many). I won a game because I knew I could keep 7 with just fetch-for-Arbor as a body under certain conditions (best I can articulate it is that I had Umbra + Rancor into Spirit Mantle to dodge Push and/or Reflector Mage, and on the draw would have been vulnerable to Inquisition/Thoughtseize even with a mulligan, but really the keep was based on feel); I 2-0ed Tron twice knowing how to extract the most contributions from Dryad Arbor and when to play a sideboard card or to develop my board instead (in the spots I was in, it was Stony Silence > Spiritdancer > Gaddock Teeg with two auras > Bogle or Gaddock Teeg depending on whether I expected Contortion or Ugin).
Things generally continued on the same path for the Magic Online Championship (where I was undone by a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad draft record, but very satisfied with my Modern choice). I did my due diligence with Jace and Bloodbraid decks, but kept coming back to Bogles. Neither Jace nor Bloodbraid are directly good against Bogles, and any effect of their reintroduction is felt from what decks they are played in (or suppress). Bloodbraid largely points to a resurgence of Jund, but the card itself doesn't correlate with an increase in Engineered Explosives or Abrupt Decay, because neither is great to cascade into. Instead, the Bloodbraid unbanning largely means more Tarmogoyfs and Lilianas - the former isn't an issue for Bogles, and the latter is annoying but can be planned around. With the other unbanning, Jace means more Grixis and Jeskai (Bolt and Push/Path are the best ways to protect it), and neither of those decks have a ton of disruption to the Bogles plan. Further, the ways to beat these "new" cards don't really involve enchantment destruction, untargeted creature removal, or non-interactive combos that ignore high life totals and reliably kill on turn 4. I saw nothing to disturb the feeling I had for the Pro Tour: that nobody would be prepared for when Bogles did its thing, and that Bogles did its thing reliably. I wasn’t wrong, as among my victories were two Jund decks and Grixis control, and clearly Butakov found even greater success.
On the “there are some subtleties to this deck! Really! I promise!” beat: Sideboard construction? I liked 3 Stony Silence, 3 Gaddock Teeg, and some combination of 3 artifact removal in the sideboard against Tron, and I liked 2 spot removal spells (Path to Exile or Dismember, Path generally preferred) against Humans. I'd still want these. I did not like Cartouche of Solidarity as an anti-Liliana measure, because it requires me to have something in play to carry it and doesn't add an extra dimension over Dryad Arbor (they can still play around it with Push or Bolt) - I'd prefer a sideboard card with more impact, either in a Liliana matchup or just somewhere else. In choosing which enchantment/artifact removal to carry, I'd consider Seal of Primordium, Reclamation Sage, and Natural State; Sage is nice against UW because it can provide an extra body while axing a Spreading Seas, State is cheaper but doesn't hit Platinum Emperion, and Seal is obviously more middle of the road cost-vs-value-wise and excels as an anti-Blood Moon measure (and as a way to deny lifelink when attacking into a Wurmcoil, which the other options don't accomplish). I went with Seals but wouldn't fault someone for mixing it up.
Tips and tricks? Well, mulligan to a creature. Fitting in a Dryad Arbor fetch is one of the most important “look ahead” decisions you’ll make. Your auras can kill their Phantasmal Images. Don’t mess up the simple stuff, like ensuring your Razorverge Thickets enter the battlefield untapped when you need them to. Don’t go on autopilot and don’t rule out hanging back to block.
Going forward? Part of playing Bogles in the near future will be how you respond to being a target (again, ha, Hexproof, yeah) - although in a deck as focused as this (and as un-reactive), "responding" is often not much more than "being aware of." I don't get to, or want to, pack the deck full of stuff like Pithing Needles for Explosives and Liliana; part of my loss to Storm at the Pro Tour was the high numbers of Rest in Peace / Leyline / Gaddock Teeg, and the low quantity of actual auras, that I drew in the deciding game. Suppression Field has applications against Explosives and Liliana, but is it something I'm going to want to risk drawing two of against Jund? And would I even want to draw one copy most of the time? (The answer is no.) For the most part I'd let my approach to building a sideboard rest upon the fact that my best sideboard cards are already in the maindeck, and if I expected to play against a ton of Back to Natures (or whatever other backbreaking but narrow hate cards people come up with), I'd much sooner play a different deck than try out weird anticipatory half-measures.
The honest truth: The most important thing I did with Bogles didn’t have to do with the maindeck or sideboard or tricky and unpredictable strategies for making unfavorable matchups less so or the like - Tim suggested the deck, I took a list from Magic Online, Tim suggested that a list from a Corey Burkhart video was better. Dan Ward’s list wasn’t much different. Butakov thanked me for the list, which he lifted from the Pro Tour. Corey apparently lifted the decklist from Ayesha Faith. Javier Dominguez constructed the deck before any of us and I doubt it’s more than 20 cards different since then. My opponents knew what my deck did, and knew basically every card I had in it, so I wasn’t getting there with originality or surprise. The most significant decision I made regarding Bogles is the same one that led Dan Ward to win the Grand Prix and Butakov to win the Magic Online Championship: we all decided to actually just play Bogles.
I don’t know if players truly are holding back because they don’t feel that Bogles is “skillful” enough, because that hasn’t stopped red decks from succeeding at premier level events. Rather, I believe there is a stigma surrounding Bogles and its “fail rate,” a recurring complaint that truly confuses and bewilders me. To the extent I buy into the concept, I believe the “fail rate” of the deck is overblown - maybe I just stole Seth Manfield’s mojo for the PT (if so, I wish I had held onto it longer), but I wasn’t commonly mulliganing into oblivion, and several times I did start at 5, I won. But judging by how I worded that last sentence, you should know that I don’t agree with the very idea of “failure rate” as it’s being applied to Bogles, not because the deck doesn’t fail but because this term isn’t applied equally. Bogles definitely doesn’t want to keep a hand without a creature, but Jund doesn’t want to keep a hand with multiple removal spells against control, or a hand of only creatures against combo, or a hand without discard against Tron. Yet Jund isn’t seen as inconsistent by the community at large, even though I’d look at the deck and posit that it also has a “failure rate” as concerning as Bogles - just based more on matchups than inherent in deck construction. Similarly, Blue Moon can play Spreading Seas, Jace the Mind Sculptor, and Blood Moon without players asking about the deck's "failure rate," even though there is quite a gulf between the peaks and valleys of those cards' effectiveness - Jace can take over a game but there are plenty of times it’s a mere Riverwise Augur, particularly against Bloodbraid; Spreading Seas has ruined me time and time again but it’s largely a Valley Rannet without a body against control.
It’s not just Bogles!
I’d add that, in comparison to Jund (sorry to pick on you Jund!), at least Bogles knows going in what it's mulliganing for; a game 1 hand for Jund of Tarmogoyf, Fatal Push, Bloodbraid Elf, Terminate, and lands could either be very good or very blank, depending on the matchup (Tron! UW! Hell, Bogles!). Bogles doesn't walk itself into bad keeps in that way (except when I get greedy and keep the fetch-Arbor-only hand, and that one paid off anyways). Jund versus Bogles is particularly instructive: the Jund decks in the MOCS had 4 Liliana of the Veil, 6 discard spells, and 1-2 enchantment removal spells, which isn't that much more robust a group of relevant cards than Bogles' 8 Hexproof creatures (the go-to), 4 Spiritdancer (situationally strong), and 6-7 Dryad Arbors (a last resort). The Lilianas and discard spells can also be blanked by Bogles' Leylines, the Lilianas can be played around with Arbor or additional copies of a Hexproof creature, and the enchantment removal spells need to target Daybreak Coronets or Ethereal Armors (with the hope that the Bogles player didn't draw additional copies). When Bogles plays Jund, Jund is the inconsistent deck with mulligan conditions. I’d hope taking that perspective helps alleviate the “don’t look down” sentiments that I’ve heard in relation to actually sleeving Bogles up for an event, particularly a high-stakes one.
Overall, Bogles has felt to me like playing Affinity would feel if Stony Silence and Ancient Grudge didn't exist. My opponents absolutely can choose to play cards that wreck me - for Affinity, in the absence of those hosers it'd be Creeping Corrosion or Shatterstorm, and for Bogles it's clearly Back to Nature - but I don't believe they can afford to in a format with so many different decks. I believe Bogles is favored in most matches where the opponent doesn't have it in mind, and so as long as it lacks the market share of Affinity, or even Dredge, it'll continue to be a good choice on the whole for upcoming tournaments - I don’t see Living End, Lantern, and Devoted Druid combo decks (particularly the version with Kitchen Finks and Viscera Seer) gaining sufficient popularity to truly threaten a Bogles player facing 9 rounds of matches. The deck also reiterates an important lesson about Modern: you can't beat everything. Bogles will run into Lantern sometimes. Lantern will get outground by some combination of Liliana, Tireless Tracker, Kolaghan's Command, Bloodbraid Elf, or maybe Cryptic Command and Jace. Jund will get ruined by Wurmcoil Engine. Tron will get burned out, or better yet, Griselbranded. In Modern, every good deck's foil is also a good deck, and it's unreasonable to deny it - and unprofitable to ignore it. There are plenty of decks that, even when the conditions are right, are still tier 2; Bogles is solidly a tier 1 deck when it's correct to play it. Although I didn’t win the Magic Online Championship with it, I’m certainly glad I tried to. Good luck to all suiting up their 1/1 beasts in the following months (as if you’ll even need it).
Oh, and as a postscript, some photos I took at Wizards headquarters:
Designs Of Your Dreams
At most jobs they just give out plaques. These were neat team awards for excellent performance that I was told had been made public. They were new to me, so if you were also unaware, feast your eyes on them.
Intimidating Omens
Three forms of “thou shalt not pass” made real.

Universal Fantasy Tropes
A reckless goblin. A belligerent dragon. A reckless Play Design team member with his belligerent familiar (Jiachen “JC” Tao, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch winner, ft. Roxy, who has never won a Pro Tour)

Enjoy Bogling, Tommy Ashton

PREVIOUS ARTICLES · Meet the Massdrop Teams: http://dro.ps/mtg-team-announce · *2nd* at Pro Tour Ixalan: http://dro.ps/ixalan · Unclaimed Creature Types: http://dro.ps/ari-creatures · Why I Never Drop From Tournaments: http://dro.ps/eric-nevergiveup · The Art of Sideboard Construction - Sultai Energy: http://dro.ps/jon-sideboard · A Commoner's View on Pauper: http://dro.ps/mark-pauper · Blue Moon Beach Control: http://dro.ps/scott-bluemoon · Top 5 Modern Decks: http://dro.ps/pascal-modern · Storm in Vintage Cube: http://dro.ps/ben-storm · An Early Look at Rivals for Standard: http://dro.ps/shaun-rivals · A Standard Approach to Evaluating New Cards: http://dro.ps/rob-newcards · Drafting Rivals of Ixalan: http://dro.ps/tim-ixalan · Team Sealed Secrets: http://dro.ps/eric-secrets · Steal My Standard Ideas: http://dro.ps/tommy-secrets · Vexing Devil. Any Questions?: http://dro.ps/jon-devil · Team Massdrop Rivals of Ixalan Limited Primer: http://dro.ps/ari-primer · Gestation of RG Eldrazi: http://dro.ps/ben-gestation · Top Time Tournament Training Tips: http://dro.ps/tim-tips
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