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Fighting Monastery Swiftspear in Modern


With Monastery Swiftspear popping up in various aggressive UR, RDW, and UWR builds, I’d like to take some time to examine how these decks have changed and what other decks need to do to adapt to this card. Monastery Swiftspear, like Delver of Secrets, requires it’s deck to be built somewhat around it, and the key to playing against these two cards is understanding their game plan and not fighting them their way.

So how does Monastery Swiftspear make these decks different from before? Before, the creature base revolved solely around Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, and Snapcaster Mage. None of these punished you for playing spells during your opponents turn. With Monastery Swiftspear, there is a huge incentive to cast your spells before damage goes through. The “blowout” is to have you try and bolt or block the Monastery Swiftspear, then in response they cast a bunch of instants and gain an enormous tempo advantage. Monastery Swiftspear is often worth killing on your turn, since even if they can keep it alive with their spells, that just means they are using their spells to pump it during your turn instead of theirs.

So which cards should you be playing?

Abrupt Decay is especially strong right now, safely dealing with a majority of the threats in these lists at instant speed. It already sees a considerable amount of play, and I don’t think I need to explain why it’s good.

Vapor Snag is a very good tempo card in mirror or near-mirrors. It can greatly slow down a Delver of Secrets or Monastery Swiftspear, and tilt the race in your favor. It also plays around most of the protection the deck has for their creatures, usually relying on Remands and Spell Snares.

Timely Reinforcements could see more play. With a bit of a blind spot to 3-drops, and wanting to establish early board control, it’s very likely a more controlling build can sneak this in and slow down the game tremendously.

Augur of Bolas is seeing a bit of a comeback, as a card that is supposed to be hard to deal with, but I think it’s not quite as good of an answer as Wall of Omens, which along with Restoration Angel are seeing a comeback in UWR builds.

What cards could these Monastery Swiftspear lists be looking to pick up?

Mizzium Skin is a card whose power I think is still underestimated in Modern. With Abrupt Decay seeing play in pretty much any deck that can support it (including Pod), a 1-mana counter that interacts favorably with everything in your deck fits the bill. It is also very good against Electolyze, which has the potential to wreck your board.

Faithless Looting has become a much more powerful card in Modern with the printing of Treasure Cruise. Not only is it a way to power up your Delver of Secrets and Monastery Swiftspears, but it is a way to bring your  (now commonly 4x!) Treasure Cruises online.

Disrupting Shoal is a card I think deserves consideration. The way I see it, the more you can put on the table these first couple turns the better, since if the game goes long you can rely on Treasure Cruise to pull you back in terms of card advantage. Protecting a turn 2 Young Pyromancer is the biggest blowout here, setting you up to snowball the game.


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