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Much Abrew: Ball Lightning Tribal (Modern, Magic Online)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week, we had a clear winner among our Instant Deck Techs in Ball Lightning Tribal. As such, we're heading to Modern today to see if we can smash our opponent to death with hasty 6/1s by reanimating Ball Lightning (and honorary Ball Lightning, Lightning Skelemental) over and over again, with the help of Thunderkin Awakener and Unearth. The deck is actually very straightforward: we smash our opponent's face with Ball Lightning, do it again the next turn and the turn after that, and then (at least in theory) our opponent is dead. Can Thunderkin Awakener make Ball Lightning into a playable card in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Ball Lightning Tribal



  • First off, our record. We played a league and finished 2-3, although there are a couple of important notes here. First, our fourth match was against Jund, and after winning on a mulligan to five in game two, I got excited, bumped into my desk, and knocked my computer onto the floor, causing it to shut down and ruin the video, so I ended up replacing it with a match from the two-player queues, which happened to be a win. Second, I still can't believe we lost the match to Mono-Red Prison where our opponent literally mulled to three and got hit by a Lightning Skelemental to leave them with no cards in hand and just three lands and a Chalice of the Void on the battlefield. Basically, while our record was technically 2-3 (or 3-3, counting the extra non-league match), the deck felt like it was super-close to going 4-1 or better. 
  • The good news is that Ball Lightning Tribal is extremely explosive and can pick up a weird sort of free win by smashing the opponent a couple of times with a Lightning Skelemental to empty their hand as early as Turn 3. 
  • The bad news is that the deck can be inconsistent. We had some games where we drew all Ball Lightnings and no reanimation and ended up just short on damage, while we had other games where we drew a bunch of Thunderkin Awakeners but couldn't find a Ball Lightning or Lightning Skelemental to reanimate. In theory, Faithless Looting and Seasoned Pyromancer should help to shore up this weakness, but in practice, we might want to go up to the full four copies of Seasoned Pyromancer for extra consistency and filtering.
  • If you decide to pick up the deck, don't be afraid to loot away Lightning Skelementals and Ball Lightnings on Turn 1 with Faithless Looting. By far the most powerful thing our deck can do is to hit our opponent with a reanimated Elemental on Turn 2. While playing our Ball Lightnings fairly starting on Turn 3 is fine, the real power of the deck is getting repeated Ball Lightnings for free from the graveyard with Unearth and Thunderkin Awakener.
  • Outside of the deck's core, there are a couple of weird choices. The one Insolent Neonate felt pretty bad and can probably be cut. Meanwhile, the one Young Pyromancer never really made an impact. Next time I play the deck, I'll probably cut both of these cards for two more Seasoned Pyromancers. 
  • Dreadhorde Arcanist is also sort of weird but offers enough free value from the graveyard that it's probably worth a slot in the deck, even if it doesn't work directly with our Ball Lightning / Lightning Skelemental plan. Because Dreadhorde Arcanist casts the spell when it attacks, we can't use it to flashback Unearth and reanimate one of our Ball Lightnings since it's already too late to attack and the Ball Lightning will sacrifice itself at the end of our turn (although we can reanimate a Thunderkin Awakener to get back a Ball Lightning the next turn). As a result, Dreadhorde Arcanist is mostly just a random value card, although going up to four copies of Seasoned Pyromancer will help since it is a solid Unearth target that doesn't care when it enters the battlefield.
  • As for our sideboard, the Saheeli, Sublime Artificers are mostly to beat graveyard hate, although keep in mind that you can turn a Servo into a Ball Lightning or Lightning Skelemental with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer's 2 ability, which is a great way to get in a massive chunk of damage with just a single attack.
  • It's also worth mentioning that the banning of Bridge from Below has decreased the amount of graveyard hate floating around in Modern, at least a little bit, which is a good thing for Ball Lightning Tribal. While most decks will still have something to fight graveyard decks in the sideboard, you're much less likely to run into main-deck graveyard hate today than you were a couple of weeks ago while Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis ruled the Modern format.
  • So, should you play Ball Lightning Tribal in Modern? I think the answer is yes. While our record wasn't as good as I'd like, we were really close to going 4-1 or even 5-0 in our league, which probably means Ball Lightning Tribal is better than our record would suggest. While there are some small changes that can be made around the edges, the deck felt really powerful and could certainly 5-0 a league on Magic Online or win an FNM. If you like smashing face with hasty threats and grinding value from the graveyard, Ball Lightning Tribal feels like a fairly competitive option in our current Modern meta. 


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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