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Much Abrew: Esper Solemnity (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. This week, rather than playing an Instant Deck Tech deck, we have a special episode featuring a deck I've been working on for the past couple of weeks: Esper Solemnity! A few episodes back, we played Snowlemnity on Against the Odds, and while the deck itself was riddled with Magic Online cumulative upkeep bugs, I came away impressed with how powerful the Solemnity / Phyrexian Unlife lock is in the current Modern format. Combine this with the fact that I've been looking for a way to lock people out of the game ever since I realized that Collective Brutality had made Worship close to unplayable, and the stage was set for some Solemnity brewing!

The basic idea of Esper Solemnity is simple: we are looking to set up the hard lock of Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife as quickly as possible and as consistently as possible, and then reinforce the lock until it's basically impossible that we die to any type of damage. At this point, we figure out a way to win the game, mostly by turning Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine with the help of Crucible of Worlds but also with creaturelands to actually kill our opponent. Let's get to the videos so you can see how the deck functions in a competitive league, and then we'll talk more about Esper Solemnity!

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Esper Solemnity (Deck Tech)

Esper Solemnity vs. Jeskai Delver (Match 1)

Esper Solemnity vs. Five-Color Humans (Match 2)

Esper Solemnity vs. Titanshift (Match 3)

Esper Solemnity vs. Esper Approach (Match 4)

Esper Solemnity vs. Death's Shadow (Match 5)

Esper Solemnity (Wrap-Up)

The Deck

We've played Solemnity / Phyrexian Unlife decks before, so rather than doing the typical article where we break down each card in the deck in-depth, I want to try something a bit different. We'll briefly go over the key pieces of the deck but then spend most of our time talking about the matchups for Esper Solemnity, why the deck is good in Modern right now, and the flaws of the deck that still need to be fixed. 

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The one and only goal of our deck is to assemble Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife as quickly as possible and as consistently as possible, which makes it impossible for us to die to damage (or loss of life) until our opponent manages to kill one of our enchantments. After we assemble the lock, the next step is to strengthen the lock as much as possible, with Greater Auramancy to prevent targeted removal and additional copies of both Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife

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While Zur the Enchanter is the best way to tutor our Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife, the bigger innovation in this build of Solemnity is Drift of Phantasms, which allows us to directly tutor either combo piece for just three mana. Counting both Zur the Enchanter and Drift of Phantasms, we have a massive nine copies of each of our key combo pieces, which helps to make sure we have the lock assembled by Turn 4 or 5 very consistently. 

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One of the tricks to making Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife work is having a plan for bad matchups, and one of the most problematic popular decks in Modern for the lock is Tron, which simply uses Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to exile our combo pieces and then proceeds to win the game. The solution to the problem is going heavily into the world of Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruins. In fact, Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin are our primary finishers, eventually using our lands as Strip Mines to eat away all of our opponent's lands with the help of Crucible of Worlds (which can be tutored up by Drift of Phantasms after we get the lock assembled). 

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If our opponent doesn't scoop it up to the lock (or to our endless Strip Mines) and forces us to kill them with damage, our plan is to use a handful of creaturelands, which give us some amount of inevitability, since we can always get them back from our graveyard with Crucible of Worlds if our opponent manages to kill them with Fatal Push or Ghost Quarter. Creeping Tar Pit is especially important since it is unblockable, which means even as the board gets cluttered up underneath our lock, we still have a guaranteed way to get in damage and close out the game. 

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The other important aspect of the deck is our early-game interaction. The main challenge of winning with the Solemnity lock is to live long enough to get the lock in place. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek can take our opponent's best threat on Turn 1 while also dealing with counters or enchantment removal that can disrupt the lock after we get it on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Path to Exile and Fatal Push allow us to kill creatures in the early game while we are waiting to get Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife onto the battlefield. 

And this is basically the foundation of Esper Solemnity. Disrupt the opponent on Turns 1 and 2 with discard and targeted removal. On Turns 3 and 4, we get our lock assembled, and then we spend the rest of the game strengthening the lock before eventually finishing the opponent off with endless Strip Mines or creaturelands.

The Matchups

Esper Solemnity is essentially a metagame deck. If people don't have ways to interact with the lock (or to win in ways that don't involve damage), the combination of Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife is close to unbeatable. On the other hand, if people are playing a ton of Abrupt Decays and other main-deck ways of killing our enchantments, the deck gets much worse. So, let's take a minute to talk about the most popular decks in Modern and how they match up to the lock.

  • Death's Shadow: Death's Shadow (at least Grixis Death's Shadow, the most popular build) can't really beat the combo once we get it on the battlefield. Some builds have a single Engineered Explosives in the sideboard, which is worth being aware of, but the main challenge is sneaking in our lock pieces through discard and Stubborn Denial. Once we resolve our enchantments, we should be good.
  • UR Storm: UR Storm has zero outs to the lock in the main deck but probably has a bounce spell or two in their sideboard. Bring in the extra copy of Greater Auramancy and the Negate after sideboarding to protect the lock.
  • Tron: Tron doesn't care about our lock but struggles with our Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruin. Our plan here is to focus on using Drift of Phantasms to find Crucible of Worlds as quickly as possible to start Ghost Quartering our opponent every turn. Since Tron plays very few basics, our Ghost Quarters turn into Strip Mines very quickly, which usually leads to our opponent scooping.
  • Five-Color Humans: Five-Color Humans is one of our best matchups. Not only do most builds have zero ways to beat the lock in the main deck or sideboard but they often struggle to beat Solemnity on its own, since it locks down Thalia's Lieutenant and Aether Vial
  • Jeskai Control: Jeskai Control is one of our worst matchups. While our discard helps and our Ghost Quarters can be good, the problem is that Cryptic Command gives the deck a main-deck answer to our lock (although it helps if we can get down Greater Auramancy as well), and the sideboard typically has some ways to deal with enchantments like Detention Sphere or Wear // Tear. Plus, they can also just counter our enchantments on the stack to keep them off the battlefield. While not unwinnable by any means—we still win if we can stack up enough lock pieces—Jeskai / UW Control is one of our tougher matchups.
  • Affinity: Affinity is another super-easy matchup. They typically have zero answers to the lock, and Solemnity wrecks most of their best cards (plus, we can tutor up Stony Silence with Zur the Enchanter after sideboarding).
  • Naya Burn: Naya Burn can't beat the lock (or even just Phyrexian Unlife) in game one but will have enchantment removal after sideboarding. The main plan is to bring in Kitchen Finks (which gives us an infinite blocker / infinite life gain with Solemnity) along with the additional Greater Auramancy to lock down Destructive Revelry and Wear // Tear).
  • Eldrazi Tron: Eldrazi Tron actually can lose to the lock but typically has a couple of Karn Liberated as a main-deck out. In sideboarding, focus on Nevermore and Pithing Needle to stop Karn Liberated, and the deck will struggle to interact.
  • Dredge: Dredge scoops to the lock in game one, assuming we get it assembled fast enough, and in game two, it usually has a limited number of ways to kill enchantments. Even just a single copy of Greater Auramancy along with the lock usually draws the concession.
  • Abzan / Jund: Abzan and Jund can be hard matchups, but both decks have been cutting down on Abrupt Decay, which means they are less hard than in the past. The bigger problem is Liliana of the Veil. We aren't very good at pressuring planeswalkers, so try to save Detention Sphere or aggressively attack Liliana of the Veil with creaturelands to prevent her ultimate, which typically wins our opponent the game.
  • Mardu Pyromancer: Mardu Pyromancer loses to the lock in game one. In game two, they probably have a couple of Wear // Tear, so bring in the second Greater Auramancy. Much like Dredge, the lock plus one Greater Auramancy is usually game over.
  • Temur Breach: Temur Breach is another hard matchup, mostly because Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can annihilate our enchantments. Ghostly Prison is helpful, making our opponent need seven or even nine mana to Through the Breach and attack with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, which buys us time to get more annihilation fodder on the battlefield and attack their lands with Ghost Quarter. They also have Cryptic Command. Not unwinnable but one of our worst matchups.
  • Titanshift: Titanshift can't beat the lock in game one, although they do have answers in the sideboard, with Engineered Explosives being the most problematic, since it gets around Greater Auramancy. Runed Halo on Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and / or Primeval Titan is key, since it gives us a lock piece that doesn't die to Engineered Explosives on three, and it might be worth bringing in Pithing Needle or even Stony Silence if you see multiple Engineered Explosives

As you can see, most decks in Modern have very few outs (and potentially zero outs) to the Solemnity / Phyrexian Unlife combo. Of course, this could change in the future. Esper Solemnity will get worse if more Abrupt Decays start sneaking into main decks or with the addition of more sideboard cards like Engineered Explosives or Fracturing Gust. The good news is that, at least for right now, Esper Solemnity has the tools to lock a huge percentage of the most popular decks in Modern out of the game, both before and after sideboarding.

Improvements

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The biggest problem with the deck at the moment is Rest in Peace. The upside of Rest in Peace is that it's game winning in certain matchups, and we can tutor it up with Zur the Enchanter, but the downside is that it creates some anti-synergy in our deck, locking down the delve on Logic Knot, shutting down Search for Azcanta, and keeping our Crucible of Worlds from winning the game. It might be that we should be playing another less powerful graveyard-hate spell in the sideboard (like Leyline of the Void) or getting rid of some of our graveyard stuff to avoid this problem.

 

Conclusion

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. Give Esper Solemnity a shot—I really think it hits a sweet spot in the Modern metagame at the moment and has the potential to beat most of the best decks in the format! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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