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Much Abrew: NeoNeobrand (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. A couple of years ago, Neobrand was one of the scariest decks in Modern. With a good draw, it could win the game on Turn 1 thanks to its ability to use Neoform to cheat Griselbrand into play and draw its entire deck. But it mostly died when Simian Spirit Guide was banned, leaving the deck without an easy way to finish the game once it drew its entire library. But now, thanks to some sneaky and convoluted deck building, we have NeoNeobrand. The primary plan of drawing all the cards on Turn 1 or 2 with Griselbrand and Neoform remains the same, but now, we've got a weird Aetherflux Reservoir loop to close out the game. Should we be scared of the deck? Is it, as one opponent put it, "probably the most borken deck I've faced," or is it too convoluted and inconsistent to be a real threat? Can we even pull off the full combo without punting?  Let's get to the video and find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

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Much Abrew: NeoNeobrand

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Discussion

  • Welp, based on our record, we might not have to be all that scared of NeoNeobrand. While we got some spectacular Turn 1 wins, our overall record was just 1-4 with the deck. While I do think we got a bit unlucky (for example, one opponent having a random main-deck Spell Pierce in had to fizzle our Turn 1 win or the game where we got Griselbrand into play but failed to draw lifegain to keep the combo going so we'd die to our own Pacts), and I'm sure it's possible to play the deck better than we did (although I don't think we had any major punts, at least none that I remember), which probably means the deck is a bit better than the 1-4 record suggests, it also just has consistency issues. It's very hard to rebuild if the opponent can stop our first shot at the combo, and it can also be difficult to fight through multiple hate cards (as we saw against Lantern Control, which felt like a hilariously bad matchup). Plus, sometimes, we just mulligan into oblivion and do nothing.
  • If you're not familiar with Neobrand (or NeoNeobrand), here's the plan. Step one is getting Griselbrand onto the battlefield as fast as possible. This means we need an Allosaurus Rider (which we can tutor up with Summoner's Pact) along with two green cards in hand, a Neoform or Eldritch Evolution, and enough mana to cast Neoform or Eldritch Evolution. We then sacrifice the Allosaurus Rider to Neoform and get Griselbrand on the battlefield. With our best hands and extra mana from Chancellor of the Tangle, we can do this as soon as Turn 1.
  • Step two is drawing our deck. Assuming we're comboing early in the game, we should have 20 life when we get Griselbrand into play, so we draw 14 cards and hope to hit Nourishing Shoal and Autochthon Wurm, which we can exile to Nourishing Shoal to gain 15 life, giving us two more Griselbrand activations. We also have one Zuran Orb, which can sacrifice lands to gain us two life. This might look weird, but when you consider that it costs seven life to draw with Griselbrand, we start with 20 life, and two Griselbrand activations leave us at six life—one short of another Griselbrand draw seven—we can play Zuran Orb and sacrifice our one land to gain two, which gets us another activation. If we can do this a few times, we should be able to draw literally our entire deck. However, it is worth mentioning that when we plugged the numbers into the hypergeometric calculator, we found that with two Griselbrand activations, we'll whiff on hitting lifegain about 20% of the time, so sometimes the deck just fizzles during step two.
  • Step three comes once we've drawn our deck, which is where things get a little bit funky. In the old days of Neobrand, we could simply exile some Simian Spirit Guides to make mana, use Manamorphose to filter the mana, and win with Laboratory Maniac or Thassa's Oracle. But with Simian Spirit Guide banned, we have to work for our mana. We've got two copies of Mox Amber and two copies of Endurance in our deck, so we play a Mox Amber, tap it for mana (Griselbrand gives us the legend we need to activate it), play the second Mox Amber, legend rule the first one, and float another black mana. Now, we can cast some Pacts to control the number of cards in our graveyard so we have the correct amount where we can draw our deck again with a Griselbrand activation and then evoke an Endurance to shuffle our graveyard into our library. We then repeat the process (Mox Amber, mana, legend rule, cast random Pacts) and use our second Endurance to shuffle our graveyard into our library again. We draw our deck one more time with Griselbrand, play the Mox Amber, make our fourth mana, and then cast Aetherflux Reservoir. At this point, we've probably cast 20+ spells, so we can just cast a couple more Summoner's Pacts or Pact of Negations to gain enough life to win with Aetherflux Reservoir. Simple.
  • I will say that I'm not 100% sure how important it is to have exactly the right number of cards in the graveyard to win. We put a lot of thought into making sure that Griselbrand would draw our entire deck post-Endurance and not leave a card or two left in our library because things could go really wrong if we somehow didn't draw the Mox Amber. But the odds that Mox Amber will be the very last card in our library might be low enough (or if you can get around this by using Endurance to put more cards back into the library to try again) that all the effort and thought were unnecessary. 
  • And this is basically the deck. Our goal is to do this one thing as often and as quickly as possible. As such, the main challenges of playing the deck are figuring out which hands to keep (the deck mulligans a ton to try to find combo pieces) and how to beat whatever hate cards the opponent might be packing. Our sideboard is dedicated exclusively to fighting hate, with answers to counterspells; discard; and Grafdigger's Cage, Damping Sphere, and friends, all of which are good at stopping our combo.
  • So, just how good is NeoNeobrand? I'm still not sure. After playing the deck, I'm not super afraid of it becoming a legit top-tier option; it's just too inconsistent and easy to hate out. On the other hand, it is the fastest deck in Modern, and it does feel legitimately broken when it works. Winning a game on Turn 1 when your opponent hasn't even made their first land drop is pretty absurd, and we did that multiple times. All in all, I think NeoNeobrand is a deck that can easily 5-0 a league if you learn it, play it well, and manage to hit the right matchups. Yet, as we saw in our games, you can just as easily go 0-5 if you run into a bunch of Spell Pierces and Pithing Needles and run poorly. If you like fast wins and goldfishy combo decks, I think that NeoNeobrand is a fun option to take out for a spin once in a while, but at this point, I wouldn't want it to be my primary Modern deck. After a while, it gets a bit boring (you're trying to do the same exact thing every game) and ends up feeling more like a mulligan simulator than an actual Modern deck. When you're on the receiving end of the Turn 1 win, though, it does feel like "probably the most borken deck I've faced," as our opponent so aptly put it during our one-match win!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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