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Much Abrew: Oops, They Should Have Banned Grief (Modern)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Much Abrew About Nothing! As I'm sure you know, on Monday, Wizards banned Fury and Up the Beanstalk in Modern, in large part to power down the notoriously annoying play pattern of Rakdos Scam. But perhaps the biggest Scam offender—Grief—was left off the banned list. Wizards' thinking seemed to be that if Fury were banned, fewer people would play Grief (and also Orcish Bowmasters) because the Scam archetype would be powered down. But is this really true? Did Wizards make a mistake by not banning Grief? To find out, I put together an Orzhov Scam list that still looks to do the typical Scam thing of ripping the opponent's hand apart with multiple Griefs on Turn 1. But the plan is even better in many ways because, rather than trying to reanimate Grief with a Not Dead After All, we can simply blink it with Ephemerate, which has rebound, so we actually get three Thoughtseizes rather than just two! Going into white also gives us access to Solitude to fill in for Fury as our removal Scam target and, of course, Mana Tithe, which is sort of a Scam card in its own right. Is Scam still legit? Did Wizards mess up by not banning Grief in Modern? Let's find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

Much Abrew: Orzhov Scam

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  • Record-wise, we ended up going 4-3 with Orzhov Scam, going 3-2 in a league and currently being 1-1 in a second league that I didn't manage to finish in time for the video. While this is a solid record, it's also not an absurd record. But the issue with Grief and Scam was never that the deck won too much—in fact, one of the biggest arguments people used against banning Scam was that the deck's win rate was only around 50%—but that the play pattern was horrible and that it took up too big a percentage of the metagame. More on this later.
  • As far as the deck itself, the primary plan is the same as the old Rakdos Scam deck's: try to Grief the opponent into oblivion on Turn 1. The biggest upside of being Orzhov is that, rather than trying to reanimate Grief, we can use Ephemerate to blink it, which not only saves it from its evoke cost but also allows us to target our opponent with its enters-the-battlefield trigger three times, thanks to rebound. We also have one Not Dead After All and two Touch the Spirit Realm as backup ways to scam, and Persist, which is a bit slower but comes with some extra upside, like potentially allowing us to reanimate a Troll of Khazad-dum on Turn 2.
  • On the other hand, there's a massive difference between our deck and the now-banned Rakdos deck: our secondary evoke Elemental is Solitude rather than Fury. This makes our deck weaker against small creatures and planeswalkers but better against large creatures. The biggest difference between the two Elementals is that Solitude is a much slower clock than Fury, which means we're slower at closing out the game than past Scam decks were, although this is more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker.
  • Of course, since we're in Orzhov, I couldn't resist adding Mana Tithes to the deck. In some ways, Mana Tithe is the ultimate scam card, sneaking free wins from unsuspecting opponents, although it is pretty matchup-dependent. Vindicate is also pretty awesome in the deck, not just blowing up any permanent, including lands, but also pitching to both of our evoke Elementals. 
  • So, now for the big question: did Wizards make a mistake by not banning Grief in Modern this week? I think the answer is probably yes. While our record wasn't absurd, it was solid. And as we talked about before, the problem with Scam was never really its win percentage, it was that Scam took up a massive percentage of the meta and that the double Thoughtseize on Turn 1 play pattern is horrible. As we saw today, the play pattern is still there. Actually, the play pattern is probably worse than ever since Ephemerate offers three Thoughtseizes rather than just two. As such, the real question is metagame percentage. A deck can have a bad play pattern, but that play pattern doesn't really matter if you rarely have to play against it. Rakdos Scam was insufferable at 20% of the meta, and the number of players scamming should drop as a result of the Fury ban. But as we saw today, Scam isn't going away completely. Does it settle at 10% of the meta? 5%? 1%? What percentage is acceptable for a deck with the Scam play pattern? I don't have an exact answer, but I expect that Scam will still be better than most players want it to be in Modern.
  • All in all, I think Wizards probably made a mistake in not banning Grief. Yes, banning Fury was necessary and a wise move, but if people scamming was one of the biggest issues in Modern, then just banning Fury (and the unrelated Up the Beanstalk) won't solve it. While Modern is certainly better today than it was a week ago, I expect that Grief might still be a problem and that we just might be having a conversation about whether it needs to be banned again come March when the next ban-list update drops.


Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think—was leaving Grief in Modern a mistake? Is Scam still too good for the format? Let me know what you think in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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