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Much Abrew: Umbral Mantle Combo (Modern)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week during our Instant Deck Techs, our Modern option—Umbra Mantle Combo—came out on top, which means we are heading to Modern this week to play one of the jankier combo decks we've played in a while. The basic idea of the deck is simple: if we can get a Training Grounds on the battlefield and then equip an Umbral Mantle to a creature land like Inkmoth Nexus or Blinkmoth Nexus, we can make the creatureland infinitely big by tapping it for one mana and then untapping it with Umbral Mantle for one mana to give it +2+/+2. Then, we simply fly over our opponent's defenses for the win. When the Umbral Mantle plan doesn't work, we can always sacrifice one of our creaturelands to Polymorph to find the only real creature in our deck: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn! Is it really possible that Umbral Mantle is Modern playable? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll have some thoughts on the deck.

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Umbral Mantle Combo (Instant Deck Tech)

Umbral Mantle Combo vs. Grixis Death's Shadow (Match 1)

Umbral Mantle Combo vs. Naya Burn (Match 2)

Umbral Mantle Combo vs. Kiki Chord (Match 3)

Umbral Mantle Combo vs. Eldrazi & Taxes (Match 4)

Umbral Mantle Combo vs. GW Lifegain (Match 5)

Umbral Mantle Combo (Wrap-Up)

Discussion

  • Technically, we finished our video matches 3-2, but we actually lost to Burn a couple more times, which means our overall record was actually 3-4, which isn't especially exciting. 
  • Let's start with the good news: both of the deck's combos can win the game. While Umbral Mantle and Training Grounds are a strange way to go about comboing off, having a huge flier is often enough to kill the opponent, and cheating Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is a tried-and-true way of picking up wins in Modern. 
  • The deck also did a pretty good job of assembling the combo, thanks to a ton of cheap cantrips that help us cycle through our deck. 
  • As for the bad news, there are actually a few things to talk about. First, the Umbral Mantle combo isn't a guaranteed win. We did have one match where our opponent was able to stay alive by chumping with Birds of Paradise, which was pretty annoying but would have been much worse if, instead of Birds of Paradise, we were dealing with four 1/1 Spirits from Lingering Souls. While our creaturelands being evasive is helpful, there are still matchups where just having flying isn't enough, especially considering how much work we spend on setting up the combo.
  • Second, there are a couple of cards we pretty much scoop to, including Stony Silence and Blood Moon. While we do have one copy of Echoing Truth and one Into the Roil in the sideboard, this didn't feel like enough. Considering how heavily played Stony Silence is in Modern, we should probably have at least a couple of more answers in the sideboard so we have a better chance of drawing one in a timely manner. 
  • Third, the deck is very all-in. While technically Umbral Mantle and Polymorph are two separate plans, they both work in a similar manner (cantrip into combo pieces, activate a creatureland, hope it doesn't die, win the game). We don't really have a good way of interacting with our opponent's stuff once it hits the battlefield, and many of our counterspells are narrow and designed to protect our combos, rather than to keep our opponent from killing us. While we certainly have examples of good all-in combo decks, if a combo deck is going to leave interaction and defense by the wayside, it needs to be fast and consistent. 
  • Finally, Umbral Mantle Combo just wasn't very fast, compared to the other decks in Modern. If everything goes perfectly, we can Polymorph on Turn 5 without any protection or Turn 6 with protection, while the Umbral Mantle kill can happen as early as Turn 4 (although, as we talked about a moment ago, it isn't a guaranteed win thanks to opposing fliers). 
  • Now, all this isn't to say that the deck is unplayable. We actually did pull off some wins with it, but to me, it felt more like an Against the Odds deck than a build that was ready to compete in Modern. If you look a bit deeper at our record, one of our wins came because our opponent scooped to Polymorph (not knowing that we had our only Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in hand and if they didn't scoop, we would have), and another came against a GW Lifegain deck that was extremely low powered, which means we could very easily be talking about how the deck went 1-6. 
  • So, it is possible to fix up the deck? Here, I'm not 100% sure. While adding more copies of Echoing Truth to the sideboard will help, the deck still suffers from the fact that all of its combo pieces don't do anything on their own. Training Grounds is only good if we are going infinite with Umbral Mantle, and Umbral Mantle only does anything if we have a Training Grounds and a creatureland. This means a lot of slots in the deck have to be dedicated to the combo, which doesn't leave much room for anything else. While it would make the deck more expensive, one possibility would be splashing another color (maybe black) for some removal like Fatal Push and maybe even a sweeper or two, along with good sideboard cards like Duress and Thoughtseize. This would give the deck at least some interaction and perhaps even the ability to catch back up if it falls behind on board. 
  • All in all, the deck felt like a fine way to get your "I won with Umbral Mantle in Modern" merit badge but not much else. More importantly (and surprisingly), I didn't even find the deck to be all that fun to play, since we are so low in interaction. It felt like we were just waiting for our opponent to kill us and hoping that we would manage to top deck combo pieces before that happened. 
  • So, should you play Umbral Mantle Combo in Modern? I think it can be a fine, relatively cheap option to play for fun, and winning with Umbral Mantle itself is super cool, but as far as actually winning tournaments, I'd probably head another direction. If you're looking for a goldfish-style Modern combo deck in the $300 range, No-Fetch Storm is likely the way to go, giving you the same combo potential but also the possibility of winning some tournaments. 

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. 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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