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The Fish Tank: Core Set 2021 Edition (June 14-20, 2020)

Welcome back to The Fish Tank, the series where we peek at sweet viewer-submitted decks and maybe, with our powers combined, turn them into real, fun, playable lists! This week, we're focusing on Core Set 2021, which was fully previewed on Tuesday. Almost all of our decks this week feature cards from the set, and some look pretty spectacular! Let's take a look at the lists. But first, to have your own deck considered for next week's edition (and for our Fishbowl Thursday Instant Deck Tech), make sure to leave a link in the comments, or email them to me at


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Mono-Black Devotion is a deck I've wanted to be good ever since Gray Merchant of Asphodel was spoiled, but so far, it has lived mostly in the tier-three range in Standard. Thankfully, as Igornunesabreu realized, Core Set 2021 offers a couple of interesting upgrades to the deck, with the biggest being Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, which doubles up our Gray Merchant of Asphodel drain (along with our drain from Cauldron Familiar and Ayara, First of Locthwain), making it pretty easy for a single Gary to be lethal if Vito is on the battlefield! The other interesting addition is Demonic Embrace. While I'm high on the aura's potential in Standard, I hadn't really considered that it could see play in Mono-Black Devotion. It does add two black mana symbols to the battlefield and also offers an interesting backup plan of sending our random dorks to the air to get in for chunks of combat damage. Is Vito enough to make Gray Merchant of Asphodel into a top-tier Standard card? I'm not sure, but I'm certainly down to find out!


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We've gotten support for "flying tribal" in the last couple of core sets, first with cards like Empyrean Eagle and Winged Words in Core Set 2020 and now with Lofty Denial in Core Set 2021. Are there enough flying tribal cards to push the archetype into Pioneer? Hman213 thinks so! Izzet Skies is basically an Izzet tempo deck looking to stick a flying threat early in the game that grows as we cast spells like Sprite Dragon or Stormwing Entity, use Curious Obsession to draw cards, and then tempo our opponent out of the game with counterspells like Lofty Denial and Ionize. While I really like the concept of the deck and think that Stormwing Entity can be very strong in Pioneer, I think it might be worth trying to add some more one-mana fliers to maximize the power of Lofty Denial. Pteramander could be worth considering, at the very least, either alongside or in place of Judge's Familiar. Either way, the deck is budget friendly and seems like it could actually be fairly powerful!

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Aggro-combo decks, like Infect or some Kiln Fiend builds, are some of the more unique archetypes in Magic. Odyssey_Brewer is looking to bring the archetype to Pioneer with Arcanist Blitz. Odyssey_Brewer provided an in-depth write-up of the deck, so rather than using my words to describe it, here it is, straight from the brewer's mouth: 

This is an aggro deck based around pump spells. With a Dreadhorde Arcanist in play, you can give your Arcanist crazy high power and hit your opponent for huge chunks of damage.

Take, for example:

This is obviously the dream draw and revolves around your opponent having no Turn 1, 2, or 3 plays. However, a more average hand can still deal a lot of damage.

For example, a mediocre hand might have 2 lands, a Monastery Swiftspear, a Giant Growth a Titan's Strength, a Soul-Scar Mage, and an Atarka's Command. If, in this hand, you could play Turn 1 Monastery Swiftspear and swing for one and then, on Turn 2, cast a Soul-Scar Mage and use Titan's Strength to find your third land, this has you swinging for four. Turn 3, you cast Giant Growth and then Atarka's Command on Bolt and pump modes. This is you dealing three damage off of Atarka's Command plus nine off of your creatures—in other words, a lot of damage.

How to play the deck:
1. Mulligan aggressively to hit either multiple prowess creatures, a Dreadhorde Arcanist, or one of our Gather the Packs. 
2. Play these creatures out on curve. Don't be afraid to be liberal with your Titan's Strength to find your lands, even if it's not for max value.
3. Cast multiple pump spells to deal large chunks of damage. 

Little things explained:


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I love locking opponents out of the game, and now, thanks to Core Set 2021 and a brew from TheSimikBOat, we're got a new way to do it in Modern in Nine Lives! As we saw during last week's Broodmoth Combo Much Abrew, the combo of Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife can be very effective against many decks in Modern. Nine Lives works the same as Phyrexian Unlife—making it so we can't die to damage as long as our enchantments remain on the battlefield—but might be even better than Phyrexian Unlife since it has hexproof, so the opponent can't target and kill it. The rest of the deck has a lot of additional lock pieces, with Blood Moon for lands, Ensnaring Bridge for creatures, and Chalice of the Void for cheap spells. Perhaps even more exciting, it has Chandra, Heart of Fire, which is a card I'm really interested to try in Ensnaring Bridge decks since discarding our hand each turn is often an upside (and drawing three extra cards each turn is super powerful). In general, the deck looks solid, although I'm not completely solid on Idyllic Tutor being necessary, and having a way to win the game (perhaps some copies of Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh or even a Chandra, Awakened Inferno) other than tutoring Lesser Masticore out of the sideboard with Karn, the Great Creator might be helpful.

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Soul Sisters has been floating around in Modern for a long time, but thanks to Core Set 2021, it now can run a lifegain-based infinite-combo backup plan! The main idea is to get up to over 27 life (which shouldn't be hard thanks to Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, and Martyr of Sands) and then use Speaker of the Heavens to make an infinite number of 4/4 flying Angel tokens with the help of Intruder Alarm. With Intruder Alarm on the battlefield, when we tap Speaker of the Heavens to make an Angel, Intruder Alarm will untap all creatures, which will allow us to tap Speaker of the Heavens again to make another Angel. This gives us not only a massive board of 4/4 fliers but also, assuming we have a Soul Warden or Soul's Attendant on the battlefield, infinite life as well, so even if our opponent manages to untap and wrath, they'll probably still lose!


Anyway, that's all for this week! If you have any ideas about how to improve these decks, make sure to let us know in the comments, and if you have a deck you want to be considered for a future Fish Tank, leave that there as well! Thanks to everyone who sent in decks this week! 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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