Ball Lightning is a classic Magic card. For the low low cost of RRR you can chunk your opponent for 6 damage immediately. Not many effects in Mtg can deal this much damage with one card, and because of this Ball Lightning has become an iconic mtg staple. As awesome as Ball Lightning is, it’s a very specific card and requires a deck to be built around it to maximize its success. This kind of deck has popped up in the past, utilizing Groundbreaker, a color shifted Ball Lightning, and Collected Company to get 2 of these guys on the battlefield and deal 12 damage for 4 mana. This deck was a fringe meme deck and eventually faded away. With the last few sets, however, Ball Lightning Tribal may be able to make the best comeback of its life!
For starters, one of the biggest pickups this deck has received is another Ball Lightning in the form of Lightning Skelemental. For the same converted mana cost, you get a Ball Lightning that discards 2 cards when it deals damage to the opponent, and the only thing that’s different is one black mana pip. Disruption is key to a deck’s success in Modern, and being able to cast a 6 damage Blightning is crazy powerful. This card has already started seeing a lot of success, especially when in tandem with this next card, Unearth.
Ball Lightning is good at 3 mana. With Unearth it costs 1 mana, freeing your turn up for so much more. The gameplan of this deck usually goes turn 1 Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Ball Lightning, turn 3 Collected Company grabbing 2 more Ball Lightnings for 18 damage by turn 3. With Unearth, this magical number of 18 becomes infinitely more achievable as you can cast Unearth and a Ball Lightning in the same turn. If the Ball Lightning is actually a Skelemental, you can shred their entire hand in less than two turns. The combination of Skelemental and Unearth is extremely potent and expanding Unearth to include all sorts of Ball Lightnings means that this card will likely be dealing more damage than Lightning Bolt.
Lightning Skelemental and Unearth bring the deck to brand new levels, but that’s not all that this deck is receiving. With M20 we get another card for the deck that catapults this deck from great to insane in Thunderkin Awakener. When every elemental in the deck has 1 toughness, this card functions as copies 5-8 of Unearth, bringing back 6/1’s over and over again until your opponent keels over. On effects like this, we usually see the creature get exiled once it leaves the battlefield, but Thunderkin Awakener doesn’t care and leaves it in the graveyard for another round of combat if your opponent isn’t already dead.
With all of the new cards come changes to the old deck. In the past, the deck would run RRR spells alongside GGG spells which put a huge strain on the manabase. Adding black, even if it only exists on 8 cards seriously disrupts the mana if we want to be casting our spells on curve. By cutting Groundbreaker from the deck we sacrifice raw power for a little more consistency. It may be possible to add Groundbreaker to the deck, but I am not good enough at assembling manabases to attempt that. The second thing to address is that by adding 8 Unearth effects, the deck becomes much weaker to graveyard hate. This necessitates a few sideboard cards getting dedicated to hate in the form of Cindervines.
Ball Lightning Tribal has gotten an impressive new suite of toys to play around within the past few months and has the potential to become a very powerful deck. Consistently dealing 18 damage by turns 3-4 means most Modern opponents will be dead just for shocking a land in. In the past, a single Lightning Bolt would be the death of this deck, but with so much reanimation, it is easier than ever to deal 6 damage. I still think that this deck has lots of room to evolve, and has a lot of potentials, and I hope to see it post a few 5-0’s and hopefully do more. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!