Resolving Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Hogaak is perhaps one of the more interesting card designs of cards to come from Modern Horizons. It is the first time in the history of Magic that a card has specified that you can’t spend mana to cast it. The fact that it’s taken 25 years to get to this point is astounding, and helps remind me just how much unexplored development space there is left in this game. Hogaak is nothing short of an anomaly, and he has been making some pretty big splashes in Modern, which is what I’m here to talk about today.

Hogaak Bridgevine

Hogaak is on a similar power level to the Eldrazi decks that were making the rounds in Modern back when Oath of the Gatewatch had released. Granted, Hogaak has yet to take over that percentage of the meta, however 20% of the meta for the Modern 1K we hosted last weekend consisted of Hogaak, with two lists making the Top 8 cut. Similarly, at the SCG Pittsburgh Classic this last weekend, five of the top 16 deck lists were Hogaak Bridgevine, and Grand Prix Dallas this last weekend showed 11% Hogaak in the day one breakdown, which then increased to 18.6% in the day two breakdown.

What I’m trying to say is that the deck is good. Very good. Good enough that decks who want to be able to survive are being forced to play an entire playset of Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace in their Sideboard, and sometimes, even these cards aren’t good enough. During our 1K, I witnessed somebody get milled by the Hogaak deck on their opponent’s second turn, before they even had a chance to untap and cast the Rest in Peace that they had in their hand.

This is when decks generally start to get out of hand, when the best hate in the format is too slow for them.

I myself have stared down the barrel of an 8/8 on turn two in Modern recently, and I lost very hard. The deck consistently kills on turn three, which breaks the cardinal rule of Modern.

 

So let’s breakdown what we know about Hogaak Bridgevine so far:

 

  • It consistently holds between 11%-20% of the total meta.
  • It already holds upwards of 20%-30% of the top table meta.
  • It is increasing in popularity, meaning more people will buy this deck.
  • It kills on turn three.

 

It’s not up to me, but as far as I am concerned, something from this deck will get banned. I believe it is warranted, but this deck is breaking too many rules of Modern to stick around with the current power level that Modern is at. So what action then needs to be taken against it?

There have been a few polls posted online about what should be taken out of the format, so let’s examine those now.

Altar of Dementia

Altar is a very key card of the deck, being one of the pieces required to go off. This would be an obvious piece to ban if there were other decks also unfairly taking advantage of this card, but currently, there is not. Hogaak Bridgevine is the only deck that is currently playing Altar of Dementia, meaning banning this card will not harm any other decks, but at the same time, when this deck is gone no other deck will be able to try and utilize Altar of Dementia.

The card isn’t a problem in and of itself, it’s the synergy that comes with Hogaak and Bridge from Below that’s causing issues. I think Altar should stay in the format, allowing future decks to potentially utilize it.

Bridge from Below

Bridge from Below is the next option available, and is a lot more appealing to me. Something my girlfriend said has really stuck with me about this card, she pointed out that it is an Enchantment, and Enchantments should not do anything while they are in the graveyard. The graveyard is quite literally where Enchantments go to die. This is very basic reasoning, but it fits. I understand that Bridge from Below was designed in Future Sight, and so the development team was taking risks with new weird card designs. Bridge from Below is one of those cards with strange design, where it essentially enchants your graveyard.

The issue with this, is the graveyard is a zone that is very difficult to interact with mainboard. I know, that’s why we have a sideboard, but when people have to start maindecking their sideboard cards in order to survive the Modern meta, a dark day is upon us.

Flavor aside, this card has been in Modern for a very long time, and it has not caused any issues. Dredge played it for a little bit, but that is everything that has come from the card. This has a similar feel as Altar of Dementia for me, the card is not inherently busted, but rather synergises too well with the other cards in the deck. I’m not so high on a Bride from Below banning, but I can see it happening.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Fine, if you don’t like banning any of the other two key combo pieces, you have to ban the third one, right? Well, I’m not sure. Like I said at the beginning of this article, Hogaak is one of the most interesting card designs I’ve ever seen. But the true question is, can this card be good without being busted? Let’s say Altar of Dementia got banned, what decks would want Hogaak still?

A hyper aggressive creature deck may surface that plays the Hogaak and Vengevine package in a Dredge shell. This deck would still be able to consistently get a second turn Hogaak through means of Stitcher’s Supplier and Faithless Looting. While Hogaak is sweet, I think an 8/8 on turn two is worse than a Karn on turn three. Unfortunately, I think that this card might just be too good for Modern.

However, there is one more card that I would like to talk about that has been on people’s minds for some time now.

Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting has been in people’s crosshairs for a while now, the ban-wagon for it really picked up with the printing of Arclight Phoenix, and it has only picked up more now that Hogaak Bridgevine is doing so absurdly well. Is action necessary against such a harmless card though?

Faithless Looting prioritizes card selection over card advantage. It is being used in decks that look to abuse the graveyard, which includes Hoggak Bridgevine, Izzet Phoenix, Mono-Red Phoenix, Dredge, and Mardu Pyromancer. This is the first card on this list today that would affect other decks should it be banned. The biggest killer for me is the fact that this would hurt Mardu Pyromancer, which is a fair deck that is somehow surviving in an unfair meta.

But I also believe that the Phoenix decks need to be taken down a notch as well. We’re in this awkward position of banning either the big new problem card (Hogaak and Arclight Phoenix) and continue banning these new problem cards every time one that is too good is released, or we could ban the card that enables these graveyard strategies in Faithless Looting.

It is a very hard choice, and I’m honestly not entirely sure what is correct to do. I think after all of this reasoning, my decision on the subject would be to ban Faithless Looting and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. I think Faithless Looting is too good of an enabler for the graveyard decks, allowing too much card filtering to fuel the graveyard. This will hurt but not murder graveyard decks, while banning Hogaak with eliminate that deck from the meta entirely.

I think Hogaak, even when being used as fairly as possible, is still too good of a card. Unfortunately, it has also proven that we can’t just ban whatever graveyard flavor of the week is showing up. I don’t think Arclight Phoenix is too good for Modern, which is why Faithless Looting needs to go too, in order to ensure the next big graveyard deck can’t break out of the gates the way that Hogaak has.

 

It saddens me that Modern is in a state where another ban has to take place, I just hope the correct decisions are made, even if they are not what I would have done.

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