Tuning Modern Mono-Blue Martyr

Ever since I first laid eyes on Gregory Hatch’s beautiful Legacy creation that was Mono-Blue Martyr during SCGLA in 2014, I have been pining to tune the deck to a descent list for a Modern meta. Unfortunately, the main combo of the deck (Flusterstorm + Nivmagus Elemental) wasn’t even legal in Modern, forcing me to substitute for an entirely different deck that tried to stick to the core taxing theme, but ultimately fell short on my goal.

Gregory Hatch’s list was so awesome to see at work due to the fact that attacking with a 1/2 Nivmagus Elemental had to be respected unless you were above 30 life. The deck had extremely good synergy, tapping your redundant tax creatures to draw cards with a redundant Sky Hussar in order to be able to cast a critical mass amount of spells for your Nivmagus Elemental to eat up. The deck seemed to flow better than any mono-blue deck I have seen to date (I’m looking at you Merfolk), and with Modern Horizons bringing Flusterstorm to the Modern arena, it’s time for a little update to my deck. First, allow me to present my previous list.

Mono-Blue Martyr (Pre MH1)

by William Sawyer

This version of the deck focused more on getting players on a hard lock through Forecasting Sky Hussar to draw an extra card each turn, play a Wizard of some sort, and hold up mana for Voidmage Prodigy. It worked well with the other taxing creatures such as Cursecatcher and Judge’s Familiar, with Skaab Ruinator being the main win condition. This version of the deck suffered from many issues.

The control and combo matchup was almost un-losable. With all of our cheap taxing creatures, we can quickly build up a board state that is protected from everything save for Supreme Verdict. Against the creature decks is where Martyr really struggles. The biggest issue is we don’t have a reliable way to counter creature spells with our cheap creatures. Martyr of Frost, Spellstutter Sprite, and Disrupting Shoal are our only “good” options, and even then they are conditional.

So now that we have Flusterstorm, how does the deck change? Allow me to introduce Modern Mono-Blue Martyr 2.0.

Mono-Blue Martyr 2.0

by William Sawyer

Let’s talk about what’s different.

First and foremost, we have the combo in here. At long last, Fluster-Elemental is a Modern engine. Which means we need to play more cards that can support the combo. In order to make way for the combo and the support for it, I did away completely with the Wizard shenanigans. I figured since they were there as a supplement anyways, we may as well play the real deal and ditch the old tech. It makes me sad to take such a fun lock out of the deck but, admittedly, this build is much better.

The Core

Cursecatcher and Judge’s Familiar are nearly the same card, which is why I dropped down to two copies of Cursecatcher in favor of Mistcaller (which I’ll get to in the Support section). The two work together alongside Martyr of Frost to be able to tax our opponents enough to entice only the greediest players to keep casting spells.

Spellstutter Sprite managed to find its way into the list, being able to counter any spell rather than Instants and Sorceries is relevant, though not being able to reliably counter spells makes it worse. It made the cut, however, as having flash on its own can add to our Storm count when we’re comboing off, and it also gives us another pair of wings to attack with in the air in order to either start on an opponent’s life total, or finish up the job after we’ve combo’d.

Sky Hussar is the real engine of the deck. This makes our stupid taxing creatures who stick around on the battlefield actually do something for us, drawing an extra card each turn for no mana. I underestimated this card for sure, but Forecasting even just once a turn is enough to pull you far enough ahead to get the combo with back up protection long before your opponent is able to break from the tax lock on them. Sky Hussar is the real MVP of this deck.

Aether Vial is the glue that keeps this deck together. If you didn’t notice, the deck only plays 14 lands, which, as a Scapeshift player who’s used to 27 lands in their deck, does not feel like a lot. Vial allows us to keep our creatures coming each turn while allowing us to hold up our mana for a Martyr activation, or an end step combo. Can also work in combination with Sky Hussar’s Forecast for some fancy sequencing, being able to draw on upkeep from the Hussar to get maximum information as to whether or not you would like to tick the Aether Vial up. Always a handy tool to have for this deck.

The Support

Mistcaller is the first support card I want to talk about, because this card seems insane in the current meta. Between Dredge and all the different Arclight Phoenix decks, this card is a hate bear that I feel is extremely underrated, and it does exactly what this deck wants to do. Play a taxing creature, and sit on it until necessary to use.

Even with all the new Ninja cards being introduced, Ninja of the Deep Hours remains king in my mind. He can get in by being Ninjutsu’d off of a Judge’s Familiar or Spellstutter Sprite for added card advantage, and when he can’t attack through the blockers, he Forecasts to Sky Hussar. I went down to three copies because it got a little awkward drawing them in multiples, but still a great card that I’m generally happy to see.

Snapback is a card that I’m excited to see in the main. This took Vapor Snag’s slot, as being able to cast it for free can be extremely useful when comboing. Due to the amount of card advantage generated from Sky Hussar, we’ll rarely care about the card we have to pitch, it also ups the amount of two-drops that we play, making Disrupting Shoal better. Snapback probably should have been in the original list, but without the combo there I was worried about not being aggressive enough, hence my favor of Vapor Snag.

Disrupting Shoal managed to make the cut, as it supports the combo as well as synergizing with our goal of taxing our opponents. Sometimes this card will be free, and sometimes I will cry as my opponent cast a Karn Liberated on turn three. This card definitely has its ups and downs, which is why we’ve got an excellent new include.

Force of Negation seems outstanding in this deck, as being able to act as a free spell for an end step combo is the floor for this guy, which is an extremely high floor. I could only find room for two, which I feel is the right number anyways, as it is only actually relevant as a card in a hand full of match ups, but will be extremely good in those matchups.

The Finishers

The final piece to our puzzle, once we’ve generated the necessary card advantage and have a Nivmagus Elemental on the battlefield and a Flusterstorm in hand, the real work can begin. In order for this combo to work, we obviously have to generate the spells ourselves, but our opponents definitely can help. An end step combo is best as it gives us the highest likely-hood of alpha striking and catching our opponent off guard, especially if they’ve cast multiple spells. If our opponent cast two spells on their turn, then we can Snapback one of their creatures, hold priority to Force of Negation our Snapback, hold priority to Flusterstorm our Snapback (which would put four copies of Flusterstorm on the stack) and allow our Nivmagus Elemental to eat all five Flusterstorms and the Force of Negation for 12 +1/+1 counters, and still bouncing their creature.

This is only one scenario that I ran into, with most other combo turns ending in a similar, yet somewhat different way. It’s a little weird and can take some serious number crunching, but the combo is always satisfying to get off.

Skaab Ruinator acts as our alternative win condition when the combo won’t cut it. A cheap creature that we can easily sneak in with an Aether Vial that has a 5/6 flying body behind it is no joke and will quickly end games. Only one is required due to its ability to buy itself back, and with the combo now implemented we don’t need it as our main win condition.


The sideboard for this deck has stayed very much the same as it’s just a general catch-all sideboard with graveyard hate, artifact hate, burn hate, and last tuning pieces to help our deck be the best 60 it can in each game.

Modern Mono-Blue Martyr is an absolute blast to pilot with some intense math and sequencing problems that come up frequently, proving to me with each game that the deck has a lot more play to it then what was originally given from the list.