The Rogue Report – Restoring Balance in Modern

Good day, readers! I’m Cody McCowell, a Canadian magic player, currently residing in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s an honor to be here on writing about my absolute favorite format. As someone who studied music in University and is enthusiastic about the arts, I find modern to be a place for everyone to belong. You can be creative, competitive and deck building with a deep pool can be a very artistic process. If you want to be competitive, this format offers a massive variety of viable decks, proving that competitive and rogue strategies both have a chance to flourish. I would like to reserve the right to occasionally feature decks that wouldn’t be considered “rogue” strategies, but the bulk of the content I will be covering here is lower-tiered, interesting, lesser-known strategies that can potentially still keep up with the format’s linchpins. Without further ado, welcome to the first edition of The Rogue Report! Let’s get to it!

     One of the players I respect most in the Magic world is Ari Lax. Since I began playing Magic around Theros era, I’ve enjoyed keeping up with his content. His work is always clean, precise, well informed and well delivered. What I respect about him most though, is his ability to identify rogue strategies that are worth playing. In late 2016 Ari Lax wrote about Restore Balance, a deck that has since become one of my favorite decks to play.

Since the dawn of the modern format in 2011, Restore Balance has been lurking beneath the surface. The idea of Restore Balance is to play no cards less than 3 mana cost, so that when we cast a cascade spell, we will always be able to reliably cast Restore Balance. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can think of many cards in Modern that are as utterly destructive as this one. Sometimes you’ll be ten turns deep in a game and neither player will control any permanents. Our whole game plan is to stay low on lands, low on cards, and be ready to cascade. In this deck, even mulliganing numerous times can be advantageous. Think you knew how to play Magic? Think again!

Ari’s late 2016 version of the deck fixed one of the glaring problems with Restore Balance, the mana. The original versions of the deck used Ardent Plea and Violent Outburst as the cascade spells of choice, which already stretch you into 4 colors. The mana was simplified and kept to G/R/B (aka. Jund) with some white splash for a few utility spells and our Boros Planeswalker finishers. Let’s take a look:

Planeswalker (6) Restore Balance
2x Ajani Vengeant
4x Nahiri, the Harbinger

Enchantment (3)
3x Blood Moon

Instant (8)
1x Anguished Unmaking
1x Dismember
2x Mardu Charm
4x Violent Outburst

Creature (9)
1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn   
4x Greater Gargadon
4x Simian Spirit Guide

Sorcery (9)
2x Anger of the Gods
4x Demonic Dread
3x Restore Balance
Mardu Charm
Artifact (9)
4x Firewild Borderpost
4x Veinfire Borderpost
1x Wildfield Borderpost

Land (16)
1x Forest
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Sacred Foundry
1x Swamp
4x Marsh Flats
3x Plains
1x Stomping Ground
4x Windswept Heath 

Sideboard (15)
1x Dismember 
4x Lingering Souls
3x Ravenous Trap
2x Pick the Brain
4x Leyline of the Void
1x Slaughter Games


Some of the key differences of this build from older versions are the use of Demonic Dread as a cascade spell over Ardent Plea, as well as the use of the Nahiri, the Harbinger/Emrakul the Aeons Torn package as an alternative win-con to Greater Gargadon beatdowns. One downside is that because Demonic Dread requires a creature to target, our cascade spells just became a bit harder to rely on. Luckily, we can take a page out of the Living End playbook and always have the option of hard-casting Simian Spirit Guide as a target for Demonic Dread. I believe Mardu Charm to be a great addition to this deck as I have found use in various scenarios ; blocking things of Snapcaster Mage stature with 2 instant-speed 1/1 first strike warriors, or the old end-of-your-draw-step, duress you. Feels good, man.

Image result for as foretold fan art

Thanks to 2017’s Amonkhet set, we now have As Foretold. As soon as As Foretold came out I was immediately excited. Amonkhet came out at the end of April 2017, and by mid-May Ari was on top of showcasing the new build. Here’s what he was working with:

Planeswalker (6)
2x Kiora, the Crashing WaveAs Foretold
4x Nahiri, the Harbinger
Instant (4)
4x Violent Outburst

Sorcery (4)
4x Restore Balance

Creatures (9)
4x Greater Gargadon
4x Simian Spirit Guide
1x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Artifact (9)
3x Fieldmist Borderpost
2x Firewild Bordperpost
4x Wildfield Borderpost

Enchanment (12)
4x Ardent Plea   Ardent Plea
3x As Foretold    
3x Blood Moon
2x Detention Sphere 

Land (16)
1x Mountain
1x Breeding Pool
1x Steam Vents
1x Sacred Foundry
2x Island
1x Pains
4x Flooded Strand
4x Scalding Tarn
1x Windswept Heath 

Sideboard (15)
1x Ingot Chewer 
4x Leyline of Sanctity
4x Leyline of the Void
2x Kozilek’s Return
1x Odds//Ends
1x Ricochet Trap
2x Wear//Tear

In this version of Restore Balance, we have more ways to cast our namesake spell. We can cascade into it using our 8 copies of cascade spells (Violent Outburst/Ardent Plea), OR we can cast it for free off of As Foretold. Luckily As Foretold reads “…converted mana cost X or less” so we can hold up a little until the opponent goes deeper into a board state.

Some general tips for the smooth play of this deck are as follow:

  • The cost of Greater Gargadon‘s ability includes sacrificing, therefore, with Restore Balance on the stack you can still sacrifice all of your permanents (that you wish) to Gargadon to make the impending Balance all the more back-breaking.
  • You can end up a land up on your opponent if you crack a fetch land, and respond with a Violent Outburst —> Restore Balance.
  • You can also use Violent Outburst —> Restore Balance on  your opponents draw step to nab that extra card; although this is clearly not effective against decks with counter magic or specific cards like Angel’s Grace.

Lastly, there are a few soft spots I would like to address in Restore Balance. I’ve run into these two cards a few too many times with this deck for my liking. Playing Restore Balance is playing such unfair magic that there had to be a few cards that just complete ruin our lives. Unfortunately, those two cards are rather popular in the format, even when they’re not necessarily in the top tier decks. My warning to you – AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE.

Abrupt DecayRemand
Feel like getting Time Walked today? Our reliance on Borderpost mana to get us further into our game plan (few lands on board, mana for after the balance hits) means that we’ve upgraded Abrupt Decay and Remand to Time Walk status. Picture this, turn two you play a basic land into a Borderpost (bouncing your basic) and the opponent Abrupt Decays or Remands the Borderpost. Probably the worst feeling ever.

If  you’re even considering putting this deck together I strongly encourage it. It is possibly the most one-sided fun you can have playing Magic, or very close to it. It’s also possible to do well with this deck in a competitive setting, sometimes due to the sheer lack of knowledge your opponents have on your deck.

Questions? Is there something I’m missing?
Do you have your own super sweet Restore Balance brew?
Don’t be afraid to comment below and please share this content!

I look forward to bringing you The Rogue Report on a weekly basis and I thank you in advance for reading, sharing, commenting or supporting my writing.


Cody McCowell

Cody McCowell

Cody is a magic player aspiring to one day play in the Pro Tour. He is enthusiastic about avid, competitive play and interested in off-beat strategies, multi-format grinding and competing in other CCG'S (Force of Will, Hearthstone, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Super).

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