Among Modern archetypes, few elicit as much vitriol as Bogles. However, I have been playing this archetype from its inception and I have come to embrace the salt. The deck is an absolute blast to play and when the format is ripe for it, there is no easier way to win a tournament. Today I will go over how to build the deck, how to mulligan with it, and the play patterns to follow in order to succeed with it.
This deck is very linear and as a result the list changes more based on personal preference than it does for metagame reasons. I will list the typical recipe today so that you can build your own list from there but I will be back tomorrow with my own list and sideboard guide.
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Razorverge Thicket
3-4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
1-2 Other Green Fetchlands
To be perfectly honest, I do not understand why we sometimes see a fourth Temple Garden over the sixth fetchland but on rare occasions people do it. The second Plains is a tad more credible but your creatures typically do not get hit with Path and Field is slow against such a linear deck. I recommend six fetches to provide greater access to Dryad Arbor but the decision is yours. However you build the manabase within these parameters, the overall impact is miniscule.
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Slippery Bogle
0-4 Kor Spiritdancer
0-4 Silhana Ledgewalker
The one drop hexproof creatures are absolutely vital to the function of the deck so you want to max out on them. For the remaining slots, Spiritdancer is more popular by a huge margin and I advocate this. It is your fastest win condition against combo decks and the opponent typically will board out as much removal as possible against us. Ledgewalker could be the way to go if you expect an abnormally high percentage of players at the tournament to be playing midrange or control. But in these matchups I still do not mind her as she is still a source of card advantage.
4 Daybreak Coronet
4 Ethereal Armor
4 Spider Umbra
1-2 Spirit Mantle
0-2 Hyena Umbra
0-2 Gryff’s Boon
0-2 Cartouche of Solidarity
0-1 Spirit Link
0-1 Unflinching Courage
The auras locked in as full sets really should not be tampered with. Coronet, Ethereal, and Rancor are the best auras by a solid margin. Do note that a Coronet will fall off if an opponent destroys the other aura(s) attached to the creature. Spider Umbra is actually more critical than you would think. Totem armor and reach are solid keywords to have in general and there are few matchups against which you want neither. It is worth noting that if an effect such as Engineered Explosives would destroy your Bogle and your totem armor aura simultaneously, the aura still prevents the Bogle from being destroyed. Also it is very hard to go all in a Dryad Arbor if you do not have totem armor. With Spider Umbra being Green, the Arbor can tap to pay for its own protection. It is a lot of value at one mana.
The others auras listed are all quality choices but I would say that Spirit Mantle is the most important. In relation to opposing creatures it effectively says unblockable and indestructible. It is the best evasion available and you can stick it on a plain 1/1 to hold down the fort against large creatures; buying you time to race with another creature or draw into further action. It also protects your non-hexproof threats from Reflector Mage style effects that could normally target them. Hyena Umbra is the other default choice mostly due to totem armor. The deck is not particularly excited about a ninth and tenth first strike aura. When edict effects such as Liliana of the Veil are particularly popular, Cartouche takes precedence due to the token it generates. Link is a lifegain effect that also acts as pseudo-removal. When placed on an opposing creature, it causes you to regain any life that the creature would take away from you. Courage is slow but is the best standalone aura available.
Flex Slots (4-6)
0-4 Leyline of Sanctity
0-4 Path to Exile
0-2 Open the Armory
0-1 Dromoka’s Command
These are the slots that actually change around based on the metagame. Typically lists have six of these slots filled by 2-4 Path and 2-4 Leyline. Path is just an all around great removal spell to max out on when creature decks are popular. Leyline is a way to make yourself as untouchable as your creatures when you expect to face decks that burn your face and/or black decks that can effectively disrupt your creatures by going through you. I would recommend always having a playset of each in the 75 but how many of each goes into the maindeck is up to you. Open the Armory is a touch slow for the deck but is a solid inclusion because it adds a degree of consistency to an inconsistent deck. Dromoka’s Command is quite common in sideboards but does see some mainboard play as most decks have either creatures, enchantments, and/or instants/sorceries to disrupt.
0-4 Leyline of Sanctity
0-4 Path to Exile
2-3 Rest in Peace
2-3 Stony Silence
2-3 Gaddock Teeg
0-2 Seal of Primordium
0-2 Damping Sphere
0-1 Spirit Link
0-1 Unflinching Courage
0-1 Dromoka’s Command
I of course cannot cover every single sideboard card that could be considered in Green and White but these are the most popular options for this deck. Rest in Peace and Stony Silence have been much of the reason to play White in Modern for years now. They are two mana enchantments that can be lights out against graveyard and artifact decks respectively. In this deck they also increase the effectiveness of Ethereal Armor. Gaddock Teeg mostly explains himself when you read him; bring him in when the opponent has noncreature spells that have an X cost or cost more than three. This describes the Chord–Company decks, combo decks like Ad Nauseam or Scapeshift, and decks with board wipes such as Terminus. It is also typical to run Seal of Primordium or another Disenchant effect to handle things like Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge, and Worship. Though I am not a fan of Damping Sphere in this deck, it is an all-star sideboard card in the format, covering both big mana and spellslinger decks. However, this deck has access to the most premium options in the format and has a very limited number of cards that can be boarded out. In most of the matchups that you want Wet Ball, it is difficult to fit it in alongside your other board ins without diluting the deck. The other options have been explained above.
A Word on Bant Builds
Seriously just do not do it. I first put this deck together when Ethereal Armor was printed. In the almost seven years since, at least once each year something motivates me to add blue; most recently it was Curious Obsession. It has been a letdown every time. The manabase just would not come together. All of your fetches have to be green for Dryad Arbor; I will explain its importance below. The deck also has to keep many one land hands because of the need for Bogle with a critical mass of auras and half of our Bogles cannot be cast with a non-Green land. Also the spells are very strictly costed. Only a few have any form of generic cost so you need to be capable of generating WW, GG, WWW, WWG, or GGW. The addition of blue really exacerbates the issue. I tried many different setups and after some time each one let me down. Stubborn Denial is the only compelling reason to add Blue and it is not enough to justify the increased variance. This inconsistent deck cannot bare any more inconsistency.
This deck does not mulligan well at all. You have only twelve creatures and you cannot keep a hand without one but you also need a critical mass of auras to make those creatures threatening; as well as lands to cast these spells. As a result you will often be keeping what, in other decks, would be “loose hands” and praying for favorable topdecks. The following will focus on Game 1 scenarios in which you do not know what deck your opponent is playing. These are heuristics and exceptions exist for each of them so be prepared to use your best judgement.
Seven and Six Card Hand Keeps
-A land, a hexproof creature, and an aura that you can cast.
-Two lands, a Kor, a Leyline, and an aura that you can cast.
Five Cards or Less Keeps
-A land and a creature.
-A fetchland or Arbor and an aura with totem armor.
The majority of your games will begin with you playing a land; the exception is Leyline. The first land you want to play is usually Razorverge Thicket. Beyond this it is a toss-up between fetchlands and Canopy depending on what will result in less damage over the next two turns. When it comes to the fetchlands you will almost always be grabbing a Temple Garden. As explained above, our mana costs are strict and we usually do not want to play around Blood Moon. You typically only want to grab a basic to stay at a certain “safe” life total.
However, sometimes you do not have a creature so you will need Dryad Arbor. Play your fetchland and then do not fetch out the Arbor until the opponent’s endstep, hoping to get the opponent to tap out or dodging Sorcery speed removal. This line is a failsafe when your mulligans are unfavorable but it comes up much more often postboard. As a White deck our sideboard hate is second to none and many opponents correctly side out much of their removal. Therefore, it is often a good idea to keep a creatureless hand against decks like Dredge/Affinity as long as you have a fetchland and RiP/Stony.
Now that you have a land in play you will hopefully be casting a hexproof creature. If you have both Bogle and Scout in hand, play Scout first so that you can still get some use out of your land if they use Spreading Seas on it. Sometimes though you will be going with a Spiritdancer hand. If you are not under pressure but fear that she will be removed, you can still guarantee some value. If you wait to cast her until you have three lands, you net a draw trigger toward a hexproof threat at worst. Her draw trigger says “cast” so you play her, she resolves, and then priority is not passed until you cast an aura. Your opponent may remove her at that point but you will still get your draw trigger.
Once you have a creature in play, you are mostly just doing math to sequence your auras properly. The only interesting decision points arise when you have a second creature. If you have an additional hexproof creature it may be correct to split your auras between the two. This line is at its best when you have an Ethereal Armor as you can commit most auras to one creature and the Ethereal to the other. Offensively, this nets an additional point of damage or acts as a form of evasion if the opponent has few blockers available. Defensively, this allows you to attack without being forced into a race situation. The defensive plan really only requires a Spirit Mantle.
If you are able to curve a hexproof creature into a Spiritdancer, there is no hard and fast rule saying what to do. If you believe that you will be able to end the game by Turn 4 you should just go for it. Otherwise, jam the Spiritdancer and hope that on Turn 3 will you be rapidly drawing through your deck. Often, if the opponent lets you untap with Spiritdancer in play it means that they have no answer for it; why would they give you a free draw trigger before removing it? Therefore, in many matchups this lack of response means that you should go all in on the Spiritdancer. Any aura will take it out of Bolt range and totem armor covers everything but exile and bounce effects.
When it comes to damage math, you can gain a lot of damage out of your opponent underestimating your capability. If you know that your opponent is going to block your non-evasive creature it can be correct to slow roll your auras. They may reason that they can leave fewer or no blockers back because you were only able to create a small threat. Then on your turn you drop an Ethereal and Rancor for lethal. When you attack many of your opponents, they will be lazy and ask you the stats of the creature. You absolutely should not tell them. The rules do not obligate you to do so. Instead, present your permanents to them and let them add it up. You would be amazed how often people do the math incorrectly. In particular, they will often miss Spiritdancer’s static ability or fail to realize that non-aura enchantments contribute to Ethereal. Either way they will fail to understand how much damage they are about to take and block poorly as a result. If they say “no blocks” and then die immediately, they cannot take it back and the judge will support you.
This should cover any non-sideboard related questions you may have had about Modern Bogles. It is one of the easier decks to play but it always pays dividends to fully optimize your play. The important question now is, is the format ripe for Bogles right now? We would like to hear what you think in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow to provide a full sideboard guide for the archetype. Until then my friends.