Brewed Up: Citadel Storm

When I first saw Bolas’s Citadel, I thought it had no real shot in Modern when Ad Nauseam was already legal. I said to a friend, “We would need something like a reverse Grapeshot“. Well Modern Horizons had just that in Weather the Storm. Today we will look at an especially interesting brew from Conley Woods. If you are a fan of Experimental Frenzy Affinity or the banned KCI decks, you will not want to miss this.

Lands (14)
2 Blast Zone
4 Glimmervoid
5 Island
3 Spire of Industry
Spells (46)
4 Lotus Bloom
1 Mox Tantalite
4 Mox Opal
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Welding Jar
4 Chromatic Star
4 Chromatic Sphere
2 Implement of Improvement
3 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Relic of Progenitus
4 Weather the Storm
1 Aetherflux Resevior
4 Bolas’s Citadel
4 Whir of Invention
4 Reshape
Sideboard (15)
3 Ceremonious Rejection
4 Defense Grid
2 Echoing Truth
4 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Pithing Needle
75 Cards Total

The Build
In case it is not clear, this is a dedicated Bolas’s Citadel combo deck. The goal is to get it into play, shred your life total for free spells, and heal it off with Weather the Storm. After you have played enough spells you can activate the Citadel, play another one, and activate it to nail the opponent for twenty. Do note that with enough life you can life-cast the second one and then hold priority to activate the first, sacrificing itself, before your new copy resolves. More often though, you will just use the singleton Aetherflux Reservoir to blast them for fifty. This is easier said than done though. If you run out of life or hit your second land for the turn, your fun is over. So we will break it down card by card to demonstrate how it works.

The manabase is mostly committed to blue in order to cover the restrictive costs on Whir and Reshape. However, the artifact-based rainbow lands are nearly free so they are in there to help you cover Citadel and the activated abilities of various eggs. Blast Zone also sneaks in as Engineered Explosives on a land is great and our best method to beat permanent-based interactive spells. It is better than EE in this deck as we are more suited to make multiple mana of one color, via Lotus, than we are to make multiple colors in a single turn.

Whir of Invention and Reshape fill much the same role in the deck and full sets of each are easy four ofs. They function similar to a Pentad Prism in conjunction with Lotus Bloom, in that you can store mana to go off the following turn. They are also crucial to get Bolas’s Citadel into play consistently, though this is very mana intensive. They are even useful when going off to shuffle your deck when a second land is stuck on top. Do keep in mind that when you have one of these on top of your deck, you are forced to choose 0 for X. But with nine mana producing cheerios in the deck, this is hardly a problem. Then finally, they provide consistent access to silver bullet artifacts to disrupt your opponent. Whir is typically better than Reshape but they are both extremely versatile and powerful.

Lotus Bloom, despite not being a combo piece, is perhaps the single most important spell in the deck. It is our primary method of generating BBB for a Citadel and allows us to cast our six drop engine on Turn 4. What really sets it apart though is that peculiar, absent mana cost. This causes other cards to read it as a 0. So you are able to Reshape into it and end up mana positive; functionally a Lotus Petal. Your opening hand really does need to contain a Lotus Bloom or a way to find it. Otherwise, you are probably not winning until Turn 5-6. It is not just a way to go off though. Once you go off, Citadel recognizes it as a 0 drop on top of your deck. In such an instance it is a true Black Lotus in Modern. This mana will be crucial to activate various abilities and cast the spells stuck in your hand as you go off. This is probably a good place to mention Mox Tantalite. This is your fifth and much worse copy of Lotus Bloom but what I have said above applies to it. You need to untap with and use it three times for it to be equivalent to a Lotus, but hey we can only run four copies of a card.

What can I say about Mox Opal that has not already been said? Metalfcraft is a trivial requirement to access the effect of a Mox. The deck runs twice as many artifacts as lands so it comes online quickly and consistently. Fast mana is great, we all know this. The truly special thing about Opal in this deck is that it allows you to run fewer lands. Therefore you are less likely to find the dreaded second land on top when you are going off. Every Opal you hit mid-combo is entirely free and will generate mana to crack eggs. It is also worth noting that you can tap it to pay for half of a Reshape and also use it as the sacrifice fodder, netting two mana if you search up a Lotus Bloom. The other cheerios in the deck are Tormod’s Crypt and Welding Jar. These singletons are there to find with Whir/Reshape to cheaply disrupt graveyard decks and protect Citadel respectively.

As is typical with artifact combo decks, the full sets of Chromatic eggs make an appearance. These help you to cover the touchy mana costs and keep a high artifact count. While going off, they also allow you to store on-demand one mana draw effects to pull the combo-killing second land off the top. Star, not Sphere, has the added benefit that if you do not have the mana to pull the second land off the top, you can activate Citadel and sacrifice the Star to draw that land; giving your combo turn a second lease on life. Implement of Improvement shares this text but does not fix your mana. This one requires a colored mana investment but allows you to slightly bump your life total while going off. Remember that running out of life is just as much of a concern as the second land when it comes to fizzling.

Further on the utility front we see four Spellbombs. These provide a disruptive effect and if you have the spare colored mana, they provide a draw as well; which I hope you understand the value of at this point. Three of them are Nihil Spellbombs and I assume that this is a response to Vengevine’s recent dominance in the format. The miser’s Spellbomb is Pyrite and this is absolutely a requirement. Disruptive creatures such as Thalia brutalize this deck. The two of Blast Zone is untutorable and very mana intensive so you must rely on Pyrite to get the job done. The final spell to cover is Relic of Progenitus and the function is much the same as the others. It is an extra artifact that disrupts graveyard decks, yes we run eight mainboard graveyard hate spells. Then when you are going off you can cash it in to draw a card. This combo deck is full of redundancy and rightfully so.

The Verdict
I always enjoy a degenerate artifact combo deck but this is no KCI. You cannot win before Turn 4, okay an extremely unlikely Turn 3 is possible, and there is very little room for non-combo cards to protect yourself. A key strength of KCI was that you had EE as an anti-hate combo piece combo package. However, much of the Modern format is worse versions of banned decks. You have a ton of redundancy and a consistent Turn 4 win. Removal is useless against you and graveyard decks are basically auto-wins. But it is very hard to deal with sideboard hate and fast combo decks. The Humans matchup is also extremely difficult as a Turn 2 Thalia is very hard to beat. Your only out to Stony Silence and Karn the Great Creator are Blast Zone and sideboard Echoing Truth.

I enjoy this deck and it very interesting but I am not optimistic about its competitive viability. I will say that this deck can make amazing use of Scheming Symmetry once M20 is legal. When going off, you are able to top and then immediately life cast anything you want, your opponent will die before they ever draw their tutored card. However, when not mid-combo you are giving the opponent their best hate card. I do not think this fixes any of the deck’s issues.

While I do not see this deck as a worthy successor to KCI, I am far from an authority on the topic. If you want to see it in action and judge for yourself you can watch VODs on Conley’s Twitch channel. Regardless of viability, it is an absolute blast to play. Do you think that this deck will be the next KCI? How would you overcome the weaknesses? Let’s talk about it 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 with yet another brew. Until then my friends.

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