Note: As of 6 November 2023 I'm revising this deck. The below guide is out of date (will update soon).


This is a midrange deck built around using Hushbringer and Archon of Emeria to hamper our opponent while using value engines to grind ahead.

Hushbringer denies ETB and death effects to our opponents, meanwhile our deck is designed around that constraint. As of 21 June 2023, of the top 15 modern competitive decks on MTG Goldfish, Hushbringer inhibits something in the mainboard in all but four of them (further discussion in drop-down accordion below).

Those decks that are either not inhibited or are poorly inhibited by Hushbringer tend to be strongly impeded by Archon of Emeria's land-tap and/or single-cast constraints, which we have also built around.

These two cards represent the backbone of the deck's strategy -- we seek to utilize value engines that get around these control abilities in order to stay ahead of our opponent.

As of 21 June 2023, of the top 15 modern decks on MTG Goldfish, Hushbringer inhibits:

Recall that modular is typically triggered by a creature going to the graveyard, and so is entirely shut down by Hushbringer (which is also why we don't run modular and this deck therefore looks nothing like a typical "scales" deck).

So the top-15 decks that Hushbringer doesn't touch are Burn, Murktide, Underworld Breach, and Domain Zoo.

Of course, Hushbringer hoses many decks outside of the top 15 (Death and Taxes, Eldrazi Tron, Merfolk and Amulet Titan being four obvious examples off the top of my head). Assuming that the percentage of decks she inhibits to be the same outside the top 15 as inside it, then she inhibits something in 73% of all decks.

Regarding those decks that Hushbringer's static ability doesn't impede, four points:

  1. She can be an excellent chump blocker or damage trader in a deck with 4x Giver of Runes when the opponent lacks trample, and lifelink is naturally strong vs burn and aggro.
  2. Not all +1/+1 counters are created equal -- you get a lot more mileage on a lifelink flyer than on most other creatures, especially if you're trading hits or blocking trample.
  3. The four decks she doesn't inhibit are generally hosed by other aspects of the deck (by design), i.e. Archon of Emeria hoses Murktide, as does much of the list.
  4. Our sideboard is designed to help us most vs our weaker matchups, and since it's white it's a pretty solid toolkit.

For a bit of icing on the cake, Hushbringer enables our Serra Paragon to provide infinite recursion to our creatures since Serra's exile ability is prevented.

While it's true that Hushbringer can be a liability against Fury, in my experience 3x Dromoka's Commands mitigates this (the fight mechanic ignores double strike). Also, chump-blocking a non-flyer isn't generally a challenge for us given that we mainboard 4x Giver of Runes, so on the whole we're usually going to strongly prefer the ETB-less Fury. Tossing a red spell to get it out is a major downside for the opponent, and if we're trading hits then we only need to get a couple +1/+1's onto our Hushbringer before we're breaking even.

Archon of Emeria allows us to take advantage of our mana sinks/x-cost cards such as Ozolith, the Shattered Spire, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Hopeful Initiate, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, and Primordial Hydra without falling behind in board state. It also increases the effective protection offered by our Giver of Runes, synergizes with the "first spell" limitation of Esper Sentinel's tax effect, and makes our Dromoka's Commands uncounterable if we wait until our opponent casts their main phase spell. It further synergizes with Boseiju, Who Endures since channeling doesn't count as a cast.

It also enables us to take advantage of continuous value engines like Luminarch Aspirant, Primordial Hydra, and Mikaeus, the Lunarch, so that we're gaining continuous value out of these cards just by virtue of them being on the board, even while we only cast once per turn.

In addition to these benefits, as a general rule, whenever Hushbringer is weak, Archon of Emeria is strong. So much so that although we've opted to mainboard only three Archon of Emeria, we've placed our fourth in the sideboard.

For example, let's take a look at some of the decks Hushbringer is weak against:

Against Crashing Footfalls decks, Archon of Emeria completely hoses all cascade effects since they can't cast their "free" spell, which includes 4x Shardless Agents and 4x Violent Outbursts, and means that when Crashing Footfalls finally casts off suspend they also can't do anything else that turn but sit on their hands (and if they forget this then Crashing Footfalls basically fizzles). And without Fury's ETB, it's very hard for them to remove the Archon of Emeria.

Against Underworld Breach it hoses Ledger Shredder, Underworld Breach (since escape counts as a cast, they can't use it at all), Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer's dash is pretty well hosed since it counts as a cast, Expressive Iteration while not totally stopped is hugely hampered, Mishra's Bauble becomes pretty much a dead draw. Only Teferi, Time Raveler really helps the deck but imo it's not enough to matter.

It's also strong against Murktide for many of the same reasons listed above. I'm not naming every card again only because they are largely the same.

I think you get the idea. Bottom line: Hushbringer and Archon of Emeria make a good pairing because at least one of the two is almost always a hoser, and even when not a hoser still provides reasonable value.

Piloting the deck:

Our typical cast priority is (in order): Aether Vial, Esper Sentinel, Giver of Runes, Hushbringer, Luminarch Aspirant, Ozolith, the Shattered Spire, Dusk Legion Duelist, Archon of Emeria, Anointed Peacekeeper, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Primordial Hydra, Serra Paragon. Of course this is only on average, what we prioritize will be heavily game dependent.

I leave out Hopeful Initiate, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, and Hardened Scales because they are all situational one-ofs and, although cast priority will vary from game to game, it's particularly difficult to predict for these three.

For Aether Vial, the general rule of thumb is to get it to two counters and keep it there until there are no more two-drops in hand, then advance it to three counters and leave it there unless advancing to four counters is crucial for getting out a Serra Paragon. If we have two vials then keep one at three and the other at two, and if you get a third keep it at one.

Remember to hold all instant-speed spells and abilities until the opponent's turn unless there is a good reason not to. This is especially important for Dromoka's Command, which is essentially uncounterable with an Archon of Emeria on the board after our opponent has cast their main phase spell.

Most of the time we will want to spread our +1/+1 counters out in a "go wide" strategy, keeping creatures just big enough to beat our opponent's (4 toughness tends to be important for surviving Lightning Bolts). However when playing against an aggro deck with limited to no removal (such as Hammertime) then we want to go tall, usually on a Hushbringer to ensure we get the most value out of our counters via lifelink. Once we get Primordial Hydra out it's only a matter of time before we're going tall in any case.

Also, we have three vials rather than four because in playtesting four just doesn't play nearly as smoothly as three. You're welcome to swap in a fourth vial, but I think you'll find the deck doesn't run as well.

When to mulligan:

It depends on what deck you're playing against, but in general if you have one or fewer lands then you need to mulligan, the exception being when you have one plains-producing mana in hand and one vial, in which case you can keep (although it's a tad risky, I prefer to keep in this instance). Against aggro you probably need two mana to keep, regardless of vial.

Conversely, if you have more than 4 mana + vials in any combination then you should mulligan.

Other mulligan factors depend heavily on the matchup and are beyond the scope of this guide.

Tips and tricks:

  • All things being equal, always vial out your Esper Sentinels on the opponent's turn, the exception being when you want to put a counter on it from Luminarch Aspirant. Conversely, always put your Luminarch Aspirants out on your turn to get that first +1/+1 counter down on something.
  • Dropping a +1/+1 on an Esper Sentinel all but ensures we'll get the draw, and should be a priority vs control/spell heavy decks.
  • If our opponent is passing the turn with untapped mana even though they could have paid the Esper Sentinel tax to avoid giving us a draw, this is a tell that they're holding a counterspell or some other instant speed interaction to use during our turn.
  • In general, +1/+1 counters should be prioritized for Hushbringer because the flying and lifelink keywords are very strong, however each game will be situational depending on board state. Dusk Legion Duelist can be an excellent target for the draw engine and vigilance. Primordial Hydra ramps very quickly with some upfront +1/+1 counters. Giver of Runes, Archon of Emeria and Anointed Peacekeeper can be much harder to remove with 4 toughness. And of course Esper Sentinel can be a good target as mentioned.
  • It's often a good idea to buff our Primordial Hydra as much as possible on his first and second turns in play. We can use any of our several counter generators to ramp him (including Mikaeus, the Lunarch, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, and Dromoka's Command) and the investment can quickly pay dividends.
  • The most dangerous time for our creatures is when we put +1/+1 counters on them to bring them up to four toughness and out of Lightning Bolt range, as this is when our opponent gets the biggest reward for bolting them. Anticipate this by holding counterplays ready, such as your Mikaeus, the Lunarch buff, Dromoka's Command, Giver of Runes, and even Drannith Ruins.
  • Remember that Ozolith, the Shattered Spire's active is sorcery speed. It's easy to forget that!
  • When using Dusk Legion Duelist as a draw engine (via +1/+1 counters) remember to hold your spells until after you draw so that your mana is open if you draw something better than what you currently have.
  • Although Dusk Legion Duelist can only draw us one card once per turn, we can use Dromoka's Command on our opponent's turn to gain an extra draw. We can do the same by using Mikaeus, the Lunarch's active on our opponent's turn, or by gaining life during our opponent's turn with Heliod, Sun-Crowned in play.
  • It's ideal to vial out your Hushbringer in response to an ETB cast in order to hose your opponent's ETB (or death) effect, but you'll often find yourself dropping her during your turn just to get +1/+1 counters on her off your Luminarch Aspirants or Ozolith, the Shattered Spire. Either method can prove effective.
  • If you have a Hushbringer in play and a second in hand, consider holding back the second in anticipation of the first getting bolted, this way you can vial it in after the first is removed.
  • When Hushbringer is in play, we get infinite recursion from our creatures via Serra Paragon because her "exile and gain two life" ability won't activate when our creatures die. This is very useful for bringing back Giver of Runes or other crucial creatures as often as needed.
  • Pendelhaven is very strong with Esper Sentinel. You'll often want to leave it untapped for this reason, and can eschew putting +1/+1 counters on Esper Sentinel in favor of other creatures if you have the Pendelhaven in play.
  • Drannith Ruins can buff Hushbringer, Giver of Runes, Dusk Legion Duelist, Archon of Emeria, and (less importantly) Serra Paragon and Heliod, Sun-Crowned. The first four of those are put outside of Lightning Bolt range, and Dusk Legion Duelist also draws you a card. With vial it's easy to have the mana open, and you can even use it as a combat trick on the opponent's turn after vialing in.
  • Feed Mikaeus, the Lunarch a +1/+1 from one of your generators each turn, then use his active to give it to your whole army (either on your turn or on the opponent's). Alternatively, you can block with him and then tap to gain a +1/+1 as a combat trick.
  • You can increase the Mikaeus, the Lunarch combat trick if he's 1/1 by blocking, buffing him with Pendelhaven and then responding by tapping to buff him again, making him a surprise 3/4. Alternatively, you can do the same trick with any other 1/1 in play and feed them a counter from Mikaeus at instant speed (in addition to giving Pendelhaven).
  • Serra Paragon can trigger Heliod, Sun-Crowned's static ability by dumping fetch lands into exile. The same can be done with multiple Boseiju, Who Endures. Remember to use the legends rule to get an extra forest mana when saccing one Boseiju, which can mean for example your Primordial Hydra enters with an extra +1/+1.
  • Anointed Peacekeeper can hose manlands like Inkmoth Nexus, an addition to heavily taxing planeswalkers (and removal spells). Also, this deck tends to benefit heavily from seeing the opponent's hand.
  • When Primordial Hydra doubles, it gets a bonus +1/+1 counter for any scales effects you have in play. It also gets those bonuses when first cast. Mikaeus, the Lunarch works similarly when cast or tapped.
  • Don't forget to use Heliod, Sun-Crowned's static ability with your Hushbringers' native lifelink to generate +1/+1 counters when possible.
  • Against 5-color decks, you can use Boseiju, Who Endures to blow up an enemy land right after their untap phase, and if you have Archon of Emeria in play the replacement land will enter tapped.
  • Keep in mind that Giver of Runes can be used to ensure your Dromoka's Command 'fight' creature survives.
  • Remember that if you attack with a creature and it is blocked, you can use Dromoka's Command to finish off the blocker (acting as a psueo double strike), and using Giver of Runes to save your attack/fight creature (in response to your opponent assigning blockers) will cause damage from both combat and the 'fight' to be reduced to zero.
  • Remember that if you Dromoka's Command to 'fight' with your Hushbringer her lifelink will gain you life. Meanwhile, opponent's first strike and double strike abilities do not work during fights.
  • Against red (particularly burn) be cautious about swinging with a tall Primordial Hydra, as they may be holding back a Deflecting Palm. This is especially true in games 2 and 3. It's wise to hold back a Dromoka's Command as insurance against this possibility, and/or to finish them off with smaller creatures. Alternatively, if you have Archon of Emeria in play, then if they already cast during your turn you are safe to attack.

Sideboard tips:

As an example, against Domain Zoo you'll want to swap in the Nature's Claims, Sanctifier en-Vecs, and Burrenton Forge-Tenders.

If you give the deck a chance I think you'll like it. It does take a little practice, and often presents many options to the pilot.

I plan to create a Legacy version as well, which will feature Benevolent Hydra.

If you enjoyed this deck concept please hit the big green +1 button above. Cheers.


Updates Add


Top Ranked
  • Achieved #24 position overall 9 months ago
  • Achieved #17 position in Modern 9 months ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Modern Death and Taxes 9 months ago
Date added 11 months
Last updated 4 days
Splash colors G

This deck is Modern legal.

Rarity (main - side)

3 - 0 Mythic Rares

42 - 15 Rares

10 - 0 Uncommons

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 1.73
Folders Cool, 1
Ignored suggestions
Shared with