If you have played Modern recently, watched Modern recently, read about Modern recently or had any contact with the format at all then you’ll know that Hogaak is the prevailing topic of conversation and controversy. Before Mythic Championship IV a core part of the ‘BridgeVine’ version of the deck was banned (Bridge from Below). In preparation for the same tournament players still decided to play it in droves. Even more indicative than that, the single most registered card at the tournament was Leyline of the Void, with some teams going so far as to main deck the card in their own Hogaak lists and the archetype still had one of the best win percentages and conversion rates of any deck there.
Why is Hogaak this good? The power level of the deck is very high, in a literal sense, it produces a lot of power in a short space of time, often producing lethal board states by the second or third turn. Other archetypes in the format that have this kind of speed are typically associated with some degree of fragility but the Hogaak deck does not really suffer from this same affliction. The deck can mulligan aggressively as it regains the lost card advantage by using the recursive threats from the graveyard. It can beat the non-Leyline hate cards by simply casting creatures, including the 8/8 Avatar, from hand. In fact, the pressure put on opponents to produce a Leyline of the Void in order to compete with Hogaak’s speed gives the deck even more resilience post-sideboard, as the quantity and quality of keeps for the opponent dramatically reduce in their search for the turn zero Leyline. Unlike other graveyard-centric decks, such as Dredge, the creature base in Hogaak can be hardcast easily and are fairly aggressive in nature from 2/1s for one to 4/3 hastes for four.
Do not be fooled, however, that one can simply pick up the deck and ‘gaak their opponents into oblivion without having played the deck beforehand. The sequencing for the deck, in order to fulfil its full potential, is paramount and can take quite a lot of forethought and practise to get it right. When to deploy creatures and in what order, so that you get the highest number of cards into your graveyard but can still recur Vengevines. Whether or not to take a land from Satyr Wayfinder so that you can have more fuel to delve for Hogaak. When to sacrifice a Stitcher’s Supplier and potentially not have zombies in play to recast Gravecrawlers; these are all very delicate balancing acts. It is also important to have a solid grasp on the rules of priority and resolving abilities; in your main phase with a clear stack you will always have priority first, which allows you to cast things like Hogaak before your opponent can remove the ‘gaak or your graveyard with hate cards such as Surgical Extraction or Ravenous Trap. This means that if you are milling a number of cards or are casting the second creature which will allow you to Convoke Hogaak if you mill one then you want to sequence so that you can cast the Avatar before your opponent gains a priority point. Generally speaking, this means you will cast the self-milling creatures (Stitcher’s Supplier and Satyr Wayfinder) after having put another creature into play first. Be aware of creating triggers with Bloodghasts, or priority points with activating Carrion Feeder’s ability, and the windows you are giving your opponent to potentially interact.
There are a few other important elements of the deck to be aware of, such as the neat interaction between Carrion Feeder and your recursive threats, whereby you can sacrifice them to the Carrion Feeder only to return them immediately afterwards and net counters on the Feeder. Carrion Feeder also provides insurance against certain effects from opponents like Reflector Mage, Path to Exile or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as you can simply sacrifice the target and prevent your creature from being exiled or uncastable and stuck in your hand. In post-sideboard games remember that your Force of Vigor can only be cast for the alternative cost on your opponent’s turn and also remember that it can hit a secondary target, so you could snag both the Leyline and that Expedition Map!
As Hogaak is still a relative newcomer to the format the Magic community hive-mind still hasn’t refined the decklist to an agreed upon final form and there are still a range of cards that people are including or excluding in an attempt to get the perfect Hogaak list. Below are a couple of notable options:
Hogaak - Matt Brown (Team Axion)
GlowGaak - Pete Ward (Hareruya Hopes)
JundGaak - Felix Sloo/Dominic Harvey (Team Nova)
Cryptbreaker, Lotleth Troll, Shriekhorn, removal suite, Insolent Neonate, Glowspore Shaman, Dryad Arbor and even Bloodghast are among the cards which are currently under the spotlight for inclusion or exclusion. If the core of the deck doesn’t get hit face first with the ban hammer in the near future then the development and refinement of Hogaak will continue to be a fast-paced evolution coming from some of the brightest minds in the game. They’re working on the deck and playing the deck and you probably should be as well!
About George Channing:
George has been playing competitively since 2014 and is a true grinder; with a huge number of competitive events under his belt, his results have been improving year on year. With a Grand Prix Top 8 in Modern and a few Pro Tour appearances, he aspires to become a regular on the biggest stage. George’s role on Team Axion is frequently related to metagame and decklist analysis, whilst also providing a lot of raw testing data. He most enjoys Standard with the speed and frequency of the metagame developments keeping it interesting.