Cheerios – The Breakfast of Champions, by Pagan Young

Cheerios has been a pet deck of mine for years, I used to have it proxied to play with friends or to goldfish at home by myself, mostly because the financial investment of Mox Opal for the longest time for me didn’t seem worth it for what might be considered a “Meme” deck. However I bit the bullet to build Urza Thopter Sword, but didn’t end up enjoying the play patterns of that deck as much as I’d hoped to, so the Opals immediately went towards building Cheerios for real.

Harlequins Preston had our European Modern Series tournament coming up so I got the deck finished and sleeved up ready, expecting to play some fun Modern, maybe get a sweet storm kill or two and have some fun, little did I know that the deck was incredibly consistent in real games, and not just in the goldfish games at my desk. I ended up making the final easily as most of my opponents either didn’t have any tools to fight what I was bringing to the table, or I had the answers to their answers. In the end the death of the deck in the finals was a Spell Pierce on my Mox Opal.

The Modern format at the moment has its problems, it is full of degenerate decks breaking the Turn 4 rule, and Spirits, while being very good at tempoing and disrupting these degenerate decks, feels a little slow and fragile. I would consider playing the deck mostly for the hate pieces the sideboard would provide me for the format, but I didn’t consider this a good enough reason to choose the deck. Cheerios, however, has a pretty decent chance of winning on turn 2 or 3 and can justify completely ignoring everything that the opponent is doing, and because of this the sideboard does not need to cater to every broken thing that a fair deck like Spirits has to, and this really appealed to me. London Mulligan is an incredibly important part of the decision as well, the deck can function on a hard Mulligan as long as it has the combo pieces, and the new rule makes it a lot easier to find them.
Cheerios is a hard deck to stop, it has hate pieces checked even in the main deck. Hand disruption is a problem, however every deck has a weakness, and ultimately I had to accept that I needed to be ok with conceding a few games to a turn 1 Thoughtsieze or Inquisition of Kozilek. Cheap removal spells can also be a problem, but the deck has enough draw power that as long as you can draw a few cards with Sram or Puresteel Paladin before one dies, you can recover.

The List

Main:

  • 4 Accorder’s Shield
  • 1 Arid Mesa
  • 4 Bone Saw
  • 4 Cathar’s Shield
  • 4 Flooded Strand
  • 1 Grapeshot
  • 3 Hallowed Fountain
  • 1 Horizon Canopy
  • 1 Hurkyl’s Recall
  • 4 Mox Opal
  • 1 Noxious Revival
  • 4 Paradise Mantle
  • 1 Plains
  • 4 Puresteel Paladin
  • 4 Repeal
  • 4 Retract
  • 1 Seachrome Coast
  • 2 Simian Spirit Guide
  • 4 Spidersilk Net
  • 4 Sram, Senior Edificer
  • 4 Sunbaked Canyon

Side:

  • 4 Echoing Truth
  • 4 Giver of Runes
  • 3 Pact of Negation
  • 4 Silence

Main Deck

For those who may not be Familiar with the deck, the list looks incredibly stupid but I promise you it’s a sweet combo. Firstly you have your main combo pieces; Sram, Senior Edificer and Puresteel Paladin; Both have an ability to draw cards from playing equipment (Sram draws on cast, Puresteel draws when they enter the Battlefield). So how do we capitalise on this powerful effect? We play a whole stack of 0 mana Equipment, allowing us to draw cards for no mana at all! Secondly we want to be able to keep churning through our deck, if we don’t draw more Equipment to keep going we need something else to fuel us, so we play 4 copies of Retract – an Instant that returns all Artifacts we control to our hand for 1 Blue Mana, this allows us to cast our artifacts again for more cards. Where do the Mox Opals come in that I mentioned earlier? They effectively make Retract a free spell, allowing us to later use multiple Opals to make the Mana needed to cast our finisher – Grapeshot.

More Important cards in the deck that help the combo along:

Repeal – acts as a 1 mana draw 2 when you return your own equipment to your hand, also allows you to bounce your opponents hate cards.

Hurkyll’s Recall – Sometimes 4 copies of Retract isn’t enough, having a 5th copy helps the chance of fizzling your combo, it can be cast through a chalice on 1 unlike retract, gives you resiliency through surgical extraction and also has fringe use in the format to combat decks like Affinity and Saheeli Combo (The Felidar Guardians copies are artifacts). This card is so important to the deck I’ll be adding an additional copy to my deck for the future.

Sunbaked Canyon/Horizon Canopy – More than most decks this deck is reliant on a very specific set up, and being able to draw cards from land drops is incredibly important.

Noxious Revival – Sometimes your combo will start to fizzle, being able to draw a retract by recycling it back to the top of your deck is awesome, and just in case somehow your 1 copy of Grapeshot ends up in the yard it’s nice to be able to rebuy it.

Simian Spirit Guide – This historically busted card allows us to nut draw a win on turn 1, however it’s mostly used by me to grab the extra mana for a repeal on hate cards or to cast Hurkyll’s when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Other decks run these alongside Rugged Prairie to try for the turn 1 win, but I prefer consistency over speed.

The combo itself is pretty self explanatory when it gets off the ground, the difficulty in piloting the deck is threefold; Mulligan decisions, knowing what turn you can go off and sideboarding.

Knowing what turn you can go off to me feels like a learned instinct but generally as long as you have all your pieces and don’t get disrupted you can win on turn 2. If your combo doesn’t work on turn 2 or you require a turn to set up, turn 3 is perfectly fine even in by the current meta’s speed. Don’t be disheartened if you do fizzle on turn two, the deck has so many ways to keep trying again. Puresteel Paladin is my prefered turn 2 combo creature, although the Equipments have to resolve to draw (nod to Chalice of the Void) it allows you to free equip everything to itself to give it a large toughness to beat some aggro and survive Lightning Bolts, and Paradise Mantle allows to to ensure even more mana is available to you for next turn.

Keeping Hands

Generally your opening hands need to contain the two main combo pieces (a creature and an equipment) and 2 lands to be considered keepable at the minimum, but I would like to see an Opal, some more Equipments or some bounce spells on top of that, so I mulligan very aggressively to sculpt this out, there isn’t really such thing as a value hand in this deck, although you can keep Equipment heavy hands as long as they have a castable creature. 

Here’s some example hands to illustrate the decisions I make when choosing whether to mulligan.

((2x Sram, Senior Edificer, Paradise Mantle, Accorder’s Shield, Arid Mesa, Flooded Strand, Sunbaked Canyon.))

This hand has 2 Srams, now he is Legendary so the second copy is often useless, however in cases where the first one is removed it’s nice to have a back up, we also have 2 artifacts to draw some cards and the Lands needed to cast our spells. The third Land is disappointing as we only really need 2, but since the 3rd is a Sunbaked canyon we can cash it in for a card if we need to. I’d keep this hand.

((Sram, Senior Edificer, Puresteel Paladin, 2x Repeal, Accorder’s Shield, Paradise Mantle, Plains))

This Hand is a lot sketchier, we have a nice spread of combo pieces and a back up creature, however we only have 1 Land and it doesn’t produce blue mana, so this is a Mulligan.

((Puresteel Paladin, Grapeshot, Spidersilk Net, Paradise Mantle, Bone Saw, Sunbaked Canyon, Hallowed Fountain.))

This Hand has a creature and a few draws to get through with our artifacts, it has the Mana to cast our cards and the Grapeshot finisher. It’s a good hand and most of the time I would be inclined to keep it, however if it isn’t game 1 and you’re against a removal or hand disruption deck this might be a mulligan to try for a more resilient hand.

Sideboarding

Sideboarding is probably the hardest part of playing the deck, but luckily the deck at the moment only has 4 sideboard cards. The deck can board out 3-4 cards but it’s difficult to take more than that out of the main because the combo is so important and requires so many different pieces.

Silence – 4 copies of Silence hoses opposing storm decks, allows you to fight counter spells against control decks, and stops explosive turns from decks in the format such as Izzet Phoenix that rely on a bunch of spells being cast in one turn.

Echoing Truth – 4 copies of this card is the most important piece of the sideboard and never changes no matter what the meta is, it’s integral to fight through the best hate pieces; Damping Sphere, Leyline of Sanctity, Chalice of the Void, Narset Parter of Veils, ect. The trouble with this is knowing when your opponent is bringing in these pieces, which requires a certain format knowledge. Echoing Truth is by far the most boarded-in card of the entire sideboard, it comes in most matches, especially game two when you still need to figure out what your opponents line of attack is for beating the combo.

Giver of Runes – 4 copies for bringing in against removal heavy decks, anything that plays cheap efficient removal like Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push and Path to exile. You want to protect your creatures at all costs, finding a second combo creature is more unlikely than other combo pieces.

Pact of Negation – 3 copies round out the last of the sideboard, they’re helpful for fighting counterspells and removal on the turn you want to storm off. You cannot use Pact of Negation to stop your opponent’s combo (this is the main downside of the sideboard honestly) as you will never be able to pay for the pact trigger and you will lose the game.

Sideboard options that can be important in different metas:

Leyline of Sanctity – Helpful against metas that have more hand disruption decks like Hollow One, Mardu Pyromancer, Death’s Shadow or Jund. Also beats the Mirror if that ever comes up.

Apostle’s Blessing – An alternative to Giver of Runes, I would personally after this event switch the Givers to Apostle’s Blessings for the surprise Factor. Burrenton Forge-Tender is also a good contender but ultimately a bit too niche.

Tormod’s Crypt – If you really fear Graveyard decks and don’t think you can go faster than them uninterrupted then run some crypts, any other hate doesn’t work very well in Cheerios as they’re too slow and cost too much mana, Relic of Progenitus and Grafdigger;s Cage are Ok but the 1 mana investment can matter, Rest in Peace takes a whole turn that you can cast a Puresteel Paladin so is no good either.

Ghirapur Aether Grid – I personally don’t like this choice, but it is an interesting and unexpected line of attack to fight hate like Stony Silence/Collector Ouphe or those strange times when people are playing Runed Halo. Also not bad against hate that targets the storm aspect as you can slowly increment damage over time instead of comboing. Monastery Mentor I like more in this situation.

Thoughtsieze – Beats opposing combo decks and also fringe use to combat opposing Thoughtseize.

What to Sideboard out? It is extremely hard to take more than 4 cards out, the most often boarded out cards are the Simian Spirit Guides, these are cute to speed up your combo but not essential. Secondly, I tend to take out Noxious Revival, the card is helpful against discard and interaction but most matches you can safely board it out. Lastly I would like to take out a Bone Saw or 2, these are categorically the worst Equipment in the deck, the toughness and reach are often more important than power in the situations where you find yourself actually equipping, and Paradise Mantle’s Mana ability is the best of them in the deck, so always keep 4 copies.

Conclusion

The deck felt really well positioned for every event I played in, fortunately I had a lot of surprise value in that the deck is relatively uncommon, many of my opponents didn’t know on which axis to attack my combo on, and I was able to capitalise heavily on it. The Modern Meta at the moment also leans towards broken turn 3 combos, and being able to go off a turn faster has proven extremely valuable. I ended up over the weekend at the Magic Fest losing only 2 matches, the first to Goryo’s Vengeance (the match was decided by the die roll and was over on turn 2 all 3 games) and the second to UW Control, their main deck surgical extractions ruined the combo by removing my Retracts.

If I was to go to an event anytime soon, I’d lock in Cheerios, the deck is solid, and the addition of Sunbaked Canyon and the London Mulligan really helped the deck overcome its previous shortcomings.

Lastly, allow me to shamelessly plug my twitter – @BantEnchantress, and thank Katherine Bellingham (@FunkyFlump) for helping me edit this article and cut out all my waffling.