Hypothetically Modern: Dark Depths

I’ve said it in the past that I think Dark Depths wouldn’t break modern at all. Now to prove it.

Hypothetically Modern History
The Premise
Scourge of Nel Toth

Hypothetically Modern returns to take a look at another card and what would happen if it were added to the modern format, despite currently being banned. Dark Depths never got a chance to show itself as a fair card in the format, due to the old Thopter/Depths combo deck.

Why Dark Depths?

I’ve always liked this card as it presents a powerful finisher that is also a land (though not one that normally produces mana). The combo of Dark Depths with either Vampire Hexmage or Thespian’s Stage is a powerful two card combo that can end the game very quickly. The closest comparison is to the recently banned Splinter Twin, and it could be very interesting to see it used in a deck with a similar shell. The disadvantage compared to Twin decks is that the individual pieces of the Depths combo are weaker individually, it’s easier to interact with, and it only does 20 damage per turn instead of infinite.

Testing Process

Before getting too deep into my testing (which actually had some non-goldfish games this week!) we should take a look at the deck. For ease of testing I wanted to push Depths to be as fast as possible, caring nothing for the hurt it puts on itself. This list is entirely focused on getting Marit Lage into play as fast as possible and killing with it, with very little in the way of protection. For a truly competitive deck I don’t think this is the best way to go, but for the speed test purposes I think it’s fine.

Creatures (8)
Street Wraith
Vampire Hexmage

Spells (26)
Expedition Map
Gitaxian Probe
Inquision of Kozilek
Not of This World
Serum Powder
Serum Visions
Lands (26)
Dark Depths
Darkslick Shores
Gemstone Caverns
Polluted Delta
Thespian’s Stage
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Watery Grave

The first set of games were goldfishing strictly to see how fast the deck could win. Of 10 games on the play it would kill on turn 4 in 5, turn 5 in 4, and turn 6 in 1. On the draw, however, it managed 1 turn 3 kill, 8 turn 4 kills, and 1 turn 5 kill (with half of those having start of game Gemstone Caverns). So based on these numbers I was intrigued enough to go forward with testing.

I proceeded to run 10 games against Naya Burn, in which this list lost 7 times (4 on the draw, 3 on the play). The deck turned out to be too painful to really dig early, and often Burn was just a faster deck (managing multiple turn 3 kills). I also ran a number of test games against Jund, in which I expected Depths to have a strong advantage. However, in typical Jund fashion, the decks managed a 50/50 record.


While this small amount of testing is not even close to enough to 100% say that Dark Depths is a safe card for the modern format, it certainly is a promising start. The biggest concern that I had was that the deck would just be too fast, and that simply is not the case when their are multiple turn 2-3 turn kill decks out there. It may be possible to use the shell as a new version of the old Twin decks, or that the combo would serve as a great win condition in Knight of the Reliquary or Life from the Loam decks. One thing that it would certainly do is shake up the format and increase diversity as it strengthens multiple low-tier decks OR makes new decks altogether. All this in a package that is actually easier to interact with compared to the Splinter Twin combo. Here’s just a few common ways to stop or slow down the deck.

  1. Path to Exile trumps Marit Lage.
  2. Vapor Snag or another other cheap bounce spell (Boomerang).
  3. Lingering Souls buys 4 turns.
  4. Ghost Quarter. Either destroy Dark Depths in response to Vampire Hexmage OR destroy Thespian’s Stage in response to it’s ability.
  5. Deflecting Palm.

All of these answers are even faster than the combo and are found in many of today’s most popular decks.

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.