Last updated on February 28, 2023
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis | Illustration by Vincent Proce
Since the release of Modern Horizons in the summer of 2019, one card has been an absolute monster in all of its legal formats. Well, maybe four cards. Or five, really?
Five cards have been absolute monsters in all of their legal formats, but only one of them is an actual monster. That one card is the one, the only, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.
In an attempt to keep spooky season alive, this is a late Halloween special! I know, right? Spooky… So, whenever you’re reading this, imagine it’s October 31st and strap in for a ghoul of a time. Cue the 80s spooky disco.
Dryad Arbor | Illustration by Eric Fortune
This deck wants to fill up your graveyard, and cast Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis as early as possible while also popping small threats onto the battlefield. The main combo is casting Hogaak and then sacrificing it to Altar of Dementia with Bridge from Below in your graveyard. Rinse and repeat until you have enough gas to mill your opponent.
This card fuels the deck very well. It’s a zombie, so it can be used to cast Gravecrawler from the bin. It mills you for three, which works well with Cabal Therapy and Altar of Dementia and can convoke Hogaak.
The Crab fuels the graveyard a ton. A single fetch land can mill you eight cards, and two in a row can win you the game. This card is amazing for the deck and, even though it doesn’t convoke Hogaak, it sometimes enables the whole deck to work.
Our favorite re-castable zombie, Gravecrawler can be re-cast from the graveyard as long as you control another zombie. This works well with Bridge from Below and Altar of Dementia, creating a mass of tokens and triggering Vengevines in the yard.
This card doesn’t synergize with the rest of the deck as much, but it’s a creature that can be brought back with a land and can convoke Hogaak. It can also be used very well with Altar of Dementia; mill, land, mill, fetch. It also works really well with Hedron Crab.
Enters the battlefield from your graveyard for free with a relatively easy condition. Enough said. This card is amazing and can win games all on its own.
Ah, the star of the show. Huge 8/8 that you can consistently cast on turn 2. The bane of Modern. The deck’s namesake. I don’t think Hogaak would be remotely as competitive in the format without it.
I just love this card. Sure, it’s not as good in midrange decks, but it’s the Thoughtseize of the combo deck and is perfect here. Being able to sacrifice a creature for value is already a pretty effect, but doing it with the upside of taking a card? Hell. Yes.Once Upon A Time
Having this card in your opener can make or break games. It’s a really good card, even though we usually board one or two out first in games 2 or 3.
Artifacts and Enchantments
This card is one of our combo pieces. It’s a sac outlet that fills your graveyard and then fills your opponent’s graveyard. I really think that this is the card that broke Hogaak in Modern, and it’s always a good draw in our deck. Unless you’re against Show and Tell.
This is also a combo piece, and a token engine, for free! You just need one in your graveyard and you can start producing tokens pretty quickly. The card is banned in Modern, and I think that it may be worth unbanning (especially with Looting and Hogaak gone), but who knows what could have been.
For this deck, you really want a mix of black and green fetches since you want to be able to consistently hit Dryad Arbor while also being able to fetch both Bayou and Underground Sea. You only need around eighteen lands. This deck is all about critical mass, so it doesn’t need that many lands to function. You’ll get mana screwed sometimes, though, and will need to use your head to sequence correctly and get out of it.
The deck really struggles against reanimator, so this is one of our strongest tools against it. It also stops other graveyard decks, though, and we can board in Leylines at no extra cost to us since we mulligan very well.
This can easily beat a turn one Leyline. It’s a good piece of anti-hate, and I don’t think it gets enough love.
I’ll go a bit more in depth in the sideboard guide a bit further down, but these both work very well against certain types of decks. They’re very similar cards, so I’m putting them together. They’re some of the best removal in the format.
Extra hand hate, alongside the extra Cabal Therapy in the board. I initially ran Veil of Summer in this slot, but Thoughtseize works way better for how aggressive we want to be. I 4-1ed a lot with the Veil, but I think this was the change the deck needed.
Dawn of the Dead
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis might have been the card that first broke the Modern Horizons set. Over the summer of the set’s release, dubbed “Hogaak summer”, the card invaded Modern and warped the meta insanely far. Every deck, no matter the color, was running a playset of Leyline of the Void. But this deck’s introduction goes further than that.
Hogaak began serious life in the Modern format as “Bridgevine” in early 2018. With Faithless Looting, the objective was to fill up the graveyard with Vengevines and cast Hollow One, Endless One, and Hangarback Walker to trigger the Vengevines in the graveyard. The death triggers would make zombies using Bridge from Below. MTGgoldfish, ChannelFireball, and even Wizards themselves showcased the deck. It was a fun deck that remained around tier two.
The deck was much more aggressive and could power out a ton of creatures very quickly, but only saw play within the Bridgevine community. The Guilds of Ravnica era brought a few new cards that took the community by storm, namely Arclight Phoenix. But the deck stayed quiet, until the release of a small set called Modern Horizons in the summer of 2019.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Stitcher's Supplier | Illustration by Chris Seaman
Modern Horizons brought two new cards to the format: Altar of Dementia from Tempest and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Chaos ensued. The deck took over the format with a metashare of over 15% at some points. It was nigh unstoppable, and I’m sure that I don’t need to explain how much this is still in the collective mind of the people who lived through it.
In fact, Paul Cullier took second place in the GP Dallas in 2019 with a Bridgevine decklist.
I played my first Grand Prix during this period with Dredge since I couldn’t afford Bridgevine and suffered because of all of the graveyard hate around in that event. It was a lot. I asked a bunch of Modern players about Hogaak, out of curiosity. One wretched, one went into a haze of rage, and one had never actually played Magic before. So, you know, visceral reactions there.
Day of the Triffids
Wizards started by banning Bridge From Below in the hopes that they could refrain from banning the stars of the show: the aforementioned Hogaak, Looting, and Altar. This meant no combo kill, but it didn’t help with how quick the deck was post-ban. So, in the fall, Hogaak and Looting were banned and Stoneforge Mystic being unbanned alongside them.
This marked the fall of Bridgevine in Modern. Crabvine still saw some play with Hedron Crab, but the deck mainly moved its toys over to Legacy.
Hogaak took off almost instantly. The MTGTop8 listing for the deck dates it back to the August window of banning, and it only went up from there. I feel like the deck is the perfect power level for the format, and it’s very fun. I started playing it for the 2020 Eternal Weekend, and it’s probably my favorite Legacy deck after RUG Delver of Secrets, though I play it a lot more than Delver because of Delver’s insane cost.
It’s currently tier 1 since it counters Delver and Snow pretty well and can sometimes win around a mass of counter magic. It also mulligans pretty well and can even win games on mulligans to four.
This is the mental guide I use against some of the main decks in the format. It may not be the same as some pro sideboard guides, but it works for me, and helped me get to where I am with the deck.
Delver of Secrets is a great matchup for us. Because of their deckbuilding constraints, they won’t usually be running Leyline of the Void, so we have to try to steal their threats (Submerge and Surgical Extraction). Hence the extra hand hate.
We bring Abrupt Decay in to kill their threats and the occasional Grafdigger's Cage that may be poking in the board.
Snow is a very odd matchup. They can be running anything because of how varied the deck is. I’d recommend trying to board lightly in game 2, though this is advice even I forget to follow sometimes.
Assume they’re running Leyline of the Void and board in two Force of Vigors and Assassin's Trophy because of its versatility. Game 3, board against it the hate you see. If you see more Surgical Extraction effects, board in more hand hate. If you see more Cages/Leylines, board in removal.
Death & Taxes Matchups
Death & Taxes is a much better deck against us with the addition of Skyclave Apparition stealing our Altar of Dementias. This is why we’re boarding in so much hand hate. We have to take everything from our opponent.
- -2 Bloodghast
- -1 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
- -2 Altar of Dementia
- -2 Careful Study
- -1 Once Upon a Time
Make sure to stack your triggers correctly to get the most out of milling yourself. Fetch at the right time to stop your opponent’s effects from being effective and don’t mana screw yourself by fetching Dryad Arbor when you need another black land. For example.
Honestly, I think I’ll need to make a video on how to Cabal Therapy effectively, since there’s so much that goes into it. But, if they’re tapped out and you have no info on their hand, name Brainstorm, Force of Will, or any threat that you lose to imminently.
If you have an Altar, sacrifice in response to any exile effects. Even if it’s a Hedron Crab.
Never Careful Study with zero cards in hand. You want to be able to keep one of the cards, at least.
You don’t need to fetch immediately, and it’s okay to play a fetch before casting a turn 2 Hedron Crab if your opponent has an Island in play. I fall into this trap a lot, and I get Daze to face. Don’t be like me. Be better!
Gravecrawler | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Well, that’s it from me today! I hope you enjoyed your time learning about Hogaak, Legacy, and which sideboard to put into your hallway.
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