Brewing with Profane Tutor in Modern Toolbox Control


By Soren Wellman

One of the cards that has me the most excited for Modern Horizons 2 is Profane Tutor. While most of the talk surrounding it has revolved around unfair strategies, I’ve been interested in the idea of using this “unfair” card to compliment a totally fair strategy, control.

Okay, so DT (Demonic Tutor) this is not, rather it’s a PT (Cruiser); something that isn’t flashy enough to be banned. But could it still get you around town to meet your friends at an Applebee’s in 2005? We’ll see!

The Case for Profane Tutor

“Hold on,” you may be asking. “Why play Profane Tutor, if Ancestral Visions sees virtually zero play in Modern control decks?”

Profane Tutor and Ancestral Visions are both callbacks to busted Alpha classics but they are offering different. Ancestral Visions gives you three cards in hand but only lets you see three cards. Profane Tutor only gives you one card but lets you see your whole deck.

Why does this matter? With Ancestral, if you want to reliably see a card in a game, you will still need to play multiple copies. With Profane Tutor you can go as low as one and play as if you have five copies in your 60. This allows you to construct your deck in a different fashion, as a Toolbox strategy.

Toolbox Control in Modern: A History

Is it Tool Time for Control in Modern?

For those of you who may be new to Magic, Toolbox strategies feature a suite of “tools,” i.e. cards that might have narrow applications but are incredibly strong in very specific situations. Since not all of these cards will be useful every game they typically don’t play more than a few copies of each tool. They usually rely on an engine that is able to find the tools in your toolbox. Engine enablers of the Toolbox strategies in Modern have included Birthing Pod, Bring to Light, Chord of Calling, Enigmatic Incarnation, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Whir of Invention.

This type of strategy has roots going as far back as the original Black-Green “the Rock ” Standard (Type 2 for us old folks) deck that used Vampiric Tutors to find maindeck one-ofs such as Woodripper and Tranquil Grove.

In the history of Modern, the most successful Toolbox strategies have been proactive Creature strategies such as Birthing Pod, Enigmatic Incarnation, and Chord of Calling decks. However, I have been fascinated by trying to build reactive (controlling) Toolbox strategies.

This is a deck I built in 2018 that used Traverse the Ulvenwald to tutor some interesting situational answers as well as an Emrakul endgame.

While I was able to have some success and lots of fun at local FNMs, Traverse the Ulvenwald, the deck’s engine card, was a little unreliable. It was also limited to lands or creatures. Still, I liked the power in the concept and have kept the idea of brewing a similar deck in the back of my mind since then.

More recently, Toolbox control is seeing a bit of a resurgence with Bring to Light decks. Bring to Light has established itself as a staple of tap-out control in five color Niv decks and big-mana combo in Scapeshift decks. However, it has only recently shown its strength in a pure control deck as part of the four color Lurrus Bring to Light decks.

This strategy has found success lately in the hands of professional players like Aspiringspike. The deck uses BTL to save on mana by tutoring a Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter as a threat as well as situational answers such as Damnation and Crumble to Dust.

Comparing Profane Tutor to Bring to Light

I believe the semi-Toolbox nature of this build gives us the best glimpse of what a Profane Tutor control deck could look like. But why consider Profane Tutor at all? Doesn’t Bring to Light do the same job better? We’ll, let’s look at the differences and see what we can learn:

  • Profane Tutor costs zero mana the turn you cast it, whereas BTL costs five. I wanted to start with this point because my biggest frustration from playing the Lurrus Bring to Light control deck was needing to tap five lands on your own turn against other Blue-based decks to resolve BTL. This led to difficult situations when I needed to defend against opposing counterspells. It also led to a disadvantage against Blue decks such as Through the Breach decks, whose major threats could be cast at Instant-speed.

    Suspending Profane Tutor is a special action that your opponents are not able to respond to. If your opponents attempt to counter the spell when it resolves during your upkeep, you will have mana available to fight back and have better chances for your spell to resolve.
  • Profane Tutor always increases the cost of the card you tutor for by two. On the other hand, Bring to Light is quite variable when it comes to mana (dis)advantage that you get.

    Tibalt was my most frequent tutor target, which results in a savings of two mana. The second most frequent targets are Damnation and Crumble to Dust, which is a loss of one mana. However, I have found myself in situations where I needed to get an Abrupt Decay which is a loss of three mana.

    Coming back to Profane Tutor, this is a big question of whether this effect is worth it. You are incentivized to use your toolbox slots on cards that are extremely likely to end the game against specific strategies (Crumble to Dust, Rest in Peace, or Stony Silence), over cards that are generically good against multiple archetypes (Celestial Purge, Kaya’s Guile, or Mystical Dispute).
  • Profane Tutor has no restriction on what card you tutor for. Bring to Light is limited to Creatures, Instants and Sorceries, although there are some exceptions like finding Valki (a creature) putting a Tibalt (a planeswalker) into play. Some of the strongest disruption cards in Modern are artifacts, enchantments and Planeswalkers which are a miss from BTL. This enables a wider toolbox and can occasionally unlock powerful alternate casting costs such as Overload on Break the Ice.
  • Profane Tutor is a much worse topdeck late in the game. While BTL is a great lategame topdeck, PT is not. If this weakness becomes the limiting factor of PT’s success in Modern, we know that it can be mitigated by cards such as As Foretold or even a looting effect and Dreadhore Arcanist. As a first pass, though, I would like to try building the deck without these effects. 

While Bring to Light is a great topdeck in the late game, Profane Tutor is not.

soren wellman
  • Profane Tutor gives you access to the card you need as early as turn four. I think the biggest general criticism of Profane Tutor is that it may be too slow for Modern. But, assuming you suspended PT on turn two, you will be able to cast your Wrath or Crumble to Dust on curve and a turn earlier than what BTL gives you access to.

Putting it All Together

So where does this take us? Here’s my first draft of Esper Control with Profane Tutor:

When building the deck I chose an Esper base since that has been the most successful control color combination in recent months. White gives us very strong situational tutor targets. I am splashing a single Crumble to Dust off of a Raugin Triome, which I think is doable.

One of the challenges is that you have to assume that you will need to take turn two off to suspend your Profane Tutor. I tried to compensate by hollowing out the two slot in the curve as much as possible, leaving only three Counterspells (I count Snapcaster Mage as a 3+ MV card and so should you).

I also tried to maximize the number of free spells in Force of Negation and Subtlety. Normally, I try to minimize these 1 for 2’s in my control decks, but Profane Tutor kind of forces my hand. Also, I added Spell Pierce and Spell Snare at the one M.V. slots. These aren’t normally seen in Esper, but they are popular in Blue Moon shells so they can’t be terrible.

One of the challenges is that you have to assume that you will need to take turn two off to suspend your Profane Tutor.

Soren Wellman

I tried diversifying the choices of threats, since Profane Tutor can find what you are looking for. I estimate that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is better than Ashiok, Nightmare Muse around 70% of the time, but since I may be using P.T. to find which Planeswalker I want, I figured I should go for one of each. That way, if I find myself in a situation where Ashiok is better, I can get them. The other maindeck toolbox cards include Teferi, Time Raveler, Unmoored Ego, Timely Reinforcements, and Damnation.

Where things really get off the beaten path is the sideboard. I went for a 15 one-ofs build and I feel that if I can survive until turn four in a postboard game, I should be very happy with whatever answer I can pluck out of my deck to give my opponent a difficult time.

I’ll admit, it was a little bit of a guessing game building this sideboard, because I don’t know what the Modern meta will look like in a week’s time. But there are so many options to answer whatever the most popular strategies could be. On my shortlist to keep in mind are Test of Talents, Damping Sphere, Deicide, Wheel of Sun and Moon, Engineered Explosives and more.

I’m excited to put this deck through its paces and see if it can be customized to answer what the format will be asking!

Soren Wellman (1stTurnNegator on Magic Online) has been playing casual Magic since Mercadian Masques and tournament Magic since Innistrad. He is an electrical power systems designer by day and a Dimir deck designer by night. He enjoys all deck archetypes but has a penchant for control mirrors.

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