Modern is an eternal format. Legacy-light to some, perhaps, but regardless a format with a high skill cap that rewards knowing the cards, the format, and how interactions work. This will be my first entry in a series where I cover some of the more widely played cards that I see both new and old players incorrectly use—which seriously undermines the virtues of running them in the first place.
Vendilion Clique is a staple of the Modern format. It’s arguably blue’s best three-drop, as it does so much for so little. Some cards prices are artificially inflated due to a plethora of reasons: casual use, limited supply, competitive play in multiple decks, etc. Clique’s value is where it is for the sole reason that it’s one of the format-defining cards of Modern. So why do people spend $70 dollars on a card only to play it as a $1 dollar bulk rare?
Clique doesn’t lend itself to self-explanatory play, I will admit. The card has a large body of text that a lot of players tend to glaze over in a way that seriously undermines the extreme and borderline-overpowered ability this seemingly innocuous 3/1 provides. The chance to look at an opposing player’s hand is one of the most under-appreciated abilities amongst casual and pro-aspiring players. Information in Magic can put you far ahead, even when you may be down in card advantage. Being able to shape your game plan according to known information can induce blowouts that can put you back in the driver’s seat of a game almost out of nowhere. Always write down your opponent’s hand, always update yourself on the X unknown cards, and think of every possible card those unknowns could be. Modern rewards tight play and knowledge of the format—Vendilion Clique takes you one step closer to that before you even resolve the ability!
A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way
Before we cover the best times to cast Clique, let’s discuss the initial stumble I see a plethora of players make with regards to the “bottom a card” choice. I see them agonize over what to take, wasting time and possibly tilting themselves when the choice isn’t obvious. One of the best things you can do is tell your opponent, “You can keep them.” The cards I look to take upon Clique-ing are ones that I have absolutely zero ways to answer or interact with, completely ruin my game plan, or swing the game in their favor. Apart from that? “Keep em, bro.” Tilt is a good way to induce mistakes, as is frustration. Being told by your opponent, in not so many words, “Your hand sucks, keep it,” is a great way to have your opponent overthink the rest of the entire game. If these cards don’t beat him, what does? Don’t be afraid to ship his hand back with a smile on your face over taking a mediocre card and catching a grin when he draws a more relevant card.
Timing is everything in Magic. Sometimes the difference between a winning and losing game can be as seemingly minor as casting a spell on their end step as opposed to their upkeep. Clique may not be a card that can provide us with such a drastic ultimatum, but correct timing is how you get the full value out of this faerie.
The first mistake is the old, “Draw step, Clique you.” The instances you want to be doing this are so few that I could probably count the amount of times I have on two hands. Draw step Clique-ing (outside of obvious instances that explaining on here would sound like a bad beat story mixed with the best play you ever made story) should be reserved for select times that come up in a few different scenarios.
If your opponent is down to the point she needs to topdeck, you want to be casting Clique on the turn that you deem she needs to find it. If your opponent has three draws to hit an out before you win, you want to be Clique-ing her draw step in order to hopefully catch the needed card and ship it to the bottom. An unknown card has better odds to not be it. Clique-ing on a draw step when she is on five or more cards in hand will usually leave you with an agonizing decision and an open window (depending on the turn) to resolve spells or win the counter magic war. Don’t Clique draws unless you absolutely need to dodge a card that will beat you.
Apart from an in-combat Clique to surprise a blocker (which is a case-by-case decision, so you are on your own for that one!), the end step is the perfect time to resolve this card. Coming from the perspective of a UR Splinter Twin player, opponents are usually hesitant to fight on their end step over it—and if they do, you usually get to resolve a spell uncontested. You’d be surprised by the amount of players who, afraid of you getting information or having a flying 3/1, immediately kill or counter it, leaving you open to slam a Blood Moon or another relevant card that they now face palm over getting tricked into. And don’t rush to announce the target! It can be beneficial to target yourself, bottoming a dead card. If you wait for a response before targeting yourself, they may play as if you were targeting them, possibly inducing various misplays!
It’s a One-Card Gang
Vendilion Clique is a very non-linear card that provides an answer that is unique to itself—and arguably better than straight discarding or similar effects. The card gives you so many choices and options that knowing exactly the best times to play it make it even more valuable than it lets on. It is a Swiss Army knife in a format that requires answers to so many different cards and game plans. Knowing the ins and outs of the format is crucial to correct usage of the 3/1 powerhouse. You wouldn’t walk down a seedy, dark alley without your clique, would you? So don’t play a game of Magic without them at their best, either!