Modern was turned on its head by Khans of Tarkir. There are four new major factors impacting the format.
1. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time gave blue a huge boost with two premium card advantage spells. Blue has been disproportionately affected by the extensive Modern banned lists, which contains cards like Ancestral Vision, Ponder, Preordain, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The new card draw fills the void in a big way and has brought blue strategies back to the forefront.2. Jeskai Ascendancy combo decks attacked the metagame with fury. The metagame warped in order to adapt, and while the combo has declined, it left scars that still remain visible through the format.3. Aggressive Prowess creatures Monastery Swiftspear and Seeker of the Way have proved excellent with the many efficient spells in Modern and pushed out less powerful creature offerings.4. Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills, Bloodstained Mire have mostly importantly opened the door to new Modern players, but they also removed a serious deckbuilding restraint by balancing the mana and offering fetchlands to all possible color combinations.
There are also some specialty Khans of Tarkir cards that have made their way into existing archetypes and provided redundancy and power, which has pushed them farther into the mainstream. Today I'll discuss a bit more on how the factors are at play in the metagame and share some interesting decks that showcase a factor I mentioned, play new Khans of Tarkir cards, or are simply fascinating Modern decks.
The new blue cards have pushed blue decks to the top of the Modern metagame. Scapeshift combo and Splinter Twin combo use Dig Through Time as card selection of choice to find the specific cards they require, and it has made these two decks two of the biggest Modern winners from Khans of Tarkir. The biggest winner of all is Izzet Delver, which welcomed Treasure Cruise with open arms as the most obvious home for the card, and it filled the card advantage problem the archetype desperately needed to Remedy.
This deck was already a middling contender in the format, and with Treasure Cruise it's now able to easily navigate the attrition presented by Jund and Jeskai Midrange strategies. The raw card drawing also creates great synergy within the deck combined with cards like Young Pyromancer and Monastery Swiftspear, and card advantage also provides great reach in a deck with so many burn spells. With a naturally aggressive stand and a tempo element combined with heaps of disruption, the Izzet Delver deck was already favored against combo strategies and continues to keep them in check, and is particularly important for suppressing the number two factor on my list, Jeskai Ascendancy combo decks.
Craig Wescoe did a great job of showcasing the top decks that use Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, and I recommend checking it out.
Craig revealed just the tip of the Iceberg of decks attempting to harness the new card drawing, and a whole swath of decks and archetypes have warped themselves to take advantage of these new cards, particularly Treasure Cruise because it's so easily splashable. A few of them really stand out to me, including this absolutely absurd example:
Yes, this is Abzan that has splashed into blue for Treasure Cruise, and Frank Lepore even wrote about the list on Monday, showcasing it in his videos. I remember when Standard Jund decks would "splash" blue for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but this is a lot more reasonable, especially with fetchlands and shocks. This attrition deck of course wants to draw three cards whenever possible, and clearly it's available to the deck if it wants to stretch its mana, which apparently it may very well want to. I can't imagine this helps against matchups where life total is of the essence, like Burn, but it actually replaced Dark Confidant, which is even worse. I guess the real funny part of this deck for me is that it also plays Siege Rhino, which does help fix that Burn issue I mentioned, and it's certainly a fit into the strategy overall I question if it's actually powerful enough for Modern...but it's also strong against Izzet Delver, and it's going to do work against Affinity. The life gain is even decent against Scapeshift, and with trample it's not completely brickwalled by Kitchen Finks. What a world we live in! According to social media, WIlly Edel was behind an original incarnation of this deck, so it also has that going for it. A fun option to be sure.
For those that prefer the red flavor provided by Jund, here's a version for you:
A more reasonable Treasure Cruise hybrid:
This deck starts with the Izzet Delver core, with Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer combined with Lightning Bolt, Serum Visions, Gitaxian Probe, and of course Treasure Cruise, but from there it moves into a Seismic Assault / Life from the Loam deck complete with Faithless Looting and Flame Jab. What's so impressive is that this deck is really set up to abuse Treasure Cruise to its fullest. Faithless Looting is very impressive for filling up the graveyard for Delve, while Treasure Cruise will easily Recoup the lost raw card advantage inherent to Faithless Looting. With dredge three, Life from the Loam is also excellent for generating Delve fuel. A single Countryside Crusher even synergizes well with Treasure Cruise and on very lucky occurrences may generate a full seven Delve by itself in a single turn! To take advantage of Treasure Cruise card advantage and Life from the Loam, Seismic Assault provides a great combo-like endgame that many decks will find impossible to interact with or reasonably sustain themselves against.
On the Dig Through Time side of things, how about a forgotten deck that I had so much fun making a video with earlier this year, Possibility Storm combo:
There's nothing too fancy or groundbreaking here, it's just an Izzet-core combo deck that takes great advantage of the card advantage and powerful card selection Dig Through Time provides.
Jeskai Ascendancy combo made a big splash on the format initially. It proved itself to be the real deal with consistent, degenerate combo draws as early as the second turn. It simply demanded a reaction, and the format reacted hard and fast with loads of hate and matchup jockeying. The metagame shifted towards decks that could disrupt the combo, like Izzet Delver, or with incidental hate like Eidolon of the Great Revel and Qasali Pridemage, and decks like Birthing Pod on the decline. Over a month into the post-Khans of Tarkir metagame, with Jeskai Ascendancy combo a rare sight, the metagame appears to be more balanced, though it still shows scars from its presence.
One such example is a breed of Zoo deck that plays Chalice of the Void in the maindeck as a way to fight the card drawing of the combo deck:
Chalice of the Void is weird in a fair Zoo deck full of one and two mana cards, but I suppose it makes sense when a one-drop can be played on turn one and curved into Chalice of the Void, and Chalice of the Void is expected to be so gamebreaking in the matchups where it's good that turning off one's own spells doesn't matter. Also note that Chalice of the Void X=3 does not stop Loxodon Smiter. Another bizarre maindeck feature of this Zoo deck is Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout as board sweepers. For the most part the Zoo creatures survive two damage sweepers, so there's no real lack of synergy like typical sweepers in creature decks. A scan at the diverse online metagame shows Izzet Delver, Affinity, and Birthing Pod as the top three decks composing over 27% of the metagame, so the sweepers certainly pull their weight, but I can't help but think they would be better in the sideboard. I can't argue with results though, because this guy went 3-1 in two different events, and I have seen at least two other players place with their own take on the deck.
Here's another version of Chalice Zoo that plays a more traditional Zoo gameplan without the sweepers:
This deck also takes advantage of Treasure Cruise in the Zoo shell, and also takes advantage of Seeker of the Way. It also has the advantage of Noble Hierarch enabling bigger Chalice of the Void earlier in the game. I like this version more, and even without Chalice of the Void, which admittedly is strong against Izzet Delver, it would be a fine looking deck. I might throw Chalice in the sideboard and play ball, but I'd try maindeck Chalice of the Void first.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor has actually made an impact in Modern by fitting into the Orzhov Tokens deck.
Sorin, Solemn Visitor serves as an anthem, but the lifegain is also particularly useful in this metagame, and of course it's also excellent for generating board presence. It has proven itself to be pragmatically superior to Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and a small win for the archetype.
Rakdos Vampires has always sat on the far fringes of Modern, but Bloodsoaked Champion has given it some new life by adding redundancy to the strategy. The hallmark of this archetype is abusing creatures that return from the graveyard, notably Bloodghast and Gravecrawler. Bloodsoaked Champion is yet another creature that fits the bill, and most importantly it's an aggressive one-drop that gives the deck additional pressure without forcing it to play mediocre creatures like Diregraf Ghoul. This deck has some things going for it, particularly its near-immunity to traditional attrition creature removal aside from Path to Exile, and a strong two-colored manabase bolstered by Bloodstained Mire that supports a full set of Mutavault.
Here's a fun one with a set of Mantis Rider:
Not content with just four flying vigilance haste creatures, this deck also uses a full set of Lightning Angel. This deck takes advantage of Treasure Cruise, and with the addition of white perhaps it has a natural edge over Delver decks and has positioned itself to win the matchup. My favorite aspect of this deck is the pair of maindeck Swan Song, which is certainly great disruption, and the typical drawback of a 2/2 Swan Token is dominated by either of the vigilance flyers!
This next deck doesn't have the courtesy to play much Khans of Tarkir action beyond Windswept Heath, but it did go 4-0 in a Daily Event and is one of the most fun Modern decks in recent memory:
Nothing to see here, move along. I think this proves how powerful and deep the Modern cardpool is, and that it can actually support a deck so large that still retains a reasonable level of consistency and power level. I do not recommend this for a live event but for anyone who has the online cards it must be a blast to play.
And earlier in the week, from the same man, how about Battle of Wits / Scapeshift Hybrid:
That one will be hard to top, but in the spirit of Anything Goes, there were a couple of other decks too good not to share.
How about Zur, the Enchanter:
This card technically gets better with every set, with every new enchantment to search for, and while this deck doesn't play any new ones, it did recently 4-0 a Daily Event. It's a pretty classic prison deck that looks to shut down the opponent while continually adding to its own side of the board.
Finally, there is this deck that takes advantage of Ghostway:
Ghostway is a Flicker-effect that Removes all of its controller's creatures, so paired with just one Eternal Witness it can be looped again and again. Add in more creatures, like another Eternal Witness to return another card, or a simple cantrip creature like of Wall of Omens, and the deck explodes with value. It takes a Birthing Pod approach with Chord of Calling and plenty of bullets, including Magus of the Disk which can put a trigger on the stack before a Ghostway is cast, leveling the board only to return itself and its side of the board back into play safely.
What fun new Modern decks have you seen or played? Share anything in the comments!