This weekend Mythic Championship IV will be played in Barcelona, and Modern is on the menu. The banning of Bridge from Below has nerfed Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and its Bridgevine deck, but even more important for the format is the London mulligan rule, which became official for every format two weeks ago. The rule is having a real impact on Eternal formats—for example, both finalists of the Magic Online Legacy Challenge last weekend were playing Mono-Red Prison, a deck that lives and dies on its opening hand and now has a better chance at producing a broken hand that locks out the opponent from playing.
The effects of the rule may be the most pronounced in Modern, where it's clearly impacting deckbuilding and producing some fascinating new decks. Combined with a ton of great new Modern cards from recent releases, Modern feels refreshed. There's lots of brewing and innovation going on in decklists, and I've combed through all of them in search of the best, most creative, and simply bizzare decks I could find to share.
To start, let it be known that despite the Bridge from Below ban, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is still great. Last weekend MPL member Piotr "kanister" Głogowski went on an undefeated 12-0 run to win the Modern Challenge, a nice warm-up before the Mythic Championship, where the deck is likely to be out in force.
With Bridge from Below gone, Piotr's version trims down to three Carrion Feeder and outright replaces Altar of Dementia with Satyr Wayfinder as another way to fuel the graveyard—and as a green creature, Wayfinder conveniently helps convoke Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.
An alternative take on Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis meshes it with the 8-Rack strategy. Instead of The Rack, it uses the graveyard value creatures to break the parity of Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil, which along with Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek give it plenty of ways to disrupt the opponent.
The deck also gives a home to Cabal Therapist, which finds plenty of fuel in the graveyard creatures, and is a nice alternative to Carrion Feeder as a sacrifice outlet for Stitcher's Supplier. As a way to convert creatures into discard it's a great fit here, and even if it just sacrifices itself as a one-shot Cabal Therapy it can be effective.
Another approach to Hogaak by the same player goes further down the Zombie route of Gravecrawler and Stitcher's Supplier by adding Cryptbreaker, which offers graveyard synergy of its own.
Relentless Dead offers additional Zombie synergies, but it's Undead Augur that seems most impressive in a deck with Carrion Feeder to enable it. The deck also includes Rotting Regisaur, which as a Zombie and graveyard enabler is actually a pretty good fit.
Yet another take on the Zombie Hogaak deck goes into red for Greater Gargadon as an alternative way to break the graveyard creatures, which offer an unlimited source of fuel to enable it quickly. Along with Carrion Feeder it gives the deck a great engine with Mayhem Devil, which can shoot down the opposing board or go to the face.
Unearth is quickly becoming one of the best cards in Modern, and this deck puts it to good effect to help keep its key creature in play. It works well with Faithless Looting to help enable it, and forms a nice backbone for a deck that is otherwise all creatures.
The tribal strategy that has gained the most in recent months is Goblins, with Goblin Matron in Modern Horizons and Goblin Ringleader in M20. There's no player's opinion on Goblins I'd trust more than Jim Davis, who built a career out of playing the deck in Legacy long after it fell out of favor. Now that the Modern version has the same creatures that gave it success in Legacy, it's in a position to make it in Modern. Jim played it to 11th place in the SCG Modern Classic last weekend.
Jim includes a large toolbox for Goblin Matron, including recent additions Pashalik Mons and Sling-Gang Lieutenant, but maintains the core of Goblin Warchief and Goblin Piledriver that give the deck the killing power it needs to race some of Modern's fastest decks. A pair of Icon of Ancestry in the sideboard gives the deck some additional grinding power, as well as a way to play through Modern's new tribal hoser Plague Engineer.
Faerie Seer has proven itself a staple in Pauper Faeries decks, where it's perfect for setting up and being reused with Ninja of the Deep Hours. That same interaction is the core of this Modern deck, which is loaded with countermagic.
Like in the Mono-Blue Pauper deck, Spellstutter Sprite adds another value creature to play with Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Vapor Snag is quality disruption that can reuse the deck's own value creatures, but beyond that the card quality improves immensely from the Pauper version. Mausoleum Wanderer is another enabler for ninjitsu, but instead of giving value it's an efficient piece of disruption on its own despite not having other Spirits, like a one-mana Spiketail Drake. The real defining feature of this deck are the free counterspells: full sets of Force of Negation and Disrupting Shoal. Archmage's Charm doubles as card draw, which the deck needs to fuel these free counterspells. The deck fires on all cylinders when it can resolve and protect Curious Obsession, a page it takes from the playbook that has been so successful in Standard.
A more classic blue control approach to Archmage's Charm was played to the Top 16 of the Modern Challenge last weekend by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Gabriel "bobthedog" Nassif, someone who knows their way around the strategy.
Sets of Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror and Snapcaster Mage, along with Cryptic Command and Jace, the Mind Sculptor show that this has its roots as a Blue Moon deck more than White-Blue Control, but instead of Blood Moon it uses Field of Ruin as its land hoser of choice.
Another blue control deck out there is a new take on the Whir Prison deck, which now includes a set of Narset, Parter of Veils as a source of card advantage and an additional hoser. It also adds a great combo with Teferi's Puzzle Box, which locks out the opponent's draw step.
Urza, Lord High Artificer acts as a nice plan from the sideboard, allowing the deck to get aggressive, and acting as a mana sink that will eventually take over the game.
Last week I discussed how Mystic Forge has been making an impact in Vintage and Legacy, and it's only a matter of time before it starts doing some busted things in Modern. Playing it in Affinity, one of my favorite decks in Magic, is exciting, and this decklist is designed to make the most of it with a ton of cheap and free spells.
The highlight of the deck is Etherium Sculptor, which accelerates Mystic Forge into play and then helps it pop off and play multiple spells a turn. Things can get really crazy once two Etherium Sculptor are in play, and a single copy of Grapeshot allows the deck to essentially combo kill with a lethal storm count. I'm not sure this is any better than something like Cranial Plating, a notable omission that I'd want to get back into the deck. Previously Affinity had adopted Experimental Frenzy as a two-of, so a more balanced (and maybe better) approach would be to treat Mystic Forge the same way and not make such drastic changes from the stock list.
Another classic Modern strategy is Zoo, and while it has been years since the deck was a major part of the metagame, there's always the possibility that it returns. A five-color version just 5-0'd a league on the back of Lightning Skelemental, which bridges the gap between the deck's aggressive creatures and the Tribal Flames burn plan.
Unearth gets more mileage from Lightning Skelemental, but finds plenty of other targets like Tarmogoyf or even Wild Nacatl. It's a nice addition to the strategy that effectively increases the threat density while offering some flexibility.
Another Modern deck with the capacity to play five colors is Bring to Light Scapeshift, which has been going through a renaissance.
Recent sets have been very good to the deck, with War of the Spark adding planeswalkers and Modern Horizons adding Ice-Fang Coatl. The deck is better than ever at playing a fair control game and grinding out the opponent. With Scapeshift currently on top of Standard with its MagicFest Denver win, it's worth revisiting the idea that it's a top-tier Modern card too.
Bring to Light is also being used to find Niv-Mizzet Reborn, a strategy that has apparently been going through some refinement since it first appeared.
This list includes a Glittering Wish, which can find Niv-Mizzet Reborn or a toolbox of utility spells—which, as gold cards, also work well with Niv-Mizzet Reborn when they are sideboarded in normally. The deck has also gained some nice Modern Horizons additions in Kaya's Guile and Wrenn and Six, which is becoming one of the best cards in all of the Eternal formats where it is legal.
Wrenn and Six has been especially impressive in Legacy, where it has brought Temur Delver back from the dead and brought about a new era of Four-Color Control decks. I was startled when I discovered a Modern deck that looks scarily like a Legacy Four-Color deck, down to Ice-Fang Coatl as a Modern Baleful Strix and Force of Negation as Modern Force of Will.
The deck uses Arcum's Astrolabe to help fix its mana and support a snow theme, which turns on Dead of Night as the deck's version of Toxic Deluge. Backed up by some of Modern's best disruption, planeswalkers, and Snapcaster Mage, this deck will win plenty of games on the back of card quality alone. With the right tuning as the metagame develops, I could see a deck like this rise to one of the best in Modern.
The London mulligan rule opens up the field to wackier strategies and combos that now have a better chance of coming together, and a perfect example is this deck built to abuse Solemnity and persist creatures.
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit acts as another version of Solemnity, either of which will make persist creatures come back clean with no counter. Add either Blasting Station or Altar of Dementia to complete the combo and go infinite, burning or milling out the opponent. Funny enough, Lesser Masticore as an additional persist creature helps this deck function.
No decklist this week exemplifies the London mulligan's effect more than this Colorless Urzatron deck that takes a page from Eldrazi by adding Serum Powder.
Avoiding green spells like Ancient Stirrings, and thus the need for Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere, allows this deck to play Chalice of the Void as a powerful hoser against the format. Tron has recently widely adopted Karn, the Great Creator, and this version seems like an evolution of that, putting less focus on Urzatron itself and more on protecting the planeswalker with Chalice of the Void and even Eternal Scourge, as well as three maindeck Dismember.
The pros have surely been hard at work trying to break Modern and the London mulligan, and it will be exciting to see what they've come up with. There have been so many good cards printed lately that I don't think we've collectively had the time and opportunity to figure them all out, so this weekend will be enlightening as we see what the pros have put together.