Last week I looked into the influence of Core Set 2019 on Modern and was surprised by how many new cards were seeing play, and I continue to be impressed by their performance. Today I'll share some more decks using the new cards, along with some other creative decks that are pushing the envelope of what is possible in Modern.
I pointed out Militia Bugler as the most influential Core Set 2019 card in Modern so far because of its applications in nearly any white creature strategy, which includes Humans. In a massive statement about Militia Bugler's power in Modern, a Humans a deck with four won the Modern Challenge last weekend.
Not only is Militia Bugler playable in Humans, it's a four-of that plugs the biggest hole in the deck – its inability to generate card advantage and out-grind the opponent. That's bad news for the control decks that have been preying on Humans, which are no longer such easy prey. With its new card making the deck better than ever, I see Humans re-establishing itself at the top of the Modern metagame.
Last week I identified that Militia Bugler was being used in a variety of other white decks, like Death and Taxes and White-Green Hatebears, as well as being used to dig for Knight of the Reliquary in the Retreat to Coralhelm combo deck. Now it's being used in Combo Company, where it can find both halves of the combo of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies.
Stitcher's Supplier is an incredible new tool for Modern's graveyard decks, specifically creature-based ones with Vengevine and Bridge from Below, a deck that I mentioned last week when I called out Stitcher for showing up in the format. Much like the Hollow One deck started as a Magic Online deck that looked more like a gimmick than the dominant force it eventually evolved into, I can see the Vengevine deck taking a similarly trajectory, maybe even breaking out at the Pro Tour. Players are definitely working on the deck, and it has appeared multiple times in the past week, but I'm fascinated by one list in particular that adds Life from the Loam.
Life from the Loam generates massive card advantage from the graveyard, but in the form of lands that aren't necessarily easily to get value from. This deck gets value in a few ways, the most important being from Flame Jab, which is yet another card that Stitcher's Supplier can mill into and combined with Life from the Loam creates an engine that punishes the opponent's small creatures. When the deck draws Molten Vortex, the engine becomes supercharged, and can be used to take down almost any creature or quickly threaten to kill the opponent. Extra lands from Life from the Loam can also be discarded to Faithless Looting, but what makes me most excited about Life from the Loam in this deck is how well it works with the deck's eight X-spell creatures. These creatures are in the deck primarily to trigger Vengevine for zero mana, and for triggering Bridge from the Below when they instantly die, but they can also be cast later in the game as big threats, and Life from the Loam means they can get really big because the deck will never run out of lands to play.
It hasn't taken long for Alpine Moon to catch on as a hoser against land strategies, specifically Urzatron, while also turning off Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Such a powerful effect for just one mana is exactly what is necessary in a reliable Tron hoser, since even land destruction like Fulminator Mage can be too slow or too easily beaten by just playing more lands. Alpine Moon demands an answer like Nature's Claim, which at worst case is a trade of one mana for one, as opposed to one for three with Blood Moon. Over the past week Alpine Moon could be seen in Red-Green Eldrazi, Blue-Red Wizards, Jeskai, and Temur, and will only become more popular over time.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants has yet to make a name for itself in Standard, which makes it all the more surprising that it has now shown up in a Modern Top 8.
The planeswalker was included as a one-of in a Bant Retreat deck, which can ramp into the planeswalker and offers many creatures to pump with its ability. It also has some decent creatures to Reanimate with its -2 ability, especially Voice of Resurgence and Selfless Spirit. It doesn't seem like this deck would be the best fit for the planeswalker, but it does help the deck play a fair game and gives it plenty of extra aggressive power. My gut tells me this was a player messing around with a new card rather than it proving itself to be a new staple, and I'd be more interested in Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants in a deck that could really take advantage of its ability, like one with Hardened Scales.
The coolest deck I've seen in a while is this deck built around Mox Amber, one of the most promising cards from Dominaria for Modern but one that hasn't had a real breakout.
This deck is filled with legends to turn on Mox Amber, headlined by Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, which is helped along by the zero-cost play. Along with a set of Mishra's Bauble and some Repeal, this deck has a pretty good chance to flip Erayo, which if early enough in the game will really set the opponent behind. To get itself ahead, the deck plays Jori En, Ruin Diver to generate value from its cheap artifacts. They also generate value with Monastery Mentor, which in some ways is the true centerpiece of this deck, which uses it as its main win condition. It's supported by all of Modern's best removal spells in Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, which can also push through Geist of Saint Traft or be cast again by Snapcaster Mage or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. The deck has some really cool things going on and doesn't make any real sacrifices in card quality to do so, which leads me to believe it could be competitive.
There was an old Extended format deck that used the card Erratic Explosion to hit the opponent for 16 with Draco, which was rather gimmicky but not actually all that difficult with Insidious Dreams helping set it up. A similar strategy is actually performing in Modern by using Cragganwick Cremator, which requires far less set up.
The deck exchanges Draco for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but also gained an alternate high-power creature from Dominaria that has helped bring this deck into playability, Ghalta, Primal Hunter, which beyond being a 12-power creature to discard can also be cast as a threat.
Setting up the combo doesn't take any special work, and just requires getting one of the high-power creatures in hand and then casting Cragganwick Cremator, ideally with only one card in hand so it's guaranteed to work. Fauna Shaman helps out and has a small toolbox of utility creatures to find, but at its heart the deck is an aggressive Green-Red creature deck with Steel Leaf Champion and Strangleroot Geist, which ideally get in some early damage and pave the way for a lethal Cragganwick Cremator. They are also good creatures to sacrifice to Eldritch Evolution, which helps find Cragganwick Cremator and makes the strategy consistent enough to be worth attempting.
Jund saw a massive resurgence with the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf, but the deck lost momentum and has fallen dramatically, to the point that it's not even in the top-10 most played archetypes. The deck might need to evolve to stay competitive, but I wouldn't have expected the way forward would be to move backwards and cut Bloodbraid Elf, like this played that finished a 5-0 in a league with a Faithless Looting-based build with Bedlam Reveler.
Over time Faithless Looting has established itself as one of the best cards in Modern and has been catching on in midrange decks that play fair like Mardu Pyromancer, where previously it was mostly reserved for specialty decks like Reanimator or Dredge. Its ability to loot away weak cards to find better ones is valuable in a midrange deck that requires specific cards in different scenarios, and it has even been likened to Modern's version of Legacy's Brainstorm. It has been instrumental to the success of Mardu, and it makes sense that the card could be similarly effective in Jund. The same can be said for Bedlam Reveler, which is perfect in Jund's strategy, and with Faithless Looting added should have enough instant and sorceries in the deck to be reliable.
Speaking of Brainstorm, Temur Delver was elevated to Legacy's best decks with the banning of Deathrite Shaman killing the more popular Grixis Delver, so it's amusing to see a Modern version succeeding now too.
Everything in this deck is as you might expect, and it includes all the first cards you'd reach to if you were building a deck in these colors, with great threats, disruption, and card drawing. What does stand out is Faithless Looting, which is perfect here to fuel the graveyard for Hooting Mandrills and Tarmogoyf, triggering Young Pyromancer, and keeping the spell count high for Delver of Secrets. It's a great asset to this deck, which relies on Brainstorm in Legacy and makes great use of the card that is becoming Modern's version.
Another Legacy-inspired Modern deck is Miracles, which was born when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned. The deck received some hype but completely fell flat, and more traditional builds of White-Blue Control have been the standard. Now the Miracles version has seen a resurgence and is the most popular version. Check out this version by Pro Tour champion Luis Salvatto, who includes a set of Terminus and an Entreat the Angels in his deck.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has performed very well in Jeskai control, to the point that some say it is better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and it's a great addition here. I could see a deck like this being popular among pros testing for the upcoming Pro Tour, so maybe we'll see Miracles establish itself as Modern's control deck to beat.
Lightning Bolt might be the best spell in Modern, so Wizard's Retort is very attractive for any deck with enough Wizards that it will reliably cost one mana.
Modern actually has quite a few quality Wizards, with Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets providing a very strong core, and Grim Lavamancer and Vendilion Clique also leaving little to be desired. Spellstutter Sprite has typically been used for its Faerie tribe rather than Wizard, but it does fine work here countering one-drops without help and will sometimes snag more expensive spells combined with each other or Mutavault. Embracing the Wizard theme also opens up the deck to Wizard's Retort, which at two mana is better than any other counter in Modern, and might be worth playing more copies of. This deck has slowly been gaining supporters and putting up results, including a league 5-0 and a ninth place finish in last weekend's Modern Challenge in the hands of _batutinha_, one of the top online grinders and someone who wouldn't waste his time playing a deck he didn't think was top tier, so I think it's just a matter of time before the deck breaks out, maybe even at the upcoming Pro Tour.
What Modern decks have you seen using new cards or doing new things?