The staleness of Standard before Ixalan has given me the opportunity to dig into Modern, which I have done over the past couple weeks by sharing all of the coolest and newest decks that have appeared, including those using Hour of Devastation cards. There are still new cards making the jump to Modern and plenty of exciting decks out there, including some forgotten favorites that are back in the picture, so today I'll share what I've found since last week.
Of the three Hour of Devastation gods, The Scarab God has the most Constructed potential, and it has begun to see competitive play. Temur Energy was the big winner in Standard last weekend at Grand Prix Denver, and a reported way to gain an edge in the mirror match is The Scarab God as an unkillable threat that will create an army from the graveyard. The card has also been used in a Black-Blue Reanimator deck to some success, and it's being used as a finisher in a Blue-Black control deck that is gaining popularity online. What is more surprising is seeing the god make the jump to Modern, like the pair in this Esper Control deck that earned a 5-0 in a league.
The Scarab God sits alongside Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which is a juicy target to eternalize because it can grind out additional value with its own ability. The deck doesn't have other targets, so The Scarab God is primarily a great way to eternalize the opponent's creatures. The deck enables this with its many creature removal spells, and its discard further helps turn the ability on, and opens up the possibility to hit any big creatures the opponent has, like Primeval Titan or the Eldrazi. The Scarab God is also a hoser against graveyard decks for its ability to snag things like Dredge creatures, Prized Amalgam, or even persist creatures, and it's a huge liability for any opponent playing a reanimation strategy with threats like Griselbrand.
Control decks have been on a steady rise in Modern, and this deck's success is another example of their continued viability. White-based control decks like White-Blue and Jeskai have been the most popular, but black has some excellent tools to make it a competitive control color too, including the The Scarab God as an exciting new finisher.
This spring there were sightings of a new deck in Modern based around Grand Architect. This mono-blue deck had adopted the very best of the new artifacts from Kaladesh block, Smuggler's Copter and Walking Ballista, to push it over the edge into playability. The deck looked like a lot of fun, but it failed to materialize into a permanent fixture in the metagame. Perhaps another approach, like this green-blue version from a Magic-League event, could be more competitive.
This version of the deck adds green for the mana acceleration of Noble Hierarch to help get the action started sooner, particularly with Grand Architect. This is especially important in this version of the deck, which relies on Grand Architect to create an infinite mana combo alongside Pili-Pala. Infinite mana converts to an instant win with Walking Ballista, but in case one isn't handy, the deck can use another benefit of green in Duskwatch Recruiter to dig through the deck and find it, just like the Abzan Company decks do with their infinite mana from Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies. This deck also includes Mindshrieker as an alternative win-condition with infinite mana. Duskwatch Recruiter is also great for finding the combo pieces if one half is missing, especially with a Training Grounds in play to reduce the cost to just one mana. If it flips, then Krallenhorde Howler is a cost-reducer that helps play threats and combo pieces for cheaper than normal. Beyond the Duskwatch Recruiter interaction, it's not clear why Training Grounds is included since it doesn't combo with Pila-Pala besides allowing it to filter mana more efficiently, but it does make Walking Ballista twice as efficient at adding counters once in play.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of green is Collected Company and Chord of Calling, which helps tie the deck and its combo together, and makes it closer to a Abzan Company-style deck than an aggressive Mono-Blue Grand Architect approach. It's clear that the original blue plan wasn't good enough, and Noble Hierarch and Collected Company are proven as some of the very best cards in Modern, so adapting the deck to deck advantage of them seems like a great way forward.
The Eldrazi are back on top of Modern with the recent massive success of Eldrazi Tron. The Eldrazi were dominant in Modern immediately after being printed, but the banning of Eye of Ugin took them out of the metagame. The first version of the deck used Simian Spirit Guide to help it explode out the gates and to accelerate into Chalice of the Void, and this new decklist shows that it's worth re-examining that strategy.
What stands out most about this decklist is Serum Powder, which has a very powerful effect but really only sees competitive play in Vintage Dredge, where it helps to dig for the all-important Bazaar of Baghdad that essentially functions as a one-card combo and engine that runs the entire deck, which simply doesn't function without it. This Eldrazi deck isn't so reliant on any one card, but it uses Serum Powder similarly. It may not have Eye of Ugin, but the addition of Serum Powder gives it additional chances to find Eldrazi Temple, which elevates the deck to a new level when it has access to it.
Serum Powder isn't great acceleration, but it can be cast in a pinch and does provide great insurance against Blood Moon turning off access to colorless mana. The best use for extra Serum Powder is probably to pitch to Gemstone Cavern, another interesting card that the deck uses for further acceleration beyond Eldrazi Temple and Simian Spirit Guide. It all combines to create an extremely explosive deck capable of beating the opponent before they even get started, but it comes at the cost of being inherently more unstable and inconsistent than a fair and balanced approach.
Hypergenesis proved itself to be so broken in Extended that it was banned in Modern, and Living End has been a competitive Modern option for years before its recent renaissance, but Restore Balance has never been more than a curiosity that has failed to break into the top-tier. The deck will need to evolve if it is to be competitive, and this new version of the deck could have what takes to break through.
The Restore Balance deck breaks land parity with the opponent by using the Alara Reborn Borderposts, but these also happen to be excellent enablers for Metalwork Colossus, which costs just two mana when there are three in play and zero with four. It's not difficult for a deck with 15 Borderposts to have three in play on turn three, which opens up Metalwork Colossus to quickly threaten lethal. This provides the deck with a great alternative win-condition to the usual plan of using Greater Gargadon with Restore Balance. The deck has also added Chandra, Torch of Defiance to join Nahiri, the Harbinger as an additional threat that survives Restore Balance. This is also yet another deck that uses Blood Moon as a way to steal games from the opponent, and this deck uses it better than most by cementing the land-denial plan of Restore Balance.
There has been a big upsurge in the popularity of White-Blue Control decks in Modern, in large part because of their strong matchup against Death's Shadow decks. The metagame has reacted with a decline in Death's Shadow and a rise in all sorts of other strategies, so as the metagame balances out and control finds less easy opponents, it will need to adapt. One way to do that is to take a more aggressive stance, like this example that takes white-blue back to a Delver of Secrets strategy.
This deck includes the package of Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel to generate value. They allow the deck to play the game at instant speed on its own terms, which is a key strength of the strategy. Spell Queller is a perfect fit, as is Vendilion Clique and even Archangel Avacyn. The rest of the deck is filled with the same quality disruption one might find in a more controlling build, with card draw, countermagic and creature removal. Celestial Colonnade shines in an aggressive deck, and the stream of tokens creates by Moorland Haunt makes the deck very hard to grind out with creature removal.
This style of deck is a classic strategy with historic success, but it hasn't been a factor in Modern in recent memory. Now it has the opportunity to make its way back into the metagame as a competitive option.
Black-Red decks designed to get a game-winning legend into play with Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach were once competitive in Modern, but it has been a few years since they've been seen. The recent series of bannings has opened up the metagame, and the deck has even gained some new tools in the meantime, so some recent success has put them back into the picture.
Cathartic Reunion has given the deck an additional graveyard outlet and a more powerful option than Tormenting Voice, so it has given a Jolt to this deck just like its printing made Dredge better, though the impact is less dramatic here. Collective Brutality is a nice addition that enables the graveyard while clearing the way as a discard spell. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is another good addition that helps the deck play a fair disruptive game, but also offers synergy as a mana-producer that can even help hardcast a Griselbrand. The main plan of the deck has remained unchanged – cheat an overpowered creature into play and win with the massive advantage it creates. The deck also has the alternative game plan of Blood Moon, which can steal games from unsuspecting opponents.
This is a multi-faceted deck with a lot more going on than a single-minded reanimation plan, and a couple league 5-0s by different players in the last week make me think its return is more than a fluke.
This deck puts Through to Breach and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to work as a win-condition in a shell that otherwise looks like Blue Moon, the counter-control deck that also uses Blue Moon to lock out opponents. The deck employs a very disruptive game plan with creature removal and countermagic held together by Snapcaster Mage, which can also conveniently recast Through the Breach or finish the job that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn starts, since hitting them will typically leave them with a few life remaining.
This is an approach that has been around in the past, but may be competitive again after falling off the map as a serious option. Blue-Red Storm is currently one of the top decks in the format, and this deck is an alternative that retains a combo-style win but has significantly more disruptive capabilities, all while while dodging Storm hosers like creature removal and graveyard hate.
There are plenty of interesting Modern decks out there, and even more are being created, played, and posted every day in a format that looks healthier than ever. What are you playing in Modern? Have you seen any new cards being used in the format? Share your thoughts in the comments and I'll answer any questions!