I began my article two weeks ago with, "The banning of Deathrite Shaman in the beginning of February has vastly increased the diversity of the Modern format. While often regarded as having a wide-open metagame, Modern had previously been severely constricted by the presence of the oppressive creature. It was too accessible, too cheap, and far too powerful and versatile for the health of the format."
I went on to share decklists for over 20 unique archetypes, many which were far from the mainstream. The trend of innovation continues, and today I share over 20 more new decklists, most of which are even farther from the norm. Many of these decks are from brand new archetypes, while others are adaptations of archetypes we've seen before.
I have pulled all of these decklists from Magic Online Modern events. These events draw various types of players from all around the world, creating a virtual Melting pot of ideas and innovation. There are always plenty of packs and prizes on the line, and it means these decks have fought through competitive fields to reach their winning records. Most of these decklists are from the Top 8 or Top 16 of Premier events, while some finished 3-1 or 4-0 in Daily Events. Many of these lists appeared multiple times this past week.Tribal Strategies
One thing that stuck out to me this week was the success of tribal strategies. Tribal decks take advantage of creatures of a single type, along with cards that take advantage of this fact and provide synergies. The most classic tribal synergy is a "lord" that buffs a certain creature type, and all of the following tribal decks contain some sort of "lord" in one way or another.
Another strong draw to tribal strategies in Modern is Cavern of Souls, which plays very well against the Counterspells that have become increasingly effective in Modern, in part due to the banning of Deathrite Shaman slowing the format down.
First, something I had never before seen successful in Modern.
This deck takes advantage of the Shaman Burning-Tree Emissary, which gives it very explosive draws. Bosk Banneret adds to the explosiveness by making much of the deck cheaper. Elvish Visionary is essentially a cog, a cheap 1/1 Shaman that replaces itself. Rage Forger is a pseudo-lord, and is a particularly nasty follow-up to an early burst of creatures.
Increasing consistency are Flamekin Harbinger and Commune with Nature, both of which can be cast on turn one to enable a consistent curve-out over the next few turns. An active Fauna Shaman will ensure quality plays throughout the game. Birds of Paradise can speed up the process, while a set of Lightning Bolt is the go-to removal spell of Modern that also provides some reach to this aggressive deck.
I've seen some Goblin decks in the past, and now the tribe is rearing its ugly head again in a post-Deathrite Shaman world.
This deck is as straightforward as they come. The deck plays all of the cheapest, most aggressive one-drop Goblins in Modern, and it supports them with all of the most efficient Goblin cards up the mana curve. The deck has strong one-drops, card advantage Goblins like Mogg War Marshal and Krenko's Command, along with two lords Goblin King and Goblin Chieftain. Goblin Bushwhacker can give it a combo-like feel. Goblin Grenade is particularly powerful as a way to end the game quickly, while Lightning Bolt plays a supporting role.
Merfolk is a tried and true Modern archetype, but it has rarely been widely popular. This week all kinds of Merfolk finished in the money, and today I have three versions to share.
The first Merfolk deck uses a full playset of Dakra Mystic, the first time I've seen the card played in Modern.
Dakra Mystic gives both players cards, but it gives the Merfolk player the power of choice to ensure it comes out ahead. This card advantage is particularly useful for a deck relying on synergy, because the more creatures it has access to the stronger all of its other creatures become. This deck plays a full 12 lords, which pump the one-drop Dakra Mystic into an aggressive threat, along with the disruptive Cursecatcher and the card-advantage generating Silvergill Adept. This deck also takes advantage of Theros hits seen in the Standard Blue Devotion deck, Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea.
While many Modern Merfolk decks use Spreading Seas as disruption, this version uses a set of Sea's Claim to further push the land destruction element. This package is particularly powerful with Dakra Mystic because turning off opposing mana will allow Merfolk to draw cards but give the opponent cards they are unable to use.
A more traditional build of Merfolk:
This version is metagamed against the top decks in the format, all of which rely on creatures. A set of Vapor Snag is more creature disruption than usual, and it turns this deck into a very potent tempo deck against creature opponents like Affinity and Birthing Pod, while it makes the Splinter Twin combo difficult to assemble. Mana Leak disrupts creatures and spells all the same.
Cosi's Trickster makes the deck decidedly more aggressive than usual, and it hates on the fetchlands that pervade the format. Phantasmal Image can copy a lord or the best creature the opponent has to offer.
Another version splashes into white for Path to Exile maindeck along with potent sideboard cards.
One deck I saw a lot of this week was Faeries, which is slowly creeping its way back into the format as an answer to combination decks, and in a way filling part of the niche that the decline of Jund left empty.
This is a straightforward list that eschews Scion of Oona for more disruption. Of particular note is a pair of Sword of Feast and Famine. Jace Beleren as a card advantage engine is underplayed in Modern, and this deck takes advantage. Also note the Far // Away!
Moving away from the tribal strategies, aggressive decks were big winners last week.Aggro
This week aggro was headlined by a strong contingent of aggressive Naya decks in various shapes and sizes.
This resembles the Standard Brave Naya deck, which supports a suite of efficient white creatures with Brave the Elements, which counters removal and pushes attackers through defenders.
Sets of Loam Lion, Figure of Destiny, and Steppe Lynx mean this deck is quite aggressive and starts hitting hard from turn one onwards. Voice of Resurgence is hateful against much of the format, as is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Qasali Pridemage is another hateful two-drop creature that also helps aggression with its exalted trigger. Sitting at the top of the curve is Knight of the Reliquary, which comes along with a land package including Sejiri Steppe to counter removal, Stirring Wildwood as a threat, Ghost Quarter to disrupt opposing specialty lands, and Horizon Canopy to combat mana flood. Supplementing the creatures is a set of Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, along with a set of namesake Brave the Elements.
The next deck finished in the Top 4 of a Premier Event along with a money finish in another:
The combination of Fiery Justice and Kavu Predator was a hit back in Time Spiral block constructed and the coinciding Standard format. I've seen Fiery Justice played in some sideboards as a target for Glittering Wish, but this is the first time I've seen a Modern deck built around the combo. Fiery Justice is quite strong on its own against the format, and is capable of generating massive tempo and card advantage. Kavu Predator is not impressive on its own, but it's actually quite good when combined with Grove of the Burnwillows to grow it each turn.
Like the previous Naya deck, this version also plays a set of Knight of the Reliquary along with a land package. This deck is slower and more Jund-like, and as such it plays a set of Tarmogoyf along with some Scavenging Ooze. Rather than playing aggressive one-drop creatures, it uses a set of Noble Hierarch along with a Birds of Paradise. Chandra, Pyromaster rounds out the curve and provides additional card advantage.
The final Naya Deck is a traditional Naya Zoo deck, playing nothing but cheap, efficient creatures along with a supporting suite of burn and removal.
Note the set of Burning-Tree Emissary, which lends itself to explosive draws, and the inclusion of Ghor-Clan Rampager as a legitimate card in Modern. This deck plays more burn and removal than the previous Naya builds today, notice the set of Lightning Helix.
Burn continues to put up results. This list keeps popping up, and it takes advantage of Eidolon of the Great Revel, along with a set of Satyr Firedancer in the sideboard:
Combo decks go beyond Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin, and many other strategies put up results this week.
Infect has rebuilt itself as a Monocolored deck...
Sticking to one color enables a set of Cathedral of War. This card buffs infect creatures at little cost. Artifacts fill out the package of Infect creatures, while green provides all of the usual pump spells.
Two combo decks I thought dead continue to appear near the top of the standings.
As combo declines, so does hate for it, and the previous two decks can surprise the unsuspecting opponent.
Living End is a great combo deck in a world of creature opponents.
The most interesting aspect of this Living End decklist is the maindeck Leyline of the Void. While Living End is built to abuse the graveyard, opponents like Affinity and Melira Pod can piggy-back the combo and will end up on the winning end of the exchange. Leyline of the Void ensures that cannot happen, while also providing some significant hate against much of the format, including Snapcaster Mage.
Here's an alternative Scapeshift list compared to the one I showcased last week. This version foregoes a Snapcaster Mage control package in favor of pushing the combo aspect with Prismatic Omen and Primeval Titan, along with a ton of ramp spells:
Bogles is still alive and kicking.
When Modern was born, control died, but the strategy has gone through a true renaissance. This week there are true control decks including Grixis, an artifact prison-control deck, midrange aggro-control decks like Jund and UR, combo-control decks like Tron, and more.
Grixis control won three GP Trials at GP Minneapolis, and it seems increasingly strong in a metagame headlined by creature decks. Check out this version from TuSaisPas, a strong player that always seems to come up with interesting new brews and tuned decklists.
This deck plays a ton of disruption, including discard, creature removal, and Counterspells. Shadow of Doubt even disrupts land, though it's also a hate card against Birthing Pod and Scapeshift. A set of Snapcaster Mage is a must for any Modern control deck. The end game here is Cruel Ultimatum, which will significantly disrupt the opponent while providing the control deck plenty of fuel. Those that remember the card in Standard will be particularly impressed by the synergy with Snapcaster Mage, which can be returned from the graveyard and then cast to flashback the Cruel Ultimatum.
One of the coolest decks this week is an artifact-control deck build around Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Tezzeret, the Seeker:
This deck plays many of the best artifacts in Modern, headlined by Ensnaring Bridge to shut down creatures. It also plays a strong disruption suite of discard backed up by Liliana of the Veil. A Trinket Mage package provides some utility and card advantage.
One deck I kept seeing was this version of BW Tokens, which has redefined itself in the control role:
This deck would be more aptly named "BW Card Advantage" than BW Tokens, and it's more of a control deck than an aggressive one. A set of Wall of Omens is strong against aggressive decks and generates card advantage. Smallpox is punishing against aggressive decks, while it's also quite disruptive against combo and control opponents. Damnation is excellent against the field.
Well-known MTGO grinder _Batutinha_ is back in fighting form, and putting up a ton of results. His Modern weapon of choice is his updated Jund deck:
Shoktroopa and his Monoblue Tron deck are back. It earned him two Premier Event Top 8 finishes over the weekend, including a win:
A local buddy of mine won a Premier Event with what he called "Pre-sideboarded Blue Moon," a UR Tempo deck without Delver of Secrets:
And the best for last. This deck put up at least two 4-0 finishes in Dailies last week, then topped it off with a third place finish in a Premier Event over the weekend:
This deck is essentially just disruption along with efficient creatures. The best disruption in Modern seems to be creature removal, and this deck has it all, starting with a pair of Gut Shot, along with a Dismember and a pair of Vapor Snag. The ultimate creature removal is Vedalken Shackles, which this deck is built to abuse with its 18 Island. Counterspells include Spell Snare, Remand, Mana Leak, and Cryptic Command. The efficient creatures are headlined by Snapcaster Mage, along with the instant-speed Vendilion Clique, which doubles as disruption or card drawing. A pair of Wurmcoil Engine is a powerful late-game that ensures this deck has a game-winning follow-up to its early disruption. I look forward to seeing more of this deck in coming weeks, it looks quite good.
What have you been playing in Modern? I'm interested in what you've got.
In Modern, anything goes!