Modern continues to grow. Magic Online is a virtual Breeding Pool of new decks, a place where players test the waters with new brews and pit them against stiff competition. Some creative, enterprising players are succeeding with decks beyond the mainstream. They are holding their own with the established, popular decks, and are beating them at their own game.
A Modern Premier event this past weekend was full of innovation. Half of the Top 8 played groundbreaking variations on established archetypes. Daily Events last week were filled with decks even more extreme, some with powerful engines or combos, including a few I had never seen before. Here's a look at the coolest Modern decks I've seen this week:Value-Added Kiki-Pod
Lino Burgold won a Modern Premier Event with a 4-Color Birthing Pod variant. He placed second in a Premier Event the previous day, so the deck has more than proven itself to be competitive:
This is an update on the Kiki-Pod most famous for winning Grand Prix Richmond in the hands of Brian Liu. It has remained popular online ever since.
Packed with value, Lino's list plays a full set of Wall of Omens and even Sea Gate Oracle. These creatures are excellent cogs for the Birthing Pod chain because they generate card advantage value along the way. Synergizing with these creatures is Restoration Angel, which doubles the value. Restoration Angel also conveniently combines with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to give this deck a clean combo kill. Deceiver Exarch untaps Birthing Pod and allows the deck to jump up the curve and combo more quickly; It also makes the deck more flexible by providing a three-drop to combo with the Legendary Goblin Shaman. Maindeck Sower of Temptation is powerful against this creature-heavy format, while Glen-Elendra Archmage punishes combo and control opponents.
A powerful sideboard brings the deck up to a full playset of Path to Exile for removing creatures, and the sideboard includes the versatile and powerful Negate to attack combo and control. Access to Ancient Grudge gives the deck a tool for the Affinity matchup that often gives Birthing Pod problems. Fiery Justice pulls a lot of weight in creature matchups, particularly the Birthing Pod mirror. A single copy of Momentary Blink provides extra value from creatures or a way to counter creature removal spells.
This deck is the total package and represents a legitimate innovation on the Birthing Pod-based decks that have dominated the Modern format.The Rock
Golgari Midrange continues to do well online, and it has been a strong former thus far in the paper Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir qualifier season. Triosk took second in the Premier Event with an aggressive innovation:
Preferring to convert his lifepoints into damage rather than into card advantage, this list only includes two copies of Dark Confidant but a full set of the hyper-aggressive Putrid Leech. The original Jund decks in the Shards of Alara-era used Putrid Leech to pressure opponents and quickly put games away quickly. Tarmogoyf is a Modern all-star and right at home in this deck. Full sets of both Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek give this deck a huge amount of disruption, which leads perfectly into an aggressive two-drop creature. The disruption continues up the curve with a playset of Liliana of the Veil.
Two copies of Sword of Feast and Famine are a unique addition, an innovation that puts incredible pressure on combo and control opponents by generating card advantage and tempo. The protection makes it quite deadly against front-runner decks Melira Pod and Jund.
A nod to the creature-dominated format is two Disfigure, which serve as a mana-poor-man's Lightning Bolt for this consistent Golgari deck.
The sideboard is simple and efficient. Two Disfigure gives the deck a full-playset in the 75. A set of Fulminator Mage is ideal disruption against Urzatron and Scapeshift, while it puts a lot of mana pressure on control opponents and is particularly useful for controlling Celestial Colonnade. A set of Skinrender is an innovation that punishes aggressive opponents. Flametongue Kavu was once among the best creatures in the game, and Skinrender may be an heir to its throne. A pair of Phyrexian Arena provides a ton of value for winning attrition-based matchups. A pair of Grafdigger's Cage are dedicated Birthing Pod hate, but they may pull extra weight against other decks. Golgari Charm is powerful and flexible and well worth the one slot it occupies.
I'll be keeping an eye out for this deck, and am interested in seeing how Putrid Leech performs going forward.UW Tapout Control
UW Tapout Control was once among the most successful decks in Modern, and a mainstay of the PTQ circuit, but it has been out of the spotlight for years now. I've seen variations popping up on Magic Online, including the following list based around Sun Titan:
Sun Titan once defined this archetype, which favors value and inevitability over aggressive cards like Geist of Saint Traft. It's filled with cheap creatures that generate value, including Wall of Omens. This deck is flexible, feeling just as home on the offense as it does in the defensive role. Kitchen Finks occupies both niches while generating value. Excellent Vendilion Clique may cycle a weak card or simply disrupt the opponent's plans. Detention Sphere is another flexible card that combines well with Sun Titan.
This deck plays some of the most efficient disruptive spells in Modern, including Path to Exile, Spell Snare, and Cryptic Command. Supreme Verdict sweeps the board against creature-based decks and serves as a valuable reset-button before Sun Titan takes over the game. Notable is a maindeck Damping Matrix, a potent hate card against the top-tier of Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, and Affinity. Linvala, Keeper of Silence fills the same role while holding down the skies.
A set of Mirran Crusader gives the deck an aggressive transformation, and is extremely potent against Golgari-based decks like BG Rock, Jund, and Melira Pod.
This deck also runs a full playset of Temple of Enlightenment, which gives the archetype an added consistency it hasn't seen since the banning of Preordain. This addition is subtle but impactful, and may give the deck the edge it needs to enter the mainstream.Domain Zoo
Rounding out innovation in the Top 8 was a well-tuned Domain Zoo list with the added disruption of Unified Will:
Unified Will held a prime spot in the sideboard of Kibler's "Counter-Cat" Zoo deck back at the first high-profile Modern tournament, Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011. This tournament was very combo-heavy, and Unified Will gave the deck an additional angle of disruption that caught opponents by surprise and proved difficult to play against. This deck is full of cheap, efficient, aggressive creatures and takes full advantage of the Counterspell. I'm a fan of Spreading Seas in the sideboard, which gives this deck an additional disruptive element against the mana-hungry format.
Innovation went beyond Premier Events, and Daily Events this week were full of exciting brews off the beaten path:UG Faeries
At Worlds in 2011 I played against UG Faeries in the Modern portion. I thought my opponent was playing an underpowered rogue brew, but after a quick loss I learned that it was anything but underpowered. My opponent was Kelvin Chew, who went on to Top 8 the Modern Pro Tour the following year.
I haven't seen the UG Faeries archetype much since that match nearly three years ago, but it's back. This is a classic tempo-based aggro-control deck, including plenty of disruption and cheap creatures, most of them with flash, including green Faerie Scryb Ranger. Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique fill the curve. This deck also takes advantage of Mistbind Clique, the most powerful Faerie of all.
The backbone of this deck are sets of Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, which provide a level of acceleration never seen in typical UB builds. Acceleration creatures are excellent paired with a suite of equipment, including Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Sword of War and Peace. This is also a Vedalken Shackles deck, and plays enough Islands to control the small creatures that Infest the format. This deck provides a home to Venser, Shaper Savant, a powerful and flexible card that can be a nightmare to play against. Sligh
Burn has long been a player in Modern, but these decks are typically nothing more than burn spells and creatures that imitate them. The following list takes a page out of the classic Sligh deck:
This deck is focused on powerful, aggressive creatures and combines them with the Cream of the Crop burn spells, Lightning Bolt and Rift Bolt. Pillar of Flame adds consistency and is ideal for removing the pesky Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence. This deck is aggressive against most opponents, but against some opponents it can play the control role with its burn spells and utility creatures including Grim Lavamancer and Mogg Fanatic. A key part of the Sligh pedigree is disruptive land destruction, in this case represented by the aggressive Molten Rain.Modern Death and Taxes
Recently the Legacy archetype Death and Taxes has achieved a great level of success in that eternal format. It is effectively a prison deck disguised as white weenie, and it's a consistent Legacy performer. Here's a Modern version:
This Modern equivalent of Death and Taxes does not have access to Wasteland and Rishadan Port, but Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge are a fine imitation. Leonin Arbiter adds to the mana denial by punishing fetchlands and potentially locking opponents out of the game, while it also combines well with Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is the key card here and lynchpin of the mana denial strategy.
Most exciting about this list is Eight-and-a-Half Tails. Once an all-star of Kamigawa Block constructed, it hasn't seen much play since. It's a very powerful card for the creature strategy, where it can save creatures from removal or push creatures through blockers. Orzhov Death and Taxes
For another look at Death and Taxes, check out this version that splashes into black:
This deck is similar in style to the typical Death and Taxes build, but it dips into black for some very powerful two-drop creatures. The headliner is Dark Confidant, which provides a ton of value over time. The disruptive Tidehollow Sculler is a Grizzly Bear with a discard-effect tacked on. What really catches my eye is Pack Rat, a card capable of winning the game by itself. It has proven itself in Standard, and lately it has been making its presence felt in Modern.
A key interaction here is playing Tidehollow Sculler and responding to its come-into-play ability with Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel. This strands the leave play trigger on the stack to fizzle, and the targeted card is removed from the game entirely; Tidehollow Sculler will come back and get to stash another card under itself as normal.
This deck also contains the cool interaction of being able to play an end-of-turn Pack Rat with Aether Vial, then immediately make a token with spare mana, before getting aggressive on the following turn. Assuming another token is made after untapping, this produces two 3/3 attackers and is a quick way to generate an offense. BW Tokens
Moving along in the Orzhov color combination is BW tokens. Craig Wescoe designed a version and nearly won a PTQ, so check out his video article. Players online continue to develop Craig's list and place well, including the following list:
This deck is another home for Pack Rat; it produces a fast clock against aggro, exhausts removal from control, and will outpace and outgrow creature decks fighting on the ground. This deck includes Blade Splicer as an additional source of value, while Lingering Souls clogs the board against aggressive decks and grinds down opponents relying on creature removal. This deck also plays one of the best disruptive suites available in Modern, the combination of Thoughtseize and Path to Exile.
Pack Rat feels right at home here with a Swarmyard in the sideboard!Cloudshift Combo
This week also brought about a new combo deck based around a morphed Akroma, Angel of Fury and a way to blink it, such as Flickerwisp, Restoration Angel, and even Cloudshift:
Akroma, Angel of Fury is quite difficult if not impossible for most opponents to remove, and will end the game quickly against all of them. It supplements this plan with Epochrasite, which also combines very well with the Flicker ability. Blade Splicer is a way to extract additional value from Flickers and is capable of quickly generating a winning board position.Erayo Affinity
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is one of the most deceptively powerful cards in Modern, and it has found a home:
Triggering Erayo's flip ability puts the opponent into a terrible position, one that most will not be able to maneuver out of. The perfect home for the creature is with Affinity and its swath of cheap spells that will consistently trigger the legend. The deck is also aggressive enough to punish an opponent on the backfoot.
A sideboard jammed with Burn Spells allows the deck to change gears after sideboard and become a more aggressive burn-based deck when the Erayo plan is not ideal, such as against similarly speedy opponents or those with Abrupt Decay.Skred Scapeshift
This deck is a hybrid of Scapeshift combo with a Skred Red midrange control deck, which takes advantage of Snow-Covered lands to empower the efficient Skred as removal spell of choice, supplemented by Lightning Bolt. I'm a huge fan of the set of Courser of Kruphix, which does double-duty as a source of card advantage that consistently enables land drops, and as a way to control the board against aggressive opponents. This deck plays a ton of ways to control the board and even an additional way to generate life, including a set of Scavenging Ooze. Polukranos, World Eater is surprisingly powerful in Modern, and is another way to take advantage of the many source of mana.
A midrange deck combining Bloodbraid Elf with Scapeshift combo was once a competitive Extended deck, and this Skred Scapeshift deck fills the same niche. It looks to prey on creature decks with its slew of removal and tough creatures, while the combo-kill puts a lot of pressure on control decks. Blood Moon Living End
Living End is very well positioned in creature-heavy metagames, and this list adds an additional element for combatting the Modern format, Blood Moon:
This is a Living End deck that pushes mana denial beyond the traditional Fulminator Mage, Beast Within, and the sideboard Avalanche Riders. Blood Moon punishes most of the format, dodges cascade, and is immune to the effects of Living End. Magus of the Moon provides redundancy to the plan, and while it will die to Living End, may also buy a lot of time. On the other side of the same coin, an already dead Magus of the Moon will come back after Living End and ensure the opponent will not get back in the game. Haakon Pox
The following deck might be the craziest of the bunch today:
At the core this is a Pox deck based around Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil for attacking opposing resources. This list features a playset of Haakon, Stromgald Scourge as a way to generate value from the graveyard, including the endless combination with Nameless Inversion that will lock opposing creatures from the game given enough time and mana.
Burning Vengeance is another source of value that combines with the underlying graveyard theme. In addition to being excellent with the combo, it also triggers from Flame Jab and Raven's Crime. Wrap-Up
Modern PTQ season is underway, and it provides an excellent opportunity to qualify for the Pro Tour. Modern rewards experience and commitment, while it also rewards those familiar with the format and capable of innovation. The format is anything but solved, and as it grows in popularity so too does it grow in complexity. Modern contains a wealth of cards, a massive pool of untapped resources waiting to be utilized and exploited.
What Modern decks are you excited about? Have you been having success with an innovation of your own? See an exciting brew I didn't share today? Turn to the comments and share!
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