Modern has always been a treasure trove of decklists, but things have been especially exciting since the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks. Great new cards in Ravnica Allegiance have also played their part in bringing new strategies to the metagame. I've shared many of these decks, but this week more appeared that I had to write about. For example, check out this attempt at a Ironworks-less Ironworks combo deck that Magic Pro League member and Ironworks authority Piotr Glogowski played to a 5-0 league finish before tweeting his decklist to the world.
Piotre sharing his decklist to Twitter attracted massive attention, which spiked the price of Semblance Anvil, which replaces Krark-Clan Ironworks as the deck's mana engine. In some ways it's even more powerful than Krark-Clan Ironworks itself, but it doesn't offer the same broken synergy with Scrap Trawler that was key to the Ironworks deck. The solution is to add Grinding Station as a sacrifice effect, which turns on value from Scrap Trawler. Myr Retriever can be added to create a loop, which then results in Grinding Station decking the opponent. Grinding Station is something of a necessary evil for the deck's engine, but because the deck is full of ways to return artifacts from the graveyard to hand, it's also a very useful tool for turning on oneself to help the deck dig into its combo pieces.
Replacing the elegant Krark-Clan Ironworks with a more convoluted combo is a significant downgrade, but the deck was so good before that it might still be competitive. Ancient Stirrings is one of the very best cards in Modern, and this deck takes full advantage. So far the deck hasn't put up finishes in major events that indicate it's anything more than novelty, but time will tell how good it really is. Ancient Stirrings makes all sorts of things possible in Modern, and this week another colorless deck trying to do wild things has appeared.
This deck is based around abusing charge counters with Coretapper and Surge Node. The big payoffs for this are Astral Cornucopia and Everflowing Chalice, which ramp into Kuldotha Forgemaster and a toolbox of powerful win conditions. This plan culminates with Lightning Greaves giving Blightsteel Colossus haste for an instant kill, or protecting Platinum Angel to lock out the opponent. Chalice of the Void gives the deck another way to abuse charge counters, and it can potentially be brought up to a high count to lock out expensive spells that it doesn't typically stop.
Like Ironworks players moving on to Semblance Anvil, this Grixis Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo deck is another attempt at returning a banned deck to its former glory.
Grixis Splinter Twin was once at the very top-tier of Modern, and this deck argues that the deck remains viable after downgrading Splinter Twin to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. History shows that this hasn't been the case, and the strategy has never put up more than the occasional outlier finish since Splinter Twin was banned.
The last time I saw the deck perform was after the reprint of Opt in Dominaria, which gave the deck a nice tool and one that this decklist does utilize. The deck's reappearance now makes sense given the recent success of Grixis Shadow, which utilizes the deep pool of disruption the colors offer. This deck shares many of those spells, but expands on it with Cryptic Command and Remand. Rather than focus on a Death's Shadow endgame, the deck uses the combo kill Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker offers. Spending life total to quickly pump Death's Shadow is at odds with playing a longer and grindier control game with blue countermagic and card advantage, so the combo kill makes more sense. Whether or not that's better than the proven Death's Shadow plan is up for debate, so we'll have to see if the finish can be replicated of it it's just another outlier.
Electrodominance was hyped as one of the most important Ravnica Allegiance cards for Modern. It spawned a competitive U/R As Foretold Living End deck, but it hasn't quite broken through as a legitimate top strategy. A new version has appeared using the same U/R shell, but replacing the Living End plan with a Restore Balance and Greater Gargadon package.
The advantages of moving away from Living End to Restore Balance are twofold. One, it's a sleeker two-card combo-like kill that uses less space in the deck, compared to the Living End plan that requires a critical mass of cycling creatures. That leaves space for high-quality cards like Opt and Serum Visions, which offer card selection rather than the mere replacement of cycling. When combined with Greater Gargadon to sacrifice lands, Restore Balance has the advantage of generally being a more powerful card than Living End. Living End builds a battlefield of creatures, but Restore Balance completely wipes the opponent's board.
The major downside is that Restore Balance requires Greater Gargadon to function, compared to Living End being essentially a one-card combo. That leads to the deck being less consistent and reliable, so the question is if the better card selection in the deck and the higher power level can make up for this. I do know that the Living End version of the deck is not quite good enough, at least not in this metagame or current configuration, so this Restore Balance version of the deck is a promising alternative worth exploring.
Another attempt at innovation with Electrodominance is a Mono-Red version of the Living End deck, and it has put up multiple 5-0 finishes in the past weeks.
The central plan for the deck is using cycling creatures to set up a big Living End, which is familiar to all Living End decks. Where this deck diverges is the addition of a discard theme with Hollow One and Flameblade Adept as payoffs. Cycling is discarding, so all of the cycling creatures are enablers, while Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion add more options. Without Cascade spells to dig into Living End, the deck must find it normally, so these red card drawing spells are critical. The alternate creature plan also means the deck doesn't necessarily need to find Living End to win, and will be able to take down games more aggressively. To help make Living End more lethal when it does fire off, the deck includes Urabrask the Hidden to give everything haste. Some lists of the deck even include Angrath's Marauders to really power everything up, but I prefer this more consistent decklist with Deadshot Minotaur.
The spoiling of Wilderness Reclamation caused a frenzy in Standard, where it brought Nexus of Fate to the next level. The interaction is so powerful that Nexus of Fate was banned in best-of-one play on Magic Arena, and it might only be a matter of time before it's banned outright. Nexus of Fate lovers may have to turn their attention to Modern, where a Turbo-Fog deck with a playset 5-0'd a league.
The core plan of the Modern version of the deck is the same as the Standard: to stall the game long enough to chain together Nexus of Fate and never give the opponent another turn. Modern just gives the deck some much more powerful tools. Wilderness Reclamation is even better in Modern than in Standard, where Utopia Sprawl and Fertile Ground outshine Gift of Paradise. Cryptic Command can act like a Fog, while adding other potent options. Jace Beleren and Jace, the Mind Sculptor fuel the deck, and ultimately (no pun intended) function as the win conditions.
I've taken a special interest in anything and everything Arclight Phoenix in Modern, having been playing U/R over the past weeks. The newest innovation for that deck is the addition of Snapcaster Mage, which had been championed by some players but has now put up a big finish with a Top 4 in the MTG Online Mythic Qualifier last weekend.
It makes perfect sense to add Snapcaster Mage, one of the very best cards in Modern, to such a spell-heavy deck, especially an aggressive one with Lightning Bolt. It seems to be a great innovation and something I look forward to testing in my deck, but it's a very mild change compared to adding Jeskai Ascendancy and Fatestitcher, like this player did en route to a Top 16 finish in the Mythic Qualifier.
The basic Jeskai Ascendancy engine is to combine it with Fatestitcher, which acts like a mana creature to be untapped repeatedly, helping to churn through the deck before it's turned on the opponent as a large, hasty attacker. Like Arclight Phoenix, it can be reanimated from the graveyard, so the deck really just needs to get Jeskai Ascendancy into play and the graveyard enablers like Thought Scour and Faithless Looting should do the rest. Jeskai Ascendancy is attractive because it offers some additional synergies as a discard outlet in itself, and its pump ability can help Arclight Phoenix get across the finish line. Rather than use Thing in the Ice, the deck uses Young Pyromancer as another way to get more mileage from Jeskai Ascendancy.
Last week Wizards announced that the next Mythic Championship in London would be the official test run for a new mulligan rule, which I'd recommend reading if you haven't yet.
The net result of the change will be more control over one's opening hand, and better ability to dig into specific cards, which is why people have discussed cards like Leyline of Sanctity and Gemstone Caverns as being winners from the change. Another card in the conversation is Serum Powder, another card that promotes digging into these sort of all-or-nothing cards. This week a deck 5-0'd a league that in my eyes is the perfect example of the type of strategy that will get better from the new rule, and the type of deck we might see much more of in Modern if things play out this way.
Even without the new mulligan rule this deck includes playsets of Serum Powder and Gemstone Caverns, which are used to help the deck find and ramp into into its sole plan of using Goryo's Vengeance to Reanimate Griselbrand or Narset, Enlightened Master. From there, Fury of the Horde grants extra attack steps, hopefully chaining together and easily taking over the game. The deck requires very few cards to win, just a specific combination of them, so the new mulligan rule that allows it to get many chances at finding its combo will be a blessing. The extra chances at finding Serum Powder and Gemstone Caverns are especially powerful with the creative way the deck uses Pull from Eternity as a build-your-own Entomb, which is the sort of thing the new rule will promote. How good this really is we will see, but know it has earned a league 5-0 with the current rule and will only improve from here. All eyes will be on London to see if the pros break the new rule with decks like this one.