The banning of Modern's top deck Krark-Clan Ironworks has opened up a ton of space in the metagame, and powerful new cards from Ravnica Allegiance are helping to fill it. Mere days after the set was officially released I wrote about the new cards that had already made their way into winning Modern decks. The metagame has had a couple weeks to develop, so today I'll cover what other new cards have entered since. There are also some new strategies and decklists that have popped into the Modern since the banning that are too interesting not to mention, along with some tech you won't want to miss.
Gruul Spellbreaker has made its way to Modern, where it has helped spawn a new Gruul-colored Hatebears deck built in the mold of the typical Selesnya version but with its own unique tools.
In this deck Gruul Spellbreaker reminds me of Loxodon Smiter, a large threat with the ability to hate on certain strategies and cards. Gruul Spellbreaker is a bit less hateful, but with haste and trample is certainly more aggressive. These abilities combined with its hexproof clause means it will reliably deal damage immediately, even if the opponent is holding a removal spell like Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile.
Eidolon of the Great Revel stands out as the deck's premier hatebear, and to take advantage of that it needs to be aggressive. Aether Vial is a staple of the Hatebears archetype, and it offers great synergy with Eidolon of the Great of Revel by getting around the damage trigger. Scavenging Ooze is a staple of the Selesnya Hatebears strategy, so a full set here is no surprise given the prevalence of Dredge and Arclight Phoenix in the metagame, and as a lifegain source it also hoses Burn. Goblin Cratermaker is a versatile hatebear, similar to Selesnya staple Qasali Pridemage. Duskwatch Recruiter adds some card advantage and is a welcome addition to the not typically seen in the strategy. From the sideboard, Magus of the Moon provides a very powerful effect, and in my eyes could very well be worth of main deck consideration if the deck wanted to take on a more hateful approach.
Cindervines is similar to the old Extended sideboard staple Pyrostatic Pillar, which is still played in Legacy burn sideboards, but is also a Naturalize effect. It's also been seen in the sideboard of Burn, where it might prove to be an update over Destructive Revelry.
Judith, the Scourge Diva has found a great Modern home in a Shaman tribal deck. I wouldn't have thought this tribe would be very competitive, but history shows that a trickle of tribal cards can turn into a Deluge when a critical mass is reached.
Judith, the Scourge Diva acts much like a lord creature the Shaman tribe has always wanted but has never had a good version of beyond Rage Forger. The anthem effect elevates Spikeshot Elder to a new level, and both of Judith's abilities are excellent with expendable Shamans like Flamekin Harbinger and Elvish Visionary.
Ravnica Allegiance also added Shaman Rix Maadi Reveler as a source of card advantage, and the deck has no shortage of ways to enable Spectacle. Bedlam Reveler has become a real staple of Modern and even Legacy, and Rix Maadi Reveler has just as much card drawing potential. While it's not quite as mana efficient, it's certainly more versatile, and I think it has a bright future in the format. I've taken special note of the deck because Caleb Durward has put up multiple 5-0 league finishes with it. When a player of his caliber wins with what I'd consider a homebrew or rogue deck I take it as a sign that the player is good, not that the deck is necessarily good, but understand that Caleb was one of the first major proponents of the Modern Spirits deck, which eventually went on to become a major archetype.
Caleb's Shamans deck is build in much the same mold as his Spirits deck, with Collected Company as card advantage, and Lightning Bolt replacing Path to Exile as removal. Caleb didn't play Aether Vial, which became a staple of the deck, but it missing in Shamans makes sense given the deck's low curve and the inclusion of Bosk Banneret and Burning-Tree Emissary. Caleb was playing Spirits long before Supreme Phantom came along and the deck popped, so keep your eyes peeled for new Shaman creatures in the future – maybe it's only a matter of time before the tribe takes over Modern.
Judith, the Scourge Diva is also a Human, where it's the centerpiece of a new Mardu Aristocrats Human deck.
This deck is full of familiar Humans, specifically the white creature base of Five-Color Humans Champion of the Parish, Thalia's Lieutenant, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, along with Kitesail Freebooter. That means the deck retains its aggressive capabilities and much of its disruption. It gains creatures that play well against removal and support the Aristocrats sacrifice strategy, Bloodsoaked Champion and Doomed Traveler.
Guilds of Ravnica card Tithe Taker makes an appearance hear as a bigger and better Doomed Traveler, and it adds a disruptive flair. Falkenrath Aristocrat serves as the deck's sacrifice outlet, but it's quite threatening even on its own.
Since Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned there has been a surge in alternative Mox Opal decks, including Lantern Control and the Lanternless Whir Prison deck, which just made the finals at Grand Prix Toronto and is set to break out as one of Modern's top decks. Now a new Whir of Invention deck has appeared, this one focused on the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo.
Whir of Invention provides access to a toolbox of one-ofs, so this deck includes a modest package of options, like a singleton Ensnaring Bridge, but it's mostly focused on its combo, maxing out with four of both pieces. It goes even further down the combo rabbit hole by including a copy of Clock of Omens to find with Whir of Invention. Tapping Sword of the Meek and a Thopter Token to untap a Mox Opal or Darksteel Citadel makes a mana to feed into Thopter Foundry, which loops to generate infinite Thopters and gain infinite life. Whether this is necessary or not will depend on the opponent, but it seems nice to have access to against decks that won't fold to a handful of Thopter Tokens, and even without the combo assembled Clock of Omens is a decent mana source.
I've been playing a lot of Izzet Arclight Phoenix and loving it, and so I've been paying close attention to Arclight Phoenix decks to keep on top of all the latest technology. This includes Legacy, because I don't want to miss out if the card proves to be broken there, and it's well on its way. One way I've seen it successfully used in Legacy is in a Reanimator deck, and now that approach has appeared in Modern.
Goryo's Vengeance into Griselbrand is the go-to reanimation plan in Modern, but it doesn't actually win the game by itself. The question of where to go from there has led to answers like the Grisshoalbrand decks, which solves the problem by using Nourishing Shoal to keep Griselbrand going and hopefully draw the entire deck or close to it, leading to Simian Spirit Guide helping to get a lethal Borborygmos Enraged into play. It's much like the Ad Nauseam combo deck in how it finishes the game, and its inclusion of many dedicated combo pieces.
Arclight Phoenix helps Simplify things by adding a secondary kill condition that works well with Griselbrand. A reanimated Griselbrand can dig into Arclight Phoenix and Faithless Looting and help set it up attacking that turn, or simply discard Arclight Phoenix to hand size at end of turn and set it up next turn. This approach takes advantage of the seven damage that a Goryo's Vengeanced Griselbrand can deal, leaving Arclight Phoenix and Lightning Bolt to clean up the rest. This deck is built as an Arclight Phoenix deck first, sharing the majority of its cards with the Izzet version. The reanimation plan is simply spliced into the deck using the same enablers Faithless Looting and Thought Scour, where it adds a tremendous dose of power. To help get a bit more from Goryo's Vengeance, Jace Vryn's Prodigy replaces a Thing in the Ice. Beyond being a nice discard outlet, it has amazing synergy with Goryo's Vengeance because after being reanimated it can transform and stay in play, and then flashback the Goryo's Vengeance to get Griselbrand into play.
Last weekend I was at Grand Prix Toronto, and while on day 2 I was relegated to the MCQ, I wandered to the main event feature match area during the final round of swiss to see what was going on. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw not one but two Takin' Turns deck battling side by side, each playing for a Top 8 finish. Both players lost and fell short, but had they been victorious, the ultimate story of the event might have been very different. One of the Takin' Turns players was Daniel Wong, notorious for Top 8ing Grand Prix Las Vegas in 2017 with the deck quadruple-sleeved, and in my eyes is the obvious person to look to as an authority on the deck. Here's the decklist he played:
Daniel splashed black for Fatal Push and sideboard discard in 2017, but now red is the color of choice, providing Lightning Bolt in the main and more removal in the sideboard. The other player had a very similar Izzet deck, so it's clear that's the right configuration in this metagame. It's not clear how good the deck is or isn't, but it's near-miss last weekend leads me to believe it's one of the best decks no one is talking about.
I watched the last round of the Grand Prix in between rounds of my MCQ, where my 3-0 run with Izzet Phoenix was cut short by a Mono-Red Phoenix deck. After the match my opponent and I discussed how his built was a bit different from the stock list that Jeffrey Carr popularized. Rather than play Skewer the Critics, he included the more versatile Forked Bolt. Kenan went on to finish the day on an 8-0 run and win the tournament and Pro Tour invite, so the results are convincing. If you're playing Mono-Red Phoenix, you might want to give Forked Bolt a try.
Another piece of technology from this decklist is Shattering Spree in the sideboard. It's a haymaker against the Whir Prison deck, because with replicate it can destroy key artifacts through Welding Jar. I played a singleton copy in my Izzet sideboard at the Grand Prix, a nod to MTGO Competitive Modern League leader Naisirc, who's most recent posted list included one. Kenan actually defeated the Whir Prison deck in the finals, and the deck reaching the finals of the Grand Prix gives it a high profile, so I expect Shattering Spree will grow even more valuable.
Hardened Scales Affinity has had a tough time in this metgame, where Thing in the Ice presents a major problem. Some savvy players have reverted back to a traditional Affinity shell, which is better equipped to deal with the threat of having its board swept back to hand, both because it includes a lower curve with Springleaf Drum, and because it includes Galvanic Blast to destroy the Horror before it flips. A key new piece of tech that has appeared since the deck was last popular is Experimental Frenzy. Affinity takes advantage of the effect with its incredible low curve and land count, so it will reliably yield multiple cards a turn and take over the game. Pro Tour Champion Andrew Elenbogen put up a near-Top 8 run with the deck in Toronto, so his list is the one I'd start my testing with.