Dominaria continues to make its impact on Modern, and that has meant a bevy of new and retooled decks making the rounds in the format.
Goblin Chainwhirler has become so dominant in Standard that people are already talking about bans, and there's a consensus that it's far worse for a healthy metagame than Rampaging Ferocidon ever was. To that point, I can't remember ever seeing Rampaging Ferocidon in Modern, at least not until I saw it included in the Mono-Red deck 5-0d a Modern league this week with four Goblin Chainwhirler and even more Standard cards highlighting just how good the Standard Red deck really is.
Bomat Courier feels broken a lot of the time, and it definitely has the power level for Modern in the right deck. It sees some play in Affinity and is even being used by some Legacy players in Grixis Delver, so I have to imagine it's good here in a deck with plenty of burn to destroy blockers in its way. Another way to stop blockers is Earthshaker Khenra, another Standard staple that gives the deck a threat that provides value in the late game in grindy matchups, which will be very strong against decks like Jeskai and Jund. The deck is filled out with typical burn staples, but it makes sure to include a set of Ramunap Ruins, which I've always expected to break out as a Modern staple eventually because the opportunity cost of playing it is so low.
Another Mono-Red Modern deck that takes inspiration from a different format is this Prison deck inspired by the similar Legacy deck, which with Karn, Scion of Urza won Grand Prix Birmingham a month ago.
Karn, Scion of Urza gives this deck another great planeswalker to go with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and its Construct Tokens will be surprisingly large given how many artifacts are in the deck. Such a high count allows the deck to play Mox Opal, which is perfect for accelerating into lock pieces and for quickly emptying the hand for Ensnaring Bridge.
Hitting metalcraft means playing additional cheap artifacts like Welding Jar, which is perfect for protecting the key lock pieces in the deck and cutting off any chance the opponent has to escape. The deck includes hosers for all sorts of situations, including two Tormod's Crypt for graveyard decks and Blood Sun for utility lands, while Ghirapur Aether Grid hoses small creatures and is a win condition under Ensnaring Bridge. The transition to an artifact-based Mox Opal deck with Karn, Scion of Urza is a real innovation for this archetype, and it might allow the deck to break through.
Lightning Bolt is one of the best Magic cards of all time, with a pedigree reaching all the way back to Alpha, where it was printed in a cycle alongside Ancestral Recall. It's a four-of in the best Legacy deck, Grixis Delver, and one of the very best cards in Modern, where it's a four-of in nearly every red deck. It's so good because of its efficiency – three damage for one mana being a great rate – and its flexibility because it can be used to kill the opponent or their creatures. It's safe to assume many of these decks would play more than four copies of Lightning Bolt if they could, and Dominaria's Wizard's Lightning is sort of a way to do that. Modern has plenty of great Wizards, or least enough to make it work, and Wizard's Lightning has provided a strong incentive to put them all together in a deck.
The deck takes a very aggressive approach, which makes the most of its eight copies of Lightning Bolt. Soul-Scar Mage is an efficient and aggressive Wizard that works well with Wizard's Lightning, and it's backed up by Monastery Swiftspear, which isn't a Wizard but is proven in Modern. These creatures form the foundation of a Prowess Aggro deck, which is taken further by Stormchaser Mage, another Wizard. The best Wizard in Modern is Snapcaster Mage – which is simply one of the best cards in Modern – and because the cost-reduction effect on Wizard's Lightning works even when being cast from the graveyard, the cards have great synergy. The rest of the deck is filled out with spells, but I am curious if some other Wizards would be good here, specifically Ghitu Lavarunner as another one-mana threat.
My favorite Modern deck is Affinity, probably because I've been playing the archetype longer than any other, all the way back to when it first appeared in Mirrodin block. It's always exciting when the deck gets new cards to potentially play, especially when they perform well, because the deck is already so refined that the barrier for a new card to enter the deck is incredibly high. Affinity also relies on its artifact synergies, so it can't just add generically good cards and it takes a very special card to make the cut. Such a card is Karn, Scion of Urza, and it put up a big finish last weekend as a two-of in the main deck of the Affinity deck that reached the Top 8 of the SCG Invitational. What's crazy is that the planeswalker wasn't even the biggest innovation to the deck, as it also included three Ancient Stirrings!
Ancient Stirrings is one of the best cards in Modern, so good that many have called for its banning with the argument that it's just better than already banned cards Preordain and Ponder. It's used in some of the top decks in the format, like Urzatron and Ironworks Combo, and it makes sense that it would work in Affinity, another deck full of colorless cards. On the other hand, it requires colored mana, which Affinity doesn't have a ton of and tries to minimize. It's also a tempo-negative play, so could be a bit slow for a deck that relies on its speed. That said, Ancient Stirrings is now better than ever because it can find Karn, Scion of Urza, and because Karn, Scion of Urza helps the Affinity deck grind, the deck doesn't need to be so fast all the time because it will be more capable of grinding out a longer game.
The deck's performance last weekend is a sign that the Ancient Stirrings and Karn, Scion of Urza package is a legitimate option for the deck and could even be its future. Another benefit of Ancient Stirrings to consider is that it's great for digging for colorless sideboard cards, so it essentially amplifies the impact of these slots because they'll show up more often, like a less extreme version of a one-ofs in a Chord of Calling or Whir of Invention deck. That makes the new Damping Sphere, which has caught on in variety of decks as a versatile and powerful sideboard card, a perfect addition to Ancient Stirrings Affinity. For that reason, I'd recommend cutting Rest in Peace, which I've always stayed away from anyways because it shuts down Arcbound Ravager's modular, in favor of artifacts like Grafdigger's Cage, Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt or Nihil Spellbomb. Note that Master of Ethereum has poor synergy with Ancient Stirrings, which explains why it's completely absent here in favor of Etched Champion, which has gained some new value as a great blocker to protect Karn, Scion of Urza.
Infect just had a big weekend, winning the SCG Invitational, and suddenly looks like a real Modern deck again. It has actually looked good for a while, given its strength against the top-tier of the format. Humans has little interaction to stop it, combo decks like Ironworks have even less, and Urzatron is similarly vulnerable. While Green-Blue Infect is the typical build, black-green versions have seen some play throughout history, and a list just 5-0ed a league.
Black has some advantages over blue, with the biggest addition being Phyrexian Crusader. With protection from red and white, Phyrexian Crusader dodges the vast majority of the removal spells in Modern, and it seems fantastic in a metagame with Jeskai in the rise. Black also gives the deck some disruption, like Abrupt Decay to destroy various problem permanents. It also provides Thoughtseize, which besides disrupting the opponent's plan can also be a nice way to protect the combo. The information on the opponent's hand it provides is also very valuable and gives the deck back the luxury it lost with the banning of Gitaxian Probe.
In a world where Jeskai and control decks like Mardu are on the rise as a solution to a metagame saturated by Humans, Dredge comes back into the picture. Its strategy punishes these removal-heavy control decks that have no real ability to stop what it's doing besides loading up on sideboard hosers. Such cards are at a low because Dredge has been absent from the metagame for so long and because the Hollow One deck is relatively resilient to them, so now looks like an ideal time to dust off Dredge. What's interested about this list that won the Modern Challenge a couple weekends ago and is catching on online, is that it includes four Shriekhorn.
Shriekhorn is strong as far as filling the graveyard is concerned and helps make the deck more consistent, but it saw very little play when Dredge was more popular. One issue with the card is how utterly awful it is against graveyard hosers, but with less of those to play against now, it's a good time to play a full-powered version that's more concerned about its own strategy than fighting through hosers, which is the reality Dredge has to face when it's on the radar.
Back in the early days of Modern there was an aggressive Zoo deck that put Wild Nacatl alongside Delver of Secrets, which took advantage of the fact that Zoo decks are typically filled with spells just like more traditional Delver decks are. Taking Zoo deeper into blue also gives it Snapcaster Mage, another way to use its high spell count. The deck comes together looking very sleek and efficient, with a mana curve topping off at two mana besides Snapcaster Mage flashing something back, and a very low land count. The speed and disruption make it a real threat against decks like combo and Tron, and its heavy removal allows it to stand up to creature decks like Humans and Affinity.
Bedlam Reveler has been elevated to the level of Modern staple with the success of the Mardu Pyromancer deck, and has applications in variety of different deck. One example is this deck that uses it alongside Pyromancer Ascension, which doesn't use it as a combo engine like is typical for the card, but simply a way to generate value with its high spell count.
A very similar deck broke out a couple years ago in Japan, but it never really caught on. That version used Thing in the Ice as its primary win condition but didn't include Bedlam Reveler, and I have to imagine that this version is an improvement now that we've seen just how good the card can be. Now that Jeskai Control is one of the best decks in the metagame, it's a good time to take out a deck like this one, which enacts a similar control Game Plan but adds some powerful proactive elements.
Green Devotion decks have been around in Modern for a while, and I'll admit I've never been a big fan of them because they seemed a bit too pedestrian. The deck seemed too fair, too uninteractive, more like a Standard deck than a Modern deck. It just never seemed better than Urzatron or Scapeshift. Well, this decklist, which reached the Top 8 of the SCG Invitational, is starting to convince me.
The list is cleaned up, with no Vizier of Remedies combo or Gifts Ungiven or any other of the other things I've seen mashed in the deck, and is designed simply to make the most of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Nykthos, theoretically, is a broken mana source comparable to Urzatron, and this deck tries to make that a reality. Attempting to be a combo deck, it even includes a set of Garruk, Wildspeaker to untap the land. Rather than many Primal Command, which most lists I've seen use, the deck has a full set of Summoner's Pact, which the deck bank on easily paying for with the massive amount of mana it can generate. Not only does Summoner's Pact open up a huge toolbox of creates, in can even be used as a pseudo-ritual by finding Burning-Tree Emissary, which is a free way to add to devotion and potentially two extra mana with a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx in play.
What do you think of these decks? Have you seen any other cool ones?