Birthing Pod, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time are no longer legal. Golgari Grave-Troll and Fate Reforged are now legal. How will these changes affect the Modern metagame?
Today I will share with you my entire updated Modern Gauntlet, consisting of tuned versions of the Top 25 decks in the format, along with exactly how popular I expect each deck to be at Pro Tour Fate Reforged next weekend.
In order to fit all 30 decks into one article, my commentary on each deck will be brief. To start, here is my expected metagame breakdown organized by popularity:
Tier 113% Abzan Midrange11% Affinity9% Scapeshift
Tier 28% Burn8% Merfolk7% Splinter Twin7% Amulet of Vigor6% Bogles6% Jeskai Midrange
Tier 34% RG Tron3% Domain Zoo3% Storm / Pyromancer Ascension3% Zoo3% W/x Hate Bears
Tier 42% Martyr Proc2% Ad Nauseam Unlife2% RG Breach Combo1% UG Infect1% Living End1% Tin Fists1% Blue Moon1% Skred Red
Wild CardsUR/x Delver?Dredge?Jeskai Ascendancy Combo?
And here is the metagame breakdown organized in terms of archetype:
Linear Aggro11% Affinity8% Burn8% Merfolk6% Bogles3% Zoo3% W/x Hate Bears1% UG Infect??? Dredge??? UR/x Delver
Combo9% Scapeshift7% Splinter Twin7% Amulet of Vigor4% RG Tron3% Storm / Pyromancer Ascension2% Ad Nauseam Unlife2% RG Breach Combo1% Living End1% Tin Fists??? Jeskai Ascendancy Combo
Midrange13% Abzan Midrange6% Jeskai Midrange3% Domain Zoo2% Martyr Proc1% Blue Moon1% Skred Red
Now let's break down each deck individually.The Linear Aggro Decks
The best aggro decks in Modern each have a linear theme. Affinity has an artifact theme, burn has a direct damage theme, merfolk has a lord theme, bogles has a hexproof aura theme, hate bears has a disruptive creature theme, infect has a pump spell theme, delver has an instants and sorceries theme, and dredge has a graveyard theme. The lone exception is Naya Zoo, whose pseudo theme might be "best creatures and removal spells for their rate." Unless your aggro deck operates along a unique linear theme, it is likely a worse version of one of these other decks. For instance, slivers and goblins are worse versions of merfolk because they are each worse than merfolk at the lords theme.11% Affinity
Affinity is the top aggro deck in the format. It explodes out of the gates and can beat you with Cranial Plating, Etched Champion, Steel Overseer, Master of Etherium, Arcbound Ravager, Signal Pest, or Inkmoth Nexus. It is vulnerable to Lingering Souls, Stony Silence, wrath effects, and mass artifact destruction. It's the deck I'm most interested in packing hate for.8% Burn
The plan is to count to 20 (or, since this is modern, maybe 16 or 17) by aiming burn spells at the opponent. Its creatures only need to hit once to pull their weight, and it has tools such as Skullcrack and Flames of the Blood Hand to counteract its worst enemy: life gain.8% Merfolk
The plan of Merfolk is to keep playing lords to pump the entire school of fish. Its disruption is minimal and tempo-oriented (Vapor Snag, Spreading Seas, Spell Pierce, Echoing Truth). Spreading Seas also enables islandwalk granted by some of the lords. It is weak to lots of removal spells or a well-timed wrath effect.6% Bogles
Play a hexproof creature and put a bunch of auras on it. Lifelink allows it to race and the umbras protect it from wrath effects. Weaknesses include: Liliana of the Veil, Crackling Doom, Back to Nature, or a turn one discard spell (on the play) to take their lone creature. Bogles mulligans a lot and sometimes has to go all in on a non-hexproof creature.3% Zoo
Generic, under-costed creatures (Wild Nacatl, Tarmogoyf) combined with pump spells ( Ghor-Clan Rampager) and burn spells (Boros Charm, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix). It's similar to burn but slightly more combat-oriented. It's weak to cheap instant speed removal and life gain. It can often race combo decks and punish decks that take damage from their own cards (fetchlands, Dark Confidant, etc).3% W/x Hate Bears
Hate Bears can be GW, RW (Boros Bears), or Monowhite (Death & Taxes). The goal is to pressure the opponent with creatures that simultaneously hinder their game plan. It's weak to removal spells and can get outclassed by bigger creatures. It can also draw the wrong disruptive elements for a given matchup and thus not be able to sufficiently keep the opponent from winning.
DECKID=12282971% UG Infect
Play an infect creature and target it with pump spells. Sequence your plays where Apostle's Blessing and Vines of Vastwood can counter an opposing removal spell. Weak to hand disruption combined with cheap removal. Also Spellskite is a nightmare.??? Dredge
Dredge is one of the big question marks. Here are my two best versions.
Pressure the opponent with creatures while filling up the graveyard with creatures that can enter the battlefield from the graveyard. Weak to graveyard hate but resilient to most removal spells. Can also get outraced by combo decks.
This is more of a one-hit kill deck as opposed to a value deck like the previous version. This deck is likewise vulnerable to graveyard hate and lacks the speed to keep up with some of the combo decks.??? UR/x Delver
Delver decks lost Treasure Cruise and as a result will likely comprise no more than 2-3% of the metagame now. Instead of recovering from one-for-one trades with Treasure Cruise, it is forced to rely on Delver of Secrets surviving. Otherwise it gets outclassed by Rhinos and company. Delver is back to being weak to a combination of: cheap removal, life gain, and bigger threats.The Combo Decks
The Combo decks in Modern either set up for a one-card kill (Scapeshift, Living End, Storm, Ad Nauseam, Goryo's Vengeance) or aim to assemble a multiple card combo (Twin, Amulet, Tron, Breach, Ascendancy, 16 Rack). The diversity of combo decks makes it difficult to adequately be prepared for all of them simultaneously, yet each has its own exploitable weaknesses.9% Scapeshift
The goal is to get seven or eight lands into play and then cast Scapeshift fetching one to two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and six mountains to immediately deal 18 or 36 damage. It runs Remand and Cryptic Command to slow the game down and protect itself from disruption. It also runs multiple card draw spells and interchangeable ramp spells to reliably set up and find Scapeshift. Vulnerable to Blood Moon, Slaughter Games, Liliana of the Veil, and Negate. Fulminator Mage and Tectonic Edge are Time Walks. Scapeshift is a bit of a question mark. If Dig Through Time were legal, I would expect Scapeshift to compromise up to 15% of the metagame. Without Dig I'm still estimating it will be the third most played deck (9%) and the most played combo deck.7% UR/x Splinter Twin
Twin has multiple forms (Temur, Jeskai, Grixis, Izzet). In my estimation, Temur and Izzet are the best positioned right now.
This is the most all-in straight combo version. The goal is to assemble Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite with Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. The rest of the deck is designed to stay alive and/or to find the combo pieces. UR Twin is especially vulnerable to cheap instant speed removal such as Path to Exile, Dismember, Combust, and Abrupt Decay. It also has trouble beating Torpor Orb or Auriok Champion. It generally has good matchups against other combo decks though.
This is the more midrange version of Twin with a better Backup Plan and can thus change gears and fight through opposing hate more effectively. It is still vulnerable to cheap instant speed creature removal, just not quite as much so. The tradeoff is that it's also not quite as good against other combo decks.7% Amulet of Vigor
Amulet can be one of the fastest combo decks in the format, capable of assembling its combo as early as the second turn. It uses Amulet of Vigor, Summer Bloom, and bounce lands to power out Primeval Titan to find Slayers' Stronghold and then Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to immediately hit for 16 damage. Its Backup Plan is Hive Mind since it uses Pacts to find and protect the Titan. If you kill the Amulet or Remove all copies of Primeval Titan and Hive Mind from their deck, they essentially cannot win. A timely counter or Thoughtseize is also difficult to beat, but they can recover by transmuting Tolaria West to find Summoner's Pact to find Primeval Titan.4% RG Tron
Tron's plan is to find all three Urza lands and cast Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine and eventually Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It has Pyroclasm and Oblivion Stone and sometimes All Is Dust to wipe an opposing board. Ugin is the newest addition to Tron. It's vulnerable to strategies that attack its land such as Blood Moon or Fulminator Mage and it also has difficulty racing other combo decks. It can play like a control deck against aggro decks or go over the top of midrange decks.3% Storm / Pyromancer Ascension
Storm is one of the harder combo decks to hate out. It can win by turning on Pyromancer Ascension or by chaining rituals into Past in Flames. The actual win condition is Grapeshot or sideboard Empty the Warrens. Abrupt Decay is great against it since it kills Ascension or Goblin Electromancer. Rule of Law and Rest in Peace are also good. It's not especially good against Abzan or Affinity, which makes it not the best positioned deck in the format right now. It's one of the more resilient combo decks to hate though, especially to Thoughtseize since it has lots of ways to sculpt a hand, many replaceable parts, and Past in Flames to still cast the card taken with Thoughtseize.2% Ad Nauseam Unlife
This deck uses Lotus Bloom to power out Ad Nauseam to set up a giant Lightning Storm. Angel's Grace keeps it from dying to Ad Nauseam. The combo is fragile to disruption such as Thoughtseize or counters. It also does not have much defense outside of Phyrexian Unlife, so racing it with an aggro deck is a legitimate strategy.2% RG Breach Combo
Through the Breach is a Scapeshift deck with multiple Backup Plans. One Backup Plan is to put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play with Through the Breach. Another is to cast Primeval Titan. It has Anger of the Gods to give it more game against aggro strategies, and it has Summoning Trap against counters. Like many combo decks, it can be weak to Thoughtseize. It is also vulnerable to land destruction such as Fulminator Mage and Tectonic Edge.1% Living End
The plan is to fill up the graveyard with creatures by cycling them and then to cast a cascade card to find Living End, which wipes the board and brings all the cycled creatures onto the battlefield. Fulminator Mage also plays a prominent role, killing opposing lands and then coming back with Living End to kill more of the opponent's lands. Living End is vulnerable to graveyard hate such as Rest in Peace and Relic of Progenitus, and it also has difficulty fighting through Rule of Law or counters.1% Tin Fists
The goal is to use Footsteps of the Goryo or Goryo's Vengeance to bring Griselbrand back from the graveyard, which allows it to draw seven or fourteen cards and reassemble the combo or to find Fury of the Horde. It's vulnerable to graveyard hate, though it preemptively boards in Through the Breach to combat this weakness. It is also fragile to hand disruption and counters. Notice a recurring weakness with many of the combo decks yet???? Jeskai Ascendancy Combo
Without the delve card draw spells anymore, this is one of the hardest decks to predict its popularity. It can still kill quickly if it draws its combo elements, but it's much worse at fighting through disruption since it lacks the ability to sculpt a hand in the midgame. It's vulnerable to cheap instant speed removal and also to graveyard hate. Like Storm though, it can fight through Rest in Peace if given enough time to work around it.??? 16 Rack
The objective is to cast a bunch of discard spells and then kill the opponent with The Rack effects that punish the opponent for not having cards in hand. Dark Deal could put this deck on the radar, but I doubt it will be more than a Tier 4 deck. Given the prevalence of Liliana of the Veil, I expect a reasonable amount of Obstinate Baloth / Wilt-Leaf Liege effects floating around that will incidentally hit 16 Rack. Without having to face Treasure Cruise anymore though, it's better positioned than it was. It is weak to cheap threats such as Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Wild Nacatl, and Goblin Guide. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is also a nightmare to play against. And don't even think about Life from the Loam.The Midrange Decks
There are too many decks in the format for a true control deck to thrive, but the metagame is defined enough that a handful of Midrange decks are viable. They play a pseudo control game against the aggro decks, and against combo decks they either play cheap threats backed by disruption or they play specific hate cards and countermagic. Abzan is the most popular deck in the format right now.13% Abzan Midrange
Abzan is a value deck. It has efficient and versatile removal spells and hand disruption along with big creatures. With Birthing Pod no longer in the format, I expect Abzan to take over as not only the most played Midrange deck but the most played overall deck in the format. Abzan is the new Jund. Like Jund, it is weak to strategies that can avoid getting one-for-one'd by its removal spells. For instance, Lingering Souls is great against Abzan. It is also weak to strategies that go over the top such as Tron. It's at least 50/50 against a wide range of decks in the format though, given its generic answers and its reasonably fast clock. It's the default choice I would recommend to anyone in the dark.6% Jeskai Midrange
Jeskai ranges from midrange to semi-control, mostly depending on whether it plays Geist of Saint Traft. I expect the Geist versions to outperform the non-Geist versions because they are better able to pressure the combo decks. Some Jeskai decks sideboard Lingering Souls just to make themselves better in the midrange matchups and against opposing Lingering Souls. Jeskai is another deck with a lot of 50/50 matchups.3% Domain Zoo
Naya Zoo has smaller creatures and Ghor-Clan Rampager to try and end the game as quickly as possible. Domain Zoo is a half a turn slower and is better equipped to play a longer game and outlast an opponent with its removal spells and bigger creatures like Siege Rhino. Some Domain lists are more of a hybrid between the two. Domain Zoo is flexible in what it is weak to. Most are weak to whatever combo decks they choose to ignore and some are weak to Affinity if it doesn't run enough hate. It can also be weak to a fast Blood Moon or get outlasted by a more controlling midrange deck.2% Martyr Proc
Martyr is essentially king of the midrange decks. No other midrange deck is going to beat Martyr on the attrition axis. Serra Ascendant dwarfs Tarmogoyf, Ranger of Eos provides unmatched card advantage, and Proclamation of Rebirth keeps the juice flowing indefinitely. Aggro decks, including Burn and Zoo, basically have no chance against Martyr. Even Merfolk dies to Wrath of God. While Martyr has great matchups across the board against Aggro and Midrange decks, it can never beat a combo deck except maybe Splinter Twin. Martyr has few ways to interact with a combo deck or to pressure the combo deck enough to have to go off prematurely. Instead it just applies slow pressure, makes a haphazard attempt to the control the game, and then dies to the combo. If you want to beat Martyr, play combo. If you don't play combo, then you're not going to beat Martyr no matter how hard you try. It's only 2% of the metagame though, so it's a very reasonable strategy to just completely ignore it.1% Skred Red
Skred Red uses Lightning Bolt, Skred, Dismember, and Anger of the Gods to control opposing creatures and it uses Blood Moon as a trump against multicolored midrange strategies and against Scapeshift, Tron, and Amulet decks. It also has Relic of Progenitus for graveyard strategies and for Tarmogoyfs. Boros Reckoner, Koth of the Hammer, and Demigod of Revenge kill the opponent before they are able to recover from the disruption. Finally, Chandra, Pyromaster and Scrying Sheets are its card advantage engines. Skred Red is weak to burn and to most strategies that are not hindered by Blood Moon. It's a surprisingly powerful deck though.1% Blue Moon
Blue Moon is the closest thing to a pure control strategy that Modern offers. The goal of every game is to value the opponent out and to eventually find a way to defeat them. Winning typically involves repeated attacks with Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, a Batterskull Germ Token, and/or an opposing creature stolen with Vedalken Shackles. Blue Moon is weak to Ancient Grudge and to strategies that are not adversely affected by Blood Moon. Some of the linear aggro decks are also difficult, especially game one.Conclusion
While there are many viable decks in the new post-ban Modern world, some are better equipped against the more popular decks than others. If you're looking to play the best deck, play Abzan, Affinity, or Scapeshift. If instead you want to play something a bit lower on your opponents' radar, there are plenty of options for that too. Just make sure you have a solid game plan against the top decks, and also make sure your strategy is the best at what it does. Most of the Tier 5+ decks are strictly worse versions of one of the Tier 1-4 decks.
Hopefully this article was informative and will help you adapt to the most recent changes to Modern or to transition into the Modern format if you haven't already. It's a lot to take in, but once you've taken the plunge, it's one of the most challenging and enjoyable formats in existence.
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