Modern remains a huge playground for deckbuilders and brewers to explore. Anything is possible, and players continue to attack the format in new ways. I pay close attention to tournament results wherever I can find them, and this week I have some exciting, innovative Modern decklists to share.
This extreme take on red aggro reminds me most of Kuldotha Red, a Caw-Blade-era Standard deck that abused the synergy between Kuldotha Rebirth and anthem effects. This Modern update includes that same package of Kuldotha Rebirth, Signal Pest, and Goblin Bushwhacker, along with the new Atarka's Command as an additional anthem effect. Legion Loyalist isn't quite an anthem, but it does have great synergy with the swarms of creatures this deck can easily create.
Kuldotha Rebirth demands artifacts to sacrifice, so Memnite and Ornithopter pull double-duty as sacrifice fodder that has synergy with the many anthem effects. There are enough artifacts to support Mox Opal, which gives the deck an extra boost of speed. Bone Saw has synergy as a cheap artifact cog in the machine, where it supports metalcraft, can be sacrificed to Kuldotha Rebirth, and helps to make a small creature more relevant.
The deck has a goblin sub theme, so Goblin Grenade adds extra power for closing out a game or destroying a large creature like Tarmogoyf or Tasigur, the Golden Fang. This deck quickly fills the graveyard, so a singleton Become Immense adds an extra dose of power.
Filling out the deck are the most efficient aggressive red cards in the format: Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, and Lightning Bolt.
This deck has an interesting sideboard that plays cards as obscure as the archetype is. A pair of hateful bears, Stigma Lasher and Tunnel Ignus, allow the deck to maintain its unbridled creature aggression while still interfering with the opponent. Stigma Lasher is a dedicated hate card against life gain. Once it hits the opponent, they can no longer gain life, which is one of the major obstacles facing the deck. Any of the many opponents with Siege Rhino or Kitchen Finks is a good target for Stigma Lasher, and it's extremely strong against Martyr of Sands decks. Tunnel Ignus is solid against opponents with fetchlands, so I imagine it is sideboarded in often, but it's specifically strong hate against Amulet Bloom and Scapeshift, which will have a difficult time winning through the creature.
Day's Undoing allows the deck to refill its hand with action and launch another assault on the opponent. This card seems excellent against any control opponent that plans on winning an attrition war with creature removal and card advantage. It is also sure to be a surprise!
Death and Taxes
The Legacy archetype Death and Taxes, or Monowhite Prison, has often been attempted to be ported to Modern, but it has found middling success. Magic Origins has provided a great new tool for the archetype in Vryn Wingmare.
Mana denial is a core tenet of the archetype, with Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor shutting down opposing fetchlands, turning Ghost Quarter into Strip Mine, and making Path to Exile better than Swords to Plowshares. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is heavily relied upon for constricting opponent's ability to play spells, but Vryn Wingmare provides additional redundancy on this effect while skirting the legend rule. It allows this deck to more reliably slow down the opponent with access to one of these effects, but it also opens up the opportunity to have two in play at once, which means the deck can constrict the opponent harder than it ever could before. This flier also wears equipment well, making it great with the pair of Swords in the decklist.
Being white, this deck has access to highest density of quality sideboard cards in Modern, so this list plays a large assortment of impactful cards that target specific threats in the format.
Monoblack Midrange with Hangarback Walker
The prospect of Phyrexian Obliterator, which evades burn, dances past blockers, and is a brick wall on defense, has long drawn ambitious Modern players towards monoblack midrange decks, but the archetype has yet to ever gain a real foothold in the format. Hangarback Walker is a very capable creature in Modern, and this player wagered that it was exactly what his Monoblack Midrange deck required.
Hangarback Walker provides this deck with a powerful and proactive two-mana creature that plays well against opposing removal. This deck aims to exhaust opposing resources with its extensive discard and removal suite, and just one 1/1 Thopter Token could be what tips the scales in its favor in an extended attrition war. At three mana, Geralf's Messenger is an aggressive creature that also plays well against removal. The combination of Hangarback Walker and Geralf's Messenger provides this deck with a powerful creature curve with built-in insurance against all traditional removal spells beyond Path to Exile.
Liliana of the Veil is among the finest cards in Modern, and this deck uses it as an attrition engine to constrict opposing resources. With Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, this deck has a discard suite comparable to that of Jund.
Topping the curve are sets of Abyssal Persecutor and Phyrexian Obliterator, either of which will end the opponent in short order. Mortarpod provides a sacrifice outlet for Abyssal Persecutor as well as Hangarback Walker.
I will admit it is surprising to see this deck do well, but finishing Top 8 in a large, competitive event is evidence it can compete with the metagame, and it's an archetype worth exploring.
Emeria, the Sky Ruin is quite powerful in a drawn-out game where opponents are relying on attrition, and those are exactly the kinds of games the many controlling decks in Modern, like Grixis and Jund, play. Some players have found success with a deck that uses Emeria, the Sky Ruin to take advantage of creatures with enters the battlefield triggers, along with Sun Titan for attritional reanimation and Flickerwisp for additional ways to abuse these creature.
Supporting the value creatures is an extensive suite of creature removal. Modern is filled with creatures, and even combo and control decks rely on them, so this deck is filled with ways to interact with them. This deck has a lot of life gain and blockers, so it preys on aggressive decks like Burn and Zoo. All of the creatures create some sort of value, so it's a nightmare for opponents like Jund and Grixis that rely on creature removal and card advantage of their own.
Jeskai Midrange with Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Restoration Angel is great with Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which it can Flicker to generate two additional Thopter Tokens. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a worthwhile Modern card by itself because it's great against removal spells, and its sacrifice ability is great in a format with so many small creatures to destroy. The legend can even sacrifice Golem Tokens from Blade Splicer, which this deck also combines with Restoration Angel for profit.
Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique are premier Modern creatures that also combine well with Restoration Angel. The remainder of this deck is filled with efficient disruption that typically accompanies the Jeskai shell.
This deck is capable of playing an aggressive, tempo game or a drawn out, attrition game. It is flexible and proactive, and has game against any opponent. One copy of this deck reached the finals, and another made the Top 16, so I strongly suspect it's a great deck.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy Control
Michael Majors announced the arrival of Jace Vryn's Prodigy to the Modern world by placing in the Top 8 of last weekend's SCG Open with four copies in his Grixis Control deck.
Majors eschewed Cryptic Command in favor of a lower curve, rather relying on Jace for card advantage, and skewing his manabase towards black and Liliana of the Veil. This planeswalker creates synergy with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy by quickly building his graveyard towards the five required to flip it, a synergy also generated by Thought Scour.
This deck is vulnerable to creature removal like Lightning Bolt, which is traditionally dead against Grixis Control, but Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is a very punishing source of card advantage against opponent's unable to destroy it. This finish is promising news for the legend, which could be incorporated into a variety of Modern archetypes in the future.
UR Hive Mind
Modern players are familiar with the combination of Hive Mind and any of the Pact spells, which forces the opponent to cast their own copy of the Pact and pay the cost on their upkeep, which they presumably cannot pay, or lose the game. This combo has seen mainstream success as the alternate win condition in the Amulet Bloom combo deck, but it hasn't seen serious competitive play as a standalone combo deck since the banning of Rite of Flame, Ponder, and Preordain rendered it too slow and consistent.
Sixbeards has brought UR Hive Mind back to the game with a straightforward shell that uses Pentad Prism and Lotus Bloom to accelerate into Hive Mind, and an assortment of blue and red spells to disrupt the opponent and search for combo pieces.
This deck is sure to catch opponents by surprise, and no dedicated hate for the combo really exists beyond discard and Counterspells. It remains to be seen whether or not this deck is fast enough or consistent enough, but the potential is there.
The Other Storm
Pyromancer Ascension has been a critical component of storm decks throughout their Modern lifetimes, but this version of storm can't win without it:
This deck uses Pyromancer Ascension to generate an infinite loop of Noxious Revival and Manamorphose to generate infinite mana, and then Noxious Revival with Thought Scour to mill out the opponent. The deck also has the ability to just draw through itself, so winning with a handful of copied and recurred Lightning Bolt is also very viable. Relying on Pyromancer Ascension to win is a strain, but it allows the deck to give up all of its win conditions that are otherwise weak, Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot, and it eliminates reliance on Goblin Electromancer, so creature removal does nothing against the deck. Noxious Revival also ensures a destroyed Pyromancer Ascension can be reused.
Open the Vaults first started to gain attention after the banning of Second Sunrise had players looking for other options. An Open the Vaults deck put up a winning record at Pro Tour Born of the Gods at the beginning of 2014, its most notable feature being the inclusion of the Urzatron lands, but nothing ever came of the archetype. Some enterprising MTGO players have brought the archetype back from the dead this summer:
There has not been major innovation in the archetype since it debuted, nor any new card additions, but perhaps the metagame has shifted towards one where the deck can shine. Playing an unexpected rogue deck is an advantage in Modern, and this deck aims to take advantage of that fact. When the format has moved towards midrange, and artifact hate like Stony Silence is at a low, a deck like this seems like a fine option.
4 Color Unburial Gifts
MTGO player TuSaisPas has been tuning his Gifts Control deck for months, and he continues to be the archetype's sole successful pilot in Daily Events.
Built around Gifts Ungiven's ability to set up the graveyard with Unburial Rites and a creature to Reanimate, this deck has a high power level, and with a four color manabase, it has access to nearly everything in Modern.
Beyond the Gifts Ungiven package, the rest of the deck is built on a core of disruption spells shared with BGx Rock decks including Liliana of the Veil, Abrupt Decay, and Inquisition of Kozilek. Snapcaster Mage adds card advantage and is excellent with Gifts Ungiven.
This deck can play a midrange Rock game, but it has a better late game with its reanimation package and card advantage from Life from the Loam with Tectonic Edge and manlands. The archetype is relatively unexplored and has been on the fringes of the format for as long as it has been around, and it offers potential to those willing to work to unlock it.
New cards are particular interesting in Modern, where they can revamp an archetype or spawn entirely new ones. Magic Origins had its mark and I'll be looking forward Battle for Zendikar which is sure to add some new toys to the Modern card format. How have Magic Origins cards made an impact in Modern? What rogue Modern archetypes have you seen or played with?