The past few weeks I have been writing about Standard, so this week it's time for a change...to Modern! The format right now is in a weird place as the delve spells in Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are certainly very powerful, but are they too good? Leading up to Pro Tour Washington D.C. I am sure Wizards is trying to answer this question, while throwing Jeskai Ascendancy into the list of potential cards to ban. However, there is a Modern Grand Prix coming up, and I want to talk about the current decks of Modern, and how they stack up in the format right now. These rankings are debatable, but should provide some recommendations on deck choice.Blue/Red Delver
Let's start with "boogeyman" of the format, Blue/Red Delver. This is the deck that is able to utilize Treasure Cruise the best, and has tools to be competitive with just about any deck in the format. Here is a list played by AlfredoTorres who went 4-0 on a Magic Online Daily:
This list is for the most part pretty standard. Blue/Red Delver is moving toward playing Thought Scour to make the Treasure Cruises that much better, and is nice with a Delver of Secrets in play. Being able to look at your top card with a Delver of Secrets and then not draw it is a big deal, which anyone familiar with Delver strategies in Legacy should already know. I like the single copy of Snapcaster Mage in addition to the mandatory 12 base creatures seen in pretty much all Blue/Red Delver lists. This deck has a choice of which Counterspells it wants to play, and here we see more of an emphasis on Spell Snare, but that could just as easily be say Mana Leak, though countering a spell for one mana is certainly sweet, and answers problem cards like Kor Firewalker and Eidolon of the Great Revel.
Blue/Red Delver has had some success though it hasn't been dominant by any means. It is obvious that players are preparing for this deck, and there are hate cards that other decks have access to in order to prevent this deck from taking over the format. Another reason why many players may gravitate towards this deck, is that if you play a similar deck in Legacy, not only do many of the cards overlap, but you are already familiar with how the deck plays. Burn
Burn is not only a very powerful deck, it is also pretty easy to play, which is nice for any player who doesn't have a lot of experience with Modern, and wants to be competitive. Here is a list played by Lucantonio Salvidio to a Top 8 at Grand Prix Milan:
The initial adaptation of this deck played the full playset of Treasure Cruises, but I think two is likely the right number. The reason is that you don't want to draw two, and you don't want to find yourself with Treasure Cruise in hand, and you just wish the Treasure Cruise was another cheap burn spell after you exile all the cards in your graveyard and it gets Remanded. This is a card that has its moments, but is not nearly as good as in, say, Blue/Red Delver which plays more ways to fill up the graveyard.
This is the creature suite most burn decks are playing now, and Eidolon of the Great Revel can actually be really good, such as single handedly beating decks like Storm. I like the maindeck copies of Searing Blaze as that card can be absolutely bonkers; killing your opponent's early creature and dealing three is a great deal for just two mana. Burn is a deck that pretty much has good matchups against any deck without access to lifegain, and that's saying something. Abzan Pod
Now here is a deck that is not playing blue at all! Of course Birthing Pod has been a mainstay in Modern for quite a while, and continues to win big tournaments. Here is a look at Magnus Lantto's winning list from Grand Prix Milan:
This deck is no longer "Melira Pod" as there are not any copies of Melira, Sylvok Outcast in the list. The deck has morphed into more of an Abzan good stuff deck. It plays some of the best creatures in the format, and one of those is a new creature from Khans of Tarkir: Siege Rhino. The lifegain creatures like Siege Rhino and Kitchen Finks are well positioned right now, and Birthing Pod plays the role of creating a value chain, that is hard for many decks to compete with in the lategame.
Birthing Pod is still a force to be reckoned with despite the presence of all the powerful blue decks. We see in the sideboard three copies of Chalice of the Void, which is one way to make the Blue/Red Delver matchup much better. The deck has changed a bit but is a great choice for players who have experience playing Pod, and may not be as familiar with some of the newer strategies.Jeskai Ascendancy Combo
When Josh-Utter-Leyton and his crew came up with this deck for the World Championships many thought that the format had been broken. The deck is in fact extremely powerful, but is still just another archetype. While it may be the best deck in a vacuum the deck is very difficult to play, and there are a variety of ways to attack it with hate. Here is a recent list played by Louis Deltour to make the Top 4 at Grand Prix Milan:
This list is not far off from the version seen at the World Championships. For players looking to enter a Modern tournament this is a deck I would recommend testing against. The deck can win in spots where you would think it would be impossible too. Having a way to either deal with Jeskai Ascendancy itself or interact with the Fatestitchers coming out of the graveyard is key. The deck can win as early as turn three, but can also play the long game very well, so watch out!Temur Delver
This deck is certainly similar to Blue/Red Delver but has established itself as a major contender, and it is not clear right now which version of Delver is better. Playing Tarmogoyf alongside Treasure Cruise is what stopped this from being a major archetype right after the printing of Treasure Cruise, but now it is apparent that the two can go together. Here is Chiralane's list from Magic Online:
Compared to Blue/Red Delver Tarmogoyf simply takes the place of Young Pyromancer but other than that the creature base doesn't change too much. Tarmogoyf does dodge hate cards like Kor Firewalker, in addition to stuff like Orzhov Pontiff. The spells are also not too different from Blue/Red Delver, though interestingly Deprive has been seeing more play recently. There aren't a lot of hard counters and this is one of them. Returning a land isn't a huge deal as the deck can operate off two or three lands pretty easily. Temur Delver is a good choice right now and provides access to Tarmogoyf as well as more sideboard options, when compared to straight Blue/Red Delver. Red/Green Breach Combo
This may be a bit high to rank this deck simply because the deck hasn't been around that long, but this is a very strong archetype. Through the Breach has been seeing more and more play, alongside its best friend Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and, oh yeah, Primeval Titan too. Here's joohyun's list which went 4-0 in a Magic Online Daily Event:
For a while this type of deck was considered a fringe strategy but it is becoming more and more mainstream. In my opinion for those players looking to play a Scapeshift style deck this is the way to go. The deck runs two Scapeshifts as one way to win, but fights on multiple axes. Through the Breach and Summoning Trap provide ways to cheat in the huge creatures, but there are also reactive elements like Anger of the Gods and Chalice of the Void. The deck aims to have disruption early and then execute its gameplan in the midgame. This is a deck that is still taking people by surprise, and may be a smart choice in the current metagame.Bogles
Bogles is one of the best ways to fight decks like Burn, and is quite good against Delver as well. Creating a big lifelink creature is certainly something this deck can do quite easily, and against the decks that can't beat that, the Bogles deck is a big favorite. Bogles is a deck to play as a metagame call. Combo seems to be seeing less play than normal as many players refuse to play with Jeskai Ascendancy because of how difficult the deck is to play, and there are less Liliana of the Veils floating around right now. Here Julian Burke's list from the StarCity Modern Event in Seattle:
Bogles is a deck that has been around for a while now so many players are aware of the deck. The maindeck Suppression Fields are a way of interacting with Jeskai Ascendancy Combo and Birthing Pod, which are two of the more difficult matchups. Many of the game's best players have been seen playing Bogles because of how well positioned it seems to be, but the format may be moving back towards the Abzan decks.Abzan Midrange
Speaking of Abzan, this the new take on the "Jund" style deck which is a constant mainstay in Modern. Siege Rhino is a powerful enough card to play white for. While this sort of deck can have trouble dealing with the card advantage acquired by Treasure Cruise, it does have ways to interact with the opponent's graveyard with Scavenging Ooze. Overall people will continue to play this sort of deck, but it isn't as well positioned as it once was, though Siege Rhino is a nice addition. Here is the list from _Raiden from Magic Online:
This deck operates on a one-for-one axis with cards like Liliana of the Veil, but is traditionally good against combo. I like the addition of the maindeck Fulminator Mages, and Abrupt Decay is very good right now. Overall this is still a reasonable deck choice, but if I wanted to play an Abzan deck I think Birthing Pod is likely a better option.Merfolk
For those looking for a tribal strategy in Modern, look no further than Merfolk. This deck has recently been gaining a lot of popularity on Magic Online, and has the tools to fight just about any deck in the format. Master of Waves is extremely good right now because of how hard it is for decks like Blue/Red Delver and Burn to deal with. Here is the list of Waterd2 from Magic Online:
The deck has moved away from one-drop creatures, which puts an even greater emphasis on the importance of Aether Vial. Tidebinder Mage is a card that is great against some decks and sometimes just a 2/2 merfolk versus others, but the upside is so great against a deck like Abzan Pod that it's worth playing the full playset maindeck, and boarding them out as needed. A variety of decks one wouldn't expect to see Chalice of the Void in are now playing the card, including some Merfolk lists. Merfolk has adapted to the current format and is once again a reasonable archetype. Splinter Twin
Splinter Twin almost didn't make the list, but managed to sneak in. I think that either Temur Twin or straight Blue/Red Twin are viable, but have a difficult time dealing with the Delver decks. This is the primary reason for the decline in the presence of Splinter Twin. The deck has been one of the top Modern decks for a while but it seems to be having a tough time right now. Here is a straight Blue/Red Twin list played by B4dA1r on Magic Online:
This list has gone for more interaction with Swan Songs, though perhaps Dig Through Time is a card worth considering. However it is true that Splinter Twin doesn't fill up the graveyard as well as a lot of the other decks in the format, which does make a delve spell like Dig Through Time more difficult to play. This version seems similar to lists that were doing well before the existence of Khans of Tarkir, so the deck is having trouble adapting to the current environment.Conclusions:
This list is subjective and there are many decks that were left off. A deck like Affinity which has been a top deck in Modern for a while now missed the cut, along with many others. The existence of the delve spells have created entirely new and updated decks, which has put pressure on many the older archetypes to update themselves or become obsolete. It is hard to say whether a card like Treasure Cruise is "too good" but it is definitely a major player in some of the best decks in the format. This is where the format stands now, but it may be changing especially as the banned list will be updated soon.
Thanks for reading,