With a Modern GPs right around the corner, this seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about the best deck right now. This list can fluctuate somewhat from week to week, but I want to take into account both recent results and a deck's consistency.
I could see this last slot going to a number of different decks, but there are so many decks in Modern that many are bound to be left off the list. That is not me saying that other decks are bad, but based on recent results I have gone with these ten archetypes. Elves recently won the Invitational, which is a major victory for the little green men.
Liam Lonergan opted out of Shaman of the Pack, and thus isn't playing black. The maindeck is only green cards, while the sideboard features a bit of white. Lonergan has also chosen Chord of Calling as his search spell of choice to go along with the typical copies of Collected Company. Since the deck plays Chord of Calling, that means it can also play a bunch of singletons in the maindeck that can be found with Chord of Calling in a pinch. I like this take on Elves and Lonergan proved that this deck is no joke.
Tron is still an important player in Modern, especially with the rising popularity of midrange decks. Tron deck is consistent but also very matchup-dependent. There will be times when the Tron player has no conceivable way to interact with its opponent before it dies a horrible death, but then just as easily there will be game where Tron plays a turn-three Karn Liberated, ending the game right then and there. There are various versions of Tron, but the most successful version is still red/green.
Tron lost Eye of Ugin, but it still plays huge Eldrazi. Here, we see World Breaker, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End side by side by side. It is nice to see Emrakul, the Promised End make a splash in Modern alongside Kozilek's Return! This version of Tron has a bit more maindeck removal thanusual, sporting three copies of Lightning Bolt.
Elves just won a big tournament, but Merfolk is the most popular tribal deck. This is an archetype that can make its creatures very big very quickly, and Spreading Seas and Sea's Claim disrupt the opponents' manabase while ensuring that having islandwalking creatures will be important.
Here we see a full set of Sea's Claim, though it is not a universally-accepted inclusion in Merfolk because it doesn't cantrip like Spreading Seas. Kira, Great-Glass Spinner is the only creature in the deck that is not a merfolk, but it is quite important — it is basically the nightmare card for a Jund player to see who wants to try to kill as many Merfolk as possible. Affinity has traditionally been perceived as the worst matchup for Merfolk, but having four Hurkyl's Recall in the sideboard helps there.
Ad Nauseam is one of the top combo decks in Modern since it only needs two cards in order to win the game. Ad Nauseam consistently wins on turn four since that is when Lotus Bloom comes off suspend so there is enough mana to coast Ad Nauseam with either Phyrexian Unlife in play or an Angel's Grace to cast that same turn.
This list doesn't play Spoils of the Vault, a common way to find a combo piece. However, there are two copies of Mystical Teachings which, while a bit slower, doesn't hurt your life total. Ad Nauseum beats up on control decks but control isn't that popular right now, which is part of the reason it isn't higher on the list. The Painful Truths in the sideboard are there to provide more resiliency against Jund, which is one of the tougher matchups.
Infect has been a top-tier Modern deck for a little while now, and I would say it was actually more popular a couple months ago. This is another deck, like the Death's Shadow deck, that wins the game with pump spells. We see sometimes some weird singletons or choices of pump spells, but the core creatures basically can't be messed with. There are only 12 maindeck creatures, but sometimes Viridian Corruptor makes an appearance as a way to deal with annoying artifacts. This list has one Sylvan Scrying, which is a little unusual, but it can find either Inkmoth Nexus or Pendelhaven. The presence of Apostle's Blessing indicates that O'Brien wants to make sure he beats Affinity.
Affinity has been relevant in Modern for as long as I can remember. The deck is still doing its thing, and doing it quite well. Artifact hate is still important and as soon as people start trimming on Stony Silence it seems this deck has another breakout performance. There aren't many new cards here; the deck is good as is.
An interesting choice here is the split between Master of Etherium and Etched Champion. Etched Champion is better against Jund-style decks, but Master of Etherium provides a much faster clock, so they are very matchup-dependent. This sideboard, designed by Rookie of the Year Oliver Tiu, capitalizes on having a bunch of certain cards, like four Spell Pierce and three Ghirapur Aether Grid, eschewing the singletons most versions employ.
Death's Shadow has been a fringe deck in Modern for a while, but within the past few months it has surged in popularity, and for good reason. The deck does some really powerful stuff by aggressively using its own life total as a resource. The deck is about resource management and picking the right time to strike.
While I have seen versions playing a delirium package featuring Gnarlwood Dryad and Traverse the Ulvenwald, Brad Nelson went with a much more straightforward approach last weekend. There is very little maindeck removal, so the plan is to win by making a big creature. From there, Temur Battle Rage finishes things off nicely.
While this isn't an actual combo deck it can win on turn three with ease. Death's Shadow normally gets cast as a small creature but if a player untaps with it, it can grow rapidly.
How about that Prized Amalgam card?
When Golgari Grave-Troll was unbanned a couple years back I didn't think much of it. There really wasn't enough synergy for a Dredge deck to exist. Now all of a sudden Insolent Neonate, Prized Amalgam, and Haunted Dead have been printed all at once! I doubt Wizards was thinking enough about how this would affect Modern Dredge, but the deck is fantastic. Any deck fighting a fair fight is going to be way behind game one and will need some hateful cards in the sideboard to have a chance in this matchup.
The deck can have really explosive starts but it is actually at its best when the game becomes drawn out. Bloodghast and Prized Amalgams tend to multiply over time, and don't forget about Conflagrate, which could be the deadliest card in the deck as it is how Dredge closes the game out most of the time. Praying that the Narcomoebas and Prized Amalgams are at the bottom of the Dredge players' deck is not a good plan.
When Eye of Ugin was banned, Eldrazi was dead… for a moment. It seemed like that ban would be enough to stop the Eldrazi menace, but the Bant version of the deck can still cast turn two Thought-Knot Seer a reasonable amount of the time, which is pretty silly. The deck seems to be doing better and better, to the point it is one of the most popular and best decks in the Modern format.
Elder Deep-Fiend is a spicy singleton in this list. I like the split between Matter Reshaper and Eldrazi Skyspawner. Some players like to go with four of one and zero of the other but having the option of which one you want after board based on the matchup is important. Since the deck is able to play Cavern of Souls it makes it very difficult to fight as a control player. This deck traditionally is able to have a good matchup against Jund while having Thought-Knot Seer and Counterspells out of the sideboard for disruption against combo.
Going into a Modern tournament, I would expect to play against Jund the most. The black/green-based decks have a variety of ways to put pressure on an opponent, and hand disruption is key against the combo decks. The fact that Jund is so popular forces a lot of the other decks to fight fair rather than win on turn three or four.
Recently, players have Jund more delirium-based and added Grim Flayer. The deck can also potentially splash for a couple Lingering Souls like Jacob Wilson did in his MOCS-winning decklist. Most players should be familiar with the Dark Confidant version of Jund, so I want to talk about this newer version a little bit. The deck essentially swaps Dark Confidant for Grim Flayer. This is an intriguing decision and there are definitely spots where one is significantly better than the other. When Grim Flayer comes into play as a 4/4 it can block reasonably well and gets around Lightning Bolt. The issue is that Jund often cannot turn on delirium all that fast. If the opponent has a blocker for the Grim Flayer preventing you from hitting the opponent suddenly it looks much worse than Dark Confidant.
The other small concession to playing the Grim Flayer version is the need for silver bullets like the Tarfire, Seal of Fire, and Mishra's Bauble in Wilson's list. These sorts of cards likely wouldn't be in the deck if it weren't for Grim Flayer. Right now both the traditional version and Grim Flayer version of Jund seem to be about equally popular but I expect soon enough we will see which is actually the better way to go.
Thanks for reading,