Here we are again, with a Modern metagame that seems to be constantly shifting. The last time I wrote about the top decks in the Modern format was before Amonkhet was released, which has definitely shaken things up! Grand Prix Vegas as well as the Open this weekend features Modern, so I expect it is the format that is on everyone's minds at the moment. There should be some familiar decks on this list, as well as some new additions.
Storm got a major boost from Baral, Chief of Compliance, and since then has become a different deck. While Storm has existed in Modern forever, having essentially eight Goblin Electromancer now allows Storm to adopt a Gifts Ungiven plan. Gift's Ungiven allows you to easily find Past in Flames, the way you win most games, and normally the Storm player can combo off the turn following Gift's Ungiven. Martin Muller made top 4 of GP Copenhagen with the deck.
The main deck here is pretty standard. Most of the cards are integral pieces to setting up for your big combo turn, so it makes sense to see lots of four-ofs. There are a couple choices you can make though, as the amount of Remand and Peer Through Depths vary from list to list. One play to keep in mind when playing Remand is you can Remand your own Grapeshot in order to make it much easier to kill your opponent when storming off. The one Simian Spirit Guide isn't as good as the Rituals, because it can't be re-used with Past in Flames, but it does help get you to that critical mass of mana when going off. Sometimes you don't have a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer, and need to win the hard way.
Storm is at its best against decks that don't have much interaction like discard, counters or graveyard hate. Also, Eidolon of the Great Revel has to be answered out of Burn. While there is one Empty the Warrens main deck, against decks that do have lots of disruption the other three get sideboarded in, since dealing the opponent lethal with Grapeshot often isn't possible since the storm count doesn't get high enough.
Out of the various blue control decks, Jeskai has been the one that has been doing the best lately. Lightning Helix is a great tool against the fast decks, and of course Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt are staples of the format. There are two different ways to take Jeskai Control, one being the more creature-heavy version to try and end the game quickly, and the other has less win conditions but more card draw and countermagic.
This is a true blue control deck that wins by answering every single threat the opponent presents, or dies trying. A big Sphinx's Revelation is generally enough to close out of the game. We are seeing Logic Knot more now as a very flexible counter option that is much better than Mana Leak in the late game. For players that don't want to be this controlling, creatures like Vendilion Clique and Geist of Saint Traft are also viable options.
I think of Black-Green Midrange as Jund and Abzan, though you can also play straight Black-Green as well. Jund and Abzan are very similar, and while I believe Abzan is a better choice, Reid Duke would say otherwise! These are decks which have been around for a while and really should need no introduction.
Abzan Midrange is always going to bring a variety of removal spells to the table. I like the diversity here as certain removal spells are naturally going to be better dependent on the matchup. Siege Rhino is still a good creature to have access to (I know as a Burn player I hate when my opponent casts it). Some Abzan decks play Noble Hierarch, though it seems to be less popular than it was a few months ago. Lingering Souls is still a great way to have late-game inevitability.
This deck has been gaining momentum, and the reason is the new cyclers in Amonkhet. Having more efficient cycle creatures has taken Living End to the next level, as this was already a deck that was quite good before Horror of the Broken Lands and friends. Living End is great against creature decks that don't come packing lots of graveyard hate. Unfortunately, with Dredge also being popular, a lot of the same sideboard cards are also good against Living End.
We see three new cyclers here, which is a lot, but they are all upgrades to the cards they are replacing. Who needs Jungle Weaver when you can play Desert Cerodon? There are also cycle synergies which were not incorporated in the deck before. I am talking about the benefits of cycling with a Horror of the Broken Lands or Archfiend of Ifner already in play. I am a bit surprised to see Blood Moon in the sideboard, but this deck can be quite good at mana denial already with cards like Fulminator Mage and Beast Within. If you're interested in more of this deck, here's TCGplayer's own Corbin Hosler's take on the archetype.
Personally I love this deck, but life gain is pretty popular right, especially Kitchen Finks and Collective Brutality. Life gain is what Burn is traditionally most afraid of as it essentially nullifies a key spell, which can be the difference in a game. Still, Burn has very few matchups that are actively bad, though you can certainly lose to not drawing the right ratio of an early creature, lands and direct damage. I like being straight red-white in game one rather than have Wild Nacatl and Atarka's Command.
This list from Magic Online is exactly what I would expect to see if paired against Burn in an event. Skullcrack is key as it is the one way to profitably interact with the opponent gaining life. I like having graveyard hate in the sideboard, though my preference is to have Rest in Peace over Relic of Progenitus.
Affinity is another one of those staple decks that always seems to be around. As soon as it seems Affinity isn't well positioned in the metagame players will trim on artifact hate, and Affinity wins a big tournament. This is one of those decks that is very vulnerable to specific hate cards, but has a very high power level compared to many other decks in the format. I like the versions that plays the maximum amount of Etched Champion, as it is nearly impossible for many decks to deal with.
This list has a lot going for it, with playsets of the most important cards and then some interesting one-ofs like Ghostfire Blade. Ghostfire Blade is no Cranial Plating, but it can do good work at making the creatures here more threatening. We have seen Blood Moon in and out of the Affinity sideboard since it does shut down your own creature lands, but it can be devastating in the right matchup.
Abzan Company has changed in a big way, as many players following Modern for the past month or so are no doubt aware of. This seems to be the best place to incorporate the Vizier of Remedies plus Devoted Druid combo, which creates infinite mana. I wrote a full article on this strategy, so I'm not going to beat it into the ground.
It is easy to overlook the sideboard of this deck, but don't! There are some very specific hate cards here that are important to be aware of. For instance, if playing Storm, be worried the opponent could get an Eidolon of Rhetoric into play, and so on. Tidehollow Sculler is better than having Thoughtseize in the sideboard because it is a Collected Company hit. Chord of Calling makes it justifiable to sideboard any high impact creature as a one-of.
Even with Golgari Grave-Troll banned, Dredge is one of the top decks in the format. Stinkweed Imp, Life from the Loam and Golgari Thug are good enough dredgers to get the job done. The deck isn't quite as explosive as it used to be, but it can usually cast a huge Conflagrate, which is enough to control the opponent's board or close out a game. Life from the Loam ensures there are plenty of cards in hand to discard to Conflagrate. The latest list of Ben Friedman's is a bit different from what we normally see, as it has four main deck Collective Brutality.
It may seem weird to have zero Insolent Neonate, but Collective Brutality is also a discard outlet, and interacts nicely with whatever the opponent may be doing. Loading up on Maelstrom Pulse and Engineered Explosives also isn't typical, but both these cards are great at dealing with troublesome hate cards. Having versatile answers like this are good if the opponent has a card like Rest in Peace, but can also be a normal removal spell when the opponent doesn't have the hate card.
It may seem weird to have a Tron deck so high up in the rankings, but I do think Eldrazi Tron is good enough to justify the spot. Bant Eldrazi has virtually disappeared from the metagame, as players are realizing this deck is a better place for Eldrazi creatures. This is the only deck in the format that doesn't have any colored spells. Even without assembling Tron, Eldrazi Temple is a great way to power out a quick Eldrazi creature. Todd Stevens has been crushing it with this deck.
You know that Eldrazi Tron is a legitimate threat when players are sideboarding Ceremonious Rejection, but honestly that may be the best way to fight the deck. It is hard to play effective hate cards against this deck, as even Blood Moon isn't always good. The deck has Wastes and Mind Stone which allows you to cast all your spells even if a Blood Moon is in play. Chalice of the Void has become a standard main deck inclusion here because of how prevalent one mana spells have become.
Death's Shadow decks are still on top, but no longer are we talking about the Jund-based version. Grixis Death's Shadow has come out as the top variant, as having access to Stubborn Denial and Snapcaster Mage has proven to be well worth having blue mana. This is much more of a control deck than a deck trying to win super quickly with a Death's Shadow.
We see this build respecting artifact decks and Eldrazi Tron, and the sideboard Ceremonious Rejections really stand out. We are no longer seeing Grixis decks in the format which aren't playing Death's Shadow, because it is quite easy to incorporate this powerful win condition. Since this deck has card advantage and is controlling the opponent is forced to attack your life total, so many of the games are about managing the timing of when to put Death's Shadow into play and turn the corner.
Thanks for reading,