Some people just want to watch the world burn. Others want to bring order to an otherwise chaotic existence. While others still look at the world through a different lens altogether, opting for the path less traveled. And then there's the guy who wants to lock you in his basement. Lucky for you, Modern is flush with options for any type of player. In preparation for #SCGDFW this weekend, I'll give the people what they want.
Whether you're a fan of Prison, Control, Midrange, Aggro, or Combo, look no further.
The Best Midrange/Control Deck
If you're a fan of fair decks in Modern, look no further.
- 1 Grim Lavamancer
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Danny Jessup has been playing variations on Grixis Control, with and without Splinter Twin, for months now. And while he is not the first person to put this particular shell together and do well with it, I think that this version is about as close to perfect as you're going to get.
We've seen a huge rise in popularity (and price) for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy across all formats. In actuality, it plays a lot like Snapcaster Mage in Modern and Legacy, allowing you to rebuy removal spells, discard spells, and card draw. It is less likely to survive in Modern than Legacy, simply due to the higher density of removal across all archetypes.
While many Modern decks try to goldfish each other, doing their best impression of a game of solitaire, it is the job of everyone else to interact with them. The easiest (and generally best) way to do this is with discard. Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize are regarded as the format's top disruption because it doesn't really matter what the opponent is playing. You get to take their best card, and slow them down long enough for the rest of your deck to take control. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy also works much better with discard spells than counterspells since you can play them proactively to flip your Jace while also playing them again from your graveyard.
Discard effects won't always win you the game against a combo deck, but it will hopefully give you enough breathing room so that the rest of your deck can compete. In a world where you can regularly lose on Turn 3, and occasionally lose on Turn 2, it is important that you have the necessary tools at your disposal to disrupt your opponent before that can happen. This version of Grixis Control plays more discard than most others, putting an emphasis on survival in the early turns of the game. If you can get the game to progress past the first three or four turns, Snapcaster Mage and Jace should help you bury your opponent in card advantage. Kolaghan's Command and even Rise//Fall keep those creatures coming back, making any deck trying to win on a one-for-one basis fight a huge uphill battle.
While this deck lies somewhere between control and midrange, I think it plays both roles well. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is a phenomenal threat that generates card advantage and a clock. It also utilizes a resource that is very easy to manipulate: the graveyard. Having access to fetchlands and cheap removal/discard allows you to power out an early Tasigur and ride it to victory.
Brad Nelson has become "Jund Guy," giving me a lot of insight into the archetype over the last few months. I don't exactly know what the best list is, but it is likely close to whatever he's working on. He'll joke around about his card choices, stating that he chose to play "X" or "Y" because that's "What the internet said to do," but in actuality he's done a lot of grinding with Liliana and Tarmogoyf. He knows his way around a Thoughtseize, and I would trust his version over anyone else's at the moment.
As you can see, this deck shares a lot in common with the Grixis Control deck above. Many have joked that these two decks are functionally identical, but they are quite foolish. One deck trades card advantage for raw power, opting for the full four Liliana of the Veil (arguably the best card in Modern) and a set of Tarmogoyfs. Jund is much more aggressive than the Grixis deck, and can close games quickly with Raging Ravine and Tarmogoyf at a moment's notice.
Both are grindy, midrange style decks that are designed to disrupt the opponent with discard spells while killing their creatures with Lightning Bolt and various other removal spells. But while they are cosmetically similar, they are fundamentally different in how they go about winning the game. Honestly, I don't know which one is inherently better against the field, but Jund tends to have an advantage against Grixis due to the large size of Tarmogoyf, as well as the strength of Liliana of the Veil.
If I had to choose one, I would pick Grixis because it fits my playstyle better, but I think Jund is much easier to pilot and a better choice for anyone who is not familiar with the Modern format.
Silence of the Lambs
If you've never played this deck before, I highly recommend against it for this weekend. It is prone to getting unintentional draws since the kill condition takes twenty or more turns to really get the job done.
At its heart, this is a Prison style deck. Using Ensnaring Bridge and a plethora of Millstone-type artifacts, including Lantern of Insight, it makes sure you can't attack while keeping the top card of your library in check. Honestly, if the deck gets going, it is almost impossible to break the lock, no matter what deck you're playing. There are cards in Modern that are great against this deck, and also strategies like G/R Tron that punish a slow setup, but this deck winning the last Modern Grand Prix wasn't a fluke.
If you want to play this deck in a large tournament, knowing exactly how every card works is a must. Without a deep understanding of the fundamentals behind this archetype, I wouldn't recommend playing it in any event larger than FNM or SCG Game Night. Otherwise, you're going to lose a lot of games due to minor errors, or get a load of unintentional draws because you weren't able to make the small decisions quickly enough.
Spread the Word
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 4 Harbinger of the Tides
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 4 Master of Waves
- 3 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
Eh, you get the picture.
In Sickness, and in Health
While Infect is no longer a fringe strategy--thanks to Tom Ross--it definitely has its ups and downs. After winning #SCGCIN just a few months ago, I don't know if I can recommend this deck to anyone. I think it is likely the best version of Infect, give or take a few cards, but Infect lives and dies by its matchups.
If the metagame you're playing in is full of Grixis, Splinter Twin, Jund, and a lot of other fair decks, Infect is a poor choice. It has trouble grinding through a lot of removal, discard, and cheap clocks like Tarmogoyf and Tasigur. Sure, it can win against basically anything, but you will likely pick up a few losses here and there if you're not playing against a lot of unfair decks.
Infect is favored against any deck trying to goldfish you, because you are pretty consistently winning on Turn 3 with no disruption from the opponent. Other decks can win faster but are less consistently doing so. Like in Legacy, you are a combo deck that can function as a tempo deck, putting your opponents on the back foot before they're really set up to deal with your combo. Against other combo decks, you can afford to be a little slower because you have ways to interact with their combo, while they rarely have a good way to interact with yours.
But unlike the Legacy version, the Modern form of Infect is more prone to flooding due to the lack of Brainstorm and has a lot of draws that just do nothing. You are less explosive than the Legacy version without Invigorate, but you still have a lot of potentially busted draws. Every deck in Modern is significantly weaker than its Legacy counterpart, but some of the downsides to Modern Infect are tough to swallow.
If you've played a lot of Infect in Legacy, or a lot of Infect in Modern, then this deck is probably right for you, but don't blame me if you run into a swath of discard and die to a few removal spells.
BBD will tell you himself: he doesn't actually like playing with Splinter Twin. In fact, he didn't know what deck he was going to play at Grand Prix Oklahoma City until the day before it started. Thanks to Sam Pardee and a solid list, BBD was able to take second place in the tournament with a fairly stock version of U/R Twin.
If you've played any Modern, you know what Splinter Twin is. You probably know how to play against it, and chances are you've given it a try yourself. It isn't for everyone, but it is certainly a deck you're going to play against a few times per tournament. Some versions opt to splash black and end up looking a lot like a Grixis Control deck with a lazy combo splash. Others, which I prefer, use Tarmogoyf and other small creatures to create a clock that your opponent has to deal with, and use the combo strictly as a backup plan against other combo decks. Both are reasonable, but I don't think either are better than the traditional U/R Twin at the moment.
While you don't always win with the combo, and games can take quite a long time if your plan is to beat them down with Snapcaster Mage, it still gets the job done. Often, the threat of Splinter Twin is more powerful than the combo itself. When your opponent is forced to leave extra mana lying on the table and most of your spells can be played at instant speed, it is no wonder than Splinter Twin has a cult following. Like Faeries, playing most of your spells on your opponent's turn just feels awesome.
If you like control decks and don't mind cheesing people out with an easy-to-assemble combo, then Splinter Twin should be right up your alley.
Burning Ring of Fire
Some people just gotta cast Boros Charm. If this is your style, then do what you do.
Burn has been gaining a lot of popularity in the last year. The addition of Monastery Swiftspear and Atarka's Command allow for more explosive starts, while the tried and true Goblin Guide and Eidolon of the Great Revel continue to prove troublesome for most decks in Modern. While Monastery Swiftspear is arguably better than Goblin Guide in a lot of situations, the combination of the two is too explosive for many decks to deal with.
I'm not a huge fan of this archetype, but I get it. It is powerful, and oftentimes plays much like a combo deck, albeit slower. Like Infect, Burn is a deck that can play two different roles quite well, depending on the matchup. Burn is generally favored against fair decks, but it has reasonable game against everything. Some draws are just unbeatable, but your goldfish turn is somewhere around Turn 4, where most unfair decks lie right around there or before.
Like Infect, Burn is much more consistent than other combo decks because all of its cards are geared towards doing the same type of thing: attack the opponent from an angle they aren't really prepared to beat. Few decks in Modern have any sort of lifegain effects and generally take three or more damage from their lands each game, which gives Burn an inherent advantage because it puts the opponent's life total in jeopardy too quickly for them to handle.
If you're a PSully Fanatic, this is likely a good starting point, but there are other versions that attack a bit more. Wild Nacatl is becoming more popular in these decks, but I'm not so sure it is actually better for Burn than just playing more burn spells.
A Late Bloomer
Some people don't like fun. Others don't actually like to play Magic. Instead, they opt for something entirely different. While technically they are playing Magic, it looks a lot more like they're playing with an Uno deck while you're trying to bend the laws of space and time to interact on their level. Dredge was one of those decks, and now we have Amulet Bloom.
What is interesting about Jarvis's version of Amulet Bloom is that it leans toward Sleight of Hand instead of Ancient Stirrings. I don't know if I've seen a version of Amulet Bloom that played less than four copies of Ancient Stirrings, but it makes sense. Ancient Stirrings is only there to find various lands and Amulet of Vigor, but Sleight of Hand can find you any combo piece you might be missing (albeit slower and at a worse rate).
What I like about Jarvis's version is that it knows you don't absolutely have to kill your opponent on Turn 2 or 3, opting for going a bit slower to give the deck more consistency. Most Modern decks can't kill you too quickly, and this version of Amulet Bloom makes sure it can kill you before that, or at least put the game too far out of reach to make a comeback.
Like Lantern Control, this deck has a lot of small interactions that you need to know and understand before you play it in a major tournament. While the games don't exactly last a lot of turns with Amulet Bloom, each turn can take a long time to figure out. Be careful that you don't accrue too many slow play warnings, as complexity isn't a reason to play your turns slower than normal.
Like many combo decks in Modern, Amulet Bloom isn't really trying to interact with the opponent at all. In fact, it would prefer if the opponent wasn't trying to do much of anything. In a nutshell, decks like Amulet Bloom are pretty bad for Modern and will likely get banned at some point. They can only get better as new cards are printed, and I wouldn't be surprised if Amulet of Vigor (or Summer Bloom, I guess) was banned right before the next Modern Pro Tour, but if they aren't willing to give it the axe yet, then feel free to show them their mistakes.
Also, G/R Tron is a thing, I guess.
To say I hate playing against G/R Tron would be an understatement. No matter what, win or lose, it just isn't enjoyable Magic. I'm sure they're having fun casting seven mana spells on Turn 3, but I am not, and most people I know are not. The downside to G/R Tron is that it can develop a turn too slow to keep up with some combo decks in Modern, but it can consistently hit eight mana on Turn 4 without too much effort.
While G/R Tron is just another deck on the list of goldfishery, it is a deck that a lot of Modern players love to play. I would love to see it go, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was around for a few more years.
Fallout in Dallas
I get it. I didn't list the deck that you love to play in Modern. I'm truly sorry, but that's just how these things go. Modern is such a diverse, growing format with so many viable archetypes that you have to just pick what you like and be done with it. If you're new to Modern, one of the above archetypes might not be up your alley, but there are a lot more to choose from. A little research goes a long way, but familiarity with your archetype of choice will take you further. Just ask Zac Elsik about his Lantern Control deck.
If I had to pick any one of the above decks to win the event, I would guess that a proficient pilot of Grixis Control would take it down. I really liked Danny Jessup's list from the Premier IQ that he won with last weekend, and I think playing his 75 will give you the best shot of success if you have any experience with the archetype.
I'm not going to be attending #SCGDFW, but I wish you all the best. Maybe one day, they'll ban enough stuff so that we all get to play Splinter Twin mirrors for fifteen rounds. Wouldn't that be great!
Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic.