Some people feel like Modern is a crapshoot full of non-interactive decks doing their own thing hopefully better than whatever the opponent is doing.
People are lost thinking that all Modern is in choosing a deck and hoping matchups and draws fall into place favorably. I don't think Modern is quite that much of a gamble. I treat Modern as a puzzle that needs to be solved. The question is, how do you build a deck to have a significant number of expected favorable matchups against the “unfair” decks?
Modern is full of linear aggro decks that attack on vastly different axes. Infect, Hexproof, Burn, Affinity, Elves, Dredge, and Death's Shadow Zoo all want to get you dead quickly but require much different interactive cards to deal with them.
While #SCGRICH is a Standard Open this weekend, I've had my head wrapped around Modern lately. With results from three Grand Prix to process, it's hard not to.
I skipped three Opens in Season Two. All three of them were Modern. I felt like Infect wouldn't be a good choice at those events (even though Andrew Jessup got second place in two of them) and I didn't have a fallback deck that I was comfortable enough with. It wasn't until the end of Season Two, when I started playing Dredge, that I felt pretty good about Modern.
Ross Merriam Daily Digested a Four-Color Eldritch Evolution deck with Gifts Ungiven. Todd Stevens and Shaun McLaren both took a fancy to the deck and streamed with it this week. Over and over I watched Gifts Ungiven be unimpressive and get sideboarded out for the remaining Eldritch Evolutions and a more tuned toolbox. This inspired me to work up a list that cuts blue altogether.
The first solution to beating a field of assorted unfair aggro decks:
Play a Toolbox Deck
- 1 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 2 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Orzhov Pontiff
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 2 Siege Rhino
- 1 Spike Feeder
- 1 Thragtusk
- 1 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Wall of Omens
- 1 Woodland Bellower
- 1 Anafenza, the Foremost
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 1 The Gitrog Monster
The creatures I cut were:
Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune are still present to threaten an infinite combo. Woodland Bellower helps piece the puzzle together by getting Spike Feeder, but it can also get Eternal Witness or Kitchen Finks as needed.
I could also see Knight of the Reliquary or two making the list. A Ghost Quarter and something like a Stirring Wildwood could also get in there. Imagine Knight of the Reliquary with The Gitrog Monster going!
Play Sideboard Cards Maindeck
I played Red-Black Eldrazi in a VS Video recently, using Joe Soh's ninth-place list from Grand Prix Guangzhou. (The video will be published next week.) I have to say I liked a lot of what the deck had going on. I've been looking for a deck that can maindeck Relic of Progenitus for value and think R/B Eldrazi is it.
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 3 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 3 Wasteland Strangler
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
R/B Eldrazi dials it back to an era before Oath of the Gatewatch where Wasteland Strangler and Relic of Progenitus were an effective duo. At Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Eldrazi decks dominated and Wasteland Strangler wasn't even necessary, as pure Colorless versions and U/R versions were far better. Now, without Eye of Ugin to power out busted Eldrazi Mimic draws, the Eldrazi decks have to play a fairer game.
Ratchet Bomb is normally a sideboard card but appears in the maindeck here. It's a generically good card that can convert your Hangarback Walkers into Thopters when you need. It solves a variety of matchups that lean on one-casting-cost creatures, like G/W Hexproof, Infect, Zoo, and Affinity. It's also an out against anything from Ensnaring Bridge to Blood Moon to Worship.
R/B Eldrazi plays out a little like Bant Eldrazi and a little like Jund. Discard and removal spells interact with what your opponent has going on. The double Eldrazi Temple draws mean that R/B Eldrazi has a nicely high ceiling for what its best draws can produce.
Or Just Be Unfair Too
Todd Anderson, Ross Merriam, and I have all taken a liking to Dredge following Justin O'Keefe's win at the Modern Classic in Baltimore. Our lists have always been a few cards off from each other. During the week before #SCGNY, I ran out hands of Dredge hundreds of times and came up with a list that “felt good” based on the frequency I was drawing cards, both in opening hands and over the course of the game. I told Ross and Todd (who both originally played close to O'Keefe's list) that they'd eventually come around slowly but surely to my list. While Todd is off Dredge a bit, Ross has been slowly creeping towards what I liked.
This is the Dredge version I'd play now.
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 2 Greater Gargadon
- 1 Haunted Dead
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
I've had four Leyline of the Void in the sideboard for a long time. I've only ever sideboarded in one against Abzan Company. Every time I sided in the one, it was reasonable but not overwhelmingly good. Leyline of the Void is a card where the first copy is the most important. Obviously, I'd want a bunch if I ran into a mirror match or against a Goryo's Vengeance deck. I don't think Dredge or Goryo's Vengeance is popular enough to care about sideboarding against heavily.
I want an extra Collective Brutality from before, respecting the upswing of Burn. Engineered Explosives is a new sideboard card that I think is necessary to have a chance against G/W Hexproof. 'Splosives is also reasonable against other “one-drop decks” like Zoo variants. Just be careful not to oversideboard.
I basically only want three of a given sideboard card in my deck post-sideboard. Abrupt Decay, Collective Brutality, and Ancient Grudge are the options. I like the number three because it's a high enough number to try to draw into naturally or with Faithless Looting instead of dredging.
I wouldn't play Nature's Claim. I didn't run any in Syracuse either. Leyline of the Void sucks to play against and it does feel awful having nearly no outs against it, but I don't want to get put into a position where I'm sideboarding in Nature's Claim in the dark or draw them when they're dead. They dilute the engine of the deck. If they have it, they have it. I'm already over it.
The State of Modern
With Brandon Burton's win at Grand Prix Indianapolis, it's clear that Burn is still a Tier 1 deck in Modern.
Burn is a very appealing deck. The concept of the deck is as simple as pool. Hit balls into pockets better than them. Throw your burn spells at your opponent until they're dead.
Burn decks have quite a bit of play to them in in terms of sequencing and sideboarding choices. I predict that Burn will increase in popularity because its core gameplan is so simple to recognize. Also, games are over quickly, an attribute I'm personally very fond of.
Ad Nauseam is another deck that I believe is trending upwards. This may be because Infect (even though it won Grand Prix Lille) is trending downward. Also, counterspells as a whole are seeing less play due to their inefficiency against the unfair aggro decks.
I haven't played Modern Infect in a while, but would be happy to register it for the Modern Classic at #SCGRICH. I think Burn will be gunned for and that Infect will be well-positioned in the latter rounds. Granted that you get through the early rounds that is.
I think G/R Tron is pretty good right now, since it's another deck that can play maindeck Relic of Progenitus if it wants to. It's great against the midrange decks and has a surprisingly not-awful matchup against the non-Infect aggro decks, since it never does damage to itself from the manabase. If G/R Tron ends up faring well, then Infect is a good choice to try to win the tournament.
SCG Tour ® Goals
In my last article, I said that the Season Two Invitational would set the tone for how I would approach Season Three. After much thought, I've decided to play in all seven Opens in Season Three and make a run at Player of the Year. I've booked my tickets for Milwaukee and Orlando and plan on driving to everything else. It's a goal I want to hit in my career and I feel closer than ever to it, so I'm going to go for it.
I thought a little game of Bingo among viewers would be cool to play while watching coverage of #SCGRICH. I asked people on Twitter for some good ideas for tiles and came up with a couple boards that are close in likelihood for getting a bingo. I think one board or another will hit one a little before top 8 or shortly after. Of course, this is new idea and I could be way off. In any case, feel free to print off the bingo boards and play against a friend.