It may seem a bit odd, but I'm going to be writing about Modern this week. We're coming off #PTAKH where the one and only Gerry Thompson immortalized himself in the annals of Magic history, and I couldn't be happier for him. There's a lot going on in Standard right now, and the format is the best it's been in some time now, but I don't think you'll have any shortage of finding quality Standard articles this week, so that's why I'm moving on to Modern. In my last Standard article from two weeks ago, I picked Zombies and Aetherworks Marvel as the next two breakout decks of Standard, and I think the finals of the Pro Tour showed they were. Moving forward we have #SCGKY this weekend, the second team event on the SCG Tour® this year where Standard, Modern, and Legacy will all be featured. To the surprise of probably no one, I'll be playing Modern for Team Dapper, which consists of Brennan DeCandio, Tannon Grace, and myself.
Image courtesy of Inklin Customs
Soon after #SCGKY this weekend are#SCGBALT and #SCGCHAR, each of which is Modern. So since we're going to have plenty of Modern coming up on the SCG Tour®, what does the top tier of the format look like? These are the decks I'd recommend playing moving into the next few weekends of Modern. I'm not listing decks on the amount of play they currently see, but how good I believe the decks to be as choices to win a tournament. For example, Affinity is one of the most played decks in Modern, but it won't make my tiers as I don't think it's a good choice to outright win.
It's been three months since Death's Shadow took over Modern at #GPVAN, and although we've actually seen a decline in popularity of Modern's best archetype online, it's not because the deck is worse. The Death's Shadow decks are not the easiest to play, and the play pattern is basically the same in every matchup where you want to use a bevy of discard spells to clear a path for your massive creatures to end the game quickly. The biggest question is which flavor of Death's Shadow should you play?
Jund Death's Shadow is the most tuned of the Death's Shadow decks, making it a solid choice. I like the move away from playing a basic Forest which many of the first builds did, but it's imply too clunky most of the time because it can't cast the discard in your hand if it's your only land. Sideboarding is quite difficult with this deck as there are so many quality options to put in your sideboard and not a lot of cards that you'll want to sideboard out. Most people like splashing white for sideboard options that help the deck grind against midrange and control decks, but the most important part of winning with Jund Death's Shadow is knowing your plan with your sideboard against the rest of the format.
The other deck I would put in tier one is Grixis Death's Shadow. The main reason to play Grixis over Jund is because Stubborn Denial gives the deck a one-mana counterspell against the unfair decks of the format. Also Snapcaster Mage is the perfect card to pair with the abundance of one-mana instants and sorceries the deck plays. Grixis Death's Shadow decks have been tuned more and more over the last couple of weeks, and it wouldn't surprise me to see it become the default Death's Shadow deck within the next month.
The difficulty of playing Death's Shadow decks, paired with the high cost of the deck, repetitive gameplay, and being public enemy number one has caused a decrease in the popularity of playing Death's Shadow recently, but if you want to have the best chance of winning on the SCG Tour® in the coming weeks, you should strongly consider playing one-mana 13/13s. However, not everyone has access to the cards or wants to play the decks that are in peoples' crosshairs. So here's the list of tier two decks that are still solid choices to play if your goal is to take home the trophy.
- 1 Tidehollow Sculler
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Devoted Druid
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Viscera Seer
- 3 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Amonkhet 's biggest addition to the Modern format is most likely Vizier of Remedies, which has single-handedly turned Abzan Company into one of the best decks in Modern. The combo with Devoted Druid, which allows you to untap Devoted Druid over and over to produce an arbitrarily large amount of green mana, something Walking Ballista is gladly able to take advantage of.
Abzan Company has been a fringe deck of the format for the better part of a year, but this is one of the best times to be casting Collected Companies. Putting together this two-card combo is not only the easier than previous Abzan Company combos, but it also almost assuredly wins the game on the spot. Between this and the next deck I'm about to list, it looks like a fine time to dust off those Grafdigger's Cages again.
Storm has been a deck that has impressed me for the last month when playing against it on Magic Online. It's harder to disrupt than you'd think, and they don't need much to be able to win games. Death's Shadow decks were holding back Storm before, but if the popularity of Death's Shadow has truly decreased, then Storm is a good choice against the rest of the field. Storm is not the kind of deck that I like to play, and truthfully, I've never picked the deck up myself, but it's been putting up plenty of results and I think it's a good choice. Being a relatively cheap deck to put together certainly doesn't hurt.
- 2 Architects of Will
- 2 Archfiend of Ifnir
- 4 Desert Cerodon
- 2 Faerie Macabre
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Horror of the Broken Lands
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 4 Street Wraith
- 2 Twisted Abomination
I talked about how good Abzan Company is before, but Living End is the archetype that gained the most overall from the release ofAmonkhet. Living End was already a secretly good deck before Amonkhet, and now with the addition of some new quality cycling creatures I think we're going to see Living End in the spotlight very soon.
These two creatures are big upgrades for Living End and will be staples moving forward. Desert Ceredon is just a massive attacking creature, while Horror of the Broken Lands can make combat difficult for the opponent, if they are even able to present blockers. These two creatures have drastically increased the ability for Living End to deal lethal damage in one combat step. Even though Grafdigger's Cage is a perfect sideboard card for the first two decks in this tier, don't bring it in against Living End as it doesn't stop the namesake card from returning creatures to the battlefield.
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
This is most likely a better version right now of the G/W Company deck that I played at #SCGDFW. The format has gotten more hostile to midrange creature decks, mostly because of the three decks listed above in this tier, and this archetype is better equipped to handle those decks.
Something that Abzan Company, Storm, and Living End have in common is that they have a critical spell they need to resolve to be able to win, while not having much removal. This makes Spell Queller a perfect card to use for disruption. To go along with the Spell Quellers, Mikkatororo has access to four more counterspells in the sideboard, something that I'm a big fan of. If you want to play Knight of the Reliquary this weekend, then this is probably the best shell to play it in.
Eldrazi Tron has pushed out Bant Eldrazi as the best Eldrazi deck in the format. Eldrazi Tron is a midrange deck that has a pain-free manabase and the ability to explode with an obscene amount of mana if it gets a fortunate draw. Many people don't understand this, and don't like the frequent amount of games where the deck doesn't have access to the extra mana from the Tron lands, but that is simply a bonus that is not necessary to win with the deck. The games where Tron is online, however, makes the deck very difficult to beat.
Chalice of the Void is also a perfect card to fight Death's Shadow, Storm, and Living End among others, and the ability to get free wins off the card is a bonus. I have also moved Chalice of the Void to the maindeck of my list currently, even though I've advocated for them to be in the sideboard in the past. The metagame is much different than it was even three months ago, however. Eldrazi Tron is still one of the best choices in Modern right now, and may be the deck I'm playing at #SCGKY this weekend.
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Shaman of the Pack
- 3 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Although many people claim different decks to have good Death's Shadow matchups, Elves is one of the very few I consider having a positive matchup against the format's best deck. There is plenty of variance in Magic and anything can win, but Elves is consistent enough in executing the same go-wide gameplan that Death's Shadow struggles with.
There are different color combinations you can play with Elves, and I think splashing black is necessary due to the power level of Shaman of the Pack. The sideboard here seems like it could use some work, and although I'm not sure if adding white as well is the way to go, I could see playing a card like Lifecrafter's Bestiary to have a better long game against decks with many sweepers.
There are many people that like to complain that blue control decks aren't good enough in Modern, but the fact that I have U/W Control in this tier shows how good of an option I think it is. The reason why I like U/W Control over a three-color combination such as Esper is the ability to use utility lands such as Ghost Quarter to attack your opponent's manabase while also playing plenty of basics so that you're not soft to Blood Moon.
Many decks are weak to Spreading Seas as well, which is one of the best cards in the U/W Control deck. Cryptic Command is as good as it's ever been, and I could even see a world where Torrential Gearhulk sees more play to further maximize the potential of Cryptic Command. This decklist only played three Cryptic Command, but you'd be hard pressed to find me registering less than four. I do like this version without As Foretold, as I haven't been impressed with the card in control decks yet.
If you are a fan of B/G Midrange decks in Modern, then I'd recommend playing Abzan--either this lower to the ground version with Noble Hierarchs, or Willy Edel's Abzan Delirium version. Either way, it turns out Grim Flayer is the threat of choice to pair with Tarmogoyf. Abzan's strength over other midrange decks is having the best sideboard compared to Jund or just B/G. Between Abrupt Decay, Fatal Push, and Path to Exile, Abzan has plenty of ways to deal with the large creatures from Death's Shadow, and if you don't flood out you have a good chance in the matchup.
Rounding out Modern's second tier in my eyes is Ad Nauseam, which is as fair as a combo deck with Simian Spirit Guide can be, rarely winning before turn 4 and hardly interacting with the opponent. A win at #SCGINDY in late February really put Ad Nauseam on the map, and I think it's still a pretty good choice now, even though the metagame is not as good as it was before for the deck. Although Storm, Living End, and Abzan Company are faster combo decks, Ad Nauseam can use Angel's Grace to slow the game down enough to set up a victory. Ad Nauseam is the type of deck that's very hard to pick up and play, but if you're experienced with it I wouldn't be scared to run it out there at the Modern tournaments coming up.
Good Luck, Modern Mages
So there you have it. It's a far cry from the traditional Modern powerhouses we're used to seeing in the past, where Jund, Burn, Affinity, and Tron ruled the metagame. If you have the ability to, though, I'd recommend putting down those decks for a little while, and instead sleeving up some one-mana 13/13s or Collective Company copies. Magic is already a game with plenty of variance built into it, and the Modern format maxes out that variance due to the vast number of matchups you can face, so any deck can win any given weekend. But these decks will give you the best chance.