The diversity of Modern has really been showing up lately, as it seems like every major Modern event we've seen since the unbannings have had seven or eight unique archetypes in the elimination rounds. Grand Prix Phoenix this past weekend was no different. There are so many viable archetypes in Modern these days that I thought I'd take the time to showcase a few decks that people haven't been giving enough credit. These are all strong Modern decks that I think deserve more respect moving forward.
The Goblins tribe has always been near and dear to my heart, and I'm always looking for an excuse to sleeve them up. I'm super excited for the return of Goblins in Dominaria, and can't wait to see what kind of impact they'll have there. So imagine my surprise when I tuned into Grand Prix Phoenix coverage to see Robert Babis battling at 11-2 with none other than Mono-Red Goblins… in Modern!
I've always liked this deck, which some people have affectionately called "8-Whack," due to the fact that it plays eight Bushwhacker effects in Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker. The deck is surprisingly explosive and gets a ton of "free" wins when it curves out well into a Bushwhacker.
The deck also has a huge amount of reach because it gets to play Goblin Grenade, the burn spell with easily the best damage to mana cost ratio in Magic. Five damage for one mana is insane! I've won many games where my opponent thought they had stabilized at a healthy ten life, only to die on the spot the next turn to two Goblin Grenades.
I really like the list that Starfall has been playing with on Magic Online. Starfall has been including Burning-Tree Emissary and Devastating Summons in order to pack in even more explosive potential to the deck. These cards work very well with the Bushwhacker effects and can create giant battlefield monsters out of seemingly nowhere.
I've always had Amulet Titan pegged as one of the best decks in Modern, even after Summer Bloom was banned. The only reason that it's not as popular as I think it deserves to be is because it is ridiculously difficult to master. The deck has a ton of very unintuitive lines, and the interaction between Amulet of Vigor and bouncelands is something that pretty much no one has any experience with unless they've played specifically this deck.
Anyone can pick up a creature deck and have general knowledge of creature combat and how you can optimize your plays there, but picking up Amulet Titan for the first time feels like you're playing a completely different game.
The strengths in the deck come from the fact that it has potential to be a very fast combo deck, landing a Primeval Titan very early in the game which can give itself haste and potentially one-shot the opponent with Slayers' Stronghold and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. But it can also switch gears and play a very grindy game plan as well, chaining Primeval Titans into each other by having them search up a Tolaria West and a bounceland, returning the Tolaria West to your hand to search for a Summoner's Pact.
If you want to learn more about Amulet Titan, I highly recommend you check out Edgar Magalhaes's primer on the deck here .
Krark-Clan Ironworks has been around for a while in Modern, because the card does something inherently busted. The printing of Scrap Trawler in Aether Revolt gave the deck new life, because suddenly the deck had a powerful engine that it could use to effectively draw its deck and have plenty of mana to do whatever it wanted.
Shaheen Soorani put the deck back on the map with his 7-3 performance at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, showing everyone that this deck could actually be a strong contender in the Modern format. Just this past weekend, Matt Nass once again demonstrated his love of four mana artifacts with a semifinals appearance at GP Phoenix with Krark-Clan Ironworks.
The deck is very strong and has surprising resilience when fighting through traditional interaction in Modern. Even if your opponent Thoughtseizes a key piece out of your hand, you can typically find your missing piece with an Inventors' Fair, a land that discard decks can't usually interact with. The deck is also very good against removal, as it doesn't have to play Scrap Trawler until the turn it is going off, and even if your opponent tries to kill your Scrap Trawler in the middle of your combo turn, you can usually engineer a game state where the creature can give you enough value to keep comboing after they've killed it.
One major weakness of the deck is that it crumbles to any enchantment that has a 1W casting cost. Both Stony Silence and Rest in Peace are very bad for the deck, so in a format where you expect to see either of these pesky enchantments, you might want to leave your Myr Retrievers at home.
- 4 Archfiend of Ifnir
- 2 Avalanche Riders
- 4 Desert Cerodon
- 2 Faerie Macabre
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Horror of the Broken Lands
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 2 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
Living End used to be a powerhouse in Modern, but lately, it's barely seeing any play. I think the dip in popularity actually came from the popularity of Eldrazi Tron back in the day. Chalice of the Void and Relic of Progenitus were cards that Living End definitely didn't want to see main deck. But now that we're living in a world of Jund and midrange, it's probably an excellent time to see a resurgence of Living End.
Living End is excellent against other midrange decks, but it also has good tools against the big mana decks that I expect to see a lot of as a reaction to Jund. Living End gets to play the full set of Fulminator Mages in the main, and it even runs a couple of Avalanche Riders. These are a nightmare for Tron or Scapeshift, as they'll be struggling to get their mana online before Living End closes the door by casting its namesake card.
We're already seeing some Living End come back a bit on Magic Online, so I think it's only a matter of time before it starts having success in the real world again.
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
- 4 Flickerwisp
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 3 Mirran Crusader
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
W/R Taxes is the latest version of Death and Taxes that people have started to play with in Modern. At its core, it is an Aether Vial deck that utilizes Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter alongside Ghost Quarter to keep the opponent off balance. The rest of the deck seems very well tuned right now to face a field full of Jund and other midrange decks, which are usually pretty bad matchups for this archetype.
It runs Dire Fleet Daredevil, Mirran Crusader, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar, all of which are excellent cards against any midrange deck. It even has a full set of Flickerwisps and three Restoration Angels to combo with all of the creatures that make tokens in the deck.
One of the things I really like about this deck is the access it has to powerful sideboard cards. Both Magus of the Moon and Worship can be lights out for decks that aren't expecting these cards.
I think this is the strongest Leonin Arbiter deck that exists right now, and I'd expect to see more of this archetype moving forward.
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Eldrazi Obligator
- 1 Endbringer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
R/G Eldrazi is the new kid on the block. We first saw the deck when it took down Grand Prix Lyon in the hands of Grzegorz Kowalski, and that was even before it had access to Bloodbraid Elf!
Fundamentally, this is just another deck that is trying to turbo out the powerful Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers ahead of schedule. The angle this deck takes is to use Noble Hierarchs and Mind Stones for extra mana on top of Eldrazi Temples and Ancient Stirrings to be able to find either the Eldrazi Temples or additional threats.
The rest of the deck is packed with powerful haste threats in Bloodbraid Elf and Eldrazi Obligator. Those two even synergize very well together, because if you cascade into an Eldrazi Obligator, you still trigger its cast ability, and if you have two mana floating around, you can snag your opponent's creature for the turn.
If you want to learn more about R/G Eldrazi, I highly recommend you check out Ben Weitz's primer on the deck here .
One of the ways to have success in Modern is to play a deck that isn't entirely on everyone's radar and know that deck better than everyone else in the room. If you're looking for a deck that not many people are going to respect, hopefully one of these caught your eye. But always be on the lookout for new and exciting things in Modern. The format is so insanely diverse that there will always be room for innovation.