The Modern metagame wheel is always rotating. Four main archetypes make up this wheel: disruptive aggro, fair decks, big mana decks, and linear combo decks. The disruptive aggro decks beat up on the linear combo decks, the linear combo decks beat up on the big mana decks, the big mana decks beat up on the fair decks, and the fair decks beat up on the disruptive aggro decks.
These macro archetypes take turns being "on top" of the metagame wheel, by either being well positioned in the metagame or just simply the most popular at the time. Currently, aggro decks have taken over Modern. Specifically Humans, Hollow One, and Affinity have consistently been the most represented archetypes in recent Modern events.
Humans, in particular, seems to be in an excellent spot right now. Humans has a lot of things going for it right now from a metagame standpoint. The natural predator of Humans has always been the removal spell-heavy fair decks. Decks like Jeskai Control and U/W Control were always difficult, because they had a lot of removal spells and access to sweeper effects. But currently the most popular fair deck in Modern is Jund, and I would say that Humans is favored against Jund.
After Bloodbraid Elf was unbanned and everyone jumped on Jund as the go-to fair deck, everyone assumed that it would be well-positioned against Humans at the time. The deck had a lot of removal spells and usually these fair decks prey on the aggro decks of the format. But after playing out the matchup from both sides, I figured out that Jund was just a bit too clunky to keep up with Humans' good draws. The printing of Bloodbraid Elf incentivized Jund players to put a lot more three mana spells in their deck, and that's definitely not where you want to be against a deck like Humans.
I would even go so far as to say that Jund, in its current form, is just bad. Sorry folks. The power level of the format has been pushed past the point where Thoughtseize into Tarmogoyf is going to cut it. Everyone was all excited to be able to play with Bloodbraid Elf again, but we just don't live in that world anymore. Everyone remembers the glory days of Jund back in the day, but we had Deathrite Shaman back then. Now that's a good Magic card. It allowed Jund to break the mold on mana development, and that's something that Jund doesn't have access to anymore. Playing a one-mana spell into a two-mana spell into a three-mana spell feels so bad when the other decks in the format have access to things that can break that paradigm.
What do all of these cards have in common? The break the traditional mold of Magic where you only get one land drop a turn and are restricted to that structure of mana development. Aether Vial lets you dump your hand very quickly onto the battlefield, and any hand in Humans that has either an Aether Vial or a Noble Hierarch is going to be much better than Champion of the Parish into two mana creature into three mana creature. Hollow One and Bloodghast both let you put bodies onto the battlefield for free, which is a very strong mechanic and has catapulted the Hollow One decks to the front of the format. Everyone knows that Mox Opal is busted simply because it gives you access to another mana before you should have it.
Accelerating your mana isn't the only way to have success in Modern. But if you aren't trying to break your mana development in any way, you need to make sure you are utilizing the mana that you do have access to in the best ways possible. Death's Shadow does this very well, and I believe that's why it used to have so much success in Modern.
Almost all the cards in the deck effectively only cost one mana. So instead of the traditional one, two, three curves that we expect out of Magic, we can cast up to a whopping six spells by our third turn. That itself is breaking the mana development mold in a way. We see similar concepts in play with other fair decks, such as Jeskai Control. All their removal is so efficient that they able to keep up with other decks with these efficient removal spells and the occasional sweeper effect.
So Jund wasn't quite cutting it as a natural predator for Humans, which I believe is a big part of why Humans is so dominant in the format right now. Not only is Humans well set up to beat Jund, but Humans is also favored against the second most popular deck in the format right now: Hollow One. Due to all these factors, Humans is really running away with things right now.
But if there is one thing that I know about Modern, it's that Modern will always adapt. The Modern metagame wheel is always rotating. So what are some good options for defeating Humans right now?
One approach would be to bring back the fair decks that were actually good against Humans.
Jeskai Control is still alive and well in Modern, and players like Kazu Negri and Benjamin Nikolich want the world to know. Jeskai was one of the initial natural predators of Humans, and I also think that this deck has a good matchup against both Hollow One and Affinity, the second and third most popular decks in Modern right now. Cards like Path to Exile are very important when competing against the large creatures that Hollow One can present and Electrolyze is a house against Affinity.
Plus you get to play with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in Modern!
It feels strange, but I do believe that Teferi is a stronger option in Modern than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Both play a similar role, but the ability to untap two lands during your end step makes Teferi really only a three-mana investment instead of a four-mana investment, and that difference can be huge in a format like Modern.
While Brainstorming is better than just drawing a card, the repeated effect on a planeswalker of drawing a card every turn will give you similar inevitability to Brainstorming every turn, and both of these planeswalker's ultimates will effectively end the game, so I'm not terribly surprised to see Teferi slot in well here.
Another deck that has always preyed upon Humans is Mardu Pyromancer. This deck is like Jund except it's actually good. It isn't nearly as clunky as the current Jund builds and has a much lower mana curve. Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls do an excellent job at slowing down the aggression of the Humans player and gives the Pyromancer player enough time to develop their mana and remove enough threats to take over the game.
If fair decks aren't really your thing, there are definitely other ways to tackle Humans. The Titan Shift versus Humans matchup has always been close, but Becky Adlman seems to have figured out a way to skew things in Titan Shift's favor. The addition of white gives Titan Shift access to a ton of new tools that appear to be very strong.
Sakura-Tribe Elder has frequently been the best ramp spell in Titan Shift because it gives you access to both ramp and a way to save life by getting to block before you sacrificed it. Renegade Rallier takes this concept to the next level. It can ramp you by either bringing back a fetchland or even a Sakura-Tribe Elder! And you get to keep the body around after you've ramped. This is huge against any deck that is trying to attack on the ground because all the Titan Shift player is really looking for is to buy time until they can start triggering Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.
Renegade Rallier is also an excellent hit off Bloodbraid Elf, another incidental creature in the deck that ends up ramping you more often than not. This Naya Titan Shift deck has a ton of ways to clog up the ground, which makes it much better at buying time against all the aggro decks that are so popular right now.
The other thing that this deck really has going for it against Humans is that it's able to diversify the removal spells it has access to. Against traditional Titan Shift, the Humans player would feel pretty safe naming either Lightning Bolt or Anger of the Gods with Meddling Mage, but against the Naya version there are so many more cards that need to be worried about.
If the Titan Shift player can get to the point where they can use their lands as removal spells, it becomes very difficult for the Humans player to win. Humans doesn't have any good ways of interacting with lands, so one or two active Valakuts can be game over. I think that Naya Titan Shift could be a very strong option moving forward.
Whatever your approach, I think there are going to be a ton of good ways to tackle the metagame for SCG Louisville. I'm definitely going to try and think outside the box this weekend and see what I can come up with. Hopefully I'll see you there!