Core Set 2019 brought a lot of interesting and unexpected new changes to Modern.
When Militia Bugler was first previewed, there was a lot of discussion surrounding it and its potential inclusion in Modern Humans. I was skeptical at first, but I think it's safe to say that Militia Bugler passed the test with flying colors. Not only was Militia Bugler a solid addition to Humans, but it pushed the archetype to a whole new level, allowing Humans to reclaim its spot as the top dog in Modern right now.
Stitcher's Supplier flew slightly further under the radar, as many people initially missed this card as Modern playable. But it gave life to a whole new archetype in R/B Vengevine, a deck that has recently exploded onto the scene in Modern as a very solid contender. At Pro Tour 25th Anniversary we saw ten teams register R/B Vengevine in the Modern seat, which is crazy considering the deck didn't even exist two weeks prior.
Not only did these new cards create a shift in the Modern metagame, but we've also been witnessing the rise of U/W Control over the more traditional Jeskai Control deck that we're used to seeing in Modern and on the SCG Tour®. While Jeskai Control could have been considered the most popular deck in Modern several weeks ago, we didn't see a single copy in the Top 32 of SCG Indianapolis.
It's safe to say that Modern has changed in a pretty big way over the past couple of weeks and it's time to take another look at the top contenders of the format. If I were to play in a Modern tournament right now, these three decks would be my top picks.
While Mardu Pyromancer hasn't been a very popular deck lately, I think that it's in a pretty good position in Modern right now. Humans is currently, by far, the most popular deck in Modern and Mardu Pyromancer is the best deck to capitalize on that.
While there are certainly decks that have a better matchup against Humans than Mardu Pyromancer, like Jeskai Control, Mardu Pyromancer doesn't sacrifice quite as much against the rest of the format while still being heavily favored against Humans. In fact, I think that Mardu has pretty solid tools to compete with most of the popular decks in Modern. This is exactly where you want to be as the fair deck of the format.
Mardu Pyromancer even comes out on top when matched up against other fair decks as it has an even to favorable matchup against Jeskai Control, U/W Control, and Jund. Nothing grinds quite like Kolaghan's Command and Bedlam Reveler, and these other fair decks have a hard time keeping up with all that value. Not only does Mardu Pyromancer play the best fair game in Modern, but it also has the ability to take an unfair approach on particular matchups as well.
VS Humans: very favorable
Your matchup against Humans is the main reason to play Mardu Pyromancer. You have a ton of excellent ways to trade resources here and that's exactly what you want to be doing against Humans to make sure you don't get run over. Both discard spells and removal are good at trading resources early.
VS U/W Control: favorable
Nobody grinds quite as well as Mardu Pyromancer and that makes it very difficult for control decks to keep up. Card advantage engines like Lingering Souls, Young Pyromancer, and Bedlam Reveler put a lot of pressure on U/W Control's sweepers, and as long as you don't overextend you should be able to grind these control decks into the dust.
VS Ironworks: slightly unfavorable
Mardu has a lot of good tools for disrupting Ironworks from going off, but it suffers from not being able to apply a ton of pressure while doing so. Ironworks is really good at rebuilding after a lot of its resources have been stripped away, so without a lot of good pressure, it's hard to really keep them from getting to a point where they can go off again.
VS Hollow One: close
Hollow One can have some draws that get under Mardu Pyromancer, but Mardu has a lot of ways to answer the threats that Hollow One presents. Game 1 can be rough, but as soon as Mardu has access to its graveyard hate on top of the removal spells, it should be able to weather the storm rather well.
Ensnaring Bridge can also be very crucial in this matchup. Even on turn 3, it should stop the biggest threats from getting through and Hollow One will generally struggle to get the Ensnaring Bridge off the battlefield.
VS Mono-Green Tron: slightly unfavorable
Mono-Green Tron does a good job at beating up on any midrange deck, but Mardu Pyromancer has more tools than most to compete here. Not only does Mardu typically pack Blood Moon in the maindeck, but after sideboard they have access to additional land destruction spells in Fulminator Mage. This is another matchup where Mardu suffers slightly for not being able to present a fast clock, because even if you keep Tron off of Tron, they can still get up to six lands naturally and cast a Wurmcoil Engine, a card that can be very tough to beat.
While many of the matchups here are close or even slightly unfavorable, Mardu Pyromancer has a lot of ways of tuning its maindeck and sideboard to be able to beat these matchups. As the Modern metagame settles down after these changes, Mardu should be able to tune its list very well to be able to compete with even its worst matchups.
I'm a pretty big fan of a good number of Surgical Extractions right now in Modern, as I think that will do a lot to help against the combo decks and the graveyard-oriented decks.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 3 Militia Bugler
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 1 Restoration Angel
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Humans recently got a pretty significant upgrade with the printing of Militia Bugler. I was initially skeptical on whether or not Militia Bugler was going to be good enough to see play in Humans, but I can now clearly see why this was exactly the card that Humans was looking for.
Humans is a deck made up of very efficient and powerful creatures. However, these creatures excel in different spots and different matchups. Sometimes you can be in a spot where you really need to find your disruptive creatures to stand a chance. Other times you really want to find your aggressive creatures to close games out quickly or be able to brawl with your opponent's creatures.
Phantasmal Image was such a strong inclusion in Humans because it allowed you to double down on the effects on the battlefield that you wanted to have access to more of. If you wanted to close the game out quickly, you could give yourself a second Mantis Rider. If you wanted to further disrupt your opponent, you could give yourself another Meddling Mage or Kitesail Freebooter. This gave the deck access to card selection that the earliest versions of Humans didn't have access to.
Militia Bugler operates under the same concept. It gives the Humans deck much needed card selection that it was lacking before. The card selection that Militia Bugler offers is even stronger than the selection that Phantasmal Image could offer because it doesn't require you to already have the piece you're looking for on the battlefield.
Not only does Militia Bugler give Humans access to card selection but it also gives Humans access to card advantage. It's, quite simply, a two-for-one. This does a lot to help against decks that are trying to one-for-one Humans into the ground, and probably has something to do with the recent death of Jeskai Control.
If that wasn't enough reasons why Militia Bugler is great in Humans, I even have a third reason! Militia Bugler helps you find your sideboard cards; Humans has access to a lot of silver bullet creatures that are excellent in particular matchups, and Militia Bugler gives you access to more looks at finding these sideboard cards.
Fancy new cards isn't the only thing that Humans has going for it right now. We're currently seeing a decrease in the number of Jeskai Control decks in Modern, in favor of the new U/W Control decks. This is fantastic news for Humans because the matchup against U/W Control is much more favorable that the matchup against Jeskai Control. It's much easier to get under U/W Control and try to play through the sweepers that they have to offer instead of slogging through all of the removal spells that Jeskai had access to. The matchup still isn't great, but it's much better.
VS U/W Control: slightly unfavorable
While this matchup isn't great for Humans, the fact that the biggest control deck is U/W Control instead of Jeskai Control is a huge boon for Humans. Humans has a lot of ways of being able to beat U/W Control by keeping them off their sweepers, which U/W Control relies on pretty heavily to not get run over in this matchup. I'd say the matchup here is only slightly unfavorable, as opposed to Jeskai, which is heavily unfavorable.
VS Ironworks: favorable
Humans is king of disrupting combo decks and applying pressure at the same time, which is exactly what you want to be doing here. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, and Kitesail Freebooter are all excellent at keeping Ironworks from doing what it wants to do. Just make sure you watch out for Engineered Explosives. Gaddock Teeg and Selfless Spirit are excellent tools here to make sure your disruptive cards don't get swept away.
VS Hollow One: favorable
Hollow One's biggest strength is being able to apply a lot of pressure early. Humans can do this as well, but also has the capability of going even bigger with Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant. Between those cards, Reflector Mage, and Mantis Rider, Humans lines up really well against what Hollow One is trying to do.
VS Mono-Green Tron: close
The matchup between Mono-Green Tron and Humans has fluctuated a lot recently. Early on I think Humans was a favorite, then Tron adapted to beat Humans pretty handily. Now I think it's back to being close, because Militia Bugler is really good at finding the sideboard cards that can be crucial against Tron, like Gaddock Teeg and Selfless Spirit.
Humans was already established as a tier one archetype, and it has a lot of things going in its favor right now. Because of that, I would be very happy to sleeve up Humans again right now in Modern.
- 3 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Bloodghast
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Vengevine
- 3 Viscera Seer
Every once and a while, a new graveyard deck pops up that is doing something more powerful than the rest of the format. We saw that happen with Dredge back when it had access to Golgari Grave-Troll, Cathartic Reunion, and Prized Amalgam. Dredge was able to explode onto the battlefield faster than anything else at the time, and it also had a resiliency to it that made it very difficult for the fair decks to compete.
The format eventually caught up and did a decent job of hating out Dredge with graveyard hate, but even then Golgari Grave-Troll had to be banned again. The deck was simply doing things that were more powerful than the rest of the format.
I believe we may be seeing something very similar to that with R/B Vengevine. The deck is simply doing something more powerful than the rest of the format. The deck is blisteringly fast, sometimes putting an insurmountable number of creatures on the battlefield as fast as turn 1. This gives it the ability to outrace even the fastest of the combo decks like Ironworks, Storm, and even Infect.
Not only can it outrace the fastest decks in Modern, it can also be quite the headache for the fair decks of the format. Bridge from Below makes removal spells look pretty silly, and often the deck is presenting too many threats too early in the game for these fair decks to even attempt to keep up with everything. R/B Vengevine seems to have an edge at every angle.
VS Humans: favorable
R/B Vengevine is simply more explosive than Humans and can get established on the battlefield and attacking before Humans casts its second spell of the game. Not only is R/B Vengevine more explosive, but it also has the tools to succeed in the lategame by continually triggering Bridge from Below with a sacrifice outlet and a Gravecrawler. That can create an overwhelming gamestate that even Humans can't fight through.
VS U/W Control: highly favorable
When R/B Vengevine has one of its explosive draws, it leaves U/W Control in the dust. A spot removal spell or two isn't going to cut it, and often R/B Vengevine can close the game before U/W Control can get to any kind of sweeper effect. Not to mention that R/B Vengevine is particularly resilient to these sweeper effects. Bridge from Below laughs at any kind of Wrath of God, and the only effective sweeper that they have access to is Terminus, which can be hard to set up.
VS Ironworks: slightly favorable
This matchup is generally a pure race, and R/B Vengevine excels at racing. I think R/B Vengevine is simply half a turn faster on average than Ironworks. Not to mention that after sideboard, R/B Vengevine gets access to Thoughtseize and Ingot Chewer, which can make life very difficult for an Ironworks player.
VS Hollow One: favorable
R/B Vengevine feels just like an upgraded version of Hollow One. It's more explosive and generally wins a straight up race. Even when the games stall out and go long, I think that R/B Vengevine has the tools to win because of the ability to recur most of its threats.
VS Mono-Green Tron: highly favorable
Mono-Green Tron is well-known for its inability to do anything relevant before the third turn of the game, which is plenty of time to get run over by R/B Vengevine. The only cards that can effectively keep up are Oblivion Stone and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and these cards will never be castable until the fourth turn of the game.
It's likely that there's only one reasonable way to compete with R/B Vengevine.
It has quite a tough time beating a Leyline of the Void, with most versions I've seen completely skipping out on any way of dealing with an enchantment on the battlefield. As this deck gets more popular, which it will, I also expect to see an increase in the number of Leyline of the Voids.
I expect Modern to continue changing as it adapts to Humans and R/B Vengevine, but adaptation is needed in order to compete with these decks. They are simply too strong in Modern as it stands right now.