The StarCityGames.com® Regional Championships are coming up this weekend, which means there are a lot of Modern decks to choose from. The format is in a weird flux from Dredge to Amulet Titan to whatever nonsense comes after, so pinning down exactly what you're going to play against is tough. There's around twenty reasonable decks to consider, and more than one of them is a reasonable choice.
Which decks are good enough to earn my endorsement?
Halloween month ended last week, and Relic of Progenitus is no longer a metagame-breaking maindeck card. When that card and Anger of the Gods are less good, TitanShift is dicey. It's slower than the other combo decks, Azorius Control has its number, and its interaction is narrow.
Plus the deck mulligans really badly because its interaction mostly doesn't cantrip and it needs six or seven pieces of land cardboard to win. That's just not my style.
The people of Modern have been reminded by the results of Amulet Titan that they might want Blood Moon, and oh boy do the Modern masses love Blood Moon. Playing Amulet Titan against Blood Moon is largely refusing to accept reality. You sign the match slip after taking five near hopeless draw steps, thinking maybe next time you win one game against the card and lose 1-2.
I realize my words won't stop anyone with an actual affection for Amulet Titan from running into this wall, but I'll save some innocent souls from rounds of misery. Let this be a lesson about intricate combo decks being a curse as much as winning with them looks miraculous.
I can't believe I'm actually saying this, because I have had nearly a decade long experience of retrying Dredge in a multitude of formats and being constantly miserable, but Modern Dredge is a really nice deck. The Conflagrate + Life from the Loam engine adds a lot of play to the deck in weird scenarios something like Rakdos Vengevine could get overwhelmed, and the addition of Creeping Chill just pushes the deck into actually racing combo territory.
I think my opinion on this changed about when the deck started including Shriekhorn to consistently self-mill ten to fifteen cards in the first few turns. I'm just saying this because Shriekhorn is a stupid card and definitely would make a sound like a six-year-old Boy Scout trying the bugle for the second time.
I think Burn was a really bad choice as recently as a day or two ago, but things move fast in Modern. If the enemy is trying to find room for Leyline of the Void and Blood Moon, it's easy to cut into their Collective Brutality and Kitchen Finks counts. Eidolon of the Great Revel is also good against an influx of Infect and Storm.
Just show some respect for the graveyard. I kinda dig Rakdos Charm with Bump in the Night as another black card, but Rest in Peace is fine too. Molten Rain is probably unnecessary; you either beat TitanShift already or had no chance against Amulet Titan's recursive Radiant Fountain.
Also don't play Risk Factor. Please. If you didn't listen the first ten times I said it, maybe you can now realize you would rather spend three mana on actually winning the game.
This comes with a bit of a caveat. No matter how many cool Unsubstantiates you add to your deck, Storm is just going to be bad against Humans and Spirits. I've tried, they just start killing you for being too little combo and too much removal instead.
But Storm is fine against the world at large if you're proficient with it. Just be aware sometime between the last round of the Swiss and the finals someone is probably just going to Meddling Mage all over you, and all your friends will have their "I told you so" material for a while. Hopefully none of them were that Humans player you lost to so you can pull the scoreboard of higher finish.
This was originally a weak YAY, but I'm kinda over it. SCG Regionals are simply Swiss events, not long fifteen round ones. In a longer event you have a chance for the metagame to evolve in layers, where the overperformers do well, then you can exploit that metagame as long as you get there with a loss or two. In a Swiss event you must be ready for the broader metagame, which is less impacted by these metagame shifts.
I don't like Infect against a lot of the at large decks these days. Burn, Darkblast from Dredge, Humans, various red midrange decks, Jund, and so on. So even if you do beat the three people who decided to change to Amulet Titan, there's another hundred or two people playing whatever else is going on that you aren't excited to face off against.
Ironworks is just a strong deck. It also is good against the Big Mana decks, or at least the one people will be playing. Amulet Titan with Spell Pierce in the sideboard is a pretty bad matchup, but again, congrats two more people will be willing and able to play that deck against you.
It also highlights one of my favorite parts of Magic: having an assured win, but your opponent asking you to explain it again.
- 1 Bottled Cloister
- 3 Chalice of the Void
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Damping Sphere
- 3 Engineered Explosives
- 4 Ensnaring Bridge
- 2 Expedition Map
- 1 Grafdigger's Cage
- 4 Mishra's Bauble
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 1 Pyrite Spellbomb
- 2 Sorcerous Spyglass
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 4 Welding Jar
- 1 Witchbane Orb
- 1 Artificer's Intuition
- 4 Whir of Invention
- 4 Mox Opal
This deck doesn't do anything. I'm not actually convinced anyone has actually won a game with it; they have just convinced their opponents to concede the third time they replayed Inventors' Fair to find a Welding Jar for their second Ensnaring Bridge. I've also been consistently underwhelmed with the random assortment of hate cards in the deck. Chalice of the Void, in particular, does not shine in Modern.
Just like Amulet Titan, if you want to spend a day hoping you hit your good hate card fast enough to sit there and make your opponent miserable for another 40 minutes, you're too far gone for me to stop you. It's the other people I'm trying to help.
Is your name Jadine "The Jund" Klomparens or Reid "Raging Ravine" Duke? Do you hate yourself and the modern day and age and wish you could go back to simpler times with Zunes and AOL Instant Messenger?
It's 2018, we just know better these days. Thoughtseize isn't the problem. It's refusing to play more good cards past those and your Inquisition of Kozileks. Play a real midrange deck and save yourself the misery of losing each game by a relevant spell and a half.
Four-Color Death's Shadow
This is a deck with real threats and Thoughtseize. I'm also excited to run Death's Shadow into a bunch of decks that aren't trying to pressure my life total like Tron, so I can just pay as much life as I want and battle them down. Stubborn Denial is just one of the best cards against both of the rising deck categories of Big Mana and Combo, too. For a deck with such a wide base of answers against the format, Death's Shadow happens to also be really well-positioned.
I do have some concerns about running this deck into a format of more dedicated graveyard hate. Lots of Relic of Progenitus aren't great for Tarmogoyf and Traverse the Ulvenwald, or even if you go with the Gurmag Angler Grixis lists.
I feel morally obligated to endorse at least one Blood Moon deck, so here we go. I'm kinda endorsing this one.
Mardu is a fine example of a Thoughtseize deck with good threats. The removal suite is unexciting but does the job against Humans and Spirits. You have Leyline of the Void and some hope against Dredge. This is the definition of a medium plus deck choice. I wouldn't be jumping in to play Mardu Pyromancer if I had a bunch of other options, but if Mardu Pyromancer is your jam and you have doubts about your other options there's nothing wrong with it.
’ Is this a Modern deck? pic.twitter.com/qqUQbm45fo— Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive) October 16, 2018
The first Arclight Phoenix decks in this format looked a lot like bad combo decks. Now we are just using the card as a great finisher in a good fair deck. It's like Death's Shadow all over again! This definitely qualifies as a large upgrade, allowing your fair deck to really go in on Faithless Looting, just like Mardu with a slightly different shell.
I do think this deck wants to play Young Pyromancer or Bedlam Reveler and possibly just go full ham for Lingering Souls, but I'm not a Grixis spells regular. You can find Ryan Overturf for that, I even linked his Twitter above to pester him with questions about it!
It's 7:30 AM and I think I'm just awake for the day? I already hate this.— Ryan Overturf (@RyanOverdrive) November 4, 2018
Be sure to send the message right before he would drink his morning coffee. Or after if you want a real answer and not just snippy Tweet value.
Somehow, I think Azorius Control is actually a better deck against a wide open field than a narrow one. Usually control faces the opposite problem, but Azorius Control is leveraging absurdly powerful answers like Terminus and threats like Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Anything but a few optimized and flexible decks have nightmares about something in this deck, and all you must do as the control player is find it and sideboard into more of the same.
As a result of a more open field I really like loading up on Terminus. If you play a Team Trios event and your opponents must worry about letting other people down by playing Eldrazi Tron or whatever, you need to respect Meddling Mage a bit more and find a Day of Judgment. But against a random selection of decks you just want the max number of one mana sweepers they let you play.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 2 Militia Bugler
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Hard to go wrong here. Humans is a good deck. It reasonably beats most things people do to try and beat it. Sure, I would rather not play Thalia's Lieutenant against Anger of the Gods and Primeval Titan, but if I was playing Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, I would also rather not play against Humans every round of an event.
Regardless of whether you play this deck though, you should bring a Whirler Rogue to the event. Someone is going to decide the night before they need it and will be asking everyone they know and don't know if they have a copy of a random Magic Origins Draft all-star. It was me in Detroit, someone else this weekend in Atlanta, and it might be your friend next weekend. I'm sure there's one that has materialized at the bottom of a forgotten stack of commons on your desk, so grab it in advance.
- 4 Drogskol Captain
- 4 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Rattlechains
- 3 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Supreme Phantom
- 2 Geist of Saint Traft
This deck's continued success is a real head scratcher to me. The only thing I can think of is everyone else decided that only decks that can't beat a Spell Queller should be played and shook on it, except I know that isn't true.
Spirits is more prone to clunky disaster hands than Humans. It doesn't really get under one-mana removal the way Humans can with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The clock is slower than the Humans clock against every Big Mana deck. People are cutting Engineered Explosives numbers for Anger of the Gods, so that resilience is less important. Honestly Humans might be even better against three damage sweepers because Champion of the Parish is huge.
I can keep going, and all these event results disagree, but I really don't care. Bant Spirits is just new Merfolk, and Humans is a good deck you can play instead.
Selesnya Hexproof has a few things going for it right now that are hard to expect unless you've played the deck a lot. The first is that it's oddly good against combo, including Primeval Titan decks. It turns out a million Leyline of Sanctity, and Rest in Peace are just a pain to handle for combo, and it turns out the Primeval Titan decks need to attack with their 6/6 to win which is hard when you have an 8/8 first strike, vigilance Slippery Bogle.
The other great part is that you just get to put Frog's Theme from ChronoTrigger on loop while testing it on Magic Online, and games only last about as long as three or four music loops. [I recommend "Ayla's Theme" if Kor Spiritdancer ends up with the ball.--DWest]
- 4 Hollow One
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Flameblade Adept
- 4 Flamewake Phoenix
- 3 Gurmag Angler
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
I had almost forgotten about Hollow One until Martin Juza's great run with it at Grand Prix Atlanta. Then I was reminded that my teammate playing Hollow One had the best record of the trio at Grand Prix Detroit. The deck is a bit underrated these days.
Hollow One has a natural edge in graveyard mirrors on the basis of winning whenever both players have Leyline of the Void. You can play a 4/4 fairly easily, they have to hardcast Narcomoebas or whatever. I once was able to tick a Hangarback Walker all the way up and outsize Hollow One, but I don't even know if Rakdos Vengevine plays that over Chamber Sentry these days.
I think there's a bit of the same new cool deck hype around Hardened Scales, and it's a bit overrated. It isn't that fast or honestly that resilient against the real control decks.
But Hardened Scales Affinity has Ancient Stirrings and access to good colorless hate to find with it in Tormod's Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, and Damping Sphere. And it's fast enough to clock combo behind a single hate card. And it's resilient enough against the various black midrange decks to be an honest favorite.
This is another weaker endorsement, but I love Arcbound Ravager math and think Hardened Scales is a legitimate reason to get back to doing it. Congrats to Hardened Scales. You're barely deserving of more than a "meh" reaction.
I'm writing this section last despite it fitting with the first Big Mana decks. Tron is a bit touchy, but there's two questions to ask to see if it's good: Are you horribly dead if you're behind a turn on assembling Tron? And do most decks require you to have a specific colorless threat over a random one?
I've endorsed enough creature and midrange nonsense that I think Tron is a solid choice. There will be enough people reasoning their way into playing a deck that Tron is good against, the land hate will drift a bit away from Surgical Extraction plus Fulminator Mage for a number of reasons, and Karn Liberated is still as hungry as ever. Just send him and Ulamog to the "your opponent's lands" buffet to have a great time.
Your Deck Here!
Listen, if you reached this point and want to know about Martyr Control or Mono-Blue Living End that you recently lost in the Top 4 of an SCG Invitational Qualifier with, you're probably more of an expert on whether you should play it than I am. Also, probably a little biased.
Every Modern metagame breakdown always has a million one-ofs. That Eldritch Evolution Copycat deck could be you! Okay, it probably won't be just based on ten other people making the same bad decision and the decision being bad, but it could be!
I'm sure at least one deck I didn't list is a fine option, but if I knew which I would just tell you. Maybe someone can just tell me with an actual event finish.