Over the past few weeks, as the heat of Hogaak Summer smothered the Modern format, the question on the forefront of everyone's minds has been, "What will Modern look like when this is all over?"
With Hogaak being such a dominant presence in the metagame for so long, the only results we had to look at left us with a blurry image at best. Izzet Phoenix and Dredge would likely fight once more for the top spot in Modern, Jund with newly printed Wrenn and Six would get its chance to show what it was made of, Urza was looking like a promising contender, and I was even hoping to talk about Seasoned Pyromancer decks before I went to bed on Sunday night.
Needless to say, none of that really matters anymore.
What we were given on Monday felt like a huge departure from the "only ban big problems" Banned List philosophy we have grown accustomed to over the last couple of years. In having the conversation of what the announcement would be, not once did the idea of also banning Faithless Looting alongside Hogaak even cross my mind, let alone the unbanning of what Todd Anderson rightfully called "The Best Control Finisher Ever" in Stoneforge Mystic.
This brave new world of Modern is going to take quite a bit of time to explore, and as a fan of good Magic I'm looking forward to watching it all shape up over the next few months. Unfortunately, I won't have the privilege of knowing the next few months of results when we fittingly stroll into the Wild West at this weekend's Modern Open in Dallas, which from a competitive standpoint might just be shaping up to be one of the most interesting tournaments of the year.
Not only will players be put to the test of navigating game states never before seen in the Modern format, they'll also be put to the challenge of properly constructing a 75 for a format we've never seen before either. While both will be important to players fighting for the trophy this weekend, the latter is the secret to where tournaments like this are won and lost. Never fear, though! If you've been one of the buzzing members of the hive mind excitedly searching their libraries for a Batterskull all week without a care in the world, I've got you covered with a breakdown of what I think you can expect to see come Saturday.
Despite the ever-shifting face of Modern, there are certain decks that are a perennial nuisance for Modern players at large. In metagames as open and fresh as the one we're going to see this weekend, the decks I consider the boogeyman are linear proactive decks which neither gained nor lost anything from the Banned List. The only thing that can really have changed in these decks is their positioning as well as a few flex spots, and all around they are strong, safe picks if you're lost on what to play.
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 3 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 World Breaker
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Of course, the biggest, baddest boogeyman of them all is Mono-Green Tron. This list specifically is courtesy of a friend of mine whose Mono-Green Tron opinions I trust and is where I'd start if I were considering making this my weapon of choice over the weekend.
You'll notice the lack of Karn, the Great Creator in this list. While I don't think it's always correct to exclude the card from these decks, I do think it's a card that's much better when the field shows up deciding to beat big mana decks, and that weekend won't be this one. Rather, I imagine a good chunk of the field will be showing up to play fair, something that Karn Liberated loves to keep in check, but I'll get to that later.
The other of the two classic Modern boogeymen, Burn, is a bit of a counterintuitive pick when there are more Batterskulls running around than ever, but when you're likely to kill the Stoneforge when it comes down, Batterskull itself isn't too much of a problem. Towards the end of Hogaak's reign, we saw the decks that competed best with the strategy to be these Lava Spike decks with the addition of Sunbaked Canyon for a huge boost in consistency.
While I think that over time the format will adapt to Burn's relevance, it might take some time for it to get hated out. Possibly its biggest draw this weekend, beyond just being plain good, is that when inevitably too many people try to be fancy and do too much at once, Goblin Guide will be there to catch them stumbling. Don't get caught relying on Path to Exile and Dismember as your only plan for early creatures.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 2 Deputy of Detention
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
My final deck worthy of boogeyman status this weekend is Humans. A classic proactive creature strategy that aims to safely end the game on Turn 4 is never one to overlook. I don't have much to say about this archetype that Dylan Hand didn't say in his article on Tuesday, other than to heed his advice. This pick in my mind is a little less safe than either of the two decks above it, only because the decks I expect to be popular this week are the kinds of decks that don't lend themselves to Humans thriving, though I doubt that will stop it from showing up in numbers.
No matter what deck I play this weekend, I'll be showing up with something that respects the three of these proactive pillars as the decks I can't ignore in deckbuilding. Showing up without a plan to fight against at least two of these three efficiently is asking for trouble.
The Shiny and New
The name really says it all for these decks, although "new" is kind of relative for some of these, as they had existed during Hogaak Summer. Decks that had been otherwise pushed out of the playable portion of Modern that now have their opportunity to show their stuff are what I'm considering here, and much like with the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, I'm expecting these decks to be overrepresented because they're cool and exciting.
The talk of the town when it comes to decks people have high expectations of, Four-Color Urza absolutely cannot be ignored coming into this weekend. A terrifying combination of prison and combo elements alongside extreme customization potential makes this archetype seem like an active volcano ready to erupt any minute. As one of the few decks other than Hogaak you could make a case for playing over the last few months, it will be a strong contender over time with proper tuning.
What I imagine will be an extremely popular build of the deck will be an Esper one that includes some number of Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull as a way to have a multidimensional gameplan or simply finding a combo piece. Historically, the best decks are ones that are able to seamlessly shift between roles and stay flexible, so it's actually a bit frightening to think of what might happen with this archetype.
The people's champion of fair Magic, Jund might be more trusty and rusty than it is shiny and new, but with the addition of Wrenn and Six, I think it's fair to say it's new enough. Jund was a surprising percentage of the Mythic Championship metagame last month, but ultimately was dwarfed by Hogaak's dominance.
Admittedly I'm not really a Jund kind of guy. I'm much more in the Cryptic Command camp when it comes to playing fair, but I really have to respect just how much the deck has gained from Modern Horizons. Between Seasoned Pyromancer and Wrenn and Six, it's harder than ever to run Jund out of gas, and it always feels like they have one more thing to keep you on the back foot. These gains, alongside its dedicated hardcore playerbase, mean you can't afford to sleep on Jund like we've gotten used to.
As a sucker for new and shiny things myself, I feel very confident – probably much more confident than I should feel – that the most important thing to be doing this weekend will be beating Stoneforge Mystic. The newest and shiniest thing to be doing in Modern, with the most nostalgia and hype attached, Stoneforge decks of all varieties are what I expect to be the most-represented archetype in the field in Dallas.
Like I said before, I'm a big believer in the Jace and Bloodbraid effect – people want to play with their cards they remember being awesome and want to be legal. Beyond this, though, Stoneforge Mystic is a messed-up card that rightfully deserved to be on the Banned List for as long as it has stayed there, and by no exaggeration is going to become a pillar of the Modern format nearly overnight.
For that reason, I'm putting my bets on Jeskai as the best version of the deck for the weekend. The Azorius versions floating around right now have lots of exploitable elements when it comes to Stoneforge mirrors.
The biggest thing that sticks out to me is just how much Azorius leans on Path to Exile and Force of Negation to do heavy lifting when it comes to interacting with the opponent. When it comes to beating the field right now, it's not that much of an issue. However, you have to remember that a Path to Exile on Stoneforge is a worse feeling than Path to Exile on a Dark Confidant, and decks that are more creature-centric with their Stoneforge package will demand more than a Path or two with Giver of Runes and Thalia in the format.
I find it worth noting that while It's hard to say exactly what the best Stoneforge, Wrenn and Six, or Urza, Lord High Artificer deck is, if you're prepared to tackle fighting against the things these decks are doing that weren't happening before, you'll be in a good spot. This primarily means understanding how to beat Stoneforge, having answers to Thopter Foundry combo, or just being able to take control of the game in a way that doesn't let Wrenn and Six steal it back.
Overall, I think the lean on Path to Exile that Stoneforge decks have will start to create room for other decks to start showing up that we've never seen flourish in Modern. While I'm not sure I have what it takes to register it this weekend, a big standout to me moving forward is Bant Soulherder.
- 4 Coiling Oracle
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 2 Knight of Autumn
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Reflector Mage
- 4 Soulherder
- 1 Thragtusk
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 4 Ice-Fang Coatl
This is the exact kind of deck that I think can thrive in the brave new world of Modern, and while I don't expect it to be popular this weekend, the fact that Lotus Box has an interest in testing with it makes me wonder if I'm just not thinking far enough ahead this weekend. As a deck full of pesky value creatures, a single-card engine, and over-the-top capability to grind, it could punish decks as straightforward as the current Azorius Stoneblade builds for their sleek nature.
We'll have to wait until Sunday to know exactly how the Modern metagame reacted, but the truly important part of exercises like this is to be mentally prepared for the kinds of strategies you're going to see over the weekend. No matter what you wind up playing, don't lose sight of the boogeymen and don't get caught without the tools to fight everything else.
See you in Dallas!