Here we are again. You want me to tell you that everything is going to be different now that Magic 2013 is out. I can feel your anticipation. Unfortunately these are the cold hard facts:
- Nothing is really going to change all that much until Return to Ravnica comes out.
- Delver is still going to flip on turn 2.
- And Bonfire of the Damned is still going to crap in your Cheerios.
So deal with it.
What did you expect? Sure there was a glimmer of hope when we saw some awesome durdly cards like Trading Post or even when they told me they were going to reprint Gilded Lotus and Nicol Bolas Planeswalker possibly two of my favorite cards ever. But Standard now just feels the same as it's been the past few months. Maybe we need a return to...somewhere. Can't quite put my finger on it...
Oh that's right; we get to go back to Ravnica! My favorite Draft format and possibly favorite Standard format(s) ever! But perhaps it is a bit early to be excited. Maybe we should just talk about something else because Standard right now just makes me cranky. You can definitely do some fun things like create ambitious Mono-Black Control decks. You can build whatever you want to build but it probably won't be good enough to beat Delver or Restoration Angel or Bonfire of the Damned. That is the hard truth of Standard so today we're going to talk about something else.
Today we're going to talk about Modern!
As we jump into Modern we're going to discuss some of the format's premier strategies and how you can play them or exploit their weaknesses. For those of you who are relatively new to the format the finer details of Modern can be found here.
Modern is a non-rotating format which encompasses every (actual) set ever released with the newer card frame. That is to say Eighth Edition Mirrodin (original) and up are all legal and will always be legal for as long as Modern is a format. Much like Legacy sets will never rotate and your older cards will be legal as long as they don't get banned. However they are not afraid to pull the trigger. Just ask some of my old friends:
These cards are very good but the standards for what is bannable and what is not in Modern are completely different than those for Legacy. They don't want people doing absurdly overpowered things and they don't want any one deck to dominate the format. They tend to be a little cautious when it comes to choosing what gets the axe next. Honestly I think they are a bit trigger-happy but I can respect that. I wrote a little jazzy number just for this particular occasion:
One two Wizards doesn't want someone to Mental Misstep you.
Three four five they sure don't take no jive.
Six if they need to change something it's going to get the fix.
Seven eight nine because it was hungry.
Ten shocklands that are a bit expensive so let's print them again.
Okay so maybe that wasn't so great but you get the idea. This new format is something that Wizards considers very important and they don't want anything to ruin it. They will keep reprinting staples to make the prices go down because they don't want cost to be an issue. They will ban anything that gets out of hand. They will feature the format in multiple Grand Prix each year in order to press the market and encourage its popularity.
I for one love the format. I try to play it every other day or so because it honestly is a blast. Even though I would love to cast some of my old favorites I can understand why they don't want Jace the Mind Sculptor in the format. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you lose to it and that is something they aren't going to let happen. I can barely believe that they've let Affinity continue on in this fashion even though there are rarely any cards with the mechanic in the deck.
Regardless I think you get the idea.
This weekend there is a Grand Prix in Columbus featuring this amazing format and I am very much looking forward to going. I will likely be packing my trusty ol' Splinter Twin deck but I am very much open to trying new things and will probably be doing so over the next few days while I finalize my deck choice.
So let's dive right in! Since Modern is so wide open and has so many cool decks to play how do you decide what to play? Well today we're going to go over some of the more popular archetypes and I'll give you an idea of what to play in each. While this list won't encompass much on the broad spectrum of things I do think all of these decks are viable and would definitely suggest any of them. The biggest challenge will be choosing which deck fits you best!
If you haven't played the format before I would recommend trying out something that involves some cards you've played with before. If you haven't been playing Magic that long then this probably isn't the format for you. There are a lot of really interesting complicated interactions that you will need to know in order to survive the field.
While Affinity is still the deck's name you will notice that there are no cards in the deck featuring the mechanic. However it is the most recognizable name and the one that has stuck over time. Cranial Plating is the carry-over card and the most recognizable from the past which is why the name "Affinity" fits so well with the artifact-based aggro deck. Here is a sample decklist though few Affinity aficionados play the same list:
- 3 Arcbound Ravager
- 3 Master of Etherium
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 4 Vault Skirge
While I wouldn't normally classify Jund under aggro I do think it is important to know that Jund is a very aggressive deck and can kill you very quickly given the right set of circumstances. The deck would probably be considered more of a "Rock" or "midrange" deck but the aggressively costed threats give the deck a very early punch. They can kill you in just a few swings after ripping your hand apart and killing all of your creatures. Jund is a solid strategy that is pretty basic and should be a great choice for beginners to the format while still packing enough of a punch to be a serious contender for any veterans.
As long as red has been a color Burn has been a deck. This format is no different and you even get access to some of the game's most powerful "threats." In some ways Burn plays out like a combo deck where all of your pieces are similar and you just have to assemble enough of them. With the creatures available to you (Vexing Devil Goblin Guide Grim Lavamancer) you can function similarly to the counterpart that exists in Legacy but without all of the outrageous hate! Sure some red hate cards are legal in Modern but no one is packing Circle of Protection: Red and no one but Chi Hoi Yim is playing Kor Firewalker in their sideboard. Expect a pretty soft field if you're a red mage. Patrick Sullivan should do well!
Splinter Twin/Kiki-Jiki Combo
While this is my favorite type of combo a two-card combination that can end the game on the spot it is definitely the most vulnerable. When people are trying to interact with you they won't often be able to do so if you are playing Storm but they will most likely have some sort of spot removal to kill your creatures.
What these decks do have is consistency and raw power. Storm is a solid deck but is much more vulnerable to hate cards. If you stick a solitary Thorn of Amethyst or Ethersworn Canonist the game becomes much harder for them to win. They also rely heavily on their graveyard to fuel the fire using Past in Flames or Pyromancer Ascension to play enough spells to kill their opponent. I don't recommend playing Storm even though it is potentially faster than other combo decks in the format. You just have such little resiliency against the hate cards that are available.
Splinter Twin decks give you a lot of room to work and a ton of flexibility. Versions using Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling are powerful as well and should not be overlooked. Here are the two best Kiki-Jiki decks in the format:
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Cunning Sparkmage
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 2 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Village Bell-Ringer
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Delver decks are no stranger to the spotlight in Modern. Ever since the little guy was printed he's seen play across each of the major formats though he is much harder to flip in Modern since Ponder and Preordain were both hit with the banhammer. While the versions in Modern aren't as good at digging for certain spells the mana bases removal and disruption are much better. Imagine if Delver had access to Spell Pierce in Standard!
Regardless if you are familiar with Delver in Standard I think that this archetype could be right for you in Modern. Just like in Standard and Legacy starting off with a Delver on the first turn is usually pretty good. Decks in Modern don't play that much removal so the likelihood of your Delver surviving is pretty high compared to the other formats. Few people play Gut Shot; no one can play Swords to Plowshares.
While Delver is notorious for its ability to dig through its deck in Standard thanks to Ponder you just don't have that luxury in Modern. You have to rely on your other spells to do a lot more work which isn't such a bad thing when you get to play with cards like Lightning Bolt and Remand. I do appreciate the fact that a lot of Modern decks are starting to look like Standard versions of Delver with Restoration Angel making a splash on occasion. However the most popular (and probably most powerful) version of Delver looks something like this:
This archetype is defined by its ability to ramp into some really powerful spells. Examples include Emrakul the Aeons Torn as well as Wurmcoil Engine though Karn Liberated is slowly pushing himself into the spotlight. The inability for a lot of decks to kill him is important because it means that your hard work will not be undone by a lowly Path to Exile.
Ramp is a great archetype that anyone can pick up and play though the Tutors and cycling cards from this particular deck can be a bit problematic if you don't know what order to do things in or what hands to keep. This deck is notoriously land-light but that doesn't usually hinder it too much. I'm a big fan of Pyroclasms and Relic of Progenitus maindeck since they can both help you in matchups where you're relatively soft.
I think this deck is awesome and I would definitely recommend it.
Tokens has been all over the place lately. I categorize this type of deck as "fatty boom-boom" because you're just trying to assemble Anthem effects and make your guys bigger than theirs. You can label this archetype "aggro" or whatever. It is just as midrangey as Jund but probably twice as fun to play!
One version I've seen cropping up on Magic Online does some real work with Emrakul the Aeons Torn using Polymorph and Windbrisk Heights to cheat him into play. However I'm not convinced that is entirely necessary though it is pretty awesome!
I do apologize for the wall of decklists but that just goes to show you how much depth the format has and this barely scratches the surface! A few months ago I was working on all sorts of Life from the Loam decks and even tried to hybridize Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites into Splinter Twin.
I also realize that there are no "control" decks listed here but that is mostly on purpose. There are certain Tron decks that are much more on the controlling side than the "fatty boom-boom" side but I don't recommend those. G/R Tron is much more consistent and more powerful overall thanks to its consistency. Being able to hit Urzatron on turn 3 is absurd and the deck does it with a surprising (and frightening) amount of regularity.
There will be a pretty big spotlight on Grand Prix Columbus this weekend as a lot of people who are new to the format will be tuning in to the live coverage. I hope that Modern gets the attention it deserves because I haven't played too much Magic that I've enjoyed more than Modern and everything it has to offer! The crazy things you can do thanks to the plethora of amazing mana fixers provide deckbuilders with a unique experience and especially so since there really isn't a Wasteland type card to keep us in check.
Whatever you are doing do it right and make sure you're comfortable playing whatever you choose to play.
Thanks for reading.
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Written to This Modern Love by Bloc Party (and a ton of other great bands/songs)