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Sullivan Library: This Modern Life

People sometimes take a break from Magic. It makes sense. This is an intensely demanding game, and the more that you delve deep into it, the more it asks of you. I've been playing Magic since Beta, I thought I was playing competitively since Revised, and really started playing tournaments in earnest beginning with Alliances.

But I've never taken a real break.

The closest that I've come to "a break" in all of that time is perhaps in the last nine months, where I took a concerted effort to step away from grinding the Grand Prix to focus on developing my work and clients more. During all that time, I continued to play nearly daily on Magic Online, attended the SCG Invitational and numerous other events, but "just" took a break from Grand Prix, continuously keeping a roster of decks and archetypes that I loved in each and every format, including working on every Limited, Standard, and Modern format as it emerged with new sets.

In the time between that Invitational and today, the variety of decks I've been playing in Modern regularly has skyrocketed. For a long time, if you saw me playing Modern, you'd see me playing only one deck: Lantern. Now, however, the card pool has really shifted things around to the point where there are a huge number of Modern decks I'm liable to enter into a League or an in-person paper Magic tournament.

These decks are the ones that I've been playing and recommend for Modern today.

Jeskai Control

When Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was spoiled, I told everyone to pick up their copies as soon as they could. The card just seemed to be clearly bonkers. Despite how bullish I was on the card, I didn't actually conceive of the card as being a player in Modern until I saw it in a successful list.


I actually felt quite stupid when I saw it. After a moment's reflection, Teferi really acts like a three casting cost card, making it clearly absurd on its face well before going into the details of how it is an effective card against decks like Tron.

My build is very similar to Jonathan Rosum's build from the SCG Open in Minneapolis this last weekend, with elements from builds by Jim Davis and Seth Mansfield as well.

Sphinx's Revelation
The obvious point of comparison for this deck is Rossum's successful list. If you line them up, side-by-side, you'll see that they are incredibly similar. In the main deck, I replace a single Electrolyze with a Sphinx's Revelation and a single Hallowed Fountain with an Irrigated Farmland.

The Electrolyze replacement is simple: like Jim Davis, I just think that the card is slightly underwhelming at three mana. I think it is good enough to include, but I rarely would ever want to draw a second copy, and just want something else in this slot, depending on the metagame. Right now, at this very instant, that card is Sphinx's Revelation, but at other times it has been the fourth Lightning Bolt.

Irrigated Farmland is an important card for these decks, in my opinion. I picked up this swap from Ray Perez, Jr. when the card was first printed. The basic logic is quite simple: if you are running a mana-heavy deck where you very well could get flooded, there is value in having a cycling land in the deck, and typically, the very first Hallowed Fountain that you fetch is going to come into play tapped. In that instance, you can instead get that Irrigated Farmland. The upside is having a cycling land for a late game flood situation, with a downside of having the card in your hand and needing an untapped land. Because of fetchlands, thus far, I've found the up outweighs the down.

One of the biggest things that shifts in my sideboard is the number of Dispel. I usually really love to have three Dispel, especially for decks that are running Collected Company and Chord of Calling, as well as for Burn. Currently, however, I feel quite comfortable with only two copies, though as always, a Modern sideboard (and main for that matter) should always be in flux based on what you think you'll be facing.

Of course, while I love Jeskai Control, it has become more and more popular as of late. The mirror can be a huge, complicated dance. When I think Jeskai is going to be big, I switch it out, and head to the welcoming two colors of Blue Moon.

Blue Moon

I've been playing ur Blood Moon variants for a while now, trying builds that include multiple main deck Thing in the Ice, Through the Breach/Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and other variants. At this point, while I still have a soft-spot for Breach builds of the deck, I've settle into what could be considered the most conventional current style, simply playing the good cards.

One of the reasons that I love this deck is that Blood Moon is just cruel. Blood Moon doesn't let the opponent play Magic. Blood Moon makes the opponent feel bad.

I love it.

My current Blue Moon build is fairly close to lists popularized by players like Ross Meriam.

There is still a huge part of me that misses being comborific with this deck. It feels absurdly powerful to be able to just win games because you spent five mana. On the other hand, there is another great combo that you can do with this deck: Lightning Bolt, Snapcaster Mage, Lightning Bolt.

In Modern, people's mana often puts pressure on their life total all by itself. Just being able to burn an opponent out is very reasonable, especially if it comes tied with a surprise creature. Being straightforward lets you most exploit this angle to the deck.

Two notable differences in my deck compared to others are just very minor tweaks: Field of Ruin in the main and Aetherspouts in the board.

First, with Field of Ruin, I noticed that I wanted a little bit more hate for my opponent's lands. At the same time, even the third Blood Moon felt like a bit much sometimes, not to mention the idea of a fourth — which I tested and hated. A single Field of Ruin acted as an excellent extra touch of disruption that felt almost free.

Aetherspouts has long been a pet card of mine. When I tried it out, I fully expected it to be too expensive to be meaningful. I was somewhat hoping that it would play a bit out like Settle the Wreckage, and it absolutely did, exceeding my expectations incredibly. Big creatures can be one of the things that this deck has to take into account, and taking them off of the battlefield en masse is huge. Especially when you add onto this the placing of those creatures back into the deck, it can actually be very powerful when dealing with graveyard strategies.

I'm still not certain I shouldn't be playing Thing in the Ice or Relic of Progenitus in my sideboard, and depending on the metagame, I'm certain I would occasionally make use of them in an event.


One of the reasons I came across this deck was running into my old friend and Magic nemesis, David Petersen, at a recent RPTQ.

Just watching the interaction between Bloodbraid Elf and the rest of the Elves archetype made me feel like something incredible was going on. After monkeying with the deck a bit, I found a configuration that was really effective, and I felt excited about sleeving this little number up.

Bloodbraid Elf
One of the utter joys of this deck is casting a turn three Growing Rites of Itlimoc, flipping it, and casting Collected Company. While this might sound a little outlandish, it is shockingly common.

The card I'm most uncertain of in the deck is the reason I was drawn to the deck in the first place: Bloodbraid Elf. At one point, I was running four of the card, but over time it has become clear that it is the clunkiest card. Despite that, I really do love it in a fairly aggressive build based on Shaman of the Pack and Ezuri, Renegade Leader. This is one of the reasons I'm also not a Chord of Calling deck. While the Chord builds are also an absolutely reasonable choice, I generally find myself just killing the opponent far more quickly than it would seem likely.

Marwyn, the Nurturer is still in the early stages of testing. I'm starting to think I'll end up cutting it in favor of another Boreal Druid or some other analogous card, but I haven't made that leap yet.

One of my favorite recent changes to the deck is adding The Immortal Sun to the sideboard. It has been excellent. In some matchups, you can count on their being a grind, and every word on this card is relevant. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn Liberated are both completely unable to remove the card. In the Tron matchups, only Oblivion Stone can reliably remove the card, and it stymies every other kind of response.

I have also continuously been thinking about other cards for the Tron matchup, which frankly feels rather rough. Sorcerous Spyglass and Damping Sphere are two very reasonable choices, but I haven't yet tried them out to see if they are worth it in this deck in a metagame as broad as Modern's.

Speaking of those cards . . . 

Sorcerous Spyglass
Finally, last but not least, my favorite deck in Modern currently is a Prison deck, locking the fun out of an opponent's game, making them wish for death.

I've been paying attention to this list since my friend John Paul Roney turned me onto the deck. I played it for a while, but still basically stuck to my guns with another Prison deck: Lantern Control. Ultimately, though, we've gotten to that point where Michael Coyle, the person I'm most aware of behind the innovations in this deck, has really gotten it honed to a razor's edge. A part of the reason it has gotten there, I think, is new cards from the last few sets, four Sorcerous Spyglass and Damping Sphere for the board. The much bigger reason is the mana is better; this used to be a four Darksteel Citadel deck, which, while excellent with Mox Opal, really hurt your ability to Whir early.

If you're wondering how this deck goes about winning, the simple answer is, in most cases, it just knits up a game so that the opponent can't win any more, and then lackadaisically kills with a recurred Pyrite Spellbomb or an Ipnu Rivulet.

Of all of the decks I'm playing in Modern currently, I've played this one the least, but I expect that moving forward it will quickly be the deck I'm playing the most.

A New Beginning

I'm excited to be stepping back into more Magic again after my break. This last weekend, I played in Grand Prix Washington, D.C. with two incredible teammates, Zac Hill and Ryan Saxe, and while we didn't win it all, it was a fabulous experience that we expect to run back again in the future.

If you're looking to find me online, you can follow my journeys on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I'm always on the lookout for an exciting Modern deck, so please feel free to share one with me in the comments, and perhaps it will end up in my future writing on Gathering Magic. I'm always most interested in those decks that make my opponent miserable, so if you have a hater or griefer deck, feel free to let me know.

I'm not sure when I'll next be playing Modern in a big event, but perhaps you'll see me at Grand Prix Providence. If you do, don't be surprised to see me sleeved up with one of these four decks, or something new and cruel.

— Adrian Sullivan

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