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Modern Roundup

Modern is an ever changing landscape. Even when there are no new set releases or cards banned, the results of major event Top 8s from one weekend to the next will often be drastically different. Today I am going to comb through the results of a few major modern events from the last couple of months and pull out some of the more interesting decks that have had success.

Let’s start with the most successful of recent decks. Taking first at the Modern open this past weekend was a new take on the Human-Aggro archetype:

I have played a bit with the Collected Company Humans deck in the past, but this deck looks like almost an entirely different animal. Playing a full five colors, this deck still has a fairly consistent resource base thanks to getting to play three different lands that make mana of any color:

Ancient Ziggurat
Cavern of Souls
Unclaimed Territory

One of the things I really like about this deck is that while it does not have any non-creature spells outside of Aether Vial, it still has a variety of main deck cards that allow it to be interactive with its opponent:

Kitesail Freebooter
Meddling Mage
Reflector Mage

I especially like the copies of Meddling Mage in this deck. It is paired with cards like Kitesail Freebooter and Reflector Mage that give us information about cards our opponent has in hand.

Speaking of tribal decks, there is another refresh of an existing archetype that has been having success in Modern since Ixalan released:

While Ixalan seems to have had minimal impact on Standard, Modern Merfolk has integrated multiple cards from our latest Magic expansion:

Merfolk Branchwalker
Kumena's Speaker
Kopala, Warden of Waves
Deeproot Waters

I really like the inclusion of Green in this deck, especially Merfolk Branchwalker. Silvergill Adept has always secretly been one of the most powerful cards in Merfolk and Branchwalker gives the deck an additional 2/1 that provides card selection or advantage. Kumena's Speaker is an interesting 1-drop. While it provides twice as much power as the traditional Cursecatcher does, it also provides less disruption.

I really like the 1-1 split of Kopala, Warden of Waves with the traditional Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. Neither of these is strictly better or worse than the other as each provide a slightly different upside in different situations. Kopala is better against a card like Abrupt Decay, while Kira is going to be better when your opponent has more mana than resources. Should we get both into play at the same time, they will cause our opponents all sorts of fits.

Deeproot Waters is an interesting inclusion in the sideboard. I assume a card like this is good for generating some card advantage against more controlling decks where cards like Aether Vial are typically not great due to the card disadvantage they generate.

Speaking of control decks — variations of Jeskai Control powered by Spell Queller and Geist of Saint Traft continue to put up results. Most recently this list finished 9th at a Modern open:

While we refer to Jeskai as a “control” deck, I often like to refer to it in jest as “The thinking person’s Burn deck”. The reason why I like to describe it this way is because the reason this archetype is so successful is because of its ability to pivot into a more aggressive role. It does this by turning the Lightning Bolts it has for removal into reach in conjunction with Snapcaster Mage.

In the realm of control decks with a burn backup plans we also have a Mardu Nahiri deck that finished in the Top 8 of a recent Modern classic:

Looking at the spell column of this deck really shows us the who's who of Modern legal removal spells. Everything from Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile to Crackling Doom is present. Nahiri, the Harbinger’s +2 allows us to filter through our sometimes awkward situational removal. Nahiri also does what every successful deck in Modern must do — present a must answer threat that can end the game immediately.

Moving on to more aggressive decks featuring Lightning Bolt, we have a fairly interesting Temur deck that finished in the finals of a recent SCG Classic:

I really like the inclusion of Narnam Renegade in this deck. Much like Lightning Bolt, it acts as a piece of removal against more aggressive decks, while not being a dead draw against creature light decks like Tron. The deck play four copies of Mishra's Bauble not only to enable revolt for Renegade, but also to help grow our playset of Tarmogoyfs.

It has been awhile since I last registered Huntmaster of the Fells in Modern, but if you have never played this card with Snapcaster Mage before , let me tell you how powerful they are together. Being able to pass our turn to flip into Ravager of the Fells and then Snap something back on the following turn to come back to the Huntmaster of the Fells to continue generating value is fantastic.

Speaking of things that have not happened in awhil, a deck that had completely fallen off the radar has made a star studded return recently:

Nothing gets you dead on turn two quite like a turn one Glistener Elf does. The typical flurry of pump spells and protection are joined by one particularly interesting piece of technology:

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

This card seems like it could help in solving the “wrong half” problem Infect often has of drawing either too many threats or too much pump. After Jace gets done looting, he can act as an alternative win condition or simply start replaying our pump spells from the discard pile to close the game out the traditional infect way.

Infect is not the only blast from the past present in recent successful modern lists. At the MKM Series in Hamburg there was a decent finish from a deck that is near and dear to my heart:

The first thing that jumped out at my about this decklist is the total absence of the card Path to Exile. My gut reaction to this was “it has to be wrong”. After thinking about it a bit more, and playing some games, I think my gut reaction was wrong. The most popular deck where we need Path to Exile consistently is Eldrazi Tron. This deck is often locking us out of playing 1-mana spells anyways. When we are not locked out, having a single removal spell often is not enough to swing the game in our favor anyways. The games we win against them involve board stalls and flying or combo kills most often.

Against decks that are not Eldrazi, Lightning Bolt is often better than Path to Exile for us. Against aggressive decks, Bolt does not give our opponent a mana advantage to let them pressure us faster. Against control and combo decks, the dead draw of Path to Exile is instead a card that lets us kill our opponent just a little bit faster.

I like a lot of the smaller things going on in this configuration of Kiki Chord. Three Eternal Witness and Restoration Angel gives the deck a lot of grinding power and evasive threats. Eternal Witness does a fairly good “Bolt — Snap — Bolt” impersonation as well when we are in beatdown mode.

The only detail I am not certain of in this decklist is the splash of Blue for access to additional sideboard cards. With cards like Orzhov Pontiff and Sin Collector, the need for Izzet Staticaster and Glen Elendra Archmage is lessened. Having an extra shockland in the mana base is not free — especially a Blue shockland with Merfolk on the rise in popularity again.

Wrapping Up

Looking over all the results of Modern events makes it easy to see why the format is a fan favorite. It is essentially impossible to predict what you are going to see at any given event — even in the later rounds among the successful decks. Have any other interesting Modern decks put up a result or two recently that I did not cover here? Let me know what they are in a comment below!


—Jeff Hoogland

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