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What's the Deal with these New Modern Decks?


With a large amount of Magic's total hype pool being depleted on Pioneer since its inception, as well as Standard seeing a large amount of attention with MTG Arena, various bans, and the recent World Championships, Modern has been slipping from its lofty perch of "most popular Magic format." Make no mistake, Modern is still very popular, but with less overall events (as well as team events obfuscating results) things have become much less clear than in the past.

Mystic Sanctuary
Once Upon a Time
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove

Add that to the number of ridiculous cards printed in the last year, alongside subsequent bannings that shook things up even further, and we've got a Modern format that looks incredibly different now that it did 12 months ago. Modern has experienced more change in the last 12 months than it has in perhaps the entire life of the format, which is truly saying something.

With shifts happening almost weekly, less major tournament results to go off of, as well as the complexity that all of the new cards add as players try to figure them out, we've got a host of new faces lining up in the format.

Today we're going to take a look at five of them and break down how they fit into the grand scheme of Modern.

Jeskai Breach

What's The Deal?

An artifact combo deck based around the interaction between Underworld Breach and Grinding Station. With both cards in play you can sacrifice and recast zero mana artifacts until you go through your whole deck and win. Can win on turn three fairly consistently.

Underworld Breach
Grinding Station
Thassa's Oracle

It is astounding how good these artifact decks are in Modern even after Mox Opal was banned. What's not surprising in any way is Underworld Breach fueling a combo deck that may be broken enough to see the ban hammer not long after it was printed. I mean, y'all act like you've never seen a Yawgmoth's Will before.

The combination of Underworld Breach and Grinding Station, and the resulting pseudo-loop that follows, will almost always lead to a win. Eventually you'll find a Mox Amber and an Emry, Lurker of the Loch, start generating mana, and cast a Thassa's Oracle and win the game. Of course, the exact execution will be more complicated than that, and is somewhat reminiscent of Krark-Clan Ironworks decks. However, Jeskai Breach gets to be a bit more interactive.

Metallic Rebuke
Teferi, Time Raveler
Engineered Explosives

Because the combo doesn't require a ton of deck space to operate (beyond cards we already want to play like Arcum's Astrolabe), the deck gets to run a nice smattering of interaction that can both slow down the opponent or help defend the combo. Teferi, Time Raveler is perhaps one of the best combo planeswalkers ever printed, shutting down interaction while providing a maindeck answer to problematic permanents. Engineered Explosives does similar a deck already wanting for zero mana artifacts.

How To Beat It

Like Krark-Clan Ironworks, Jeskai Breach is a "cast a bunch of spells" combo deck at heart that utilizes both artifacts and the graveyard, making it vulnerable to a number of different plans. Cards like Chalice of the Void, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Eidolon of the Great Revel attack the repeated casting of spells, cards like Pithing Needle, Collector Ouphe, and Stony Silence can make the artifacts in the deck non-functional, and cards like Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, and Surgical Extraction can keep Underworld Breach from ever doing anything.

Jeskai Breach is certainly a new deck and likely not in its final form; be aware of new innovations!

Bant Snowblade

What's The Deal?

A modern day Caw-Blade. Mixing the best Blue control elements with Stoneforge Mystic providing a low-cost threat that also plays defense. Extremely flexible and able to react accordingly to whatever threats are presented, but sometimes slow to set up.

Stoneforge Mystic
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Arcum's Astrolabe

When they unbanned Stoneforge Mystic the narrative was the Modern was going to buckle under the weight of the 2-drop's ubiquity, but that was quickly disproven. Stoneforge Mystic was a bit too fair for the format, and the right interactive tools didn't really line up with it. Well that was until a metric ton of new tools got printed and things got wild.

Arcum's Astrolabe and the rest of Modern Horizons gave interactive decks a total shot in the arm, with Force of Negation providing very important glue for fair decks and cards like Arcum's Astrolabe and Ice-Fang Coatl shoring up the early game. These joined other control standouts like Teferi, Time Raveler, Path to Exile, and Snapcaster Mage to round out a more proactive take on the usual Azorius Control.

Mystic Sanctuary
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

And with Throne of Eldraine and Theros Beyond Death came even more goodies.

Mystic Sanctuary has been all over Modern, providing Blue decks with annoying loops and flexibility tied to a simple fetchland. Whether just re-buying a critical Supreme Verdict or forming a soft lock with Cryptic Command, Mystic Sanctuary is obnoxious. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath also gives the deck another fantastic and versatile threat that lines up very well against interactive decks.

How To Beat It

For all the late game prowess, the first few turns can be quite the adventure for Bant Snowblade if Arcum's Astrolabe doesn't show up. Lots of basic lands, Field of Ruin, and demanding mana costs mean if they stumble you're going to want to pounce. Also they can only be ready for so many strategies; presenting a threat they aren't prepared for goes a long way as well.

Bant Snowblade is extremely customizable (some players are even playing the deck without Stoneforge Mystic!) and scary in the hands of a good pilot.

Heliod Company

What's The Deal?

Take a bunch of creature-based two card combos and put them in the same deck. Tie it all together with some mana acceleration, Collected Company, and perhaps one of the most broken cards legal in the format in Once Upon A Time.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Spike Feeder
Walking Ballista

Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Walking Ballista has been perhaps overhyped into oblivion, but the real find for Modern is Spike Feeder. It's pretty simple: with Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Spike Feeder in play, you've got infinite life. It's not hard to see how having the ability to Collected Company into both at instant speed gives this deck a huge amount of potential. Walking Ballista is essentially just the cherry on top. This combo also works with Kitchen Finks and a sacrifice outlet, as the +1/+1 counter negates the persist counter and allows you to go infinite.

Devoted Druid
Vizier of Remedies

But that's not all! We've also got the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies infinite mana combo ready to make infinite mana as early as turn three, which can then be fueled into Finale of Devastation or Walking Ballista.

How To Beat It

If you can't kill creatures or interact you need to be faster, which can be difficult. However, with ample amounts of creature removal you are often able to break up the various combos. The individual cards aren't super powerful on their own, making removal effective in breaking things up.

Dimir Whirza

What's The Deal?

A Dimir Control deck banking on artifact synergies. Urza, Lord High Artificer serves as the primary win condition, allowing the deck to infinite combo with Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek. Mystic Sanctuary plays a huge role, both as a combo element as well as a way to Whir of Invention for combo pieces or bullets.

Urza, Lord High Artificer
Thopter Foundry
Whir of Invention

Again, it's amazing how good these decks are without Mox Opal; It just goes to show how insane they were with it. Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek is already a fairly potent combination against many decks in the format, but Urza puts it into high gear providing a compact Splinter Twin-style combo among fair cards. Tap Sword of the Meek for a mana, sacrifice it to Thopter Foundry, it comes back; rinse repeat for infinite life and tokens.

Mystic Sanctuary
Cryptic Command

While this feels like a combo deck, it's really just a control deck once again based around Mystic Sanctuary. You've got all your good, cheap interaction ready to roll, this time backed up with black removal and discard. Disrupt your opponent, take control of the game, and win when you can. How Mystic Sanctuary interacts with Whir of Invention really puts things over the top, allowing it to run the entire deck from all angles.

How To Beat It

Without the speed of Mox Opal and with the early game speedbumps that sometimes come along with playing Arcum's Astrolabe and Mystic Sanctuary, Dimir Whirza can be vulnerable to decks that can get under them. Try to stick early threats so you don't get caught up in endless Mystic Sanctuary loops. When sideboarding or approaching the deck strategically, don't think about it being a combo deck and oversideboard. Your goal is to overcome their fair plan.

This is another deck that is highly customizable; don't be surprising by "non-stock" configurations!

Titan Field

What's The Deal?

A much simpler Amulet Titan that loses a bit of speed for a much more streamlined plan. Put lands in play, get Field of the Dead or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, profit. The spiritual heir to the old Titan-Shift decks.

Primeval Titan
Field of the Dead
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove

Amulet Titan is certainly one of the best decks in the format, but there comes a point where people just want to look smart. The more straight forward Titan Field decks do many similar things, but do so without jumping through a host of hoops that may or may not even be necessary. Ramp and play Primeval Titan as soon as you possibly can and figure it out from there. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Valakut, and just playing lands is also a very nice backup plan, as is Field of the Dead. If you get the lands in play, you'll figure out some way to win.

Once Upon a Time
Castle Garenbrig

The more Throne of Eldraine cards in your deck the better, and once again we see Once Upon A Time pulling everything together as it finds almost every important card in the deck. Furthermore, this deck makes much better use of Castle Garenbrig than other Primeval Titan decks, allowing for a whole host of turn three Titans. The Black sideboard also gives us a great amount of unique interaction for facing off against other combo decks as well as early creatures.

How To Beat It

Aside from more direct elements like Blood Moon, Primeval Titan decks feel vulnerable to Blue decks in the games they don't draw Cavern of Souls. Cards like Remand and Mana Leak make ramping into 6-drops feel very silly, and the Aether Gust tech has caught on to even get around Cavern of Souls. Furthermore, these decks often create an insurmountable advantage on turn three or four but don't actually win the game, making them vulnerable to combo decks. Storm out or gain infinite life on turn four and you'll usually be in good shape.

Figure out what the end of the game is going to look like and work toward it.

The New Modern World Order

While the underlying core of these decks aren't always new, the bevy of new cards and themes has twisted them all in many unique and different ways. Playing against Titan Field is a good deal different than old Scapeshift decks, as playing against Bant Snowblade is different than playing against classic Azorius Control. It's important to understand the inner workings of all of these decks even if you never intend to play them, as you will play against them.

Modern used to be the format where you had your deck and you played it for years, only making minor sideboard alterations when necessary. The format rarely changed drastically, allowing players to coast on the same deck for as long as they liked.

This is no longer true.

Change comes early and often now, and you must be able to keep up with the times if you want to compete. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to change decks every single week, but it does mean you need to keep on top of those players that will. Information is key, and it's your goal to find it and use it best you can.

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