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Modern and Legacy Mailbag


Hey everyone!

I've been testing Modern and Legacy for this weekend's NRG Team 10k. Since I haven't been testing unique decks and am fairly locked in, I thought it would be fun to do another mailbag about Modern and Legacy.

Let's get to it!

Matt Sperling's question is going to kick things off because I can share my favorite Modern and Legacy decklists. I also have the chance to save humanity from aliens. No pressure.

Modern has been near and dear to my heart since the return to paper events. I'll likely be playing Grixis Dress Shadow for my team this weekend in Chicago.

Here's my list:

I've made some slight changes over the last couple of weeks that make the deck much stronger overall.

Inquisition of Kozilek has become weaker against control decks because they rely heavily on pitch elementals that can be cast on the first turn while having a high mana value.

I swapped the third Inquisition for a second Lightning Bolt to increase my chances against creature decks on the draw. Ragavan is insane on the play, but needs a lot of help when playing second. I could play a Fatal Push in this spot, but Bolt is a more generic spell that can be played proactively.

Lightning Bolt can be a better topdeck in the late game which plays better with the nineteenth land. Aspiringspike and Michael Rapp, two Shadow aficionados, also endorse two Inquisitions and I think it's here to stay.

The downside of this swap is that I have one less good discard spell after sideboard against creature decks. For this reason I would like to go from six up to seven cheap removal. I just need to interact early and often. Fatal Push in my sideboard fills this role nicely.

Kolaghan's Command is strong against Hammertime, Tron, Amulet Titan, and Azorius Control. I've liked a second copy in the sideboard because Command is able to generate card advantage while affecting the board against aggressive decks. Expressive Iteration is often too slow to be cast- especially on the draw. Adding Lurrus to your hand is another way to generate card advantage without affecting the board so I don't need much of the effect.

I'm moving to Soul-Guide Lantern as my graveyard hate. This is because the ETB ability is useful against Dredge, Living End, and Esper Reanimator. I don't draw a card when I exile additional cards, but this is only relevant in the Dress Shadow mirror.

A quick check on MtGTop8 and I find that Living End plays .4 Leyline of Sanctity on average in a recent sample. This is a very small amount and the lack of targeting from Soul-Guide Lantern is currently not relevant.

A single Alpine Moon is to interact with Hammertime's Urza's Sagas. I want one-mana plays to keep up.

The single Spreading Seas is the second land hate spell. I still value Seas surviving Blast Zone x=1 against Tron. I also didn't find myself wanting two flexible 2-drops, but the singleton has been good for me.

I've been impressed with Spell Pierce and I decided to play a third copy. Most of my sideboard cards are fairly narrow because the maindeck spells are either proactive or interact with a variety of threats. Engineered Explosives, Soul-Guide Lantern, and Alpine Moon/Spreading Seas are for Big Mana and Cascade matchups where Spell Pierce shines. The alternative is to play a third copy of more targeted interaction, but I get more bang for the buck with another Spell Pierce.

The extra Spell Pierce isn't free as I'm sacrificing the Mystical Dispute against Murktide Regent and Omnath.

Overall, I would play Dress Shadow in Modern to save humanity. I'm comfortable with the play style and have been battling with it for a few months.

The other option to save humanity is a Rhino update. Cascade decks have been on the decline lately because Teferi, Time Raveler has been present in both Azorius Control and Omnath Piles. We know the terms of engagement so there's a chance to fight back:

The first twenty-eight spells are still locked in:

The last eight spells are up for debate:

3 Dead // Gone - I typically favor four Dead // Gone against aggressive decks, but given the increased presence of Hallowed Fountain I moved the last to the sideboard.

2 Archmage's Charm - In my previous versions of Temur Rhinos I played four anti-aggro flex cards (4 Dead // Gone) and four grindy flex cards (2 Cryptic Command and 2 Seasoned Pyromancer). By swapping a Cryptic Command and Dead // Gone for Archmage's Charm I'm moving toward a more generic card that plays well against fast and slow Modern decks. In matchups where I want Dead // Gone I can steal creatures with Charm.

1 Cryptic Command - There's still value in playing a Cryptic Command as it's a way to deal with maindeck Chalice of the Void or clear the way against Tarmogoyf.

Both of the counters cost uuu so I changed the mana base. Flooded Grove can turn Forest and Stomping Ground into uu to help cast a turn three Archmage's Charm. The Green mana can also help cast Endurance, Thrun, and Force of Vigor after sideboard.

There are twenty lands that make Blue mana. The remaining four are Mountain, Forest, Stomping Ground, and Gemstone Caverns.

2 Seasoned Pyromancer - Two copies of Pyromancer have continued to impress. Three is too many.

The sideboard is mostly locked in:

The remaining four slots are able to be swapped:

1 Dead // Gone - In fast creature matchups a way to interact for one mana is a unique effect. It helps convert games where you're on the draw into a win. I believe playing less than four copies in your seventy-five is a mistake.

1 Prismari Command - Another piece of interaction against Hammertime that can pick off random hateful artifacts without bringing in the more narrow Force of Vigor.

2 Thrun, the Last Troll - This represents a hammer in the Hallowed Fountain matchups. I don't care about a turn three Teferi, Time Raveler if I'm able to stick this massive threat on the following turn. The sweeper of choice, Supreme Verdict, cannot kill Thrun if you hold up mana to regenerate.

If Burn is popular in your local metagame I would find room for two Weather the Storm. Leyline of Sanctity is too narrow and cannot be cast if it's drawn.

I've abandoned Blood Moon. It's unlikely the opponent boards in Blood Moon against Temur Rhinos so there isn't a need for the third Island. This was a good opportunity to make room for the two Flooded Grove. Blood Moon is just another three-mana play against Big Mana decks and Living End after Cascade spells, Mystical Dispute, and Archmage's Charm.

I have less reps with Legacy so I wouldn't put humanity's fate on the line, but I do like my Jeskai Pile. It's hard to go wrong with Ragavan and Brainstorm.

I continue to be impressed by the maindeck. There haven't been any changes even though I've been actively thinking about the deck. I plan to play this deck in a local Legacy 2K in December located in northern Ohio.

The sideboard has changed over the last couple of weeks:

1 End the Festivities - The one new card from Innistrad: Crimson Vow. It's a strict upgrade to other cards with this effect. It will help improve the Elves and D&T matchups.

2 Court of Grace - A hammer in Blue mirrors because it gets around Pyroblast. If I keep the battlefield clean it will also make short work of D&T opponents. I can even steal the monarchy from opposing Palace Jailors and Court of Cunning.

Burn is one of the many good choices in Modern. I prefer the Zoomer version of the deck despite seeing more Boomer versions having success.

Here's my Zoomer list:

I've played Burn at a few tournaments recently and this list has fared well. The upside of Zoomer Burn is your draws are far more consistent and can use Lurrus more effectively thanks to Mishra's Bauble. Boomer Burn has more polarizing matchups because it plays less generic spells, but more direct damage.

I don't think Ragavan needs a ban in Legacy. The most popular Ragavan deck, Izzet Delver, has a weak matchup against D&T. Most decks that are being played in Legacy have a passable matchup against Delver otherwise they would vanish from the metagame. The deck is very powerful and warps the format, but there are still a variety of decks to play.

I'm happy with the diversity in Legacy and would not advocate for a ban.

I dislike the idea of paying a lot of money for food more than ban discussions. A key part of ban discussions is to look at the format compared to where it would settle without the cards on the chopping block. It's good to examine the format as a whole. I will pay more than the minimum amount for food because healthy food is typically more expensive than the bottom of the barrel. Truly expensive food is typically bad for you so it's not value.

Similar to Legacy, I feel good about the current Modern format.

The criteria to evaluate a format isn't constant, but in this case I like that each week a new archetype returns to the forefront or there are a variety of decks at the top. Who would have suspected Charbelcher comes from left field to dominate the weekend MODO events? Merfolk? Then the next week Amulet Titan is miraculously back from the dead.

Even the top tier decks have flaws to be easily exploited. It's clear Murktide suffers at the hands of controlling Solitude decks. Hallowed Fountain Control decks are slow and thrive when the field is condensed. Hammertime can be beaten with powerful sideboard cards and a low curve.

Modern Horizons 2 shook up the format by supercharging numerous archetypes. All of the decks in Modern's top tier are hyper-efficient which is able to create diversity. Why play a streamlined deck on everyone's radar when you can play a deck that has been temporarily forgotten? Modern Horizons 2 was FIRE done right. No one specific card is terrorizing the format because there are so many absurd cards printed recently.

The two most undervalued cards are both in my Temur Rhinos list: Dead // Gone and Thrun, the Last Troll.

Dead // Gone is played in most Rhino decklists, but in small numbers and often viewed as an unsexy option. Most of the four-color versions of Rhinos are playing fewer than four Dead // Gone, but are being replaced with more expensive spells.

Thrun, the Last Troll is a great hammer in Modern that helps keep the format from solidifying with Hallowed Fountain decks at the top. The money pile decks are strong, but can crumble when targeted just like the linear decks.

The color-intensive piles of good cards are certainly a valid approach to the Modern metagame, but it's clear that there are other strategies to compete. Most of the "unfair" decks fall into the category of Big Mana or Cascade which can be defeated with sideboard cards or lopsided matchups. For this reason, it's hard to play a surprise linear deck that won't be hit by the popular sideboard cards.

Modern is filled with efficient decks so it's hard to prescribe one type of deck over the other. It's very important to be comfortable with the deck you're piloting even if it's not the best in an open metagame.

The Yorion piles in particular have a less impactful sideboard, but compensate with a powerful companion. In unfair matchups I value the sideboard more than another grindy element.

That's all I have for today. Thanks to everyone who participated and added to the mailbag!

Thanks for reading!


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