Written by Ssquirrel76
It’s been a bit since my last article, and while I have sat back and kept a general eye on how Modern has been going, so much of the Magic Twitter drama has been focused on other formats. While it’s been quieter about Modern, one of the most common refrains I have been hearing the last couple of weeks, is just how wide open the format feels. Sure you can register one of the Top 10 decks I will be discussing today (at least according to Goldfish) and probably have a decent night against a lot of opponents, but even decks outside the Top 10 can show up and wreck face. Modern is definitely a format where your matchups matter….a LOT…but given how in the last few years we would often see multiple decks above 10% of the meta and 4 or 5 taking up over 60% just by themselves, it’s refreshing to see more variety.
What’s caused this variety and how can we take advantage of it? The most obvious thing is that Modern Horizons 2 (MH2) happened, and there are so many powerful cards in the set that it has warped how we build and quite a few cards from the set have made themselves invaluable to your Magic collection. Some have obviously gotten more out of control than others (Ragavan says hi), but the set has a ton of strong cards and decks have changed quite a bit as a result. Let’s dive into our Top 10 and see the shape of Modern, as we are almost to Halloween.
#10: Blue Living End
Classically Living End has been a pretty all-in style of deck. It’s colors were Jund (Black/Red/Green) and you were spending a mana (or 2 life for Street Wraith) to cycle and put big, dumb idiots in your graveyard. Cascade into Living End and simultaneously wipe your opponent’s current board and bring back all of your own. Not a lot of counterplay, but when graveyard hate was low (and Dredge was in a slump), it would appear for a bit. These days the deck looks quite a bit different.
Now most of the cycling creatures are blue, the sorcery speed cascade spell has disappeared, leaving the instant speed one. Shardless Agent was a great creature pick up though, and kept the deck at 8 cascade options. All these Blue creatures means it is easy to be able to pitch to Force of Negation, giving the deck some very important counterplay that had previously been missing. You’ll note a number of MH2 cards chilling in the sideboard, as well as 8 others in the main. You’ll see those sideboard cards again as we move forward.
#9: Jeskai Control
Jeskai Control is a deck that used to be very common in Modern back when Splinter Twin was one of the top decks. It has fallen by the wayside in the intervening years, but has made a strong comeback of late. There are 3 cards that made this possible in the main of this list: Solitude, Prismatic Ending, and Counterspell. Solitude and Prismatic Ending are extremely solid removal, Solitude being limited to creatures, but Ending being flexible enough to take out nearly anything. Counterspell is, of course, the bar by which all countermagic in the game is set, going all the way back to Alpha. Combine some of the best planeswalkers ever printed, more counters, and flexible card draw, and you have a very strong list. Note the lone Kozilek in the sideboard to fight Mill, which is popular enough to only be a couple ranks outside of this article’s range.
#8: Mono-Green Tron
Tron is another old faithful deck in Modern. Several years back it was generally splashing Red for some removal, but for a while now it hasn’t had to bother with any splashes, partially because Karn is such a fantastic Swiss Army Knife for the deck. The main differences you will run into with lists are choices in creatures and some of the sideboard choices, but the only MH2 card in this list is Yavimaya. I don’t think that Yavimaya is responsible for the deck doing what it does in the current meta, although it certainly helps make sure you always have access to Green mana, the deck is just around feasting on bad matchups. Who knew 1+1+1=7 was strong?
#7: Azorius Blink
Blink and you’ll miss Yorion. No you won’t, he keeps making everything leave and come back, burying you under a mountain of card advantage. Yorion decks were already doing well before MH2 came out, the extra 20 cards not slowing players down a bit, because the card quality is pretty high in the upper echelon of Modern. Here we see the same trio of cards that helped bring back Jeskai Control again, as well as sideboard copies of Subtlety. Subtlety can save one of your creatures or remove an opponent’s creature for the moment. While they are in the process of using a fetch land is best. Now go value people to death, if that’s your thing.
#6: Izzet Regent
Some decks add some spells, some add a creature, but the entire creature base of this deck are new MH2 cards. We also see fan-favorite Counterspell make another return, as well as newbie removal spell Unholy Heat. Heat is one of the most flexible damage-based removal spells in years, and Delirium is really easy to obtain in Modern these days. Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC), Ragavan, and Murktide Regent are extremely powerful cards, and work to enable extremely powerful turns for your deck. DRC helps you obtain Delirium, Ragavan helps provide more mana as you clear a path for everyone’s favorite (stupidly expensive) monkey, and Regent comes down very cheap thanks to Delve, and usually several steps larger. 16 new cards from the same set is pretty big anytime, and these cards keep showing up in different decks as people try and use them wherever they can. Doesn’t seem like a bad plan. [Feel free to send me your unwanted Ragavans -Hagen]
You read that right, Jund. Jund used to be one of Modern’s top decks, but for a long while it had been relegated to the punchline of a joke, usually one related to people foiling out their decks. Well now that Jund has gone all-in on DRC and Ragavan, that foil decklist is a much larger mountain to climb for prospective devotees looking to be their LGS’s resident Jund Player. Jund used to top out at 4 mana value cards like Bloodbraid Elf to drop extra value onto the table, especially Liliana of the Veil. These days tho, Jund has gone on a diet, no more than 2 mana value, otherwise the value of a sideboard copy of Lurrus couldn’t be utilized. Kicking the carbs certainly did wonders for Jund, as its new svelte figure grinds harder than ever. When in doubt, Jund ’em out!
Why just play some of the cards when you can play all of them? 11 new cards in this list, and the 2 we haven’t mentioned yet are Fury and Endurance, 2 of the pitch Evoke cards. All 5 have shown up in one list or another so far, and I expect to see them show up for a long time, because they’re just really useful. The goal with this deck is to cascade into some Rhinos, remove some blockers and stomp your opponent into the ground. Just like the Blue Living End deck, we see a bunch of potential cards to pitch to Force of Negation, including split cards. Most of the deck is built around value and while you can definitely see a turn 2 Cascade into 8 power on the battlefield, the deck is also contending to grind you into powder.
#3: Azorius Control
This deck is very similar to what we saw with Jeskai Control, even running the same new cards in the deck. Looking back, we see different planeswalkers counts and we don’t have the splashed Wear//Tear, but what I said earlier about Jeskai can be re-stated here easily. Play whatever version you are more comfortable with, altho guys like Francesco may have different thoughts. Great mind for this deck style and a champion for it and players of it everywhere, definitely a solid add on Twitter.
Anyone who knows me knows that over the years since I began playing again following a long break (or who knew me before), I’m Burn Guy. I may show up with a different deck at FNM here and there, but even if I have practiced a lot with the other decks, when a larger event rolls around, I am probably sleeving up my Mountains and melting some faces. Yeah, the matches are over fast and I have plenty of time to hang out or get some food, and right now the deck is well-positioned. Burn doesn’t try and be fancy or break the mold too often, it just wants you dead and signing that match slip ASAP. The only new card in this list is Sanctifier en-Vec, which booted Kor Firewalker from the sideboard and trades lifegain potential for some really vicious graveyard control. One of the stronger hate cards we have seen recently for sure.
Prismatic Ending was in the sideboard the first couple of months after MH2 came out, but it looks like the prevailing wisdom has caught up to my thought that in Burn it’s just too expensive a lot of the time. Fantastic for a deck like Control that wants to maintain peak flexibility, but Path to Exile and Deflecting Palm both handle large dudes like Murktide Regent that Ending is just useless against.
#1: Hammer Time
Luckily for everyone, a pair of Hammer pants are not required to play the deck, but you do you. Yes, we have another Lurrus deck, probably the card that over the last 2 years has single-handedly forced the average mana value of decks downward the most. Similar in concept to a deck like Infect, the goal is to get a Puresteel Paladin on the table, a bunch of cheap equipment, and swing-out before going to get a snack before your next round. Esper Sentinel shows up just to force some card advantage against your opponent, and while we have a couple of sideboard cards from MH2 that we have seen before, the only card not spotted on prior lists is Void Mirror. When this card was announced, it was hailed as the death of Tron (narrator: it wasn’t), but what it really has been seeing play against is all the free spells that have invaded the meta. The pitch Evoke cycle, the Force cycle from MH1, etc. Sometimes it does make Tron decks hate life too, and the only people sad about that are Tron players. No hate, I enjoy dropping quick fatties as much as the next player.
Just kidding, Urza’s Saga is also in the deck. This card is filthy, tons of value, and the potential for some cheap big creatures to stomp you down quickly. Given how artifact-heavy this deck is, the Constructs you can create with the land do their job very well. This is the premiere creature combo deck in the format these days and, as much as I personally love playing Infect, it isn’t really close. At least my Inkmoth Nexi bounced back in value, which might matter if I was going to sell them. I’m not.
OK folks, that’s a quick spin thru the current meta of Modern and I hope everyone enjoyed a quick analysis of how some of the best cards from Modern Horizons 2 have helped shape the format since the summer. Until next time!
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