Seven Modern Decks Under the Radar

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
3/1/2017 11:01:00 AM
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With Modern Masters 2017 previews in full swing, I'm looking forward to diving into the format. Rather than talk about the best decks based on results, today I want to showcase some decks that are not as well known as we head into the 2017 TCGplayer State Championshps this weekend. There are certainly some players here, but they're maybe one big finish away from getting more recognition.

Amulet Titan

Since the banning of Summer Bloom, the Amulet Titan deck completely disappeared for a while. This was one of the top decks in Modern, and some would even go as far as to call it broken. In the last few weeks, Amulet Titan decks start to pop up again, and it turns out the deck has legs even without Summer Bloom.

Other decks have adapted to major bannings – just look at Dredge and Death's Shadow. Amulet Titan seems to be another example of that.

The deck looks very similar to how it did with Summer Bloom. Taking the place of Summer Bloom is the full four Azusa, Lost but Seeking, and there is a new standout here in Sakura-Tribe Scout. The deck needs to have a way to play additional lands and this pair does that, though it makes the deck more reliant on creatures. Sakura-Tribe Scout can immediately help play bounce lands early and get to Primeval Titan faster, which is what the deck is all about.

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Hive Mind has been cut as an alternative win condition, so you really need either Primeval Titan or a Summoner's Pact to go find Primeval Titan. With Amulet of Vigor, you can immediately find Boros Garrison and Slayers' Stronghold with Primeval Titan, use the lands to give it haste and then find two more lands after attacking. The diversity of lands here creates a powerful toolbox that allows you to come back from behind. Vesuva is a flexible way to copy a land that the deck only plays one of.

Zoo

Zoo isn't a new deck in Modern, but it often gets overshadowed by other aggressive decks, namely Burn. This is not just a worse version of Burn – in fact it is more explosive – and Zoo even has a good matchup against the Burn. Surging in Reckless Bushwhacker early and getting in for massive amounts of damage accounts for the most explosive starts, and Burning-Tree Emissary is an easy way to cast multiple spells in a single turn. The new addition to the deck is Hidden Herbalists, an overlooked Aether Revolt card that functions as a pseudo-Emissary. Along with Narnam Renegade, the Aether Revolt cards have taken this archetype to the next level.

It's a primarily red-green beatdown deck with a revolt twist. The deck gets on the board early and often with a full 20 one-mana creatures. Experiment One is often the one-drop the deck starts on, and Goblin Guide and Kird Ape are some redundant two-power threats for one mana, giving the deck consistency early. Both of the Aether Revolt cards here are much better when played with revolt, which often means sacrificing a fetch land before playing them.

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The best draws involve a one-drop into Hidden Herbalists and Burning-Tree Emissary, followed by Reckless Bushwhacker or more one-drops. This deck can often win on turn three or four, and a single removal spell or two isn't enough to stop Zoo because the threats keep coming. There are 32 creatures here, so watch out!

Black-Green Tron

It seems like every few months now there is a new Tron variant that pops up and starts doing well. Right now, Eldrazi Tron is the most popular version of Tron, whereas we very rarely see the classic Red-Green Tron deck anymore. Since the deck plays so many colorless cards, there is a real question if the deck even needs colors; Eldrazi Tron is completely colorless, but Tron decks that go bigger still want Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying. The question becomes what other color is worth splashing for, and black makes a good case with Collective Brutality.

The deck has many of the typical cards you expect out of Tron decks – planeswalkers and huge colorless creatures will win the game once Tron is online. The problem the deck traditionally has is early aggression or a land destruction spell. Collective Brutality goes a long way towards making sure you don't die too quickly. All three modes are extremely relevant, as even against slower decks grabbing an instant or sorcery from the opponent can make a game much easier to navigate. There is usually at least one card that the Tron player doesn't need, and that can be used towards escalating Collective Brutality.

Outside of Collective Brutality, this deck also has access to Fatal Push against aggressive decks, and we see some in the sideboard (sacrificing Expedition Map is one of the few ways to trigger revolt.)

Storm

For players who have been watching Modern closely over the past few weeks, Storm is no longer the same deck it once was. This one may still be under the radar a bit, but that won't be the case for long. Even though the deck used to play Gitaxian Probe – and that banning did hurt the deck – it really has gained more from the printing of Baral, Chief of Compliance than it lost. Playing cards it didn't before like Gifts Ungiven, Remand and Merchant Scroll work well with either Goblin Electromancer or Baral, Chief of Compliance, and have transformed the face of Storm.

Pyromancer's Ascension is a thing of the past; the deck is all-in on reducing the mana cost of its instants and sorceries, and Gift's Ungiven can make sure there is enough gas in the tank to win. Past in Flames is still a key part of the deck since Gifts Ungiven you can still flash it back if needed. A single Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens is enough to end the game on a big turn.

The deck does still have some vulnerabilities, like Eidolon of the Great Revel. However, the single Echoing Truth in the main deck is a good catch-all answer, and Lightning Bolt is an important sideboard tool. Some lists have more Empty the Warrens in the sideboard, which are a good plan against lots of discard spells and disruption.

8-Rack

In Modern, there are so many different decks, and one of the most unique is 8-Rack, which wins by loading up on discard. This deck has a variety of discard, and then uses The Rack and Shrieking Affliction to close out the game. The deck disappeared for a time, but recently it has been putting up some solid finishes. The strategy is naturally good against combo decks because they are unable to put too much pressure on, and all the discard means it is easy to take away specific combo pieces. Later in the game Raven's Crime, means that it is pretty easy to stop the opponent from having any cards in hand.

I witnessed Penner battling for Top 8 in the last round of GP Vancouver, and he just barely got edged out by Affinity, one of the tougher matchups. Generally, the decks that play their cards out very quickly and get under the discard spells are the most problematic. The Rack and Shrieking Affliction do present a clock, but it sometimes isn't as fast as what the opponent is doing. Once a permanent is on the board there are only so many answers 8-Rack has.

Smallpox and Liliana of the Veil are cards that can serve multiple roles. They can be used to make the opponent discard, but the edict effect means they also can deal with an opposing threat, which is extremely relevant. We also see Fatal Push and Dismember here, which the deck can be very reliant on.

Mardu Midrange

With black-green midrange decks being so popular, sometimes other options are overlooked. The Mardu colors have access to a variety of planeswalkers, discard, removal spells, and Lingering Souls, so what's not to like? There aren't too many creatures in the deck, which means spot removal isn't a huge deal.

Most of the time the deck has Nahiri, the Harbinger alongside Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but McInerney has opted not to go that direction. Flipping Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with Dark Confidant is brutal when it happens, and Dark Confidant is quite good here. Kolaghan's Command is a way to bring Dark Confidant back after getting hit by opposing removal. Rather than Nahiri, we see Gideon, Ally of Zendikar alongside Liliana, of the Veil.

Having some planeswalkers is important because the deck needs some way to advance its board presence. Lingering Souls is always a good way to close out games, and it turns out flying spirits can still get the job done. The abundance of removal makes is very difficult for the opponent to get any creatures into play at all. Once the first few threats have been dealt with, Mardu takes control of the game easily. Since there is so much creature removal, the decks with lots of midrange creatures tend to be favorable matchups.

Soul Sisters

Soul Sisters has been around in Modern for some time, yet has never been close to being a top tier archetype. That does not mean the deck is bad, and there are actually a number of good things going for the deck. It's very good against certain strategies and many matchups are lopsided, which can make this deck a good metagame call. Aggressive and midrange decks are generally pretty easy to beat. And as is relevant in the current metagame, it turns out Auriok Champion does a good job of blocking a Death's Shadow.

The deck is almost mono-white, apart from three Blood Moons in the sideboard. There are a ton of ways to gain life, while Spectral Procession and Ranger of Eos create a constant stream of threats. Meyers has decided not to play Martyr of Sands, Honor of the Pure or Squadron Hawk here, but those are options as well. Brave the Elements can give all the creatures in the deck protection from a color, which helps to enable a big attack. Windbrisk Heights is a great way to get a free spell out of a land, and this deck is able to attack with three creatures regularly.

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As far as the bad matchups, some combo decks are tough to stop. The sideboard allows you to pick and choose which decks you want specific hate cards for – the four Stony Silence clearly indicate the goal is to beat Lantern Control and Affinity, for instance. We see the sideboard is primarily geared towards beating the bad matchups, as cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Rest in Peace can be great in the right situations. Soul Sisters is a competitive deck, so don't sleep on it.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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