Three Hot New Modern Decks

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
11/1/2017 11:01:00 AM
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There has been a lot of focus on Standard the past few weeks between the World Championship and the the upcoming Pro Tour, but Modern has been changing, too! Not only are there brand new decks, but some feature Ixalan cards and are putting up big results.

Perhaps the most exciting deck in Modern right now is Five-Color Humans. The deck won the last Modern Open, and now won the most recent Classic, which means essentially back-to-back wins in major tournaments. We have seen Human decks in Modern for a while now, but they haven't been five colors before. Kitesail Freebooter adds another dimension to this deck, as a form of disruption against most decks in the format. Here is what Matt Ling took down the Classic with.

Let's start off by looking at the mana base, because I can understand why a five-color mana base might sound overly optimistic. We rarely find five-color decks, as typically they aren't consistent enough. However, there are some important lands to take note of in this deck that really help a ton. Unclaimed Territory and Cavern of Souls double up as lands that work extraordinarily well in the deck, because all of your creatures are Humans.

In fact, any draw featuring Unclaimed Territory, Cavern of Souls or Ancient Ziggurat means that you are pretty much set in terms of mana, and that is over half the lands in the deck! This is a deck has a very low curve, so even though we see a ton of creatures we don't see any copies of Collected Company like you might expect to see in a deck like this. One of the other reasons for this is Ancient Ziggurat really doesn't work well in a deck with Collected Company, or any expensive noncreature spells for that matter.

There is only one spell in the deck, and it costs one mana, Aether Vial. Aether Vial is a great way to get multiple creatures into play on a single turn, and potentially blow your opponent out with something like a surprise Thalia's Lieutenant or Mayor of Avabruck. These two cards are part of the package that brings the Human theme together as a way to make the creatures look a lot more threatening. When they are put onto the battlefield at instant speed it can easily change combat math in your favor.

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This deck wants to come out of the gates quickly, as is the case with most decks in Modern. This means you want high quality one-mana threats besides Aether Vial. Champion of the Parish is a great way to start the game because you are going to be able to play a bunch more Humans for the rest of the game, which is easy of a tradeoff for the fact it is a bad draw late.

Noble Hierarch is a staple in many decks, but it is pretty spectacular here as an important source of colored mana and allowing you to run just 20 lands total. Beyond that, if you do play a turn one Noble Hierarch, it makes it easy to double spell on a key turn later on. Playing multiple cards in a turn is how this deck gains an edge. You also have creatures that are going to attempt to prevent the opponent from playing their most important cards. The deck is kind of like a Hatebears deck in some ways, but all of the Hatebears happen to be Humans!

Both Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Thalia, Heretic Cathar are present, and can be in play at the same time. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is actually very well set up for the current metagame and synergizes quite nicely with rest of the deck. Since the only noncreature spell in the Humans deck is Aether Vial, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben essentially only hurts the opponent. This is yet another reason to not play Collected Company, as it being five mana versus four is a big downside. Storm is one of the most popular Modern decks, so having access to a card like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can provide free wins against certain matchups.

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 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
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Thalia, Heretic Cathar is a little less impactful than Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but it still can slow down the opponent enough to be a major difference maker. Both Thalia have a way of setting the opponent one turn back, and that's very valuable. The other card that can completely shut down the opponent, depending on their hand, and deck, is Meddling Mage. Meddling Mage can be very good, or is just a Grizzly Bear - but you were probably winning those games anyway.

Playing with Meddling Mage can be tricky, so it's mportant to know what cards the opponent may have access to in their deck, which means knowing a lot of the Modern format to make it a lot easier to name the correct card. Against combo decks, if you are able to name their most important card it may mean the opponent is completely unable to function.

The rest of the creatures in the main deck are solid threats. Mantis Rider is an above average three-drop and adds another flying threat just in case the opponent is playing a midrange deck with lots of ground creatures. Reflector Mage is a card that is going to be good against any deck with a fair amount of creatures, and is another way to really set the opponent back and get ahead. However, Reflector Mage is the first card to take out against decks with very few creatures.

The sideboard is full of creatures, and they are all Humans, what a surprise! The mana base is centered around playing Human creatures in the deck, so playing anything else in the sideboard just doesn't make sense. Luckily there are plenty of Humans to work with in Modern, so there are more good ones in the sideboard to swap in and out with the creatures in the main. It should be pretty clear when some of these sideboarded creatures come in, as most of them are very matchup-specific.

Ethersworn Canonist is another way to beat Storm, while Vithian Renegades is for any deck with a good amount of artifacts, namely Affinity. Xathrid Necromancer is a good grindy creature against midrange decks that are trying to beat you by having lots of removal. This deck may only be a couple weeks old, but it seems like a very strong contender in Modern. This is one of those situations where a deck was completely off the radar and is now one of the main decks to beat in the format. Kitesail Freebooter and Unclaimed Territory took the deck to the next level.

The Five-Color Humans deck has been getting lots of attention but there are also some other decks that have popped up recently that are easy to miss. Hollow One is still a card with a ton of untapped Modern potential, we have seen it in the aggressive decks built around Vengevine, but there are definitely other options for discard outlets that allow you to get it into play quickly. Playing Hollow One for zero is a very real possibility in this deck.

Burning Inquiry is a one-mana enabler that can be played on turn one alongside Hollow One. Faithless Looting and Cathartic Reunion provide a similar effect, though they aren't quite as explosive. This deck is all about discarding cards, as we see Flamebade Adept entering the world of Modern. Adept can attack for a ton of damage on turn two, and really puts a lot of pressure on the opponent. Street Wraith is going to fit in any deck like this, as it triggers all of the discard synergies without the need to invest any mana.

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The creatures in the deck work well with getting cards into the graveyard. Both Flamewake Phoenix and Bloodghast want to be discarded and placed into the graveyard, though you can just cast them if necessary. This means you are actively creating card advantage by discarding certain cards. Gurmag Angler is usually only going to cost one mana if you cast it later in the game. Call to the Netherworld is in the deck almost exclusively to be able to bring back Gurmag Angler. The deck can madness cards out pretty easily.

The burn package of Lightning Bolt and Fiery Temper gives closing speed later in the game. This deck is a synergy deck with a lot going on but it also wants to be aggressive, and that means racing the opponent. The deck is not just sweet, it is legitimately good. With all the looting, it becomes pretty easy to go through a lot of your deck and take advantage of all the cycling and graveyard interactions.

The last deck I'm going to talk about is the deck that finished as the runner up in the recent Classic, Blue-Red Breach.

While this deck isn't new, per se, it hasn't been on the radar until very recently. Cheating Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play is definitely a way to get easy wins, and the deck is built around doing just that. Opt adds another way to sift through the deck and find the two-card combo of Through the Breach and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Blood Moon is another way to cheese wins out against a variety of decks, and typically fits nicely into straight blue-red decks.

Through the Breach plus Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is how you win the game, but that's only eight cards in the deck, so you can afford to fill out the rest of the deck with lots of card draw and control spells. Mana denial is one of the best ways to slow down the opponent, as Spreading Seas supplements the Blood Moon plan nicely. This deck is well positioned against decks with small creatures that die to Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze. These are the removal spells you are relying on to kill early threats, but can be vulnerable if the opponent does have a larger cheap creature like Tarmogoyf.

Right now, Blue-Red Breach seems to be the most popular way to cheat Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play. The fact that you don't have to rely on the graveyard like Goryo's Vengeance strategies is pretty nice. The deck is somewhat vulnerable to opposing disruption, but the backup plan of using Snapcaster Mages and Young Pyromancer after sideboard to beat the opponent down is actually realistic. The sideboard allows you to transition away from the Through the Breach combo depending on the matchup.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield





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