There are some important Modern trends taking shape to take note of, and there were some pretty wild decks that appeared in tournaments last weekend, so today I'll run down them all.
Lantern Control burst into Modern in 2015, when Zack Elsik took the deck to its first high-profile finish with a Top 16 at Grand Prix Charlotte and then followed it up by winning Grand Prix Oklahoma City three months later. It subsequently received a lot of attention, but it failed to materialize as a major deck, and eventually fell to an afterthought as one among the crowd of dozens of Modern decks that are competitive but not significant factors in the metagame. Things have changed, and Lantern Control is suddenly putting up big results and being played by some high-profile names. The release of Whir of Invention was a major boon to the deck, and over the course of the past year players online have been reworking the deck to best take advantage of the powerful artifact tutor. The deck has been tuned into a streamlined machine, and it is being adopted by Lantern Control players as the best build for them to play in paper events. I know Sam Black has been a fan of the Lantern Control deck since it broke out, and he is now doing his part in forging a new future for the deck by playing it to the top eight of the SCG Invitational last weekend, where he achieved the best record of any player during the Modern portion.
Former World Champion Brian Braun-Duin made strong endorsement for the deck by playing it to the semifinals of the SCG Modern Classic.
Another Modern deck that doesn't get much respect is 8-Rack, but it's on its way to becoming a legitimate contender. There were a whopping three copies in the Top 8 of the SCG Modern Classic weekend.
To be fair, this was the third-tier event of the weekend, behind the Invitational and the Open, but it's still a significant event, and the deck's performance was downright dominant. Earlier this year Tom Ross could be seen championing the deck, but he has left to work at Wizards, and now his friend Todd Anderson has been discussing the deck and played it last weekend in the Invitational. The deck's threats are very difficult to interact with, and it's loaded with disruption – including the additional of Fatal Push, which spurred the deck's revival – and plays some of the very best cards in Modern, like Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil.
Smallpox is the best card in the deck, and it gives the deck a very strong play against creature decks. The deck has also gained a nice sideboard tool with Bontu's Last Reckoning as a Damnation at a discount, which is especially important with Smallpox restricting the deck's mana.
Two of the copies in the Top 8 of the Classic were identical, which leads me to believe they were friends, making the finish even more impressive, but the third played a set of Pack Rat to turn up the pressure!
Last weekend saw a ton of unique decks doing well, but none better than the Mono-Red Prison deck that finished in the Top 4 of the Modern Open.
The deck resembles a similar Legacy deck, which uses the same lock pieces of Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon to shut down opponents. Ensnaring Bridge shuts down creatures and will beat many opponents singlehandedly. Once the opponent is under control, Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Goblin Rabblemaster can start to generate value and take down the opponent. The deck doesn't have access to two-mana lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, so it instead uses Pyretic Ritual and Desperate Ritual to accelerate. It even uses three Gemstone Caverns to get the jump on opponents when it's on the draw. The sideboard is full of hosers, and I especially like Eidolon of the Great Revel as a way to catch unprepared Storm decks.
Enduring Ideal was one time the centerpiece of the best deck in Extended, but it didn't age well and failed to make the transition into Modern when it lost many of its best enchantments. New enchantments combined with the format slowing down has made the deck viable, and it put up a great result with its third-place finish in the SCG Modern Classic.
Enduring Ideal wins by assembling a combination of enchantments to lock down the opponent and then win the game, so the deck turns to Overwhelming Splendor as its prime target. It does a great job of containing the opponent's threats and nearly locking them out on its own, and by removing any potential flying creatures – including those generated by Dovescape – it ensures a lock when combined with Form of the Dragon shutting down the ground. This build of the deck is designed to function even without Enduring Ideal by operating as something of a Red-White Prison deck, and it's especially effective because all of its Enduring Ideal targets are castable, so it's no issue to draw any of them. It's filled with cards that can win some games and beat some opponents by themselves, like Blood Moon, Suppression Field, Ghostly Prison, Leyline of Sanctity, and Runed Halo. Its core of white enchantments comes together to enable Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which helps to accelerate into Enduring Ideal as an alternative to relying on Lotus Bloom. The deck also has a great sideboard full of some of the best hosers in the format, so its prison plan becomes very robust after sideboard.
Another deck that popped up last weekend, albeit only as a 5-0 in an online league, is this alternative approach to Living End, which was reinvigorated as a competitive Modern deck after the release of Amonkhet and its cyclers, but has since completely fallen out of favor. Perhaps this blue-black build, which ditches the cascade spells for As Foretold, could bring it back to the spotlight.
The cascade spells make traditional Living End decks extremely consistent, but they also completely restrict the deck by making it unable to play a fair game using one and two-mana spells. Relying on As Foretold or suspending to cast Living End completely changes the game plan, and it opens up the deck to play real spells to disrupt the opponent, like Mana Leak and Remand. As Foretold opens up access to Ancestral Vision, which is a nice card advantage tool for a deck that can play a legitimate counter-control game, with a curve of counters up to Cryptic Command, until it combos off with As Foretold and Living End. This plan works well with the cyclers, which can be cycled at end of the opponent's turn with any leftover mana held untapped for casting countermagic. The blue core also gives the deck the ability to play Tolaria West, which can be cashed in to find Living End – making the As Foretold plan much more consistent – or Ancestral Vision. It's clear that the traditional Living End deck is no longer working in this metagame, so I applaud this approach at making it work, and I'll be looking to see if it catches on with more players.
Another alternative approach on an existing deck is this build of Affinity, which goes back to its roots by including the original Affinity creatures that formed the backbone of the deck, Frogmite and Myr Enforcer.
Actual Affinity cards received a serious nerf with the banning of the artifact lands, but this deck attempts to use them by instead playing a wealth of zero and one-mana artifacts, while removing colored spells and the necessity for Glimmervoid and Spire of Industry, bringing the land count down to 12. The deck won't be able to empty its hand and put multiple Myr Enforcer one turn one, but it plays enough artifacts to reliably bring the cost down to a couple mana, and combined with Frogmite will give the deck a very aggressive slant. Steel Overseer is my favorite card in Affinity, but some experts like Pieter Tubergen have been cutting their numbers, so it may not be too sorely missed here, as the pump effect is replaced by Contested War Zone, which the deck uses in place of Inkmoth Nexus.
Bant Eldrazi emerged as the top Eldrazi deck after the banning of Eye of Ugin, but it has since been supplanted by Eldrazi Tron. This White-Green Eldrazi deck returns to the plan of combining mana acceleration creatures with the Eldrazi, but replaces the blue cards like Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Skyspawner with Eldritch Evolution.
Eldrazi Evolution is excellent for unlocking the value in Matter Reshaper and Voice of Resurgence and converting them into Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer. It also provides access to a toolbox of one-ofs like Thragtusk, Eternal Witness and a huge assortment of silver-bullet hosers in the sideboard. The two-color mana base makes Hashep Oasis a great fit into the Eldrazi deck as a source of colorless mana with upside. The deck is more consistent than the Bant version, and trades the power of Tron lands for Eldrazi Displacer and the consistency of Eldritch Evolution. The mana creatures also make it faster, and it will have more draws with a turn two Thought-Knot Seer, so there's something to be said for the deck.
Mono-White Death and Taxes has seen more success in Modern over the past six months than it ever has before. The core strategy of disruptive white creatures backed up by Aether Vial lends itself very well to splashing blue.
Blue opens up access to Spell Queller – one of the best creatures in Modern and a key factor in Jeskai – along with Reflector Mage, which Humans is also putting to great use with Aether Vial. This deck goes even deeper into blue with Trophy Mage, which does its best impersonation of Stoneforge Mystic by digging for equipment, and after sideboarding can even find Trinisphere, Crucible of Worlds or Aethersphere Harvester. The blue splash also pays dividends after sideboard, where it provides countermagic.
Cruel Ultimatum was a star when it was Standard, and advocates like Patrick Chapin made the card competitive during the last months of Extended, but it hasn't been performed well in Modern. The printing of Opt and Search for Azcanta has put control decks into a great place recently, and this Grixis deck that uses Cruel Ultimatum as a finisher is one way to approach the strategy.
It seems fantastic with Snapcaster Mage, which it can return to hand from the graveyard to be cast again to flashback the Cruel Ultimatum for another ago, like a super Kolaghan's Command, which the deck also uses to good effect.
A new piece of tech for Jund is Hazoret the Fervent, which goes hand-in-hand with the Jund plan of grinding both players down to nothing and living off the top of the deck, especially with Liliana of the Veil helping to empty the hand.
Hazoret the Fervent shines because of its resilience, the lack of which has led most four-mana Jund threats to fall by the wayside. It's also a great one-of to search for with Traverse the Ulvenwald, so it has been catching on in four and Five-Color Death's Shadow decks.
Primeval Titan decks have been waning in popularity, but technology of Mwonvuli Acid Moss could help the deck find its footing again.
It is rather expensive for a ramp spell, but the value of destroying a land is significant, whether it is destroying a creature or utility land, blowing up an Urza's land, or just setting the opponent back a turn of mana development and generating card advantage.
Last week I got a ton of responses to my question of “What are you playing in Modern and why?” so if you didn't share, I'll ask again, what are you playing in Modern and why?
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