With Rivals of Ixalan a few weeks away, and spoiler season soon upon us, today I want to dig into some Modern decks before the new cards and Standard dominates the conversation. This week there were some interesting divergences off the trail that Five-Color Humans blazed, with both a Non-Human Five-Color Aggro deck and a Mono-White Human deck finishing 5-0 in leagues. An exciting new variation of Eldrazi played by one of the original Bant Eldrazi proponents appeared as an alternative to the Eldrazi Tron deck that has struggled over the past few months. Jeskai Ascendancy Combo has reared its head again, this time with Opt. There has been a resurgence in Grixis Control, some using Madcap Experiment and Platinum Emperion in the sideboard, and there's a red-green deck built to use this combo maindeck. Blood Moon also had a good week, and Temur Moon offers a much more aggressive alternative to the controlling Blue Moon deck. Let's get into the decks!
Ixalan's Unexplored Territory spurred the creation of the Five-Color Humans deck, which uses Ancient Ziggurat as an additional source of all five colors to enable its strategy of playing almost nothing but creatures. There's new Five-Color Zoo deck that similarly uses Ancient Ziggurat, but replaces the tribal strategy with a multicolored strategy supported by Pillar of the Paruns, which had a period of success during Ravnica block constructed where it enabled a similar deck.
Instead of playing all of the best Humans, the deck plays all of the best multicolored creatures, which by their very nature are high-powered and efficient. By giving up the need for tribal synergy, the deck is less susceptible to disruption, because its individual creatures, like Siege Rhino, are more effective on their own. The deck gains additional strength against removal with Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen of Finks. The deck retains some disruptive elements with Qasali Pridemage, which is great against Lantern Control, and Anafenza, the Foremost to hose Dredge, but I'd like to see the deck take additional disruption from the Humans playbook.
Incorporating Reflector Mage seems like a step in the right direction, and Tidehollow Sculler is an upgrade over Kitesail Freebooter that I'd move to the main deck. This opens up space in the sideboard for Meddling Mage to come in along with Sin Collector to hammer combo and control decks with disruption. Humans plays as little as 19 lands along with Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch, so with Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch this deck seems like it could afford to trim a land or two after removing Falkenrath Aristocrat. City of Brass is a lot more reliable than Gemstone Mine, which seems like a liability, and Reflecting Pool also seems prone to failure, so I'm cleaning up the mana and going to a set of the guaranteed mana source. Traditional Zoo decks with fetches and shock lands were accustomed to taking a ton of damage, so I think this deck can manage.
Another route for Human tribal is to go back to its mono-white roots, eschewing the powerful Five-Color options for a sleek and efficient deck that focuses on speed.
Playing mono-white opens up access to Brave the Elements, which have historically been critical to the success of white decks in eternal formats, including Paul Rietzl's Pro Tour Amsterdam-winning deck in Extended. A unique card included in this build is Field Marshall, which is a lord for Soldiers, not Humans, but happens to pump every Human in the deck besides Mirran Crusader. A relatively new addition for the strategy is Shefet Dunes, which has been adopted into Death and Taxes and is even better here, so I'd look to play more copies, maybe as many as four.
Ben “BSWeitz” was one of the early proponents of Bant Eldrazi, which was the successor to the broken White-Blue Eldrazi deck and at one time one of the best-performing decks in Modern. He eventually put down the deck after metagame changes led to Eldrazi Tron supplanting it as the best Eldrazi deck, but he is back at it with a new brew.
Red-Green Eldrazi was arguably as broken and good as White-Blue during the days of Eye of Ugin, and its strategy of using extra acceleration and removal could be just as effective now. Like Bant Eldrazi, this deck has access to mana acceleration one-drops Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise, and the card selection of Ancient Stirrings, while red adds a large removal package with Lightning Bolt and Forked Bolt. Eldrazi Obligator is another addition, which is an aggressive threat that is a source of temporary removal with its Threaten trigger. The lack of these colored cards is one of the biggest issues with Eldrazi Tron, while this two-color mana base is more consistent than the three-color of Bant. Red-green also provides Grove of the Burnwillows, which is the best dual land for Eldrazi beyond the pain lands and gives Red-Green Eldrazi a special edge over all other Eldrazi color combination.
Colorless decks always have a problem finding excellent sideboard cards, which is one of the weaknesses of Eldrazi Tron, while the old Eldrazi decks and Bant Eldrazi had some of the very best sideboard cards in the format. Colored spells are extremely valuable for the sideboard here, where Ancient Grudge is excellent for attacking the oppressive Lantern Deck and slowing down Affinity, two of the toughest matchups for Bant and Eldrazi Tron decks. Crumble to Dust gives the deck a devastating play against Tron decks and Scapeshift, and Chandra, Torch of the Defiance is high-impact against control and midrange decks. Colored mana also gives access to Engineered Explosives, which has a faster impact than the Ratchet Bomb the colorless deck must use.
Opt's reprinting in Ixalan has been a boon to blue decks, and in addition to strengthening the top blue decks like Storm, Grixis Death's Shadow, and Jeskai, it has brought about a resurgence in some forgotten blue strategies, like the Blue-Red Through the Breach deck. Jeskai Ascendancy Combo had a brief period of dominance during the Treasure Cruise era but has failed to be a top-tier deck since, and it's the perfect candidate for a reboot with Opt, as you can see here.
There's really nothing new going on in the deck, but Opt is an ideal card for the deck because it helps add consistency to start the engine and functions as a spell for Jeskai Ascendancy when going off. One nice addition to the sideboard is a copy of Failure // Comply, which gives Glittering Wish the option of an efficient counter to protect the engine. If I played the deck I'd want Glittering Wish to have access to a haymaker threat as an alternate win-condition that gives the deck some potential to win without needing to go off with Jeskai Ascendancy, and Ixalan's Vraska, Relic Seeker seems like a very reasonable option because it's capable of taking over a game and it doubles as a creature removal engine.
Another beneficiary of Opt is all of the spell-based control decks that have traditionally struggled to gain a firm foothold in Modern. Jeskai versions have seen a rise in success, and another promising angle is Grixis.
Opt adds great card selection to a control deck that needs the right answers at the right time, which in this Grixis deck is usually one of its many efficient removal spells. Glimmer of Genius is as nice to flashback here as in Standard, and the deck even plays a Torrential Gearhulk on top of a set of Snapcaster Mage. That said, I can't help but think a deck like this could benefit from Search for Azcanta, which has been integral to the rise of Jeskai Control, and was a key element of the Grixis Control deck Corey Burkhart used to Top 16 Grand Prix OKC a few weeks ago.
The sideboard of this list includes Madcap Experiment and a Platinum Emperion to find, which gives it a one-card combo that can completely shut-down an opponent unprepared with a way to remove it or win around it. It can be a devastating play from a control deck because opponents are likely to remove their creature and artifact removal, and it gives the deck a haymaker to use against aggressive decks.
Madcap Experiment for Platinum Emperion is powerful enough to be played in the main deck and is capable of beating plenty of opponents, or at least of presenting them with an obstacle. It's especially effective when backed up by Blood Moon cutting off the opponents' options, so the combination has formed the backbone of decks in the past, typically in a Blue Moon shell. This version instead uses it in a green shell, which provides the potent mana-acceleration package of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl that is currently being used to enable the renaissance of Red-Green Ponza.
Green also provides some additional great cards to accelerate into with Courser of Kruphix and Tireless Tracker, which are amazing in conjunction with each other, with Course of Kruphix providing lands to fuel Clue Tokens, which can be sacrificed for a fresh look at the top card for a chance at finding another land to keep the engine going every turn.
The sideboard provides Molten Rain, which gives the deck the ability to operate like the Ponza strategy, and it could in theory be supported with even more land destruction to give the deck more of a transformational slant.
A new Blood Moon deck is Temur Moon, which plays the hoser on top of a midrange shell that includes some of the finest cards in Modern. The deck, which was played by Gerard Fabiano to the Top 8 of the SCG Invitational, has seen some continued play online.
The spell base of card selection, including Opt, countermagic and creature removal gives the deck a very strong disruption package, which is supported by Snapcaster Mage, just like in Jeskai and other blue-red based control decks, and this deck goes further with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. From there the deck turns to green, which provides a robust creature base that makes the deck decidedly more aggressive. Tarmogoyf is still one of the very best cards in Modern, and Tireless Tracker is very effective in this deck as a source of card advantage to fuel the disruption and bury opponents.
What are you playing in Modern?