The Eight Coolest New Modern Decks
Digging through Modern decks from Magic Online events and sharing the gems I find is one of my favorite topics for articles, but it has been almost two months since I last visited Modern to see what's new. Standard is settling into a rhythm and won't change very much until Ixalan is released, so I figure now is a great time to check in on Modern. It's also an opportunity to see what Hour of Devastation cards have made their way into Modern. A quick look at some tournament results showed plenty of innovation in Modern, a few cards from the newest set being played, so I dug deeper, and today I'll share the best of what I found.
Bant Reliquary-Retreat/Counters Combo Hybrid
The last major news in Modern was the printing of Vizier of Remedies and its infinite mana combo with Devoted Druid. The combo's initial success in an Abzan Company shell paved the way for brewing with the combo in a variety of decks, but the combo mostly fell flat and failed to catch on as a major force in the metagame. A look at online results show that the combo has been refined, and has earned multiple recent 5-0 finishes in leagues and a Top 8 in the Modern Challenge last weekend. The most popular shell for the deck is now Bant, some of which combine the combo with another, the Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm engine, to create a hybrid combo deck that attacks from two angles.
Knight of the Reliquary also adds its own synergy to the infinite mana generated by the Devoted Druid-Vizier of Remedies combo by providing access to Kessig Wolf Run as a mana sink and alternative to Walking Ballista as a win condition. Like the Abzan version, this Bant deck is powered by mana acceleration like Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch and is held together by Collected Company and Chord of Calling, but moving from black to blue has some unique advantages that go beyond the additional combo. Reflector Mage is a great support card, and Unified Will in the sideboard are perfect for protecting the combos or disrupting the wide range of strategies opponents can present.
Green Devotion with Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites
Another deck from last weekend's Modern Challenge Top 8 that hybridizes a combo engine into another deck is this Green Devotion shell that dips into blue for Gifts Ungiven, which opens up its ability to find Unburial Rites and a massive creature to Reanimate.
The Gifts Ungiven and Unburial Rites package is a great addition to this deck because the creatures of choice to Reanimate, Emrakul, the Promised End and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, are also castable in a ramp deck designed to have access to loads of mana as quickly as possible, so they won't be dead draws. These creatures can also be tutored up by Primal Command, which gives extra value to including them in the deck, especially because this will unlock the cast trigger of Emrakul, the Promised End, unlike Unburial Rites. Gifts Ungiven can also function as a card advantage spell that finds ramp spells or action, so it has more utility than just setting up Unburial Rites. It all combines to create a deck that doesn't give up much from the main Devotion strategy but gains a very powerful new angle with the reanimation plan. Adding blue, black and white mana to the deck also opens up the sideboard to disruption a mono-green deck wouldn't have, which helps against the more troublesome matchups like combo decks and the fastest aggressive decks. There's plenty of room to experiment here, and I'd like a Craterhoof Behemoth to help end games quickly, but I'm a big fan of the direction the deckbuilder took the strategy.
Zur the Enchanter offers card advantage and tutoring ability that will accumulate a significant edge over the opponent if it's allowed to survive and start attacking, but it hasn't made much of a name for itself in the fast-paced world of Modern. Things seem to be slowing down lately, and midrange and even control strategies are thriving, so now is a perfect time to put the card to use, like in this deck that reached the Top 8 of the last Modern Challenge.
In this deck, Zur the Enchanter can find Spreading Seas to attack the opponent's land and generate more card advantage, Detention Sphere to control their threats or Steel of the Godhead to build a game-winning creature. It's strong on Zur the Enchanter itself, but is especially powerful on one of the four Hexproof Geist of Saint Traft. The deck is designed to make the most of Geist of Saint Traft with plenty of disruption like Inquisition of Kozilek, Path to Exile, and Remand to protect it, which lends itself to including a set of Snapcaster Mage to reuse the cheap disruption. Zur the Enchanter becomes even better after sideboard, when it can access silver-bullet hosers to shut down the opponent, like Stony Silence, Rest in Peace and Runed Halo. The core of the deck is proven cards and a solid strategy, and Zur the Enchanter brings it over the top with a fun and uniquely powerful engine that is proving its worth in the format.
Infect used to be one of the very best decks in Modern, but it hasn't recovered from the banning of Gitaxian Probe. The free spell was ideal fuel for its best pump spell, Become Immense, but maybe more importantly it had the effect of making the deck much easier to navigate against hostile opponents wielding disruption. A new version of the deck attempts to solve that issue by adding Disrupting Shoal for protection.
The main creature disruption in Modern – Path to Exile, Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt – all cost one mana, so Disrupting Shoal is easily fueled by Serum Visions or this deck's replacement for Gitaxian Probe, Sleight of Hand. It can also remove Spell Pierce, which the deck includes as another way to stop disruption. This deck completely forgoes Glistener Elf and instead splashes into black for Plague Stinger, which increases the power level, but it could easily be reverted into the traditional green-blue deck if the splash proves too inconsistent or unnecessary. Black does have the effect of opening up the sideboard to Abrupt Decay and Fatal Push for extra disruption, and Illness in the Ranks is a great answer to Lingering Souls. Disrupting Shoal looks very appealing, but it's unclear how effective it will perform without more testing. At the very least, the deck is a reminder that Infect is still here, and it looks to be well-positioned in a metagame with relatively non-interactive decks like Eldrazi Tron and Gifts Storm rising to the top of the metagame and Death's Shadow decks falling in popularity.
Smallpox decks full of discard and creature removal have recently gained a foothold as a competitive strategy in Modern, and this intriguing version gives up threats like Bloodghast and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in favor of additional disruptive elements.
Replacing threats with more disruption makes the deck better at hosing opposing strategies, which makes it less likely that the opponent will be able to slip something through the cracks. For example, Ravenous Rats instead of Bloodghast gives the deck an even higher density of discard. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet instead of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gives the deck a reasonable threat but also adds an element of lifelink and graveyard hate. The deck hoses the graveyard further with a full set of Relic of Progenitus, which goes a long way in beating the Dredge decks that the deck would otherwise have an almost impossible time beating, and it shuts down the discard-undoing Past in Flames in the Gifts Storm matchup that is otherwise very manageable. Funeral Charm is a versatile addition that can be cashed in as a discard spell but comes with the utility of doubling as a cheap creature removal spell that clears out mana creatures or Vizier of Remedies, and does great work against Affinity. Removing threats means the deck will be slower to end games, but in theory the extra disruption will buy more time while closing even more doors on the opponent.
I once tried splashing Snapcaster Mage in Jund as an additional source of card advantage, an experiment I expect that many others have performed too, but the mana was difficult to pull off. The printing of Fatal Push has allowed black-green decks to give up Lightning Bolt and eliminated the need for red, which removes the need for splash mana on turn one and allows for a more consistent mana base. This has led to the decline of Jund and the rise of Abzan decks that splash into white for Lingering Souls. This also opens up the possibility of revisiting the blue splash for Snapcaster Mage, which this deck has done to great results.
With Fatal Push in the equation, black mana can cast all of the turn-one disruption spells, which leaves plenty of time to find the splash white mana for Lingering Souls, or blue mana for Snapcaster Mage to recast the disruption. It's a subtle change, but it has big implications for how games play out, and it has opened the door for a deck like this one with a double splash. This splash provides further value in the sideboard with access to countermagic like Countersquall for fighting against Gifts Storm and Ceremonious Rejection against Eldrazi Tron.
Hour of Promise Scapeshift
With ability to search for any two lands, Hour of Promise resembles a Primeval Titan at a mana discount, and that makes it very attractive in Scapeshift decks that can use it to hit a critical mass of lands a turn earlier than it could with Primeval Titan.
Beyond speeding up the deck, Hour of Promise also makes it more consistent by combining with Primeval Titan to give the deck twice as many ways to search for two lands. Not only will it reach the number of lands it needs to win with Scapeshift more often, it also makes the deck less reliant on Scapeshift. Finding a pair of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and following it up with a few Mountains is a simple way to win the game, and this deck can do that more often than before with the new way to put two lands into play.
Deserts and Taxes
Death and Taxes has seen more recent success than it ever has in its Modern history, and it has made further gains with Hour of Devastation adding useful Desert lands to the strategy.
This mono-white archetype includes many Plains, so it's easy and relatively painless to swap out a few for Shefet Dunes. This gives the deck an on-demand anthem that can help it push through blockers or provide the last few points of power it needs to race the opponent. There is very little downside and plenty of upside, especially with creatures like the token-generating Blade Splicer and the double-striking Mirran Crusader that get extra mileage from the effect. The deck also includes a Hostile Desert, which serves as an extra threat that that can be easily fueled by its sets of Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter.
Modern looks healthier than it has in years, and there's a balance of all sorts of strategies. Aggro, combo and control are all represented, and there are plenty of competitive options in each category. There are various forms of midrange decks, land decks and plenty of fun and funky options in-between and outside the lines. It looks like Wizards has finally got it right, and it looks like the format will be enjoyable for a long time to come. What cool decks have you seen in Modern, or what homebrews are you working on?