Spread the Sickness – Modern Part One: The Aggro Decks by Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop


So, Wizards have decided, in their infinite wisdom, to change the Pro Tour format of Pro Tour Philadelphia from Extended, into Modern. Modern is a new format, which debuted at the 2011 Community Cup. It seems to have been well received, and will hopefully replace Extended as the Spring PTQ season as well. Man, Extended sucks :/

The legal sets are pretty straightforward. Anything in the new card-frame, ie 8th Edition and Mirrodin (Original) forwards. The exception being the stuff that was printed in Duel-Decks, and Premium-deck series. The time-shifted cards from Time Spiral are allowed. Sadly, this list includes Counterspell, which is not legal in this format. Very Sad Face.

There’s a ban-list, included below.

Ancestral Vision
Ancient Den
Chrome Mox
Dark Depths
Dread Return
Glimpse of Nature
Golgari Grave-Troll
Great Furnace
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mental Misstep
Seat of the Synod
Sensei’s Divining Top
Stoneforge Mystic
Sword of the Meek
Tree of Tales
Umezawa’s Jitte
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Vault of Whispers

There’s some interesting choices on here. The intention here isn’t to discuss the ban-list, but feel free to weigh in in the forums about what you think about it.

As with any new format, the first point of call is to look at the Aggro decks. These will shape how fast the format is going to be, and what the Control decks need to be able to answer. Combo decks, as a whole, necessitate being a turn or so faster than the Aggro decks to be considered viable.

Basically, if a Combo deck goldfishes on turn 4, it’ll be no use if the aggro decks kill on turn 3. Simple. If they’re killing on turn 5, however…

So, in this first part of this series, let’s take a look at the Aggro decks. This will hopefully give us an idea of what we’re looking to see in the Control and Combo decks.

Firstly, let’s look at Zoo. There’s always a Zoo deck in the format. It’ll change, as the format evolves. It might play counterspells, it might not. It just depends on what everyone else is playing. It could play Punishing Fire, but it’s unclear how necessary that would be. Let’s take a look at a sample decklist.


1 Steam Vents
1 Plains
4 Marsh Flats
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Temple Garden
1 Stomping Ground
1 Mountain
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Blood Crypt
4 Arid Mesa

4 Wild Nacatl
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Meddling Mage
2 Knight of the Reliquary

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Helix
4 Tribal Flames


2 Path to Exile
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Meddling Mage
2 Gaddock Teeg
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

This is a sample of what a Zoo deck COULD look like. Decks like Zoo have access to so much redundancy, it’s impossible to predict exactly what they’re going to be using. If I were playing it, I’d cut the Tribal Flames, and replace them with Punishing Fire. It’s unlikely that the Zoo decks don’t want access to counterspells. I’d want to make room in the sideboard for at least 4 in some combination of Negate[card]‘s and [card]Bant Charm[card]‘s.

This is what an aggro deck should look like. You’ve got efficient beaters in Goyf, Knight et al, and some excellent reach in the form of all the burn. I’d almost consider Zoo to be a combo deck, in terms of how it plays out. Creatures on the first few turns, get your opponent to a low life total, and burn the face when the board gets stabilised. Piece of piss, and great fun to play.


This is a straightforward port from Legacy into Modern. It loses [card]Force of Will, Daze, Wasteland and Jitte, plus the old fetches and Duals. We can replace these without too much difficulty, as no-one else is able to play these either. Plus Aether Vial isn’t on the ban list yet, and this is the deck in Legacy that makes the most use out of it.

Sample decklist

4 Seachrome Coast
4 Wanderwine Hub
4 Mutavault
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Island
2 Tectonic Edge

4 Cursecatcher
4 Cosi’s Trickster
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Merrow Reejery

4 Path to Exile
4 Aether Vial
4 Spell Snare
2 Spell Pierce


3 Burrenton Forge Tender
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Spell Snare
2 Reveillark
2 Rule of Law
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Dismember
1 Spreading Seas

So, as you can see, the deck doesn’t lose any of it’s creatures, nor it’s ability to cheat on mana-costs. A deck in this vein will probably make a splash (whey!) in Modern.

We can’t tap out, with free counters to help us anymore, but Spell Pierce and Spell Snare helps. The banning of Mental Misstep hurts this deck harder than most, in my opinion.

This deck isn’t the trickiest deck in the world to play, especially for an almost mono-blue deck. Make a bunch of dudes, make them evasive in some way, and turn them sideways. Sure is fun though!

Artifact Aggro.

Can’t really call this Affinity anymore, though it does borrow reasonably heavy from that fondly remembered archetype. This version is probably more analogous to the Tempered Steel decks of current standard than the dark days of Ravager Affinity.

Again, there are a ton of ways to build this deck, and my intention isn’t to show the ‘best version’, as at this stage of the format, it doesn’t exist yet. Hopefully this should get your juices flowing. I know mine are.

1 Tendo Ice Bridge
3 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Glimmervoid
4 Inkmoth Nexus

4 Dark Confidant
4 Etched Champion
4 Vault Skirge
4 Ornithopter
4 Master of Etherium
4 Memnite

4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Cranial Plating
4 Mox Opal
4 Thoughtcast
4 Springleaf Drum


4 Chalice of the Void
4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Guttural Response
1 Steel Overseer
2 Dispatch

Again, we’re looking at an Aggro-Combo deck, although this is more so than Zoo. We’re looking to vomit our hand, and interact with our opponent as little as possible. I’ve included Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas to improve the games that go long, though it’s possible I should just cut him, and Dark Confidant for Arcbound Ravager and Frogmite or Myr Enforcer, to improve our nut-draws. Time will tell, grass-hopper.

Simon Weston.dec

There’s maybe 4 of you who’re old enough to get that joke. It’s pretty good. You should laugh.

Red spells, TO THE FACE. Really simple. As long as there’s been Magic, people have pointed Burn spells at their opponents face. There’s a whole heap of red spells that do this in Modern. Let’s shove them all in a deck, and see how it works.

Simon Weston.dec

18 Mountain
4 Teetering Peaks

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Guide
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Hellspark Elemental

2 Flame Javelin
4 Incinerate
1 Koth of the Hammer
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Molten Rain
3 Searing Blaze
1 Shard Volley


1 Dismember
1 Ghostfire
4 Magus of the Moon
3 Mogg Fanatic
1 Molten Rain
1 Searing Blaze
2 Shrine of Burning Rage

There isn’t really much to say about this deck. It’s all burn spells. Whether that comes through creatures like Hellspark Elemental or spells like Lightning Bolt, pretty much every card is designed to get chucked at your opponents face as quickly as possible, and end the game before they can stabilise. Decks like this attack on a really different axis to most. Again, we’re a really non-interactive, quasi-combo deck. We can win on and around turn 3 with reasonable consistency.

An unprepared format is best for Red. It hates seeing cards like Kor Firewalker, and Leyline of Sanctity etc. Time will tell if those cards are actually necessary, and indeed if the format is at all susceptible to a red deck like this.

In my opinion, I think these are the current ‘Top Aggro Decks’ of Modern. Next time, I’ll look at some of the more Mid-Rangey/Aggro Control style decks. Should hopefully be able to get it all done before the Pro Tour, and this type of article becomes irrelevant.

See y’all soon.


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