A Guide to the Best Modern Decks
So What now?
With the Standard PTQ season over, and the next season being sealed, standard is completely dead. Which is slightly awkward considering this column is about constructed Magic. However fear not, with a Modern GP just over the Channel in November, we have a solid amount of time to sink ourselves into a much better format.
So, where to start with Modern? Obviously a gauntlet of the best decks:
This deck is the definition of a powerful midrange deck. It’s got card advantage, disruption and impressive threats. Its three colour manabase allows it run versatile main deck cards like Jund Charm and plays the game well as either the control or aggro in the match up depending on the opponent.
- 6-12 Removal spells, consisting of Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Maelstrom Pulse and 0-4 [card]Liliana of the Veil">Jund Charm.
- 0-4 [card]Liliana of the Veil
Sideboard: Usually packed with various tools, graveyard hate(Tormod’s Crypt, Graffdigger’s Cage, Surgical Extraction[/card etc), [card]Molten Rain, Kitchen Finks, Obstinate Baloth and some ways to protect itself from Blood Moon like Seal of Primordium as well as more discard.
Pros: A powerful array of spells and the tools to deal with most threats whilst bringing some of the best threats to the table.
Cons: A greedy manabase that can often be slow, the deck can struggle an awful lot against Blood Moon. The deck has only sorcery speed threats which mean it sometimes has to choose between holding open mana or improving its board position which can lead to opening yourself up or wasting a turn.
This deck is aggressive in a big way, it plans to out tempo the opponent and win the game quickly whilst slightly disrupting the opponent. It can have some incredibly fast and powerful draws that run away with games.
- 20-22 Lands, mainly fetches to pump the Lynx along with Shocklands and a singleton Moorland Haunt.
- 8-12 Burn spells, the usual Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix are accompanied by an array of Forked Bolt, Magma Jet and Pillar of Flame
- 3-5 Three drop threats, the choice is between Geist of Saint Traft and Vendillion Clique, three being the usual number of three drops threats in the deck.
- 4-8 Counterspells, often it’s 4 Remand and friends, Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, Deprive and even good old Mana Leak. Cryptic Command is sometimes shoehorned in as a one of.
- 4-8 Filter Spells, the 4 Serum Visions to set up Delver and sometimes some Sleight of Hand to help filter draws.
Sideboard: Some expected cards like Molten Rain, life gain and graveyard hate, but this deck also likes to sometimes keep four Isochron Sceptre to bring in as a different line of attack post board in some match ups. There are a few versions that run Gifts Ungiven for the Unburial Rites–Iona, Shield of Emeria/Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite plan.
Pros: Very fast and low curved, means you can outpace some people and easily take down people who keep slower hands or don’t have the right cards from the off. You have the option to interact on your opponents turn to stop combo decks goldfishing you out of the game.
Cons: Once your tempo is gone, you tend to struggle to get back into games and get outmuscled in the mid-late game. Snapcaster is basically the only card advantage in the deck, so you struggle to keep up with decks that generate a lot more card advantage.
A Cousin of the WUR deck, this list tend to give itself a bit more of a long game so it can win after the tempo drops, but still keep up the aggressive pressure early on if it needs to. Using similar threats to WUR, it gains a lot from going green instead of white at the expense of being a bit slower and not having Path to Exile.
- 21-23 Lands, Fetches and Shocklands provide consistency as well as a high Island count for Vedalken Shackles with no utility lands.
- 3-6 Additional Threats, usually Vendillion Clique but Huntmaster of the Fells has been showing up recently as well, Grim Lavamancer occasionally in there as well, not forgetting Phyrexian Metamorph who allows you to match threats with someone.
- 6-12 Counterspells, wanting a longer game the deck wants to control it more, usually opting for Mana Leak over Remand, as well as running Spell Pierce, Deprive, Spell Snare and usually 2 Cryptic Command
- 4-8 Filter Spells, usually just the four Serum Visions for Delver, but more digging is sometimes there.
- 5-8 Burn Spells, rarely does the deck not have 4 Lightning Bolt, but it supplements them with things like Forked Bolt, Electrolyze and importantly Burst Lightning which gives it the ability to take out bigger guys that it may otherwise struggle to deal with. Bonfire of the Damned is a very swingy addition to the list as well.
- 0-2 Planeswalkers, as an additional card advantage source Jace Beleren and Garruk Relentless have been squeezing into lists.
Pros: A high level of interactivity with your opponent as well as the ability to win relatively quickly or grind out a game.
Cons: The deck struggles to handle big creatures and doesn’t have that much card advantage compared to some of the other decks.
This deck is all about doing silly big plays very early in the game and having the unbeatable late game of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn by assembling the Tron lands without having to spend turns dropping non-Tron lands.
- 19-22 Lands, obviously these are pretty key, a full set or Tron lands (Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant) along with an Eye of Ugin, some Grove of the Burnwillows for fixing and some basic Forests.
- 1-3 Eldrazi, always one Emrakul, but often Ulamog the Infinite Gyre comes to play as well.
- 2-5 More Threats, more often than not, it’s a handful of Wurmcoil Engine, but Sundering Titan is not that uncommon.
- 6-10 Control Spells, a few Pyroclasm, Oblivion Stone, Allis Dust and Mindslaver tend to fill these roles in different numbers.
Pros: Very explosive and powerful, against a deck that can’t kill you quick or interact with your mana base, you are nearly unbeatable.
Cons: You pretty much scoop to Blood Moon and Thalia, and don’t interact well with a lot of combo decks.
This deck has evolved a lot, once it was Melira, Sylvok Outcast based combo, now it’s much more about Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and infinite creatures. The deck has a lot of play in it and many angels of attack which allow it to win out of anywhere and tutor for bullets against certain decks. The deck is usually RGW but sometimes splashes blue.
- 22-24 Lands, often 23 seems to be the right number, some cut one for another Hierarch and vice-versa. The manabase is functional, with Fetches and Shocklands combined with Scars lands for fixing. If any utility land is run, it’s usually a singleton Gavony Township, Fire-Lit Thicket makes Kiki-Jiki easier to cast, but the deck is light on basics.
- 10-12 Other Creatures, the variety here is wide, Eternal Witness, Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Spellskite seem standard, but a whole host of other guys are in there. Village Bell-Ringer(A combo piece), Phantasmal Image, Phyrexian Metamorph, Loaming Shaman, Cunning Sparkmage, Qasali Pridemage, Harmonic Sliver, Murderous Redcap, Kitchen Finks, Deceiver Exarch and others.
The deck is basically 8 tutor effects, lands and massive block of creature you can tailor to your preferences whilst having the essential combo pieces there.
Sideboard: More of the same, some singletons, more of the silver bullets in the main deck like Pridemage, as well as some graveyard hate, a bit of removal and some Thalia, Guardian of Thraben who can see some main deck play.
Pros: Versatility, the deck can plan for every occasion, and find powerful silver bullets to take down games, as well as combo’ing out very quickly as well.
Cons: No main deck removal can make certain problem cards like Linvala, Keeper of Silence into an issue that requires you to find you own copy before doing anything else. The alternate beat down plan is much less effective and the lack of basics means through killing your mana dorks and dropping a blood moon, the deck loses a lot of its play.
Different to its standard incarnation many moons ago that people still have nightmares about, this deck is still similar, throw out your hand on turns 1-3 and win with lots of artifacts in the combat phase and with some burn. After the first Modern PT, all the decks in the top 8 received some bannings, aside from Robots, so it’s certainly powerful to have been a real competitor in that field.
- 15-18 Lands, with Glimmervoid to access all colours, Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus as pseudo artifact lands that attack along with Darksteel Citadel and some basics.
- 1-6 Other Slots, Steel Overseer to pump guys is popular, as is Steelshaper’s Gift to find Cranial Plating, or even Path To Exile to remove problem creatures that burn doesn’t deal with.
Sideboard: Blood Moon is a staple of this decks sideboard, yes it shuts off Nexus’, but your Citadel is still an artifact, and the damage it does to other decks is incredible. If you can slow down your opponent for 2-3 turns by Blood Moon shutting off their colour, then you easily buy enough time to win. Ancient Grudge, Torpor Orb, Whipflare and the seemingly obligatory 4 Ethersworn Canonist make up most of the 15.
Pros: Highly aggressive and fast, sometimes people won’t draw their sideboard cards quick enough and they just die. You have the ability to race every deck in the field and punish anyone who has a slow draw.
Cons: Some hands can be less than effective and the deck mulligans quite often, sideboard cards for Robots will be in everyone’s 15, and some of them are incredibly strong against the deck. If your opponent stabilizes on a high enough life total you end up with a lot of low powered guys that don’t compete.
One of the most game changing mechanics ever printed, Storm. The Modern Storm deck is UR and reels off a lot of damage in the form of Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens, it’s very much the least interactive deck and likes the game to be that way.
- 16-20 Lands, Fetches, Shocks, and Pain lands etc, anything that gives them UR and comes into play untapped. Some splash green for Ancient Grudge. A very few builds run Halmar Depths as an additional Filter Spell.
- 0-8 More Filter Spells, Peer Through Depths, Faithless Looting, Gitaxian Probe and Thought Scour are the general options. Some lists run Remand to interact a little and keep digging.
- 0-8 Other Cards, these range from Lightning Bolt to help interact or force that extra needed damage, and Pyromancer’s Ascension which makes it much more difficult to fizzle mid-combo, and gives you a lot more play if they somehow stop you going off. Gifts Ungiven has even been used to help guarantee getting a Past in Flames in your bin as well as other cards.
Sideboard: Some transform into Deceiver Exarch–Splinter Twin, all run Echoing Truth and the rest of the slots are a combination of removal, counterspells, graveyard hate and general protection for the combo.
Pros: A lot of decks don’t really interact with you so you goldfish them out of the game. People also dislike testing against storm and end up underprepared in both builds and playtime against Storm.
Cons: The deck doesn’t interact with its opponent much, and sometimes it needs to. There are a lot of potential sideboard cards that you can have to face like a discard package from Jund and things like Dispel, Spell Pierce and Mindbreak Trap from other decks. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben being edged into Pod decks gives you real trouble since it’s much more expensive to dig for answers to it, unlike Canonist who is more easily dealt with.
UW CONTROL (Or Caw-less Caw Blade)
This deck is a very good example of a “Good Stuffs” deck. It pretty much plays everything good in UW over the last so many years, Restoration Angel is unsurprisingly the icing on the cake for the deck.
- 8-12 Counterspells, 2 Cryptic Command take point, then some combination of two mana spells, Remand and Mana Leak topped off with Spell Snare and Spell Pierce.
- 25-27 Lands, but usually 26 is the right number. This is the part where the deck really gets it power. Celestial Colonnade, Mutavault, Tectonic Edge and Eiganjo Castle fill out a roster of some of the best lands in the format. Allowing you to Sword up a land and still be untapped in their turn, or preventing the damage to Geist to keep him swinging, or taking out a Tron piece. It’s like having ten of your lands double as spell slots and it makes all the difference.
Sideboard: Nothing transformational here, but sometimes some Wrath of God to play more controlling, along with some life gain, graveyard and artifact hate, and additional counters and removal. It’s a very meta dependent board that tweaks well.
Pros: The deck has a lot of strong cards, and interacts well with the opponent to disrupt them. It can play mostly on its opponent’s turn giving you less decisions to make in your turn so you can react to their spells and choose the best option when the time comes and still apply pressure. It has a lot of play against the field.
Cons: The deck does not want a Blood Moon to happen, since you often end up with only one relevant mana and no other useful colours. The deck itself doesn’t draw cards much, relying on Snapcaster and flashing in guys to gain an additional effect, meaning it can be vulnerable to being run out of cards by Liliana etc. Having a relatively slow clock for the format means it doesn’t race well in the early game and can’t apply that much pressure against a deck it may need to kill off before they combo.
Of course, there are other decks out there that need consideration, like the Aggro Loam deck, Faeries and BW Tokens, but these are the benchmark decks that should be the foundation of your gauntlet testing for a Modern event.
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.