I <3 Modern
I really do. There are so many different options to choose from and they all feel pretty viable. With new decks popping up every week, the format is far from dull. Although I can’t partake in the PPTQ season I can still tell you what I think are currently the best three options and why.
My bread and butter. If you know me this should come as no surprise. Since Modern has become a format my record with this deck at high level events is utterly astounding.
Pro Tour: 8-2
Grand Prix: 34-10-1
Just so we’re on the same page, here’s my current list:
Why play Affinity?
The major benefit you have to play Affinity is much like playing a deck like Dredge in Legacy. You simply have a very high win rate in game 1’s at around 90%. The reason for this is the deck attacks at a very different angle than most in the format. When you can just dump your entire hand on turn one or two, while your opponent has just cast a Serum Visions you’re feeling pretty good.
Man lands such as Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus are also a major player. Not only does the deck provide a ton of cheaply costed aggressive threats, the lands provide the extra push when your opponent may be stabilizing. It’s always a great feeling when you can surprise your opponent with a 10/x Inkmoth Nexus thanks to a well-timed Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating.
Besides being Man lands what else do Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus have in common? They fly! Affinity has a lot of evasion. Between cards like Ornithopter, Signal Pest, and Etched Champion your opponents Tarmogoyf just shakes his fist as you fly by.
Why not play Affinity?
As a great woman once said, “Hater’s gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” There are some nasty cards you never want to see in this format. Although they’re beatable some small percentage of the time, I certainly cringe every time one is cast against me.
In no particular order:
These are just some of the cards you don’t want to see. The key to knowing when a good time to play Affinity is when these cards are few and far between in sideboards. When someone wins a Grand Prix with three Ancient Grudge in their sideboard, it’s not a good time to play Affinity. When someone wins a Grand Prix with one Ancient Grudge in their sideboard, it’s a wonderful time to play Affinity. Monkey see, monkey do. You need to do your homework with this deck!
Splinter Twin. It’s a heck of a card. It’s also your worst nightmare. This deck will give you fits simply because there aren’t a lot of interactive cards in Affinity. I do my best to mitigate this in my list by having four Galvanic Blast and two Spellskite in the main deck. Bottom line is however there are going to be games where they just have it and you don’t. Not to mention the sideboard of most Splinter Twin decks have an unreasonable amount of Ancient Grudge hanging out there just for little ole’ you. So if Splinter Twin is popular is your area I recommend sitting out the little robots for a while or packing some extra hate in the board to help improve it.
Sometimes it’s good being the fish. For those paying attention to the Grand Prix circuit you’ve noticed not too long ago a Merfolk deck won it all. This pretty much just shocked everyone and proves once again that about everything is viable in Modern. This is the deck I’ve been playing the most with online recently to some great success.
Why be a Fish?
Two words, AEther Vial. It doesn’t get much better than playing two lords a turn. No deck better utilizes perhaps the best card in Modern than Merfolk. Having access to AEther Vial gives opposing blue decks like Delver nightmares. While they’re holding cards like Mana Leak, Spell Snare, and Remand you’re able to just slide right through with either AEther Vial or even Cavern of Souls. It’s not just the blue decks that have trouble with AEther Vial though. That’s just where it shines brightest. Against almost any deck if you’re casting a creature and putting a creature into play via AEther Vial, there aren’t many decks out there that can keep up with that pace. With the threat of an instead speed creature it also effects how your opponent attacks and blocks, leading to some wonderful blowouts and great bluffs.
Why else do you want to be a Fish? Spreading Seas. Spreading Seas?!? Spreading Seas! This may seem like a relatively harmless card. Bottom line however is that Modern has a lot of decks that have either shaky mana bases or are playing combo parts like the Tron lands. A lot of decks simply lose on the spot to a multiple Spreading Seas hand. This is why the original Blue Moon lists had four Spreading Seas and four Blood Moon. It was looking to land screw your opponent while cantripping along. The adding benefit of not just trying to land screw your opponent, but actually provide them with an Island so your Merfolk can swim through is just another reason why this card is so utterly fantastic in this deck. Did I mention it adds to your devotion count?
Perhaps the greatest reason to play Merfolk is Master of Waves. In a format that is defined by its removal in the form of Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay, and Terminate what do none of these do? Kill Master of Waves. There are times when you don’t have a lord to give you Islandwalk. There are other times when you have the lord but you don’t have a Spreading Seas. Master of Waves bridges the gap and allows you to go wide. Also don’t forget Mutavault is both an Elemental and a Merfolk. Bonuses for days!
Why not be a fish?
You’re main decking sideboard cards. Both Tidebinder Mage and Master of Waves look more like sideboard cards than main deck cards. But there they are three of each in the main and another one of each in the board. Drawing one or multiple Tidebinder Mage against a deck that isn’t Red or Green is pretty close to a mulligan. Don’t even get me started if you don’t draw one of your lords to pump up the Tidebinder Mage. But wait John; didn’t you just say the reason to play Merfolk was Master of Waves? Yes that is true, I did. But that’s not to say there aren’t weaknesses in playing with Master of Waves. I certainly never want to draw more than one in fear of simply not getting to either four mana or drawing an AEther Vial. Also let’s not forget Modern is an extremely fast format. Drawing more than one against any sort of combo deck is an automatic mulligan in most situations.
Splinter Twin. It’s a heck of a card. Sound familiar? Well that’s because it is. Merfolk suffers from the same thing that Affinity does in that there isn’t a lot of interaction. With a high creature count to abuse AEther Vial, that doesn’t leave you with a lot of slots dedicated to interacting with your opponent. Simply put because there aren’t many interactive pieces game one, most combo decks simply goldfish faster than you and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. That is why the majority of the sideboard is filled with things that help combat that. So again I remind you if combo is popular in your area you may want to keep your fish at bay. (So many puns, so little time.)
Or whatever kids are calling it these days. I prefer Raisin Brand, but that’s because I like deck names that can utilize or reference breakfast cereal. This is the deck I got the missing pieces to just before my RPTQ because this was what I was going to play for Modern season. For those uninitiated, here’s the list:
Why have two scoops?
If you have begun to see a trend in the weaknesses of the other decks I like it’s simply that they both lose to certain combo decks because they can just win faster. This deck can do some pretty incredible things, including the mythical turn 1 win. Oh did I mention it can do that at instead speed as well? The said hand requires:
If you’re on the draw you don’t even need a land here. Just in case you’re not quite sure how the deck works.
Step 1: Get a Griselbrand in play via Through the Breach or Goryo’s Vengeance.
Step 2: Draw a bunch of cards, gain a bunch of life with Nourishing Shoal, draw some cards, gain a bunch of life, draw even more cards.
Step 3: Get a Borborygmos, Enraged in play the same way you would Griselbrand and fire the “laser.”
That’s just how ridiculous this deck truly is. Being capable of winning turn one and more realistically turn two or three at instant speed is just something you’re doing on a whole other level compared to the rest of the format.
Arcane spells are good. So good in fact that you can actually fight through counter magic with relative ease. Being able to cast a Nourishing Shoal at the end of your opponents turn and splicing on a Goryo’s Vengeance forces your opponent to counter that or die. The problem for them is well; you still have the Goryo’s Vengeance. Speaking of Nourishing Shoal it also acts as a ritual effect in the deck. Since you’re able to splice on to it with Through the Breach and the splice cost of Through the Breach is actually cheaper than the casting cost, essentially netting a mana.
The whoops “I win” factor is perhaps the most appealing thing about this deck, and every combo deck really. You’re playing against Jund for example and they just tear your hand apart. Thoughtseize this, Inquisition of Kozilek that! But none of that matters since if you draw whatever card it is you need it’s just an instant win. Not to mention if you happen to play against a burn deck and you get to Nourishing Shoal exiling a Worldspine Wurm. Have fun with that one red mage!
Why have no scoops?
There aren’t many reasons not to play this deck. That is why I was planning on using it for this PPTQ season. But if I had to choose one there is certainly a weakness in the fact that the deck can just lose to itself. Combo decks have the inherent weakness of needing to draw certain cards to win and without those cards they simply lose. This is much different than say, playing a deck like Jund where all you need to draw to win is any creature in your deck. You’re not reliant on a certain card and any of the 16 or so creatures will do. In combo decks like Raisin Brand you need to draw a big creature and a way to put that big creature in to play fast. Your Griselbrand doesn’t do you much good in your graveyard if you don’t draw a Goryo’s Vengeance to bring it back.
With Modern season in full swing I highly recommend any of the three decks based on your local meta game and personal preference. The unique thing about modern is just about everything is viable. So even if you don’t like what I’m preaching it doesn’t mean you’re wrong at all. Just be aware that modern is a format defined by the sideboard and you really need to be aware of what’s popular in your area. What’s good this week may be bad the next.
Gosu. On MTGO
@JCuvelier on Twitter
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