“Mmm, yeah, I guess, but I still don’t know if … “
“You can turn all of your spirits into Tarmogoyfs after blocks.”
Modern is my format. That’s as best as I can put it, really. The first PTQ of the season for the East Coast was one of the most fun tournaments I’ve ever played in. There were so many fun decks and strategies around the room, everyone looked like they were having a ton of fun, and there were stories upon stories throughout the day. People were taking pages out of Standard’s book and blinking Thragtusks with Restoration Angel in their Jund deck, players were getting killed by Pack Rat, and I got to create a bunch of Baneslayer Angels with Mirrorweave. There were Turn 3 Emrakuls, Dralnu, Lich Lords flashing back Sphinx’s Revelations for eight, and Goblin Electromancers killing players the hard way.
While there are still things to work on, Modern will definitely be one of the most enjoyable seasons for me. There are a ridiculous amount of things you can do in this format, and you can make it deep into eventsif you work on it enough. I strongly suggest you check out Nina Illingworth’s recent article if you haven’t already because it provides great insight of the format.
I’m going to go as in depth as possible about everything you can do in this awesome format in a three-part series. This article is about aggro decks, and I’ll later be covering midrange/control decks and combo decks. Most aggro decks in Modern tend to show shades of other deck types. Affinity can look very much like an aggro/combo deck, and Tokens can resemble a heavy midrange deck at times.
Affinity is generally accepted as one of the premier aggro decks of the format. It’s very fast, it’s resilient, and can attack you from a ton of different angles, by damage or infect. Cranial Plating is the best equipment in the format and can kill opponents in one hit if they aren’t prepared to deal with it. Master of Etherium, Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseer provide potentially huge threats that are hard to deal with if left for even a single turn.
This is everything you could want in an aggro deck. There are a lot of answers to artifacts such as Shatterstorm, Creeping Corrosion and Stony Silence, and they can hit you really hard if you aren’t ready. Affinity also has to play cards that are very sub-par by themselves to make their plan more powerful, which is why some view it as an aggro-combo deck. This is the go to Aggro deck if you’re looking to pick one up without testing or working on your own.
Affinity by Alex Majlaton, 3rd at GP Toronto
Different flavors of Mono Red/Burn are in every format, and it’s no different in Modern. These decks are particularly dangerous because of how much reach they have compared to many other aggro decks. This is also a good deck to play when you’re on a budget, and it’s certainly not out of the question to go deep in a tournament with it. Splashing black gives you options like Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman, Rain of Gore and discard. Both have their merits, and both are worth trying if you’re into this style of aggro.
Rakdos Burn by Anthony Lowry
Mono Red by Anthony Lowry
There are a pretty large amount of variations between Zoo decks, but the core is pretty much the same. You’ll see Bloodbraid Elf, Noble Hierarch, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix and maybe some Path to Exile. From there, there can be drastic differences that even the two listed decks don’t have. Boom//Bust is a build-around-me card for some lists, while others jam all of the one-drops available.
Most of these builds have one thing in common: explosiveness. A lot of zoo decks can simply win out of nowhere. While you can get a general idea of what to be wary of as Game 1 goes on, often times, a double Tribal Flames or Thundermaw Hellkite will just end it. A Turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft can end games just as similarly, especially when backed by exalted.
Naya Zoo by Craig Berry
Domain Zoo by Joshua McGhee
One of the more resilient aggro decks in Modern comes in the form of B/W Tokens. With cards packed with either disruption, efficiency, or game-ending potential, this archetype can provide some excellent midgame against the faster aggro decks, while still having inherently powerful cards against the boogieman of the format, Jund.
Hero of Bladehold and Zealous Persecution can give that push you need to get the last bit of damage through, while Spectral Procession, Lingering Souls and Raise the Alarm can make your opponent’s Lightning Bolts and Path to Exiles look pretty embarrassing most of the time. Intangible Virtue gives other creature-based decks huge headaches, and you still gain access to a very effective sideboard against combo decks. This is my personal deck of choice.
B/W Tokens by Anthony Lowry
Merfolk has a history in the Legacy format, and it’s certainly a viable choice in Modern. You’re basically a white weenie deck with counterspells and clones, and you can afford to play only 20 lands in the process. Mutavault is still as powerful as it’s ever been, and you’d probably get the most out of it in this archetype. Spreading Seas provides great disruption for decks that rely heavily on lands, like Tron, while still being able to help you dig for your lords and lands. Aether Vial puts in a ton of work here as well. This is a great choice if the format moves toward decks trying to go big with creatures.
Merfolk by Anthony Lowry
Soul Sisters was originally a Standard special by Conley Woods a few seasons ago, and it has taken off in Modern because of its excellent Jund matchup, low price, and having the most resiliency out of any of the aggro decks. Ajani’s Pridemate can get completely out of control very quickly, outclassing opposing Tarmogoyfs very easily. Martyr of Sands is at its best here, as is Squadron Hawk.
Other than that, this deck is fairly straightforward. Play dudes, gain a ton of life, and kill them by either playing small ball, or getting in with a huge Pridemate. The combo matchups that don’t care about life (Splinter Twin, Eggs, Pod, etc) are really bad matchups for you, but you can opt to maindeck Thalia, Guardian of Thraben if you’re worried about it. Overall, this is a great entry level deck for anyone looking to get into PTQs on the cheap.
Soul Sisters by Anthony Lowry
As you can probably guess, this is only scratching the surface on the choices you have in Modern. The card pool is so vast that plenty of variations of the listed decks exist. I’d definitely recommend finding your own style of deck, and working on it as much as you can to find where you want to be. I’ll eventually go more in depth on my PTQ deck, B/W tokens. There’s a whole lot more to talk about, and I hope you guys are as excited about the Modern PTQ season as I am!
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