I’d be lying if I told you the Modern bannings of Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song didn’t make things awkward for this series. No need to panic, because this gives us a chance to go through the entire format again. We’ll cover the combo decks, recap what was already covered, and look at decks that are possible contenders.
Most of these decks remained the same from my first article in this series. I expect more aggro decks to pop up because the fear of Storm and Jund are gone (regardless of whether either decks are truly “dead”), but for the most part, there’s not anything completely new on the scene, even with the addition of Gatecrash.
Experiment One is a hyped card that can definitely find a home in the Zoo decks, which makes cards like Loxodon Smiter and Rancor much better (not that they were bad to begin with). Burning-Tree Emissary can enable very busted draws in the right deck, but I don’t know if its upside is worth the card slots or the loss of consistency. You either want to be explosive or consistent in Modern, and I don’t think Burning-Tree Emissary has enough of either. Boros Charm has been discussed to great lengths; it should be fine in all-in aggro/burn decks, but I don’t think there’s much room for it in other decks playing those colors, like U/W/R Midrange. Legion Loyalist can break the creature-based aggro mirrors with it’s obvious interaction with, and against, Lingering Souls.
Merfolk seems like a fine choice going into the next few PTQs. Counterspells are going to be more prevalent, and the combination of Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial make them pretty embarrassing. You also have a very good matchup against many other aggro decks and the Geist of Saint Traft-based tempo decks, mostly because of lords and Phantasmal Image. Splashing black for Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek, hard removal and Dimir Charm is pretty attractive; as is white for Path to Exile and maybe even Geist of Saint Traft. You’re already playing cards like Vapor Snag, and if last rotation taught us anything, it’s that Vapor Snag can be a huge setback for a ton of decks. If you can find a way to shore up your matchup against Bogle’d Auras, then you may have a strong run.
Merfolk by Anthony Lowry
B/W Martyr by Anthony Lowry
Midrange and control decks are in a pretty peculiar position since I last wrote. By toning down the best midrange deck in the format, midrange and control decks might be much better overall. The absence of Bloodbraid Elf makes it much safer to actually tap out and do something without getting severely punished. You can afford to commit to your Supreme Verdict, Elspeth, Knight-Errant or any other Turn 4 plan now.
Counterspells have improved a significant amount, specifically Spell Piece, Spell Snare and Mana Leak. Sphinx’s Revelation, Gifts Ungiven and Mystical Teachings can be built around safely, and you’re no longer restrained by the influence of the other control/midrange decks trying to beat Bloodbraid Elf. U/W/R control decks seem to have benefited the most out of this shift, and it looks like a very strong choice. It already had its way with the creature-based combo decks and decks trying to beat Jund. I can only imagine just how much better it is in a format where everyone’ is trying to do different things. It’s pretty much free reign in this area, and I’m excited to see where people come up with.
Doran by Christian Calcano
U/W/R Control by Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
If you think combo decks are dead, you’d be sorely mistaken. Eggs is still around by those steel-bodied enough to pilot it. Slippery Bogle and Daybreak Coronet are still going to crush unprepared opponents, as is Tron. Storm will definitely have to go though a pretty big makeover, as Seething Song knocked out a big chunk of its consistency, but I expect people to still pilot it to some success.
Maybe Lotus Bloom into Dragonstorm is what needs to be happening now, or some hybridization of the Pyromancer Ascension/Time Warp decks of old, with Past in Flames. Goryo’s Vengeance can summon an Emrakul, the Aeorns Torn or Griselbrand as early as Turn 3. Is Through the Breach poised to make a comeback?
I have no idea how Eggs will adapt, but there’s definitely room for innovation in Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod decks. Birthing Pod has a much higher ceiling when it comes to comboing off, and can reach it more consistently with Birthing Pod. But Splinter Twin is much better digging for the combo and fighting/looking for answers to the hate as well.
The biggest issues with Birthing Pod decks, especially the ones dedicated to the combo, is that it struggles when you don’t have a Birthing Pod, or have your Pod chain or combo broken up, while being pressured. Pod decks also take a much longer time setting up their combo with protection (which is usually a Spellskite or Glen-Elendra Archmage) than Splinter Twin. The U/W/R tempo decks are incredibly good at preventing a Pod from hitting the board and breaking up Pod chains with Aven Mindcensor; they also have a massive amount of removal and burn at their disposal. Despite the presence of Illness in the Ranks, I don’t think Splinter Twin is going to be hurt as much as people think. Splinter Twin has a much easier time fighting through because of counterspells, and simply playing the “flash” game. Slamming down a Deceiver Exarch on your U/W/R opponent’s Turn 3 and just going to town on them is definitely a plan. Many of their removal spells deal two or three damage; the rest can be handled by Dispel or Mizzium Skin.
Blind Obedience is the card I’m much more worried about for the non-Bogle combo players. Echoing Truth and enchantment hate are going to be at a premium for them, but I can certainly see alternative plans in the form of transformative sideboards. What about the lesser played combos? Living End can still be a thing, but may be softer to the expected rise of wraths. Is Flame-Kin Zealot a way to dodge that? Any deck that can play a Turn 3 Karn Liberated is always worth considering in my book, and various Tron decks can do that. Channel the Suns combo made a small splash last year, and can be an alternative to storming someone out. I also expect a lot more Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle variations to make an impact as well. Combo is certainly not dead; we just have to work for it a little harder.
Eggs by Corrado (MTGO)
Splinter Twin by Anthony Lowry
Bogled Enchantments by Anthony Lowry
There’s so much unexplored space in Modern, and treading said space is one of the main attractions. You can literally do anything you want to if you put the effort into making it work. I’ll definitely have something awesome for the next PTQ I attend, and I’d love to hear any cool decks and ideas you have. I’ll be back next week with some more Modern discussion, with more of a focus on removal spells.
Thanks for reading
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