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Modern Magic: The Wild West

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Modern is a format comprised mostly of raw, untempered decks. The format contains consistent and well tested decks, but every season seems to yield a new “best deck”. Modern is the wild west of magic, untamed, wild, and a new sheriff comes into town every time the old one becomes too good to not hate (or ban). Because of the constant shifting of the metagame, it is important to understand where the format’s most popular decks’ strengths and weaknesses lie whenever venturing to compete in a Modern event.

The Deck-Searchers

The much maligned Melira, and her gang of outlaws- Kitchen Finks, Murderous Redcap, Reveillark, and Cartel Aristocrat have been terrorizing the modern scene for several seasons now. While cards like Cartel Aristocrat and Voice of Resurgence have sprung up to make the deck even more powerful, the core of the deck has always been consistent: utilizing Birthing Pod. This deck aims to set up a 3 card creature-based combo with the recursive tutor capabilities of Birthing Pod and often aided by the instant speed Chord of Calling. While Melira, Sylvok Outcast was originally printed to hose infect strategies in Scars of Mirrodin block, her -1/-1 counter hate makes her a perfect companion for Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap, turning these persistent threats into unkillable monsters. By throwing a sac outlet into the fray in the form of Viscera Seer or Cartel Aristocrat, persist creatures are recurred at will to trigger enters-the-battlefield abilities for infinite life and/or infinite damage.

The deck is certainly powerful, but with the large amount of spot removal available in Modern, a creature-based combo deck is hardly viable without a lot of help. Luckily, that’s just what Birthing Pod provides with the ability to fetch out utility creatures to protect your combo and keep you alive. Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Spellskite, and Orzhov Pontiff each shine in specific roles for different matchups. Another great perk of the Melira Pod decks versus other creature-based and even other Birthing Pod-centric decks is the ability to run Gavony Township. Now, even when you aren’t comboing for infinite, the Township will take the persist counters from your Kitchen Finks to keep them around and keep you alive longer- not to mention making the rest of your creatures into very real threats.

The Flashback Kid

This deck was piloted to a first place finish in Magic’s World Championship just this past August and has made up more than it’s share of the metagame in tournaments since. A popular choice for it’s versatility, the deck is able to shift from hard control to applying lethal pressure in a single end step. Cards like Electrolyze, Path to Exile, and Mana Leak slow other decks’ development enough to get to the mid to late game where cards like Sphinx’s Revelation, Ajani Vengeant, and Celestial Colonnade can take over. Several cards in the deck were chosen for their unique ability to function in both the early game and late game as well as being relevant as a control card and being able to threaten your opponent when the time comes to strike. While there are several versions of this deck available, the most prevalent alternate version will run the Twin combo (Pestermite/Deceiver Exarch + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker/Splinter Twin) to win in a single turn.

Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt exemplify the deck’s versatility best, and for that reason, they make up the deck’s only four-ofs. Early game, you can Lightning Bolt a threat or Mana Leak a problematic spell without the worry that it might have been better spent in the late game thanks to Snapcaster’s enters-the-battlefield ability. Many of this deck’s games are ended by sending a Lightning Bolt to the dome end of turn, then flashing back that Bolt by casting Snapcaster only to untap and serve with that Snapcaster and an animated Celestial Colonnade. That’s twelve damage from practically nowhere, which is enough to steal a game or give your opponent serious pause before going all in on the attack. Every card in the deck has just as many if not more built-in options (looking at you, Cryptic Command) and that is the main strength of this deck.

The Good, the Bad, and the Bogles

Notable Jund enthusiast, Reid Duke put away the Blood Crypts long enough to finish second with this GW Auras deck at the Magic World Championships. Unlike the previous decklists, this one hones in on a single and destructive plan: putting pants on 1/1 hexproof creatures. You may be familiar with the standard deck that had similar goals and are wondering why some of that deck’s better cards (notably Geist of Saint Traft) are missing from this list. The reason is speed. GW Auras is designed to be as non-interactive as possible, so your goal is to kill your opponent before they can do anything meaningful. In game one, you can typically go about putting on your pants one leg at a time, but this deck should expect a copious amount of sideboarded hate in games 2 and 3, making for some pretty tough sideboarding decisions. The “Umbra” auras in this deck keep your creatures alive (you have more auras than creatures, so protecting them is a must). The general size of your creatures along with the huge boost they get from Daybreak Coronet means that even if your opponent is in a blocking mood, they aren’t going to come out ahead in any exchanges.

What’s the best place to hide a tree?

As mentioned above, the primary issue this deck faces is it’s creature count. With only 12 creatures in the deck, finding two can be difficult and finding three can seem impossible. For this reason, throwing away a creature for anything is generally a terrible idea. Bogle decks have done some crazy things to up their creature count without lowering their aura count; not short of playing Fists of the Ironwood to generate two Saprolings (they can at least hold a Rancor pretty safely). Reid’s elegant solution to the problem was his one-of Dryad Arbor, whose Forest type means you can fetch it off of the deck’s 6 fetchlands. Perhaps this is an issue that will be further addressed as more of the enchantment creatures from Theros block are spoiled.

These decks are the major players in the format right now. However, with as wild and diverse a format as modern is, a clear and concise path to victory is a necessity for any deck. It is certainly not unheard of to go through an 8 round modern tournament facing down a different deck each round. Decks like Affinity, Living End, GB Midrange, Delver, Jund/Junk, and Reanimator will show up fairly often, but the decks mentioned above are the ones that are extremely likely to show up at least once in any given tournament. As much as Modern is like the wild west, it doesn’t have to be a shoot-out. Every deck has tools available to interact with the rest of the format and the decks that come prepared to win those interactions are going to fare much better than those that are just trying to goldfish.

Thanks for reading, and if you are reading this in preparation for GP Detroit, good luck!

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