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Modern Mastery: Let’s Call It A Comeback

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

Hello all my faithful readers! I apologize for the extended absence, but it has been a very busy month for me in the world of MTG. As most of you probably know, I was at Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal fulfilling the role of coverage for Team Mana Deprived. I was fortunate enough to spend my time there working hard to bring you all the tech hot off the Pro Tour floor, all while hanging out with my fellow community contributors and the ever amazing stable of pro players.

It truly was an experience I won’t soon forget, and it is littered with so many wonderful memories that I wouldn’t even know where to start recounting them. This is fortunate because it’s not actually what I am here to do for you. I have literally played almost no relevant games in Modern since we were last together, so the purpose of this run is to familiarize ourselves with the actual format contents as they live, breathe and change on MTGO.

Our Opposition

Many of the decks we discovered and analyzed in the previous season of this column are starting to resurface because two of the most severe predators have been sufficiently powered down with the recent bannings. Storm with Seething Song was doing an excellent job of keeping the midrange decks with no actual interactivity out of the format, and Jund with Bloodbraid Elf was making countermagic functionally bad, nudging out the majority of the blue-based decks. With both of these decks sufficiently slowed, it seems as though the format is far more open.

R/G Aggro

With Storm out of the way, extremely aggressive strategies like the new G/R Aggro list are starting to appear in some numbers and are performing very well. Here is a list from a recent 4-0 finish on MTGO:

This deck comes out fast and hard, and basically takes full advantage of low-cost, high-efficiency beaters in quantity to just swarm the opponent to death. I assure you that the Turn 1 dude followed by a bash on Turn 2 into Emissary then Berserker is quite daunting. Especially if that Turn 1 beater was an Experiment One. Many of the decks trying to take a control route simply cannot beat this deck, and it often puts enough pressure on the current combo decks that they fall apart without a precise nut draw, which is quite impressive. The downfall is this deck is not very good at maintaining pressure over the course of a longer game if you can survive the initial onslaught.


There seems to be a rise in Tron decks with Storm no longer around to hold them at bay, and now we even have two variants to contend with. The traditional R/G version is still around, but now we have Blue Tron, which focuses on a longer game backed by cantripping bounce and countermagic, ending on a Mindslaver lock backed by Wurmcoil Engines:

Gifts Ungiven

With Jund’s primary card-advantage engine banned and its newfound weakness to countermagic discovered, it looks like Gifts Ungiven/Unburial Rites-based strategies are starting to rise to the top. In the last Daily event, there were four copies in the 4-0 to 3-1 bracket. For reference:

The trick here is to use discard and removal to clear the way long enough to resolve Gifts Ungiven at end of turn, putting a game-winning creature and Unburial Rites in the graveyard to win after untapping. These decks have traditionally had a tough time with Storm and Bloodbraid Jund, the former because of sheer speed, and the latter because of heavy discard, but more importantly, absurd top deck potential. But what actually scared me the most during this research was the discovery of this monstrosity:

Yes. U/W Tron is back. This time, with a Gifts Ungiven package. Jund players everywhere are likely shaking their heads in disgust. Having the mana availability of Tron to back up your Gifts strategy seems insane, mostly because being able to hardcast your threats in a timely fashion without needing Gifts Ungiven is awesome. Adding Celestial Colonnade to the mix isn’t too shabby, either.

Our Weapon

With all the greedy manabases in Modern, I needed to brave the new wilderness with a deck that could effectively contain creatures, and could also interact with the mana strategies with appropriate disruption. My experience with Esper Walkers showed me that beating the creature-based decks is much easier than expected, so I had a recipe for the first goal; but I needed a way to interact with the mana decks. My testing brought me to this spicy brew:

This deck allows me to effectively interact with both creatures and mana strategies. The combination of Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge along with Ajani Vengeant and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is capable of producing some very choked-up mana production. One of the main reasons to run red, aside from Ajani, is very obviously Lightning Bolt. In my Esper configuration, I always felt behind if my opponent was able to resolve and abuse Deathrite Shaman. Having a permanent answer to him that is not Path To Exile was a major bonus for this list.

The deck’s goal is to play a game that inhibits the tempo of the opponent while forcing them to overcommit resources before sweeping up everything and winning with our must-answer threats: Gideon Jura and Ajani Vengeant. This deck might not be perfect, and it might not even be good, but it is a blast to play with and is capable of invoking much frustration in your opponents.

Here is the stream of the deck in action. Check out the last set of games against KYT from Mana Deprived as he runs Zac Hill’s Grixis Delver list against us.

Watch live video from Legit MTG on TwitchTV

I have been making some tweaks to the list, and am anxious to show them off. It will be the last time you see the list, so if you’re interested, make sure you tune in to the stream at 9:30 p.m. EST on Monday. I am taking suggestions for the next deck that we should be running so please leave your ideas in the comments. As promised, Legit MTG will be giving away store credit to one of the lucky commenters every week, so make sure you sound off below. The winner will be announced on Monday’s stream, so get in while you can!!!

Huge thanks again to MTGO Traders for their continued support of this project.

See you Monday!

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