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Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Guess Who’s Back?

It’s finally over. My somewhat questionable ban for briberrr I mean lying (I think?) is up. My ego beat but spirit still intact, I’m coming back to a Modern and sealed PPTQ season. A lot has changed since I last played modern back in January. Luckily because Modern is a seasonal format this applies to the majority of the magic community as well. With Splinter Twin banned it has opened the door to a lot of different archetypes that previously struggled because the very existence of the deck.

A common theme exists in my article today. The majority these decks I’m going over don’t interact very well with your opponent, which admittedly can sound pretty bad when you think about it. However with Splinter Twin gone there aren’t many combo decks that “just win”. This opens the field to diversity which is a great and healthy thing for a format Wizards is trying to push. That diversity brings back decks that had fallen out of popularity. Let’s take a look at some of those decks.

Golgari Grave-Troll has been on the banned list for quite a long time. Last year it finally got a chance to see some play. It quickly came apparent that the Troll couldn’t breathe enough life into this archetype by itself with Splinter Twin hanging around. Now that it’s gone and with the help of some new and surprisingly strong additions from Shadows over Innistrad block this deck is taking down tournaments. What I think puts this deck over the top is the Bridge from Below with Greater Gargadon. Bridge from Below is such a powerful card and hasn’t seen much use in Modern since Dread Return is still on the banned list. This isn’t your traditional combo dredge deck though. I don’t see you winning many games blistering fast without Gargadon that is. For the most part this looks like a bit of a grind when you don’t draw a Greater Gargadon. I would certainly hate to play against this deck if I’m playing Jund that’s for sure. I love the sideboard. The traditional weakness of Dredge has been of course the graveyard hate. In Modern right now the popular choice of hate is Grafdigger’s Cage thanks to Collected Company decks. Having 6 cheap ways to destroy the Cage post board is just fantastic. It indecently also helps against one of the more popular decks in robots. The metagame is severely underprepared to deal with this deck. I’m excited to see what direction this deck continues to evolve in as the format begins to adapt to its presence.

Merfolk has always been not quite good enough to make a statement in the Modern metagame. A few months ago it finally broke through and won a Grand Prix. The core of the deck really hasn’t changed. The creature suite in this list is pretty normal with the exception of Harbinger of the Tides. This is normally the flex slot for other cards like Tidebinder Mage or Phantasmal Image. The spells are also pretty typical with the flex slot of Dismember and Spell Pierce can also have Vapor Snag. This deck never really looks that threatening but some of the draws this deck can produce are simply astounding. There’s no better deck to abuse AEther Vial and Spreading Seas gives headaches to just about every deck in the format. The sideboard addresses some of the weaknesses of Merfolk like Affinity with Hurkyl’s Recall. Tidebinder Mage and Spellskite help shut down decks like Jund and Infect. We just learned how pivotal a card like Relic of Progenitus can be going forward. I love this deck and is the top of my list for decks to play this PPTQ season.

Elves have the rare distinction of winning a Grand Prix while Twin was an archetype. As you may know I love me some elves.

The latest iteration is looking to swarm the opponent. Although Beck/Call is a legal card and resembles that of Glimpse of Nature, the modern version of Elves isn’t looking to do any crazy combo shenanigans. That of course doesn’t mean this deck isn’t capable of some truly outrageous draws thanks to Elvish Archdruid. Lethal attacks begin as early as turn 3 with this deck. The thing that I really love about Elves is the sideboard. The mana is so good that you can really splash just about anything you want. The only change I’d make to the main deck is removing Lead the Stampede for Chord of Calling. I think having a toolbox kit in Modern is more important that sheer card advantage. Also if you want to have Lead the Stampede save it for the sideboard in a grindy matchup such as Jund or Jeskai control. If you’re looking for a fun deck that rewards familiarity I highly recommend this archetype.

I’ve never really loved Tron. It’s just not the type of magic I typically enjoy playing. It’s as close to solitaire magic as it gets. It does do it better than most though and there’s no denying the sheer power it offers. Hitting Tron on turn 3 or 4 is very hard to beat no matter what deck you’re playing. The banning of Eye of Ugin has changed the way this deck is built now. Instead of the inevitability of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn it now uses Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. That is of course if somehow Ugin or Karn isn’t enough. For this deck it all comes down to hitting Tron before your opponent kills you. It’s certainly a fun deck and something to make sure you have some sideboard slots for. The sideboard here works to answer the aggressive decks in the format since if the games go long you’re heavily favored. Ideally straight land destruction is needed to effectively combat this deck. Cards like Blood Moon and Spreading Seas are nice, but thanks to Chromatic Sphere and Star they can still get green mana to use Nature’s Claim and blow up your mana denial.

The last deck I want to highlight today is Living End. Another graveyard based decks suppressed by Splinter Twin’s popularity is a great choice for today’s metagame. There’s nothing too fancy here and I’m all about it. What I like most about this choice is as I said before the popular hate card for graveyard-centric decks is Grafdigger’s Cage. The way Living End is worded it actually isn’t effected by the Cage. That gives this deck a huge edge in the current metagame. That being said this deck still is very dependent on drawing Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread. It does help that you get to dig a lot with all the cycling effects. The big problem is without drawing one of those two cards the deck simply doesn’t function. Also there has been a rise in a new Jeskai control deck using Nahiri, the Harbinger. These blue decks contain the full amount of Remand. Remand is really bad news when trying to resolve Living End. Overall however I think the risks are worth the reward. If you’re looking for a relatively cheap modern deck that is also very competitive look no further.

As for my first event back it will be a Modern PPTQ this Sunday. I’ll be heavily considering one of these decks if you know, for whatever reason I don’t play my trusty robots.  Either way I’m glad to be back. Magic isn’t just about the game but the people you meet along the way. It will be nice to see everyone again. Maybe I just needed a break to refresh and get a new start. Time will tell.

John Cuvelier

@JCuvelier on Twitter

Gosu. on MTGO

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