5 Underrated Modern Decks Ready To Win SCG Dallas

These decks are ready to exploit the meta and cut through the field this weekend! Get Ben Friedman’s SCG Dallas favorites here! And yes, Grixis Death’s Shadow is one of them.

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to team with fellow
StarCityGames.com writer Shaheen Soorani and former SCG Tour Invitational
champion Eli Kassis for some high-quality Team Limited at GP Denver. While
we spent the latter half of our ill-fated, snowy Day 2 watching Seinfeld and playing Settlers of Catan, the topic of
underrated Modern decks came up. Of course, we all know about the popular
best decks, like Humans, Tron, Azorius Control, and Ironworks. Though these
options clearly dominate the top of the premier tournament metagame, these
guys were convinced that there are a few other decks that are poised to
break out in the coming weeks. Some have already started to take their
place at the new top of the Modern metagame, and others are soon to rise to
the winner’s circle.

Despite a relative lack of major Modern events in recent weeks to really
push the format forward, we have a few developments to contemplate, and the
next evolution of the metagame will include several reinvigorated


It’s been about a year since the last time I sleeved up Dredge for a Modern
tournament, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s starting to make a legitimate
comeback. Ross Merriam is another fan of the archetype, and
he’s advocated for new innovation
with the introduction of Creeping Chill. The card gives a ton of free
equity against the rapidly surging Burn archetype, and the reach provided
against control or midrange decks allows for some additional wins against
Jund or Golgari Midrange decks once they’ve stabilized the battlefield.

Merriam’s list from several weeks ago is a radical departure from
traditional Dredge lists, but I’ll be starting my testing here:

I’m typically an advocate of a fairer Dredge plan, playing cards like
Collective Brutality to offer interaction, a discard outlet, and the same
incidental reach as Creeping Chill, but a free Essence Drain is a free
Essence Drain. Assassin’s Trophy is a stellar sideboard option as well,
offering outs to cards as disparate as Scavenging Ooze, Relic of
Progenitus, Leyline of the Void, and Rest in Peace. I love a mix of
Assassin’s Trophy, Engineered Explosives, and possibly Maelstrom Pulse to
enable a fair sideboard gameplan. With Life from the Loam to fuel massive
Conflagrates and flexible fair removal spells to keep pace with opposing
threats, Dredge can win through quite a bit of interaction in the
sideboarded games. It’s astonishing the number of games where Dredge wins
via random removal combined with a few Stinkweed Imps holding off the enemy
while it prepares to chuck a few big Conflagrates upstairs.

Of course, Dredge is always going to rely on the absence of hate cards in
opposing sideboards as the first factor in determining its playability, but
that’s the best part! With the metagame shifting perceptibly away from
graveyard hate, Dredge has become a great option for players looking for a
metagame edge. Considering the combination of the new tools and a slightly
more vulnerable metagame, I expect the deck to come back in a big way at
SCG Dallas this weekend. It’s already started to tear up Magic Online, and
if that’s any indication, we’re going to be facing down piles of Prized
Amalgams in the paper metagame shortly.


This deck is perpetually underrated by pundits and Modern analysts, and
it’s easy to see why. The deck is linear, vulnerable to the most common
forms of interaction in the format (creature removal) and doesn’t really
present any disruption against faster non-interactive decks. Something like
Storm, Ad Nauseam, Infect, or Ironworks can just do a similarly broken
thing on a similar fundamental turn without worrying about disruption, and
those decks don’t fold to a pile of removal or sweepers. It also doesn’t
leverage much in the way of format familiarity or proficiency in
sequencing. It doesn’t appeal to most entrenched, experienced players. Why
play Elves, then?

Simply put, it wins more than it should, given the metagame density of the
deck. In the hands of more skilled pilots, Elves would likely be more than
a niche metagame player and would command more respect in terms of
sideboard hate like Pyroclasm. It’s got a goldfish to maintain at least a
respectable win percentage against the other linear decks, explodes past
Humans and Bant Spirits, and sports a favorable matchup against most
midrange decks not packing sweepers or cards like Izzet Staticaster.

The deck has also gained a valuable new tool in Elvish Clancaller,
providing it with more resilience against targeted removal. Adding more
must-kill threats stretches opposing Lightning Bolts and Fatal Pushes thin,
and a two-mana lord with a mana-sink ability is exactly what the deck
needed. Different builds also incorporate an infinite combo with Ezuri,
Renegade Leader and Devoted Druid, or even use the Vizier of Remedies combo
to provide another must-kill interaction.

Paul Koerbel Top 8’d the recent Team Constructed Open in the Modern seat
with Elves, and although his list looks a bit funky from the numbers, the
raw power is undeniable.

Some of the singletons here don’t quite add up to me, but with Chord of
Calling and Eldritch Evolution over the competing velocity engine of Lead
the Stampede, there’s a method to this madness. Plus, it seems like Elves
hasn’t quite settled on a set optimized decklist, so there’s plenty of room
to improve over the next few months of Modern events.

Grixis Death’s Shadow

Okay, okay, I know this one is kind of a cop-out. I always bring up Grixis
Death’s Shadow whenever anyone mentions underrated Modern decks, as I’m
convinced that a deck that so closely resembles a Legacy strategy can never
be too far from the top of Modern. But with Humans moving away from The Bugler and back towards more disruptive cards like Thalia,
Heretic Cathar, Grixis Death’s Shadow regains the edge with the sideboard
plan discussed way back over the summer. When you transform into a Grixis
Control deck post-sideboard, you can simply grind Humans out with oodles of
removal spells and eventually win with Liliana, the Last Hope or Snapcaster
Mage beats. It’s incredible, but Militia Bugler made the plan significantly
less reliable by offering two bodies in one card. Without that card, the
matchup is even over three games.

Burn is currently

the top deck on MTGGoldfish in terms of Modern metagame popularity

, but a savvy Grixis Death’s Shadow player can actually gain the advantage
against a mediocre Burn opponent. By slow-playing one’s lands and forcing
the Burn player to expend most of their resources on getting the Shadow
player down to the low single digits, the Shadow player can close the door
with a few well-placed Stubborn Denials and a Temur Battle Rage. I’d rather
play against Burn than against Humans, to be honest!

Anger of the Gods excites me as potentially the best option for hedging
against a resurgent Dredge, as well as offering a needed sweeper against
Humans. The problem is, Creeping Chill offers Dredge a piece of reach that
it was sorely lacking, and the matchup may require Rakdos Charm or Leyline
of the Void to really bring a win. Kira, Great-Glass Spinner is also
incredible against the various Jund or Golgari decks that are popping up in
the wake of Assassin’s Trophy, as well as Jeskai or Azorius Control. I
sincerely hope folks have forgotten how to play against Grixis Death’s
Shadow, because it’s on my short list of Modern decks to bring to my next
event and crush with!

Runaway Red

I’ll start with the decklist:

Okay, Edgar. I see you.

Runaway Steam-Kin, Risk Factor, and Arclight Phoenix are some pretty sweet
additions from Guilds of Ravnica, and they’ve supercharged this
All-In Red strategy to the point where you can expect to do some pretty
incredible things on the third turn, given a live Steam-Kin on the
battlefield. I’m not convinced that this is the correct build, but streamer
h0lydiva has been promoting various takes on the deck on her stream, and
when it works, there are some truly incredible turns.

Is this better than a traditional Storm deck (which, for the record, I
think is also criminally underplayed in Modern)? Time will tell, but I’m
cautiously optimistic. There’s a lot of resilience and reach in Risk Factor
+ Fiery Temper, Bedlam Reveler offers an incredibly powerful effect for a
combo-aggro deck, and Arclight Phoenix as a free flying attacker is just
pure value. If Mardu Pyromancer and Storm had a baby, this would be it. I’m
astonished and impressed, and if the consistency is there, this deck is
going to light up your world.

Ad Nauseam

This marks the second time in as many weeks that I advocate for a Modern
Bryan Gottlieb has mentioned
as a niche choice that could break things wide open, and this time it isn’t
an unproven (but high-potential) combo-oriented rare I’m sweating over.
It’s a proven contender, a deck that slices up a vulnerable metagame,
although it can’t beat disruptive aggro decks like Humans or Grixis Death’s
Shadow to save its life. Ad Nauseam, should Humans and Bant Spirits
continue dropping in metagame percentage, is poised to demolish
non-interactive decks like Dredge, Tron, or Burn. It’s got the tools to
beat up on Jeskai or Azorius Control, and if there were only a way to beat
the disruptive aggro decks, it would be a major player. As it currently
stands, this deck is (mostly) on the sidelines, but occasionally someone
fades the Humans matchup lottery for a few rounds in a row and sneaks into
a Top 8.

This past weekend, we saw this happen with MTGO player Kiiiittyman, who did
well in the Modern Challenge with the following:

Bontu’s Last Reckoning is a sweet way to steal a win or two from Humans,
though there’s no way it can make the matchup favorable. Regardless, if you
want to play the pairings lottery, there’s absolutely no better choice in
Modern today than Ad Nauseam, and with a fading Humans metagame share,
those pairings lottery winners are going to start stacking up Top 8

I’m excited about Modern in the wake of Guilds of Ravnica. There
are a few potent upgrades for decks that had been languishing on the
sidelines (Creeping Chill and Assassin’s Trophy), a brand new deck built
around a few niche rares that has people laughing all the way to the
scorekeeper’s match slip box (Runaway Steam-Kin and Arclight Phoenix), and
a metagame ripe for innovation and exploitation.

The SCG Tour stop in Dallas this weekend is going to be exciting, and even
though I’m not traditionally a stream watcher, I’ll be keeping my eyes
peeled for any and all new technology I can spot on this weekend’s stream.
Modern never gets old!