Bringing The Fun Back To Modern

Brennan DeCandio may have had success in Modern, but the joy is fading! He’s ready to tell you what he’s tried. Can you help him find the way back to fun?

It’s no secret here; I’ve had a hard time having fun in what used to be my favorite format.

Wait, what was that? Modern used to be your favorite format?

It’s been a good while since the last time I truly enjoyed Modern back in the days shortly after Dark Ascension was released, when the format was still fresh and new with tons of unexplored archetypes. Yes, there were a few more broken cards legal at the time, but one of my beloved favorites was this spicy meatball.

It certainly felt amazing when you were able to cast a Turn 2 Birds of Paradise and follow that up with a Turn 2 Hedron Crab, crack a fetchland, mill over multiple Vengevines, and cast a Phantasmal Image, triggering them and then copying them to attack for twelve on Turn 2. Those were the days before Prized Amalgam and Cathartic Reunion when Dredge really became a force to be feared.


I do recall placing very well in almost every PTQ I played in with the deck, including three Magic Online PTQs. Unfortunately I never claimed a spot to the Pro Tour with it, and the printing of Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze surely put whatever dreams I had of this deck having legs to rest.

Enough about the past. I’ve actually be getting in some reps in with Modern the past couple weeks in preparation for the first Open of next year, where I want to keep my title of SCG Columbus champion! While I’ve not come close to solidifying exactly the deck I’d like to play, one deck that has me at least enjoying the format as a whole is one I’m sure will get many laughs in the comments.

The combination of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl is a powerful one that’s existed in Modern for almost its entirety. With two green-producing lands, you can have access to four mana on Turn 2, with these cards casting something such as a Garruk Wildspeaker which can untap your enchanted land for even more nonsense. While it’s unlikely, the deck is capable of exploding onto the battlefield and winning as early as Turn 3, not even taking into consideration any busted Burning-Tree Emissary draws.

Sure, casting a Genesis Wave for thirteen on Turn 3 is fun and probably will win you the game on the spot, but this deck’s true power is looping Primal Command by searching up Eternal Witness over and over, putting a land on top of your opponent’s deck denying them draw steps and eventually killing with a giant Craterhoof Behemoth! If that’s not fun, then I don’t know what is, and I’ve certainly been enjoying this deck doing just that rather consistently, I might add.

Okay, so it’s fun, but is it really competitive?

Right now we seem to be at a point where big mana decks are at an all-time high, and with this being just another big mana deck, is it the best one? The answer is probably no. You’re not going to beat a player who sticks a Turn 3 Karn Liberated on the draw, ever, and don’t even get me started with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Oblivion Stone. This deck does have the advantage against other decks in that it’s not one-dimensional and it’s hard to hate out all aspects of the deck.

Modern’s hottest new card is Field of Ruin. With the aforementioned big mana decks, this card is a great way for decks to have a functional Stone Rain in their maindecks at very little cost, since they’re retaining the land count, unlike with its ugly cousin Ghost Quarter. And, yes, Field of Ruin is generally better against the big mana decks.

The real winner here is Utopia Sprawl! As long as you don’t accidently put your Utopia Sprawl on a Stomping Ground, it’s certainly safe from Field of Ruin, since the destruction can’t hit basic lands. That alone is a reason why you might want to play something like Mono-Green Devotion if the metagame becomes hostile to nonbasic lands. There are certain cards that do this deck dirty, though. Spreading Seas is an absolute nightmare, since turning your Forest into an Island will knock off your Utopia Sprawls, but hey, at least you can still use the Island to help cast a Wistful Selkie!

One of the most underrated cards in Modern is Primal Command. With almost every mode being exceedingly relevant given the matchup, its only real weakness is the vulnerability it has to the blue mages of the format sporting their Remands and Stubborn Denials.

Even in a matchup like Death’s Shadow, Primal Command is one of your best cards: the lifegain mode is in fact targeted! If you really want to see your Death’s Shadow opponent’s jaw drop, be sure to cast Primal Command when they have a battlefield of a couple of Death’s Shadows anywhere under eight power. You’ll have them wondering what in the world just happened.

The mode of putting a noncreature permanent on top of a player’s library is the best weapon you have against the other big mana decks, and looping that with Eternal Witness, like I said before, is the best bet you have to beating those matchups before you get access to other hate cards in the sideboard.

While on the subject, it’s come to the attention of most that the majority of the games that people hate about Modern come from the sets 8th Edition and 9th Edition.

While there are other extremely polarizing cards still in the format (ahem, Chalice of the Void), it seems that the games played that lead to the least amount of interaction and the most times people say “That’s just Modern” come from those cards. While I do have a personal vendetta against any white-bordered cards already, I can agree with a lot of what I’ve heard when it comes to this subject.

The Urza’s lands offer very little to Modern and move the format away from interaction because playing cards that interact with normal strategies is just a losing proposition against anyone who starts the game with Urza’s Mine into Expedition Map. Control and midrange simply cannot exist in a world where people go way over the top of them simply by playing semi-restrictive lands.

While there is plenty to be done about the amount of nonbasic lands they play, sometimes we’ve seen it’s nowhere close to enough. I can’t say whether I think they should go, because there certainly is plenty to be done about them, but often when you’re on the draw and they naturally have all three pieces of the Urzatron and cast a Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine on Turn 3 of the game, there’s little most decks can do.

Moving away from those cards, Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void, and Ensnaring Bridge do vastly different things but I am going to lump them together here because they all do something similar which is make it so your opponent can’t do things.

Who here has been personally victimized by Regina George one of these cards?

I have.

When I sign up for a tournament, I want to play Magic. Yes, I understand that you don’t always get to do the things you want to do with the deck you’re playing because your opponent is actively trying to stop you, but having one card shut down an entire deck like Blood Moon can. Locking out upwards of sixteen spells from your Jeskai deck would make even the most experienced players sad. Ensnaring Bridge is here because it’s what makes one of the most offensive decks in the entire format work in Lantern Control. Without Ensnaring Bridge, the deck wouldn’t function, since it really has no other defense and it’s just trying to deny a player’s ability to ever draw an answer to it by milling them slowly and painfully.

It’s Modern. I get it. That’s fine. I just don’t want to hear people defending these types of things where one player simply doesn’t get to play Magic because they didn’t bring the right sideboard hate for one deck that just wants to play one spell and hope that’s good enough.

Is that a testament to skill? Maybe it is. Some of the best players in the world were playing Lantern Control at the SCG Invitational only a few weeks back. Maybe it was just the best thing they had on them at the time. Who knows?

All I can say is that I enjoy playing Magic, and having cards in the format that make me feel like I’m not getting a chance to even play if I did everything right frustrates me to no end. Should we get rid of 8th Edition and 9th Edition? Probably not, but it would sure as hell have me enjoying the format more if I didn’t have to ever play against Tron again.

Chalice of the Void is only somewhat okay in the format because the ways to cast it on Turn 1 are minimal and often costly to deckbuilding. Nevertheless, I’m not thrilled it exists and it could surely go as well, for all I care.

All in all, I’m glad there’s at least one deck that’s giving me hope for not finding the endless Modern events miserable for all of next year. Maybe I’ll come around and find something I truly love and can join the rest of you all in Modern heaven. Have any suggestions for a fun and powerful Modern deck? Please, I’m all ears and would love to jump on a train, any train, and ride that to victory come January!