Modern has been getting very mixed reviews in the last few months.
On one side are players who are reveling in the diversity of decks available in the format, with tournaments regularly featuring five or more distinct archetypes. On the other are the players who view that diversity as an illusion, with ostensibly different but fundamentally similar non-interactive decks ruling the format with little sign of reprieve. Jund is still the most popular deck, but after that the options are lackluster for anyone looking to fight fair. Jeskai Control, a recent darling of the format, has quickly fallen to the fringes, as has Abzan Company.
In their stead we have plenty of Infect, Dredge, Affinity, and Burn. Suffice it to say that these decks all have their fair share of detractors. While each of these decks is linear enough to be beatable in a vacuum, trying to fight them simultaneously leaves your fifteen-card sideboard stretched beyond its limits. You have to pick your poison in Modern and hope that you put it in the right glass.
In order to combat this array of powerful, proactive strategies, we will need a deck with versatile answers and the means to close games quickly. For the latter we have the classic standbys of Kitchen Finks, Lingering Souls, and Restoration Angel. Offense or defense, these three are great and they form the backbone of our threat base.
For the former we have Path to Exile, Detention Sphere, and Supreme Verdict. But those still only deal with permanents. Enter Collective Brutality, an efficient package that can kill early creatures, gain precious life points, and most importantly disrupt spell-based and creature-based decks alike. It is already seeing some play in Abzan, Jund, and Grixis, and it surely does great work here.
This deck has enough cantrips and card advantage that pitching an extra card or two isn’t an issue, and being able to tack on multiple effects without additional mana is a significant tempo gain for a deck whose reliance on expensive removal can make it rather cumbersome.
Collective Brutality can take out an early creature, strip your opponent of a Boros Charm or Collected Company, and get you some life, all on turn 2. That swing should buy you the necessary time to land a creature or planeswalker and start pressuring your opponent to act aggressively. That aggression plays right into your hands with five sweepers.
The one concern I would have is Dredge, and that is conveniently covered with maindeck Relic of Progenitus and the full four copies of Rest in Peace in the sideboard. That may seem excessive, but when you’re not lacking in other matchups because of the versatility of your other cards, it’s an affordable luxury.
Esper has yet to make significant inroads in Modern, but as people discover and explore the power of Collective Brutality, that could change.