Flow Of Ideas – Everything You Need To Know About Modern

Gavin knows what’s up. After extensively working Overextended, he has a good idea of where Modern stands. He presents 18 different archetypes that will likely fundamentally shape the format.

The Modern format is something you could say I know a little bit about.

For the past three months I have been living and breathing the format I was working on: Overextended. While Modern is a little different from Overextended on the surface, in the end the Overextended format really boiled down to decks that were legal in Modern anyway. Most highly played decks had maybe one older, unessential card and some different fetchlands.

After handling a little over a thousand decklists, writing about the top finishers each week, and watching countless matches, I can tell you about almost everything that has been discovered in the format so far. I’d be happy to answer any specific question in the comments below. But, with only two and a half weeks until the Pro Tour, I know what’s most valuable: decks.

In this article, I’m going to outline every popular deck from Overextended that is going to play a huge role in Modern. I’ll give you a brief summary and history, as well as what I think about the archetype.

The decks don’t have sideboards listed because I would tweak those depending on the expected metagame; I mainly want to outline the available archetypes. However, if there’s any specific elaboration you’d like (sideboarding or otherwise), please ask in the comments.

Real quick, before getting into the deck portion of the article, there is one thing I want to address about Modern: the banned list. Though many are excited about the announcement, a gigantic complaint about the format is the banned list Wizards created. To all of you complaining, I would ask you to please be patient and remember that this is almost assuredly going to be cut down with time.

Wizards made this change very late based on the realization that the Extended format for Philadelphia was terrible. I agree that it’s unfortunate it was made so late, but I am glad they had the courage to change it after all. It’s better for Magic this way. Why? Because decks people hate like U/W Stoneforge, Faeries, and Valakut won’t be dominating this Pro Tour.

It’s bad for Magic and peoples’ perception of a format if a Caw-Blade-esque deck does well yet again. “Oh look, here’s a brand new format you can play! By the way, the best deck is U/W Stoneforge.” It isn’t worth it to change the format of the Pro Tour at the last minute only to replace it with a format that breeds similar problems! Instead, many of the banned cards seem to be aimed specifically at ensuring this format isn’t just a rehash of times past. To help give the format its own identity.

Does Valakut need to be banned? Does Bitterblossom need to be banned? Probably not on a pure gameplay level. But does it make the format more fun and interesting with them gone for now? Certainly! Rather than have people start in many of the places they’ve started before, with many of the obvious engines they’ve used for years, this helps push people away into new territory—or at the very least into decks that people like more. It’s exciting!

I would fully expect the banned list to be 2/3rds, if not half of its current size by this time next year. Let the Pro Tour play out, see what comes of it, and then go from there. I highly doubt we will be using the same banned list at Modern events next year.

Getting a banned list right is hard. As someone who has been doing something similar, let me tell you, there’s a ton to take into account. Tons of checks and balances, concerns and counterpoints. Rather than make a huge mistake, starting with several cards and then removing them as time goes on is a safe way to go.

With that all said, I’m confident Modern is going to be one of the best formats ever. Even with the banned list, this is probably the most open Pro Tour of all time. Every classification of archetype is viable.

Ready to see some decklists? Here we go!

Section 1: Beatdown


I’m listing Zoo first and foremost. I’m also going to talk a lot about it due to its prominence. It is absolutely the deck to beat, and either you need to adequately prepare for it or lose to it. You need to be even more prepared than you think. This deck is fast, resilient, and powerful. There are plenty of answers—but you have to play enough of them to draw them in a timely fashion. 

There are so many varieties of Zoo. Let me showcase to you how the deck evolved in Overextended. (Essentially the same evolutionary path I would expect it to take in Modern.)

In the beginning, we started with a mere two different varieties of Zoo: Punishing Fire and Domain. The former looking more like Brian Kibler Pro Tour Austin deck and the latter more like something out of Martin Juza’s Zoo playbook. Sure, they each had their variations: Baneslayer or no? Dark Confidant or no? However, there were many consistencies.

These decks quickly began to evolve. The Domain Zoo decks mostly just honed themselves to become leaner and meaner. However, the majority of Zoo decks were not of the Domain variety. In fact, with Zoo as one of the most popular archetypes, the Punishing Zoo decks began to take over and fight amongst themselves. 

The key card in the Zoo evolution? Kavu Predator.

The Predator showed up in more and more Punishing Zoo lists until it was universally adopted. Many Zoo players called him the most important creature in the mirror, as well as just one of your best cards in any creature-heavy matchup. He can easily grow to eclipse the size of Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary. I’m going to fast-forward the evolution of Modern Zoo about two weeks and tell you that you should absolutely be playing Kavu Predator in your Punishing Zoo lists.

Here are two sample Zoo lists, one Domain and one Big. 

You can experiment with Dark Confidant in both decks. I know one of the most prominent Punishing Zoo players in my Overextended events had Dark Confidant in his list for an additional long game engine in the mirror and versus control by the end. Is it necessary? In the past it hasn’t been, but now may be a time to consider it.

And of course, those are just the two most popular varieties of Zoo. There are others. Lists with everything from maindeck hate to Bloodbraid Elf and Boom / Bust to heavy amounts of burn have been successful. Feel free to experiment around!


I’ve seen many varieties of red decks come by. The more successful creature-centric beatdown versions are usually Boros (which is the next deck on the list!), but the burn heavy mono red deck still exists.

There’s not much to say about this archetype. It’s easily hated out, and without Great Furnace it means Shrapnel Blast is no longer very reliable, but it certainly packs a quick clock if nobody is ready for it.


The R/W variety of red decks come packed with many more creatures and a different game plan than nugging your opponent to the dome. There are two different ways you can take the deck: attrition style, or Brozek style.

Brozek Boros was a deck that showed up during the middle of the last “big Extended” season. It’s a blistering fast deck that took maximum advantage of its landfall cards. A Modern version of that deck would look something like this:

However, if you want to be a little less all-in, you can try this more traditional approach:

R/G Elves

In last year’s Extended, we saw the mono-green aggro Elves archetype take off. The deck could kill as quickly as turn three and almost always had the kill by turn four or five. In Overextended, a completely Modern-legal Elves deck has been doing well since week one. The only difference? This one touches red for access to the debilitating Blood Moon out of the sideboard. Don’t underestimate this deck! (Or the Mono Green version, for that matter.)

This list is mostly creatures maindeck, but you can play Grove with Punishing Fire or even maindeck Blood Moon if you want to get spicy. Zenith is out as long as you’re playing Bloodbraid Elf, but if you go mono green it is an option. Bloodbraid Elf has been good for many of the online players though, even though it detracts from the deck’s speed. You could certainly cut them for Vanquishers and more Leads, like last year’s list. Either way, I would definitely splash for Blood Moon somewhere—that card can be a beating!

Section 2: Aggro-Control/Midrange


One question on everyone’s mind in Modern is if Merfolk is going to be a viable deck.

The answer? Kind of.

Despite having the entire creature suite remain intact from Legacy, the cards that really make the deck are Wasteland and the free countermagic. Without access to those cards, the deck really falters. It can put up a quick clock, but it has trouble holding up countermagic while doing so. Sure, occasionally you get the perfect Aether Vial draw, but that’s not every game.

Will all of that said, Merfolk is still viable. It’s not insane, but it’s not weak either. The popularity of Zoo definitely puts a big hamper on its ability to succeed in this format though. In any case, I’d build it something like this:

I don’t think Cryptic Command works in builds like this, but there may be some more Standard-like Merfolk builds that can use the Command to good success. Wake Thrasher is also a card to consider. If you want to splash a color you can play white for Path to Exile and Sygg, River Guide, but splashing for Path is a lot less interesting when Dismember is around.


Without Stoneforge or Jace around, I’m not sure if Bant is where you want to be. However, where there’s a Noble Hierarch, Vendilion Clique, and Knight of the Reliquary, there’s a way. One way to go is probably the Mythic Conscription route. However, if you want to stay traditional Bant, I might look at something like this:

G/W/B Junk

I don’t think B/W Deadguy is really a viable deck without Chrome Mox, Stoneforge Mystic, or Bitterblossom. However, if you’re in the mood for a midrange Dark Confidant deck, I recommend adding a touch of green.

Without Stoneforge or Mox, a Doran strategy is likely the best way to go. Doran decks have traditionally wanted its acceleration in one-drops, not Moxen, and Stoneforge Mystic was included not as a crucial piece but because the Doran deck was merely yet another deck that could take advantage of arguably the most broken two-drop of all time.

I’d start with something like this:

The Treefolk Harbingers may be better as Birds of Paradise. In a roomful of Wild Nacatls and Lightning Bolts, the Harbinger becomes significantly worse. At the same time, Spellskite sounds better and better! Chameleon Colossus and either Nameless Inversion or Crib Swap are also both cards you could consider for one-of slots.

Section 3: Control

Twelvepost—Control Version

Before continuing, I’d like to say that control in Modern is likely the thing I know the least about. Sure, I can speculate and say that Cruel Control, Esper Control, and Mystical Teachings are possibilities. I can say that Thirst for Knowledge will be the premier draw spell. However, because most of the control decks in Overextended events relied on some combination of Stoneforge Mystic, Ancestral Vision, Mental Misstep, Chrome Mox, and Invasion-Onslaught cards, I don’t have too much data to go on now.

Fortunately, there are two decks I can talk about.  

Twelvepost is a deck you absolutely have to know about while testing for the event. This is one of the other major decks of the format. It may look cute, but it’s certainly no joke. Half control deck, half combo deck, this deck can produce some gigantic monsters scarily quick. In this section I’ll be looking at the more control-oriented version of the deck, and then in the combo section I’ll look over the more ramp-style combo version.

This deck accelerates incredibly fast and has the capability to cast Emrakul as early as turn four. Most of the time though, this version of the deck takes a little more controlling of a role, building up to an endgame Eldrazi. Glimmerpost is especially powerful, buying you tons of time against beatdown decks. Sorry Urzatron fans, but Tron is laughable when compared to the Twelvepost engine. Glimmerpost really puts the strategy over the top. 

Here’s a sample list:

You could easily fit Academy Ruins and Mindslaver in with no problem at all, but the truth of the matter is that by the time you hit that much mana you could just as easily have set up an Eldrazi. Karn Liberated isn’t an artifact to discard to Thirst, so perhaps a Mindslaver would be better there, but he does set up endgame inevitability without costing a ton of mana.

If you want to play another color, I recommend black. You get some great sideboard options, a cheaper sweeper, and some pinpoint removal. The Mono Blue lists have put up the best results of the control lists, but black is the next place I would try.

Martyr of Sands Control

At the risk of derailing Conley Woods and Zaiem Beg’s chances of doing well at the Pro Tour, I’ll share the other control deck that appeared to some success: Martyr of Sands.

Martyr has some inherent problems. First of all, it struggles against any number of combo decks. Beating Hive Mind, for example, is basically impossible. Second of all, without significant work, beating Emrakul’s annihilator trigger is not possible. Keep in mind that if the Twelvepost deck has two Emrakuls, they can eventually loop them via Eye of Ugin and take infinite turns as well, which will surely spell your defeat.

However, I do not claim to be a Martyr master. Perhaps the Woods of the world will find a way. Or, if you’re in the mood for a glass cannon deck that smashes the beatdown decks and some combo decks but can’t beat Twelvepost or some of the other combo decks, this might be the deck for you. At least your life is a little easier without Jace around.

I don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of deck, so I’m just going to put one of the successful Overextended lists (that is also Modern legal!) below instead of tweaking it like I have with the others. I don’t agree with all of his choices (I don’t think Ghostly Prison is that good, for example), and I would probably play some Proclamation of Rebirth and more lands, but it’s certainly a starting point to look over.


Section 4: Combo

Twelvepost—Combo Version

So you’ve had a chance to look over the control version of Twelvepost. By comparison, the combo version plays a little differently. It just aims to buy time until it can cast an Emrakul and win. It has no interest in controlling the game, and it plays much like a Standard Valakut deck in that regard. Ramp, cast your big guy, and then win.

There are two ways you can take the combo version. You can do it Tooth and Nail style, where you just build up to a turn four or five Tooth and Nail for Iona, Shield of Emeria and Painter’s Servant. However, I prefer to stick to the Emrakul plan with my builds just to reduce dead cards in my deck and not have to play a Boseiju. If I were to play a combo version of Twelvepost, it would probably look like this:

You can also play a similar version with blue that’s a little more reactive, featuring cards like Repeal and Condescend. However, I wanted to show you the two poles of the Twelvepost archetype. There’s plenty of room to work in the middle. Personally, I prefer the more controlling builds—but that’s also just the kind of player I am.


You absolutely shouldn’t play this deck at the Pro Tour, prepare to play against this deck at the Pro Tour, or really even consider touching this deck. It’s super high variance, and even when things go well, there are highly played answers to your best draws. So why am I still informing you that it exists? Because someone out there is just going to ignore all of that and play this deck anyway.


Dragonstorm is one of the most obvious combo decks in the format, though I don’t believe it’s the best. It actually hasn’t done very well in Overextended for weeks. In fact, if you’re the data kind of person, the deck held a meager 37% win rate in the first six weeks of Overextended events.

In any case, this deck isn’t much different from when it was in Standard: play rituals, play Dragonstorm, the end. The one big change is you have Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund now, which means you only have to storm out for two or three Dragons to kill someone if they have no resistance. 

Combo Elves

Glimpse may be gone, but that doesn’t mean combo Elves is dead as a deck. The resilient Elf menace may still have some legs left thanks to Cloudstone Curio.

The deck can play as a beatdown deck reasonably well, just as combo Elves always could. The addition of Green Sun’s Zenith helps with that even more. However, the combo engine of this deck lies with Cloudstone Curio.

If you have Essence Warden, Heritage Druid, and any other one-mana-cost Elf with a Curio, you can gain boundless life. Play one Elf, return another, replay that one, return another, replay it, tap all three for a mana with the Curio trigger on the stack, and then repeat the process over and over for as much life as you want. Considering you have an Emrakul in your deck, you won’t be able to deck, so unless they have a way to stop that engine you can’t lose.

But that’s not all. With Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and any one-mana Elf you have access to boundless mana with a Curio in play. Return the Druid, play the Druid, bounce the other Elf, play the other Elf, tap for three mana with the Curio trigger on the stack and net one mana each iteration since the Nettle Sentinel untaps on its own.

What to do with that boundless mana? Well, how about return Elvish Visionary over and over and draw your entire deck? At that point, just cast your Emrakul, and you’re good to go.   

Like the sounds of this? Here’s a starting point:

Things I could see trying are a fourth Essence Warden and splashing some colors off of fetchlands, likely white for Ranger of Eos, and potentially red for Blood Moon out of the sideboard.

Hive Mind

You might be familiar with this one from Legacy, but how about in Modern? It’s kind of like a six-mana Dragonstorm that you need another card to win with when you combo. Resolve Hive Mind, then cast a Pact, and you win if they can’t pay. A little offbeat, but deceptively powerful.

Living End

Living End was one of the most popular decks at the beginning of Overextended because people figured it could prey on Zoo and Elves. It did a fairly good job. However, as other archetypes began to emerge, they beat the deck pretty handily. Additionally, Zoo began to evolve to combat Living End. Eventually, the deck became near unplayable.

What does this mean for you? I expect that by the Pro Tour Living End won’t be a good choice as everyone will have evolved to beat it. However, it’s still an important deck to test against, and it can definitely do well if nobody is ready for it.

Project Melira

Now this is a deck most of you have probably never heard of. That’s because it’s brand new to this kind of format! It was first seen in my Overextended events, but nicely translates to Modern. It’s kind of like Project X in the sense that it’s a midrange deck that also just has a combo kill built in.

How does the combo work? Well, if you have Melira, Sylvok Outcast on the battlefield, your creatures can’t get -1/-1 counters—including your persist creatures! So if you have a sacrifice outlet alongside a persist creature and Melira, you can go infinite. And if that persist creature so happens to be Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap, then, well… bang.

This deck showed up in my events for two weeks, did very well, and then just disappeared entirely. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but as far as I can tell the big proponents of the archetype just stopped playing. In any case, it looks a little something like this:

Is it better than straight up Project X? Well, every piece can be Zenithed for which is certainly nice. You also don’t have to be a third color if you don’t want to. Regardless, it’s certainly what several have played to success—it’s a deck to be watched.

Pyromancer Ascension

Pyromancer Ascension has my bid for best combo deck in the format. It doesn’t get much press, but those who know how to play it do well. Pyromancer Ascension pundit Larry Swasey and recent U.S. Nationals Top 8 Pyromancer player Lee McLeod have both played the deck in my online events to extreme success.

Ascension has a very consistent turn four kill, with the potential for a turn three kill. It is resilient and can bide its time. A strong combo backed up by light permission is a dangerous combination, and this is a deck I would make sure to put into your gauntlet. 

I’ll defer to the masters of the archetype for this deck. Here is the last Overextended Pyromancer list that McLeod used:

Note the Watery Grave, which is used for Dark Confidant out of the sideboard!

Splinter Twin

Finally, the last deck I want to go over is one you might recognize from Standard: Splinter Twin! The two-card combo is even more dangerous in Modern due to added protection, especially Gigadrowse and storage lands. Store up, Gigadrowse them on their upkeep or second main phase, then proceed to go off without any concern of disruption.

Additionally, you also gain access to Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker if you want them, meaning you can play up to eight copies of each combo piece! This is another Modern deck to watch that I think many will ignore. Here’s a sample build of the deck:


There are 18 different archetypes listed above that hopefully provided a nice overview of the format’s landscape. Of course, truth be told, there are still plenty of other archetypes that will take us by surprise!

Seismic Swans, Ad Nauseam, White Weenie, Heartbeat, Reveillark… The list goes on. I could think of new Modern decks for hours! The format is going to be incredible. Though I listed the 18 most popular archetypes, I could have probably brought out 18 fringe archetypes that were only played once as well!

With no time to spare, hopefully this article gave you guys a jump-start into the world of Modern. The format’s banned list inspires all kinds of new innovation, and, without staples of the past dancing around the format, who knows what new decks that couldn’t exist anywhere else will show up?

I can’t wait to see the top 16 decklists for this Pro Tour.

As stated above, if you have any specific questions I’d be happy to field them in the comments. You can also feel free to send me a tweet or e-mail me at gavintriesagain at gmail dot com, and I’ll try to respond as soon as I can. 

Have fun working with Modern!

Gavin Verhey

Rabon on Magic Online, @GavinVerhey on Twitter