While Modern may not be my favorite format right now, I am looking forward to seeing what the brightest Magic minds on the planet bring to the table this weekend at #PTOGW. Between the recent bannings and the introduction of some very powerful new cards in Oath of the Gatewatch, I expect things to be shaken up.
Unfortunately for most of us, we won’t have the privilege of slinging cardboard at the Pro Tour, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit on the sidelines. It’s #SCGRegionals weekend! That means we will get to try our hand at the new Modern at the same time as the pros! But with so many new things going on in the format, where should we start?
I want to start out by outlining a potential metagame. Modern is quite a bit bigger than standard, so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to cover all your bases in this format. I would like to have a plan against the following decks for this weekend: Infect, Tron, Burn, Kiki Chord, Affinity, and the various Eldrazi builds.
I’ve been keeping my ears open at tournaments and online over the past few weeks to hear everyone’s thoughts about what’s good in the new Modern, and these decks were brought up the most. There will certainly be other good decks popping up, but I will be sure to prepare for these six as a starting point.
Of these six decks, I’ve had the most personal experience playing Affinity and Burn. Both are fantastic decks and I would be happy to pilot either one this weekend at my Regionals.
Affinity Is Great
If you’ve been watching my progress on The SCG Tour® over the past year, you might have noticed that my build of Affinity is a little…different.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 3 Arcbound Worker
- 4 Ornithopter
- 3 Steel Overseer
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
- 3 Hangarback Walker
The main differences you will notice, of course, are that I play these cards.
The idea for this version of Affinity came from way back in the early days of Modern. I played a list with a couple of copies of Shrapnel Blast, and I really liked them a lot. Having a burn range of nine is a really powerful feature for a deck like Affinity. However, there was one card I did not like at all.
Memnite does absolutely nothing after turn 1. It gets outclassed by everything in the format, doesn’t have evasion, and is essentially a brick of a topdeck. The card just doesn’t do anything. At some point I made the joke that the deck might just be better off by going old-school with Arcbound Worker. It turns out that idea had some merit, but I didn’t really revisit it until the release of Magic Origins and this little guy.
Hangarback Walker does a great job of tying the room together. All the pieces I wanted to play synergize fantastically with him. You can modular the Worker counter onto Hangarback. You can sacrifice Hangarback to Shrapnel Blast. You can sacrifice Worker to Shrapnel Blast and then modular. You can charge up both Worker and Hangarback with Steel Overseer and use the +1/+1 counters for value when the creatures die. You can modular Arcbound Ravager counters over to Hangarback, blow it to pieces with a Shrapnel Blast, and attack with a Signal Pest to give all the Thopters +1/+0.
The synergies are wonderful with this list. Unfortunately, there is one problem with the deck.
Hangarback Walker is glacial.
We’re playing Affinity. The deck that explodes its hand onto the board on turn 1. Take a look at that list of my expected metagame, and tell me how many of those decks want to see me cast a Hangarback Walker on turn 2.
Yeah… pretty much every single one of them is pumping the fist.
Hangarback Affinity is a good deck, don’t get me wrong. However, it is a much grindier, slower deck than the typical build of Affinity. Right now, that just isn’t where we want to be as an archetype in this format. We want to kill quickly. We want to appeal to the brute force side of the deck.
We want Big Daddy Etherium.
In a format full of linear deck vs. linear deck matchups, Master of Etherium gets them dead, and he does not mess around.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Ornithopter
- 3 Master of Etherium
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 2 Memnite
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
The Welding Jars become much stronger when there are more powerful artifacts to protect. Now we get Master of Etherium in addition to Steel Overseer and Cranial Plating as must-answer threats. I’m still not thrilled with the Memnites, but they are probably a necessary evil in this deck. We are winning games by leveraging our payoff cards, and Memnite helps us get those cards online more efficiently.
Thoughtcast has always been on the verge of playability in this archetype, and it may be correct not to have them. I am giving Thoughtcast a try for now because we are already playing blue cards in the main, so it is a freeroll to support.
Burn Is Great
I’ve been playing Burn behind the scenes for a while now but only recently got to break the deck out on The SCG Tour®. Yes, the deck is simple. Yes, the deck is straightforward. Yes, the deck is linear and non-interactive.
Get over it.
Lately I’ve been playing several decks considered by many to be entry-level on the skill spectrum, and honestly, I think that the majority of the Magic community are doing themselves a giant disservice by not giving these decks the respect they’re due. Being an easy deck to pick up and pilot is an asset to a deck, not a detriment, yet time and time again, I hear friends whom I consider to be very good Magic players dismiss a deck like Burn because it’s just too easy to play.
When you are playing a simple deck with obvious lines, it lets you focus your mental energy on the intangibles of the game. You can pay closer attention to your opponent’s body language to watch for strength or weakness. You can focus more on what cards your opponent has to interact with you and how best to play around those cards.
A deck like Burn might be easy, but Magic is still hard, and when you have to think less about decisions involving your deck, you can start to think about the things that make you better at Magic regardless of the deck or format you are playing. Can you still do that with more difficult decks? Absolutely, and you should strive to get to that point. But we are only human after all. Understanding your limitations as a magic player is a valuable tool to selecting the optimal deck to allow you the best chance to win a tournament, and to improve as a Magic player.
This is the Burn list I played at the Premier IQ in Denver a couple months ago, and this baby purrs. In a format of non-interactive decks, Burn is the model of consistency. Every card in the deck does something very similar, so as long as you draw lands and spells, your deck is doing what you want it to do.
One of the things I love about Burn is that the spells you play are naturally resilient to the most common form of hate you will face: lifegain. The maindeck has a full set of Atarka’s Commands and a 2/2 split of Skullcracks, so you will have the ability to shut lifegain off for a turn in almost every single game you play.
Another card that I am in love with is Searing Blaze. Is four Searing Blaze a lot? Absolutely, and I wouldn’t play fewer. The ability to remove a threat while progressing your game plan at the same time is incredibly powerful in a deck like this. To say Searing Blaze is the red Ancestral Recall would obviously be hyperbole, but there is some insight in that statement into what the card can accomplish for you. In a format like Modern, it is pretty easy to find a creature to toast with it, so I am happy with four in the main. If the format becomes less creature-heavy in the future, I could see moving some to the sideboard, but I would not play fewer than four in the 75. Searing Blaze is your most powerful card by a lot and definitely earns a spot on the team.
A card that does not earn a spot on the team, in my opinion, is Wild Nacatl. Without a doubt, a one-mana 3/3 is a fantastic rate, and Nacatl can be a very powerful turn 1 play. However, Burn is a deck that inevitably finds itself in the situation where topdecking fire is the difference between a win and a loss. I don’t want to dilute my deck with too many cards that won’t go to the face, and Nacatl is the perfect card to let your opponents cards interact with you. You will get six damage out of a turn 1 Nacatl quite a bit, but you also will get zero damage out of it far too often for me to want to run it in my deck.
The Kor Firewalkers were not very good, and I won’t be registering them again. They are really only there for the mirror match, and forcing yourself to get double Sacred Foundry on time to cast a Firewalker is just setting yourself up for failure. The way you win the mirror is by fetching your Mountains early and never putting a dual land into play untapped if you can help it. In fact, I am a fan of boarding out Atarka’s Commands in the mirror because it means you will never have to get an untapped Stomping Ground post-board. Lightning Helix and Deflecting Palms will get the job done.
Rending Volley isn’t really necessary anymore. The card was to kill Deceiver Exarch as efficiently and cleanly as possible, and now that we no longer have to do that, we can add something else into the sideboard instead.
I think I would like another Lightning Helix in the board. Helix is great in the mirror and against anyone playing creatures trying to race you. It is also at least decent against everything, so when you have to board out a card because it’s bad in the matchup, you can always board in a Lightning Helix and get three damage out of the card. After all, that’s all we’re really looking from our cards anyway. Path to Exile is another card that overperformed, and I would be happy running a third copy of going forward. Being a clean answer to a Kor Firewalker on top of being as efficient a removal spell as any card in Modern gives the card my stamp of approval.
Of course, I might try taking this opportunity to try something new! I’ve had my eye on Kiki Chord lately, and the new Eldrazi deck looks incredibly impressive. I’ll leave you with my starting point for those archetypes, but whatever you play this weekend at #SCGRegionals, make sure you have lots of fun and try to learn a lot!
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 2 Wall of Roots
- 1 Orzhov Pontiff
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Fulminator Mage
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Wall of Omens
- 1 Spellskite
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 2 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar