How Everything Circled Back To Mardu

Jund used to be the deck that wouldn’t die, but Mardu is making a run at it these days! GerryT talks about which two decks he’s taking to Grand Prix Phoenix and what the next level of Modern may be–assuming you can build the deck for it.

Dammit, why won’t the Modern metagame stay still?

Last week
, I wrote about the decks I would consider playing. The winner’s metagame


ended up being incredibly hostile toward Tron. As is turns out, the
metagame was also hostile to the decks I was considering playing, even
though a copy of U/W Control ended up in Top 8.

The Storms, Infect, and G/R Land Destructions rose to defeat Tron and
either dodged Jund or beat them anyway. Four mana cards aren’t great
against Storm and Infect, after all. It’s possible that while Bloodbraid
Elf made Jund a monster, it also weakened some of Jund’s better matchups.
Perhaps I was off-base, or at least narrow in scope, of the decks I thought
would be well-positioned for last weekend.

Either way, the results from last weekend put me in a precarious position.
I’m playing


this weekend, but what the hell do I play? I’m still scared of Jund and
Tron, but the new winner’s metagame introduces a few wrinkles.

First of all, there is nearly a complete absence of aggressive decks.
There’s the occasional Zoo, Burn, Affinity, Infect, and Humans, but its
portion of the metagame share is perhaps the lowest it’s ever been. There
has to be a way to capitalize on that.

Oddly enough, cards like Fatal Push and Collective Brutality are still
powerhouses in the format. Storm and many of the other decks in the format
feature cards like Goblin Electromancer and Noble Hierarch, plus reasons to
escalate Collective Brutality.

There isn’t a total absence of creatures necessarily, but it’s worth noting
that your life total won’t be under much pressure.

Despite not taking advantage of that revelation, I started here:

When testing for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, I determined that not
only was Death and Taxes terrible against Humans, it was likely a worse
version of Humans against the field as a whole. Death and Taxes is slightly
better against big mana decks like Tron, but even that’s debatable. Ghost
Quarter and Leonin Arbiter are nice, but sometimes Meddling Mage, Thalia,
and Kitesail Freebooter do more work. The clock out of Aether Vial Humans
is also blisteringly quick, whereas Death and Taxes is more in the “slow
and steady” camp.

Death and Taxes doesn’t necessarily have a bad matchup against other
creature decks, but it’s definitely bad against Humans and their hoard of
giant creatures. If that matchup is rarely going to be an issue, I thought
a disruptive creature deck could be great.

Having things like Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel are nice, but
overall, I didn’t like the Jund matchup. Dire Fleet Daredevil was mostly
incredible, not just against Jund, but against basically everyone. Maybe I
just need a better sideboard plan, but with only certain cards mattering
against Tron and Storm, the bad Humans matchup that’s looming, and general
inconsistency issues, I moved off of Death and Taxes.

Maybe I’m supposed to try Humans as my disruptive aggro deck of choice? You
can probably fight the Jund matchup by sheer virtue of having access to
card advantage elements that Death and Taxes doesn’t.

Humans with Collected Company might be great.

The conventional wisdom is that Aether Vial isn’t very good against Jund
because of how grindy the games get, so you typically don’t do a great job
of capitalizing off any tempo boost you get in the mid-game. Playing Humans
without Aether Vial will likely give you a leg up against all those
Bloodbraid Elves. Additionally, you can play Bloodbraid Elf yourself!
Bloodbraid Elf into Reflector Mage seems particularly dirty, although I
imagine many of the Bloodbraid hits probably are.

Obviously there is some anti-synergy with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and
Collected Company, but it’s one of those things where you don’t really care
because that means you have both. Obviously there could be scenarios where
Liliana of the Veil or Thoughtseize gets to tag your Collected Company, but
I would expect that to be rare.

I will note that playing Collected Company makes you worse against
Collective Brutality, which is an incredibly popular card. That said, there
will be several times where they escalate out of fear and whiff, so it
won’t all be bad.

Sai’s list is a great place to start, but other sideboard cards I would
consider include Shapers’ Sanctuary, Unified Will, Dismember, Kambal, and
Tireless Tracker. Playing some amount of fetchlands in the manabase could
also be reasonable, especially if you limit the black aspect of the deck.
I’d also be tempted to try a version that plays many copies of Kessig
Malcontents and Phantasmal Images, but that’s likely unnecessary.

Humans soundly defeated Grixis Death’s Shadow at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. It’s quite good against the non-Jund portion of
the metagame, but then again, so is Grixis Death’s Shadow. With Humans out
of the way, what about dusting off the old favorite? Is it time?

Ya know, if Humans isn’t very popular, Stubborn Denial is great again.
Also, there aren’t many decks that clog up the ground, so do you need Temur
Battle Rage anymore? At that point, what’s the point of playing red at all?

You might argue that splashing a color into a U/B Death’s Shadow is
relatively free, and I mostly agree with that. However, it’s not entirely
necessary, and assuming the metagame at


looks similar to the winner’s metagame of


, then neither red, white, or green give you anything necessary.

There are games where you need to fetch a Blood Crypt or Steam Vents and
that makes casting multiple blue or black spells in a single turn
difficult. It’s akin to naturally one of your basics. So instead, you can
play four Watery Graves.

The oddball card I currently have is Cryptic Command, but it serves
multiple roles. For starters, it can function as a pseudo-Temur Battle Rage
against Dredge and Humans. Against control and combo, it can give you a
fighting chance by having an additional counterspell.

With only eighteen land, you might be skeptical of four mana cards, but the
original Grixis Death’s Shadow lists were built with the idea of using
Snapcaster Mage to Flashback Kolaghan’s Command. While that plan has mostly
been abandoned and their curves and land counts have been lowered, the
point remains. Playing a small amount of big cards in your eighteen-land
deck is completely feasible, assuming the games will go relatively long.

The sideboard is also kind of wonky, with two copies of Field of Ruin to go
with some Jace, the Mind Sculptors. Field of Ruin is effectively a
Fulminator Mage (although obviously a less good one) that also helps you
cast your four mana cards against U/W Control and the like. Having it be
Field of Ruin is nice since you won’t want to keep in removal just to fight
Celestial Colonnade. If they have Dragonlord Ojutai, you will want to keep
the Dismembers though.

You might wonder why I haven’t considered playing Jund, and that’s a
reasonable question. I certainly have, especially in the wake of the recent
metagame. Obviously Bloodbraid Elf changes things quite a bit, but as I
mentioned, I didn’t necessarily think it was for the better, at least for
this weekend. I built B/G Midrange and tried that for a league, but mostly
got clowned.

It seemed like it would have a better G/R Land Destruction matchup, which
is probably true, but the Bloodbraid Elf matchup is not great, especially
if they are packing a basic Mountain. Tireless Tracker is supposed to be
your trump, so you’ll probably win games that go longer, but it’s very
unlikely that you get into that spot without any other card advantage.

I will note that the metagame did seem relatively soft to Dark Confidant,
which is a card I don’t typically like in B/G Midrange. Jund is a different
animal and I like it quite a bit there, but it doesn’t fit the more
reactive nature of B/G. Anyway, I tried playing Dark Confidant in B/G, and
as expected, it didn’t go well. Maybe my results would have been better had
I not been playing them.

Honestly, Jund is a viable option as long as you have sideboard plans that
involve taking out Bloodbraid Elf against decks where they are too slow.
G/R Land Destruction is also a good deck now and is worthy of
consideration. I’d like it more in a field of Tron, Jund, and blue decks,
but what can you do.

So why did I end up potentially back on Mardu Pyromancer, a deck that’s
historically great against creature decks, in a field with very few
creature decks?

Despite there being very few tribal decks to beat up on, Fatal Push and
Lightning Bolt are still great against the field. You have Bedlam Reveler
and tokens to help you grind against Jund and a plethora of effective
sideboard options for the field.

The bad Tron matchup is looming, but so far I’m 2-0 lifetime against it.
For comparison, I’m something like 0-10 against it with Jund. The ten
losses might a gross under-exaggeration, but I assure you the zero wins is
accurate. With Mardu Pyromancer, I at least feel like I have a shot. That’s
even involved winning games where I don’t draw anyway to disrupt their

Given all that (and how poor Tron seems at the moment), I’m currently
considering not playing any hate for Tron. Cards like Blood Moon and Molten
Rain have very little overlap across Modern. While those cards did help me
against Eldrazi Tron at the Pro Tour, having access to Hazoret the Fervent
might have been just as good. I’ve considered playing three copies of Blood
Moon in my 75, mostly for Tron, but I don’t think it’s worth it at this
point. Perhaps that will be my death knell.

I could see a world with Terminate instead of Dreadbore. However, Liliana
of the Veil is potentially an issue, despite the various tokens providing
natural insulation against her. The real reason is because of Karn
Liberated and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but considering I’m kind of scooping
the Tron matchup, maybe it’s irrelevant. I’ve beaten Tron before by
removing their threats and clocking them though, so at least Dreadbore
gives me an out.

Since I had four sideboard slots left for potential graveyard hate and
there’s no longer any Molten Rains to combo my Surgical Extractions with, I
went Leyline of the Void. Now, I think Leyline of the Void is a poor choice
in a deck that has a bunch of card filtering, but I wanted to hammer Storm.
Generally you’ll see a lot of cards per game, which makes having something
like Surgical Extraction or Nihil Spellbomb better since you can find them
in time. With Leyline of the Void, it’s opening hand or bust, plus it’s
extra bad because you’ll end up drawing into them later. It’s probably

Other than that stuff, not much has changed outside of me adding more
copies of Manamorphose and the sideboard cards I wanted.

The Traverse the Ulvenwald version of Mardu Pyromancer is cool, and in
certain metagames, I even prefer that version. However, the versions with
Traverse the Ulvenwald and Death’s Shadow are doing too much. Including
Bloodbraid Elf into the mix also strikes me as nonsense.

Traverse the Ulvenwald is certainly great with Bedlam Reveler, but the deck
is mostly consistent enough. I side out copies of Manamorphose against
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Traverse the Ulvenwald has the same issue.
It’s also just as bad against graveyard hate as all the other cards in the
deck, so making you more reliant on your graveyard isn’t exactly where I
want to be. Death’s Shadow helps with that to some degree, but it doesn’t
solve the other problems.

Some sort of U/B tapout control deck could be potentially great.
Disruption, planeswalkers, and a light land destruction element sounds like
a winning package. The only thing missing is a quick clock, which is where
I think the deck fails in comparison to Mardu Pyromancer.

I’m getting on a plane to Phoenix today, and I’m pretty sure the only decks
I’m bringing with me are Humans and Mardu Pyromancer. Which deck I play
might involve flipping a coin, but it also might depend on how easy it is
to acquire the Human cards I’m missing.