How I’m Approaching Modern After The Banned And Restricted Announcement

There are plenty of viable options in Modern after Bridge from Below’s banning! GerryT offers five intriguing builds just in time for SCG Philadelphia, including a green splash in Azorius Control!

Between the Team Constructed Open in Philadelphia this weekend and Mythic Championship IV the next, we’ll soon see what Modern actually looks like after Modern Horizons. The combination of Bridge from Below, Altar of Dementia, and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis was clearly a mistake, and now that the Bridge from Below problem is gone, hopefully we get to see what Modern with Modern Horizons is supposed to look like.

First of all, it’s important to note that decks based on Hogaak aren’t completely dead. You don’t need to pack as much graveyard as you did before (especially because Dredge is still around), but you can’t cut it completely. These decks are real and will be a presence, albeit a small one.

Past that, the top tier is going to look very similar, with decks like Izzet Phoenix, Azorius Control, and Humans taking up some of the larger portions of the metagame. That’s where the impact of Modern Horizons starts to be felt and where the metagame will have to adapt. The biggest example of this is Wrenn and Six propping up Jund, which was previously close to unplayable.

However, if I were forced to submit a decklist today, it would be Jund:


Wrenn and Six allows Jund to keep making its land drops, break symmetry with Liliana of the Veil, and provide value with utility lands, all while picking off things like Noble Hierarch, Dark Confidant, and Young Pyromancer. It’s a game-changer. Jund is now better at grinding, is more threat-dense, and has more ways to attack smaller creatures and planeswalkers with low loyalty. It even combines with Lightning Bolt to take out larger creatures, like Thing in the Ice.

I’ve maintained that Dark Confidant hasn’t been good enough for a while now, and Wrenn and Six should finally close the door on that particular argument. Additionally, you should think twice before including cards like Hexdrinker in your deck.

Jund also got some new tools from Modern Horizons in Seasoned Pyromancer, Nurturing Peatland, and Plague Engineer, among others. Meanwhile, there aren’t many people who can claim their Jund matchup improved recently. If anything, Jund is quite good against the weird, new, synergy-based decks from Modern Horizons.

You ever tried keeping an Aria of Flame on the table against Jund? What about a Dreadhorde Arcanist? Urza, Lord High Artificer? Jund is, and always will be, the fun police. Given how strong Jund is right now, I can’t even come close to recommending playing nonsense in Modern. You should either be trying to out-grind Jund (and Azorius) or go over the top of them with big mana. Lava Spike-ing them works too.

Unearth would be wonderful with Seasoned Pyromancer and the sideboard Fulminator Mages, but Jund has a tougher time getting creatures into the graveyard than something like Mardu Pyromancer. Faithless Looting is potentially an incredible engine with Wrenn and Six, so that’s worth trying, especially in conjunction with Unearth. Barren Moor and Nurturing Peatland are cute and all, but what if the best way to draw cards with Wrenn and Six is by playing a spell, not special lands?

Maybe that makes you too reliant on the graveyard. I wouldn’t expect people to bring in Leyline of the Void against Jund, but it makes the small-ball graveyard-hate like Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus, and Scavenging Ooze much stronger against you. Overall, Jund needs its cards to work.

Crashing Footfalls is another card I should be working on, but the necessity of Bloodbraid Elf has plummeted now that Jund has other means for grinding. Dreadhorde Arcanist is an option, especially with Faithless Looting, but I don’t expect it to stick very often. This version of Jund is very good against Lightning Bolt and I don’t want to change that.

I will basically only play basic Mountain when Azorius Control is a huge portion of the metagame, and that’s basically where we’re at. If I have three Scavenging Oozes, I will basically always play a Twilight Mire. Raging Ravine isn’t really where you want to be at the moment, so I’m happy I get to cut most of them.

Izzet Phoenix

As much as I want it to be the right call, I don’t think I can register Izzet Phoenix. It’s a shame, because my list is so good too!

My plan is to ignore graveyards in Game 1. Surgical Extraction was never beating Dredge anyway, plus the bigger threat in mirror matches is Thing in the Ice. Flame Slash provides more outs to Thing and Tarmogoyf, and the third Finale of Promise increases resiliency against discard while also being the best card once Aria of Flame is on the battlefield.

The maindeck Force of Negation is to save a sideboard slot and shore up some of your worst matchups.

Because Jund is back, I expect more big mana, plus Eldrazi Tron has been crushing it anyway. Blood Moon is stronger than Alpine Moon in that case, especially if you want to use Abrade plus Blood Moon as a plan against Humans.

Killing larger creatures looks more important than killing small ones, so I’m a big fan of zero copies of Gut Shot or Lava Dart at the moment, even though those cards are better with Arclight Phoenix, Aria of Flame, and Thing in the Ice.

I expect the various Urza, Lord High Artificer decks will be more refined by Barcelona, so I’ll respect them.

Fry is a nice sideboard pickup because it’s a way to handle Thing in the Ice and the various Azorius planeswalkers that doesn’t use the graveyard and can’t be countered. It also doubles as another removal spell for Humans, which is always helpful. Opposing Frys are the reason I’m not high on Narset, Parter of Veils as well. Instead, I’m trying two Seasoned Pyromancers as my grindy sideboard option for Jund and Azorius. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Mardu Pyromancer

I’ll admit, we’re kicking it old-school here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

With fewer creatures in the metagame, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can go. Graveyard hate will likely decline, which makes Bedlam Reveler good once more! We even get to trim a copy, insulating us from graveyard hate to some degree, since we have access to a secondary engine in Unearth plus Seasoned Pyromancer.

This deck looks solid again. My main gripe is having a pile of ways to do four damage when Tarmogoyf and Thing in the Ice are premier threats in the format, which isn’t ideal.

“Azorius” Control

Is splashing for Baleful Strix worthwhile? I think so.

While adding a color is never free, it’s relatively easy here. In fact, your mana likely gets better with the inclusion of Legacy staple Arcum’s Astrolabe. Of course, that comes with a cost since Astrolabe needs to be cast, but Azorius could use another thing to do early, especially since we’re shaving the clunky Celestial Colonnades.

The question should be whether Ice-Fang Coatl actually adds percentage points, and again, I think it does. Humans was always a matchup where I felt short on removal spells and things didn’t get any easier when Narset, Parter of Veils and the like started eating maindeck slots and pulling you away from Terminus.

I don’t “like” Terminus or the miracle mechanic in general, but Terminus is more effective against Humans in the aggregate than Supreme Verdict and the like. Sorcery-speed cantrips work poorly without a non-Jace way to put them back on top of your deck, so clearly this build can’t incorporate Terminus well.

To top it off, Arcum’s Astrolabe and Ice-Fang Coatl increase your velocity immensely, plus turn Teferi, Time Raveler into a card advantage machine.

Other than debating the snow package, there are two things I’m leaning into that I really like at the moment, which are multiple Spell Snares and Monastery Mentors. Between Manamorphose and Wrenn and Six, two-drops are currently quite popular, and Spell Snare is the best way to steal back the play.


This is where I start going deep.

Wrenn and Six plus Faithless Looting is a great engine and both work well with Courser of Kruphix. Since you’ll never run out of lands with Wrenn and Six, Explore becomes incredible. All of this sounds great except that it slows down your average goldfish by half a turn, which probably isn’t ideal for TitanShift’s chances in a large Modern tournament. However, trying the new engine is still worth it, even if it might not make the final build.

I considered sideboarding four Leyline of Sanctity over two Obstinate Baloths and two other cards. Having access to Leyline of Sanctity is a boon against Burn and decks with a lot of discard but costs valuable sideboard real estate.

One cool thing I’ve learned is if there ever comes a time when you want multiple copies of Force of Vigor to fight something like Affinity, you should be sideboarding out some number of lands. You tend to become a control deck against those sorts of opponents, so you should cut mana sources and win conditions. Shaving on land also ensures you have enough green cards to actually make use of the alternate casting cost.

If you want me to, I can go even deeper on the Wrenn and Six / Faithless Looting engine. Once you decide you want four copies of Looting, Footsteps of the Goryo seems like a powerful inclusion alongside Primeval Titan, an interaction that’s been on my mind for a while. I’m not sure if there’s a coherent deck there, but regardless, it’s not one that would perform well in a field of Jund and Azorius.

The Bring to Light Scapeshift decks are super-interesting. I like all the cards involved, and in a way, they seem like improved versions of Azorius. There might be merit to adding more interaction and shaving ramp spells in order to make that closer to reality.

This deck has many of my favorite cards, which probably means it’s not good enough for Modern. As I mentioned, I am interested in whether this deck can function more like a control deck than a ramp deck. Having a compact win condition is appealing in Modern, but maybe it’s not entirely necessary.

With Mythic Championship IV looming, it’s probably time to buckle down and start tuning Jund, mostly because I know what I’d want my Izzet Phoenix and Mardu Pyromancer decklists to look like, whereas Jund is the wild card. Given how terrified I am to play against it with basically all my decks, that means I probably should play it, and I expect many others will do the same.