Is Modern Finally A Safe Format?

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren has had some excellent cards that he loved banned into oblivion. Needless to say, he’s a bit frightened. So if Modern is finally okay, are we ready to lay off the bans? Is it time to pick up a deck and dive in? If so, which one is for you?

The following is a special Modern advertisement.

Tired of the same old Standard?

Sick of the same old Limited formats, drafting over and over again, only to lose to bombs?

Feeling stale and looking for something fun, fast, and fresh to play?

Modern just might have all the answers you’re looking for.

StarCityGames.com presents: Modern, a Magical format!

Choose from a variety of 60-card decks, including those unforgettable hits such as…







Ad Nauseum





…and more…

How does Modern work, you ask?

Just crack, fetch, take two, and buckle your seatbelt! You’re in for an amazing ride!

Call now and start winning in Modern, today! Order within the next 30 minutes and receive a free turn 3 kill!

Please Modern responsibly. Consult your bank account before starting Modern. If your wallet remains empty for longer than four months, Modern may not be right for you. If you or a loved one has had a Modern deck banned in the last year, consider taking a break from Modern.

Modern Times

Modern is an incredibly popular format at the moment and now is an especially good time to get started in it if you’ve never experienced it before.

Modern Masters 2017 is just around the corner, and a slew of key Modern staples are being printed in it.

This would be an excellent way to start acquiring cards for a Modern deck, especially if you were already looking to buy or draft a decent amount of Modern Masters 2017. You’re likely to find yourself with some important Modern cards or will be able to take advantage of a nice influx of cards hitting the market.

Modern Masters 2017 obviously isn’t going to open the flood gates and make Modern as cheap as Standard, but it should be a boost.

But that isn’t all, it’s also going to probably be one of the most stable times to invest in a Modern deck, because…

The Banned List

The Banned List should, in theory, be the most stable it’s ever been for a number of reasons.

There’s no Modern Pro Tour, which previously incentivized Wizards to keep Modern fresh by banning cards.

There aren’t many obviously oppressive decks in Modern that are far more powerful than the rest of the decks in the format. This suggests it’s unlikely anything will be banned just to keep the format balanced.

There was also just a banning in Modern, which will hopefully appease any ban bloodlust for at least a little while.

Even if there was another ban in Modern next week (the next Banned and Restricted Announcement is March 13, 2017), the direction the bannings took last time didn’t actually invalidate many decks.

Golgari Grave-Troll and Gitaxian Probe being banned didn’t even kill off many archetypes. Dredge is still a good deck. Death’s Shadow is better than ever despite losing Gitaxian Probe. The only big deck to take a hit and seemingly get knocked down a peg and mostly out of the metagame was Infect.

That suggests to me that even if there were bans in the near future, which I don’t expect to happen, they would be in an attempt to prune the more oppressive archetypes rather than smothering them outright. This might be sheer optimism on my part, especially if you look at Splinter Twin being banned, but I hope they are headed in the right direction now. Keep in mind the Modern format is looking better and more balanced now than it has in quite some time.

Imagine having to decide whether to invest in an Eldrazi deck back when Eye of Ugin was still legal. It would’ve been a very risky decision because your deck is likely losing some cards and not guaranteed to be sticking around for the long haul. Also, who wants to play Eldrazi mirrors all day? Now things are a quite a bit less volatile and a lot more fun.

I don’t expect there to be changes to Modern in the upcoming Banned and Restricted Announcement.

Cue me saying this and something immediately getting banned.

The Metagame

The Modern metagame also seems fairly stable at the moment. This is generally the case with Modern; it’s often more about slow trends and fluctuations rather than brand-new archetypes exploding onto the scene. Not everyone can immediately react to shifts in the metagame, since it costs quite a bit to invest in a deck.

The biggest shifts to the Modern metagame are going to be from new cards and bans.

If we predict smooth sailings on the ban front, then we just need to consider new sets adding cards and how influential that usually is.

Sets these days have been quite impactful on Modern, so that trend will likely continue, although the revolt mechanic was especially good for Modern in particular. Still, even excluding revolt cards, recent sets have made huge waves in Modern. Just look at Baral, Chief of Compliance and Kari Zev’s Expertise. Expect more cards of this power level to drip into Modern at a similar rate every new set, and possibly even more broken cards could slip through, since development is spending less attention on balancing Modern.

Even when powerful new cards shake up Modern they don’t usually just outright spawn a new archetype. Baral, Chief of Compliance and Kari Zev’s Expertise fit into already existing shells of Storm and Grishoalbrand (Goryo’s Vengeance plus Through the Breach Reanimator), even though they did end up helping both archetypes change and evolve.

Right now seems to me like it will be a relatively safe, stable, and cheap time to invest in Modern, a format that has traditionally not been known for those qualities.

Keep in mind I said relatively safe! There is still plenty of risk when it comes to investing in a Modern deck. Modern is still an active volcano, one that has erupted many, many times in the past years, so take my prediction that it will be calming down with a grain of salt. Anything can happen.


Where to Start?

First things first, you probably want to get a general familiarity and understanding of Modern.

This can come from diving right in and playing or by intently watching Modern being played. Check out Modern Grand Prix, SCG events, and Modern streams. Keep your eyes on the latest decklists as well.

Modern is diverse and fast compared to Standard. It has a much deeper card pool and there are occasionally strange rules quirks that come up very seldom but can end up determining the outcome of a game.

We’re going to already assume you have developed a desire to get into Modern, but if you haven’t, it’s definitely worth your time. Modern is a great complement to Standard and Draft and also often a relevant format in high-level competition that is good to have experience in.

What Deck to Pick?

More likely the question is: What deck or decks do you have access to?

Being able to borrow a deck, having an extensive collection, or being the wealthy heir to an oil fortune makes that easy.

Otherwise getting the cards to own a deck might only realistically be something you have one opportunity to do for quite some time. Buying into a Modern deck can be quite a bit pricer than for Standard, which makes deck selection very important, not just for a specific event but for years to come.

You might already have fallen in love with an archetype just from watching it be played and know what your dream deck is. If not, it could take some time to make sure you’re happy with your chosen deck.

Considerations When Picking a Deck

Ideally you’d want to take a deck for a test drive before you buy it. That can be done by borrowing cards and finding a willing test partner until you find something you feel comfortable with.

What style suits you? Generally if you prefer control, aggro, midrange, or combo, that preference will carry over to Modern and help guide the type of deck you want to play.

What’s the best deck? If your goal is focused around winning for the metagame expected, you want to be playing the best deck you can and have enough time to master it.

What’s the hot new deck of the moment? It could be a flash in the pan or taking advantage of a hole in the metagame, and hype might be overinflating the price of the deck.

Look at the results of the latest SCG Opens, Classics, and Grand Prix. Even if a deck hasn’t been winning events, there might be hidden gems that have quietly been performing well.

What’s your budget? What cards do you already have? You might only be able to invest in a Standard right now, but keep an eye on Modern while doing so and you might be able to assemble a Modern deck in the future, partially thanks to your Standard cards. Do your research. Check prices. It might be better to invest in a deck you’ll love and play for years rather than settling for one just because it’s cheaper.

Long-term investments like fetchlands and shocklands will always be useful. They are good starting points if you’re looking to get into Modern and stay in Modern and aren’t sure what deck you want to play or want to be able to switch decks based on the metagame.

Becoming a Winning Modern Player

Modern is a gigantic format. Not only are there a bunch of different decks you can expect to face, there are a bunch of strange and unique cards to catch you off-guard.

Often in Standard it will take me a while before I find a deck I know is right for me. Often in Modern I go months without feeling confident in a deck.

The most important skill you can have in Modern is persistence. Don’t expect to start winning immediately when you pick up a deck.

It’s a scrappy format that makes it difficult to get a massive advantage over the field. Sometimes you just have a terrible matchup, sometimes a good one. Modern is about getting very small edges that accumulate over time and doing the best you can with what you’ve got.

Get your reps in. Before I won my Pro Tour with Jeskai Control, I had been preparing for months in advance with my deck. Time you spend playing Modern is more useful toward your success way down the road than it is in Standard.

Read up on your deck! There are guides everywhere with useful information. Read every article about your deck to learn about important card choices and interactions. Read up on every deck for that matter!

Don’t get discouraged and immediately think about switching decks. After you’ve made an informed decision on what deck to play, and move from looking for a deck to mastering one, stick with it for a while. You’re likely to hit a string of bad luck or bad matchups at some point, and Modern is not usually a format where you can just beat everything.

Keep at it, and eventually you’ll start doing well with pretty much any Modern deck once you get proficient with it and tune it.

Know Your Sideboard

Sideboarding is incredibly important, delicate, and often overlooked.

Modern is about covering all your bases with your sideboard. You want your cards to be good against a wide range of different decks.

Take, for example, Relic of Progenitus versus Rest in Peace. I have often favored Relic of Progenitus since it is much more useful in a wider range of matchups. At the very worst, it cycles for a card and can plug a leaky hole where you’d otherwise have nothing.

Similar is the choice between Timely Reinforcements and Lightning Helix or Dispel and Negate. Negate and Lightning Helix might be less powerful in certain matchups, but they’re more versatile.

Modern sideboarding is all about being prepared for as much of the metagame as possible. Ideally you have exactly enough cards to sideboard in and out for every matchup. Actually look through your sideboard and other decks’ sideboards ahead of time and prepare what your plans are, imagining how your opponent would sideboard as well.

Safety First

What do you think about Modern right now? Is it safe to invest in a deck? Is the metagame stable? Will bans continue happening with alarming frequency? Only time will tell for sure.