A fairly ubiquitous experience in Eternal formats is doing something completely terrible that you think beats your opponent’s deck.
“Oh, I saw you win via Past in Flames last game so I assumed Tormod’s Crypt was good. Turns out you can just Ritual into Infernal Tutor chains and kill
me from the stack without using your graveyard.”
“I wanted to board in more threats as live cards against your combo deck, but these three mana creatures just make me tap out and die and you can in
theory have sideboard Xantid Swarm.”
“Wait, I thought I was good in this matchup by my testing opponents played it wrong from their side. Now I just don’t have a relevant sideboard and
lose with no shot.”
While none of these examples are current to the format, the same thing applies to Modern. This article is a list of how to attack the most common enemies
of the format. Just as important, this is how to avoid doing the things people think beat these decks but don’t.
Jund is the classic attrition deck of the format. Your cards are very powerful generic answers and efficient threats. You kill your opponent’s best cards
while they fail to answer one of your very powerful threats and just die.
There are two ways to beat Jund: Play permanents that are hard for it to interact with, or just out attrition it.
Unfortunately the first is not a very large category, as described very well in this classic Brian Kibler tweet:
"Man, monoblack devotion just won the GP. What should I play
against it at my next FNM?" "It doesn't matter. They'll just Thoughtseize it"
— Brian Kibler
(@bmkibler) October 20, 2013
Fortunately, Thoughtseize can’t take every card, so you can beat Jund with lands. Usually this means Urza’s Tower or Tolaria West, as G/R Tron and Amulet
Bloom are easily Jund’s worst matchups. There are ways to interact with lands in Jund, but they are either too low impact or too slow. You can sideboard a
bunch of Fulminator Mages or what not, but the rate of return for the number of sideboard cards invested is pretty low. With Abzan, you have access to
Stony Silence which helps a bit against the Tron half of it, but Amulet Bloom is still a disaster. Being all spells, no permanents limits their answers to
just discard (see: pre-Wild Nacatl Burn decks), and there are some niche strategies that just goldfish through any non-hate interaction (like Dredgevine)
that force Jund to awkwardly race.
It’s also possible to exploit temporary trends in Jund’s removal base to play a card that they just aren’t playing the answers for. Six months ago, that
was playing a bunch of delve creatures that don’t die to Abrupt Decay. Then for a minute it was playing Master of Waves that didn’t die to Terminate. Now
if people move to less copies of Abrupt Decay and they have Kolaghan’s Command to cover non-creatures, you can play enchantments like Pyromancer Ascension.
If they move to Abzan for some reason, you can play one-drops that beat them because they don’t have Lightning Bolt, which oddly enough leads to Burn being
better against the deck with Siege Rhino than the deck with Dark Confidant. This guessing game also depends a lot on their specific sideboard, but
sometimes you can find a hole in their setup and just jam through it for that one weekend.
As for outgrinding them, this is almost an extension of playing hard to answer permanents. They technically kill a Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence, or
Snapcaster Mage… but it sucks to have to do so. For the most part, Jund is a bunch of one for ones that set up for later card quality disparity. If you
just play a bunch of two for ones, they will eventually die. The effect here is maximized when you add it to playing cards that dodge their removal, such
as when Grixis layered Snapcaster Mage and Kolaghan’s Command with delve creatures that turned off Abrupt Decay. This is also how a lot of the Collected
Company decks combat Jund: Company hits Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence for the full four for one.
What Doesn’t Work:
Anything that doesn’t line up well against Liliana of the Veil. Way back (aka 2-3 years ago) people used to play U/W midrange decks in Modern that should
have been great against Jund. They were all full of things like Blade Splicer, Snapcaster Mage, Geist of Saint Traft, and Restoration Angel that were great
against Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay. But they were still dogs to Jund because of Liliana of the Veil. It would hit the battlefield and just run the U/W
player out of cards, and they had no way to answer it. They could attack it… but not through Tarmogoyf and not if they weren’t already ahead when the
Jund player cast Liliana. Sorry, not only ahead but ahead in such a way that Liliana couldn’t just -2 Edict to stabilize the board.
Two-for-ones without answers to Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant also fail. This was a common way Birthing Pod decks lost games in the pre-ban era. They would
flood the battlefield with Kitchen Finks that were worth two cards, but Tarmogoyf would eventually force the Pod player to throw away their gained half
cards chump blocking. Dark Confidant plays slightly differently, but the end result is the same. The Jund player keeps pace with you on cards and gets to
execute their trade for everything until you die gameplan.
Most silver bullet style hate cards also fail. What are you going to play that they can’t just Thoughtseize or Abrupt Decay? The plan has to be more
cohesive than that. Blood Moon might steal you a game or two, but it’s not going to fix the matchup.
- 1 Grim Lavamancer
- 3 Snapcaster Mage
- 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Grixis is very similar to Jund, but the set of answers is just a bit different. Trade, trade, trade, kill them with an efficient threat. The deck is a
little less hellbent on running your opponent out of cards as fast as possible, instead opting to run them out slowly as you accumulate two-for-one
advantages with Snapcaster Mage.
Grixis’s removal suite is significantly less universal than Jund’s. The more common control lists are also lighter on threats that apply real pressure.
Whereas you need two-for-one threats to beat Jund, a bunch of 4/4s or protection from red creatures does the trick against Grixis. You might need to find a
Path to Exile for their Gurmag Angler at some point, but there isn’t a pressing need to have it on turn 2 to prevent something like Dark Confidant from
getting out of hand.
There is an exception to that last part: the Delver lists, specifically Young Pyromacer. Those decks still have the weakness to 4/4s, but they can go
through or around them with Insectile Aberration or Elemental tokens. However, these decks still have the classic Modern Delver flaw of being full of
fragile creatures. Maybe they have some delve creatures you need real removal to clear, but if you just have enough cheap removal, you just run them out of
relevant cards and turn their deck into a pile of cantrips and lands.
Worth noting: This is the opposite of what you want versus the control builds that play nothing you can Lightning Bolt. Be very aware that you are going to
be sideboarding in completely opposite ways depending on if they do or don’t have Delver of Secrets.
What Doesn’t Work:
I wish I had a good answer here, but honestly everything I’ve been playing lately has smashed Grixis. My honest advice is just don’t play it because I
don’t know what it really beats.
Twin is a deck that puts the fear in everyone because of how flexible it is between control, tempo, and combo. Tap out? Dead. Don’t tap out? You did
nothing and they are closer to having you dead anyways. Sideboard hate? Die to normal blue cards. Try to midrange them? Die to combo. There’s so many ways
they can respond and attack you with that it’s hard to find where they are actually weak.
Ever since the shift to Twin being a tempo deck, it has failed to stand up to the attrition decks. Three mana 1/4s and four mana auras that don’t do
anything without your 1/4 are real easy for your opponent to line up answers against, and often you have blanks in hand that limit your interactive
options. Jund is the obvious example of this, but Pox-esque decks have traditionally also been very good here.
Aggression also works. If Twin is dead on turn 4, the majority of the time they will just be dead.
And if your deck is in the middle ground between these two, honestly a lot of the time just playing as if they were Grixis Control is really good. Twin
sometimes kills you on turn 4, but often it also just doesn’t. If you can pressure them while not dying to the combo, do so, but if your choice is sitting
around to not die but giving them a ton more time to do things, you are probably better off not letting them get into position.
What Doesn’t Work:
Twin has a few specific trumps to midrange decks that it can deploy, and if you aren’t ready for them, you will get beat by them if you are just trying to
grind them down. Specifically, you are looking at Keranos, God of Storms, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Blood Moon. The first two tend to have issues
with massive creatures getting out under them, the latter is just something you play and build around.
There’s also caveats to the aggression plan. Infect and similar decks are going to fail, and a deck like Affinity that has to do a lot of work to bash
through a single card like Ancient Grudge may, as well. A Zoo deck where a Bolt only kills one of your three creatures and you can apply pressure without
overextending into Anger of the Gods is going to do wonders.
Finally, if you start incorporating things that are bad against Remand into your strategy, you start opening up another place they can get an edge. Trying
to play four drop sorceries against Twin will lead to them Time Walking you over and over with Remand, Cryptic Command, and Snapcaster Mage. Eventually,
one of the times you tap down they will just decide to kill you instead of making you repeat yourself.
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 2 Qasali Pridemage
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Loxodon Smiter
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
Both Bant and Naya Company operate under the same principle. Keep producing large, hard to deal with threats until your opponent runs out of answers and
These decks are pretty uninteractive, but not in the good way. They are slow, with just enough answers to handle the things that get in the way of their
creatures. Most of the degenerate decks will run right through them. What, you expected to have a fifth turn? That’s quaint.
This is also known as listening to Brian Kibler talk about why he doesn’t like Modern.
What Doesn’t Work:
Notice I said most of the degenerate decks. The Collected Company decks still have a few ways to interact, and much like you need to build around Jund’s
removal to beat it, you can’t play into the hate cards that Collected Company has access to and expect to win. That spread can vary a ton, but typically it
involves something like Stony Silence or Ancient Grudge, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Blood Moon if they have red mana.
That said, they only have a few of each hate card. If there’s no overlap and they just have two to three things that matter, you are still a strong
favorite, but if there’s some incidental hits on top of the real hate card that lines up, they can still steal games with fast Wild Nacatl starts backed by
a few road bumps.
- 4 Kird Ape
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Experiment One
- 2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
On the flip side of the spectrum, you have the low to the ground Zoo decks. Put it all on the battlefield, jam as hard as possible, and watch your opponent
die before they get to do things.
Kitchen Finks. When I played this deck a while back, that was always the card I lost to. Admittedly this was pre-Atarka’s Command, and that card lines up
reasonably there, but it doesn’t solve the issue of them getting to block twice.
Tarmogoyf and other large creatures. There are only so many slots this deck can spend on ways to push large blockers because it really needs the first 28
or so bodies on top of 19-20 lands. If you keep throwing 4/4s in the way, they will eventually run out of things to throw at you, and it’s hard for them to
actually advance their board while playing a breakthrough card each turn, so it doesn’t really get worse over time to keep blocking.
What Doesn’t Work:
Just having one. The Zoo deck can easily bash through the first Kitchen Finks, replace the creature off the first Lightning Helix, or Ghor-Clan Rampager
over the first Tarmogoyf. They might be able to fight through the second one on a good draw. The third… just not happening. But just having one is not
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Sylvan Messenger
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 3 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
There are a few distinct lists of this deck, but for the most part you are just putting a bunch of Elves onto the battlefield before running out some
Overrun effect to win. The exception are the Cloudstone Curio/Evolutionary Leap lists that are a bit more traditional combo-esque, but the execution to
resolve a specific powerful permanent and give them a very small window to not die still applies.
Faster combo. Elves does have access to Chord of Calling hate bear toolboxes, but that’s about it in terms of interaction. The deck isn’t typically packing
discard or countermagic, and if it is, it won’t have a lot. Most of the pure combo matchups are basically determined by if the Goryo’s Vengeance player
hits their fail rate games to lose or not.
Cheap sweepers. If you can keep them from lifting off with a Pyroclasm, you can often put them in a very bad spot trying to rebuild with cards that just
don’t match the quality of the cards you have survived to deploy.
What Doesn’t Work:
Durdling. This applies to basically all of the generic tribal Collected Company decks. They exploit people who are trying to get too specific with their
answers and too cute with their setups by just bashing them with good old fashioned creatures. The more proactive your deck is to counter, the better
chance you have of being able to compete. This can be proactive in the sense of combo killing them on turn 3 or in the sense of Jund firing off answers
efficiently starting early and closing quickly.
Trying to straight up kill all their creatures individually. Their sideboard plan often includes Kitchen Finks and Eternal Witness–Collected Company loops
which will overwhelm spot removal. Sweepers with pressure are fine, as is backing removal with graveyard hate to stop the recursion engines, but just
trying to trade until they run out of stuff gets much harder in games 2 or 3.
- 2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 3 Merrow Reejerey
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 4 Cursecatcher
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Harbinger of the Tides
Without the free countermagic of the traditional Legacy version, Merfolk in Modern has to resort to just making an incrementally powerful battlefield with
stacks of Lords. Turns out that is actually good enough in this format.
Removal plus attackers. If you prevent them from stacking up Lord bonuses and bash them with a Tarmogoyf, they will struggle to win. Jund and Zoo are both
really good at executing this. There’s also a notable weakness to the card Aether Vial here, as without the Wasteland setup of Legacy you are casting
creatures every turn, and Vial can run out of stuff to do, putting you down a card.
Combo, or really any linear deck that out goldfishes Merfolk. Merfolk is very light on interaction as it needs a critical mass of creatures. If your linear
deck has any resilience to countermagic, Merfolk should be very easy to crush.
What Doesn’t Work:
Loading up on only red removal. Master of Waves is a card, and if you can’t kill it, you will die very quickly to it. Decks that were previously on four
Terminate started moving towards equivalent mono-black answers as Merfolk became more popular.
Land light or color tight decks. Spreading Seas is how Merfolk steals a lot of games against decks it shouldn’t otherwise beat that are often running just
enough lands to get by. A good example of this is G/W Hexproof, which should be great against creature decks but is often choked up by Spreading Seas and
unable to set up in time. Burn can have similar issues as well.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 3 Arcbound Worker
- 4 Ornithopter
- 3 Steel Overseer
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
- 3 Hangarback Walker
Affinity has always been near the top of the heap in Modern in terms of raw power. It has a combination of speed and resiliency that is hard to match,
mostly due to Cranial Plating being really busted, and has just enough space to play interaction too.
The hate cards. Stony Silence and Shatterstorm are the most brutal things around, but Ancient Grudge isn’t far behind. I also have a soft spot for Night of
Souls’ Betrayal, which is basically the hard lock.
Interactive combo. Affinity has some key points where you can choke them out before quickly finishing them, and a deck like Splinter Twin is pretty good at
What Doesn’t Work:
Planning to just cast a four drop on turn 4 to beat them. Creeping Corrosion and Shatterstorm are usually too slow unless accelerated out via Noble
Hierarch or Desperate Ritual, respectively. Living that long isn’t reliable, and sometimes they will have done enough by then to finish you with various
Nexuses or Blasts regardless of getting swept.
Spot removal. Affinity might look like a pile of blanks and sixteen things that kill you, but between lands that become 1/1s and one drop Anthems, they can
actually kill you with the bad cards. Throwing a Path to Exile or Abrupt Decay at everything is going to leave them with a few fliers that chip you to
death. Spread removal like Kolaghan’s Command and Electrolyze is significantly more powerful against them, but again, watch the mana costs as you can just
be dead if you are in the Wrath of God cost range and not the Pyroclasm one.
Over the last year or so, Burn has morphed into more of a traditional Sligh-esque red deck as more viable one drop options were added, but the strategy is
mostly the same. Get in a couple hits early, finish them via uninteractive Lava Spikes to the face.
Cheap removal and a fast clock. The Burn clock is actually pretty slow if they can’t get free damage from their early creatures. If you just kill their
creature and start bashing them, they have a hard time winning before they die with most hands. Bonus points if your cheap removal or clock has a bit of
incidental lifegain, like Lightning Helix or Kitchen Finks. In burn spell off the top race mode, that’s basically a Time Walk.
Going under them. Even with creatures, Burn is still a step slower than the pure combo decks like Amulet Bloom and Goryo’s Vengeance. Of course, both of
these decks also have pretty good lifegain with Radiant Fountain copying and replaying or Nourishing Shoal, which really doesn’t help.
What Doesn’t Work:
Playing long games without a lock component. Ever play with a control deck against Sulfuric Vortex? Eventually you just die. Turns out Burn’s actual draw
step is basically the same: every card is worth 1.5 or so damage. If you can stop them from ever dealing damage with something like Sun Droplet, you are
good, otherwise you eventually take enough Bolts to the face and die. Some big lifegain effect like Sphinx’s Revelation is an effective lock if you can get
it through Skullcrack, but that’s asking a lot when Burn has access to as many of that effect as they want with Atarka’s Command and Flames of the Blood
Going under them with spells that trigger Eidolon of the Great Revel. Infect is the big offender here, as it basically can’t beat a resolved copy of that
card despite it not being a direct hate card. If you can deploy your cards under the Eidolon like Affinity, you are still fine, but if you are interested
in casting multiple cheap, non-removal spells on turn 3, it’s not going to work out well.
“Comboing” but not actually killing them. While most decks can’t beat a turn 3 Karn Liberated or Violent Outburst, Burn really doesn’t care unless they are
no longer able to cast spells. You need to actually remove them from the game and not just make something that should be unbeatable in normal Magic terms.
Okay, if our last deck was trying to be uninteractive, this one is well past trying. Just keep stacking higher and higher on one hexproof creature until
Playing cards that interact. Their entire deck is based around opponents not being able to do things, and if you can, the traditional auras sucking logic
due to card disadvantage applies. Anything that makes them sacrifice a creature is very bad for them, and while they can set up Dryad Arbor protection for
Liliana of the Veil, there’s very little they can do against Crackling Doom. They are also relatively light on auras that really boost their creature’s
size, so if you Abrupt Decay their Daybreak Coronet or Ethereal Armor, their Slippery Bogle might just be smaller than a Tarmogoyf.
Going under it. Similar to Burn, the Hexproof deck is reasonable at turn 4 kills but not reliably faster and often a bit slower. Most combo decks should
have no problem killing them before dying. A lot of the turn 4 kills also go through Kor Spiritdancer, which leaves them exposed to interaction if they try
to race. Unlike Burn, the Hexproof deck is vulnerable to pseudo-kills as it actually needs the combat step and creatures on the battlefield to win. Ugin,
the Spirit Dragon and Living End are both basically unbeatable.
Spreading Seas. The G/W deck is really playing low on lands, as it should only need two or three to win, and often Stone Raining them on turn 2 slows them
down considerably and might even lock them off casting Daybreak Coronet. On the play, three mana land disruption might even be good enough, and I know for
a fact Blood Moon usually is.
What Doesn’t Work:
Cards that interact but say “destroy” and “creature” on them. Totem Armor is a mechanic, Wrath of God is very unlikely to do more than trade for a Spider
Going under them with creatures. This doesn’t just apply to Zoo or Burn. The first time your Primeval Titan can only chump attack into a 7/7 first strike,
it’s annoying, but it gets straight up sad real fast. Not saying Amulet Bloom is actively bad against this deck, but it’s not the slam dunk you would
expect on paper. The exception to this is basically things that can’t be blocked and kill through lifegain, which limits you to almost exactly Blighted
We have finally reached a deck that gained significantly from Battle for Zendikar. While Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre was a laughable card, Ulamog
the Ceasless Hunger is the real deal. Not only is ten significantly less than eleven in this deck, as it’s one full land less (Tron plus an extra Urza’s
Tower or Tron plus extra Mine/Power Plant and a non-Tron land), but immediately exiling two permanents is often enough to end the game, while just one was
not enough. Still, the deck is doing the same thing: make a bunch of mana and cast overpowered high cost colorless cards.
Going under them. Tron also presents a lot of pseudo-kills on turn 3 or 4, but not actual kills. If you can survive the first Vindicate or two from Karn
Liberated’s -3 or the first Wurmcoil Engine hits,
Tron is basically a complete non-threat.
A critical density of land destruction. Each Fulminator Mage puts them back a turn or two. The first one is beatable, the second is often a big issue
because of how long it takes to recover, but the third is usually too much. If you layer Molten Rains with Ghost Quarters, you are getting somewhere
What Doesn’t Work:
Blood Moon. Their deck is half mana, they will just naturally curve into Wurmcoil Engine or Karn and laugh at you for taking a turn off. Or just tap three
for Oblivion Stone and blow up the world two turns later before untapping at full power. It’s even worse if your creatures die to Pyroclasm. The best as a
Tron player is when their Blood Moon hurts them like shutting off their Nexuses or cutting them off triple blue for Cryptic Command. When you are actively
avoiding killing their Blood Moon, it’s clear they did something very wrong.
Remand and Cryptic Command. Prior to Battle for Zendikar, this was conditional. You could Remand and Cryptic Command out Tron as long as you never
gave them an opening until they died. Casting Geist of Saint Traft was a surefire way to die, Time Walking them until you assembled Deceiver Exarch plus
Twin or seven lands plus Scapeshift worked. Then Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger happened. You used to have until the Tron player hit fifteen mana before
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was put on the stack and your counters didn’t matter. With ten being the new cutoff point, you really don’t have the time and are
just forced into being another one of the decks that goes underneath Tron.
Racing, but losing to Pyroclasm or Relic of Progenitus. Tron doesn’t have a lot of cheap interaction, but the ones it plays are really effective. The
number of times I’ve beat Storm, Living End, or still tribal decks with these cards out of Tron over the years is really absurd. Something like Affinity
that can get swept and still fire back with a Cranial Plating on an Inkmoth Nexus or 7/7 Arcbound Ravager is fine. Things that can’t aren’t.
Why is this deck legal? Dying on turn 2 is not remotely reasonable, especially when the deck in question is also reliable and resilient going late.
Going under them. Amulet Bloom has very little interaction, and while it is one of the most likely decks to kill on turn 2, it is actually a less
consistent turn 3 deck than the actual turn 3 decks like Infect, Storm, and Affinity. Affinity is especially notable here, as while it isn’t exactly a turn
3 deck, it can often put enough on the battlefield to beat a single Amulet of Vigor’ed Primeval Titan on turn 3, especially if it has a piece of
interaction for a bonus turn.
Blood Moon. There are very few true KO hate cards in this format. This is one of them. Sometimes Amulet Bloom kills the Blood Moon player before they can
cast the card. Maybe they draw one of their Seal of Primordiums. But the most likely outcome is the Amulet Bloom player is just hard locked.
Lots of weird stuff. Spellskite stops them from using Sunhome, Fortress of Legion or Slayers’ Stronghold. Dispel is really good against their Pacts. I’m
not even sure of all the weird little things you can do to interact with them, but you should be if you want to beat them.
What Doesn’t Work:
Stone Rains. It’s even worse than Tron. They can accelerate right through them with Summer Bloom. Sure, each Fulminator Mage is a double Stone Rain on
their bouncelands and can be used to “counter” their Dark Ritual mode on bounce lands with Amulet of Vigor, but this is not a real plan. It maybe buys you
a turn, that’s all.
Artifact removal. Amulet of Vigor allows the most broken draws in the decks, but Summer Bloom is the real enabler that sets the deck up. Amulet can also be
slow rolled until the combo turn. Basically, the point is that Amulet is often not the card that is putting them to range, and even if it is, they can
position it so that you have to sit on Ancient Grudge and not actually kill them or you die. If your deck can handle them casting Primeval Titan and slowly
chaining Tolaria Wests into more Titans but can’t beat them full on comboing, you want Shatters. If you can’t beat Primeval Titan, then prepare to be
Another big winner from Battle for Zendikar as seen in my videos a couple weeks ago. Bring to Light makes the
deck much more reliable as you now have four bonus copies of Scapeshift to find. The deck even can cut to three now so it doesn’t draw multiples!
Attrition. Scapeshift takes seven or eight lands on the battlefield plus Scapeshift on the stack to win. The lands part is non-specific, but that’s still a
lot of cards. If you just keep putting them down cards, they need more and more draw steps. Any discard or Stone Rain effect is good, but the real winners
are cards that repeatedly put them down pieces of cardboard. Liliana of the Veil is really bad for Scapeshift, and I think I’ve beaten Raven’s Crime once
or twice in three years of testing the deck.
Staying at nineteen or more life. Seven lands plus Scapeshift is only eighteen damage, and the eighth land takes them a full extra turn to produce the
majority of time. That’s an extra turn you get to actually kill them, which is a lot when Scapeshift is often using all of their Cryptic Commands to buy
the necessary time to get there.
Going under them. Scapeshift does have access to early interaction, but the deck isn’t especially fast and has to spend time casting ramp spells. Burn,
Affinity, and Zoo all make pretty short work of the deck even through its ability to sideboard sweepers and real hate cards.
What Doesn’t Work:
Going low with cards that are bad against Remand or Cryptic Command. All of the decks I listed as aggressive answers to Scapeshift are aggressive creature
decks that kill through a Cryptic Command tap mode. The combo or aggro decks that get full on Time Walked by Command or Remand range from just “okay” to
“pretty bad” here. There are weird exceptions in turn. Tron with access to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger now turned an unwinnable matchup into a fine one,
and Storm is actually great, as its key point actually falls under Remand (more on this later).
Going heads up in the counter war with them. You have to counter a four mana sorcery when they have lots of mana up, which removes most of the good options
in the format. You can’t Mana Leak, you often can’t Remand, you can’t Dispel, and Envelop isn’t a legal card. On the flip side, they just have to interact
with instants. They can Remand their own Scapeshift (effectively countering even a Counterflux), Dispel your Negate, and all that good stuff. They also
have better card selection than any of the other blue decks. Trust me, it almost always ends poorly.
This deck is shockingly awesome to play and miserable to play against. Or should I say expectedly miserable, as there’s something extra terrible about
being visibly locked out of your draw step. Lantern of Insight reveals…Gurmag Angler. Okay, you can keep that as I have Ensnaring Bridge but no cards.
You draw it revealing… Thought Scour. I guess that gets you a random draw, so mill it. Can’t have any of that going on!
Having too many things that matter. Having played both sides of the Jund matchup, I can say that deck is a real problem. Discard is live. Abrupt Decay and
Maelstrom Pulse are live. Liliana of the Veil is live. Scavenging Ooze is live. Dark Confidant is live, even Lightning Bolt can be live. It isn’t even that
once they assemble the soft lock they are less likely to be able to force you to draw a brick. It’s in the setup as it’s often impossible for them to get
to any relevant battlefield before dying. You can’t Surgical Extraction or Pithing Needle everything and still have all the actual lock pieces. Burn
presents a similar issue, but unlike Jund, there is a single hate card that stifles the deck in Sun Droplet.
What Doesn’t Work:
Anything that can be stopped by a single card they have. So many fast combo decks are just colded by one of Ensnaring Bridge, Pithing Needle, Spellskite,
or Surgical Extraction. Even if it isn’t a perfect lock, Lantern still has all the Jund tools of discard and Abrupt Decay as catchalls. For what people
think of as a mono-brown deck without any Sphere of Resistance effects, Lantern is a real combo killer.
- 3 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Street Wraith
- 2 Faerie Macabre
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 1 Jungle Weaver
- 4 Architects of Will
- 1 Pale Recluse
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 4 Deadshot Minotaur
I hate this deck because it is so polarizing in miserable ways. I always run into it when playing a linear creature deck and die in horrific ways. I never
win with it because I keep playing against midrange decks with interaction and hate. Lantern Control is at least a head scratcher to play against. Most of
the time there is no finesse to playing around “I guess I’m getting Fulminator Maged this turn, Wrathed and Fulminatored again next turn” because a third
of the format has literally nothing they can do about that, while a different third of the format wonders why those game actions even matter.
Remand. There are only three Living Ends in the Living End deck and it’s possible with countermagic to just answer them all. Remand is one of the better
options as it is effectively a hard counter, but almost anything works.
Graveyard hate. Living End is still a Wrath if it brings nothing back, but that’s much more beatable. They can actually cast their creatures or a Beast
Within and aren’t completely cold to a Leyline of the Void, but their deck is way worse when you land it on turn 0. Other, simpler exile effects can also
do a number on them. I’ve lost games to Path to Exile and Snapcaster Mage when playing Living End before. You think you got in for value outside their
countermagic window, but in reality, they had you dead this way by running you out of bodies.
Sacrifice outlets. If you can move your creatures to the graveyard in response to Living End, they will come back and you can fight heads up. The two most
common sacrifice effects in Modern are Viscera Seer and Arcbound Ravager, both of which also represent some comboish kill that threatens to win even
through a bunch of cycling creatures. Even if you can’t directly sacrifice, finding ways to put creatures in your graveyard means you also get something
out of their symmetrical effect. Sometimes you can just go heads up against the three things they manage to bring back with your follow up Tarmogoyf, the
Tasigur, the Golden Fang you discarded to Liliana of the Veil, and a removal spell or two.
Storm hate. They do have to cast two spells in a turn to cascade into Living End.
What Doesn’t Work:
Racing them with creatures. You can’t get under them with Birds of Paradise, they have Simian Spirit Guide. I lost a Grand Prix top 8 match to being on the
draw against turn 2 Fulminator Mage, turn 3 Fulminator Mage, turn 4 cycle plus Demonic Dread into Living End to bring everything back. I had Birds of
Paradise, Birthing Pod, and Glen Elendra Archmage to do things but never really got to cast spells. At least I tried.
Leaning 100% on counterspells after sideboard. Ricochet Trap is a card and they can reasonably set up end of turn Violent Outburst, Ricochet Trap, untap
into Demonic Dread if necessary. You can beat this with a sweeper into more counters or using counters to protect hate, but they can bash through just blue
Artifacts as your sole plan. Ingot Chewer is a card. Chalice of the Void for zero and Ethersworn Canonist force them to jump through a hoop, but they
aren’t a hard lock. If you are quickly establishing another layer to your lock or protecting your Ethersworn Canonist with Welding Jar, it’s probably good
enough, but just running it out there and expecting a scoop is not happening.
The exception to all the rules. Infect is a turn 3 kill deck with lots of room for interaction that is highly unlikely to ever see a ban beyond Gitaxian
Probe because it kills you with honest Magic and the combat step. There’s something super inoffensive about combo killing people with Giant Growths.
Cheap spot removal and a clock. Wild Nacatl, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Deceiver Exarch, and Dark Confidant (clock is them drawing too many answers) are
all problematic strategies for Infect, as the big threat comes down in a safe window and locks up the game before the Infect player can setup through the
Lightning Bolts or Path to Exiles that back them up.
Lingering Souls. In all of my testing the Infect versus Tokens matchup comes down to if they can kill Blighted Agent, and testing for the last Modern Pro
Tour with Abzan versus Infect kept showing this card was a major issue. It’s too hard to bash through, and even if you have Pendelhaven or Noble Hierarch
to not trade for the 1/1s, it takes so much time to push through the tokens.
What Doesn’t Work:
Waiting to start fights until they sink a pump spell. Inkmoth Nexus doesn’t have to be a creature until it is time to kill you. They have tons of
protection spells like Apostle’s Blessing and Vines of Vastwood. Infect is fine chipping away at your secondary life total, as it forces them to burn less
pump and mana on the kill turn. Start fights on their end step if you want to fight, kill things ASAP while they are tapped out if you can’t afford one.
Racing without interaction. The turn 3 and 4 kill percentages on Infect are absurd. If you get the nut draw to turn 2 them, congrats. If you have to spend
time setting up, you are probably not winning.
This deck was a real scary flash in the pan. The first time you use Nourishing Shoal to splice a Through the Breach as a way to make it cost one less and
protect it from counters, you get a real feeling something is really fundamentally broken.
Dispel. 100% of their kill spells are instants: Goryo’s Vengeance, Through the Breach, and both of their splice targets in Nourishing Shoal and Desperate
Ritual. Countering them for one mana is really, really good.
Their fail rate. This is one of the few decks in the format where this is actually true, but you can get away with a bit less than you think here. Their
good hands will kill you regardless of what you do most of the time, but their bad hands take a lot of work to get off the ground and are relatively easy
to pick apart.
What Doesn’t Work:
Tapping out basically ever and not realizing you can die.
Skip to about 1:30 into the second round of this video and see why.
As mentioned with Dispel, all of the kill components are instants. It’s fine to tap out if you just want to jam on them and hope you don’t die, but don’t
think you can sit around on the counter plan and have spots to cast something like Vendilion Clique.
These traditional combo decks have fallen out of favor basically since people realized Jund was still a deck despite Deathrite Shaman being banned almost
two years ago, but they still put up the occasional finish and are unique enough that they are worth discussing how to beat. Storm has a lot of turn 3
goldfish kills, likely more than any other deck that doesn’t have to play around Lightning Bolt, but has a lot of lategame resiliency as it has so many
Abrupt Decay. Storm’s fastest hands are based on one of their two mana permanents: Goblin Electromancer or Pyromancer Ascension. Being able to remove
either of these means you will almost surely take a fourth or even fifth turn.
Graveyard hate. Most of their Goblin Electromancer kills go through an eventual Past in Flames, and Pyromancer Ascension obviously requires cards in the
graveyard. Something like Relic of Progenitus makes them jump through hoops, and Rest in Peace really cuts of a lot of their options.
What Doesn’t Work:
Counterspells without a cheap clock to support them. When I played this deck at Pro Tour Born of the Gods I played against four Jeskai Geist decks and
demolished all four of them. Just sitting around and letting Storm rifle through their deck with cantrips while you can never tap out leads to bad times.
Focusing on killing their Goblin Electromancer. If your deck is actually good at doing this, they are very willing to sideboard the card out completely and
kill you without creatures. Well, maybe some Goblin tokens from Empty the Warrens, but without actual creatures.
Discard. They only have four Ad Nauseams and are oddly light on ways to dig deep to find it. Taking away their first one or their way to find it the turn
before they try to kill you really cripples them.
What Doesn’t Work:
Sitting on countermagic. Their protection is Pact of Negation, so you get into counter wars where their spells cost zero mana to your more than zero. They
can also go off at instant speed, so eventually they will end of turn Ad Nauseam into untap and Ad Nauseam.
As you can see, there are a ton of decks in the format. Preparing for them all is extremely difficult. If I had to pick which ones I cared about, it would
be the following as high priority targets:
Of course, you will still play at least a round a day against something not on this top decks list, probably more. Many of those decks are things that
don’t play normal Magic, and almost all of them have their own ways to dip and dive around some of the obvious ways to beat them.
This is your chance to do your due diligence and not fall into known traps. Make the right plays and have the right plans to win each and every matchup.