Five of the remaining eight SCG Tour Opens this season are Modern or partially Modern. This means I’ll be playing a lot of Modern in the next few months.
Last year had a stretch of Modern Opens as well. I was able to keep pace with the format and had reasonable success with a variety of archetypes, including Infect, Dredge, 8-Rack, and G/W Tron. I dabbled in Soul Sisters as well to little tournament success. I picked my spots poorly with that one.
I’ve not really been brewing up entirely new decks for my repertoire. Rather, I’ve been progressively updating my wheelhouse while keeping a watchful eye on decks that pique my interest.
The Old Favorites
Before the 2016 Players’ Championship, I was looking into Mono-Green Tron as a more consistent option to G/W Tron. I mostly wanted three or four Forests in my deck to have good game against Blood Moon and Ghost Quarter. Getting seven lands onto the battlefield to cast Karn Liberated was coming up more often. Five lands to activate an Oblivion Stone or cast a post-sideboard Thragtusk was even easier.
White gave access to Path to Exile and Blessed Alliance. Red gave access to Lightning Bolt, Kozilek’s Return, and Pyroclasm. Joe Lossett and others have tried G/B Tron for Collective Brutality, and now Fatal Push as well.
It’s been universally accepted that another color is needed in the green ramp deck to prevent yourself from dying to a rush of creatures. Dismember has always been available to any color combination. Warping Wail and Spatial Contortion are colorless options that are fairly weak on overall power level.
Then I had the idea to try Hangarback Walker in Mono-Green Tron. It was a roadblock on the second turn that would soak up damage. Hangerback Walker also scaled well, eventually getting big enough to trigger Sanctum of Ugin. Still, it wasn’t great at dealing with evasive creatures like Delver of Secrets or Blighted Agent. It was also rather difficult to convert Hangarback Walker into Thopter tokens. Oblivion Stone could, but that was “win more.” Nature’s Claim is already narrow enough.
Walking Ballista is more of what a Tron deck is looking for. Tron has always needed a removal spell early and Walking Ballista can act like one in enough situations. Walking Ballista scales better once it’s on the battlefield as you can pump it while attacking with it, often pumping multiple times. Tron doesn’t really need help closing games once an advantage is established, but it’s nice to have. Walking Ballista can easily get out of hand and win on its own. It’s freerolling a Helix Pinnacle on your removal spell/bridge slot.
I remember playing with Magma Mine as a win condition when I first started playing. Oh my, how far power creep has taken us!
I talked about Infect recently, so I won’t go into too much detail but will rather just show the updated lists with a few notes.
This build of Infect leans on Wild Defiance as a key part of your plan. Wild Defiance works to protect against Lightning Bolt and other damage based spells. It also turns Mutagenic into a huge “free” pump spell.
Noble Hierarch and Dryad Arbor become real damage-based threats with a Wild Defiance on the battlefield. Last, Wild Defiance in tandem with two Spellskites creates a short loop. Cast a pump spell on one and then redirect to the other. Each redirection triggers Wild Defiance, leading to an effect like Hatred.
Just remember that you have a few deckbuilding changes without Gitaxian Probe. You’re not damaging yourself as much per game, so Dismember and Mutagenic Growth can be cast more liberally. Since Gitaxian Probe was a free cantrip, it did affect the total land count of the old version of Infect. Now you should play one, even two more than before.
No radical changes here. Fatal Push is an obvious addition to 8-Rack. It may be surprising to see that Dismember hasn’t been completely replaced by a full set of Fatal Push. This is mostly a concern with casting something off Mutavault. Also, Tasigur, the Golden Fang is popular in Grixis decks these days.
- 4 Golgari Thug
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 1 Scourge Devil
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Hedron Crab
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 1 Haunted Dead
I think Dredge is still a playable deck. Golgari Grave-Troll just made it easy.
Hedron Crab was close to playable in the archetype before and I want to explore it. It’s good with fetchlands and can mill up to twelve cards, I’d imagine. One downside is that it enables otherwise dead removal from the opponent. Insolent Neonate has gotten much weaker now that your dredges are smaller. Hedron Crab takes up this slot.
Life from the Loam works nicely with Hedron Crab to accrue some advantage while making land drops. While there’s no Golgari Grave-Troll cast in the late-game, there are still plenty of reasons to make land drops. Bloodghast is the most apparent. Life from the Loam plus a Flashback on Conflagrate or Faithless Looting are more reasons.
In this build of Dredge, there isn’t a way to dredge before your second draw step. I think this is fine, as a natural draw will give more information as to how to play out your hand. You’ll want to have three lands on the battlefield in most games. One of the biggest traps to get stuck in is keeping a one-land hand and having to rely on dredges to function.
- 4 Soul Warden
- 2 Auriok Champion
- 4 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Soul's Attendant
- 1 Serra Ascendant
- 4 Ajani's Pridemate
- 4 Archangel of Thune
- 4 Thraben Inspector
Soul Sisters hasn’t gotten anything new lately. The only different thing going on here is the sideboard.
With Dredge less of an issue, fewer slots are dedicated to it, so fewer Rest in Peace. Chalice of the Void is nearly against the Puresteel Paladin combo deck. There are also a bunch of Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens in the sideboard to combat non-interactive decks like Ad Nauseam and whatever Storm looks like now.
Soul Sisters isn’t good against combo. That’s what the sideboard is for. Soul Sisters is great if you expect Burn, Zoo, Affinity, any decks that attack with small creatures. It’s actually pretty good against midrange decks like Grixis Control, Jund, and Abzan as well.
It can’t beat Tron ever. Oh well.
The New Stuff
Just a hot mess full of combos. Let’s go over them.
Turn Saheeli Rai into an artifact with Liquimetal Coating. -2 Saheeli Rai on herself to create a copy that’s “an artifact in addition to its other types.” Rinse and repeat. Altar of the Brood makes use of the permanents entering the battlefield continuously for a quickly decked opponent.
Copy a Leonin Relic-Warder with a Phyrexian Metamorph. Exile the artifact Leonin Relic-Warder with its own ability. Add in Altar of the Brood to make use of the loop. Leonin Elder also does the trick with this combo or the Saheeli Rai plus Liquimetal Coating one.
We all know this one.
Copy any permanent on the battlefield.
Exile any permanent on the battlefield.
- 3 Vampire Nocturnus
- 4 Bloodghast
- 2 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 4 Kalastria Highborn
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 4 Asylum Visitor
- 4 Stromkirk Condemned
It’s been a while since I touched on Modern Vampires. I always thought of Vampires to be a similar and suitable replacement to Jund or Abzan. 8-Rack can be similar as well. It’s a deck with some removal, some discard, some creatures, and Liliana of the Veil.
Asylum Visitor acts like Dark Confidant from Jund for our purposes of card advantage. Eight discard engines enable the madness from Asylum Visitor. Liliana and Stromkirk Condemned also get Bloodghast in the graveyard early for value.
Bossman here can still end the game out of nowhere. There are games where Vampire Nocturnus will just die to a Lightning Bolt, but whatever. Opposing removal spells are generally overloaded by the early creatures. The fetchlands help reset the top of your library to try to find a black card for the static Anthem ability of Vampire Nocturnus.
I used to have Vampire Nighthawk in the sideboard as a good lifegain creature against aggressive decks. Now Gifted Aetherborn does that role for a mana cheaper for the cost of flying. When you have Vampire Nocturnus going, you’re really not missing anything at all.
What will I play at #SCGRegionals? Probably Infect or Tron.
I still have a lot to learn about the new post-banning, post-Aether Revolt world of Modern. I’m happy to have the wheels turning and to keep a list of Modern decks churning and hopefully periodically upgrading.
In Modern, every deck is rogue until enough development has been put into it to be real. Merfolk, Elves… even Slivers can do it. Could Vampires be next?
Maybe I’ll get Vampires to look like a sharply tuned machine that will be the best deck for a weekend.