Modern Archetypes On The Rise (And On The Decline)

Todd Stevens was at the #SCGINVI to see the drastic changes taking place in Modern! The format is in a dramatically different place than it has been, and Todd is ready to show you the decks that are making it…and those that are out of touch!

Yep, Elves won the #SCGINVI, just like everyone predicted, even with the rise of hate cards like Grafdigger’s Cage.

Wait a minute.

Elves? Not Dredge?

Liam Lonergan didn’t just win the Invitational with Elves, he destroyed it. He followed up a perfect 8-0 in the swiss rounds with a dominating 9-1 record in the Sunday elimination rounds against the best in the game. Liam demonstrated yet again that Modern is the most diverse format in Magic and that the most important thing is knowing your own deck and its matchups inside and out.

Modern has been a fluid format since Splinter Twin and Eye of Ugin were banned, and today I want to analyze all of the decks that did well this past weekend to get you caught up and ready for #GPINDY or your upcoming SCG Invitational Qualifiers and PPTQs.

Diving In

There were 25 different decks that performed well during the #SCGINVI when combining the top 8, the nine other decks that went 7-1 or better, and the Modern Open top 8. Making the Top 16 of the Open doesn’t cut it in this particular list; I’m only looking at the decks that had a great performance. The breakdown of those 25 decks is as follows:



Bant Eldrazi










Death’s Shadow Aggro






Jeskai Control




R/G Valakut


G/R Tron


Naya Company


Mardu Control


Blue Moon


G/W Hexproof


Let’s take a closer look at some of the decks that overperformed this past weekend, starting with my favorite Modern deck.

Bant Eldrazi had three pilots in the top 8 of the Modern Open, including the winner, Thomas Smiley. Bant Eldrazi is starting to overtake Jund and Abzan as the midrange deck of choice in Modern because it relies much less on the graveyard as the other two. Thomas played a Rest in Peace to go along with two copies of Grafdigger’s Cage to add an extra dimension of graveyard hate that is not usually seen in the deck.

I love how Thomas incorporated Elder Deep-Fiend into his deck as I have been thoroughly impressed with the card in my testing. I think The Octopus is even more devastating in Modern than it is in Standard, since tapping down four of your opponent’s lands is very similar to a Time Walk even in the late game. With Elder Deep-Fiend in the deck, Spellskite becomes a more valuable creature for the main deck. I was never a fan of Spellskite in the maindeck before because it would often times do too little, but now that Spellskite can be another Elder Deep-Fiend enabler I am much more interested in it.

Looks like Worship is back. A mirror breaker in the middle of Eldrazi winter, Worship had been set aside ever since as it was not a necessity, but I would recommend having one in your sideboard moving forward. Worship is the best against damage-based decks that have a hard time removing your creatures, which includes decks like Bant Eldrazi, Affinity, Burn, Elves, and Dredge among others. It is not necessarily a hard lock against any of these decks (for example: You can still die to the poison damage inflicted by Inkmoth Nexus from Affinity), but it usually can buy you enough time to win. Spellskites can help protect the Worship as well, but don’t pay two life with Spellskite’s ability when you’re at one! Worship only helps with damage dealt–not loss of life.

Burn had a very solid weekend and is also a good choice going forward in the current metagame because it has an average or better matchup against many of the top decks.

Miles had a plan–one that I approve of–and that was to be able to kill creatures while still dealing damage to his opponent. Searing Blaze is such an amazingly powerful card that I love having access to all four in the maindeck. I also like the ability to have Searing Blazes five and six in the form of Searing Blood in the sideboard. When your opponent is playing small creatures, which would include ten of the sixteen decks above, then Searing Blaze and Searing Blood is exactly where I want to be.

Deflecting Palm is my pick for the most underutilized spell in Burn’s sideboard. I frequently see it as a zero or two-of in sideboards. I rarely see it being cast, which does not give the power level of the card justice. I love that Miles has three in his sideboard, and I would advocate playing four. All you need is one to immediately end the game against an opposing Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn; Death’s Shadow; or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle; and drawing multiple copies is not necessarily a drawback. Casting a Deflecting Palm against an attacking Thought-Knot Seer or Tarmogoyf for a couple turns in a row is almost assuredly enough to allow a Burn player to finish the job.

Dredge yet again had a very strong weekend, especially considering how few pilots it had. Dredge broke onto the scene fairly recently, and it’s a difficult deck to buy into because the cards in the deck don’t overlap with cards from other Modern decks and because Dredge is not an easy deck to navigate.

These circumstances lead to me to have a couple different recommendations when it comes to playing with or against Dredge in Modern. If you are one of the few that has the ability to acquire all of the cards for Dredge and the time to devote into becoming proficient with the deck, then I would definitely recommend playing Dredge in the coming weeks. If this is not the case however, I would actually not recommend having too many slots in your sideboard devoted to the matchup as you probably won’t play against it as much as you may think. If you have the room in your sideboard for hate cards, then definitely play them; the deck is very good. But it’s much more likely that you will be playing against Infect, Affinity, Jund, Burn, or Tron. So plan accordingly.

Similarly to Dredge, Death’s Shadow Aggro is a relatively new deck in Modern that overperformed at the #SCGINVI. It is yet another Modern deck that is looking to kill the opponent as fast as possible with minimum interaction. The ability to use your own life total as a resource to improve the consistency and speed of the deck with cards like Gitaxian Probe, Street Wraith, and Mutagenic Growth is what sets Death’s Shadow Aggro apart from other Zoo variants.

While it may not necessarily be new technology, Ranger of Eos is a great sideboard card that I personally haven’t seen from the deck before. There are only five lands in the maindeck that can produce mana, so loading up on four-drops is not something that you necessarily want, but Ranger of Eos is strong enough with Death’s Shadow and Monastery Swiftspear to warrant a sideboard slot.

And now we get to the deck that won it all. Seeing Liam Lonergan dominate the Invitational made me wonder why I haven’t seen many Elves decks before. The deck is extremely consistent and isn’t as easy to disrupt as it looks.

You have a full eight one-mana accelerants between Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves. Heritage Druid is probably the most broken mana advantage card in the entire format. Having a single Elvish Archdruid untapped with an Ezuri, Renegade Leader on the battlefield means you can regenerate your whole team from an Anger of the Gods or Supreme Verdict.

You have the single best Chord of Calling deck in Modern by the virtue of how fast the deck plays creatures. Chord of Calling is a card that I have believed should be banned in Modern for some time now, as it is an instant speed tutor that can be cast without using mana. Elves is in the best position to use Chord of Calling to its fullest by being able to cast it by only using creatures a decent amount of the time.

This is all without mentioning the power of Collected Company in a 34-creature deck. Or having a powerful sideboard, similar to Abzan Company, that truly rewards a player who knows the deck and exactly what they want to do in each matchup.

I’m guessing that I will be seeing more little green creatures on Magic Online this week, and for good reason. Time will tell if this deck becomes a greater part of the metagame, but I would be shocked if it doesn’t.

Decks that Underperformed


Jadine Klomparens had an amazing #SCGINVI, which is even more incredible when considering how poorly Jund did as a whole. Although I don’t have the official numbers of what every one of the 627 competitors were playing, walking around the tables I had a hard time finding four matches in a row that did not have at least one person playing Jund. So my rough estimate would be about one in eight players, or 12.5% of the field, was playing Jund. Again, rough estimate, but it easily seemed like the most popular deck.

The results of the deck were not very impressive. Only one copy to show in the list compiled above, and the best performing Jund deck in the Modern Open was 25th. This was particularly surprising after Jund placed four of the top nine the previous week in Syracuse. So what changed?

I’m the first to admit that I absolutely love this card. It was the centerpiece for my G/B Delirium deck that I played in Standard when Eldritch Moon was released. However, I’m not sold on this new flavor of the week yet. I played G/R Tron this weekend, and I was playing against the Grim Flayer Jund list that won the MOCS in round three. My opponent was on the play for game 2 and played a turn-two Grim Flayer. Multiple Fulminator Mages were cast the next two turns, which allowed the Grim Flayer to connect for six turns in a row, dealing twelve damage. I was eventually able to activate an Oblivion Stone and clear the battlefield, but I can’t imagine a Dark Confidant or a Tarmogoyf being uncontested for six straight turns and still being able to win the game. I could be wrong about Grim Flayer, but I’m not sold.


Although Merfolk is not as highly represented as a deck like Jund, having zero copies in the list above shows that the fishes did not have a good weekend. Although the deck had multiple Grand Prix wins over the last few months, it may be too slow in the current metagame. As someone who is not a Merfolk player, I am not positive about that; however, not having a single copy in the above list or the entire Open Top 32 places Merfolk in the underperforming section

G/R Tron

I was very disappointed by the showing that G/R Tron had, as I thought it was a very good choice going into the Open. I suspected it had favorable Jund, Dredge, and Jeskai Control matchups, which were the biggest three decks going into Syracuse. Although I did play G/R Tron myself, I can’t blame my performance on the deck as I did have the favorable matchups I was looking for and could have been 4-0 to start the day with different lines of play on my part. Even still, results are results, and G/R Tron put only one copy in the compiled list above and a 26th as the best finish in the Open. Pair this with a 29th-place finish as the best result at #SCGNY and it has been a rough couple weeks for Tron.

Abzan Company

Is Abzan Company still a deck? Where has it gone? Has the graveyard hate completely pushed it out? Abzan Company has been basically non-existent over the last two weeks, and even Andrew Tenjum played Jund instead during the Modern Open. If Abzan Company really is dead, is it now safe to come out and play with Naya Company again?

Comments from Last Week

I’m finishing the article this week by highlighting some of the comments from last week’s article, Finding your Perfect Deck, which was about pairing Modern and Standard decks together. If you would like to be featured in next week’s Comments from Last Week section, then leave a question or comment below and be sure to come back next week to see if you made the cut!

So I’m curious what other people have to say. Todd, do you think Nahiri is a viable card in Standard?

-Eric Dawson Towne

Good question, Eric! I guess how you define “viable” can be a bit subjective, but I’m going to go with it as meaning “it can win a tournament.” By this guideline, I unfortunately don’t believe Nahiri is viable in the current Standard format. Red and white are not a great color combination right now because Bant Company decks can easily go under Nahiri, while Emerge decks can easily go over her. Even To the Slaughter has picked up a ton of steam recently.

That’s awesome! I was always thinking about building U/R Thermo-Alchemist as I’m in between Modern decks right now. (Aka, I play anything except for Storm, Thopter-blade, Affinity). Just wondering, do you think Naya Company has a play currently in this Modern format, or not?

-Kevin Zhang

I absolutely think Naya Company is a good choice for this current format, and I regret not playing it this weekend. I loved how Thomas Sardanelli, who went 7-1 in the Invitational with Naya Company, played Domri Rade in the main board.

Domri might be my favorite card. Now with Naya Company, I would never expect to beat Abzan Company or Dredge, but most of the other popular decks in the format right now are good matchups.

Moving Forward

By combing through the results and trends from the last two weekends, these are the decks I would recommend for now:

1. Dredge

2. Bant Eldrazi

3. Death’s Shadow Aggro

4. Burn

5. Infect

6. Elves

I hope you like to attack!