Modern Has No Decks That Are Unbeatable

Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax isn’t buying that Hollow One is too good. Get his specifics for adapting to this metagame before you hit SCG Baltimore!

“If even that great Pro has descended to the randomness of Hollow One, I
don’t see how we aren’t going to see it be 20% of the real field soon.”

“Krark-Clan Ironworks is basically just Amulet Bloom. Within six months
people will have figured out how to play it and it will have to be banned,
it’s just broken.”

“Nothing can reliably beat Tron. It just takes too much and they have too
many free wins.”

Jeez people. If Modern can beat the hyper-efficient, broad answer full,
super-fast and varies clock midrange deck that is Grixis Death’s Shadow,
your lame linear deck that dies to five different hate cards is not going
to break it. Every one of these “oppressive, unbeatable” Modern decks is
secretly a pushover waiting to happen.

Here’s the tricks.

Ironworks Combo

This deck is definitely better than when I first tried it right after Aether Revolt, comically due to people figuring out interactions
between cards already in the deck. The Myr Retreiver loops give it a
definite end game where loosely chaining cantrips was iffy and let you play
more versatile win conditions than Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

The Obvious

When people stop playing white cards, there are ways to punish them. Then
they start playing white cards again and those decks literally can’t
perform game actions.

Pressure Them

On a basic level, Ironworks Combo is a fractional turn slower than Storm or
Infect. Faster combo exists and is an issue.

Looking a bit deeper, Ironworks is a deck that given time can keep
assembling its combo. Buried Ruin and Inventor’s Fair play a huge role in
this, and often Ironworks can insulate itself against a Kolaghan’s Command
within the same turn using the mana from the first Krark-Clan Ironworks to
cast the second.

The best plan is to establish a clock fast enough that they can’t use their
lands to set up, then lean on your removal after. Cheap answers like
Nature’s Claim and Ceremonious Rejection are much better, as you can deploy
threats and be a bit reactive at the same time.

Krark-Clan Ironworks Costs Four

Krark-Clan Ironworks.

Your Ironworks opponent needs to have four mana.

If you can destroy their lands, their Mind Stones, and Mox Opals you stand
a chance of preventing them from doing anything relevant. I have lost to
Living End this way, but even Jund might be able to set something up with
this to fully lock their opponent out with things like draw step Kolaghan’s
Command discards while Tarmogoyf does the rest.

G/W Hexproof

G/W Hexproof Has Sketchy Mana

G/W Hexproof is a nineteen-land deck with no cantrips (Dryad Arbor no
longer sits with your lands and doesn’t count). That needs turn 1 green,
turn 2 double white, but sometimes double green too. That also plays two
basic lands, that.

Merfolk is a bad matchup for G/W Hexproof, and the pre-Jace U/W Control
decks were also obnoxious. Spreading Seas is a huge issue, ranging from
slowing your deck down to half speed to literally shutting down your entire

Blood Moon is also good, if often slow. I honestly might bet on G/R Ponza
being a favorite on the play against G/W Hexproof. Good luck if they have
Madcap Skills and land destruction.

Now onto other things than praising my least favorite decks in Modern
because they beat another deck I dislike.

Ensnaring Bridge and Engineered Explosives are Colorless

As I mentioned when talking about U/R Prison
, one of the things I’ve been thinking about in Modern is how many decks
can utilize an Ensnaring Bridge that isn’t quite hellbent. It’s a lot more
than you would think.

And against G/W Hexproof it’s almost everything. Yeah, whatever, Kor
Spiritdancer sometimes draws them a Seal of Primordium. What if you’re a
deck with removal that beats Kor Spiritdancer that just needs to beat a
Slippery Bogle with a Leyline of Sanctity?

Engineered Explosives is the same thing. It asks that you make colored mana
and not have a million one-drops and in exchange you blow up all their

And these are just good Modern cards. Engineered Explosives covers Empty
the Warrens or Cranial Platings. Ensnaring Bridge stops Hollow One and
Gurmag Angler. It’s so easy for half the decks in the format to just do
something to beat you that isn’t Back to Nature level nonsense.

If your deck is beatable with broad hate cards, you’re only winning because
people don’t care enough to beat you.

Have You Drawn These Hands?

G/W Hexproof has one of the highest bad hand rates of any deck in Modern.
It also loses a ton of resiliency with every mulligan you take.

Have you actually tried playing G/W Hexproof in an event (CEDitor’s Note:
I sure have Arnold
!)? Yeah, the seven-card hands all are great and beat half of the cards you
thought you should lose to, but oh boy the five- and six-card ones are
something else.

Oh wow, I hope I draw a second land and get to actually put up a clock that
matters. Or that my Ethereal Armor doesn’t just die.

Maybe they can’t kill a 1/1 ever. We can only hope.


Ah the classic foe of Modern that has literally been dethroned more times
than I can count. It’s a really good deck, but it has real limits.

Karn’t Kill Them All

I learned this lesson the hard way at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan a
couple times.

There are decks in Modern that are very capable of producing multiple
threats that attack Karn Liberated if it -3s. Or even worse, just kill you
regardless. If those threats also beat a Wurmcoil Engine, Tron is often
down to very few ways to actually interact. There’s only so many times you
can Ancient Stirrings for a sweeper over a Tron piece and still save
yourself on time, or sometimes your Merfolk opponent is just on the play
and you die turn 4.

Ugh, here we go praising Merfolk again. Please, someone save me.

Know Whether You Beat Tron or Not

So many of the feel bads with losing to Tron come from assuming some plan
is good when it isn’t.

I have literally said this for years, but Tron can easily beat Blood Moon.
Oblivion Stone costs five mana to blow up the world, and honestly sometimes
you just let your opponent cripple themselves until you can end step
destroy Blood Moon and untap into twenty mana of unbeatable threats.

One Fulminator Mage isn’t going to cut it either. The Tron deck is too good
at just spending another turn replacing the destroyed land, and you just
spent a three mana turn yourself.

You need to attack from multiple angles. Blow up their lands, then use the
time parity to do something they can’t easily beat. Or have an answer to
Oblivion Stone by then. Or just blow up another land, and another, at a
reasonable rate.

Low Cost Plans Exist

It does take a lot of individual cards to beat Tron. It just happens that
you can do the super cool thing and make a lot of those cards do something
else against the rest of the format.

Yeah, Tron can plan to beat these some of the time, like the Mono-Green
five Forest lists against Field of Ruin, but with enough layering of
effects you can overwhelm them. Sure, playing Field of Ruin has a cost, but
it isn’t a big one. Same with some Surgical Extraction or a Ceremonious
Rejection and a Disdainful Stroke or whatever counter floats your boat.

To be fair, this might be asking too many things. Some good slightly
generic interaction, some specific interaction, a reasonable clock… oh
wait, that basically describes all the good decks in Modern that aren’t

So, if you can’t build your fair deck to beat Tron, that’s your own fault
for picking something to try to be good against specific stuff and not just
a generic great deck.

Hollow One

Nothing A Good Old U/W Control Can’t Fix

When I tested for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan my initial opinion of
Hollow One was that the deck was just a bad Dredge deck. Maybe that was a
little off, but at the time the metagame was full of U/W and Jeskai Control

If your deck can Snapcaster Mage Path to Exile, Hollow One is going to have
a rough time. Add bonus points for each Detention Sphere in your deck, or
each Gideon Jura, or so on. They have Bloodghast and stuff, but you have
answers and they don’t have card advantage to recover well.

Now that the Bloodbraid Elf hype is cooling down, now is the perfect time
to fire back with decks that were run out of the metagame due to it. It’s
not like counter magic and Stony Silence is bad against Krark-Clan
Ironworks either.

Clock and Shatter

Hollow One is generally bad against all the other nonsense decks. It has
explosive draws but isn’t as reliably explosive as combo. It falters
against the anti-creature linears of G/W Hexproof and Lantern Control.

Hollow One really has one way to keep pace with these decks.

Duh. It’s the name of the deck.

If your combo deck can sneak in a Reclamation Sage like Elves or Counters
Company does, you’re probably not dying. If you have an Ancient Grudge and
still kill by turn 4, you’re probably not dying. You shouldn’t overload on
these cards as there are only

so many, err

four Hollow Ones in the Hollow One deck, but they will provide some
insurance against their absolute best draws.

Amulet Titan

This one is a bit for funsies, as people still have bad memories of Summer

That is all.

Wait, nope.

Okay, also the deck is pretty slow compared to most real combo decks. It’s
like Krark-Clan Ironworks, but with even less turn 3 kills.

When Is It Okay To Panic?

All the decks I’ve listed today are extremely beatable. Playing them is not
a certainty, but a judgment call that your deck will be good that week.
That doesn’t mean every deck in Modern always will be this way. In fact,
history almost assumes it won’t be the case. Playing decks that weren’t
Eldrazi was crazy when Eye of Ugin was legal, or non-Jund decks with
Deathrite Shaman, or non-Amulet decks with Summer Bloom. That doesn’t mean
people won’t still do it, but if you’re trying to maximize your win rate
you should.

When should you be scared and just play the obvious “best thing”?

If you’re dying on turn 2 with any regularity and resiliency, that is time
to panic. Or really, if you’re dying before your hate card can be resolved
a fair amount of the time. Amulet Bloom was the best example of this, as
Blood Moon for three mana just wasn’t cutting many games on the draw and
even a fair number of games on the play. This is also why Blazing Shoal
being discussed for unbanning is laughable. Shouldn’t have tapped mana for
Tarmogoyf, you doofus.

For a more recent example, look at Golgari Grave-Troll Dredge which was
very capable of making ten power before Rest in Peace resolved.

If your midrange deck gets too efficient while fielding generic answers and
a great clock, that mess is going to take a lot to clean up. Modern
post-Death’s Shadow is basically unrecognizable from what it was before
that card because it literally killed half the things people thought were
playable decks. Why play Reality Smasher for five mana when one mana makes
a 5/5 or 6/6 or 10/10? Remember when Glistener Elf was a threatening and
playable card? That was a good time.

Then again, looking at No Banned List Modern events I wonder how extreme
things really need to upend the format entirely.

Who knows,

maybe after #SCGCON in June

we will all think complaining about zero mana 4/4s and one mana 1/1
hexproofs was quaint and dated when all the other problems resolve

Okay, I don’t actually believe that. Maybe a few things are that messed up.