Modern Is Broken; You Just Don’t Know It Yet

The golden age of Modern may be a very short-lived one, as GerryT anticipates we’ll be singing a much different tune as soon as Grand Prix Vancouver and SCG Baltimore! It’s been a fun couple of weeks, but the more things change…

This seems to happen a lot in Modern.

Whenever a card or two gets banned from an oppressive deck, it’s not long until the next-closest thing to an oppressive deck rises up to take its place. In this case, there are also some incredibly powerful cards from Aether Revolt that are turbo-charging existing Modern decks or creating their own.

And I’m not talking about Fatal Push.

Aether Revolt is one of the most impactful sets for Modern, and the impact it’s having is mostly with weird cards instead of cards that are seeing play simply because of rate. The upside is that we’re seeing some new decks or new takes on old decks, but the downside is that Modern becomes like a Hydra: if they cut off one head, two more shall take its place.

Renegade Rallier deserves a brief mention, but it’s a fair card doing mostly fair things.

When he’s not suiting up a Slippery Bogle, Dan Ward is no stranger to brewing in Modern.

For whatever reason, when you cast a card with fuse from your hand for free, you are also allowed to fuse it. This works with Brain in a Jar and the Expertise cycle from Aether Revolt. Initially, people were thinking that Beck//Call might be where it’s at. Michael Majors has been experimenting with Catch//Release. But no, it’s Breaking//Entering that’s the real star here.

If you are able to assemble the combo of Kari Zev’s Expertise (with a target) and a Breaking//Entering in hand, you get to roll some dice. If you mill over Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, you get to put it onto the battlefield with haste. You don’t even have to sacrifice it during the end step!

Most decks in Modern play creatures, but for those who don’t, we have Forbidden Orchard.

Initially I thought the Expertise / Breaking deck would be something new entirely, but combining it with the Goryo’s Vengeance deck seems much better. It gives you another combo, which has its pros and cons, but Breaking is a fine card for the deck on its own. Having the additional combo is much better than the Night’s Whispers or whatever nonsense the other Goryo’s Vengeance decks are playing.

Breaking//Entering also had a weird bonus of being immune to most graveyard hate, like Surgical Extraction and Relic of Progenitus. If the fused spell resolves, there is no window for them to wipe your graveyard. There are going to be sideboard plans that sideboard out the Goryo’s Vengeances entirely. Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Leyline of the Void are still quite good, but then you have Through the Breach. Yikes.

As much as I like the Brain in a Jar decks, I think the rules should probably change on fuse. It seems like a better solution than banning something. However, I do think Simian Spirit Guide and Mox Opal have spent enough time in Modern.

As #JundGuy (or #GrixisGuy), I haven’t minded playing against decks like these. Discard and Lightning Bolt tend to be enough, but I can’t imagine what you do if you’re Merfolk or something similar. Play more removal or sideboard something like Chalice of the Void, which is super-narrow and eating away at sideboard space that’s already at a premium? I guess that’s our answer.

This is yet another deck that makes me wonder why Mox Opal is legal.

Storm has been nerfed into oblivion, and this last round of bannings is no exception. Despite that, Baral, Chief of Compliance has breathed new life into this dead archetype.

Instead of winning with Pyromancer Ascension or with a classic Past in Flames, this version aims to set up a win with Gifts Ungiven. While Gifts used to be too slow, you effectively have eight Goblin Electromancers if you want them. Additionally, you get to play Remand, which is nice with Baral, protects your combo, and is amazing when it only costs U. It also defends you from the other fast decks in the format.

Merchant Scroll is a sleeper that adds even more consistency to the deck. Again, it’s basically only playable because of the presence of the eight “Medallions” reducing the cost. Being able to quickly and efficiently find answers to sideboard hate is a sweet bonus. Most of the time, it will be a tutor for Gifts Ungiven, because you basically need to cast that card in order to win the game.

I imagine this deck kills on turn 5 with regularity. Turn 4 seems easy if you’re not being disrupted. If your opponent wants to play “draw-go” with you, you can sculpt the perfect hand with Merchant Scroll and Gifts Ungiven. If they give you a window early, you can still win games with Goblin Electromancer, Pyretic Ritual, Manamorphose, etc. Since neither plan seems particularly great against this deck, it makes me think that this deck is excellent.

It’s entirely possible that a tuned version of this Storm variant is the deck to play this weekend. Graveyard hate should be at an all-time low, your opponents might not know what you’re up to, and it’s potentially broken.

This card is likely tame, but it’s worth exploring. Setting up Krark-Clan Ironworks or some other nonsense is probably more powerful, but I’m interested in setting up the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo, particularly with Time Sieve as a finisher. Thopter / Sword doesn’t beat everyone, but the people it doesn’t beat are going to lose to Time Sieve.

Maybe this deck is a mess. There’s not much in the way of disruption or removal. It’s really banking on Ensnaring Bridge being great. Stony Silence is basically game over. It’s also entirely possible that it’s just a bad Lantern deck. Still, I was interested in the idea of a U/B Thopter Foundry deck thanks to Fatal Push, and doing the normal stuff doesn’t seem as good as building something like this.

I’m likely missing something critical to this strategy, but I did the best I could. Mox Opal always makes me paranoid that I don’t have enough artifacts, but surely 27 should be enough, even if many of them cost two or more mana. The fourth Darksteel Citadel could potentially be in there, but it doesn’t help cast much.

Being able to Mana Leak someone on turn 1 is cool, though.

What about actual control decks?

Despite my fears that Grand Prix Vancouver (and, to a lesser extent, the Modern portion of SCG Baltimore) is going to be overrun by busted decks, I don’t think the real world has adapted yet. Most people can’t afford to switch Modern decks on the fly, so it’s unreasonable to expect these “new” decks to immediately start flooding the metagame. However, that doesn’t make me any less worried about the type of opposition I’m going to face in Vancouver. I would hate to sit down for one of the later rounds and get killed on turn 2.

So what’s the combo breaker? Daddy Delver, obviously.

As of two weeks ago, I wanted to return to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in Grixis, but I don’t think I can realistically do that right now. The threat of running up against some weirdo combo deck is too high right now. Being proactive is the best general strategy for Magic, and there are enough times where I feel like I can get away with ignoring that; this is not one of those times.

Delver of Secrets is not a great card in Modern. The land counts are higher than in Legacy and the cantrips don’t set up Delver nearly as easily. With Gitaxian Probe getting the axe, the land count has to increase further, which weakens Delver even more. That said, there are matchups where we need a clock, and Kevin Jones’s Grixis Delver deck is still doing most of the stuff I want to be doing anyway.

Against decks with Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push, Delver of Secrets seems even weaker because you’re giving them targets for their early removal spells, but I think it’s the opposite. Eventually you were going to need a Snapcaster Mage to block a Tarmogoyf and tag-team with a Lightning Bolt to kill it. There are also times where you never give them a reasonable target to use Lightning Bolts, so your Tasigur, the Golden Fang is easily dispatched by a pair of them.

By baiting out their early removal, you are protecting your life total and your bigger threats. With Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, you are accomplishing mostly the same thing, except they are typically trading one mana for your two mana, which is kind of a disaster in Modern. There are games where you strip their removal with a discard spell to protect your Jace, but you’re banking on a lot going right if you’re taking Lightning Bolt over Tarmogoyf with Inquisition of Kozilek.

With Delver of Secrets, you are forcing them to react earlier, lest they risk dying to a flurry of Snapcaster Mages and Lightning Bolts. Those trades are on parity mana-wise, so you’re not losing out on the exchange. If they feel like they have to Lightning Bolt a Delver of Secrets instead of casting a Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant, that’s even better for you.

Delver of Secrets isn’t the best, but it’s a necessary evil. In order to facilitate it, there needs to be fewer lands, more spells to transform it, and a lower mana curve overall. One of the secret bonuses is that Delver of Secrets plays better with permission than with discard, and I think that’s where you want to be right now.

Realistically, I could sleeve this up.

Yes, this is a cross behind Death’s Shadow Zoo and Jund, and yes, it does kind of look like a mess. But it also seems kind of busted?

It has a pile of disruption, enormous threats, and a potential combo kill, so I’m already convinced it’s what I should be doing. If I’m willing to go down the Delver of Secrets path, surely this is better. Everything dies to Fatal Push, but I think the best plan is to simply run them out of removal. Lingering Souls out of the sideboard is nice too.

There are some issues with this deck. Having Tarfire, Collective Brutality, and Kolaghan’s Command as your removal suite means you’re going to struggle with any utility creature with three toughness. Spellskite is kind of annoying, but that’s not a widely played card anymore. I think if I were to play this deck, I would try to work around that a bit, but other than that, it looks great.

And I had Daddy Delver all sleeved up and ready to go, too…