Modern Metabreakers You’re Overlooking

Modern’s best decks have holes to exploit, so what are the metabreakers poised to do well at SCG Atlanta? Ari Lax highlights renewed classics and innovative combos in a range of play styles!

Todd Anderson said it really well last week. These best decks in Modern are exploitable.

I was in the process of brainstorming the exact same things, and came to the following highlights regarding Amulet Titan, Urza Outcome, and Gifts Storm:

  • These decks are fast, but they largely don’t produce battlefield presence fast until their kill turn.
  • They’re interactive, but in narrow ways.
  • They’re resilient, but only via specific cards with a lot of filler in the middle.

The ideal deck to combat all that presents threats quickly, has interaction for the specific choke points of all these decks, and has a solid threat spread against light and specific interaction.

Many Modern decks fit those criteria, and only one of them is named Jund Death’s Shadow. Here are a few that you might not have considered as answers to this current combo-driven metagame.


Affinity has been the go-to Modern answer for combo for years, but recently it’s struggled. That was largely Arclight Phoenix’s fault. Or Faithless Looting. It’s hard to tell with those two.

Then there was this big fear of Modern Horizons artifact hate. Which of these cards is even good against Urza Outcome? That deck kills you with its blue creatures and planeswalkers, not the artifacts. At most, Collector Ouphe helps you until they cast Sai, Master Thopterist or Urza, Lord High Artificer.

That leaves Affinity in a pretty good spot. It can establish faster than Urza Outcome, present an even faster clock now that it has All That Glitters, and splash in a couple of interactive spells like Galvanic Blast or Spell Pierce to keep the rest under control.

I mentioned Sai, Master Thopterist as a presence in the format. That card is kind of a disaster for the traditional Affinity threats in the same way Lingering Souls was and is a big draw to playing more Gingerbrutes as an alternate evasive option. That card honestly might be better than the last couple of Vault Skirges, especially when Vault Skirge sometimes had issues with Phyrexian mana affordability in multiples. I also would move most or all the Etched Champions to the sideboard since the format has shifted towards non-interaction.

Sultai Death’s Shadow

Jund Death’s Shadow has been the latest hit with Once Upon a Time, but there’s no reason it needs to be the Death’s Shadow deck everyone is playing. Once Upon a Time is broken, and you can’t play Death’s Shadow without Death’s Shadow, but red really is only in the deck for Temur Battle Rage.

Fifteen lands might sound aggressive, but you have twelve free cantrips, another three land tutors, and Thought Scour, and your whole deck costs one or two, and you can see where this is all adding up. We were already at seventeen lands in Grixis Death’s Shadow, and once your first cantrip sees twice as many cards and costs zero mana, you can just go full ham.

This “whole deck costs one or two” thing is why Sultai is specifically well-positioned to take advantage of Once Upon a Time. The “fifteen lands” thing needs the extra cantrips that Thought Scour supplies, wants you to have a bunch of one-mana spells to spam and not strand Temur Battle Rages in hand for the right time, and oh boy is Ranger-Captain of Eos right out of the picture.

Fifteen lands also means you have to be careful with your sideboard spell costs as well. I feel morally obligated to play one Oko, Thief of Crowns since the card is clearly insane, but I doubt you can sideboard in more than one card at a time that costs three mana. Engineered Explosives presses that boundary a fair amount, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Legion’s End or Golgari Charm or some other nonsense was better if you could line up the answer correctly.

One card I wasn’t quite sure where or if to fit into the list was Windcaller Aven. Ahren (Turn1Thoughtseize from the prior tweet) has been fiddling with this card as somewhere between a Ghor-Clan Rampager and a Street Wraith, and it honestly seems just fine to sleeve up. I get that we haven’t put Slip Through Space into a Death’s Shadow deck, but this one can be found with Traverse the Ulvenwald and doesn’t need a target to cycle.

Colossus Hammer

Colossus Hammer is more than a meme, and much like Field of the Dead is an overlooked Core Set 2020 card waiting to break out. +10/+10 is way too easy to convert to lethal for that not to be true.

There are a couple of different takes from two Mythic Championship V competitors that are somewhere between works in progress and really promising next steps for an Infect-like archetype.

Caleb’s deck is very much the combo deck of the two, and it’s a fairly reasonable and compact Turn 3 kill similar to Infect. The creatures are certainly a bit worse than Blighted Agent, but the threat of an 11/11 double striker is much more persistent than a Glistener Elf with pump against a chump blocker.

Or maybe Swiftblade Vindicator with trample is close enough to a Blighted Agent that it doesn’t matter. Regardless, the general one-shot potential of Colossus Hammer kills seems extremely important when facing down an ever-increasing number of Oko, Thief of Crowns.

If I were to play this deck tomorrow, I would be trimming the weird fair Equipment package for more combo action. A Batterskull or two is a fine backup plan, but the rest are just bad draws and a waste of time.

Aaron’s take is less exciting as-is, but more exciting with the promise it offers.

Caleb’s deck is very much a London Mulligan deck, where you exploit the fact that your combo is just Colossus Hammer, a body, and a way to snap the two together. All the pieces are redundant and low-cost, and Stoneforge Mystic or Inkmoth Nexus lets you double down pieces or mana to let even five-card hands combo off.

But what if you used those extra cards in each hand on something? That’s the interactive and fast overlap we’ve been looking for.

I will admit there’s something to the sheer redundancy of Caleb’s deck and speed of kills double strike offers, and the jump from Magnetic Theft at one mana to Kor Outfitter at two mana is a big deal for combo turns, but I think you can merge aspects of one into the other and come out with something really threatening. If anything, they sit at the same ends of the spectrum that “Simic Infect with Blighted Agent and all pump spells” and “Golgari Infect with Phyrexian Crusader and Thoughtseize” occupy.

Eldrazi Tron

Finally, the boring deck. Eldrazi Tron is just good right now.

A big part of this is that Chalice of the Void is amazing again, and this time you are casting it on zero against multiple decks. No worries about finding room for a two-drop on curve, just a free disruptive lock piece against Urza Outcome and Amulet Titan Summoner’s Pacts.

I would be irresponsible if I didn’t mention the recursive Engineered Explosives / Emry, Lurker of the Loch engine from Urza Outcome was a concern for all three other decks I talked about. That just isn’t a real issue with Eldrazi Tron. Your stuff costs four and one of those things is Karn, the Great Creator.

Your imperative with this deck: don’t keep bad hands. Zac Hill crushed me at SCG Philadelphia because he kept two hands with fast Thought-Knot Seer in the games he won, and the other hand with Turn 3 Tron wasn’t a slouch either. Don’t settle for some medium nonsense Matter Reshaper and…. some mana?

The Not-Quite-There Sultai Vine

To show the flip side of the science here, not every cool new linear deck has the same promise. Sometimes you try something and it fails.

I did take a look at Once Upon a Vine as well as other Sultai Vine lists for those interested in deck names that line up with this decade. There were issues, namely that there isn’t a Faithless Looting you can mill up to bin the Vengevines or Creeping Chills you draw. Or a Faithless Looting to keep chaining graveyard action effectively. Or a Faithless Looting to draw active cards when you draw the ones only good in the graveyard.

I would be interested in Haunted Dead in small quantities to help solve this, but at the same time Haunted Dead is just another blank card when you draw it, so it’s both fixing and causing the same problem. I think adding these involves cutting all the Creeping Chills, and honestly I’m fine with that. Not drawing dead cards here actually matters, unlike Dredge. Lotleth Troll is the other reasonable option, but I feel like every time that card comes up in Modern it’s compromising your power level by a lot.

Glimpse the Unthinkable also felt like a solid step towards “going off” in a way that didn’t require chaining mills, but it does require a turn after to really set up. The Glimpse the Unthinkable lists play Narcomoeba to allow Turn 2 Prized Amalgam off Glimpse to happen, but that just backs up on the Creeping Chill issue. I remain unconvinced on Memory Sluice too, but eight is kinda close to ten, right?

I guess my core issue is Sultai Vine also isn’t interactive, while Dredge still exists and still has Conflagrate to mow down half the metagame. You aren’t running at Hogaak speeds anymore without a free 8/8 trampler, so you need to do something to break serve if you can’t produce relevant power until Turn 3, and this deck doesn’t have it.

But the fact that even a deck as gutted as definitely-no-longer-Hogaak can make great strides in one set is a big indicator of Modern’s status right now. Throne of Eldraine is absurdly powerful, a bunch of loose ends in Modern are waiting to get tied up into good decks, and the best decks right now are exploitable in ways that aren’t “sideboarding seven cards that mention the card type or zone you care about.”

If people actually try for SCG Atlanta this weekend, things are going to look really interesting when the last rounds arrive.