Modern Winners And Losers After The Bridge From Below Banning

Bridgevine warped Modern so much, it got Bridge from Below banned. As the metagame adjusts, which decks stand to lose and to gain? Andrew Elenbogen shares his conclusions, such as Dredge being … a winner?!

In Magic, nothing exists in isolation. Cards exist in the context of the other available cards, and their strengths fluctuate depending on that context. In the same way, how good decks are often varies substantially depending on the other decks around them.

Since the release of Modern Horizons, the entire Modern format has been built around one crucial piece: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Every deck in the format was forced to load up on graveyard hate, often in the maindeck, in order to compete with the absurd strategy it enabled. On Monday, Wizards of the Coast took a nearly unprecedented step: banning a deck’s key piece after just a few months of the deck’s existence, before the format has fully adjusted.

This leaves us with a relatively uncharted format. Much of what we knew about Modern falls away in the absence of Hogaak. War of the Spark, which impacted Modern more than almost any set in recent memory, was only legal for a few tournaments before being overshadowed by the graveyard menace, and Modern Horizons cards have never been played outside of the long shadow cast by Bridge from Below. Magic is often cyclical, so some decks will return to their place before Hogaak, but others will be altered fundamentally by the presence of the new cards and these alterations will ripple across the entire metagame.

To help you get your bearings in this new Modern, I will assess the positioning of most major decks to construct a broad overview of the metagame. If I do not mention a deck, it means I do not think the banning caused it to get noticeably better or worse. I have played relatively few post-banning games, so please take my assessments with a grain of salt, as predicting systems as complex as Magic metagames is never easy.

BIG LOSER: Bridgevine

Yes, obviously the deck had a highly targeted ban thrown at it. But I think most people are underestimating just how much it lost. If WotC had banned a card like Faithless Looting instead of Bridge from Below, this deck might still be a reasonable choice. But as it is, I’m skeptical.

Hogaak was a ludicrous combo deck capable of consistently comboing the opponent on Turn 2. But a lot of that power was tied up in Bridge from Below. Without Bridge, the deck is incapable of combo-milling opponents, and therefore loses a lot of its most broken starts. Worse, Bridge from Below was most of the reason the deck was interested in sac outlets in the first place, and I am skeptical Altar of Dementia is even playable going forward. There’s a chance Carrion Feeder is still fine due to its synergy with Gravecrawler and Stitcher’s Supplier, but even then, it may not be at the Modern power level. Insolent Neonate also becomes a lot less appealing if it never makes a Zombie and cannot help pay for the colored mana in Hogaak’s convoke cost.

Before the printing of Modern Horizons, a fringe version of Bridgevine used Walking Ballista and Hangarback Walker to create token armies and recur fast Vengevines. But those cards are certainly not playable without Bridge from Below. Overall, it seems hard to fit the remains of any version of this deck into a reasonable shell.

But even if that shell does exist, I doubt it will see much play. At the end of the day, Modern only has room for one highly vulnerable graveyard deck, and Dredge is about to come back just like a card with its namesake mechanic. There’s no way post-ban Bridgevine can compete with that.

Verdict: Rest in peace.

LOSER: Infect and Devoted Devastation

Both decks have made a resurgence as of late almost entirely because they stood a good chance of beating Bridgevine without ever drawing a hate card. Both decks also received significant upgrades from Modern Horizons in the forms of Scale Up and Eladamri’s Call respectively. Also, Infect and Devoted Devastation are both strategies that perform best when Modern is generally fast and non-interactive.

With their primary prey gone and the format favoring a much fairer style, I don’t see either of these decks maintaining their Tier 1 status. Neither has a very effective Plan B against interaction and both are especially vulnerable to cards that target low-toughness creatures. Arclight Phoenix decks of all flavors currently run Lava Darts and Jund decks typically have three or more copies of Wrenn and Six in their maindeck. As much as Modern is changing right now, I don’t think either of those two things will change. As a result, I think both decks are poorly positioned, but not unplayable.

Verdict: Still playable, but certainly not Tier 1.

SMALL LOSER: Izzet Phoenix

If WotC had taken no action on Monday, Mythic Championship IV would have been a two-deck format. Today, one of those decks is banned, and the other is Izzet Phoenix. Izzet Phoenix was incredibly good in the Bridgevine format because it is able to maindeck graveyard hate in a way that naturally integrates with its own gameplan, and to find it consistently due to its bevy of cantrips.

The deck also picked up the incredibly powerful Aria of Flame in Modern Horizons. This card makes hard graveyard hate almost completely ineffective against Izzet Phoenix’s strategy while simultaneously giving an easy answer to Death’s Shadow and an easy out to the Ensnaring Bridges Karn, the Great Creator decks often produce.

Considering all this, why do I think the banning was bad for Izzet Phoenix? The answer is that the deck is a slower disruptive combo deck that shines when it can prey on other combo decks. Izzet Phoenix falters against strategies that can go over the top of it strategically, which typically means ramp decks. Bridgevine was so incredibly fast that it pushed decks like Mono-Green Tron, Amulet Titan, and TitanShift completely off the map. But with it gone, those decks will return with a vengeance. Before, I think Izzet Phoenix may have had no matchups worse than even. Now, I think that is unlikely to be true.

Ramp matchups certainly aren’t unwinnable for the deck and, if you devote enough sideboard slots, you can make them favorable. However, it’s problematic that Tron demands Alpine Moon while the other two decks demand Blood Moon, and Izzet Phoenix’s sideboard slots are already in high demand.

Verdict: Slightly reduced in strength, but still among the best decks.

LOSER: Grixis Urza

Grixis Urza is a slow, disruptive combo deck that is good at recovering from opposing disruption and reasonable at interacting through permanent-based hate. That means it is vulnerable to ramp strategies in the same way Izzet Phoenix is. While I expect most Urza decks to have maindeck cards like Damping Sphere to grab with Goblin Engineer, that’s too slow to stop Tron on the draw in a London Mulligan world. Additionally, the deck is fairly vulnerable to Karn, the Great Creator, which will likely make a resurgence in various ramp decks. It is weakened further by new cards like Collector Ouphe and Shenanigans that people will actually have room to put in their sideboards now that they aren’t required to play a million graveyard hate cards.

Goblin Engineer and Urza, Lord High Artificer are both fundamentally powerful cards, and there may well be a strong shell for them elsewhere. But for the time being, this is not it.

Verdict: Not a good deck at the moment, despite powerful tools.

LOSER: Hardened Scales and Affinity

Both decks are bad against the one-damage effects that oppress Infect and Devoted Devastation. They are also bad against artifact hate cards that oppress Grixis Urza. Oh, and did I mention that they’re both fairly bad against Izzet Phoenix and don’t benefit much from the London Mulligan rule? These decks are simply not good these days.

Verdict: Please don’t play these decks.

WINNER: Mono-Green Tron

Traditional Mono-Green Tron as an archetype was almost nonexistent in the time of Bridgevine. As a result, it has basically nowhere to go but up, plus it benefits massively from the change to the London Mulligan. Tron generally preys on Humans, Dredge, and unprepared Izzet Phoenix players. I expect all those decks to be good and popular, making Tron a strong choice for virtually any tournament. It’s also highly relevant that Tron is one of the best homes for Karn, Great Creator and gains a significant amount of versatility, as well as resilience to hate, just by including the card.

The problem with Tron is that it gained nothing from Modern Horizons. If you stand still while others run forward, you’re guaranteed to be left behind. New tools like Force of Negation, Collector Ouphe, and Wrenn and Six all make Tron worse in various matchups. Those percentage points add up, and you only have so many to give before your deck is no longer playable. If Jund has access to Field of Ruin, Assassin’s Trophy, and Wrenn and Six, the matchup is substantially unfavorable. If Azorius Control has maindeck Force of Negation, your easy wins no longer exist, and they can tap out for a card advantage engine with impunity.

Verdict: At the low end of Tier 1.

WINNER: Dredge

I have a general rule of Magic. If people have a lot of hate for a particular kind of strategy, and you’re playing a deck that is vulnerable to that hate, but isn’t the primary target of it, find a new deck.

That was exactly the place Dredge found itself in pre-banning. But with Bridge from Below gone and the London Mulligan rule back for keeps, Dredge now looks to be in an incredible position. In the next few weeks, I expect graveyard hate to become less prevalent and maindeck hate to return to its pre-Horizons level. In addition, I expect the graveyard hate to generally move to targeting Izzet Phoenix, which means softer and more value-oriented effects that are less effective against Dredge.

Historically, Dredge was favored against Izzet Phoenix and, due to the printing of Blast Zone, Humans. Tron likely remains unfavorable for the deck, but far from unwinnable. In addition, there’s a chance Dredge can cut its Shriekhorns for Stitcher’s Suppliers and adopt Hogaak either in the maindeck or the sideboard. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds, since Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, and Stinkweed Imp are all black creatures and Hogaak dodges the softer forms of graveyard hate like Surgical Extraction and Grafdigger’s Cage.

Verdict: Among the best decks in the format.

WINNER: Humans

Humans is a fundamentally powerful Modern deck. It’s good at interacting with combo decks and creature decks alike, presents a fast clock, and can adopt almost any new disruptive creature WotC prints. In addition, it now gets to play more than four Horizon lands, allowing it to mitigate by far its largest problem: mana flood.

Humans could basically never beat Bridgevine without a sideboard card and had to play as many as six pieces of dedicated hate to stand a chance in the matchup. While Dredge forces Humans to retain some graveyard hate, it will never be as popular as Bridgevine was or require such a huge amount of hate. These new sideboard slots can be used to play Collector Ouphe, which significantly improves Humans’s Tron matchup without being as narrow as Damping Sphere. It’s also nice that Force of Negation is unimpressive against Humans, as I expect to see that card a lot more in the coming weeks.

The aforementioned popularity of cards like Lava Dart and Wrenn and Six is a concern for Humans, and its overall matchup spread against what I anticipate to be the best decks is middling, not exceptional. But as a powerful deck with some effective new tools, I think Humans is unlikely to be a bad choice.

Verdict: Solidly Tier 1.


In a world filled with Bridgevine, Jund just Top 8ed a major Modern tournament with almost no graveyard hate in the maindeck. In order to achieve this feat, I have to imagine that its win rate against the rest of the field was exceptional. Obviously, a single strong finish does not make a deck good. But I legitimately believe that Modern Horizons cards like Wrenn and Six, Seasoned Pyromancer, and Plague Engineer noticeably improved Jund’s matchups against the field. Jund is well set up to have a reasonable Izzet Phoenix matchup, as its strategy can effortlessly incorporate value-oriented graveyard hate. Thanks to Assassin’s Trophy and recurring Field of Ruin, the resurgence of Tron actively improves this deck’s positioning, and its abundant one-toughness hate likely flips the Humans matchup. For the first time in forever, this deck has legs.

Verdict: Playable, which is the best it’s been in years.

To recap, Modern’s Tier 1 going forward will look somewhat like it did before Modern Horizons. Dredge, Humans, Izzet Phoenix and Mono-Green Tron will be the most popular decks. New tools for many decks will leave Humans and Tron somewhat behind while making Dredge slightly better. Fair decks like Jund and Azorius Control will lurk on the fringes of Tier 1 and could be great choices for a given weekend if the metagame moves in their direction. Modern will remain diverse, fast-moving, and hard to exploit.

As someone who was dreading having to play a Bridgevine-filled nightmare format for several months, I feel like a winner.