Modern’s Current Top Tier Decks

You want the goods on Modern for this weekend? You got it! Todd Stevens is a hired gunslinger in every major format, but Modern is his specialty! He has the lists and the analysis you need for SCG Louisville and the other Modern stops on the SCG Tour to follow!

It may seem a bit odd, but I’m going to be writing about Modern this week.
We’re coming off #PTAKH where the
one and only Gerry Thompson immortalized himself in the annals of Magic
history, and I couldn’t be happier for him. There’s a lot going on in
Standard right now, and the format is the best it’s been in some time now,
but I don’t think you’ll have any shortage of finding quality Standard
articles this week, so that’s why I’m moving on to Modern. In

my last Standard article

from two weeks ago, I picked Zombies and Aetherworks Marvel as the next two
breakout decks of Standard, and I think the finals of the Pro Tour showed
they were. Moving forward we have #SCGKY this
weekend, the second team event on the SCG Tour this year where Standard,
Modern, and Legacy will all be featured. To the surprise of probably no
one, I’ll be playing Modern for Team Dapper, which consists of Brennan
DeCandio, Tannon Grace, and myself.

Image courtesy of Inklin Customs

Soon after #SCGKY
this weekend are#SCGBALT and #SCGCHAR, each
of which is Modern. So since we’re going to have plenty of Modern coming up
on the SCG Tour, what does the top tier of the format look like? These are
the decks I’d recommend playing moving into the next few weekends of
Modern. I’m not listing decks on the amount of play they currently see, but
how good I believe the decks to be as choices to win a tournament. For
example, Affinity is one of the most played decks in Modern, but it won’t
make my tiers as I don’t think it’s a good choice to outright win.

Tier 1

It’s been three months since Death’s Shadow took over Modern at #GPVAN, and
although we’ve actually seen a decline in popularity of Modern’s best
archetype online, it’s not because the deck is worse. The Death’s Shadow
decks are not the easiest to play, and the play pattern is basically the
same in every matchup where you want to use a bevy of discard spells to
clear a path for your massive creatures to end the game quickly. The
biggest question is which flavor of Death’s Shadow should you play?

Jund Death’s Shadow is the most tuned of the Death’s Shadow decks, making
it a solid choice. I like the move away from playing a basic Forest which
many of the first builds did, but it’s imply too clunky most of the time
because it can’t cast the discard in your hand if it’s your only land.
Sideboarding is quite difficult with this deck as there are so many quality
options to put in your sideboard and not a lot of cards that you’ll want to
sideboard out. Most people like splashing white for sideboard options that
help the deck grind against midrange and control decks, but the most
important part of winning with Jund Death’s Shadow is knowing your plan
with your sideboard against the rest of the format.

The other deck I would put in tier one is Grixis Death’s Shadow. The main
reason to play Grixis over Jund is because Stubborn Denial gives the deck a
one-mana counterspell against the unfair decks of the format. Also
Snapcaster Mage is the perfect card to pair with the abundance of one-mana
instants and sorceries the deck plays. Grixis Death’s Shadow decks have
been tuned more and more over the last couple of weeks, and it wouldn’t
surprise me to see it become the default Death’s Shadow deck within the
next month.

The difficulty of playing Death’s Shadow decks, paired with the high cost
of the deck, repetitive gameplay, and being public enemy number one has
caused a decrease in the popularity of playing Death’s Shadow recently, but
if you want to have the best chance of winning on the SCG Tour in the
coming weeks, you should strongly consider playing one-mana 13/13s.
However, not everyone has access to the cards or wants to play the decks
that are in peoples’ crosshairs. So here’s the list of tier two decks that
are still solid choices to play if your goal is to take home the trophy.

Tier 2

‘s biggest addition to the Modern format is most likely Vizier of Remedies,
which has single-handedly turned Abzan Company into one of the best decks
in Modern. The combo with Devoted Druid, which allows you to untap Devoted
Druid over and over to produce an arbitrarily large amount of green mana,
something Walking Ballista is gladly able to take advantage of.

Abzan Company has been a fringe deck of the format for the better part of a
year, but this is one of the best times to be casting Collected Companies.
Putting together this two-card combo is not only the easier than previous
Abzan Company combos, but it also almost assuredly wins the game on the
spot. Between this and the next deck I’m about to list, it looks like a
fine time to dust off those Grafdigger’s Cages again.

Storm has been a deck that has impressed me for the last month when playing
against it on Magic Online. It’s harder to disrupt than you’d think, and
they don’t need much to be able to win games. Death’s Shadow decks were
holding back Storm before, but if the popularity of Death’s Shadow has
truly decreased, then Storm is a good choice against the rest of the field.
Storm is not the kind of deck that I like to play, and truthfully, I’ve
never picked the deck up myself, but it’s been putting up plenty of results
and I think it’s a good choice. Being a relatively cheap deck to put
together certainly doesn’t hurt.

I talked about how good Abzan Company is before, but Living End is the
archetype that gained the most overall from the release ofAmonkhet. Living End was already a secretly good deck before Amonkhet, and now with the addition of some new quality cycling
creatures I think we’re going to see Living End in the spotlight very soon.

These two creatures are big upgrades for Living End and will be staples
moving forward. Desert Ceredon is just a massive attacking creature, while
Horror of the Broken Lands can make combat difficult for the opponent, if
they are even able to present blockers. These two creatures have
drastically increased the ability for Living End to deal lethal damage in
one combat step. Even though Grafdigger’s Cage is a perfect sideboard card
for the first two decks in this tier, don’t bring it in against Living End
as it doesn’t stop the namesake card from returning creatures to the

This is most likely a better version right now of the G/W Company deck that
I played at #SCGDFW. The
format has gotten more hostile to midrange creature decks, mostly because
of the three decks listed above in this tier, and this archetype is better
equipped to handle those decks.

Something that Abzan Company, Storm, and Living End have in common is that
they have a critical spell they need to resolve to be able to win, while
not having much removal. This makes Spell Queller a perfect card to use for
disruption. To go along with the Spell Quellers, Mikkatororo has access to
four more counterspells in the sideboard, something that I’m a big fan of.
If you want to play Knight of the Reliquary this weekend, then this is
probably the best shell to play it in.

Eldrazi Tron has pushed out Bant Eldrazi as the best Eldrazi deck in the
format. Eldrazi Tron is a midrange deck that has a pain-free manabase and
the ability to explode with an obscene amount of mana if it gets a
fortunate draw. Many people don’t understand this, and don’t like the
frequent amount of games where the deck doesn’t have access to the extra
mana from the Tron lands, but that is simply a bonus that is not necessary
to win with the deck. The games where Tron is online, however, makes the
deck very difficult to beat.

Chalice of the Void is also a perfect card to fight Death’s Shadow, Storm,
and Living End among others, and the ability to get free wins off the card
is a bonus. I have also moved Chalice of the Void to the maindeck of my
list currently, even though I’ve advocated for them to be in the sideboard
in the past. The metagame is much different than it was even three months
ago, however. Eldrazi Tron is still one of the best choices in Modern right
now, and may be the deck I’m playing at #SCGKY this

Although many people claim different decks to have good Death’s Shadow
matchups, Elves is one of the very few I consider having a positive matchup
against the format’s best deck. There is plenty of variance in Magic and
anything can win, but Elves is consistent enough in executing the same
go-wide gameplan that Death’s Shadow struggles with.

There are different color combinations you can play with Elves, and I think
splashing black is necessary due to the power level of Shaman of the Pack.
The sideboard here seems like it could use some work, and although I’m not
sure if adding white as well is the way to go, I could see playing a card
like Lifecrafter’s Bestiary to have a better long game against decks with
many sweepers.

There are many people that like to complain that blue control decks aren’t
good enough in Modern, but the fact that I have U/W Control in this tier
shows how good of an option I think it is. The reason why I like U/W
Control over a three-color combination such as Esper is the ability to use
utility lands such as Ghost Quarter to attack your opponent’s manabase
while also playing plenty of basics so that you’re not soft to Blood Moon.

Many decks are weak to Spreading Seas as well, which is one of the best
cards in the U/W Control deck. Cryptic Command is as good as it’s ever
been, and I could even see a world where Torrential Gearhulk sees more play
to further maximize the potential of Cryptic Command. This decklist only
played three Cryptic Command, but you’d be hard pressed to find me
registering less than four. I do like this version without As Foretold, as
I haven’t been impressed with the card in control decks yet.

If you are a fan of B/G Midrange decks in Modern, then I’d recommend
playing Abzan–either this lower to the ground version with Noble
Hierarchs, or Willy Edel’s Abzan Delirium version.
Either way, it turns out Grim Flayer is the threat of choice to pair with
Tarmogoyf. Abzan’s strength over other midrange decks is having the best
sideboard compared to Jund or just B/G. Between Abrupt Decay, Fatal Push,
and Path to Exile, Abzan has plenty of ways to deal with the large
creatures from Death’s Shadow, and if you don’t flood out you have a good
chance in the matchup.

Rounding out Modern’s second tier in my eyes is Ad Nauseam, which is as
fair as a combo deck with Simian Spirit Guide can be, rarely winning before
turn 4 and hardly interacting with the opponent. A win at #SCGINDY in
late February really put Ad Nauseam on the map, and I think it’s still a
pretty good choice now, even though the metagame is not as good as it was
before for the deck. Although Storm, Living End, and Abzan Company are
faster combo decks, Ad Nauseam can use Angel’s Grace to slow the game down
enough to set up a victory. Ad Nauseam is the type of deck that’s very hard
to pick up and play, but if you’re experienced with it I wouldn’t be scared
to run it out there at the Modern tournaments coming up.

Good Luck, Modern Mages

So there you have it. It’s a far cry from the traditional Modern
powerhouses we’re used to seeing in the past, where Jund, Burn, Affinity,
and Tron ruled the metagame. If you have the ability to, though, I’d
recommend putting down those decks for a little while, and instead sleeving
up some one-mana 13/13s or Collective Company copies. Magic is already a
game with plenty of variance built into it, and the Modern format maxes out
that variance due to the vast number of matchups you can face, so any deck
can win any given weekend. But these decks will give you the best chance.