Modern’s Definitive New Top Tier

According to Todd Stevens, the distance between tier one and everything else has never been more pronounced than it is right now in Modern! If you’re not playing one of these decks, you’re already playing from behind!

Modern has changed.

Ever since I started playing the format on the SCG Tour in late 2015 it has
been a format where you could do consistently well with any deck as long as
you knew everything about it. If you had a gameplan for each matchup and
knew exactly how to sideboard to implement that gameplan, then you had just
as good of a chance to win the tournament as anyone else, no matter your
deck choice.

I’m not convinced this is the case anymore as the top decks of the format
look to be far and away better than the other decks right now. Sure, any
deck is capable of winning a tournament because the margin between winning
and losing any individual match of Magic is quite slim all things
considered, and therefore it’s possible for any deck to run hot over a
given weekend. For example, Jund won #SCGINDY a couple of
weekends ago and then had only one pilot at #PT25A the following
weekend. So even though any deck can win any individual tournament still,
the diversity among the best decks in the format is at an all-time

For more on this topic, go read Ross Merriam’s
article from earlier this week
before we continue on, I’ll wait. All caught up? Alright then, let’s move
on to the tier one decks that are the best choices to be playing in Modern
week after week now.

Tier 1 Decks

Humans has the best combination of speed, disruption, and consistency in
the format which puts it right at the top of the metagame. This has forced
every other deck to adapt to be able to compete, and many have been unable
to and have been left behind. The other top decks of the format all have a
plan to be able to compete with Humans, but the decks that haven’t been
able to hold their own in the matchup have all but vanished from the
metagame. And yet Humans is still the top deck in Modern even with its best
matchups disappearing and every remaining deck tuned to try and beat it.

We saw Humans start to take a step back when the metagame was filled with
removal-heavy decks such as Jeskai Control and Mardu Pyromancer that were
built to beat it, but the printing of Militia Bugler has allowed the deck
to gain valuable percentage points against its worst matchups. Even though

not everyone is a fan

The Bugler
, I believe it’s a solid addition to the deck overall for many reasons, as
mentioned last week

More importantly than the printing of Militia Bugler is the fact that the
other tier one decks are currently preying on the creature removal-heavy
decks, making those decks a difficult decision to choose to pilot through
fifteen rounds. Therefore, it’s looking like Humans will continue to be a
tier one choice for the foreseeable future, with the ability to adapt to
the metagame week after week.

Even though I’m not as high on Ironworks Combo as many others, there’s no
denying that it deserves a spot in Modern’s top tier. The amount of hate
cards people are playing these days for Ironworks Combo between artifact
removal and graveyard hate is staggering, but deservedly so, as the deck is
incredibly resilient and tends to win plenty of game 1s. Ironworks Combo
can race with the best of them in Modern while also capitalizing on the
amount of creature removal in decks due to the large bullseye Humans has on
its head.

The Humans VS Ironworks Combo matchup is quite a tricky one with both
players having access to game-changing spells in both the mainboard and
sideboard. Sometimes Meddling Mage and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben get the
job done on the Humans side, but a timely Engineered Explosives or Pyrite
Spellbomb can win the game.

While Ironworks Combo is an incredibly difficult deck for new players to
the archetype to pick up, it has been in the spotlight for long enough now
that it’s starting to have the representation it deserves. Mastery of
Ironworks Combo is likely the most rewarding for the pilot out of any other
deck in Modern, as I’m still not sure if Matt Nass has ever lost with this
deck or not.

B/R Hollow One and R/B Vengevine are similar graveyard-aggro decks that use
under-costed and recursive threats to end games quickly through the combat
step. Although I have them both listed here for reference, I believe one of
these two decks will push the other out of the top tier in short order, and
it’s not the deck that won the Pro Tour.

Unlike Humans and B/R Hollow One, which have had time to mature–you mostly
see the same decklist used these days–the R/B Vengevine decks were all
over the place at #PT25A
. It wasn’t until just before the event that players started to realize the
power behind the deck and therefore, I don’t think anyone playing B/R
Vengevine had figured out the perfect 75 yet. That will change over time as
the player base as a whole will fine tune the deck, and I expect big things
from R/B Vengevine in the future.

It’s faster on average than B/R Hollow One and also has the ability to go
wide around the other creature matchups. While B/R Hollow One matchups up
poorly against Humans in many ways, B/R Vengevine can successfully go under
the format-defining deck consistently. It’s certainly true that B/R
Vengevine is much more reliant on the graveyard than B/R Hollow One is, and
is therefore more susceptible to graveyard hate, but I believe that
weakness is overstated. In my experience the deck can put a lot of power
onto the battlefield right away, meaning a turn 2 Rest in Peace can be too
slow, especially on the draw. R/B Vengevine is certainly the real deal, and
I expect it to not only have a big impact on the Modern metagame moving
forward, but also to push B/R Hollow One out of the top tier.

Mono-Green Tron is the most polarizing tier one deck in Modern, and not
only due to its popularity or lack thereof among different players. It also
has some matchups in the format that are incredibly good and others that
are incredibly poor, unlike Humans that has a good shot to defeat any other
deck, even its worst matchups. Mono-Green Tron is looking to go way over
the top of the other decks which allows it to be able to defeat the
creature-removal heavy decks with regularity while struggling with the
decks that are trying to go under Humans. These days the most important of
those decks trying to go under Humans are B/R Hollow One and B/R Vengevine
mentioned before, and therefore having access to plenty of graveyard hate
is necessary.

The over-the-top strategy is also successful against Humans a good
percentage of the time, as I believe Mono-Green Tron is a slight favorite
in the matchup. Having Tron active as early as possible is paramount due to
the speed of Humans, but thankfully for Mono-Green Tron, Humans doesn’t
disrupt the opponent’s manabase very well.

Mono-Green Tron, on the other hand, does a great job of disrupting the
opponent’s manabase with cards like Karn Liberated and World Breaker.
Oblivion Stone is also a convenient sweeper for every non-land permanent,
including artifacts, and these two factors make the Ironworks Combo matchup
a toss-up. The more Modern turns into a battle to go under Humans the worse
it will be for Mono-Green Tron, but for now there are still plenty of
midrange and control decks for Karn Liberated to prey on while still having
a very close matchup with Humans and Ironworks Combo.

The last tier one deck I’ll list in Modern is U/W Control, even though I’m
very skeptical of its place here. It was the second most played deck at #PT25A and put up some
solid results as well, but I’m not thrilled with its matchup amongst the
other top decks of the format. I’ll concede the deck filled to the brim
with sweepers has a good matchup against Humans, but what else is this deck
beating out of these tier one decks?

The sideboard does look very good at dealing with everything Ironworks
Combo is trying to accomplish, but after being a big underdog in game 1 all
Ironworks Combo needs to do is win one of the post-sideboard games. As
someone who has played plenty of G/W Company in Modern that has matchups
where you’re relying on your sideboard to win two games, it isn’t the place
you want to be.

I’ve been playing many leagues with R/B Vengevine over the past week in
preparation for #SCGDFW
, and even though my decklist is quite a bit different from others, I
haven’t dropped a game against U/W Control in around five matches, even
when they have had turn 2 Rest in Peace. This is still a very small sample,
but the matchup doesn’t feel particularly close so far.

U/W Control is much better against Mono-Green Tron than Jeskai Control or
Mardu Pyromancer, but a talented Mono-Green Tron player will still be
favored in this matchup. You definitely need to respect it from the
Mono-Green Tron side,

as I did

at #SCGINDY where I had an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn as well as an Urza’s
Factory to act as an uncounterable threat to search up in my sideboard.

U/W Control has a favorable Humans matchup and, like these other decks,
beats up on the other removal-heavy decks that are designed to beat Humans,
but I wouldn’t want to pilot it against the other three tier one decks,
making it a risky choice for me. With that being said, U/W Control is an
enjoyable deck to pilot because every game you win you get to be in the
driver’s seat for a long time as your planeswalkers take over, which makes
it feel like it’s a better deck than what it is. This is the exact kind of
Magic I like to play, and therefore I don’t fault anyone for choosing to
play U/W Control. There’s nothing wrong with playing a deck that can beat
the number one deck in the format while having good matchups against a wide
variety of tier two decks that you’ll play against in any given tournament.

After these five tier one decks I would consider basically everything else
in Modern tier two. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the article,
almost any deck can win any given tournament, but these five decks will
give you the best shot. I do want to talk about three more decks, though,
before finishing up.

No Longer Tier One

I know I’ve been picking on these two decks in the entire article, but
unfortunately the fact is they are very poorly positioned right now. Look
at the first five decks. You have a disruptive aggro deck, an artifact
combo deck, a recursive aggro deck, a big mana deck, and a hard control
deck. These decks require vastly different answers, and these two
three-color decks don’t have the ability to consistently have the right
answers at the right time.

These two decks thrived when Humans was the biggest deck by a wide margin
and other small creatures decks, such as Affinity, were widely played, but
since then the format has not only diversified amongst the top decks, but
the top decks have gotten better. Humans is better with Militia Bugler than
it was a couple months ago. The same can be said about U/W Control even
though their newest addition is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria from Dominaria, but control decks take longer to tune. I expect R/B
Vengevine to be better than B/R Hollow One once it is tuned as well, and
it’s already a poor matchup for Jeskai Control and Mardu Pyromancer.

There almost certainly will be a day where these two decks are back on top
of Modern with metagames being cyclical, but today is not that day. Gerry
Thompson is right,
Jeskai Control is a bad Modern deck

While not quite in tier one yet, Bant Spirits is very close. It is similar
to Humans in that it has plenty of disruption and synergy amongst the
creatures while being very aggressive as well. Add this to the ability to
play at instant speed and I’m hard pressed to find any matchups that are
truly bad from the Bant Spirits side.

The biggest problem with Bant Spirits, in my eyes, is the sideboard still
needs a lot of work. When you’re playing three colors it can be difficult
to optimize a sideboard for all of the matchups you may face any given week
in Modern, and I don’t think we’re there yet with Bant Spirits. Once this
problem is solved the potential is there for Bant Spirits to break into
Modern’s top tier.


Modern has changed quite a bit since the introduction of Dominaria
and Core Set 2019 with the format becoming solidified with tier
one decks that are better than the rest of the field. At #SCGMIL in early
April, the last Modern Open before the release of Dominaria, the
Top 8 consisted of:

G/R Eldrazi



Jeskai Control


Blue Moon


Eldrazi Tron

Quite a different world from what we live in now…