My Top 5 Decks For No Banned List Modern

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This weekend’s No Banned List Modern Open is going to be among the coolest
tournaments that have ever happened. It will be the polar opposite
of last week’s Pro Tour: a wide open format with very little known
information and minimal previous tournament results that will absolutely
reward testing and innovation.

My hope is that somewhere, there’s a car full of people who have spent the
last month testing the format together and have come up with a great deck,
and they show up and put three players in the top 8, and it’s their
crowning Magic accomplishment; I don’t think that’s such a stretch to hope

Much more likely, the field will be so open that players will get paired
against an extremely wide range of decks, so even if that car does exist,
some of them will lose to decks that they didn’t consider or test against
in their month of testing, not necessarily because the deck they face is
better, it just happens to match up well against their deck.

Anyway, for those who have put serious work into the format, I hope that
everything I’m about to say looks comically basic and naive, and you’re
easily ready to beat all the decks I think look good. For those of you who
just plan on playing the sweetest version of a deck you like, or otherwise
haven’t had a chance to put in a lot of work, I hope I can offer some
appealing options.

This rough shell will be the most common fair deck: cheap interaction, card
draw, one mana threats, and Treasure Cruise. The tricky part is figuring
out how much interaction you want compared to how much card draw, which one
mana threats you’re supposed to play (I think Deathrite Shaman is the best,
but it’s close between Death’s Shadow and Delver of Secrets, and I think
some people might err toward more burn and play Monastery Swiftspear), and
then, of course the exact mix of card selection and interaction is tricky,
so let me go over my reasoning.

I think Thoughtseize is the best interaction; without Force of Will, it
interacts with the widest range of decks. Being down a mana is really bad
in a format this fast, but everything else seems too narrow. Mental Misstep
is the next best; way narrower, but this is where you make up that mana

If all your threats and most of your spells cost one, I think Abrupt Decay
or something like it is required to answer Chalice of the Void. Fatal Push
and Abrupt Decay are well-positioned to answer most threats because Gurmag
Angler should be unplayable in a format with Treasure Cruise, since that’s
a much better use of cards in your graveyard.

Ponder and Preordain are the best card selection, but when you can play
Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, I don’t think you care, you just want
the cards that are best at filling your graveyard, which are Street Wraith
and Gitaxian Probe.

Once you want fetchlands, Thoughtseize, Street Wraith, and Gitaxian Probe
anyway, and you have a ton of card draw so you’ll see a lot of all of
those, it’s hard to imagine Death’s Shadow being the wrong way to go.
Dismember is a specific nod toward respecting Eldrazi, and it’s also a card
that plays well with Death’s Shadow, of course, and then the rest of the
deck is one mana counterspells.

I think that looks like the right set of spells to play, and the question
is just about the balance of each of them, especially things like do I want
more creature removal or more counters and is discard important enough that
I want Inquisition of Kozilek.

You could build a version with Preordain and Ponder instead of Gitaxian
Probe and Street Wraith, and then play Delver of Secrets rather than
Death’s Shadow; this slows down your Treasure Cruises but offers a lot more
card selection and preserves your life total. You’ll note that I have no
life gain in the sideboard, even though a couple spells could go a really
long way there. It’s just hard for me to imagine bringing Burn to this
tournament, so it’s hard for me to devote slots to beating it.

Basically, I think that your life total won’t matter in a huge portion of
matchups in a format this degenerate, so I’d prefer to use it as a
resource, but both directions have their advantages.

Maindeck Ulamog may be a little outside of what’s reasonable in this
format, but it’s really appealing with Eye of Ugin, Expedition Map,
Cloudpost, Glimmerpost, and Thespian’s Stage. It’s just very easy to get
huge amounts of mana with that package.

Dark Depths/Thespian’s Stage feels like a relatively free addition to this
deck, so even if you don’t end up making Marit Lage that often, it’s all
upside since Thespian’s Stage is so good with Cloudpost anyway, and you
already wanted Urborg to work with Eye of Ugin.

I’ve forgone Wastes, which might be an oversight, but the other lands are
so good that I don’t really want to lose one to make room for Wastes, and I
think people are going to be so focused on what they’re doing that they’ll
be relatively unlikely to have cards like Ghost Quarter and Blood Moon most
of the time.

There’s not a lot to say about card selection on these decks; once you’re
playing the Eldrazi lands, your spells are somewhat forced, so the big
questions are which lands and whether to slow the deck down for Expedition
Map. I think the lands are good enough that it’s worth it, despite being a
Chalice deck, but that could easily be wrong.

This tweak of my Pro Tour Philadelphia deck from the first Modern PT
replaces Peer Through Depths with Dig Through Time and trims some things to
make room for four Mental Misstep. Blasphemous Act is a strictly better
Dragonstorm, since it can theoretically be cast to some effect.

The purpose of this deck is to have an extremely fast kill while also
disrupting other combo decks, and while it’s full of one mana spells, your
actual kill doesn’t use any one mana spells, so you can win through Chalice
of the Void and Mental Misstep isn’t hitting anything crucial of yours.
Meanwhile, your Mental Missteps are fantastic at protecting your kill, so
the hope is to be the fast combo deck that’s best against other fast combo
decks and the best Mental Misstep deck.

Storm has gone through a lot of variations through the years as cards enter
and leave the format, so it’s actually kind of tricky to figure out what
the best way to actually end the game is; it’s fairly easy to identify the
best cantrips and rituals, but once you’ve done that, which of Baral/Goblin
Electromancer, Pyromancer Ascension, Remand, Past in Flames, Pyromancer’s
Swath, Gifts Ungiven, Empty the Warrens, and Grapeshot do you want?

My thinking is that Treasure Cruise is the best way to use the graveyard,
so I don’t want Past in Flames, which means I don’t want Gifts Ungiven.
Baral is faster than Pyromancer Ascension, and then I think Pyromancer’s
Swath is the easiest way to get to lethal without Past in Flames,
especially with access to Rite of Flame and Seething Song, but I’m not sure
about any of that.

I like that this direction minimizes exposure to graveyard hate, especially
since most players are used to Storm being a deck that relies on the
graveyard at this point, so I think you’ll have some players sideboard
incorrectly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up playing against
Grafdigger’s Cage at some point with this build.

I’m not a Dredge expert. It’s entirely possible there should be a different
set of creatures to target with Dread Return, but there are certainly
plenty of great options. I don’t think you need Prized Amalgam and the
driving principle should be trying to kill your opponent as fast as
possible with Dread Return. It’s possible that Bridge from Below is a waste
of space/overkill and it’s better not to play it and to play creatures that
are more likely to win the game by themselves to save space. Regardless, I
think Dredge is likely well positioned because I think it lines up
extremely well against fair Treasure Cruise decks, and I think people are
going to be more afraid of spells than graveyards in general in this event;
even knowing that I respect Dredge conceptually and my decks didn’t have a
lot of hate for it.

The big question for me is whether Dredge can be fast enough to keep up
with something like Storm or Infect, and I suspect the answer is likely no,
but if you think most people are going to play Delver/Treasure Cruise style
decks rather than fast combo, I think this is a great metagame choice.

Those are my picks out of the gate, but honestly, this field is open enough
that if I view these as predictions about what does well, I’d be pretty
happy if just a couple decks like these make the top 8.

If you’re on the fence about going, I highly recommend it. It’s basically a
once in a lifetime chance to play in a field this unexplored, and I suspect
that means it should be a fairly easy tournament to cash, particularly
since I think a lot of people will skip it just because they don’t own the
banned cards or they’re intimidated by a format they don’t play.