Do you remember where you were when they announced that Splinter Twin was banned in Modern?
I remember. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was chaos.
Midnight Prereleases thrown into disarray.
Looting and pillaging as combo decks, Burn, Affinity, and G/R Tron took what they wanted from the weaker decks of the format.
Snapcaster Mages desperately searching for a safe deck to find shelter in.
Streets filled with a distinct lack of infinity Faeries.
Keranos, God of Storms just sitting and watching it all happen. Wondering if he’ll ever see play again. Knowing, deep down, he’ll never be active as a creature again.
The Twinpocalypse. Complete Twinnihilation. Hearts and decks splintered. Even those unharmed were left uncertain about the future. Next year it could be Tarmageddon or a massive Tron Wreck.
Summer Bloom being banned was a gimme. Amulet Bloom was a combo deck that was consistent, explosive, and resilient to most of the hate in the format. It had to go.
Was it too good? The answer varies, depending on whom you ask, but if it was too good, it wasn’t by much. It was an iconic mainstay of the Modern format. Maybe Wandering Fumarole just pushed it over the top.
There is hope, though.
Hope in the form of an Angel.
Just when things look darkest is when a new light will shine brightest.
Kiki-Jiki could be the key-key to getting a G-G.
So where have Jeskai decks been hiding? It’s been a while since Jeskai has been on the map as far as competitive Modern decks go.
It’s been tough for control decks in Modern. The format keeps stretching, new cards keep being added, and the more viable decks there are, the harder it is for a control deck to answer them all. This ban announcement didn’t unban any cards which might actually help control. By pruning the power level of Modern a little, it might let control sneak back into the picture.
Amulet Bloom was a nightmare matchup for any sort of Jeskai deck, which basically squeezed it out of the conversation completely. What was the point struggling so hard against the best deck in the format? U/R Twin was also tricky. But now those roadblocks have been removed and Jeskai might have a shot again.
So what might an updated list look like?
It’s slower than traditional U/R Twin and it’s not two colors, but it does have some advantages.
One of the things I like most about Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is that it plays a better game against removal-heavy decks than Splinter Twin. Instead of putting all your enchantments onto one basket, tapping out for the Restoration Angel + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo means you have two individual creatures that need to be dealt with. That means a removal spell in response to your combo is much less devastating. If your Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker gets Lighting Bolted in response to copying a Restoration Angel, you’ll still get to attack with that copy of Restoration Angel (and the original) and use it to blink a Wall of Omens or Snapcaster Mage for value when it gets copied.
Path to Exile seems like a great removal spell right now, possibly more so than Lightning Bolt in a defensive deck, thanks to the rise of B/X Eldrazi and the format in flux. Lightning Bolt looks pretty poor against Thought-Knot Seer, Blight Herder, or Oblivion Sower. Other cards regularly ineffective against B/X Eldrazi are Spell Snare, thanks to a lack of targets, and Snapcaster Mage, due to maindeck Relic of Progenitus, which is why I’m starting fewer of them. There’s also a distinct lack of Lightning Helix in this list, which makes me worried about the Burn matchup, but Lightning Helix seems weaker in general right now. Ojutai’s Command could be worth a spot as lifegain and a Cryptic Command that’s easier to cast, especially if you’re inclined to run a few more Snapcaster Mages.
Wandering Fumarole is nice since it lets you run more sources of Red for Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. The biggest consideration for running Wandering Fumarole is that adding Blue and Red is exactly what the deck wants. It’s likely not as powerful as Celestial Colonnade creature-wise, but it is cheaper to activate and hits just as hard if left unchecked. Wandering Fumarole dies to Lightning Bolt if you activate its switch ability and it isn’t so great in combat, but it’s also able to pressure a Liliana of the Veil on turn 5. Having access to both is nice for your manabase and for whatever situations crop up where one is better than the other, or if you happen to have access to exactly eleven mana and want to activate both. It’s unclear what the correct ratio will end up being, but a 3/2 split seems fine for now.
It might be Ghost Quarter’s time to shine over Tectonic Edge. Ghost Quarter is better against Infect and Affinity, works best when you’re running four copies of Path to Exile anyway, and can run plenty of decks out of basic lands entirely, especially once you get Crucible of Worlds out post-sideboard.
This deck is pure control and similar to the version that I won Pro Tour Born of the Gods with, which means you’ll be in for a grind each game. But isn’t every game worth winning worth winning the right way?
It’s finally safe to tap out on turn 3 again. Geist of Saint Traft gets a little better as the format slows down, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It will end games where you drop it and keep it clear with removal and counters, but it’s still a three-mana investment with no real defensive capabilities. Traditional Jeskai is all about having defensive cards that can eventually be used to win the game once it’s locked up. Geist of Saint Traft does look underwhelming compared to any amazing third-turn plays in from other decks in the format.
They see me Fumarollin’, they hatin’. Wandering Fumarole seems excellent here. You actually want to be smashing in for one less mana than Celestial Colonnade and this deck has the removal to clear the way.
Young Pyromancer packs a lot less punch than Geist of Saint Traft, but coming down a full turn early can make all the difference. Monastery Mentor is popping up in every format already, so why not Modern as well? It’s great with Gitaxian Probe and is good against Liliana of the Veil and capable of overpowering pretty much anything if left unchecked. Stormchaser Mage also deserves consideration but is probably more of a Delver of Secrets-style card.
Thoughts on Modern Going Forward:
Modern is resilient to bans. Things will likely stay the same more than they change. The power level of the format might drop a little but that doesn’t mean every brew is good now. Most likely the format will shift around a little and the best decks will continue to stay on top.
There is still room for surprises though. Decks that were previously rarely seen (like Jeskai) have a shot of becoming Tier 1. For a good picture of how things actually are we’ll need to wait until after the Pro Tour. Once the powerful new brews from the Pro Tour have been stress-tested for a few months online and at subsequent tournaments, we’ll have a clear picture of what’s good.
Affinity and Tron are both at the front of the format as decks that get better thanks to the bans, but both are vulnerable to hate. Decks that lost to Twin and Amulet Bloom but do well against Affinity or Tron are good places to look for a deck that attacks the metagame.
Affinity is now the gatekeeper of the format. You need to match its speed or be able to answer the robots. If your deck doesn’t have a reasonable matchup against Affinity, it had better crush everything else. Affinity will slice right through inconsistent or slower combo decks trying to take Twin’s place. It is probably going to take a lot of hate to keep Affinity in check. Eventually the format should settle down to a nice equilibrium and the question will become: is it a good week or a bad week to be playing Affinity?
Right now Affinity is on everyone’s radar as good deck, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be enough hate for it to compensate for the loss of Twin. U/R Twin was one of Affinity’s natural predators that didn’t need to come specifically stocked full of artifact hate.
When in doubt, play something aggressive and powerful. Burn, Affinity, and Infect are all powerful and aggressive and attack while attacking the format in slightly different ways that might be unexpected. Burn and Infect are scary and punishing toward someone who only came prepared to beat Affinity.
G/R Tron is powerful and consistent. Turn 3 Karn Liberated puts many plans to shame.
Focus most of your hate on artifacts and the graveyard. Stony Silence is great against Tron, Affinity, and Lantern Control.
B/X Eldrazi is still a question mark with a lot of potential and hasn’t had a real chance to shine yet. The right list could take the format by surprise.
There are a lot of non-interactive decks that were slower or worse than Amulet Bloom and Twin that were kept in check by them. Look out for these “combo” decks: Ad Naseum, Infect, Scapeshift, Hexproof, Living End, and Storm.
Is Twin actually dead? It would be a turn slower, but Kiki-Jiki, Mirror breaker could end up just replacing Splinter Twin.
What decks do you think will improve the most in Modern do to the recent bannings? Are you still mourning the loss of your Splinter Twins? Do you think Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker holds the answers you seek? Sound off in the comments and let me know.