The #SCGINVI is only a little over a week away, and for me, the two SCG Invitationals are the biggest events of the year. They’re split between two formats, Standard and Modern, and I’m going to be the best-prepared at both that I can be. Only one of those two formats has had my attention over the last few months, though and that’s Modern.
The Modern metagame has been more in flux then normal since the release of Ixalan, which has had a major impact on the format. If you have been playing Standard recently and you’re looking for a good Modern deck for the #SCGINVI, today I’m going to go over my Top 8 current Modern decks, the ones I think have the best picks to play next weekend.
So let’s count them down:
- 4 Oblivion Stone
- 4 Sylvan Scrying
- 4 Chromatic Sphere
- 4 Chromatic Star
- 4 Expedition Map
- 4 Ancient Stirrings
- 2 Dismember
Midrange and control decks are currently thriving in Modern, making Mono-Green Tron a good spot to be. I came incredibly close to playing this 75 at #SCGBALT this past weekend and brought the deck with me, but ultimately decided to stick with trusty G/W Company.
Most people have been playing G/B Tron recently in order to have access to Fatal Push, but I think the ability to play an abundance of basic lands that always enter the battlefield untapped is more important than having access to an early removal spell. When I’m playing Tron, I want to execute my Plan A every Game 1, which is getting Tron online as early as possible and to cast big threats thereafter. Even though Fatal Push is one of the best interaction spells ever printed, it doesn’t help out the gameplan of the deck, and therefore it’s not a card that I’m interested in splashing for. I still had two Dismembers in the maindeck, as well as three Warping Wails in the sideboard, because you have to have immediate answers to the creatures from U/R Gifts Storm.
Walking Ballista is one of the best cards in Eldrazi Tron, and I think it’s just as good in Mono-Green Tron as well. It’s one of the few versatile cards in the list, letting you kill a Dark Confidant on Turn 2 or acting as a Plague Wind in the late-game. Mono-Green Tron is much better at producing an abundance of mana than Eldrazi Tron, making its Walking Ballista even better. It’s definitely possible I should be playing a third copy in the list, but I’ve been happy with playing two right now.
Not everyone plays Thought-Knot Seer in their sideboard for G/X Tron decks, but I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the card, as it comes in against all of the tougher matchups you have. The less interactive your opponent’s deck, the better Thought-Knot Seer will be. I can’t really imagine playing any Tron deck and not having Thought-Knot Seers in the decklist somewhere.
I won’t touch too much on U/W Control this week, as I wrote an entire article on why U/W Control is Tier 1 last week. Traditionally, people have believed that a hard control deck wouldn’t be able to beat a Tron deck, as the Tron deck would go too far over the top of the control deck. Although the matchup still isn’t favorable for U/W Control, I think it’s pretty close to 50-50 these days.
Ixalan was incredibly kind to those who love playing control, giving the deck two huge additions. Field of Ruin has proven to be an incredible upgrade for control archetypes. You’re now able to disrupt the Tron player’s manabase while not hindering your own and without taking any deckbuilding slots from your nonland cards. Unlike Tectonic Edge, which was the previous card to see play in this slot, you don’t have to wait until your opponent has four lands to activate it, meaning you get to start destroying lands right away. Search for Azcanta is a two-mana win condition that provides incredible value over a late-game, and it’s also good when you draw it late and can flip it the following turn.
I’m honestly not sure what the terrible matchups are for U/W Control anymore. My guess is the worst are the fast combo decks such as U/R Gifts Storm. It seems to have plenty of favorable matchups with all of the various midrange decks, and even the bad matchups of old have become much closer. I have U/W as the seventh-best choice right now, but I could easily see it moving up the list if the metagame continues to stay full of midrange decks.
Even though U/R Gifts Storm is still one of the very best decks in Modern due to its consistency and explosiveness, I only have it at number six on my list. This is because the metagame has adapted to be able to beat the deck, and the top decks that people are playing right now are ready for U/R Gifts Storm with an abundance of interaction.
U/R Gifts Storm is also a pretty difficult deck to pilot with each cantrip cast being another place to make a wrong decision, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you are just getting back into Modern before the #SCGINVI. However, if you’re familiar with the deck and have a good gameplan with it, it’s still a fine choice. Just be aware your opposition is more prepared for you than a month ago.
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 1 Dark Confidant
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 3 Mayor of Avabruck
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
The other reason why decks with an abundance of interaction are doing well is the rise of Humans, which is the best aggressive deck in the format. I personally haven’t seen as much of this deck in paper as I would have thought by now, and I think the biggest reason for that is card availability with there being plenty of cards in the deck that aren’t played in other decks. Overall I expect Humans to be underrepresented again at the #SCGINVI, which means it’s a realistic option to have less sideboard hate for the matchup, and therefore it’s most likely in a good spot to play.
As far as decklists go, I really like the look of Ben’s list here. With a deck that runs so few lands, I like the idea of playing the fastlands, Razorverge Thicket and Seachrome Coast instead of fetchlands and shocklands to help preserve the life total. That also allows him to play a playset of Horizon Canopy, which can really help the deck acquire more resources. The strength of the Humans deck is in the card quality of the individual threats and not the card advantage it produces, so it’s nice to have access to a land that helps out when your draws don’t.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Viscera Seer
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 4 Vizier of Remedies
We saw Counters Company break out in popularity and success in the paper scene at both #SCGCIN and #SCGRegionals, and I think this is the type of deck that is much better than many people realize. Part of that is the combos the deck has are difficult to perform on Magic Online, which means it’s hard to get true results with the deck there. Also, with U/R Gifts Storm and Humans both being in everyone’s crosshairs, the most popular decks are those with lots of removal, the weakness of Counters Company. The deck is built around finding Devoted Druid and untapping with it to be able to produce obscene amounts of mana, and that can be a challenge with Devoted Druid dying to just about everything.
To help protect his fragile Devoted Druids, Kazu Negri went with a playset of Tidehollow Sculler in the maindeck, and I love it. We all know how good spells like Thoughtseize and Thought-Knot Seer are, and I think Tidehollow Sculler is one of the more underutilized cards of the format. Not only is being able to take your opponent’s removal spell vital, the knowledge of what your opponent will likely be playing over the next few turns is incredibly useful in this deck, most notably with how to use Chord of Calling. The Tidehollow Scullers weren’t enough for Kazu, though; he cranked it up to eleven with two Distended Mindbenders in the sideboard, and I’m all for it! This deck looks very good, and it’s on my short list of decks I may show up to the Invitational with.
When interaction with creatures is important, which it assuredly is right now, a B/G/X deck will be a good choice. My particular favorite of the many flavors of B/G today is Chad Kastel’s delirium-fueled Abzan deck. Chad went all the way down to nineteen lands, a number we usually see in Death’s Shadow decks, with four Mishra’s Bauble and four Traverse the Ulvenwald to help hit the land drops. One big problem these decks usually face is flooding out after interacting with the opponent during the beginning of the game, and therefore many people try playing Dark Confidant to continue to draw more spells. With all the removal around these days, though, Chad cut out the middleman, and I’m interested in trying out this version of Abzan. I also really like the sideboard full of different Traverse the Ulvenwald targets!
This deck is still filled with some of the best cards in the format, and if you want consistency, then this is a good choice. For what it’s worth, I currently like Abzan over Jund due to the strength of Lingering Souls in a removal-heavy format, but any B/G/X deck is a viable option.
Yet another option if you want a three-color midrange deck, Jeskai Control is right at the top of the metagame. I particularly like going full-on control with the deck like Ben Nikolich did this past weekend over the Spell Queller and Geist of Saint Traft versions, but both decks have put up plenty of good results recently. Yes, I know I said it last week and earlier in this article, but control is very good in Modern and you shouldn’t be scared to play it. I know I don’t have the most experience playing with Jeskai Control, but I plenty of experience playing against it, and I have to say I like the look of Ben’s deck quite a bit.
These one-ofs are not cards that you’ll see too often in decklists, but each time I play against them, they overperform. There are plenty of games where the Jeskai Control deck will stabilize and then start to play draw-go with the opponent, and Secure the Wastes does a great job of closing the door quickly and out of nowhere in those games while also being a wonderful card at producing chump blockers if you’re in a bind. Ajani Vengeant may cost four mana, but most likely you’re playing it much later in the game when the battlefield has been stabilized or is about to be, allowing it to take over. I like the one copy because it isn’t a card you necessarily want early. The card I’m least sure about is Torrential Gearhulk, but when you’re paying six mana for a Cryptic Command that comes with a 5/6 body, it’s most certainly worth it.
Dylan Donegan took down #SCGBALT this weekend with the best deck in the format. It seems like everyone has forgotten about Grixis Death’s Shadow these days, but there’s still nothing better than it.
I think most people have grown a little tired of the monotonous gameplay the deck has. It doesn’t really matter what deck your opponent plays, because the gameplan is always the same: Thoughtseize away the best cards, cast a gigantic threat, and use Stubborn Denial to protect it. Dylan’s list was almost the same as Korey McDuffie’s first-place list from SCG Regionals, with no planeswalkers in the maindeck and only one Kolaghan’s Command. The biggest difference was Dylan went with four Opt and two Serum Visions, while swapping those numbers was the preferred method before, and because of the importance of instant speed, I would personally go with Opt as well.
Either way, if you want to win the #SCGINVI, Grixis Death’s Shadow is still the best deck to do it with, and reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Now, this isn’t to say these are the only viable decks, of course. I’ve been playing G/W Company for months, even though I don’t think it’s one of the best decks of the format. Knowledge of your deck in Modern is always a huge advantage, as is playing something off the beaten path. If you want to play one of the best-positioned strategies against the field right now, though, these are the eight decks I’d recommend. The usual format mainstays of Burn and Affinity didn’t make my list, as I don’t think either is well-positioned for a variety of reasons.
We’re only a little over a week away from the Invitational, and as of now I’ll probably play G/W Company again, to the surprise of no one, but some of these decks are definitely on my radar. For now, though, it’s time to start learning Standard.