The Modern Metagame Has Shifted

Modern usually works a little slower than this, but wow, is SCG Minneapolis going to mark changes. GerryT talks about the strange dynamics at the top of the format this week!

Modern finally hit a turning point at


. Among other things, Five-Color Humans is no longer a good choice. Magic
Online seems to mirror that trend, with the recent Modern

decklist dump

high on midrange and control decks. We wouldn’t be seeing nearly this many
blue decks three months ago. Hell, even Grixis Death’s Shadow is performing
reasonably again.

Humans has (mostly) been getting crushed in team tournaments as of late
also. It has had a target on its back for far too long, and Modern players
have finally had enough. Jeskai Control was the most popular deck in Day 2
in Louisville and decks like Elves and Mardu Pyromancer were also quite
popular. This was the most hostile metagame for Humans we’ve seen in quite
some time.

Despite there being 3-4 copies of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in every
Humans shell, the best way to beat the archetype is by playing spells.
While Thalia is obviously good against decks like Jeskai Control and Mardu
Pyromancer, spells are still stronger against Humans than creatures.
Champion of the Parish, Thalia’s Lieutenant, and Reflector Mage mostly
embarrass opposing creatures to the point where you have nowhere else to

When I wrote my
preview article
for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, one of my predictions was that
Jeskai Control would lose in the finals. What I meant by that was “a
controlling deck with a pile of removal and a good Humans matchup would
lose in the finals,” and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t intend for
that prediction to be about me, but I wasn’t upset about it.

My performance with Mardu Pyromancer has (unsurprisingly) given me an
irrational love for the deck, but my confidence in it has waned at various
points. Then something happens like Marshall Arthurs’ absolutely dominating
performance last weekend and it completely reinvigorates my love of the

There isn’t much I would change about Marshall’s deck. Three maindeck Blood
Moons is a big departure from what we’re used to seeing, but they appear to
have served him well. Assuming Blood Moon continues to be lights out for
many of the decks in the format, I would keep that aspect of his deck

A basic Plains shows up in the decklist because of Blood Moon (and his
sideboard plan against Burn), but that’s something I’m not a fan of. Mardu
typically needs most, if not all, of its mana sources to produce red mana,
so naturally drawing the Plains at some point could be disastrous.

No Manamorphose is something I understand, but don’t agree with. The
concern of having a card that lines up poorly against Thalia and Eidolon of
the Great Revel is legitimate, but this is a case where I’d prefer to
maindeck the card and sideboard it out if necessary. If you’re worried
about your own Blood Moons shutting off your Lingering Souls or having to
take damage to fetch a white source against Burn, I’d rather have access to
some copies of Manamorphose.

Velocity is important to the archetype and having Bedlam Reveler be as
cheap as possible helps with that. Manamorphose can be awkward and
unwieldy, but I still think some number of copies belong in the deck.

It might not be a problem right now, but I’d miss the second (and even
third) copy of Dreadbore or Terminate. Modern has Celestial Colonnade,
Restoration Angel, Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Tarmogoyf, and
various other large creatures that need killing. When you’re mostly relying
on Fatal Push, it can be difficult to remove those threats when you need
to. Obviously Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler can help to some degree,
but your opponent will also have removal spells.

Aside from the maindeck Blood Moons, my plan against Tron has been to
pressure them while also being able to remove their threats. To that end, I
think you want your Terminate effects to be Dreadbores. Let them have Tron
most of the time and just focus on not letting them gain any traction. It’s
not a perfect plan, but neither is Marshall’s, and I agree you don’t have
the luxury of the sideboard space it would take to have a reasonable Tron

Marshall’s sideboard doesn’t mess around. There are Ensnaring Bridges for
G/W Hexproof, Humans, Hollow One, and Eldrazi, which I love. He also has a
third Wear//Tear and third Kambal, Consul of Allocation, which I’m happy to
see. The main things I disagree with are Surgical Extraction over Leyline
of the Void and the inclusion of Liliana, the Last Hope.

Surgical Extraction doesn’t do enough for my tastes, especially against
decks like Hollow One. I’d much rather have the Leyline of the Void hammer,
even if Mardu would rather have a graveyard hate card it can draw into
later with Faithless Looting and Bedlam Reveler. It seems so much more
important to have a Leyline on the battlefield before your opponent is
capable of any shenanigans.

Despite a good Humans matchup, I’m interested in trying some Gut Shots in
the maindeck. The matchup can often come down to who gets to use their mana
better in the early game, and a single Gut Shot would take all the wind out
of their sails. There are enough Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarchs, and
Signal Pests running around that Gut Shot doesn’t seem completely dead
against many archetypes. It’s even quite reasonable in the mirror!

I’ve also messed around with a copy or two of Night’s Whisper, but the life
loss doesn’t seem worth it and I don’t particularly like how it interacts
with the sideboard Ensnaring Bridges. If you find yourself needing some
additional help in grindy matchups, Night’s Whisper could be a fine place
to turn to.

Liliana, the Last Hope does a fine job in those matchups as well, but if I
were looking for something to fight smaller creature decks, it would be
Anger of the Gods or Engineered Explosives. It can be backbreaking to snipe
a Noble Hierarch with Liliana on the play, but it tends to be too slow on
the draw in a lot of matchups.

Mardu has always had numerous flex slots, so you can ultimately do whatever
you want with Mardu Pyromancer. One thing is clear though — Mardu
Pyromancer is a top tier Modern deck.

Jeskai Control also looks great and is certainly a solid deck but has
noticeable weaknesses. Take another look at the winner’s metagame at


and you’ll likely a see an entire metagame that’s incredibly weak to one of
Modern’s most hated archetypes.

Uh oh…

I’m not a big Tron fan or enthusiast, but there’s very little chance of
Tron not succeeding in that Top 8. It just so happened that there weren’t
many Tron lands being played in Louisville. Enjoy your reprieve from Karn
while it lasts because he’ll be back with a vengeance.

The real lesson here is that the Jeskai decks (and Mardu) are skimping on
land hate. While Marshall’s deck had three Blood Moons maindeck, he didn’t
have any additional help in the sideboard. As I mentioned earlier, I’m fine
with that concession for exactly Mardu Pyromancer. However, it seems like
Jeskai could afford to pad that matchup a little more. Morphing into a burn
deck can steal some games, but it’s not the ideal setup without also having
some good disruption.

Yes, most Jeskai decks have two copies of Damping Sphere, but that doesn’t
seem sufficient. I haven’t liked Damping Sphere at all. Against Tron, it’s
like a slightly better Stony Silence. In the short term, it will slow them
down, but nothing is stopping them from getting to five or more mana
naturally and removing it with Oblivion Stone, Nature’s Claim, or World

For Damping Sphere to be effective, you need a clock and maybe some
disruption to protect it. Jeskai has limited countermagic and, for the most
part, an anemic clock. Having to spend an early turn to deploy the Damping
Sphere in the first place doesn’t particularly help matters.

Damping Sphere has been showing up in many sideboards, and often in places
it doesn’t belong. It would do good work in a G/W Hexproof sideboard, but
it doesn’t strike me as the best possible card for a Jeskai sideboard. If
Tron hasn’t adapted, they will soon. If you’re the first one to do so, you
could be holding a trophy at the end of next weekend.

If you’re not a Tron person (and I don’t blame you), what about Eldrazi?

G/R Eldrazi always had a weak Humans matchup, and although some of that can
be helped with their sideboard, they mostly need the help in other places.
If anything, you should be using decks like G/R Eldrazi to beat up on the
decks that are good against Humans.

You know what could also be good again?

I don’t think the time is quite right since Humans will likely keep the
vast majority of its metagame share, but Remand became mostly unplayable
due to Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial. Once that changes, Scapeshift could
potentially make a comeback. If there are still too many Humans for your
tastes, you can bench the Remands for Izzet Charms (like CJ Steele has been

You should be concerned about Blood Moon and its rising stock at the
moment, especially since it’s cropping up in maindecks. Those Izzet Charms
could provide a more permanent answer in the early turns, but you’ll need
something better than Bring to Light going longer.

With Humans potentially on the decline, you would think that a deck that
needs to play multiple copies of Stubborn Denial maindeck to be competitive
in Modern would be happy, but sadly I don’t think that’s the case. Grixis
Death’s Shadow is solid, but it still needs a good plan against Humans and
a way to beat Jeskai Control in longer games.

Artifacts appear to be under-represented and not heavily targeted, but
decks like Jeskai and Mardu have a naturally good matchup against decks
like Affinity. Krark-Clan Ironworks could be good, but good luck emulating
Matt Nass.

Graveyard decks could potentially be good, especially if they beat up on
Jeskai Control. Hollow One has the same issue as Affinity where it might
not be getting targeted by direct hate, but it ends up being weak against
Path to Exile, Ensnaring Bridge, and Daybreak Coronet. The best graveyard
deck might actually be Mardu!

If I were going to


, I’d happily register Mardu Pyromancer, but there are plenty of viable
options out there, including Humans. However, you should note that the
decks that are most successful in Modern at any given time are typically
the ones that don’t have a target on their back. Humans absolutely can
break through and it can win tournaments, but it’s going to be more
difficult than it’s ever been.