Tom Ross Modern Decks

We may have a new Standard format, but we also have a fresh Modern format to break out this Sunday for a #SCGBALT Classic! Tom has a few lists you can use to release your inner Boss on the field!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!

I haven’t played Modern since the last #SCGRegionals, which took place the Saturday of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Those in the know dominated their Regionals with Eldrazi decks either pieced together from Friday PT coverage or from a Pro Tour competitor sneaking them a list. I could’ve hustled Friday night and Saturday morning finding cards and asking people on-site for Chalice of the Void, but I wasn’t particularly down for that much work. I played Infect. I lost my win-and-in match for Top 8 to Colorless Eldrazi.

As I’m sure you know by now, Modern has been shaken up by the announcement Wizards of the Coast made on April 4th, 2016. The Eldrazi decks have been nerfed by the banning of Eye of Ugin. G/R Tron feels some splash damage for their archetype by this loss. To give blue mages, and specifically control decks, more juice in Modern, Ancestral Vision was lifted off the banned list. Sword of the Meek, a popular companion to Thopter Foundry, was also unbanned. The latter seems like a fair-ish combo that’s likely too slow for the format but will undoubtedly be annoying.

Sadly, I don’t have any new brews for you with those new toys. What I do have are decks that I like to play.

Hate Bears. White Weenie. Mono-White Aggro. Modern Death & Taxes. All names that this white deck could be called. Honestly, naming decks is getting harder with every new set released. This one does more blinking than the average version, so I’ll go with that.

The biggest (or smallest) new addition to the deck is Thraben Inspector. I must admit my fondness for Thraben Inspector is bordering on unhealthy, but I think it indeed belongs here. Just wait until I start slipping it into Legacy decks…

Seriously, though, the one-drop options are rather mediocre.

So mediocre, in fact, that people often choose to play none at all.

Thraben Inspector is a little bit of value that smooths out the deck’s draws and provides a little bit of gas. It’s also nice as something to Aether Vial in when it’s at one. Mono-White Blink tends to have spare mana open in the middle turns when it has Aether Vial going, so something to do that doesn’t get restricted by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is nice.

Speaking of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, she accounts for four of the hateful eight bears in the deck, along with Leonin Arbiter. With only Path to Exile and Aether Vial, Thalia ought to constrain your mana much less that your opponent’s. Without fetchlands or any other shuffle effects, Leonin Arbiter is virtually one-sided. WIth Leonin Arbiter out, your Ghost Quarters can turn into Strip Mines and Path to Exiles turn into better Swords to Plowshares.

The blinky-ness starts with the best card to combine with Aether Vial in Flickerwisp and continues with Restoration Angel and Eldrazi Displacer.

Flickerwisp does a ton of great stuff against the opponent, including removing a creature from combat for a turn, killing tokens, and resetting key cards like Endless One or Chalice of the Void to zero. The list of applications is very long.

Restoration Angel is a naturally good creature with a tacked-on blink. The Eldrazi Displacers are additional repeatable copies of this effect.

These are the creatures we’re looking to gain value from repeating their “enters the battlefield” effects.

To a lesser extent, your own Flickerwisp can get blinked if you need to piece together a way to interact with their noncreature permanent.

Of course, with Eldrazi Displacer comes a need for colorless mana. Since we’re only a white deck and Aether Vial functions to get creatures into play there’s plenty of room for lands that do stuff.

Of these, Ghost Quarter is the most important alongside Leonin Arbiter. After that, the first copies Flagstones of Trokair and Eiganjo Castle are largely freerolls. Blood Moon is the only relevant downside to them and it’s tough for any deck to play Blood Moon against a deck with 10 basic Plains and Aether Vial.

I like Mutavault (and creature-lands in general) quite a lot, so much that I have a Blinkmoth Nexus in there that can even pump said Mutavaults. They’re also Golems in addition to Blinkmoths to go with those Blade Splicers.

Horizon Canopy is often in these decks to mitigate flood at a small cost. I’m only running one copy out of habit. It’s possible that no copies are necessary now that Thraben Inspector serves as that extra card.

Westvale Abbey is a test card that I want to try. It’s fairly unlikely to be flipped into Ormendahl, Profane Prince because you’ll be using your other utility lands so much. Ghost Quarters will get used and Mutavaults will die in combat. Still, Westvale Abbey is another axis of attack that comes at such a little cost that it’s worth exploring.

Other potential options include:

Tectonic Edge is the most notable absentee from the list. It’s nice to hit Celestial Colonnade, but I expect that many of the reasons it was once good won’t exist as much or at all. Breaking up Tron pieces was good, as was nabbing their one Eye of Ugin. Desolate Lighthouse helped find the pieces that Splinter Twin needed. Hitting Slayers’ Stronghold slowed down Amulet Bloom. Ghost Quarter does most of the work that you’d want out of Tectonic Edge. Something had to go to fit in the creature-lands I wanted.

The sideboard options are one of the biggest draws to white as a color for any deck in Modern. No other cards completely shut out strategies like Stony Silence or Rest in Peace. The removal options are great if you’re in the market for them: Sunlance, Journey to Nowhere, Celestial Purge, and now Declaration in Stone. You don’t need much of that though as Path to Exile is the best and your game plan works quite well against other creature decks. Also, it’s tough to play more non-creatures in an Aether Vial deck unless it’s a really high-impact card.

The sideboard cards that I like the most are creatures like Kor Firewalker and Mirran Crusader that serve to brick-wall certain creature strategies. Another creature that I’m somewhat interested in is Archangel of Tithes. I’m mostly sure it won’t be worth it as it doesn’t have an “enters the battlefield” ability and is rather tough to get down if you don’t have an Aether Vial. Also, ticking Aether Vial up to four should only happen in rare circumstances, and such a four-drop would throw that for a loop. It would be great in play against swarmy creature decks, though.

As you might’ve guessed, the other deck is Infect.

Now that Eldrazi decks won’t be as prominent (if they exist at all), Infect is ready to regain its rightful throne on top of the Modern metagame. This build has fallen back to what it looked like before the Eldrazi Winter.

I was a big advocate of Viridian Corruptor when there was a lot of Chalice of the Void to worry about. Maybe people will find a way to play Chalice of the Void in their Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek decks, but I hope not. The fourth Become Immense was pretty clunky but a necessity against Chalice of the Void, and you needed powerful topdecks after Thought-Knot Seer ripped your hand apart.

Serum Visions is a card that I play when I have the luxury to do so. That is if I feel like the format isn’t too fast and I have enough wiggle room to sculpt what I need and not necessarily jam on everybody. This new Modern format will be just that: new. People will show up to #SCGINVI with new brews that aren’t so well-tuned. Shadows over Innistrad just dropped and who knows what people will play from there. I’m currently comfortable with Serum Visions lowering the variance of Infect as the cost of some speed.

The same reasoning applies to the maindeck Dryad Arbor. I definitely want it in the 75. The times it’s naturally drawn are certainly awkward. The question is, how often can the deck still win when that happens? Slotting it into the main also frees up a sideboard slot, which I like. I may be greedy here but I think I can manage.

A mana accelerant in Eye of Ugin left. What enters? Sword of the Meek and a card draw spell that fires on turn 5 at best in Ancestral Vision. I don’t know what build Sword of the Meek will best fit into, but rest assured of one thing: it won’t win quickly. Wizards of the Coast wants control to make an impact in Modern, but that’s really tough to accomplish in fresh formats. After #SCGINVI and probably a few more Modern tournaments, once the format becomes more fleshed out, we’ll see control decks do well after they figure out what they actually need to be controlling.

Infect is proactive and proven to be a successful strategy. Modern is supposed to be a “turn 4 format” and Infect routinely wins on turn 3 and occasionally 2.

I certainly like the Mono-White Blink deck too. I think the Modern format will have a resurgence of aggressive decks that are good matchups for the deck. It seems like most of the previous combo elements have been banned or otherwise pushed out to where a grindy, tricky, midrange creature deck can do some work.

#SCGINVI is only a week out and people haven’t had much time to process the bannings with new Standard being at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I don’t think anyone will “break it” and I’m banking on a tried-and-true deck taking me to a good finish in Columbus.

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!