Uncovering More Modern Treasure

Todd Stevens has been streaming up a storm lately! His explorations of Modern have turned up some surprisingly successful decklists on Magic Online, and he’s ready to share his discoveries!

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

As you may or may not have known, I just finished up three straight days of twelve-hour streams on my Twitch channel to celebrate getting to 250 subscribers, during which I played plenty of different Modern decks that were published among the 5-0 Competitive League decklists. The Magic Online decklists are a wonderful tool for highlighting innovation amongst the format, and I use them regularly for new ideas. Today I wanted to highlight some of the decklists to give you some new ideas if you wanted to play something fresh.

That’s probably enough of a prologue. Let’s get to the decks already!

We have a good one with B/R Control from MagicDevil666 leading us off. This deck is kind of a mix of one of my favorite decks, W/R Prison, and Jund, with plenty of discard, removal, and Blood Moon. The discard spells are valuable against the entire format, a fact that has been emphasized in the various Death’s Shadow decks recently, and Liliana of the Veil and Blood Moon are still as powerful as they’ve ever been.

There aren’t many ways to win the game in the deck, with only six creatures and one Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but Demigod of Revenge makes up for that. It’s already a fast clock on its own, but it can turn into an extremely fast clock when it returning its buddies from the graveyard. Faithless Looting is the most common way to put an extra Demigod of Revenge in the graveyard, and when playing the deck I was surprised how good Faithless Looting was at helping the deck fix its draws in the early- and late-game. Demigod of Revenge, Faithless Looting, and extra lands and Blood Moons are all good cards to discard.

I played two Leagues with this deck, and although I went 5-0 in the first one and it felt quite powerful, in the second League I struggled to win. As mentioned before, there are very few win conditions in the deck, and a couple of games that I lost were solely because I couldn’t find any threats. With few threats, Kolaghan’s Command feels out-of-place in the deck, and I frequently didn’t have a creature to return to my hand with it and would be paying three mana to Raven’s Crime my opponent.

I would recommend replacing those two Kolaghan’s Commands in the maindeck with two more threats, but I’m not exactly sure with what right now. I really want to play Grave Titan, but six mana is almost assuredly too expensive for this deck, especially when considering Faithless Looting is used to discard extra lands.

Up next, we have Sulati Delirium by _Marco_Polo_. A midrange deck with tons of fun cards, a killer late-game, and just enough interaction is right in my wheelhouse, and Sultai Delirium fits the bill. Emrakul, the Promised End is probably even more unbeatable in Modern than it was in Standard before it got banned, as you can do a ton of damage to most opponents when taking their own turn, and there are very few answers to the protection-from-instants flyer.

In case you haven’t realized this from Standard over the last year, or from Jund Death’s Shadow, Traverse the Ulvenwald is really good. Need a land drop? Check. Need the best possible creature in your deck for the situation? Check. Even with its recent popularity in Jund Death’s Shadow, I still believe Traverse the Ulvenwald is one of the most underplayed cards in Modern.

Although Grim Flayer is a pretty good card on its own, it was evident when playing the deck that it should really just be Tarmogoyf. I’m not sure if Grim Flayer was a budget addition over Tarmogoyf in the original build or if the pilot wanted to play Grim Flayer, but Tarmogoyf is still the best green two-drop to play, hands down. We live in a crazy world where two-mana 4/4s aren’t big enough, but that’s just the case with Death’s Shadow being the most common deck to face right now, and you really need your own Tarmogoyfs to be able to keep up with theirs.

The other thing I would change about this decklist is to add in at least one Snapcaster Mage or Eternal Witness, and most likely one of each. They are perfect targets for Traverse the Ulvenwald in the late-game to be able to reuse the powerful sorcery or any other card in the graveyard. I do like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy a lot, but I think a copy can be shaved for one of these two cards because the prevalence of both Tarfire and Kolaghan’s Command make baby Jace not as ideal as it would be in other metagames. Also, the Raven’s Crime should just be a better card.

Khokden has been doing well, recently putting up multiple 5-0s with a new take on Bant Eldrazi that removes blue for a more midrange creature approach. I don’t think this will replace traditional Bant Eldrazi anytime soon, but I don’t think this is necessarily a strictly worse version either. G/W Eldrazi doesn’t have the late-game power that Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope provide, but instead uses Eldritch Evolution to be able to find Thought Knot-Seer and Reality Smasher more reliably.

Eldritch Evolution is the real prize for going with this archetype and, similar to Traverse the Ulvenwald earlier, is one of the more underplayed cards in Modern. Being able to turn Matter Reshapers into Thought-Knot Seers or Reality Smashers is quite appealing, and it also allows for a sideboard filled with various hate creatures to be used. I’ll have to admit I was surprised by the inclusion of Strangleroot Geist when I first saw the decklist, but it’s the perfect turn 2 play to Evolution into a Thought-Knot Seer on turn 3.

Losing the counterspells means that there isn’t much hate for Ad Nauseam and Valakut decks in the sideboard, but the ability to consistently play multiple Thought-Knot Seers a game shouldn’t be undervalued when backed with an aggressive creature base such as this. Over in the sideboard, we see an abundance of graveyard hate with three Rest in Peace and two Relic of Progenitus, which is most likely a nod to Jund Death’s Shadow, but it’s probably a bit of overkill. I’d like to see another Blessed Alliance or two because its versatility. I’m also not a fan of Thrun, the Last Troll, as I think there are better options in the four- and five-mana slots, and I think I’d rather have a card like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar there.

B/G Midrange gained a lot from the printing of Fatal Push, as it may no longer be necessary to play a third color for a quality early removal spell. It’s still pretty rare to see straight B/G decks without any white or red, but honestly I’m a pretty big fan of them. Just like with the previous black decks, we see plenty of discard spells, and it’s pretty easy to make a case for black being the best color in Modern right now.

Four Fatal Push, four Abrupt Decay, three Maelstrom Pulse. That’s plenty of ways to kill Death’s Shadow and Tarmogoyf. No restrictions for that matchup, just all hard removal. The abundance of Abrupt Decays and Maelstrom Pulses is also very nice against plenty of other various decks that you’ll see in Modern. Add in a playset of Liliana of the Veil and you have to imagine it’s pretty hard for even Ranger of Eos to find enough Death’s Shadows to survive.

Do you know what pairs well with an abundance of removal? Drawing extra cards! Dark Confidant is almost forgotten these days, but it’s a perfect card for this deck. Sure, the extra cards may cost you some life, but when you’re killing all of the things that your opponent casts, it’s not as bad. In that same vein, I honestly really like multiple Tireless Trackers in this deck for more card draw and would play one over the Eternal Witness and have another in the sideboard over a Creeping Corrosion.

If extra cards are going to cost us life, we’d better have a way to get that life back. Both Scavenging Ooze and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet are extremely solid cards that have some valuable incidental lifegain attached to them. Scavenging Ooze especially works particularly well in this deck when paired with the removal, compared to other decks such as the G/W Company deck I played at #SCGDFW that was relying on combat to get creatures in the graveyard. I would like another lifegain spell in the sideboard for a little extra help against Burn, and I would replace the second Creeping Corrosion with either an Obstinate Baloth or a Thragtusk. I think the Affinity matchup should still be just fine with all of the removal spells and the Engineered Explosives in the sideboard.

The best part about playing only two colors is the manabase.

Instead of it being filled with fetchlands and shocklands, we’re able to play a full playset of Tectonic Edge that helps us keep our opponent’s manabase in check. I’m sure you know how big of a fan of destroying my opponents’ lands I am, and I most certainly appreciate being able to play four Tectonic Edges. Between the discard, the three Maelstrom Pulses, and the land destruction in the maindeck and sideboard with Fulminator Mages, this is a B/G deck that’s not completely dead to Tron, which is most likely one of the worst matchups.

Bonus Decklist!

Michael Majors wrote a great article yesterday on Premium outlining all of the various Death’s Shadow decks that are starting to get played in Modern right now, but I think he missed a good one. Abzan Death’s Shadow is late to the party compared to the other color combinations, but I think there is some real appeal to playing Abzan over Jund.

Using Jund Death’s Shadow as a base, I replaced the red cards with the strong options that white provides. For the maindeck I think the biggest loss is actually Tarfire, and not Kolaghan’s Command. Tarfire turning on delirium reliably is an underrated aspect of the deck, and not having access to it makes Traverse the Ulvenwald a little worse.

White offers some good card advantage cards to replace Kolaghan’s Command, with Renegade Rallier playing a similar role by returning either Death’s Shadow or Tarmogoyf from your graveyard to the battlefield, but it also gives you a 3/2 for your three-mana investment. Ranger of Eos doesn’t need much of an introduction, as many Jund Death’s Shadow lists already splash white for the card to be able to find more Death’s Shadows. Both of these two creatures are wonderful Traverse the Ulvenwald targets as well.

I think Selesnya Charm may be a hidden gem in this decklist, and I could see more than one copy being played in the maindeck. Making a 2/2 Knight token at instant speed is the least desirable option and the one that should be used only when necessary. Being able to give your Death’s Shadow +2/+2 and trample is a way to get damage through a blocking creature, similar to Ghor-Clan Rampager in Jund. Unfortunately we can’t Traverse for Selesnya Charm, which is one reason why I think I want a second. The other reason is that it’s a quality removal spell in Death’s Shadow mirror matches where exiling is particularly important in the face of Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana, the Last Hope.

Horizon Canopy is a unique land that I want to try out. Not only can it cycle when you are flooded and need a new card, which is its usual upside, but it also allows you to have more control over your life total. You can have yourself lose the exact amount of life that you want to make your Death’s Shadow the perfect size, and it can also make combat harder for opponents. Over in the sideboard, white gives us more options than red did, most notably access to Stony Silence and Blessed Alliance.

It seems like I say this every week, but Modern is just an amazing format. If you’re having trouble finding the deck for you still, ask yourself what the kind of Magic you enjoy is and go from there. The options in Modern are endless, and I wouldn’t ask for anything else.

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!