Welcome to What We’d Play! With SCG Regionals this weekend, many are unsure what they’d play in such a high-profile tournament. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this last-minute advice aids in your decision making! Be sure to vote for who you agree with in the poll at the end!
Cedric Phillips – Burn
Maybe I’m wild for still liking Boros Charm, Lightning Helix, and Skullcrack, but I still do. As players begin to combat Izzet Phoenix and Whir Prison with more creature-based strategies like Humans, Bant Spirits, and Affinity (I expect all three to make a comeback over the next few weeks), I’m going to be ready with all these two-mana burn spells instead of the (admittedly) high ceiling but low floor newbies from Ravnica Allegiance.
Most importantly, I love the positioning of Smash to Smithereens right now. As more strategies based around artifacts surface – Whir Prison is legit, folks – Smash to Smithereens cares not about what artifacts you’re trying to get the job done with. I’ve never been interested in trying to figure out if I’m supposed to be playing Shatterstorm, Ancient Grudge, Engineered Explosives, or some other unique tool to get the job done anyway. Smash to Smithereens says that that artifact is dead and hopefully so are you.
Lastly, Burn absolutely decimates Izzet Phoenix, and since that’s the best deck in the format, that’s a thing that matters quite a bit. And before you ask, my answer is “No!” to if I care that Michael Bernat had two Dragon Claws in the sideboard of his Grand Prix Los Angeles-winning decklist.
It’s gonna take a lot more than two Dragon Claws to scare me, pal.
Emma Handy – Whir Prison
Remember when Lantern Control first began making waves in Modern and people loved writing it off until they actually had to sit across from it? Whir Prison is that deck in Modern today. There are a staggering number of comparisons between this and the Lantern Control archetype, but the two don’t operate on the same axis.
Whir Prison is looking to effectively “check boxes” in the way that Lantern Control was: find a way to stop yourself from dying, shut off the way that your opponent can interact with that lock, find the way they can interact with that lock, and so forth. Whir Prison is better at this than Lantern Control ever was.
The difference between the two?
Lantern Control requires a raw quantity of cards in order to set up its locks that Whir Prison doesn’t. Because Whir Prison leans more heavily into prison pieces like Witchbane Orb, Torpor Orb, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Damping Sphere, a single card can shut off an entire section of the opponent’s deck – even if they draw it.
The biggest hurdle for Whir Prison at this point is the fact that it’s difficult to pilot and there isn’t an established build of the deck just yet. There’s Harvey’s list with the Sword of the Meek / Thopter Foundry combo (great when Lightning Bolts are as popular, as they are today), and then there’s a more dedicated hard-lock version of the deck with Chalice of the Void that plans to kill with Ipnu Rivulet and Crucible of Worlds.
The lack of an established variant and the difficulty of the deck is going to drastically reduce the number of people who are sleeving this up going into the weekend. That being said, the reduced amount of artifact hate in people’s sideboards, as well as their inexperience against the archetype, Whir Prison is in prime position to reward the people who put in the reps to learn it.
Andrew Elenbogen – Frenzy Affinity
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Ornithopter
- 1 Master of Etherium
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 2 Memnite
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
I will never tell people play a deck they’re unfamiliar with. Magic is hard and Modern rewards playing what you know. However, if there was ever a time to play Frenzy Affinity, regardless of familiarity, it’s right now. The deck has favorable matchups against much of the field, including Izzet Phoenix, which I expect to be the most popular deck. Let them trade one-for-one using spot removal and churn through their deck with cantrips.
Experimental Frenzy is not impressed!
The deck’s main bad matchups, Storm and Jeskai Control/Azorius Control, have been completely forced out of the metagame. Artifact hate is not particularly popular right now and the Whir Prison decks require a set of answers very different from those that work best against Affinity. The icing on the cake is that Affinity itself has not been very popular as of late, so the opposition won’t be crafting their deck with the matchup in mind.
If you’re not confident in your ability to play and sideboard with the deck, a smart and handsome SCG writer dedicated an entire article to this deck just today. Thanks, unnamed SCG writer!
Shaheen Soorani – Izzet Phoenix
I’m probably not the only one with this genius suggestion, but let me give you a brief history on the groundbreaking Modern deck. Many What We’d Play columns ago, I championed Izzet Phoenix as the most underrated Modern deck that lit up Magic Online but hasn’t translated into live success. That same weekend, it was an Izzet Phoenix mirror match to declare the SCG Tour Open champion. The reason I suggested the deck then is the same as now – Izzet Phoenix defeats hate easily and that is uncommon for top-tier Modern decks.
It can maneuver around a Chalice of the Void on one, attack from a different angle once Arclight Phoenix has been exiled by a timely Surgical Extraction, and counter any threatening spells with its natural access to the greatest color in the game. It’s aggro that plays like combo and ultimately switches to tempo after sideboard. I hate to say it, but Izzet Phoenix is by far the greatest deck in Modern. Faithless Looting is a nonsense card that continues to chase fair decks out of the building, which makes the case against Stoneforge Mystic that much more laughable. Until we see some drastic shifts in Modern, I will work on remembering all my Thing in the Ice triggers.
Sam Black – Dredge
I’d play Dredge. I played it in Grand Prix Los Angeles last weekend, and while I didn’t do well personally, two other players made the Top 8 with Dredge and I believe it’s one of the best decks against Arclight Phoenix strategies while also being generally well-positioned. Specifically, Creeping Chill is a messed-up card and the result is that the deck is basically good against any opponent that cares about your life total.
People have suggested that it should suffer from incidental graveyard hate because of the popularity of Phoenix, but cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void aren’t good ways to fight Phoenix. There are more Surgical Extractions, but Surgical Extraction is probably the weakest graveyard hate card against Dredge. People devote the same number of slots to graveyard hate but lean more heavily on that, which actually results in Dredge being less attacked than it would otherwise be.
Ari Lax – Whir Prison
Four Whir Prison players made Day 2 of Grand Prix Los Angeles. Two of us finished in the Top 16. Susurrus_mtg keeps putting up strong finishes on Magic Online and Raymond Perez keeps crushing Modern Classics with the deck, and Dominic Harvey took down the Modern Classic at SCG Syracuse with yet another twist on the same lock core.
The deck is the real deal. Izzet Phoenix is a bye, Dredge and Mono-Red Phoenix are easy, and Grixis Death’s Shadow and Amulet Titan are favorable but closer. I doubt people will have properly adjusted this weekend to hate it out, but the fun part starts in two or three weeks when you need to figure out the next level to counter that hate.
I’ll give you one hint on how: if you are playing Amulet Titan, play Zacama, Primal Calamity. I doubted the card, but Danny Batterman said it was routinely amazing this last weekend as he made the Top 32 of Grand Prix Los Angeles.
Todd Anderson – Izzet Phoenix
It’s no secret that Izzet Phoenix is the best deck on the block right now. If people focus on spot removal, Arclight Phoenix tears you up. If they’re linear and don’t want to interact, Thing in the Ice can allow for some degenerate racing scenarios. And luckily, many of the format’s linear decks put an emphasis on creatures, which makes the stock of Thing in the Ice rise significantly.
But Izzet Phoenix isn’t just trying to ignore the opponent. Some of your best draws feature Gut Shot, Lightning Bolt, or Lightning Axe, potent removal spells that function well alongside your creatures that are begging for you to cast a lot of instants and sorceries. In fact, I think Izzet Phoenix is actually weaker right now than in times previous, simply because Dredge and Grixis Death’s Shadow are both rather popular at the moment, and both of those matchups can be rather shaky at times.
Diving a little deeper, I really like my sideboard. Shatterstorm is hot fire at the moment, absolutely obliterating the artifact prison decks revolving around Ensnaring Bridge. Their main form of disruption is discard, so if you’re able to dig for a Shatterstorm late in the game, you can hit them with a one-sided Obliterate that just so happens to beat Welding Jar.
Normally I’m of the impression that you should play whatever you’re most comfortable with in Modern. At the moment, that’s no longer the case. Arclight Phoenix is clearly busted and it would do you some good to pick it up and start learning it now.
Dylan Hand – Humans
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Kessig Malcontents
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
On Monday I posted a comprehensive update to Humans in the post Ironworks-ban world of Modern that we live in today. This list heavily respects the top two decks in the format: Izzet Phoenix and Dredge. This mainly comes off the back of newcomer Deputy of Detention in the sideboard, which helps clean up pesky Arclight Phoenixes, Bloodghasts, and Prized Amalgams.
Humans has retaken the throne of being the best Noble Hierarch deck in Modern and the metagame is ripe with some excellent matchups for the deck, like Grixis Death’s Shadow and Burn. I believe that, if tuned correctly, Humans can stand toe to toe with the aforementioned titans of Modern. The deck continues to put up solid results despite low overall representation. I have faith that its share of the metagame will only go up in the coming weekends leading into Regionals, the SCG Open in Philadelphia, and beyond.