In Light of Monday’s Banned & Restricted Announcement, What’s The Deck To Beat In Modern?

Uro is finally gone from Modern and our team of experts is ready to find the format’s next best deck!

Polymorph, illustrated by Robert Bliss

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Kaldheim and the banning of so many cards in Modern on Monday, many are unsure what they’d play in Modern. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Modern event!

Shaheen Soorani — Jeskai Polymorph

I saw this list recently 5-0 an MTGO League event and I had to give it a shot.  In a time of Stoneforge Mystic in Standard, I sleeved up a Mass Polymorph deck and flew to Paris to compete against the best in the world.  Even though I ended up with a 4-1 record with it Day 1, my buddy Ali Aintrazi went 0-4 after I convinced him to play the deck with me.  The combined record was not impressive, but I did enjoy wielding the power of putting an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield much earlier than Turn 15.

This Polymorph deck does that job even better, putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield on Turn 4 with a strong support structure behind it.  Each spell prior to the Eldrazi entry is control in nature, countering, killing, and cantripping its way to victory.  This is one of the strongest applications of Remand, a card that does not see enough play in Modern.  Having the ability to set back an opponent, while working toward a Turn 4 effective win, is an avenue that Remand opens.  In addition to the traditional disruption that was accessible in Modern for years, Pact of Negation has opened the door for combo to be great again.

Force of Will is a spell we never thought would leave Legacy and Vintage.  And even though Force of Negation cannot hit creatures, it has had a warping effect on the format.  Problematic decks that required bannings have run Force of Negation and this has the feel of another combo deck that may be too good because of it.

Ari Lax — Selesnya Company

If you look at the known good Modern decks people will default to, the obvious answers all look like Rakdos decks: Red Prowess, Death’s Shadow, and Jund because somehow people still haven’t learned that lesson. And Selesnya Company mangles those decks. Importantly, Selesnya Company beats up on these decks despite presenting a Modern-level combo threat against the rest of the metagame.

Multiple decks that were good against infinite life were also eliminated from the format, and an another lifegain piece was removed allowing more aggro decks to flourish, or whatever aggro even is in Modern. Is that Goblin Guide and Lava Spike? Who knows.

Michael Jacob’s list from months ago feels like it still holds up. Without knowing where the format is shifting, the only swap I wanted to make was maybe cutting a Conclave Mentor for a Skyclave Apparition. I’m sure after a couple days more of data you could change a couple sideboard cards, probably starting with moving back from Surgical Extraction to hard Dredge hate like Rest in Peace now that Oops All Spells lost the speed of Simian Spirit Guide. You may also want a little more respect for Colossus Hammer decks, which didn’t really exist when this exact list won an event.

I also like the Sam Pardee style Mono-White Heliod decks, but I think Week 1 you want to hit your opponents a bit harder. Let people adjust before you water down your plans to apply beatdowns.

Todd Anderson — Izzet Delver

It’s the wild west right now, so play what you want. The first week of a new format is all about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Today I’ve chosen Izzet Delver because it can contain most of the degenerate BS your opponents throw at you while having an aggressive slant to close games quickly. The card Delver of Secrets is excellent in older formats, but that’s mostly because you can transform it quickly. If we aren’t transforming it quickly, we’re usually losing.

The addition of Ascendant Spirit gives us another Delver-esque threat that hits hard but comes down fast. It allows you to use your mana every turn, filling in the gaps when your counterspells aren’t doing anything. If you’ve ever played Figure of Destiny before, just know that something like that was always a scary prospect for blue because they were the best at using their mana at instant-speed. It’s no wonder to me that Ascendant Spirit is finding a home in Modern, and a good one at that. Now we just have to find all the right numbers for our utility spells!

The coming weeks will be great for finding out exactly what that means. A singleton Izzet Charm maybe? What about a maindeck Dispel? All possible inclusions if the format calls for it. As of right now, I expect a good number of creatures and the static nonsense that comes with an open Modern format. Force of Negation will hopefully be the glue that holds everything together, and it’s especially gross in a deck featuring an aggressive curve. I’m hoping we steal a lot of games on the back of Sprite Dragon plus Force of Negation.

Dom Harvey — Titanshift

I’ve been burned by Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle too many times to recommend it with complete confidence but I think it may be time to burn my opponents with it again. Although Field of the Dead was a useful backup plan for Titanshift, its main role in Modern was to elevate other ramp strategies and force other decks to play hate that was incidentally lethal for this deck — I’ve played against more maindeck Blood Moons in the past few months than anyone should have to. The blue decks powered by Mystic Sanctuary and Uro were good against you without really trying as they could replay the same Aether Gust over and over again before turning the corner quickly. Meanwhile, combo decks leaning on Simian Spirit Guide could outrace you easily and laugh at your lack of interaction.

Now, the landscape looks very different. With most combo decks neutered and the best grindy cards banned, ‘fair’ Magic is back on the menu and a hyper-redundant ramp deck is the scariest predator for anyone dusting off Liliana of the Veil or Reality Smasher. The various Prowess decks and Rakdos Death’s Shadow are potentially tough matchups so my sideboard pays them a lot of respect.

In addition to its better positioning, Titanshift benefits greatly from Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. My first regular column was me gushing for thousands of words about Dryad’s potential in Modern but that was initially realized in other decks like Selesnya Reclaimer and Amulet Titan. Titanshift has used Prismatic Omen over the years as a way to turbo-charge natural Valakut kills and dodge popular interaction; Dryad is a Prismatic Omen that’s also a ramp spell, can be found with Summoner’s Pact, and is a solid defensive creature.

Titanshift is rarely on top of the format for long but it’s a great way to take the format by surprise as it settles.

Ryan Overturf — Mono-Red Prowess

For a long time when people asked me what Prowess’ bad matchups were, I would say Neobrand is near impossible, and since the release of Theros Beyond Death I’ve found every matchup where the opponent is playing Uro to be unfavorable. With both Uro and “Simian Spirit Guide nonsense” banned out of the format, I expect Prowess to return to its status as one of the best decks in the format. The chatter I’ve seen tends to revolve around Turn 4 combo decks — decks that are vulnerable to Monastery Swiftspear — and midrange decks — decks that are vulnerable to Bedlam Reveler.

I see this as an absolute win.

Sam Black — Bant Stoneblade (Yorion)❄

Previously, I thought Stoneforge Mystic was too low-impact — it wasn’t worth working to include because it was easily answered and the opponent could easily overwhelm the value it generated with Uro and Mystic Sanctuary.  With those out of the format, we’re playing much smaller games of Modern and I think it’s Stoneforge Mystic’s time to shine

By the same thinking, incremental value is better in general and that means Yorion, Sky Nomad can be game breaking.

The concessions I’ve made to support Yorion feel relatively minimal. I’ve added Abundant Growth, Omen of the Sea, and On Thin Ice to a shell that I like, but the Abundant Growths make it a lot easier to play Archmage’s Charm and Cryptic Command.

I think the mana creatures make Stoneforge Mystic a lot better, since they play well with Equipment, but they make the deck a little threat light, since they’re low-impact on their own.  My expectation is that the Yorion package will make up for this, with Yorion offering a high-impact threat to tip the balance each game.

Ross Merriam — Death & Taxes

The recent Banned & Restricted update is going to fundamentally reshape Modern, and it’s going to take at least a few weeks for a stable metagame to emerge. Until that time, I’d advise that you stick to proactive strategies with flexible disruption. Death & Taxes fits that bill, since Path to Exile and Skyclave Apparition mean you have answers to a wide variety of threats and mana denial is almost universally disruptive.

But there’s even more reason to like Death & Taxes right now. Because despite the metagame being in a state of flux, I expect that the early most popular decks will be those that were successful before the bans but survived them intact. That means a lot of Death’s Shadow variants, Prowess variants, and Mono-White Equipment. I like Death & Taxes in these matchups, because you have the removal to answer their cheap threats, and excellent sideboard cards like Auriok Champion. I also expect a resurgence in Tron variants, which Leonin Arbiter has always loved playing against.

As for individual card choices, the above list is fairly stock. There’s no reason to over-metagame right now, and the only major choice I’ve made is to go back to Restoration Angel since I’ve always found the biggest weakness that Death & Taxes has is lack of pressure because it plays so many disruptive creatures with relatively small bodies. If you want a more detailed explanation of why I like this archetype and this list in particular, consult my latest article.

For now, suffice it to say that 2021 may be the year of the Plains.