Modern Is Magic’s Best Format And These Decks Are The Reason Why

Need a reason to play Modern again? Gerry T has several decks that he thinks make the format great!

Lightning Skelemental, illustrated by Nicholas Gregory

This is the best version of Modern that has ever existed. Not only is the format interacting more often than ever, the power level is relatively flat and a wide variety of archetypes are playable. You could make the case for which deck is best at the moment but there wouldn’t be any consensus.

If the last time you paid attention to Modern was a year ago, the format wouldn’t be recognizable. So much has changed and mostly for the better. Even among the top tier, there are cool, fun decks in a variety of strategies.

These are decks that are sweet, get me hyped to play Modern, and actually win matches. 

I ran this through a league the other day and finished a respectable 4-1, with my loss coming to a Dredge opponent who was very easily able to overpower Relic of Progenitus in both games. Other decklists inspired me and, as always, I cut the chaff and attempted to streamline. 

Over the course of my career, there have been many decks I’ve been known for. For a period, one of those decks was Azorius Tron in Modern. My dislike for Mono-Green Tron is roughly proportional to my love for blue Tron decks. Seeing Mono-Blue Tron move away from nonsense like Cyclonic Rift and Mindslaver and be able to play a tempo game reinvigorated my interest in the archetype. 

Cyclonic Rift Mindslaver

Building this deck made me think of a few deckbuilding principles that are someone unique to blue Tron decks. You need to build to maximize your explosive draws while still being able to manage the games you don’t assemble Tron. Also, you’ll usually be playing from behind and need ways to catch up. Juggling all that while trying to contend with Modern’s diverse metagame is a tough ask but it’s why generally useful cards like Thought-Knot Seer are so strong. 

The matchups might be too polarizing to take into a meaningful tournament but the deck is still powerful enough that it has game against everyone. Plus, there are some nice surprises. I expected Izzet Prowess to be a heinous matchup (and likely is with some of the clunkier versions) but I didn’t have much of an issue with them. 

I had a great time taking Tron for a spin and there’s still plenty of work to do tuning the archetype.

You know what makes aggro decks competitive with a high-powered Modern format? Free spells. 

Force of Virtue Venerated Loxodon

Force of Virtue and Venerated Loxodon are innocuous but together with some token makers and other ways to pump your tokens, we’re looking at a real deck. The deck continues to be tuned and now features a small black splash for Lingering Souls. The other big addition is Signal Pest, which is a cheap anthem and way to convoke Venerated Loxodon

I don’t see any way to get a Turn 3 kill into the deck but Turn 4 kills should happen on the regular. That should be good against most opponents but the thing that puts the deck into the conversation for me is the lack of sweepers in general. Going wide is a unique angle at the moment, which makes this deck a solid sleeper pick.

Would you expect one of the better decks in Modern to be a Gruul Midrange deck with a light land destruction theme? Yeah, me neither. 

This is a deck that gets away with being a “bad” deck because of how little the format focuses on creatures and things that remove a wide variety of threats. Seasoned Pyromancer and Bloodbraid Elf help you go wide and Elder Gargaroth is very, very large. 

Seasoned Pyromancer Bloodbraid Elf Elder Gargaroth

Pressuring the format from an angle it isn’t prepared to fight is an easy way to start collecting wins, especially in Modern. The banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe certainly helped the archetype since Magus of the Moon is playable again. 

Gruul smash, etc.

Both Kiki-Chord and using Yorion, Sky Nomad on nonsense are fan favorites and Kurusu has racked up numerous 5-0s with this nonsense. 

My Kiki-Chord experience has been less than great but this deck sold me at Seasoned Pyromancer and Restoration Angel. There’s even a Stoneforge Mystic package for good measure. As it turns out, you get to play a lot of really cool cards when Yorion is your companion. Each of them provide solid sacrificial bodies for Eldritch Evolution too!

Midrange piles usually aren’t effective in Modern but having some Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combos at the top end tend to solve most of your problems. I’m surprised not to see more toolbox targets for Chord of Calling. Using an 80 card deck means you won’t be drawing them as often and most people lean into the toolbox. I appreciate Kurusu’s restraint.

Sam Black did an excellent job explaining the existence of this deck, so I won’t harp on that too much. However, I do appreciate that when Amulet Titan is getting beaten up by a sideboard, that forces some adaptation and innovation that leads to a new archetype. 

The one thing I want to see change about this deck is getting Noble Hierarch in the mix. The three-drops are incredibly powerful and the deck could use the acceleration in games where it doesn’t have Aether Vial. You can make the argument that Noble Hierarch isn’t a land and doesn’t put land onto the battlefield and I’m sure there were several detractors who said the same about Aether Vial. When you’re accelerating into things like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Primeval Titan, it does. 

Just make sure to add some more untapped green sources so you can cast it on Turn 1. 

For better or worse, I love a Rakdos deck. If I’m being honest, it’s usually for the worse but that doesn’t stop me from trying. 

Young Pyromancer and Village Rites is interesting but Modern has mostly passed by that type of low power interaction. Instead, Rakdos focuses on abusing Unearth and getting a huge advantage from a Lightning Skelemental hit when possible. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Dark Confidant are the other big sources of card advantage. Seasoned Pyromancer is the Brainstorm of the archetype, allowing you to filter into what you need. Plus, it provides a great backup plan.

Lightning Skelemental Unearth Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger

There’s no shortage of different ways to build this deck. Dreadhorde Arcanist seems great in theory but has constantly disappointed me. I’ve maindecked Fulminator Mage in Tron-heavy metagames before. The removal suite and sideboard options are always in flux, depending on the metagame. 

The core is Lightning Skelemental, Seasoned Pyromancer, and Unearth. Stick to that plan and you can have some fun while also doing powerful things.

Maybe you’re sick of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath at this point? It’s not even the one of the top twenty most egregious Modern cards at the moment. Plus, it’s actually the hero in this archetype, not the villain! Anything that’s able to help breathe life into a Turn 4 or 5 combo-control deck is fine by me. 

Ketria Triome was a nice addition to Scapeshift, which didn’t cross my mind until I started seeing it in decklists. It’s a Mountain for Valakut, an Island for Mystic Sanctuary, is fetchable, and cycles if you don’t have anything else going on. Entering the battlefield tapped is certainly a downside and can create some awkward sequencing issues but it’s a delight to have in the deck.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle Ketria Triome Mystic Sanctuary

People tend to do weird things with their Scapeshift decks but now isn’t the time for that. Arcum’s Astrolabe removed most of the incentive for you to not focus directly on the combo, so here we are. I’m not trying to grind with Wrenn and Six. I’m not shaving copies of Scapeshift. I’m not interested in loading my deck with more Mountains than are necessary to kill people manually with Valakut. I want to ramp, keep my opponent off balance, and win the game. 

If I had to play a tournament tomorrow, I’d play Dimir Control but Temur Scapeshift isn’t far behind.