Modern is a pretty wild format.
There’s just so many decks you can play and the range of strategies really is all over the place. Gerry Thompson talked about some of the coolest strategies in the format Friday, and Monday, Ari Lax looked at one of the contenders for objectively strongest. Today, I’d like to take a look at seven of the craziest.
While none of these decks are really “mainstream,” each has been piloted to a good finish in a recent League or Preliminary Event on Magic Online. Whether you’re crazy enough to want to pilot one of these monstrosities, or just on the hunt for any and all new tech, these are not your everyday run-of-the-mill Modern decks.
Delthar’s list features a little less dedicated mill than some past attempts at this archetype have, making room for a larger control package.
In addition to the more straightforward interaction, this list can also defend itself and/or buy time with a variety of on-plan tools like Surgical Extraction (that’s three more cards and maybe they’re Emrakuls!), Crypt Incursion (is gaining 21 life good?), and Field of Ruin (yeah, Archive Trap!).
Since the dedicated mill cards are generally card economy negative, a little bit of card advantage is crucial to help not run out of gas while defending ourselves.
Both of these options are longtime staples of such decks at this point, and are likely to continue to be for some time to come.
Finally, we get to the actual milling. In addition to the aforementioned Archive Trap, Delthar focuses on some of the most mana-efficient mill cards in the format.
In addition to these classic numbers, the somewhat less renown Fraying Sanity makes an appearance, which can be combined with other mill cards to greatly escalate things.
Dimir mill decks are generally metagame spoilers that only really work when nobody is expecting them. They hit from a very unusual angle, and can catch people off-guard; however, the inherent card disadvantage generally leaves them poorly equipped for anyone actually lining their strategy up well against it.
What percentage of all creature types is Unsettled Mariner the best of?While many people utilize the card as a Human, it takes a special sort of mad genius to decide to play it as a Sliver.
- 2 Darkheart Sliver
- 3 Frenetic Sliver
- 4 Sinew Sliver
- 4 Striking Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Galerider Sliver
- 4 Leeching Sliver
- 3 Dregscape Sliver
- 4 Cloudshredder Sliver
- 4 Unsettled Mariner
Seeker__of_the_Wei’s list takes full advantage of the tribal rainbow lands available to it, giving it a basically perfect manabase, albeit one that can’t realistically cast non-Sliver spells.
As if twelve Utopias (the platonic five-color untapped perfect land) wasn’t enough, Aether Vial sticks with the theme of having the absolute most perfect mana ever.
The Slivers themselves are mostly built for speed and efficiency, with a low curve and a lot of redundancy. Sinew Sliver, Predatory Sliver, and Leeching Sliver are sort of the classic Lord of Atlantis-style contributors of more stats and damage capability. Cloudshredder and Galerider are a key form of interaction… in that they are the primary ways you avoid it. Cloudshredder’s haste is an invaluable added weapon, and Galerider, along with Aether Vial and Striking Sliver, makes up the one-drop portion of the mana curve.
I guess first strike is okay. It’s mainly the one-drop-ness, though.
Most of the rest of the threats offer added layers of resiliency against removal, since you’re kind of all in on jamming as many threats as you can.
One other spot Unsettled Mariner has shown up a little is in Elementals, which isn’t quite as rogue of one, as you may have read.
Oh yeah, mana is definitely a giant joke. Elementals tend to go even harder on the Utopia lands. Cavern of Souls, Unclaimed Territory, and Aether Vial? Sure, but how about we also pack playsets of Primal Beyond and Ancient Ziggurat?
What do you do with a manabase like that?
- 4 Flamekin Harbinger
- 1 Incandescent Soulstoke
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Smokebraider
- 1 Spitebellows
- 1 Fulminator Mage
- 1 Flickerwisp
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Lightning Skelemental
- 2 Vesperlark
- 4 Unsettled Mariner
- 4 Risen Reef
- 1 Omnath, Locus of the Roil
- 4 Thunderkin Awakener
There are basically two personalities to this deck, and at the end of the day, they’re both Lightning Skelemental.
Flamekin Harbinger goes nuts in this list, helping set up the Thunderkin Awakener + Lightning Skelemental combo (Thunderkin reanimates based on toughness, meaning it can just get the Skelemental every turn, which is a big game) or grabbing from an extensive toolbox of high quality targets. Whether you’re trying to develop your position…
…or disrupt your opponent’s…
… or just trying to go over the top of them, there’s an Elemental for every occasion.
The other face of the Elemental tribe is just raw card quality.
This deck is just packed to the brim with low-cost two-for-one threats (especially the Skelemental).
Aether Vial really does its part for making all kinds of weirdo decks possible. For instance, let’s suppose you’re not content to just Flamekin Harbinger for your synergies. What about Aether Vial in an Eldritch Evolution / Chord of Calling deck?
What, pray tell, are we doing all this looking for?
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is a pretend card in the vein of Wrenn and Six and Urza, Lord High Artificer. In silver-bordered tournaments and Modern tournaments, it’s considered fair game, which kind of stretches the boundaries of “fair,” given the undying mechanic being legal in both formats.
With two undying creatures on the battlefield, you can draw as many cards as you want for one life apiece. You just keep sacrificing one to put a -1/-1 counter on the other (and draw a card). The one you sacrificed comes back with a counter and the other no longer has one, meaning you’re free to sacrifice it and repeat.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Phyrexian Revoker
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 3 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Young Wolf
- 1 Blood Artist
- 4 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
- 1 Cavalier of Night
There are fewer maindeck targets, to be sure, since the one you really want is Yawgmoth.
However, we certainly make up for it after sideboarding…
I love a good one-white-land Grand Abolisher deck!
Yeah, yeah, look, just Chord or Evolution the creature onto the battlefield, and you won’t even have to worry about it. Look at Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. She doesn’t even put on a charade.
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 2 Prophet of Kruphix
- 4 Spell Queller
- 3 Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
- 4 Frilled Mystic
- 4 Ice-Fang Coatl
- 3 Brazen Borrower
- 2 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
- 3 Elder Gargaroth
Yes, while it is true that this list features only three instants, it somehow manages to present eleven maindeck permission spells, with seven more in the sideboard.
All this permission is coupled with a whole lot more flash, letting us play primarily at instant speed.
Yeah, Ice-Fang! Who needs Arcum’s Astrolabe to invalidate Beta basic lands?
Where things get really wild, however, is with cards like Teferi, Uro, and Prophet of Kruphix letting us dominate the pace of the game, while building large card and mana advantages.
These are two really good cards to protect with a Force of Negation, you know? Just saying…
Of course Force of Negation isn’t the only form of disruption being wielded by savvy Bant players in Modern.
Because how else are you going to tip the scales back in your favor after Path to Exiling somebody? What I really appreciate about this next list is the use of Mwonvuli Acid-Moss as the actual top of the curve.
Is it a Stoneblade deck?
Is it a ramp deck?
Hell, it’s even a planeswalker deck with a lot of dig to Karn; and then a lot of crazy targets out of the sideboard.
You know what Omen Machine does, right?
Good for stopping people highly invested in drawing cards… you know, since they can’t.
Ahh, the other shoe drops, and the Puresteel Paladin deck reveals its true self.
With eight ways to equip the Colossus Hammer for free, this deck can hit like a Mack truck. Sigarda’s Aid can make combat generally disastrous for opponents anyway, and the Paladin draws a whole lot of cards for a deck with as few sketchy cards as this one has (compared to most Puresteel Paladin decks). Even Paradise Mantle starts to look impressive in a deck like this.
Interestingly, while this deck may appear woefully vulnerable to Stony Silence, it’s actually got a shocking amount of counterplay to it.
Stony Silence may stop Puresteel Paladin from equipping stuff for you, but it still draws a crazy amount of cards. All you have to do is find Sigarda’s Aid, and you are blasting off into outer space. And besides, it’s not like Stoneforge Mystic finding Batterskull is a “bad” Plan B or anything…