What Does Modern Look Like With The Arrival Of Adventures In The Forgotten Realms?

With Modern Horizons 2 and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms added to the mix, what’s the Modern deck to play? Seven top MTG minds give their picks.

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, illustrated by Simon Dominic

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, many are looking for options 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!

Michael Majors — Grixis Midrange (Lurrus)

Gerry’s Grixis Midrange (Lurrus) deck has made winning Modern matches comically easy for me.  Make no mistake, despite containing Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ragavan, this is really a control deck at heart.  Even if it is possible to close out games quickly, most of the time your goal is to put your opponent into a vice grip and stop them from doing anything relevant.  

Expressive Iteration, in particular, pairs very well with discard as the card draw of choice, letting you filter past them in late-game scenarios while also just being a potent two-for-one that lets you grind effectively with anyone, particularly paired with Snapcaster Mage and Lurrus.  

I’m not entirely sold on all the sideboard choices, but they do make sense.  Aether Gust is high on my list for best sideboard card in the entire format, giving you coverage against red aggressive decks, Amulet Titan, Crashing Footfalls, and others.  Engineered Explosives has generally over-performed for me, so I’d be looking for another copy, but this maindeck is beautiful and truly excellent if you enjoy this style of strategy.

Todd Anderson — Rakdos Midrange (Lurrus)

Rakdos Midrange (Lurrus) is one of the most versatile decks in Modern. This build in particular focuses on combating the rise of Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus). Kolaghan’s Command is certainly strong against them, but not game over. You need a steady stream of pressure mixed with a healthy amount of interaction. Urza’s Saga alone could be enough to do you in if you’re not careful; still, their deck is so one-dimensional that you should be able to defeat their secondary plan.

Mono-White Hammer is one of the best decks in Modern at the moment, boasting a high win percentage against the field. If we can dismantle them from top to bottom, it won’t matter how strong they are. Going lighter on discard and heavier on removal is how we get there. While we’re specifically attacking one archetype with our focus, it’s important to remember that Modern is usually diverse, and you need your targeted spells to be good enough in other matchups. Too much removal or discard and you end up folding to either aggro or control. The balance is what’s most important, and I think we’ve achieved that with this build.

The other DRC and Ragavan decks should be fine matchups because of how heavy we go on removal. Terminate is particularly strong against Murktide Regent, which has grown in popularity as of late. Unholy Heat and Lightning Bolt offer cheap interaction for their creatures, but where we shine is by winning the late-game. If you can kill the “X-Factor” threat like Murktide Regent, your Lurrus and Kolaghan’s Command plan should be good enough to win an attrition battle. If you’re playing against a mirror, we’re playing more Kolaghan’s Commands than most builds, so we’ll be trying to ride that to victory.

Rakdos Midrange showed the world what it could do over the last month. It’s been one of the most-played decks on Magic Online, and its success is largely due to the rise of the new one-drops. Both DRC and Ragavan give us pressure and some added value in card selection or card advantage. Dauthi Voidwalker also packs a punch while giving us some free wins and anti-graveyard tech built in. People don’t talk about it as much as the one-drops, but it’s certainly a valuable part of this archetype. Without Dauthi Voidwalker, chances are we’d need a lot more help in the sideboard against graveyard decks. As it stands, we can combine a few Soul-Guide Lanterns with the Dauthi Voidwalkers and call it a day.

Ari Lax — Five-Color Control

I’ve been trying a wide range of Modern decks this week, including nonsense like Dimir Mill and Twiddle Storm, and so far the most impressive shell has been various Omnath, Locus of Creation decks. I’m not the only one, with Gabriel Nassif moving from winning a Modern Challenge with Jeskai Control to rebuilding the deck as Omnath Control with solid success.

The thing that specifically draws me to this Bring to Light + Scapeshift list from that Omnath metagame section is the clean way it utilizes Chalice of the Void and Teferi, Time Raveler as really powerful hate permanents in the format. You have a powerful core gameplan, but also rack up a ton of free wins on top of that.

Dom Harvey — Five-Color Control

Chalice of the Void is the best it’s ever been in Modern. There are three different, viable Cascade combo decks that share a weakness to Chalice with X = 0, which also hits former heavyweights like Amulet Titan or the Asmor decks. Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus) and the Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer / Dragon’s Rage Channeler decks all have a compressed mana curve full of one-drops as a defining feature and unique selling point — and they even sideboard Chalice themselves for the first group!

Getting to maindeck Chalice and set it on either zero or one without hurting yourself is playing Modern on easy mode right now. The challenge is finding the right shell for it. Eldrazi Tron is a handful of relevant cards and a whole lot more nonsense; some of the tribal aggro decks like Humans can support Chalice but are weak to these removal-heavy decks otherwise. Five-Color Control dodges creature removal and the artifact/enchantment removal aimed at Urza’s Saga while playing a flexible, proactive game. The builds that lean on Dryad of the Ilysian Grove alongside the full set of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle are more powerful in the abstract, but this makes cards like Unholy Heat relevant and takes up space that’s already at a premium with the addition of Chalice.

Prismatic Ending is ubiquitous in Modern by now but plays an important role in this deck as cheap removal for these powerful new one-drops that doesn’t clash with your own Chalice or incur some other cost. Prismari Command is well-positioned in a world of Colossus Hammer but also jumps you up in mana for Bring to Light or Omnath, Locus of Creation plus fetchland and lets you cash in a surplus of lands from Wrenn and Six. The most unconventional aspect of this list is sideboard Expressive Iteration, which gives you a welcome source of card advantage in grindy games that functions better when you bring in cheap interaction. 

Shaheen Soorani — Jeskai Control

Here we have a little Gabriel Nassif special, taking down a Magic Online Challenge this past weekend.  Jeskai Control has had a surge in viability in Modern, due to the popularity of Ragavan.  Ragavan and other cheap creatures make Lightning Bolt a one-mana Doom Blade in this metagame.  Path to Exile is one of the all-time great removal spells; however, it feels very bad to ramp an opponent on Turn 1.  In the current Modern metagame, access to a Turn 1 removal spell is a must.

Ragavan has successfully warped the format, even infiltrating control decks that utilize Stoneforge Mystic.  Nassif takes the high road as I have, playing a control deck that blocks it with Wall of Omens, or hits it with a Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Solitude, Fire, and/or Prismatic Ending.  I’m not convinced that one copy of Counterspell is correct, but I’m willing to give it a try this week.

This version of Jeskai Control is about as removal-heavy as it gets and maybe that’s exactly what the Modern doctor ordered.  I expect that Wall of Omens will get replaced by powerful blue disruption, but in the meantime, there are no Ragavans getting through this Jeskai Control line of defense.

Ross Merriam — Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus)

I know Mono-White Hammer is last week’s news, but frankly I think the deck is excellent and, despite looking like a glass cannon, will be a long-term player in the metagame. It’s just as fast as Infect used to be, but with much more built-in consistency because it has a very high threat density and only needs to draw one of its pump spells, as well as much more built-in resiliency because of all the inherent card advantage from Esper Sentinel, Stoneforge Mystic, Puresteel Paladin, Urza’s Saga, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den.

Speed, consistency, and resiliency are the three metrics by which I judge linear decks, so this represents a major step up from what Infect used to be. You can’t just sit back on a pile of removal against this deck and expect to win every game, because they can work through it. And that means your opponents are now going to be forced into tough decisions of when exactly it’s safe to land a threat and turn the corner.

It may not have broken into the Top 8 of last weekend’s Modern Challenges, but it was the most-represented deck in the Top 32s. That’s significant success in the most hostile field. This deck isn’t just a gimmick. It’s the real deal.

The only question is how to build it, and as I typically am with linear decks, I prefer a no-frills approach. Just play the best cards, and don’t go overboard with tutor targets for Stoneforge Mystic and Urza’s Saga. Cards that you only want in certain matchups, like Pithing Needle and graveyard hate, belong in the sideboard. Cards you rarely want to draw naturally but have corner cases where you want to tutor for them belong in the trash.

Every slot you devote to something that isn’t furthering your combo makes every other card in your deck weaker, so only do it when the payoff is there. Your main gameplan is powerful enough to carry you otherwise. And when players start hating on you you have to bolster your own gameplan even more, because trying to interact is playing into their game. You can beat a pile of Abrades and Engineered Explosives with tight play and patience.

Autumn Burchett — Temur Reclamation

In shocking news, I enjoy casting the card Wilderness Reclamation a normal amount. I ended up playing various Reclamation decks on stream a couple of weeks ago and ultimately landed on Temur as my preferred build at the moment. One-mana removal is too important to have access to due to Ragavan’s presence in the format meaning that you can’t just be Simic and you actually need a third colour. Meanwhile Temur gets the edge over Sultai for me, as without access to Mystic Sanctuary and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath to grind out longer, more controlling games you instead need a way to just go completely over the top of your opponent and end the game on the spot, which Explosion is perfect for.

I’ve seen four-colour lists of Wilderness Reclamation decks going around that splash for Teferi, Time Raveler. This would make more sense to me if the deck was popular enough for mirror matches to occur with any frequency, but that’s just very much not the case. As things are I much prefer how being three-colour both gives you slightly better mana and lets you fit in enough utility lands to make Wrenn and Six a potent card advantage engine.

I doubt this is the best decklist I could register for a tournament, but it’s certainly the one I’d have the most fun with for now and has felt plenty strong enough in the games I’ve played, so until I’ve explored the top decks in the format more fully, I would absolutely be untapping some lands and casting some Cryptic Commands at my next Modern event.