What’s The Deck To Beat Elementals And The Field In Modern?

After an earthshaking performance in Modern last weekend, Elementals has a target on it. But how to take the deck down? Six SCG creators say what they’d play.

Bring to Light, illustrated by Jonas De Ro

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!

Ari Lax – Izzet Midrange

One thing is clear from last weekend’s results: I want to play Blood Moon. A bunch of four-color decks and literal Tron were at the top of the standings. I also want to play a functional Blood Moon deck, because those decks all have ways to keep playing after Moon resolves. The mass adoption of Flamekin Harbinger in Elementals is a big piece of this since it finds Foundation Breaker.

This brings me back around to Steam Vents and Murktide Regent. Izzet has a bit of internal competition with Grixis, but I think Grixis stands up poorly to the divergent strategies we are seeing rise up. Like Milan Bhayana said last week, just fix this list by getting Force of Negation in the sideboard over weaker counterspells, and I would add a third Blood Moon or maybe even main deck it over the Engineered Explosives for good measure.

If you don’t have access to a certain mythic Monkey, I would look at Boros Burn and Dimir Mill (Lurrus). The linear decks winning are ones that don’t make it easy to interact with them, so just aim to undercut them on the same axis.

Corey Baumeister – Izzet Midrange

Modern continues to be a very diverse format that is constantly self-correcting. Still, one thing remains true. Murktide Regent and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer put a ton of decks in a rough spot. You can have an answer to one of them but it’s really hard to have good answers to both of them.

Last week I would have recommended that you play Grixis Control over Izzet Midrange but there have been some strong moves towards big mana decks to deal with these Ragavan and Elemental decks. With that being the case, I want to play a deck that can present a clock and hold up some countermagic against these strategies. The one matchup that will still be played quite a bit is the Elementals deck and that is a bit of a scary one. They just have great answers to both of our threats in the form of Fury and Solitude. But if you are able to keep Risen Reef off the battlefield, it is a bit easier to just run them out of threats with our great selection of removal.

Ross Merriam – Five-Color Control

Modern’s deck du jour is Four-Color Elementals. It matches up well against the various Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dragon’s Rage Channeler decks, while the Incarnations ensure that it doesn’t get run over by Colossus Hammer and company. With how good Elementals is at grinding, I don’t want to play a straight-up interactive game against them, or try to go underneath a deck with so many free spells.

The only option left is going over the top. I listed several options for doing so in my article earlier this week, but Five-Color Control is the best. It has plenty of early interaction, a game-breaking card in Chalice of the Void, and a robust end-game because of the versatility of Bring to Light. You really only need Valki, God of Lies; Supreme Verdict; and Scapeshift to cover nearly every scenario. Don’t go overboard with a tutor package and skimp on interaction.

In fact, keeping this package lean is part of why this deck is so effective. Every other over-the-top strategy, whether Amulet Titan, Mono-Green Tron, or Four-Color Creativity, must devote considerable space to making their engine work, making them less effective at playing a fair game. Five-Color Control traps your opponent into playing their normal, interactive game until you decide the fun is over and slam a game-ending Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor or Scapeshift.

You could cut down on Explores and Omnaths to add more cheap interaction, but I like having your own ramp plan for matchups where you want to race. Getting down an early Omnath or up to six lands early with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove will stabilize you against aggressive decks anyway. Chalice, Prismatic Ending, and the planeswalkers are enough to cover you against Ragavan and other early threats.

Dom Harvey – Five-Color Control

This was a breakout weekend for Five-Color Elementals following kanister’s Modern Challenge win on Magic Online. I was in on the joke; I played the deck myself, had a list I liked, and got to watch a friend I collaborated with Top 8 the Modern Showcase. Despite that, I was kicking myself for my deck choice. I had planned to play Five-Color Control with Bring to Light and it would have been a great choice, largely because of its fantastic Elementals matchup. I recommended this archetype last time before Risen Reef took over Modern and it’s only gotten better.

Although I was drawn to the deck as the best home for Chalice of the Void, the card isn’t even in the 75 anymore. It’s hit-or-miss against Mono-White Hammer and the current crop of Dragon’s Rage Channeler/Ragavan decks have a pile of Prismatic Endings and Kolaghan’s Commands or a higher curve with Expressive Iteration and Drown in the Loch. It’s obviously a banger against the Cascade combo decks, but the full set of Teferi, Time Raveler helps there, while Flusterstorm (and Relic of Progenitus against the biggest target in Living End) are great there and more versatile against the format at large.

With Fury and Solitude plowing through any creature in sight and Risen Reef joining a long list of must-kill creatures, trying to keep anything on the battlefield is an uphill battle. Five-Color Control gets to harness the power of Wrenn and Six and Teferi, Time Raveler while sidestepping those fights and being less exploitable than almost any other deck in Modern.

Shaheen Soorani – Esper Control

The Modern metagame is healthy and control is doing well.  That is a phrase that I love to utter, proven by the recent finishes on Magic Online as well as its posted performances in local tournaments across the country.  It warms my heart to see live Magic return, since that is the fuel for my competitive fire.  I use the Internet to test, but in-person competition is what drives me to be successful.  Not only have I enjoyed Esper Control on Magic Online, I have also just finished sleeving it up for some Friday Night Magic this weekend!

I went back and forth between Jeskai and Esper Control, but ultimately made the decision for the latter based on the removal.  Fatal Push and Kaya’s Guile are great right now, not to mention how fun it has been to cast Damn in competitive play.  Having the option to drop a two-mana removal spell on a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or wait and take out an army on Turn 4 has been great.  These black options have narrowly outshined their red-based counterparts, with both options being currently viable.  Lightning Bolt is also at an all-time high as a removal spell for control, so I endorse three-color choice.  For now, I am rolling with team Esper Control, which should not be much of a surprise to anyone.

Cedric Phillips – Dimir Mill (Lurrus)

Dimir Mill (Lurrus) is uniquely positioned in Modern right now because some people take it seriously and some people don’t. In that regard, it feels a lot like Dredge in previous years insofar as if people don’t take it seriously, it can very easily win a tournament. Also like Dredge, it has the ability to fight through the very predictable hate cards people bring to the sideboard games (an Eldrazi they don’t want to draw or several copies of Endurance being the most common). It takes time to learn how to beat those cards (Soul-Guide Lantern is better at beating Eldrazi than Endurance, while Surgical Extraction is better against Endurance than an Eldrazi), but once you get the hang of things, the panic ends and the winning begins.

One topic I want to address is decks that contain Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ragavan. Frankly, I cannot and do not understand builds of Dimir Mill that do not have a ton of removal spells to counteract these cards. Ignoring either is a recipe for disaster, yet I regularly see decklists of Dimir Mill with unplayable cards like Crypt Incursion (who is that good against?), Darkness (you want DRC dead, not delayed temporarily kind-of), and Counterspell (enjoy having that in your hand while the aforementioned creatures beat your brains in). There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what matters in those matchups, so let me make it extremely clear – if you don’t kill the red one-drops immediately, you’re dead.

As far as Doom Blade is concerned, Murktide Regent is everywhere, and given that your deck fuels it for those looking to cast it and dredging as part of the cost means that Drown in the Loch cannot reliably kill it, you need a solution because ignoring it simply isn’t acceptable. The fact that Doom Blade kills the red one-drops, almost everything from Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus), and almost every other creature that matters in Modern at the moment (Dryad of the Ilysian Grove; Omnath, Locus of Creation; Primeval Titan; etc.) means that it’s better than both Ultimate Price and Power Word Kill. Its inclusion may look strange but it’s a calculated decision.

Dimir Mill is a really hard deck to play but it gets a lot of free wins pre-sideboard and the hate post-sideboard is extremely predictable. Therefore, if you’re well-tested (you’ll lose a lot at the beginning, trust me), you can take a tournament by surprise and win it. It may look like a meme deck but it is anything but.