Welcome to What We’d Play! With the banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe, 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 over the next handful of days! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!
Patrick Sullivan — Boros Prowess (Lurrus)
Much of what you’ll read here reflects my thoughts on Pioneer, expressed in this column a few weeks ago. Prior to the companion change, I didn’t know how people justified not playing Lurrus in one of its various shells. I’m not dogmatically committed to playing the best deck or card, far from it, but Lurrus seemed head and shoulders above any other legal card. I believe the metagame and results reflected that. With the change to companion, some of the decks that abused it, like Hardened Scales and Prowess variants, have become less popular.
The thing is, Mono-Red Prowess was a deck prior to the introduction of Lurrus, and even a toned-down Lurrus still has plenty of spots of being powerful, easily worth the sideboard slot. The major cost in continuing with Lurrus is no Bedlam Reveler, though with Abbot of Keral Keep serving as a proxy of sorts, but Mishra’s Bauble is also busted in this sort of strategy and doesn’t play well with Reveler. In short, I think you could justify this sort of construction even if Lurrus wasn’t part of the equation.
I believe this deck is better-positioned than Burn, the most adjacent strategy, because people bring in all sorts of sideboard cards – Kor Firewalker, Leyline of Sanctity, Burrenton Forge-Tender, Timely Reinforcements, Auriok Champion, etc. – that are very hard for Burn to beat but range somewhere between “mildly annoying” to “card you actively want your opponent to draw” here. Prowess has only so much action in it, so the Path to Exile / Fatal Push /Snapcaster Mage-style decks can be problematic; I’m not thrilled with the Jund Midrange matchup, but those decks make up a relatively small share of the metagame and Lurrus still does a ton of lifting in those specific matchups.
Boros Prowess is fast enough to keep up in the matchups that are about speed while deploying enough interaction to hang in matchups that demand it. It’s one of the few decks in Modern in which I like both my combo and creature-oriented matchups, and the blind spots aren’t impossible to beat or particularly present. I’d play this 75 this weekend, or something very close to it; I might let go of an Abrade or two for Kiln Fiend.
Ari Lax — Bant Snowblade
Looks like Arcum’s Astrolabe wasn’t the reason Simic-based control was really stupid in Modern. Between the introduction of Force of Negation and Mystic Sanctuary and the banning of Faithless Looting and Mox Opal, the broken side of the format now falls under the realm of things that the generic blue interaction handles. Between Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Mystic Sanctuary, blue control is now operating a full level above the other midrange decks.
Andrew Elenbogen — Mono-Red Prowess
Mono-Red Prowess is proactive, powerful, and resilient. It’s capable of winning on Turn 3 or Turn 20 and its worst matchups are winnable. It’s also favored against most forms of unexpected nonsense and every creature deck in Modern.
It’s hard to say exactly what decks will be popular this soon after the banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe, but it’s almost guaranteed that Mono-Red Prowess will be fine and it doesn’t hurt that the deck is good against the Bant Control decks that previously dominated the format. Fortunately, pure inertia means those decks will be represented, regardless of whether they are well-positioned.
Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control
The power of Frantic Inventory transcends through Standard into older formats. I have written sonnets, through articles and social media posts, about the impact this card will have in control decks for the indefinite future. There was a time players sleeved up Think Twice in their Modern control decks, which is a ghastly alternative. I was never one of those types; however, I understood the reasoning behind forcing an instant-speed two-mana card draw spell in that slot. With the banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe, I humbly head home to Azorius Control, which uses Frantic Inventory to take on the disruption of the format.
I was all-in on Grinding Breach, but I was certain that Arcum’s Astrolabe was going to get banned. I wrote an extensive piece on the damage it was doing to Legacy and Modern well before the banning, which received a bit of blowback from the community. This reaction was anticipated because it’s not the sexiest card to remove for format health, even though it was one of the worst offenders in the game’s history. It still wreaks havoc in Legacy; however, we do not have time to start up that crusade here.
Modern is back to the same old actors as it had before, with aggro, midrange, combo, big mana, and control all being viable. In that format, a deck like this can lean heavily on the powerful planeswalkers and early interaction to have a fighting chance against all of them.
Azorius Control is my safe place and it is very good with the format returning to normal.
Dom Harvey — Jund Death’s Shadow
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Death's Shadow
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
- 1 Dreadhorde Arcanist
- 1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
This aggressive take on Jund Death’s Shadow has been an occasional player in Modern for a while but suffered in the harsh winter brought on by Arcum’s Astrolabe, Ice-Fang Coatl, and the supporting cast in the base-Simic control decks that featured it. It was a nightmare for a deck hoping to trade resources and finish the game with one or two large creatures. Post-Arcum’s Astrolabe Modern is a much more welcoming environment as shown by Jund Death Shadow’s victory in last weekend’s Modern Challenge on Magic Online in the hands of Toastxp.
In a new-ish iteration of a format, a consistent aggressive deck with versatile interaction is a good recipe. This deck is a spiritual successor to the Rakdos Prowess (Lurrus) shell that dominated the later stages of Modern with the old companion rules and the Death’s Shadow Aggro deck from years ago that highlighted just how much unexplored space there was (and is) in both Modern and Magic theory.
Jund Death’s Shadow has access to a wide enough range of tools that building it is a difficult and interesting exercise. While Toastxp’s list sacrifices Street Wraith to unlock Lurrus as a companion, I think Wraith’s ability to boost Death’s Shadow or Tarmogoyf is more important in Game 1 – you can even sideboard out Wraith and Lurrus to have a companion in grindy matchups! Between the maindeck and sideboard, this list can become a terrifying aggro-combo deck or a sleek midrange deck with built-int flood protection; you can beat Prowess variants or Jund Midrange (or most other things!) at their own game.
Ryan Overturf — Mono-Red Prowess
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Arcum’s Astrolabe ban doesn’t immediately impact Mono-Red Prowess, though some of the implications of the ban do. Blood Moon gets better, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath gets worse. That’s very good news for basic Mountain and Lava Spike.
Eldrazi Tron did win the Modern Championship Qualifier last weekend and Chalice of the Void is ever a nuisance, but it’s not like you’re ice cold to them. I’m honestly most worried about Uro still just being great in Modern but Chalice and Uro can be beaten by Abrade and Surgical Extraction, respectively. This is a tight 75-card list and there’s no room for fear.
Some players have turned their attention to Izzet versions of the deck built to cast Stormwing Entity. I think the best way to explain how I feel about that deck is to say I had to Google what the card was called. The Izzet build does kind of look cooler and you get to work harder in your games, but neither aspect is worth match points.
Corey Baumeister — Temur Scapeshift
In this Modern moment, pretty much anything can be competitive, so play something that fits your playstyle. My playstyle has been combo-control since Temur Urza was a deck. I just love trying to stabilize and focus on staying alive and then having that easy “I win button.” Not only is the deck powered by a one-card combo in the form of Scapeshift, you also have Mystic Sanctuary to rebuy that effect if your opponent Thoughtseizes it or counters it. Those are some impressive features from a fetchland!
On top of all that, you get to play four copies of
the biggest mistake the best creature printed in the last five years or so — Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
Cedric Phillips — Eldrazi Tron
Insert whatever Matter Reshaper joke you want but this actually might be the best deck in Modern. It was hard for me to believe because it never feels like the deck is doing anything that powerful and its draws feel random a lot of the time, but there’s a lot of power built into its manabase (the Urzatron is broken, Eldrazi Temple is broken, Blast Zone is incredibly powerful); Karn, the Great Creator gives you a notable toolbox; you still get free wins from Chalice of the Void; and Mazemind Tome does an incredible job of smoothing out the edges.
Some games, Eldrazi Tron looks pathetic. Other times, it looks like one of the best decks in Modern’s history. But most times, it’s somewhere in between, which means it’s actually just a really good deck and worthy of your attention.