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 for your next Modern event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!
Gerry Thompson — Dimir Control
I wouldn’t normally advocate for a do nothing control deck but here we are. Modern’s countermagic suite has improved dramatically in the last couple of years. Field of Ruin and Cling to Dust solve very specific problems and Mystic Sanctuary gives you staying power. Then we have Shark Typhoon, which is about as clean of a win condition as you could ask for.
Control is legitimately great in Modern and, as always, the best thing to be doing in Modern is the thing that no one is prepared for. People aren’t building their decks to get through a wall of countermagic and aren’t set up to play longer games.
Each deck has good and bad matchups and this deck is no different but it’s also the deck that’s capable of beating anyone.
Ryan Overturf — Mono-Red Prowess
Modern really only changes when new sets are released or when there’s a serious banlist update, and neither of those things have really happened for a while. Sure, Arcum’s Astrolabe was banned, and sure, other folks are into Stormwing Entity. The removal of Astrolabe and addition of Entity just don’t register for me. I want to go fast, and I want to Bedlam Reveler when I fail to go fast. The passage of time can only make me more resolute in these convictions.
Andrew Elenbogen is bigger on Bonecrusher Giant than I am, is generally more interested in two-mana spells, and likes Soul-Guide Lantern as his graveyard hate option. Of these, the Lantern is the card I think I could be convinced of. I like Surgical Extraction for playing much better in the Prowess deck, but something like a 2/2 split with Lantern is something that I intend to explore.
Dom Harvey — Bant Ramp
- 2 Island
- 1 Polluted Delta
- 4 Flooded Strand
- 1 Snow-Covered Plains
- 2 Snow-Covered Island
- 1 Snow-Covered Forest
- 1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
- 1 Temple Garden
- 2 Breeding Pool
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 4 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Scalding Tarn
- 1 Irrigated Farmland
- 2 Field of Ruin
- 2 Field of the Dead
- 2 Mystic Sanctuary
- 1 Ketria Triome
The Simic base with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Mystic Sanctuary has proven itself as the best macro-archetype in Modern. This list, adapted from a shell by Dan Sondike, uses Hour of Promise for Field of the Dead as a way to establish inevitability in the pseudo-mirror and go over the top of any midrange deck. While earlier iterations used Primeval Titan to similar effect, Hour of Promise is cheaper and easier to curve into with Growth Spiral or Uro while allowing Mystic Sanctuary — and therefore fetchlands — to rebuy your game-ending threat.
Celestial Purge is excellent in Modern right now, covering your bases against all varieties of Prowess (including Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Rakdos) while doing double duty against other popular contenders in Jund and Gruul Midrange. As in its previous career in Standard, Teferi, Time Raveler joins Dovin’s Veto as the best ways to gain an edge against the other combo-control ramp decks like Wilderness Reclamation and Scapeshift.
Sam Black — Temur Control
Mystic Sanctuary is still legal in Modern, so I like the strategy of adding an extra Mystic Sanctuary to whatever Mystic Sanctuary deck other players are playing as a base line.
I think the prowess aggro decks are very strong, which is actually why I like Temur, since Lightning Bolt and Aether Gust are great early removal to stay alive and Archmage’s Charm and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath can easily take over the game. I’m also a big fan of Wrenn and Six against other control decks, which is another big point in favor of Temur to me.
Historically, I’ve played Thought Scour in my Mystic Sanctuary/Uro decks to help fuel my graveyard, but I think using Fact or Fiction as the card draw spell of choice accomplishes a similar goal of building a large graveyard in the midgame while adding more power to the deck, which makes it safer to play a higher land count and lets you take better advantage of Wilderness Reclamation.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Rakdos Prowess (Lurrus)
I hadn’t played Modern in a while, but I picked it up again to do some Modern coaching and I sort of fell in love with the Rakdos Prowess deck. It’s capable of some very aggressive starts but it’s also not nearly as one-dimensional as a deck like Burn — you have both hand and graveyard disruption, so you can play different types of games depending on what your hand is.
This deck offers a ton of decisions every turn and it rewards you for planning your turns and thinking ahead, which is unusual for an aggressive deck. It’s also very hard to play against, since you have the ability to kill out of nowhere and a lot of instant-speed spells, many of which cost zero.
Of the two main Prowess decks (Rakdos or Izzet) I like Rakdos a little bit more because I think Lurrus of the Dream-Den is extremely powerful in this deck and I don’t want to give it up. It’s obviously not as good as it was before the companion nerf, but it still allows you to play a control game versus other aggressive matchups and come out ahead, and I think that’s an important dimension in a deck that has a lot of removal spells.
Ari Lax — Temur Reclamation
Lavaridge won the Magic Online Modern Showcase a few weeks ago. They also won the Magic Online Championship Qualifier a couple weekends back. Same deck both times, give or take a Shark Typhoon. They have literally beat Magic Online and are in the post-game content of playing Leagues for a ticket high score.
Plus Fact or Fiction is super cool and when you tell someone you’re playing Temur Reclamation they have to ask what format, including the option of “Standard, I saved a run on an Arena tournament to troll people”.
Shaheen Soorani — Azorius Control
Azorius Control remains the obvious choice to tackle the fresh Modern metagame. With big mana and aggro running the format, control decks can be configured to handle both with relative ease. Field of Ruin is still the best weapon control has against decks with the Urzatron and requires very little investment to incorporate. Two-color decks, especially in Modern, have wonderfully smooth mana bases that allow for the inclusion of four colorless lands.
Outside of Field of Ruin, Azorius Control requires a few hard counters to deal with the initial wave of expensive spells, following up with planeswalkers that easily lock the game out. Luckily for us, these planeswalkers and counters are decent against the aggressive decks as well. This list was recently successful and is what I would currently run, but I find myself changing numbers after each testing session.
Adding a Dovin’s Veto when big mana is on the rise, or an additional Supreme Verdict to deal with a resurgence of Rakdos Goblins makes a world of difference. Azorius Control can get overwhelmed by a very diverse metagame full of different threats, but that has not been the case so far. If opponents are focusing on Karn Liberated and Goblin Guide, we can adequately prepare Azorius Control to be a format champion.
Andrew Elenbogen — Mono-Red Prowess
One month ago, I thought Mono-Red Prowess was the clear best deck in Modern. Today, not much has changed, and as a result you will see only minor tweaks to my list. As the format skews increasingly fair, I have moved all three copies Bonecrusher Giants to the maindeck and relegated Kiln Fiend to the sideboard. There are simply very few matchups where the Giant is bad right now.
I have also moved down to two Abrades, because I do not face Chalice of the Void that often and the card is otherwise medium. In addition, I have found that between Giant, Mishra’s Bauble and Light Up the Stage, the deck beats resolved Chalice surprisingly often. In it’s place, I have chosen to include a second copy of Kozilek’s Return. This is to combat an uptick in creature decks like Goblins and Humans as well as to handle the increasing numbers of Protection from Red creatures my opponents seem to have. Between the unpreventable damage clause on Stomp, Kozilek’s Return and the card draw from Bedlam Reveler, this deck is quite good at beating hate cards.
One other note here, I still think the splashes are unimpressive. Blue just does not offer enough to compensate for the loss of Mishra’s Bauble, and the Black deck plays discard, which is rather disjointed given that the deck often wins with the opponent still holding cards. If I were to play a splash, I would play Black for exactly Cling to Dust, and I would play Bonecrusher Giant and Bedlam Reveler, forgoing Lurrus of the Dream-Den. The grindy cards are incredible in the current format. Ultimately though, I think Cling to Dust is just not worth taking more damage from lands.
Mono-Red for life!
Ross Merriam — Four-Color Death’s Shadow
I’ve been on a Death’s Shadow kick in Modern recently, though I’ve waffled between Jund and Four-Color versions. The give and take is clear — Jund is better against aggressive decks because it has a wider array of removal spells and a smoother mana base while Four-Color sacrifices some percentage in those matches to improve against control and big-mana strategies.
Right now, Eldrazi Tron, Mono-Green Tron, and various Cryptic Command–Mystic Sanctuary decks are all popular, so I err on the side of Four-Color. Stubborn Denial and Ceremonious Rejection out of the sideboard are hugely valuable in those matchups, and the former even helps out against Prowess and Burn, which are among the more prevalent aggressive decks in the metagame.
The maindeck on these archetypes doesn’t change all that much, but the flex spots are important. I’ve cut the Ghor-Clan Rampager that’s often played as a Traverse the Ulvenwald target because I found it ineffective relative to Temur Battle Rage too often and a weak card to draw naturally. I’m also playing Assassin’s Trophy in the flex removal spot over Abrupt Decay or something else because the prevalence of Tron archetypes means you need versatile answers to things like Karn, the Great Creator and Wurmcoil Engine in addition to various creatures. This deck kills quickly enough once you’ve established a threat that the extra basic isn’t game-changing.
The most surprising card in the sideboard is Wrenn and Six, which plays double-duty against control decks as a real threat that helps you get your mana set up to play a threat and defend it with your counterspells, as well as tribal aggro decks where its -1 ability can dominate the battlefield.
This deck is not for the faint of heart, since you often win games on a razor’s edge, but once you get the hang of life total management, it’s incredibly powerful, disruptive, and proactive — the holy trinity of Modern.