Old Modern was often described as a format of one-drop pillars. Almost two months after the release of Modern Horizons 2 Modern, we’re starting to see archetypes condense in a similar way around specific shells rather than individual powerful cards.
There’s the red fair deck basis of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; Dragon’s Rage Channeler; and Mishra’s Bauble that defines Izzet, Rakdos, Grixis, and more.
There’s the Shardless Agent, Violent Outburst, free spells shell of Living End, Crashcade, and Glimpse of Tomorrow.
There’s Urza’s Saga plus random cardboard, because Urza’s Saga is one of the few cards powerful and flexible enough to carry 56 other cards.
And then there are the Wrenn and Six plus Teferi, Time Raveler decks.
This last pillar feels like the most disjointed, but each of the major decks in this Four- or Five-Color Control realm is trying to accomplish the same goal driven by those two powerful planeswalkers.
Why Are These Decks So Good?
Similar to Lava Dart, Wrenn and Six as an oppressive removal spell has fallen out of favor. Wrenn can line up profitably against Ragavan or Dragon’s Rage Channeler, but too much of that is timing. On the draw both of those cards will have extracted significant value before you even get to cast Wrenn, and both can naturally evade a single sorcery-speed damage spell via their dash or delirium abilities.
The real power in Wrenn and Six is as a fast two-drop clock that works on the complete opposite axis of Tarmogoyf. It forces your opponent to pressure it to prevent a quick ultimate and easy win, and along the way it generates significant card advantage. Even if that advantage is all tied up in lands, it counts. And if your deck is a pile of stretched mana costs, it really counts.
I don’t think the Four-Color Control manabase would work without access to Wrenn extending your fetchland count. Triomes work miracles, but you really need the raw quantity of fetchable shocklands to make your mid-game turns double spelling always work out. You also can’t play a ton of lands, because you can’t play the kind of raw card advantage spells that power through flood in a highly efficient Modern format. Maybe you could Ben Rubin galaxy-brain a 64-card list that balances each type of land and the odds of flood, or just 2021 it and Yorion up an 80-card deck, but really you can just Wrenn and Six +1 and it all works out.
Teferi, Time Raveler spells out the overall vision of these decks beyond the free Wrenn and Six wins. You’re riding the line between true control, big midrange, and prison.
Being a pure control deck in Modern right now is a losing battle. You aren’t beating Lurrus of the Dream-Den, or Urza’s Saga, or honestly just Dragon’s Rage Channeler triggers with classic one-for-ones and card advantage. They just get to do everything so cheaply your card draw gets undercut, and it all trades up on mana or cards for removal, and even the good decks focused around resolving a single card are too good at timing things with Violent Outburst and Force of Negation to let you really fight them at card parity. That, plus the mana strain of double-blue spells, is why you rarely see these decks loading up on Counterspell or traditional blue tools. You just aren’t playing that long game against people.
Instead, you want specific effects that crush your opponent’s strategies. Teferi, Time Raveler cuts off the entire Cascade portion of the metagame, yet also dominates much of the Izzet Midrange deck. Without their Counterspells, you’re a bigger deck that outclasses their cards outside of Murktide Regent, which Teferi’s -3 conveniently hampers.
A big part of selecting which Wrenn-Teferi deck you want to play will revolve around figuring out the other hate card you get to freeroll and making sure your general strategy supports that.
You can see a similar idea when you look at the higher-end threats these decks are playing. They are combo kills or threats that solo a game on all metrics, letting you largely ignore whatever cardboard your opponent is presenting. I would not try to get in the weeds with something like Jace, the Mind Sculptor which involves setup and protection. When you cast your big threat, it should be your exit strategy for the game. This also allows it to cover for matchups where your planeswalkers aren’t quite the right interaction.
These decks also share Prismatic Ending, but it isn’t a core identity of the deck. It’s just admitting your planeswalkers need something along the way to establish themselves and playing the best answer possible.
It’s more interesting to talk about the coverage you need for where Prismatic Ending fails. Ending is a sorcery, and it has a size cap. Whatever other removal you add to your deck, it should cover for one or both of those. Once you start playing a game, you’ll focus on finding ways to cover that gap. Some of that just happens, because you selected your hate cards to cover the relevant threats you would need an instant answer for or you are using your threats to overwhelm their expensive stuff. But using Teferi’s +1 to actually operate at instant speed comes up more here than in any other Teferi deck I’ve played, and the decision between using Lightning Bolt or Prismatic Ending early on matters a ton.
Prismatic Ending also provides important Blood Moon coverage for your four-color deck. Just be sure to fetch a Plains and another non-Mountain basic early on against those decks.
With the core covered, lets look at the different reasons you might select each of the Teferi-Wrenn decks currently succeeding in Modern.
Option #1: Indomitable Creativity
The big reason to play Indomitable Creativity is that it’s the best Prismari Command deck in the format when Shatter plus Shock is a game-ender. It’s hard to justify a large number of Prismari Command in your deck without the Treasure token synergies in the Creativity decks, mostly just because it costs three and is limited in scope. With a downtick in the amount of Puresteel Paladin floating around this is becoming less of a reason to play this deck, and Prismari Command is just okay against generic Urza’s Sagas.
The other upside to this deck is that it has the fastest combo kill, but that combo really isn’t reliable. I don’t trust Velomachus Lorehold to survive against Unholy Heat or Solitude, and it also makes Asmor more than just a Wild Nacatl. You can make more than one target for Creativity, or Creativity away a Grafdigger’s Cage, but in practice the fifth mana to get that set up is a real hurdle.
The combo also just isn’t statistically reliable: you miss a decent percentage of the time and I’ve lost after starting to take extra turns before. It’s not likely, but it’s way more likely than when this was going on in Historic. If you don’t have a planeswalker already on the battlefield, your extra turns aren’t leveraging to anything large. This all probably gives them a leg up against other Wrenn-Teferi decks, but I’ve found the more vulnerable fast kill to not be exciting against the metagame at large.
Honestly, Wrenn plus Time Warp might be the real combo kill since you can boost to an ultimate, and that ultimate is actually a clean win via retracing Time Warp with an active Wrenn returning the land to discard.
The Emrakul, the Aeons Torn lists avoid some of this issue while also having a bit of insurance against Dimir Mill (Lurrus), which is just a heinous matchup for any of these other lists. The Velomachus lists can and do just sideboard into Emrakul, but are then flooded with Time Warps they also want to cut. If you want to play Four-Color Indomitable Creativity, I would take a look at these lists instead.
Option #2: Bring to Light for Scapeshift
I already buried the lede by putting this deck second, so I won’t string you along further. Nothing has changed in the last few days, and I still believe this is currently among the best deck choices in Modern.
I should start by making the argument for Dryad of the Ilysian Grove.
The upside is that Dryad plus Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is a standalone game plan. Against a deck like Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus), your goal is just to assemble Dryad with Valakut and stack up fetchlands as Seal of Lightning Bolts. Even if you aren’t interested in gunning down all their creatures forever, you can just kill them with this combo. The Scapeshift upside is marginal, since if Dryad was a land you could just kill them with a seven-land Scapeshift, but in your dream draws you can use Dryad to unload lands into a Turn 4 kill. The difference between this accelerated combo and the Time Warp one is that the cost to your deck is literally just playing Dryads, not all these other blank cards.
The other cost might be creature removal, but I’m skeptical. The removal spells people are playing now are just going to be live against your planeswalker anyway. Unholy Heat and Prismatic Ending want to take down Wrenn and Six, and Dryad doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt, so how many cards are they really playing that are only live against Dryad? Sure, it isn’t great to trade a card for their card in your Scapeshift strategy, but the upside of Dryad is large enough to risk it.
Oh, and Dryad is more coverage for Blood Moon. Just fetch a Forest and cast it after to get the timestamps right.
Chalice of the Void is obviously a great lock piece, like Dom said in his What We’d Play breakdown of this deck, but it’s also good removal coverage. Many of the things you need to manage at instant speed that Prismatic Ending can’t are covered by Chalice of the Void for one, namely dash’ed Ragavan and a lot of Colossus Hammer setups.
I’m not finding myself Bring to Light-ing for Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor often with this deck since there’s such a small window where it is good and Scapeshift isn’t lethal, but I don’t mind just drawing Valki, God of Lies and casting either side. The cost is low enough that the extra option is one I’m interested in having.
Option #3: Classic Control
Fresh off winning a Modern Challenge last weekend with Jeskai Control aka Jeskai Pile, Gabriel Nassif immediately started working on a version of the same deck cutting bad cards for more good ones. I’m still a bigger fan of just playing a deck with a plan to actually end the game in Modern, but in the interest of serving the public I’ve dabbled in these fair versions.
- 1 Forest
- 1 Wooded Foothills
- 1 Plains
- 1 Mountain
- 1 Island
- 4 Windswept Heath
- 2 Flooded Strand
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Steam Vents
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Arid Mesa
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Scalding Tarn
- 1 Scattered Groves
- 1 Ketria Triome
- 1 Raugrin Triome
A lot of this deck’s success is based on Lightning Bolt and Wall of Omens being critical early interaction against Ragavan decks. Of course, this deck comically needs those answers more because being a totally fair deck makes the card half of Ragavan a bigger issue, both because there are actual good hits like Wrenn and Six and because you don’t have ways to escape falling behind cards that way.
Aside: If you want to know where Five-Color Niv-Mizzet went in this discussion, look no further that that legendary Monkey. A deck of all two-cost removal spells and full of fair juice to hit won’t bode well for anyone’s chances against a Ragavan.
I made my statement earlier about true control being fundamentally soft to basically everything in current Modern, and this deck is no exception. If you want to play Four-Color Control, be prepared to play a lot of matchups where you need Omnath, Locus of Creation to win and have to mulligan lands-plus-spells seven-card hands that don’t have a direct route to winning with that or Wrenn. Fortunately Omnath is a stupid card that can easily win games, so this deck actually has a plan.
The third landfall on Omnath comes up as a way to manage planeswalkers a decent amount of the time too, so keep in mind that you may want to leave fetchlands sitting on the battlefield to enable that. Going after their life total with it also matters, and I’ve ended several games with Omnath triggers and Lightning Bolts.
The large quantity of Supreme Verdicts is a very specific reaction to Murktide Regent plus Counterspell. Supreme Verdict is not a generally good card in Modern right now, it just happens to punch right through one of Izzet Midrange’s key plays against you. You will incidentally win some games cleaning up Rhino tokens or a whole Lurrus with it, but if Izzet Midrange starts falling off the top tier of the format, I would look into trimming Verdicts for other interaction.
I don’t get Shark Typhoon. You aren’t leaving up mana for other counterspells in this deck, and the planeswalkers outpace a Shark attack. They can trade for a dashed Ragavan, they are good in true mirrors, and in theory the actual enchantment mode also does things, but I’m skeptical they’re needed.
While it technically doesn’t feature both planeswalkers, I can’t help but dredge up this nonsense of weeks past. I don’t think this exact list has aged well into the Izzet Midrange era of Modern, where you’re getting pressured with threats, counterspells, and Blood Moons, but if that deck clears out I’m certainly in for adding the power of Urza’s Saga to these shells again. It needs some lessons learned from these updated versions, like including Teferi, Time Raveler and Omnath, Locus of Creation, but I did say Urza’s Saga plus cardboard was a pillar of the format because of how broken that enchantment land is.
- 2 Flamekin Harbinger
- 4 Unsettled Mariner
- 4 Risen Reef
- 4 Omnath, Locus of Creation
- 4 Solitude
- 2 Endurance
- 1 Foundation Breaker
- 4 Fury
On the oddball new side of things, we’re also starting to see the Elementals shell I wrote about a couple of weeks ago dabble in Wrenn and Six and Teferi, Time Raveler. There’s a noticeable life total cost to switching the mana over to support them, but it’s hard to say no to high-quality multicolored cards in that shell. Like I previously said, anything is better than Voice of Resurgence.
I think what these versions showcase best is the flexibility of the Wrenn-Triome shell. You’re just picking the good cards across the Omnath, Locus of Creation colors, maybe figuring out a macro-plan like Scapeshift, and your mana just works out. No matter what, you’ll find a configuration that works with powerful threats, hate cards, and answers to cover whatever your opponents throw at you.