Modern In Milwaukee

The Pro Tour has come and gone; now it’s time to get back to business in Modern! Kaladesh has made a big influence on the format whether you’ve noticed or not! What does Tom “The Boss” Ross expect for this weekend? What are his favorite decklists? Find out here!

The focus has been on Standard lately, given Pro Tour Kaladesh and SCG Regionals. For those playing on the SCG Tour, eyes will need to shift to the older formats, Modern and Legacy, for the next couple of months.

The next SCG Tour stop is in Milwaukee this weekend to kick off the first premier Modern tournament with Kaladesh since its release. Brad Carpenter won the Modern Classic in Indianapolis with Infect, giving the first glimpse at Modern with Kaladesh.

Is Infect simply the best choice, or is there more to discover?

I don’t know. I don’t have a broken deck up my sleeve (or in sleeves, for that matter). I only have a fundamental perspective on the best decks to play given the information I have now.

Luckily for me, Kaladesh was kind to the Modern decks I’m fond of. I don’t think I’m being overly biased here in saying that Infect and Dredge gained the most.

The Two Biggest Gainers

Blossoming Defense is the newest Kaladesh addition that serves a similar role to Apostle’s Blessing and Vines of Vastwood. It’s a pump spell with protection that serves both roles quite well.

Once upon a time, Vines of Vastwood pulled work stopping Splinter Twin from resolving. Now it’s decent in the Infect mirror to be used defensively. Still, I’ve become fond enough for Blossoming Defense to play the full four of them at the cost of one Vines of Vastwood.

Apostle’s Blessing will only be missed as a spell castable off Inkmoth Nexus. I was never fond of using it as a protection spell, since often the decks killing my creatures would have a significant clock which the two life hurt against. As far as pushing through blockers, I prefer Distortion Strike or Slip Through Space.

The one-of Spell Pierce, Twisted Image, and Dismember in the maindeck have surprisingly become the standard instead of the exception over the past year. I love one-ofs and am glad the trend has stuck on Infect lately. They seem to be working, so I’ll stick with them still.

Kitchen Finks in the sideboard is also the norm to fight anything from Jund to Burn. The last time I played Infect in a large tournament, I didn’t have them. Everyone does now, so I won’t question the majority here and I’ll just go with it.

WIld Defiance is absent from the sideboard. I usually like it if I expect some number of Electrolyze in the field. Outside of Jeskai Control, there aren’t really any decks running Electrolyze. I’d rather just fill up on some Grafdigger’s Cages and Spellskites.

Although I’ve been playing Dredge and 8-Rack the past few SCG Tour events, I think it’s seriously time for me to go back to my roots and play Infect again. Honestly, I probably should’ve kept playing it this whole time. I get bored, though.

Ross Merriam wrote about thoughts on Modern Dredge this week. This Dredge list is from Steve Mann, aka RandomDrooler on MTGO. Steve has been playing Dredge for a few months now and knows his stuff.

While Blossoming Defense is a nice upgrade to Infect, I believe that Dredge got the most improvement from Kaladesh with Cathartic Reunion.

Prior to Kaladesh, some people played Tormenting Voice in the “flex” spots of Dredge. I played Haunted Dead and Collective Brutality and sometimes some number of Greater Gargadon and/or Bridge From Below. I found Tormenting Voice to be just below the power level I wanted.

Cathartic Reunion is much stronger at enabling an explosive turn 2, so explosive that you can generally count on hitting a reasonable amount of action and not bricking off. Potentially eighteen cards is a huge number. All of your Prized Amalgams won’t always be on top of your deck, but how unlucky can you really get in so many cards?

The strength of Dredge has typically fallen on how much hate the metagame has for it. Leyline of the Void, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Relic of Progenitus are accessible to anyone who wants them. Rest in Peace and Scavenging Ooze are all over the place, whether Dredge is a thing or not.

The truth is they’re not going to have the answer as often as you have the threats. You will play some non-games with Dredge on one end or the other. If you’re comfortable playing a significant number of non-interactive games in your tournament, then Dredge could be the deck for you. You just gotta chalk up them drawing their hate card to “good beats”.

Solid Metagame Choices

Ad Nauseam is one of those creatureless decks that can be the perfect choice for a Modern tournament if everything aligns right. Currently Ad Nauseum is held in check by Infect. Neither Angel’s Grace nor Phyrexian Unlife protect from infect damage killing you. Darkness in the sideboard helps to some degree.

I view Ad Nauseam as very similar to Amulet Bloom. You’re playing a different game of Magic from your opponent and games are often a puzzle to solve. You’re pretty good against midrange decks and have options against aggro and control. Your combo is often faster than other combo like Scapeshift.

Casting a raw Spoils of the Vault is always a good sweat, too!

I like the Fateful Showdown in the sideboard. It serves as another Lightning Storm against people trying to nerf you with Slaughter Games or the like. It also draws cards, I suppose, if you have to fire off a value Ad Nauseam or have no other ways to draw a card with Laboratory Maniac on the battlefield.

Ad Nauseam will always be the worst matchup for a range of Modern decks. G/R Tron is one of them. Being several decks’ worst matchup is a good quality to have.

Elves whooped me pretty good in the quarterfinals of the SCG Invitational in New Jersey this year in the hands of Liam Lonergan. It’s taken a while for the deck to get the respect it deserves, even after Liam won the tournament.

This Elves list won a Super IQ last weekend. The Top 8 had four total copies of Elves. I don’t know if that’s just an Elf-ridden area or everyone knew each other, but that’s one heck of a conversion rate!

Elves is very resilient and redundant. Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid allow you to dump your hand almost immediately. Collected Company and Chord of Calling find the pieces you need. Elvish Visionary and Dwynen’s Elite get you on the battlefield with little cost. Elvish Archdruid and Ezuri, Renegade Leader end the game in one shot.

I think Elves is very good. It’s just never been my style. I imagine that’s the biggest barrier to entry for potential new pilots: being “that Elf player” isn’t generally regarded as a cool look. Of course, that doesn’t matter. What looks the best is hoisting the trophy at the end of the day.

I know 8-Rack can’t beat an Elvish Visionary. Or a Dwynan’s Elite. Or a Collected Company. Or basically any draw that Elves can produce. I also foolishly thought that Dredge with a bunch of Conflagrates would solve my problems in the New Jersey Top 8. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I wonder how many people think their deck has a good matchup against Elves when it actually doesn’t.

This build of Tron cuts the common red for white. Instead of using Grove of the Burnwillows to cast Lightning Bolt, Pyroclasm, Kozilek’s Return, or Firespout, G/W Tron uses Razorverge Thicket to cast Path to Exile. In a metagame full of Infect, Temur Battle Rage, and Prized Amalgam, I can get behind the switch.

White also has the best sideboard options in Modern. Rest in Peace is a huge tool to fight Dredge. Blessed Alliance is great against Blossoming Defense. Timely Reinforcements gets you into the mid-game against Burn and Zoo to cast Thragtusk and Wurmcoil Engine.

I always used to love facing Tron with Infect. Against this G/W Tron build, it’s tough to feel favored by much, if at all, in the post-sideboard games.

G/W Tron looks to have good matchups (Jund, Abzan, slow creature strategies) while attempting to shore up its bad ones. It still suffers from poor combo matchups. Can’t win them all. You can probably win enough to have a good finish, though.

A lot of thought had to go into this deck for its current design to have three Monastery Swiftspears in it.

As far a non-Infect creature combo goes, I like the U/R take on double damage the most. Only two colors, it’s generally more consistent than Death’s Shadow decks. It attacks the life total, which is generally already under some self-pressure naturally from opposing fetchlands and shocklands, giving it a situational edge over Infect.

Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand smooth out draws while triggering prowess or Thing in the Ice. Small value and steps can be taken towards an end goal without needing to go all-in. Infect is able to produce chip shots like these too. Death’s Shadow can have a tougher time going halfway like this successfully.

This is a Todd Stevens brew. He’s been testing and streaming with it the past few months and is heavily considering it for #SCGMKE.

The name Sun and Moon originally came from the sun of Plains and Blood Moon. Since then Elspeth, Sun’s Champion has been added to the build, giving an actual “sun” card to go with the moon.

I thought prison was in a good spot going into #SCGORL. I had most of Mono-Black Death Cloud ready to go. There hasn’t been a Chalice of the Void deck in the spotlight in Modern in a while and people have started to forget about the card. Ultimately I settled on 8-Rack, which isn’t quite prison but is still largely creatureless, which is a trait I was looking for.

Lantern Control falls into the same category of prison decks and is also a deck I think is better than the number of pilots show. Instead of interaction with the top of your opponent’s deck, Sun and Moon, aims to land powerful permanents quickly, some of which, like Blood Moon or Chalice of the Void, will cripple the opponent if not outright beat them.

If you want to play something powerful without a ton of combat or sequencing, I think the R/W prison strategy is a viable choice. I may play it myself at #SCGMKE based solely on its raw power.

What Should I Play?

It’s probably gonna be Infect.

It’s not locked in. It’s unlikely that I’ll hop on Elves or Ad Nauseam, even though I respect both of those decks a lot. Any of the others above are realistic considerations for me. I think any of them could win #SCGMKE.

Perhaps back-to-back Top 8-Rack?