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New Decks for a New Modern


Alright, so the ban hammer was dropped. We all know that Wizards has made mistakes in the past. At the last moment they gave Umezawa's Jitte and Jace, the MInd Sculptor an extra ability that put those cards in legendary territory. They made the set Mercadian Masques right after they made Urza's Saga; that is like going from Pepsi to RC Cola. They also thought it would be a good idea to give every card in Alliances 4 different versions of artwork. Then they created Phyrexian mana, which I have no issue with, but having the ability to pay life for mana is slightly overpowered especially when you make spells colorless. Namely, you now have the first ever colorless Clone in Phyrexian Metamorph, the first ever truly-free-spell-with-a-legitimate-use-that-will-be-used-for-years-to-come in Gitaxian Probe, and a weird spell that when it was first released people didn't understand very well: Birthing Pod. Essentially a 3-mana "get a creature into play around counterspells as long as that creature has a converted mana cost 1 higher than the creature you are sacrificing."

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Sadly when Birthing Pod was first released, a deck known as "Caw-Blade" was very popular. I'm sure very few of you have heard of that deck. So Birthing Pod was pushed aside thanks to a new mechanic called Living Weapon. Thanks to Batterskull being one of the most powerful cards in the history of Magic, Wizards will never bring back the living weapon mechanic. It wasn't until about six months to a year later that Birthing Pod even became thought of as a standard card. 

Then both UW Delver and Pod decks were phased out of Standard at the same moment. Does this sound like an interesting parallel to what happened when the ban hammer was dropped? 

With every new set release, there were one or two cards that everyone just thought to themselves would be perfect for Birthing Pod. Whether it was a better version of Harmonic Sliver, or Voice of Resurgence, new cards were constantly added for Pod. For every addition that Birthing Pod would make, the metagame would adjust accordingly. As Voice of Resurgence became a minimum 2-of in all Pod, decks started to run Pillar of Flame. When Thrun, the Last Troll started popping up in maindecks, other decks countered with Wrath of God. When Jund was the best deck out there, Pod started running Sigarda, Host of Herons

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So I don't understand why they banned Birthing Pod. It was a good deck, but by no means unbeatable. Does anyone remember when Grafdigger's Cage was released and everyone immediately said "this card was made to beat Reanimator, Pod, and Snapcaster". They made Rest in Peace, and we even have Disenchant as a legal card. I think the issue with Birthing Pod was that the players out-thought Wizards and the Future-Future League.

I have always questioned their team of future playtesters. I just think they are out of touch with reality, or maybe they just aren't as good as they think they are. They are former pro's, but they aren't up-to-date on the meta. They play the game with a mindset that is two years behind rather than two years ahead. So it's amazing that they didn't think Treasure Cruise would be a good card. Oh wait, good isn't the word. Broken is a much better word. You unleashed a sorcery speed Ancestral Recall on the world. What did they think would happen? That a deck or two out there woulnd't learn to abuse the card and immediately reach the upper echelon of spells? Or maybe they were angry they didn't make Treasure Cruise a mythic so people would buy more boxes? Who knows. 

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But then they did something that had me scratching my head. They banned Dig Through Time and unbanned Golgari Grave-Troll. Modern, like all formats, needs a control deck. American isn't actually a control deck. It's a tempo deck that uses creatures with flash and mostly soft counterspells. I played UWR for a while and I won a lot of matches by playing Bolt-Snap-Bolt and attacking with Snapcaster Mage. Without access to a 1-mana draw spell, control lost its best Modern legal card. Now you might be saying, "Well there is Sphinx's Revelation". And you are right, that card does exist, but in Magic you use card drawing effects to hopefully draw one of your outs and not lose. Tapping out to Sphinx's Revelation just draws cards and gains life, but it doesn't help you if you need to stop a Storm or Jeskai Ascendency deck at that exact moment. Dig Through Time was two-mana to get a shot at the top seven cards of your library. You could search for an answer, hit it, and have mana remaining to actually cast said spell. 

And Golgari Grave-Troll? That seems dumb. It doesn't do anything in Modern. It will have the same effect the unbanning of Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl had: none.

Digging Through Time Modern's History

Where do we go from here? Well it's easy. All I can do is look at previously successful decks and find what made them successful. So let's start by going over what decks are completely unaffected or get a push from these new bannings, and I guess an unbanning.

  1. Tron was actually playing Treasure Cruise, but that shouldn't matter much. There are a few things you need to know about Tron:
    1. Apparently Turn 3 [Karn Liberated] is completely fine while a Turn 5 Treasure Cruise is not.
    2. Tron is actually Eggs. You play what could be 12-16 1-CMC spells that cycle you until you hit your 3 out of 12 possible Tron lands to get to 7 mana.
    3. Tron doesn't get affected by the bannings, but it actually gets better. There is a direct correlation between the amount of people winning with/playing Tron and the amount of blue-based decks that are the top-tier at the moment. Tron always had an issue with UW/UWR control, UR Delver, and Splinter Twin. But when Jund was one of the best decks in the format, Tron was the best deck. Tron doesn't get hurt and it should thrive. 
  2. Storm didn't play any of the banned cards, and it's a very strong deck that can catch people off guard. It doesn't really get as affected by Chalice of the Void as a combo deck like Jeskai Ascendency does. Its sideboard has had years to become refined enough to have an answer to everything, from Leyline of Sanctity to Rest in Peace. Storm also has the advantage of being able to put Blood Moon in its sideboard which once again has become a defining card in the format.
  3. Affinity also didn't use any of the banned cards, and nothing has changed. It is still an insanely good deck that is scary when it drops all seven cards onto the table and says go.
  4. Bogles was actually terrible while UR Delver was around. Now that UR Delver no longer exists... or does it? I'll explain in a moment. 
  5. The last deck that doesn't get hurt is Burn. As long as Eidolon of the Great Revel exists in eternal formats, Burn will continue to be a quality deck that is just cheap enough to allow almost anyone to play. It doesn't go 4-0 in Daily Events on Magic Online, but it is very easy to go 3-1 on a fairly regular basis..  

Now this should be fun. I am going to show you the decks and new decklists that will start to take over the format once the bannings take place on January 28th. This isn't easy since predicting the future is usually done by people like Ms. Cleo (please tell me you remember that reference). 

 

Primeshift

Scapeshift really hit the top of the Food Chain when it got access to a card like Dig Through Time, instead of the relatively terrible Telling Time or Peer Through Depths. I have re-tested Scapeshift with Peer Through Depths, Serum Visions, and tried things like adding more hard counters to the deck. But what has gotten me even more excited is Primeshift.

There have always been versions of Scapeshift with Primeval Titan. The main issue with non-Primeval Titan Scapeshift versions is that you needed to have 1 out of the 4 Scapeshifts in hand, get to 7 mana, and avoid getting mana flooded or mana screwed. But with this version, you can win with Scapeshift, Primeval Titan, or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. There are a ton of ways to win, and it plays around everyone's new favorite black card: Memoricide.

But this was the deck before the bannings, and I noticed something wrong with it: It has a tough time drawing out of bad situations. I think this deck needs a draw spell like Faithless Looting, which in normal versions of scapeshift is terrible because you can lose your precious Mountains. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can be used to shuffle back any mountains you want to pitch in this version.

It also had an issue with big creatures. I hate Courser of Kruphix and I can easily say this is one of the worst cards being played in Modern because it makes Tarmogoyf very large very quickly (due to being an Enchantment). If you fetch a land, play a tarmoGoyf, and then Abrupt Decay Courser of Kruphix, that makes tarmoGoyf a 4/5. It's the same problem that you have with tarmoGoyf and Spellskite, but there are more chances of seeing an artifact than seeing an enchantment in a Modern deck. Anger of the Gods or Pyroclasm don't deal with tarmoGoyf or Siege Rhino. So with all the mana this deck creates, I figured I would replace the Anger of the Gods with my favorite card of all time other than Giant BadgerBonfire of the Damned. It just seems right. 

I'm also going to replace the Courser of Kruphix with Huntmaster of the Fells because if people move into some of the next decks I am thinking about, then Lightning Bolt is less of an issue and Abrupt Decay won't be very good at dealing with Huntmaster of the Fells.

Splinter Twin

Splinter Twin hasn't changed one bit. It is a pure combo deck with the ability to play the control game. Its ability to wait until  your opponent is tapped out makes the deck very strong, and the people who moved out of UR Delver will move back into Splinter Twin

 

Cruise-less Delver

 

I added white to the deck, which was the natural evolution of this deck. I have seen versions running Mantis Rider, but like I said, if there will be more Abrupt Decays, having a finisher that is a 3-drop isn't very good. If you want to cut the white, you can add Goblin Guide. But mainly what this deck brings back to the table is the new king of the hill in Modern: Blood Moon. In the beginning, people will have greedy mana-bases, so Blood Moon will be nutter-butters. 

For the fun-inclined

Alright, so if you haven't figured out the infinite combo here, feel free to ask in comments. It's a fun deck to play and it doesn't care about any changes being made in the current meta. I just though this deck was cool. 

Junk is the new Jund

For those people who thought they were done dealing with Jund forever, this is the new Jund, and it's slightly more powerful. 

Does this deck look familiar? Take out the Path to Exile and add Lighning Bolt, then take out the Seige Rhino and add Olivia Voldaren. Basically I took what was once the Jund Shell and made it Junk. The red splash is for the sideboard, where you have access to Slaughter Games.

Living End

There is a direct correlation between the number of Remands being played and Living End decks showing up. But if you maindeck Blood Moon, add more Swamp/Forest-cycling creatures, your deck becomes a force. Expect this to be a real scary deck. People didn't care about their 1/1 Elemental Tokens going to the graveyard, but they will care if they are playing Zoo and you cascade into Living End in response.

 

Vengevine

In other versions of Vengevine, Golgari Grave-troll is another win-con that regenerates. But with this deck, you want to win as quick as possible, so Golgari Grave-Troll is more of a fast dredger. 

 

Golgari Grave-troll

This deck comes at you from so many different angles. It utilizes Golgari Grave-troll's ability to Dredge 6 while also being a win-codition. At the same time, it can win with direct damage, or you can just win with Tarmogoyf.

 

Hatebears

Hatebears will be a real thing. I like the deck a lot. It was completely unaffected by the bannings. It was a good deck before the bannings, and will continue to be a good deck after them. Modern Death & Taxes is a strong deck, and I think you should give it a shot. Try Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Devouring Light. It adds an interesting dimension  to the deck while still hurting most of the decks out there. 

 

Conclusion

So in summation, I am going to rank the Top 5 decks after January 28th. 

  1.  Tron
  2.  Junk
  3.  American Control
  4.  Bogles
  5.  Splinter Twin

 

"Budget" Vintage

Now a more lighthearted topic. It seems like an oxymnoron, but I have been testing a lot of Vintage lately, and I think I have found a Magic Online budget Vintage deck. It's a little on the weird side, but give it a shot:

 

While most Vintage players might laugh at this deck, I have had very good results, winning three of five 8-mans. Its only real issue is Stax, but with a majority of people playing Grixis or Gush, this deck trumps them 1000x over. I suggest if you want to get into Vintage, give it a shot. At the very least, you will have fun.                     


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