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The Fastest Decks in Modern (And How to Beat Them)


Modern is a unique format. There are so many playable decks that rather than metagaming to try to beat everything else fairly, one of the most common pathways to success is to simply to try to out-goldfish your opponent by playing a fast, linear combo deck that can (mostly) ignore what the opposition is up to. This leads to a weird cycle where decks are pushed to be faster and even less interactive, to have the speed needed to beat the other fast, linear decks in the format. By my count, on the Modern metagame page, there are two Turn 2-kill decks and nearly 10 Turn 3-kill (or pseudo-kill) decks, many of which have very different game plans. 

As such, our goal for today is simple: we're going to discuss the fastest decks in the Modern format, including how they plan to go about winning the game, but also what cards you can play to slow them down (or maybe even to stop them altogether)! The combination of Ultimate Masters making the format cheaper and potentially bringing new players into the fold along with a bunch of big Modern tournaments on the horizon in the first part of 2019 means that it's never been more important to take stock of the Modern meta and tune up our decks to fight the current format. What fast decks should you look out for at your next Modern event? What cards should you have in your sideboard (or even main deck) to have a chance in our current fast and broken Modern format? Let's discuss!

As we go through the decks, you'll see that each has a chart discussing various types of hate cards and disruption along with a number ranking for how effective these cards are at fighting the deck (there's also a big chart at the end that sums it all up). The scoring system is pretty straightforward: a 1 means that the group of cards is useless in fighting the deck; meanwhile, a 5 means the cards are game-breaking, to the point that they might be able to win you the game all by themselves (if you draw them in a timely manner). A 3 is a fine score; you won't mind having these cards in your deck in the matchup, but they are unlikely to win you the game all by themselves, and you may or may not sideboard them in, depending on your specific build and how many dead cards you have in the matchup. Anyway, let's talk about some broken decks!

Turn 2 Decks

Puresteel Combo Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Puresteel Combo 1 4 5 3 3 2 2 1 1

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The Speed: Turn 2

Puresteel Combo / Cheerios is one of the truest Turn 2 combo decks in the Modern format. While there's always a risk of fizzling, if the deck can untap with a Puresteel Paladin or Sram, Senior Edificer on Turn 2, there's a reasonable chance it will win the game that turn by casting a bunch of zero-mana equipment and using Mox Opal to produce mana for Retract, which bounces all of the zero-mana equipment and allows the Puresteel Combo player to draw through literally their entire deck before finishing the game with Grapeshot (with mana from multiple Mox Opals). 

Best Answer: Spot Removal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While Puresteel Combo is one of the fastest decks in all Modern, it's also incredibly easy to disrupt with spot removal. The deck is horrible if you can kill the Puresteel Paladin or Sram, Senior Edificer, often left with just a bunch of useless equipment in hand. The deck typically plays zero ways to protect its creatures in the main deck (although Noxious Revival can put a dead Puresteel or Sram back on top of the deck to try again the next turn), which means if you have removal, it should resolve. Stony Silence is also very strong, since it's difficult for Puresteel Combo to win without the extra mana produced by Mox Opal, but your primary plan should be to overload with all of the spot removal you possibly can and try to make sure a Sram, Senior Edificer or Puresteel Paladin never stick on the battlefield. It's also worth mentioning that Puresteel Combo tends to lose to itself fairly often due to the Bogles problem (having only a few threats), which leaves the Puresteel Combo player in a position where they often need to mulligan aggressively until they find a Puresteel or Sram, and sometimes they never find one.

Infect Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Infect 1 1 5 3 5 1 3 1 2

Speed: Turn 2.5

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

When we talk about the fast decks of Modern, most are looking to win or virtually win the game on Turn 3. Infect is one of the few exceptions that has a legitimate path to literally winning the game on Turn 2. All it takes is a Glistener Elf on Turn 1 followed by any two of Groundswell or Might of Old Krosa on Turn 2 along with a Mutagenic Growth. This being said, the Turn 2 kill doesn't happen all that often, in part because Glistener Elf is the only one-mana infect creature and in part because it's often correct to have some sort of protection (like Blossoming Defense or Vines of Vastwood) before going for the kill. Turn 3 kills are even easier and can be backed up by protection, thanks to Blighted Agent and Noble Hierarch producing extra mana. 

Best Answer: Spot Removal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Infect's biggest flaw is that it doesn't have all that many threats (roughly 12, counting Inkmoth Nexus), so if you can kill the first couple of Infect creatures, it can take a while for the Infect player to find another one. The main challenge of answering Infect is learning how to play against its threats. Normally in Magic, we're trained to wait and use our instant-speed removal spells at the last possible moment to gain more information, but this strategy often leads to disaster against Infect, since they have a bunch of cheap spells that can fizzle targeted removal (Blossoming Defense, Vines of Vastwood, Apostle's Blessing). Ideally, you'll be able to kill the Infect creature while your opponent is tapped out, but if your opponent plays carefully and leaves up mana, it's still often better to cast removal during your turn, since if the Infect player does have a Blossoming Defense or Vines of Vastwood, at least they won't be able to get in extra infect damage by using it to pump their threat. Apart from removal, Spellskite is a great option for fighting Infect, since you can use it to redirect all of your opponent's pump spells. Meanwhile, Melira, Sylvok Outcast might be the single best answer to Infect, but it's hard to actually find room for it in your sideboard because it's a dead card in every other matchup.

Turn 3 Decks

Dredge Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Dredge 5 1 1 1 1 5 4 2 1

The Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Assuming Dredge has a one-mana enabler (Shriekhorn or Faithless Looting) to get a dredger into the graveyard on Turn 1, Dredge has the potential to be one of the fastest decks in the Modern format. While there is some amount of variance involved thanks to dredging itself being random, it's possible for Dredge to end its second turn with 10 or even 20 power on the battlefield, if it manages to mill enough copies of Narcomoeba, Bloodghast, and Prized Amalgam—all of which come back from the graveyard for free. Throw in up to 12 free points of damage by milling Creeping Chill and a two-mana, seven-ish damage burn spell from the graveyard in Conflagrate, and it's possible that a lucky Dredge player can win the game on Turn 3, and even if they can't actually finish the game on Turn 3, there's an even higher likelihood that they can virtually win the game on Turn 3, since even if you manage to deal with their board, most of the creatures continue to come back from the graveyard for free, and they'll dredge into their reach sooner or later, in the form of Creeping Chill and Conflagrate.  

Best Answer: Graveyard Hate

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While Dredge is among the fastest decks in Modern, it's also one of the easiest decks to hate out, assuming you're playing the right cards in your sideboard. The simplest answer is graveyard hate, with cards like Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, and Relic of Progenitus being among the best in the format at fighting Dredge and Surgical Extraction also offering a decent amount of value if you can get the timing right (exiling Narcomoeba or Bloodghast makes it hard for Prized Amalgam to return to the battlefield, while getting rid of Creeping Chill with the "exile" trigger on the stack will fizzle the damage). The second way to fight Dredge—although somewhat less effective against the more recent builds of Dredge, thanks to Creeping Chill—is with sweepers that remove creatures in a way that doesn't put them back into the graveyard, like Anger of the Gods or Terminus, or with normal sweepers (like Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God) combined with graveyard disruption. Just be warned: Dredge expects you to bring in graveyard hate against them, so they'll be bringing in cards like Nature's Claim to counter your graveyard disruption, so sometimes just a single piece of graveyard hate isn't enough. Likewise, if you don't find your graveyard hate early in the game, it's likely that the damage will already be done and the Dredge player will have a massive board you'll have to contend with to get back into the game.

Tron Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Tron 1 5 2 4 3 3 (deck dependent) 1 1 5

The Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Just how to think about Tron is up for debate, but personally I consider the traditional Mono-Green or Green / x Tron decks to be combo decks. Their combo is assembling Tron as quickly as possible with the help of a ton of land tutors (Expedition Map and Sylvan Scrying) and cantrips (Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star, and Ancient Stirrings) and then having Karn Liberated (and other big colorless cards) provide the combo finish. The fastest that Tron can execute its combo is Turn 3, and while Tron can't literally end the game on Turn 3, a Karn Liberated does essentially win the game in many matchups, and if Karn Liberated somehow isn't enough once Tron is assembled, there's always some big, horrible thing around the corner for the following turns.

Best Answer: Land Disruption / Destruction

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

One of the most common ways that people attempt to fight against Tron is with cards like Blood Moon, Damping Sphere, and Alpine Moon, which keep the Tron player from assembling Tron. While this is a reasonable strategy, it also comes with a drawback: eventually, the Tron play will beat you by hard-casting their big finishers with normal mana or by using Oblivion Stone to blow up your hate cards, so you need to combine your hate with a fast clock of your own for it to be effective. Blowing up lands with Fulminator Mage or other land destruction is very powerful, although it can also be too slow if you are on the draw, since Karn Liberated may be on the battlefield before you get the three mana needed to blow up a Tron land. Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin offer solid ways of slowing down Tron, and they can be combined with Surgical Extraction to exile a Tron land and keep your Tron opponent off Tron forever. Along the same lines, Stony Silence is good at slowing down Tron by disabling mana off its cantrips and Oblivion Stone, although it doesn't do anything if the Tron player just happens to have natural Tron and a Karn Liberated in hand. 

Storm Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Storm 5 1 3 4 5 5 1 1 1

Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

In theory, Storm can win on Turn 2, but it's exceedingly unlikely in practice. On the other hand, assuming Storm can cast a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer on Turn 2 and untap with it on Turn 3, its odds of winning the game by chaining a bunch of cantrips and rituals into a Past in Flames or by using Gifts Ungiven (which, along with enough mana and a few cantrips, is close to a guaranteed win) are pretty good. It's also possible for Storm to win on Turn 3 even while spending two of its mana to cast a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer on the same turn, if it has enough rituals. On the other hand, without a Baral, Chief of Compliance or Goblin Electromancer, the deck is significantly slower and sometimes struggles to combo at all.

Best Answer: Mixed Hate

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

In the past, fighting Storm was pretty straightforward, as you'd take out all of your targeted removal and fight with counterspells and graveyard hate, but things are a bit more complicated today thanks to the power of Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer, since having at least some ways to deal with creatures is necessary. While this puts more pressure on your sideboarding choices and leaves fewer slots for powerful hate cards, thankfully both graveyard hate and counterspells are still very strong against the strategy. While it's possible for Storm to win through something like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace, it requires a lot more work, since Past in Flames can't double the storm count, mana, and cantrips, which often leaves Storm in a position where they have to try to Remand Grapeshot once or twice to actually win or attempt to win the game with Empty the Warrens. Surgical Extraction is also solid, since Storm leans on just a couple of key spells (Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven, Grapeshot, and Empty the Warrens) to actually win the game. Damping Sphere and cards like Rule of Law make it impossible for Storm to combo off while they are on the battlefield, although much like Blood Moon against Tron or Rest in Peace against Dredge, ideally the hate will be backed by a fast clock, since Storm will eventually find a way to bounce the hate card on your end step, untap, and combo off for the win.

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Jeskai Ascendancy Combo 1 1 4 5 5 2 1 1 2

Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo is pretty simple. The deck needs to untap with a not-summoning-sick mana dork (Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, Fatestitcher, or Sylvan Caryatid) and a Jeskai Ascendancy in play, and then it should be able to win the game by casting a ton of one-mana spells for free by untapping the mana dork repeatedly with Jeskai Ascendancy. Then, to finish the game, the deck can either attack with a huge Birds of Paradise or Fatestitcher or use Glittering Wish to get Flesh // Blood from the sideboard and win by draining the opponent out of the game directly. In theory, it's possible for the deck to win the game on Turn 2 if it plays a Birds of Paradise on Turn 1 and a Jeskai Ascendancy on Turn 2 and happens to have its single Noxious Revival in hand to untap the Birds of Paradise, but this will almost never happen in practice. The deck occasionally takes a slower but more resilient path with the help of Sylvan Caryatid, which is a lot harder to kill than the rest of the mana dorks thanks to hexproof. It's very unlikely to fizzle once the deck has two mana dorks, primarily by unearthing a Fatestitcher that it discards to Jeskai Ascendancy, and cards like Silence offer another layer of protection.

Best Answer: Removal and Counters

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The easiest way to beat Jeskai Ascendancy combo is to focus on two things: keeping the Ascendancy player from untapping with a mana dork and keeping that player from resolving Jeskai Ascendancy itself. Without both of these combo pieces, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo is basically a deck with a horrible mana base playing a bunch of horrible cantrips. Spot removal is a good answer to mana dorks, although it struggles against Sylvan Caryatid, while counterspells and targeted discard like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are great, especially if you have them in your opening hand. Be warned: the deck can do a lot of damage at instant speed if it gets a Jeskai Ascendancy on the battlefield along with an active mana dork, so enchantment removal might not be enough to actually stop the combo once it starts.

Amulet Titan Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Amulet Titan 1 3 4 2 3 2 1 1 5

Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

A couple of years ago, Summer Bloom was banned because Amulet Titan kept winning on Turn 2. The idea was to slow the deck down, and in some sense, it worked—now, instead of getting beaten down by a Primeval Titan on Turn 2, it's more likely to happen on Turn 3. With the current build of the deck, a good draw looks something like Amulet of Vigor on Turn 1 into a bounce land plus Azusa, Lost but Seeking on Turn 2 into Primeval Titan, to maybe win the game by tutoring out a bunch of lands to give haste and double strike on Turn 3. While the fast kills are perhaps the scariest part of the deck, in reality, the most powerful part of Amulet Titan is its resilience, since the first Primeval Titan can tutor up Tolaria West, which can transmute for another Primeval Titan in the form of Summoner's Pact, so just dealing with the first Primeval Titan often isn't enough. Oh yeah, the deck can use the same trick to get Pact of Negation instead of Summoner's Pact, so there's a chance your answer isn't going to resolve anyway.

Best Answer: Land Disruption

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

To be explosive, Amulet Titan needs access to the bounce lands that produce two mana. Amulet Titan gets a lot slower and significantly less scary if we can turn them into Mountains with Blood Moon or even just make them tap for a single mana with Damping Sphere. Blood Moon is especially good, since it also cuts off Tolaria West shenanigans and stops Primeval Titan from finding more Primeval Titans. Spot removal on creatures like Sakura-Tribe Scout and Azusa, Lost but Seeking, especially on Turn 1 or 2, is another good option for slowing the deck down, although it's pretty easy for the deck to overwhelm targeted removal once Primeval Titan comes online. Finally, there are some weird timing things to be aware of if you play the deck. For example, if your opponent plays an Azusa, Lost but Seeking and follows it up with a bounce land (or any tapped land, with Amulet of Vigor on the battlefield), there's a window for you to kill Azusa, Lost but Seeking with the trigger on the stack. The same goes for Primeval Titan tutoring out Tolaria West and a bounce land to pick up the Tolaria West—you can use a Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin with the bounce trigger on the stack to kill the Tolaria West and force your opponent to pick up another land instead.

KCI / Ironworks Combo Hate Chart
1=(Never) to 5=(Always) Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
KCI/Ironworks Combo 5 5 1 3 3 5 1 1 2

The Speed: Turn 3

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While it doesn't always work out, KCI is built so that when it resolves a Krark-Clan Ironworks, it can at least try to win the game by churning through its deck with the help of about a million random cantrip artifacts (that also generate mana with Krark-Clan Ironworks on the battlefield). Thanks to cards like Mind Stone and Mox Opal, it's fairly common for Krark-Clan Ironworks to hit the battlefield on Turn 3 and the KCI player to at least attempt to combo off. While the deck does fizzle on occasion by not drawing the right pieces, calling it a Turn 3 combo deck is more than fair. As far as actually winning the game, once the KCI player has a Scrap Trawler and a Myr Retriever, they are usually set to win the game by drawing their entire deck and making infinite mana by looping artifacts from their graveyard. Then, they can win in a couple of ways, like shooting your face with Aetherflux Reservoir or pinging you to death slowly by looping Pyrite Spellbomb

Best Answer: Graveyard and Artifact Hate

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

In theory, graveyard hate and artifact hate (like Stony Silence) are great against Ironworks Combo, but in practice, the deck is oddly good at beating any one piece (and sometimes even multiple pieces) of hate. Stony Silence is the single card you want the most against Ironworks Combo, since along with shutting off the combo, it also shuts down Engineered Explosives, which is one of the most generic answers Ironworks Combo has access to in the main deck. For graveyard hate, targeted hate like Surgical Extraction is tricky to resolve once Krark-Clan Ironworks and Scrap Trawler are on the battlefield, but Rest in Peace and especially Leyline of the Void (which is hardest to kill with Engineered Explosives) shut down the deck while they are on the battlefield. If you happen to have Damping Sphere or Storm-specific hate like Rule of Law, it's just as good against KCI. Fighting the creatures is a losing battle in most cases, so avoid trying to win by killing all of the Scrap Trawlers—it almost never works in practice against a competent Ironworks Combo player.

Burn Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Burn 1 1 3 3 3 1 1 5 1

 

The Speed: Turn 3.5

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Burn is pretty simple: if the Burn player can resolve six-ish cards, they should be able to deal enough damage to win the game. While Burn can certainly win on Turn 3 with the right hand (usually involving at least two of its one-mana creatures, Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear), Turn 4 is a safer bet for a decent draw, especially if the opponent has some sort of disruption (like removal for the one-drop). Still, something as simple as Goblin Guide on Turn 1 into Monastery Swiftspear plus Lightning Bolt on Turn 2 into Boros Charm plus another one-mana burn spell (Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, or Shard Volley) adds up to more than 20 damage unimpeded, and this doesn't even take into consideration the free damage that Modern players often hand out thanks to the typical fetch land / shock land mana base. 

Best Answer: Lifegain

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

When you look at the typical Burn deck lists, you'll see that they'll draw, on average, about two damage every turn. Combine this with the fact that Burn decks really only do one thing (throw burn spells at their opponent's face), and you have a scenario where any card that incidentally gains two or more life ends up being the equivalent of a Time Walk against burn. While cards like Timely Reinforcements, Kor Firewalker, and Dragon's Claw are the most game-ending hate cards against Burn, even just gaining four life from Kitchen Finks or Knight of Autumn is often enough to swing the matchup. 

Counters Company Hate Chart
1 = Never to 5 = Always Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Counters Company 1 1 5 3 2 2 4 1 1

The Speed: Turn 3.5

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While Counters Company has a very clear Turn 3 win (and last time I played against it, I lost on Turn 3 two games in a row), it does need three different pieces to go infinite and win on Turn 3, which means it doesn't actually go infinite on Turn 3 all that often. To go infinite, Counters Company needs a not-summoning-sick Devoted Druid, a Vizier of Remedies, and a Walking Ballista (or a Duskwatch Recruiter to draw all of the creatures in the deck to find Walking Ballista). While this sounds like a lot of pieces, when you consider that both Chord of Calling and Collected Company can tutor or pseudo-tutor for combo pieces, the deck is surprisingly good at putting all of the pieces together. 

This being said, I almost didn't include Counters Company on our list today because in some sense, it's not even a combo deck. While the Turn 3 combo kills are the most memorable and frustrating games, the deck is really just a value-heavy Collected Company deck that sometimes goes infinite. While it can luck into the Turn 3 infinite-mana kill, it's just as likely to play a bunch of Tireless Trackers and Knight of the Reliquary and beat you down the old-fashioned way, with the help of Gavony Township. As such, unlike many of the pure combo decks we've talked about today, simply answering the combo isn't always (or even usually) enough to beat Counters Company.

Best Answer: Targeted Removal and Sweepers

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The biggest flaw with the infinite-mana combo in Counters Company is that it needs Devoted Druid to not be summoning sick. While it can sort of get around this by finding a Devoted Druid at the end of your turn with Chord of Calling or Collected Company, there's always going to be a window to kill the Devoted Druid before the Counters Company player goes off. As such, if you simply kill Devoted Druid as soon as it hits the battlefield, you can force Counters Company to play fairly. After passing the early-game infinite-combo test, sweepers suddenly become a great way to clean up all of the leftover dorks and take control of the game. 

Other Fast Decks

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

  • Affinity / Hardened Scales can win on Turn 3, but in some sense, they are more along the lines of traditional aggro decks than combo decks. Spot removal, artifact hate, and sweepers provide the best answers in the format.
  • Living End offers a pseudo-Turn 3 win in the form of having three or more massive cycling creatures on the battlefield, but it's unlikely that you'll actually be dead on Turn 3, since the creatures will be summoning sick. Graveyard hate that comes down early is the best line of defense, while sweepers and creature removal can help fill in the gaps. 
  • Grishoalbrand can theoretically win on Turn 2 but comes in pretty low in the meta, since the deck is pretty inconsistent. Surgical Extraction (and other fast graveyard hate) shuts down half of the deck (the Goryo's Vengeance reanimation plan), while discard can help make sure you don't get janked out by Through the Breach putting something massive in hand. Targeted removal is close to 100% useless, so don't be afraid to sideboard out your random Path to Exiles and such—sure, you can exile the Griselbrand, but your opponent will have already drawn 14 new cards by that time, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn dodges your removal altogether.

The Hate Chart

The Hate Chart
Deck Graveyard Hate Artifact Hate Spot Removal Counters Discard Surgical Extraction Sweepers Lifegain Land Disruption
Puresteel Combo 1 4 5 3 3 2 2 1 1
Infect 1 1 5 3 5 1 3 1 2
Dredge 5 1 1 1 1 5 4 2 1
Tron 1 5 2 4 3 3 1 1 5
Storm 5 1 3 4 5 5 1 1 1
Jeskai Ascendancy 1 1 4 5 5 2 1 1 2
Amulet Titan 1 3 4 2 3 2 1 1 5
Ironworks 5 5 1 3 3 5 1 1 2
Burn 1 1 3 3 3 1 1 5 1
Counters Company 1 1 5 3 2 2 4 1 1
Hardened Scales 1 5 5 2 2 1 3 1 3
Living End 5 1 3 5 3 4 3 1 1
Grishoalbrand 5 1 1 5 5 5 1 1 1
Total Score 33 30 42 43 43 38 26 18 26

Discussion

  • The hate chart does a good job of exemplifying the challenge of Modern: there are a lot of unfair decks, and there's not a single hate card or two that manages to shut down all of the options. While the scores are a bit weird since they aren't weighted by deck popularity, no matter how you break down the list, the problem is the same. For example, the six most played decks in our sample are Dredge, Tron, Hardened Scales, Burn, Storm, and Infect, which gives us two graveyard-hate decks, two artifact-hate decks, one land-hate deck, one spot-removal, deck and one lifegain-hate deck, so even if you're just trying to fight the most played fast decks in the format, your sideboard cards will still be stretched to the maximum.
  • It's also worth mentioning that the spot removal and counters categories are a bit odd, since these are cards that are likely to show up in the main deck as well as your sideboard, unlike more targeted hate like graveyard hate, artifact hate, and the like.
  • Lifegain is by far the most useless hate card. While it is true that Burn is one of the more heavily played decks in our sample, if possible, try to combine your burn hate with something that's relevant in other matchups, like Scavenging Ooze for graveyards or Knight of Autumn to deal with artifacts and enchantments. Playing sideboard cards that are only good against Burn is likely a losing battle, no matter how good Kor Firewalker or Dragon's Claw might be in the Burn matchup. There are simply too many powerful, broken decks in Modern to play a sideboard card that only swings a single matchup.
  • Looking at our list of fast, unfair decks, as much as it pains me to say it, Blood Moon isn't in a great place. However, since Blood Moon is also good at janking out fair decks like Jund and some Death's Shadow builds, it's somewhat better than it looks in the format at large.
  • Graveyard hate and artifact hate are the two most swing-and-miss categories: in almost every case, they are either scored 5 or 1, so it's either the single card you want to sideboard in the most or completely unplayable, depending on the matchup.
  • So, what does all of this mean as far as constructing a sideboard in Modern? Based on our sample, it's very likely worth playing cards specifically to hate on graveyards and artifacts. Afterward, broad answers like counterspells, discard, and targeted removal tend to fair best; while they are unlikely to score a 5 in many matchups, they are cards that you'll want to bring in against many of the fast, unfair decks in Modern. Cards like Assassin's Trophy and Thoughtseize are especially high in value, since they have no restrictions, allowing them to work as targeted removal, artifact hate, and in some cases, even land disruption. Surgical Extraction also scores highly, since it's bad graveyard hate along with being targeted combo hate, although as Emma Handy pointed out in her (very good) article on StarCityGames this week, it's not a card you should be bringing in against fair decks.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Modern is about as fast and broken as it has ever been right now, so hopefully this discussion of how the fastest, most broken decks in the format function and what cards you can play to fight them is helpful! If you have more ideas of cards that are good for keeping up with all of the fast, unfair decks in the Modern format, make sure to let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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Weekly Update (Dec 9): Ultimate Masters CASE Opening

stream highlights

Attack of the Clones (Temur QuasidupliFrenzy, Standard, Magic Arena) – Stream Highlights


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