The State of Modern

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The letter W!elcome back to Perilous Research! Last weekend, we all had the opportunity to watch one of the most exciting Pro Tours in recent memory. Now, we're all clamoring to qualify for the next Pro Tour so we can be a part of the action. With the upcoming PTQ season featuring the Modern format, now is a good time to take a big look at the format.

Modern is a huge format with countless viable deck themes. The sheer volume of information we need to process to play optimally against all the decks can be daunting, but learning the necessary nuances will put us far ahead of the curve going into our next Modern event. Today, we'll be discussing the current state of Modern by analyzing the decks that seem to define the format going into the PTQ season.


Jund is becoming one of the most successful decks in the format again, despite the loss of Deathrite Shaman. The combination of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize makes it easy to have an uncontested Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant take over the game. This version of the deck plays Prophetic Flamespeaker, an exciting haymaker of a card from Journey into Nyx. Prophetic Flamespeaker allows the deck to replace stray slots—slots that might traditionally be occupied by Planeswalkers or situational spells—with creatures. Prophetic Flamespeaker works especially well alongside Jund Charm and Sword of Feast and Famine. It's clear that the combination of strong discard, strong removal, and strong creatures is a recipe for success no matter how many cards get banned.


Spirit-Jund is a proven strategy that has no truly bad matchups. The deck's resilience and overall power level aren't what they were when it had Deathrite Shaman, but there's still a lot of power here and we should expect this strategy to be a major player in the middle-to-late stages of this PTQ season.


Daryl_Ayers's Scapeshift
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095575

Scapeshift has risen to power and has quickly become one of the best decks in Modern after its victory in Grand Prix Minneapolis. Scapeshift aims to counter key spells and kill key creatures while developing its mana. Once the deck gets to seven lands, it performs the one-card combo of casting Scapeshift to search for six Mountains and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to deal the opponent 18 points of damage. Is 18 not enough? Then we can wait for our eighth land and find two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and six Mountains for 36 points of damage. The deck put up a lackluster performance at Pro Tour Born of the Gods because of the popularity of Blood Moon, but the format has moved in a different direction and it's clear that the Scapeshift deck has what it takes to be a tier one contender.


IwalkAlone's Faeries
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095575

Faeries is a powerful tempo control strategy that excels against Combo and Control strategies. Pack Rat is a new addition to the deck that combos nicely with the Mutavaults and discard. The unbanning of Bitterblossom put a target on Faeries's head that left it floundering, but the current format allows for players to have a lot of success with this archetype, especially now that Burn, Red Deck Wins, and Zoo are on the decline in popularity.


Tarmo-Twin is a tempo/combo strategy that uses strong removal and disruption alongside Tarmogoyf, Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, Snapcaster Mage, and Scavenging Ooze to apply consistent pressure. The strategy often puts opponents into a situation where they're forced to tap out. When they do, the deck can Splinter Twin its Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch and win the game out of nowhere.


The Tempo-Twin deck is a tempo/combo strategy that applies mild pressure with Snapcaster Mage, Pestermite, Deceiver Exarch, and burn spells before attempting to win the game with Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo. The deck does not play the tempo game as well as its Tarmo-Twin counterpart, but it's a lot better at protecting its combo.


chiralane's Burn
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095575

The Philosophy of Fire dictates that we win the game if we resolve seven spells, or less if our opponent is taking damage from his or her lands. Burn is always capable of winning an event, but cards like Courser of Kruphix, Scavenging Ooze, and combo decks should keep Burn in check for most, if not all, of this Modern season.

Red Deck Wins

Giarola's Red Deck Wins
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095550

Adding Eidolon of the Great Revel to the Burn deck gives it an angle that's sure to put your opponents off-tempo by forcing them to remove it or find themselves taking a lot of inexpensive damage.


19671347's Robots
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095575

Robots wants to empty its hand as quickly as possible and close the game with Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager tricks, or overwhelming force. The deck is a clear favorite among the aggressive strategies of the format. It may be weak to hate cards like Ancient Grudge and Creeping Corrosion, but it still manages to win a lot of matches through the hate.


Kiki-Pod is a resilient midrange/combo strategy that aims to out-value the opponent with its Birthing Pod before combining Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker with Deceiver Exarch. The deck can go off out of nowhere with an active Birthing Pod. For example, let's say we have a Birthing Pod, a Kitchen Finks, and a Wall of Roots in play; we can sacrifice the Wall of Roots, finding Deceiver Exarch, untapping the Birthing Pod, then sacrifice the Kitchen Finks, finding Restoration Angel, flickering the Deceiver Exarch, untapping Birthing Pod, then sacrifice the Restoration Angel, finding Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to make infinite Exarchs for a lethal attack.


Melira-Pod is a midrange/combo deck that has access to a lot of disruption. The deck eventually seeks to combine Melira, Sylvok Outcast with Viscera Seer and a persist creature for infinite life via Kitchen Finks or infinite damage via Murderous Redcap. The deck can also make its creatures infinitely large and gain infinite life by combining Archangel of Thune with Spike Feeder. The deck can grind opponents out and win games without its combo in a lot of situations. This is widely considered the best deck in the format, but its current weakness to Scapeshift means that it's not as dominant as it once was.

Pyromancer Ascension Storm

zkiihne's Pyromancer Ascension Storm
Modern – 3rd Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095552

The Pyromancer Ascension storm strategy chains a lot of spells together while producing absurd amounts of mana with rituals alongside Pyromancer Ascension or Goblin Electromancer. Once the storm count is high enough, the deck fires off a lethal Grapeshot at its opponent. Recently, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Eidolon of Rhetoric have begun seeing a lot of play; these cards are very difficult for the Storm deck to beat, but the deck is powerful enough to overcome hate in many games if played optimally.


ruggles442's Fish!
Modern – 8th Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095552

Merfolk has proven itself to be the best aggressive tribe in Modern. The deck applies a lot of pressure quickly and the redundancy of lord effects makes it a nightmare for other creature decks that want to fight fair. The deck can struggle with most combo opponents, especially now that Anger of the Gods is seeing widespread play, but it's a strong choice if you're into the tribal thing.

White-Black Tokens

White-Black Tokens is a midrange creature deck that plays similarly to Jund in the early turns of the game. The deck attempts to disrupt opponents with discard before taking over the game with token production in conjunction with Equipment. Brimaz, King of Oreskos is a powerhouse of a card that we can expect to see a lot of play this Modern season. This deck tends to have some very good matchups and some very bad matchups.

White Weenie

CharlieTheBananaKing's White Weenie
Modern – 2nd Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095543

Versions of Æther Vial White Weenie are beginning to have a lot of success in Modern. The deck has a surprising amount of interaction and cards like Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben have the ability to basically win games on the second turn. Check out my article from Monday on for more information on this deck!


Ultra_Magnus's Infect
Modern – 4th Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095543

Infect is an aggro/combo deck that seeks to win the game blisteringly fast by combining pump spells with infect creatures. The deck is weak to Lingering Souls, but that's not a huge problem in the current state of the format. Melira, Sylvok Outcast is a disaster for this deck and happens to be in a lot of people's main decks for an entirely different reason. Still, this deck absolutely crushes most opponents and there's little they can do about it.


killabeeze's Tron
Modern – 2nd Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095520

Tron attempts to combine Urza's Tower, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Power Plant to do absurd things like turn-three Wurmcoil Engine or Karn Liberated. The deck is weak to most combo strategies, but it absolutely demolishes most control and aggro opponents.

Ghost Pants (Hexproof)

protopic's Ghost Pants (Hexproof)
Modern – 7th Place, Magic Online Premier Event #7095520

As it turns out, putting a whole bunch of stuff on a hexproof guy and turning it sideways is a recipe for success against the non-combo part of the Modern format. This deck has a lot of very good matchups, but it remains inconsistent and often struggles to beat Splinter Twin decks that are as popular as ever.

Blue-Red Delver

Psychic_Viking's Blue-Red Delver
Modern – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #7095468

Delver of Secrets is a very fast clock. This deck aims to put a ton of early pressure on the opponent with Delver of Secrets and Young Pyromancer before controlling the game and protecting its creatures with the best disruption in the format. The deck excels against creature-based strategies and Splinter Twin decks, and has the ability to stand toe-to-toe with control after sideboarding. Unfortunately, the deck's power level is wildly inconsistent. Draws involving multiple Delver of Secrets are usually close to unbeatable, but draws that force the deck to play a control game usually end up playing out very poorly.

Red-White-Blue Control

Red-White-Blue Control trades cards without spending much mana before it takes over the game with a massive Sphinx's Revelation. The deck tends to get a lot better at the end of a Modern season, when the format is more defined. Right now, there are a lot of decks in Modern and the control strategies have trouble deciding what kind of cards they're trying to beat. We can expect this strategy to become stronger in time.

As you can see, Modern is wide open. We can play whatever kind of deck suits our play style. In the coming weeks, we'll keep our finger on the pulse of the format. The knowledge in this column should give us the necessary tools we need to win an early-season PTQ. Playtest a lot, study the lists in this article, and take it one game at a time.

Knowledge is power!

Jacob Van Lunen
Jacob Van Lunen
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Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published.

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