Post-Hogaak Modern: Some Much Needed Room to Breathe

Since the inception of the Modern format in 2011, the allure of another non-rotating format with a seemingly endless pool of card selection is simply captivating. Think back to Pro Tour Philadelphia, the first ever Modern Pro Tour. We were faced with the possibilities of a brand new format that had no pronounced metagame. This was a time where creativity flourished. In my opinion. Modern has never felt closer to that refreshing feeling than it is right now. In recent months, the additions of War of the Spark and Modern Horizons have definitely spiced things up. Pushing the power level of Modern graveyard synergies to the crux of another Modern banning in Bridge from Below. Within the first few weeks after Horizons’ release, the community had raised the torches and pitchforks in a head hunt for the Hogaak deck and less than a month later, Bridge from Below was banned to reduce the power of this dominant force in the meta. 

The biggest gain from the banning of Bridge from Below is that it sheds light on just how game-changing War of the Spark and Modern Horizons have been. In this article we are going to discuss the perceived power level of the new Modern format as well as some new strategies that is sure to tickle your fancy.   

Eldrazi Tron


Eldrazi Tron [Dan Bodtke, 7th @ Starcity Games IQ 7/2019]

Creatures (15)
Walking Ballista
Matter Reshaper
Reality Smasher
Thought-Knot Seer

Planeswalkers (6)
Karn, the Great Creator
Ugin, the Ineffable

Artifacts (10)
Chalice of the Void
Expedition Map
Mind Stone

Spells (5)
Dismember
Warping Wail
All Is Dust
Lands (24)
Wastes
Blast Zone
Cavern of Souls
Eldrazi Temple
Ghost Quarter
Sea Gate Wreckage
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower

Sideboard (15)
Basilisk Collar
Crucible of Worlds
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Liquimetal Coating
Mycosynth Lattice
Mystic Forge
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tormod’s Crypt
Walking Ballista
Wurmcoil Engine
Ravenous Trap
Spatial Contortion


I have started my list with Eldrazi Tron largely due to the large number of new tools it has received from WAR and MH1. The Karn wish package is really the addition that has put this deck over the top. I expect this deck to be a top contender for as long as Chalice of the Void remains a meaningful piece of interaction in Modern. This is a deck that has the ability to pose many different stances to adjust to the meta-game. The biggest appeal to playing this deck over its mono green counterpart is that it has a much lower mana curve which makes it less susceptible to traditional hate such as Blood Moon, Fulminator Mage, and Surgical Extraction. Eldrazi Tron also operates less efficiently in early turns against aggressive strategies such as Mono Red Phoenix and Infect. Match ups like this are heavily dependent on Chalice of the Void, Warping Wail, and Though-Knot Seer to mitigate the aggressive momentum of your opponent. Giving Eldrazi Tron a fighting chance against decks that would usually just completely embarrass Mono Green Tron. With Counters Company, Death’s Shadow, and Humans taking up a large portion of the meta share percentage, You can see why a card like Blast Zone is a very useful new tool at Eldrazi Tron’s disposal. We have all seen how relevant the Karn wish package has been in this deck. Mycosynth Lattice is busted, Ensnaring Bridge is busted. Enough said. 

Jund Midrange

Jund, as well as other GB/x subtypes, has been a fan favorite choice in Modern for years. As the meta fluctuates, Jund moves in and out of tier one. A few Magic pros who specialize in GBx, namely Reid Duke, and Willy Edel, have shown that this deck is capable of being competitive in just about any environment. 

So where does Jund belong in the current meta game? If that isn’t an age old question, I don’t know what is. In order to give an accurate prediction, we need to take a look at the recent upgrades from WAR and MH1. 

Wrenn and Six

So do I believe the Wrenn and Six hype? Absolutely! This card is absolutely busted. When you sit down and build a midrange deck (or any deck for that matter), there are several things you look for in the Planeswalker slot. First and most important, a card has to have a reasonable converted mana cost for its abilities. Next, it must have relevant abilities to combat the current meta. It should also have some card advantage or synergy with the rest of the deck. Lastly, it should possess an ultimate that likely ends the game. 

Wrenn and Six checks all of the boxes. It cost two mana! I cannot stress how relevant that is. We are in a format where most three converted mana cost Planeswalkers have a place. Liliana of the Veil, Liliana, the Last Hope, Teferi, Time Raveler, Narset, Parter of Veils, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, the list goes on. The +1 ability is synergistic with Barren Moor, Nurturing Peetland, Raging Ravine, and fetch lands To ensure you make land drops while also being a card draw engine. The -1 ability comes down on turn two and can really stick it to decks like Humans and Infect. Especially on the play. The ultimate emblem ability serves as win con that fuels itself by returning land drops to your hand that can retrace any spell in your graveyard. Retracing the same copy of Lightning Bolt">Lightning Bolt, Assassin’s Trophy, or Kolaghan’s Command over and again. 

Breaking the Color Pie

Being an avid and devoted GB/x player myself, I knew the struggles of staying up late at night before a big event trying to select which of the tertiary color packages I wanted to sport. Red for Lightning Bolt, White for Path to Exile and Stony Silence, or Blue for jank nonsense. As Modern expands, the merits behind running any color but red are definitely fading to grey.  With the additions of Collector Ouphe, you now have a green Stony Silence. Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push provide cheap removal in the Jund color pie. Assassin’s Trophy provides unconditional removal and Bloodbraid Elf and Wrenn and Six bring value and pressure. With all that being said, I feel like Jund is definitely a viable option moving forward in the new Modern metagame. 


Jund [Andon De Smet, 1st @ Redbull Untapped Qualifier 7/2019]

Creatures (16)
Dark Confidant
Seasoned Pyromancer
Tarmogoyf
Scavenging Ooze
Hexdrinker
Bloodbraid Elf
Plague Engineer

Spells (14)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
Thoughtseize
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Fatal Push

Planeswalkers (6)
Wrenn and Six
Liliana of the Veil

Artifacts (1)
Nihil Spellbomb
Lands (23)
Ghost Quarter
Wooded Foothills
Blooming Marsh
Raging Ravine
Verdant Catacombs
Forest
Overgrown Tomb
Bloodstained Mire
Stomping Ground
Mountain
Swamp
Blood Crypt
Blackcleave Cliffs
Nurturing Peatland

Sideboard (15)
Ashiok, Dream Render
Fulminator Mage
Plague Engineer
Leyline of the Void
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Weather the Storm
Collector Ouphe
Surgical Extraction
Anger of the Gods
Ancient Grudge
Damnation


Izzet Phoenix

Before the introduction of War of the Spark and Modern Horizons, Izzet Phoenix sat on top of the meta game. Dodging the ban hammer despite its continued impressive performance. To no one’s suprise, the two powerhouse Modern sets did not exclude Izzet Phoenix from the new card party. War of the spark introduced Finale of Promise as a high end spell that flashes back two spells cmc X or less, providing some scary value while also satisfying the important three spells in one turn requirement for Arclight Phoenix.

But let’s talk about the real all-star here; Aria of Flame. This card is a win condition that rewards you for just “spinning your wheels”. Its enter the battlefield ability is actually relevant against Death’s Shadow strategies. I applaud the WOTC design team for making a card that has an obvious downside if the enchantment is immediately removed while also being straight up outrageous when it is unchecked. Aria of Flame has shown to be more consistent and less dependent on the graveyard. Swiftly replacing Pyromancer’s Ascension. If I had to name the best deck in the new Modern metagame, I would say that Izzet Phoenix is definitely in contention. The deck has a resilient and pivotal game plan against control decks using value engines like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and prison effects like Narset, Parter of the Veils.


Izzet Phoenix [Derek Bailey 7/2019]

Creatures (8)
Arclight Phoenix
Thing in the Ice

Enchantments (3)
Aria of Flame

Spells (31)
Lightning Bolt
Surgical Extraction
Lava Dart
Serum Visions
Thought Scour
Sleight of Hand
Opt
Faithless Looting
Manamorphose
Finale of Promise
Magmatic Sinkhole
Lands (18)
Mountain
Island
Steam Vents
Fiery Islet
Spirebluff Canal
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand

Sideboard (15)
Ravenous Trap
Spell Pierce
Force of Negation
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Blood Moon
Abrade
Magmatic Sinkhole
Anger of the Gods
Narset, Parter of Veils


UW Control

UW control is probably the deck that has grown the most in the recent few years of Modern competition. I remember a time when it was a terrible choice to register any control deck in a format as vast as Modern. Ever since the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, there has been several unsung heroes joining the resistance. The new card selection from WAR and MH1 addressed two major short-comings of the UW control strategy; the ability to interact in early turns and the means to establish an early and proactive advantage. The addition of Teferi, Time Raveler, Force of Negation, and Narset, Parter of Veils have blown the doors of possibility right off the hinges.

Narset is a proactive card that finds more gas while also being a prison card against relevant match ups like the UW control mirror and Izzet Phoenix. She also synergizes really well with cards like Vendilion Clique and Teferi’s Puzzle Box/Day’s Undoing effects. Force of Negation has to be the biggest new appeal to play this deck. Not only does it  answer troublesome cards in early turns, it also allows you to play proactively by playing card advantage engines like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or nasty win conditions like Monastery Mentor without letting your shields down.

So the question remains, is UW Control going to remain a top contender in the Modern format? My answer is yes, however, I expect the prevalence of the deck to plateau or even slightly deflate. UW Control thrives in a vacuum where there are a smaller total number of viable decks. Even if that means the meta is unhealthy. The Hogaak meta is a fine example of this. The more diverse the Modern format becomes, the more difficult it will be for UW control to remain at the top of the metagame. At least that used to be the case. With the Modern format poised to break wide open with diversity, UW control may struggle to find enough overlapping answers to the format.


Tony Johnson [9th @ SCG IQ 7/2019]

Creatures (5)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (8)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Time Raveler

Spells (21)
Path to Exile
Opt
Force of Negation
Cryptic Command
Mana Leak
Spell Snare
Oust
Logic Knot
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
Timely Reinforcements
Surgical Extraction

Enchantments (1)
Detention Sphere
Lands (25)
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Hallowed Fountain
Glacial Fortress
Field of Ruin
Celestial Colonnade
Island
Plains
Blast Zone

Sideboard (15)
Monastery Mentor
Celestial Purge
Surgical Extraction
Rest in Peace
Timely Reinforcements
Lyra Dawnbringer
Disdainful Stroke
Ceremonious Rejection
Dovin’s Veto
Supreme Verdict
Force of Negation
Engineered Explosives
Restoration Angel


And for a point of comparison, here is my fellow team member, Francesco Neo Amati’s take on UW Control…


Francesco Neo Amati [7/2019]

Creatures (5)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (8)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Time Raveler

Spells (21)
Surgical Extraction
Opt
Supreme Verdict
Force of Negation
Logic Knot
Mana Leak
Spell Snare
Timely Reinforcements
Cryptic Command
Oust
Path to Exile

Artifacts (1)
Engineered Explosives

Enchantments (1)
Detention Sphere
Lands (24)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Hallowed Fountain
Glacial Fortress
Island
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Timely Reinforcements
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Celestial Purge
Monastery Mentor
Lyra Dawnbringer
Disdainful Stroke
Restoration Angel
Dovin’s Veto
Stony Silence
Rest in Peace


Fran and I have done a good deal of work on these lists collaboratively.  Here is what we are considering for future inclusions:

Main

Side

Grixis Urza

Perhaps the spiciest meatball we are going to discuss. This artifact-driven strategy has taken many shapes since the birth of Lantern Control at Grand Prix Oklahoma City courtesy of Zac Elsik. Matt Nass and company then popularized the Krark-Clan Ironworks deck, a combo-driven artifact strategy which ultimately proved worthy of a banning almost single-handedly because of Matt Nass. More recently, Zan Syed’s iteration of the deck took on a prison strategy with Whir of Invention, silver bullets, and Chalice of the Void. This strategy clearly has the tools to break into top 8 tables. So what is the next evolution in this strategy?

Many Magic pros will tell you that Mox Opal is one of the most broken cards in Modern. Which should mean that any deck that can wield its power is nothing to scoff at. This new Urza deck is no exception. The deck possesses the unique ability to sport the strongest cards regardless of color. This deck has a very streamlined feel to it with four Serum Visions, four Arcum’s Astrolabe, and four Mishra’s Bauble to cantrip (and, in the case of Visions, provide some card selection), an affordable and efficient way to tutor artifacts in Goblin Engineer, and a good ol’ fashion infinite combo with Urza, Lord High Artificer, Thopter Foundry, and Sword of the Meek. But this is not your typical run-of-the-mill combo deck. The Urza deck has a unique ability to choose its role in a given match up. Utilizing cards like Sai, Master Thopterist, Fatal Push, Dead of Winter, Ensnaring Bridge, and Galvanic Blast for creature match-ups. And a plethora of tutorable silver bullets for various different strategies. I expect this deck to grow in popularity. With that being said, the format has the tools to adjust and should keep it in check. Does this deck have the tools to rise to tier one status? Time will tell. 

Discussion