Three Crazy Decks to Brew with Modern Horizons

If you’re familiar with my content, you’ll know that I love to build and test off-the-wall brews in Modern. The card pool is so wide, but the format is very aggressive and punishing, which makes it very difficult for most brews to ever have a chance at success. The brew needs to be highly disruptive to keep up with the degenerate decks or do something degenerate itself (ideally before turn four). The best brews can actually do both!

Modern Horizons comes out very soon and I am sure it will impact many existing decks while also creating new ones. Today, I’ll be focusing on three different decks that will greatly benefit from Modern Horizons.

Mono-Red Shenanigans

Mono-Red Shenanigans, or as I like to call it, Karnanigans, is a new take on an existing archetype: Mono-Red Prison. Mono-Red Prison uses fast mana like Simian Spirit Guide, Gemstone Caverns, and Desperate Ritual to power out disruptive lock pieces like Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge and Blood Moon. The deck uses different planeswalkers or creatures to slowly win while the opponent can’t make any substantial plays.

As someone who has tested Mono-Red Prison a fair amount, I always felt that the deck didn’t do a great job of locking up the game against certain parts of the format that don’t care about the aforementioned lock pieces. But every deck in the format plays permanents, so let’s destroy some permanents!

Karnanigans is a deck that utilizes a similar core to Mono-Red Prison, however, the deck has an artifact toolbox built into the deck that provides a different angle of attack. Using Goblin Engineer, the deck is able to deploy a wide array of artifact lock pieces as early as turn two, such as Ensnaring Bridge, Trinisphere, or Liquimetal Coating, which combos with the namesake card of the deck; Shenanigans. Using Liquimetal Coating to turn any permanent into an artifact, Shenanigans now becomes a two-mana Vindicate with Dredge 1 to make sure you can cast it every single turn!

Karn, the Great Creator is another payoff spell for Liquimetal Coating, being able to blow up lands with its +1. It is also another artifact toolbox, nabbing hate pieces or wincons from the sideboard. Having eight spells that can turn into your best artifacts in the match-up does a lot for consistency rather than hoping to draw the right one at the right time. The addition of Goblin Engineer truly makes this deck viable.

Let’s take a look at a preliminary version of the deck:

Mono-Red Shenanigans

Creatures (8)
Simian Spirit Guide
Goblin Engineer

Planeswalkers (4)
Karn, the Great Creator

Enchantments (4)
Blood Moon

Artifacts (18)
Chalice of the Void
Mishra's Bauble
Mox Opal
Liquimetal Coating
Ensnaring Bridge

Instants/Sorceries (7)
Lands (19)
Darksteel Citadel
Gemstone Cavern
14 Snow-Covered Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Tormod's Crypt
Walking Ballsita
Welding Jar
Grafdigger's Cage
Liquimetal Coating
Sorcerous Spyglass
Anger of the Gods
Ensnaring Bridge
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Hazoret the Fervent
Mycosynth Lattice

Without knowing how the format will develop, it is difficult to create a perfect artifact toolbox between the mainboard and sideboard. It’s possible that a maindeck Tormod’s Crypt or Welding Jar could go a long way in making the deck more resilient, but for the first iteration of the deck, those toolbox pieces will be left to the “Karnboard”.

It’s also possible that the manabase can be diversified to include some utility lands, such as Scrying Sheets, Ramunap Ruins, Inventor’s Fair, or more Gemstone Caverns. These are things I will continue to experiment with when the cards come out.

In order to beat opposing Stony Silence effects, the two Ghirapur Aether Grid, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Hazoret the Fervent provide alternate wincons.

There’s also a version of the deck I brewed without Chalice of the Void, instead opting for Chromatic Star and Ichor Wellspring as draw engines for Goblin Engineer, though I feel that this version is weaker overall. There are clearly a ton of different ways to utilize Goblin Engineer, so I’m excited to try to break the card after release.

Mono-Black Yawgmoth Devotion

Mono-Black Devotion was an all-star deck during its time in Standard, but Modern is a different beast of a format. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is the card that Mono-Black never knew it needed. Instead of being a fair deck with a smooth manabase and reasonable threats, it now has access to a near-infinite combo.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, along with two Geralf’s Messengers, allows you to continually remove the +1/+1 counter added from Undying, hitting your opponent for two life in the process each time. This combo is limited by your life total, which in a Thoughtseize deck isn’t inconsequential. A playset of Gray Merchant of Asphodel that this deck is likely to include give it a solid life buffer in the longer games, making the combo more attainable.

Let’s take a look at a preliminary decklist:

Mono-Black Devotion

Creatures (18)
Geralf's Messenger
Phyrexian Obliterator
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Planeswalkers (5)
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope

Instants/Sorceries (13)
Fatal Push
Inquisition of Kozilek
Collective Brutality

Enchantments (1)
Phyrexian Arena
Lands (23)
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
15 Snow-Covered Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Collective Brutality
Ashiok, Dream Render
Dead of Winter
Force of Despair
Fulminator Mage
Plague Engineer

In this version of the deck, Bloodghast is an ideal two-drop over Gifted Aetherborn due to its synergy with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician.  This allows you to gain value by sacrificing it to draw cards and kill creatures, then recurring it later in the game.

The rest of the deck is pretty self-explanatory, but the fetches may look a little out of place, especially for a deck that is trying to maintain its life total to be able to combo off with a life-limiting combo. Fatal Push is the best removal spell black has access to, so being able to turn on its secondary mode seems quite useful. I’m not sure if seven fetches is enough or too many, but some fetches are definitely required. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth turns these fetches into Swamps, meaning you don’t actually have to crack them for mana in the late game. Fetches also favorably interact with Bloodghast, providing two triggers.

It’s possible that Field of Ruin deserves a slot somewhere in the manabase, though the deck is incredibly black-mana intensive. Stumbling on mana in the early turns seems like a major drawback.

The sideboard actually got a lot of great tools from Modern Horizons. Dead of Winter is a powerful board sweeper for only three mana. It competes with a card like Damnation, which can kill bigger creatures but will always kill your creatures. Dead of Winter has the benefit of being a one-sided sweeper on some board states, preserving our precious Phyrexian Obliterator from death.

Force of Despair is also a card that I want to experiment with moving forward. It entirely depends on the rest of the format, but having access to a one-sided instant speed board wipe seems incredibly powerful and is worth testing.

Lastly, Plague Engineer makes life difficult for decks like Humans and Spirits and it’s only one-sided, meaning you can name Spirit and not have your own Bloodghast immediately die.

A card to consider moving forward would be Cabal Therapist. This card is no Cabal Therapy, but being able to sacrifice Bloodghast or Geralf’s Messenger for “value” seems like an effect that would be good to have against certain decks. We play plenty of discard spells, meaning that when you do choose to sacrifice a creature, it’s rarely a blind name.

At the end of the day, this deck battles on a much fairer axis than most Modern decks, but it has cheap discard and removal to ensure it gets to play a longer game. Now, with a near-infinite combo, a powerful value engine and strong new sideboard cards, the deck may be able to make its long-awaited return!

Temur Delver

The goose is loose, folks!  Modern Horizons unleashes Nimble Mongoose into the Modern landscape, sending many die-hard fans into a frenzy. The card is an incredibly annoying threat in the right build, as can be seen in Legacy’s past. Modern doesn’t have access to True-Name Nemesis, Daze, or Brainstorm, but maybe it doesn’t need those cards to make Temur viable. With 13 premiere threats, Snapcaster Mage, and a boatload of tempo-oriented spells, the deck may have some legs.

Let’s examine a potential home for this little fellah:

Temur Delver

Creatures (15)
Delver of Secrets
Nimble Mongoose
Young Pyromancer
Snapcaster Mage

Instants/Sorceries (28)
Burst Lightning
Faithless Looting
Forked Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Serum Visions
Spell Pierce
Spell Snare
Thought Scour
Vapor Snag
Mana Leak
Lands (17)
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Wooded Foothills
Waterlogged Grove
Fiery Islet

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Force of Negation
Surgical Extraction
Scavenging Ooze
Alpine Moon
Izzet Staticaster
Vendilion Clique

There are so many different ways you can build a deck like this, but this approach is where my brain went first. Establish a threat, fill the yard with cantrips, and cheaply interact with the opponent.

Just 17 lands may seem too few, but with so many cantrips and the deck’s ability to play an entire game of Magic on just two lands, 17 feels like more than enough. We even get to take advantage of the new “canopy” lands, Waterlogged Grove and Fiery Islet.

It’s possible that the deck wants some number of Remand in place of some Mana Leak. Both counters have their strengths and weaknesses, but I think Mana Leak is far stronger in the early game where we don’t have a threat yet. Our removal also isn’t great against bigger creatures, so permanent counterspells help us fill this gap. Experimenting with different configurations will allow us to solve this question.

Force of Negation and Disrupting Shoal are both free counterspells with card disadvantage. Tempo decks don’t care as much for this, as they usually try to get the opponent dead before the card disadvantage ends up mattering. I’ve never been a huge fan of Disrupting Shoal main or side, but Force of Negation seems like a great choice in the sideboard. We currently play 26 blue spells, so it’s easily supportable. The question is whether or not the effect is worth having in the main, which will ultimately depend on how the meta changes due to Modern Horizons.

With Modern being very spell dense, with the exception of Humans, playing Spell Pierce seems great. A deck like this could prey on the rise of UW Control, which would have a hard time punching through all of its threats backed up by cheap countermagic and reach in the form of burn spells. I am cautiously optimistic, but very excited, about Nimble Mongoose and hope to see it in some winning decklists down the road.


These three decks are the ones I’m most excited to try with the release of Modern Horizons. There are so many new cards that could support new and existing archetypes, breathing life into a somewhat solved Modern format. We have seen a steady increase in the meta percentage of the top five decks in Modern, slowly but surely increasing the gap between them and the rest of the format. I am hopeful that Modern Horizons will encourage brewing and diversify the playing field, maybe knocking the top decks, like Tron, Humans, and Phoenix, down a peg in the process!