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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Oct 25 2011 7:53am
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ROGUE PLAY
Modernization
Part IV
by Nafiz Erman

Hello dear readers and welcome back to Rogue Play. As you know the banned list for Modern has been updated and the new list started a whole new era for the format. The first (and so far the only) Modern Pro Tour was full with Combo, Zoo and Twelve Posts, and there were almost zero Control decks. And at the end we saw that Combo was the dominant deck type of the format. There were many different Combo decks around but the result was all the same: Death on turn four; latest!

Some decks were even killing their opponents on turn two. On turn two! Competitive Magic always had fast decks and still has fast ones, but turn two kills were a bit over the top. So WotC took the ban hammer once again and "hammered" these cards:

Cloudpost --- Green Sun's Zenith --- Rite of Flame --- Blazing Shoal --- Preordain --- Ponder

I understand what WotC is trying to do here and I personally appreciate it. We all know that neither Preordain nor Ponder are broken cards (as in "only broken cards get banned"), but they were heavily used in Combo decks and thus they had to leave.

And now a new era is beginning for Modern. Now we don't have Twelve Posts decks. We don't have those Infect Shoal decks. Combo decks still do exist, but they aren't as fast as they used to be.

So what do we have now?

That dear readers, is the question I'm going to answer this week. This week I'm presenting you almost two dozen deck lists. And I divided the article into three parts for easy access:

1) Survivors
2) New "Old Faces"
3) Unseen Ideas

I want that this article will become a sort of deck encyclopedia for Modern. So whenever someone wants to play Modern and wants to look at what to play, they should open this article and look for options. It is of course absolutely not possible to list all the decks out there, but at least the most important ones will be included.

So... shall we start?

 

SURVIVORS

By "survivors" I obviously mean the decks that existed before the recent bannings and which continue to exist even now. Such as this one for example:

 

This deck lost zero cards with the new bannings; all it did lose is its old enemies! Combo always is a big problem for Aggro, but now Modern has less of them. Meaning it's once again time for Zoo to shine in Modern.

Of course there are many versions out there and the above one is just one example. Here is another Zoo variant:

 

As you see, Zoo has many faces but the most interesting one in my opinion is this next one:

 

I personally had the pleasure(!) of playing against this deck before the bannings and the first time my opponent Unified Will'ed my spell, I entered a state of coma and couldn't pull myself together for some time. I mean, I was playing against Zoo obviously but my opponent was countering my spells right and left with Bant Charm, Unified Will and Flashfreeze. So freakin' awful awesome!

Okay, we finished Zoo. There are surely some other versions too but the main ones are the ones you saw here. Next I have something even faster than Zoo. I have Affinity:

Red Affinity
A Modern deck
Creatures
4 Signal Pest
4 Frogmite
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Ornithopter
4 Atog
4 Memnite
4 Vault Skirge
28 cards

Other Spells
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Mox Opal
4 Cranial Plating
3 Springleaf Drum
2 Fling
1 Shrapnel Blast
18 cards
 
Lands
4 Darksteel Citadel
3 Blinkmoth Nexus
3 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Mountain
14 cards

Atog

 

Did you ever play against this deck dear readers? If no, you are lucky then. Because Atog in this deck is really crazy; it's not even fun. The best part of this deck is actually the sideboard in my opinion. Cloudpost may be banned but the format still has tons of reasons for a full playset of Blood Moon. Just look at the mana bases of the above Zoo decks and you'll understand why.  

Okay we're going too fast dear readers; let's slow down a bit. Actually we are not going to slow that much down but change our strategy from Aggro to Combo. Three very important Combo pieces may be banned (Rite of Flame, Ponder and Preordain), but this doesn't mean Combo is dead. Hive Mind for example, is most certainly not dead. Check this out:

 

So Ponder is now Sleight of Hand and Preordain is Serum Visions and life simply goes on for Hive Mind. The rest stays the same and this deck is solid as always.

Next I have another deck which is another survivor of the format; the dreaded Living End deck:

 

Contrary to the popular belief, this deck is very resilient to hate. Tormod's Crypt and a turn zero Leyline of the Void seem to be the best option against it but I even witnessed it winning by hardcasting its threats when there was a Leyline of the Void on table. Besides, Beast Within can kill Leyline of the Void and Tormod's Crypt dies to Krosan Grip (I personally would have played it in the sideboard).

The next deck that survived the bannings is Splinter Twin.

 

Anything unclear? Do you need any explanations? No? Good, then let's move on.

The final deck that existed before the bannings and that will continue to exist is this one:

 

So who cares that Green Sun's Zenith is banned? Most versions were already playing Chord of Calling over Green Sun's Zenith anyway! So this deck moves on as if nothing has happened.

Okay so far we've only seen old decks of the format that survived the bannings. Now the actual fun part is starting; meaning decks that weren't good before the bannings and decks that might have a chance now.

 

NEW "OLD FACES"
Or should I say Old "New Faces"?

The first deck I want to mention here is Mono Red Burn. This deck surprisingly didn't do well with the old banned list (because Combo didn't allow it to be good). But now that those turn two kills are over, the so called "burn_baby_burn.dec" may have a chance in the format. Let's check this one out:

 

I'm facing this deck very often in the Tournament Practice Room these days, so it's very safe to say that the online Modern community likes this deck a lot. There are many different versions out there though, such as this one:

Red Deck Wins (but a bit of Green wouldn't hurt!)
A Modern deck
Creatures
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Goblin Guide
4 Figure of Destiny
2 Hellspark Elemental
2 Deus of Calamity
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Magma Jet
2 Incinerate
18 cards
 
Lands
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Teetering Peaks
2 Stomping Ground
2 Karplusan Forest
13 Mountain
22 cards

Lightning Bolt

 

This is a very nice deck that splashes Green for some sideboard cards such as Krosan Grip and Beast Within. This is still the RDW we used to know but I believe that this is a much "clever" deck than the usual versions.

If we're talking about clever Burn decks, then maybe we should all take a look at this next one:

Burn!... the Rakdos Style
A Modern deck
Creatures
4 Dark Confidant
4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer
12 cards

Other Spells
4 Blightning
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Shard Volley
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Bump in the Night
28 cards
 
Lands
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Blood Crypt
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Mountain
20 cards

Dark Confidant

 

I personally dislike this kind of decks (my personal taste is a bit different) but this doesn't mean that I will not appreciate the genius here. Just above we saw what Green is giving to RDW and here we're seeing what Black can give to it. And the winner in my opinion, is most definitely Black. Dark ConfidantBlightning? The new Bump in the Night? Oh yes please! If you like playing fast decks then I strongly suggest you to try this one.

Next I have another Aggro deck which sadly (or thankfully?) didn't quite do well before the recent bannings. And I'm talking about the "folk of the sea" here:

 

As we all know, the Merfolk deck is a deck full of "lords" and it even has the recent M12 addition called Adaptive Automaton. Aether Vial is still legal in the format (it was legal since the beginning anyway) and Disrupting Shoal is this deck's pseudo Force of Will; as well as Ghost Quarter being its pseudo Wasteland. Before the latest bannings this deck was slow against those crazy Combo decks, but now I believe that it has a chance.

One other Aggro deck that might see the light of day play now, is Boros in my opinion:

 

Pretty straightforward, no? Okay, let's move on; I have tons of decks I want to show you in this article, so sadly I have to cut the explanation part of the article which I usually love to write (in very long paragraphs I might add).

From Aggro I want to move onto Control. This deck type sadly didn't had a chance to exist with the previous banned list. The format was basically Combo vs Aggro (and the winner was almost always Combo).

The first deck I'm going to show you is my beloved Solar Flare deck:

 

This deck dear readers, looks fantastic to me! 

Basically this deck is the combination of the old Solar Flare and the new one. Angel of Despair is one of my all-time favorite creatures, and thanks to Modern I will once again have the pleasure of playing her competitively. I really cannot explain how much I'm in love with this deck, so I better move on.

 

Not all  decks should be Solar Flare and this above one is a good example in my opinion. If you like a more traditional Control deck rather than a tricky(!) one such as Solar Flare, this above is just what you need.

Next I have a deck which you should be very familiar with.

 

This deck never had the chance to be a Tier-1 deck before the recent bannings and this fact had several reasons. Surely the Combo decks were crazy and Jund sadly wasn't powerful enough to fight them. But one other reason was the number of Blood Moons seen in the format. Blood Moon was the prime weapon against Twelve Posts decks and that card (which was there to fight Twelve Posts) was also killing Jund as well. We all know Jund very well and we all know that Jund's one and only weakness is its manabase. It's very vulnerable to nonbasics hate and Blood Moon was simply killing this deck.

Now there are no Twelve Posts decks around and the number of Blood Moons seen in the format has been decreased significantly. And that may mean a new start for Jund as well. Oh and look at the list please; it has two Innistrad cards in it. Liliana of the Veil and Kessig Wolf Run are perfect additions to this deck and now it's really much more powerful than it ever was.

Now let's move onto the next one.

 

Surely Jace Beleren isn't Jace, the Mind Sculptor and surely Stoneforge Mystic cannot be replaced, but this deck is still very good and powerful. Especially after the recent additions of Snapcaster Mage and Moorland Haunt. I love playing this deck in Legacy where you can truly feel all its power, but this Modern version isn't too bad either.

And here's another  deck that is a bit more aggressive than one would expect from a deck that has those colors:

 

I seriously love this above deck. It plays creature over creature, and in the meantime it counters spell after spell. So how will you fight it? Control will die to its creatures and other decks will get lost in between its counterspells. And anything that gets through will be exiled or bounced back. And after that you will lose one game to Mutavault, one other to Aven Mindcensor and even lose to a bunch Spellstutter Sprites. This is a very serious deck in my opinion and if you like playing Aggro/Control, then this is most definitely your deck then.

And next I have my current favorite deck of Modern:

 

So this is the deck I'm currently playing. And why do I love this deck? Let me tell you something else and you'll understand.

Sometime ago there was a discussion on a forum. Someone said that Snapcaster Mage is the best Blue creature ever printed. Someone else replied and said that it's the second best creature because Vendilion Clique is the best. And then some other person replied and said that Snapcaster is number three and the Clique is number two. Because according to him the best Blue creature of Magic was... Tarmogoyf!

I seriously laughed out loud to this in front of my computer (thankfully nobody heard me) but I knew that he was right. And now please look at my deck dear readers. I have the best creature of Blue in the deck (Tarmogoyf), I have the second best there (Vendilion Clique) and I also play the third best Blue creature of Magic there (Snapcaster Mage). So it's really impossible not to like this deck. Well, at least for me!

And right here I want to show you what this deck is capable of, because I seriously like it. I just recorded one single game (game two of a match) against a very good Jund deck, and I just want to share it with you.

I hope you liked it. I know it was just one single game but I also know it was enough to give you a very clear idea about what this deck can do.

Moving forward, I have this next mighty deck in my "New Old Faces" list:

 

Yes dear readers, this is indeed the mighty Teachings Control deck with some Innistrad goodies added to it. Once upon a time when this deck was the newest tech in town, people were playing Dralnu, Lich Lord in this deck to flashback their spells from the graveyard. And now they have a better option; they have Snapcaster Mage. I love this deck a lot and it's clearly one of my favorites (Solar Flare and Next Level Blue being the other favorites of mine).

And finally I have this one in this New "Old Faces" category:

 

Why am I not seeing this deck anywhere? Sure it was a slow deck for the pre-bannings meta, but I'm sure that right now this deck has a better chance of winning something serious (such as a Daily perhaps?).

Okay, these were a lot of decks. Now for the final part of the article I want to talk about...

 

UNSEEN IDEAS

At this final part of the article I want to talk about a few completely new deck options. And to come up with something totally new and unseen, one should look nowhere else than Innistrad. And Innistrad has a few "build around me" cards and the most important one is this:

As we all know, Laboratory Maniac's best friend is Leveler who also happens to be legal in Modern. So why not try this? Why not give it a shot? I'm sure there are more but my twisted(!) mind can come up with three different ways to use this combo.

1- Put the combo into a Teachings Control shell with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to protect it.
2- Use it in a mana ramp deck with Green and get the pieces with Chord of Calling. White will give Grand Abolisher as a form of protection.
3- Use it together with the Paradise Mantle / Puresight Merrow.

The third option is very interesting actually but you don't need Leveler in there.

Puresight Merrow Paradise Mantle

The problem here is that those two cards do exactly the same thing what Leveler does: Emptying the library. So one may ask why he should use those two cards instead of just one Leveler, and I don't have a proper answer to that question. So I guess that third option is not the right best way to build that Laboratory Maniac deck.

The second option looks interesting and I guess Fauna Shaman would also be a nice addition to that deck along with Chord of Calling. Maybe also Lotus Cobra and some fetchlands action too? I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here.

My favorite one of course is the first option as you may guess. Mystical Teachings gets you your Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir as usual. Then with a bit of help from Red mana ramping spells such as Seething Song, you can get your combo pieces out uninterrupted. Also do note that Seething Song is an instant which means that you can even get your combo out at the end of your opponent's turn. Or you can also do all your tricks on your own turn without being interrupted and then a single Manamorphose or a Gitaxian Probe will do.

The next interesting card from Innistrad is Burning Vengeance.

I'm sure you think that it's way too casual for the format but in reality it's not. I toyed with this idea a bit and you really should see Mystical Teachings in this deck! Time Spiral block also has a few other interesting pieces (such as Call of the Herd if you like to get into Green), and with those cards this deck can really be something interesting. Surely the next two sets in the ISD Block will give us more cards with flashback and maybe the correct time for a Modern Burning Vengeance deck is not now and like six months from now on. But in any case, just keep this option somewhere in your mind.

The last deck I think should be experimented is a soft Dredge deck that also uses Vengevine. This deck already saw a good amount of play when it was in Standard and now Innistrad gave this deck some very nice additions such as these:

These cards, Vengevine, Fauna Shaman, Hedron Crab, some nice Black and Green Dredge cards from Ravnica and some Unearth cards from Alara may mean a very nice and powerful deck. Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll may be banned but Dredge can also be built without them.

 

WRAP UP

I hope that I was successful in showing you all the best decks of Modern in one single article. I hope this article will be useful to you in case you want to play competitive Modern these days. I also hope that this article will be useful to you in the future if you want to play the format one day and want to look at the possibilities before you decide what to play. And finally I hope that this article was also useful in showing you and prove you that Modern is a very rich and deep format in terms of playable decks (despite what some seem to think).

Whether you like Aggro or Combo or Control, there are many nice options to choose from in the format that fits your play style. If you don't like the power level of Legacy/Classic or if you can't afford those formats, and if you also want to play some powerful cards other than the ones available in Standard, then Modern is 100% the right format for you.

As we all know, neither Disrupting Shoal nor Pact of Negation are Force of Will. Tectonic Edge is not Wasteland. Path to Exile is not Swords to Plowshares and Hallowed Fountain is not Tundra. But all of those cards are much nicer and much powerful than the options available in Standard. Hallowed Fountain may not be Tundra but it is also not Glacial Fortress. Modern isn't Legacy but it isn't Standard either. It is absolutely in between. Both the power level and the deck prices are in between Legacy and Standard. And once you accept this fact and stop comparing it to other formats, you may even start enjoying it.

 

NEXT TIME ON ROGUE PLAY
You decide what's next on Rogue Play!

First an announcement: I will take the next week off. I will be online all the time but I will not write. But for the week after next week, I will be back with the subject you want to read. The options are:

1) Competitive Modern: You want some hot Modern action? If yes, then I will spend some time in Modern 2mans and show you how awesome Next Level Blue or Solar Flare is. I can also try Mystical Teachings as well. Or maybe you have another deck in mind. Just do tell me.

2) Competitive ISD Block: I wrote two articles about this format (here and here) and maybe you want me to put all those theoretical information into practice. If that's the case, then all you have to do it is to tell me.

3) Competitive Legacy: I missed playing Legacy and if you want me to return to the format, I will gladly do so.

4) Commander: Do you think there's already too much competitive stuff around? Do you want me to build a nice Commander deck? If yes then do tell me! But you should also tell me whether you want some multiplayer action full with politics and trickery and deceit, or some vicious one-on-one battles bloodbaths.

5) Something Else: Maybe you want me to write about a specific subject that I cannot think of now. If so, then all you have to do is to let me know.

So in two weeks we will meet again dear readers and I will write about... well, I will write about what you will tell me to write about!

And thanks for reading.

See you online
Nafiz Erman, aka Lord Erman

16 Comments

Indeed next level blue or by seydaneen at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:47
seydaneen's picture

Indeed next level blue or next level faeries is a very strong deck. I tried it against zoo and results are very good. I always had a soft spot for teachings but existence of swords (particularly feast and famine) makes nlb my favorite. i dont like sword of shadows or body/mind though, i'd definitely try two swf&f. i'd also bump cyptic command to 4, it is too good to cut. i'd also suggest some artifact hate in the sideboard as affinity can be a tough matchup. whne it comes to next iprefer competitive modern, unless you give me a good enchantress deck list in legacy :)

edit : somehow didnt see nature's claims, was looking for kataki or your favorite hurkyls recall. how about that 4 mana destroy all artifacts card?

I vote ISD block for next by Madd at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:16
Madd's picture
5

I vote ISD block for next article. Lovin' the next level blue, man.

just figured out what our by seydaneen at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:21
seydaneen's picture

just figured out what our deck is missing: rune snags. they are too good to pass with snapcaster. better than mana leak, no?

Rune Snag has some serious by Gardevi at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:23
Gardevi's picture

Rune Snag has some serious antisynergy with Snapcaster.

yep you are right it only by seydaneen at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:24
seydaneen's picture

yep you are right it only gets better after you use them all/

Hi guys and thanks for the by Lord Erman at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 11:46
Lord Erman's picture

Hi guys and thanks for the comments.

I prefer Nature's Claim over all the other options because:

1) It's a one mana instant. I like to keep mana open for counters AND play my own stuff in the meantime, and therefore the mana costs of my cards are very important. The cheaper the better. And instants are always > sorceries.

2) It's versatile. It deals with Birthing Pod as well as it deals with Inkmoth Nexus. It deals with swords as well as it deals with Aether Vial. It deals with Oblivion Ring as well as it deals with Cloudstone Curio (Which is being played heavily by Elf decks). So my artifact/enchantment hate is not against Affinity only, but it's against all kinds of situations I may find myself in. Kataki is very useful against Affinity but it's useless against Pod decks for example. Nature's Claim therefore is a more versatile option.

3) Did I say it's a one mana instant?!

I chose the UG sword over the BG one because I don't need the bonuses the BG one is giving me. Discard is mostly meaningless as the format has lots of fast decks (They don't have much to discard) and most of the time I don't have any big spells I want to play (So that I can play them first and untap after I attack).

That's the same reason why I'm not using the RW one. Most of the time I don't have cards in hand so that I can gain life and they don't have cards in their hand so that I can deal damage to them. The UG one is interesting not only because it mills but because it also gives me a 2/2 token. It's definitely not the best sword, but I found out that it works better and is more useful to me than the BG one.

Thanks again for the comments.

LE

So good! by apaulogy at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 12:43
apaulogy's picture
5

I personally have been working on a bunch of these decks and am enticed by some that you have listed here.

I am particularly interested in building around burning vengeance. I love that card. I am thinking Grixis...splash Goyf.

I am playing Twin, except I have Engineered Explosives in the SB and MD Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows. The green helps Firespout kill flyers, Flashback on Ancient Grudge from SB, Bigger EEs, and Goyf.

For Teachings, I pretty much have the same deck card for card. Two slight differences:

-1 Surgical Extraction ; +1 Extirpate..Split Second is rather relevant.
- Shreikmaw, Grim Harvest; +2 Damnation. I felt this was a necessary evil.

Otherwise, pretty much the same card choices. My land base is also different. I run Minamo, School at Water's Edge for example and no storage lands.

Love the Swan deck. Love the Boroos and Rakdos decks. Needle Burn I pretty much have and should give a spin.

Storm still seems viable. I played against a gentleman the other day who was playing the legal Rituals, Telling Time and Peer through Depths for filtering, and Locket of Yesterdays and Past in Flames for some real degeneracy. It was a blast.

I vote for more Modern when you come back, and would love to test with you if I ever catch you online.

Thanks for this. Great ideas and I believe that all of these decks are viable.

Thank you! I have been by Reaper9889 at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 14:05
Reaper9889's picture
5

Thank you!

I have been running a madness deck in modern - Jace's achivist, fauna shaman, Zombie infestation, misses Veil - who can want more for discard outlets? While the deck can be decently fast (as in it can reasonable often hit for 10 or more turn 4-5 - aka. draw zombie infestation early) I'd like to have a way to abuse fauna shaman slightly more than it is already, for a better late game - removing a creature a turn is just not broken enough you see. Hence I have been adding the Melira combo. So thank you for reminding me of the Leveler combo...

Regarding Puresight Merrow + by inneutral at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 14:58
inneutral's picture
5

Regarding Puresight Merrow + Paradise Mantle combo v leveler. It has some upside, namely acting as a flexible/repeatable demonic consultation to find Laboratory Maniac/protection and having a total mana cost of 3 for the Merrow+equip versus 5 cmc for leveler. This lets you goldfish a turn or two earlier than leveler. It is also less all in than leveler in the absence of Teferi.

Always like reading your articles! by Ironsides at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 19:08
Ironsides's picture
5

Keep up the excellent work! This is a good primer on the format. I'll have to show my friend this article since he is interested in Modern.

One of the decks I used to by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 17:40
Paul Leicht's picture

One of the decks I used to help test the CCC decks was Seismic Swans, so I have a soft spot for that deck. I didn't find it particularly slow even then (though a few of the combos that were banned later, were not on the roster of potential decks at the time). But I did find it faltering just from its own draws. It is either super easy to pilot or a nightmare depending on how it draws out. Obviously you need RRR to get Seismic Assault down and you need WW or UW or UU or some such for the swans so that was problematic. I also used Life from the Loam + fetches and no BBEs because the cascade was very hit or miss. Treasure Hunt seems interesting as tech goes. Kessig Wolf Run seems like it would fit nicely in this deck too except for the colored mana issues.

labaratory maniac needs a by this isnt the n... at Tue, 10/25/2011 - 18:30
this isnt the name i chose's picture

labaratory maniac needs a timewalk effect. Final fortune (no idea if its modern legal), or maybe the uu1 version where you skip your untap. Or it needs to be able to combo out at instant speed on opp eot. Giving the opp a turn to kill your dude, with the entire game on the line since you have no library, seems awful.

I would go for a teferi shell, with a focus on maniac combo, with timewalks of some sort. Cant remember the name of the 3 mana skip your untap timewalk, but its very good with planeswalkers too. jace memory adept might be a good fit. At 5 mana its slow, but in a pure control deck that isnt planning on comboing turn 5, it can also work as an alternate wincon, and a card drawing engine.

What is the advantage of by Reaper9889 at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 04:08
Reaper9889's picture

What is the advantage of another turn for this combo? I really can't see it. I mean: you need to play leveler + a "draw cards" card. I would suggest Æther Vial though, partly because it is awesome and partly because it protects that combo.

Modern gets my vote by 2of1 at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 02:22
2of1's picture

Modern all the way!

ismodern even firing? by BOBBAKAKE at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 02:49
BOBBAKAKE's picture

ismodern even firing?

ismodern even firing? by BOBBAKAKE at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 02:49
BOBBAKAKE's picture

ismodern even firing?