Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 15 2021 12:00pm

 Hello and welcome back to the State of Modern, our quarterly rendez-vous with all things Modern, including big tournament reports, the decklists and prices for the archetypes that are currently the most successful in the meta, and an up-to-date ban list. If you never tried your hand at Modern, this is the right place to know everything you need to know in order to begin; and if you're already into it, it can still be a good way to make sure you know everything that's happening in the format.

 The series archive is here.

 Let's start a new ride!



 Here's the latest major Modern events that were relevant for the meta, ordered chronologically. Find the archetypes below. The global pandemic is still affecting tournament play, as all the Modern qualifiers are held on MTGO. The future of MTG professional gaming is also up in the air after the announcement that Wizards of the Coast is dismantling the MPL and restructuring organized play.

 April 6: MTGO Modern Super Qualifier
 Players: 16
 Winner: sicsmoo with UrzaTron
 Top 8: UrzaTron, Heliod Company, Burn, Death's Shadow, Heliod Company, Izzet Aggro, Heliod Company, EldraTron


 May 4: MTGO Modern Championship Qualifier
 Players: 154
 Winner: FriskiFraska with Orzhov Ephemerate
 Top 8: Orzhov Ephemerate, Dimir Mill, Boros Aggro, Amulet Titan, Death's Shadow, Prison Ponza, Puresteel Hammer, Izzet Aggro


 June 26: 2021 Magic Online Champions Showcase #1
 Players: 8
 Winner: Yūki Ichikawa with Crashing Footfalls
 Top 8: Crashing Footfalls, Death's Shadow, Crashing Footfalls, Izzet Aggro, Crashing Footfalls, Rakdos Aggro, Izzet Aggro, Izzet Aggro



 Already covered: 4-Color RampAd NauseamAffinity, Allosaurus Combo, Bant AggroBant ControlBogleBlue MoonBloomless Titan (aka Amulet Titan), Bridgevine (banned, update: Crabvine), BurnCollected Chord (aka Creatures Toolbox), Creatures Toolbox: Heliod (aka Heliod Life aka Heliod Company), Creatures Toolbox: Lurrus, Creatures Toolbox: YawgmothDeath's Shadow (update), Dredge (update), Eldrazi Aggro, Eldrazi & TaxesEldraTron, Elves, Equipment StormFaeriesGifts Control, Goblins, Green Devotion Prison (banned), Grixis Control, Gruul AggroGruul UtopiaHardened ModularHatebears, Hogaak DredgeHollow OneHumans, Infect, Instant Reanimator, Izzet Aggro (aka Izzet Delver), Izzet Phoenix (update), Izzet Pyromancer, Jeskai BreachJeskai MiraclesJund (also feat. Wrenn and Six), Junk, KCI (banned), Landless SpyLantern Control, LanternlessLiving EndMadcap Gruul, Mardu Pyromancer, Martyr LifeMerfolk, Nahiri Control, Naya Burn, Niv-Mizzet RebornPhoenix Deck Wins, Phoenix Wrenn and SixPonza (update: Prison Ponza aka Gruul Karn), Puresteel HammerPyro Prison, Rakdos AggroRakdos MidrangeRDW, Saheeli Evolution, Scapeshift ControlSelesnya Value, Simic FieldSkred Red, Spirit Aggro, StonebladeStorm, Temur ReclamationTezzeratorThe Rock, Titan BreachTokensTwinless Exarch, Urza EmryUrza FoodUrza Foundry (aka Whirza), Urza OutcomeUrzaTronUW ControlValakut (aka TitanShift), Valakut Control, Valki Cascade (obsoleted), Vannifar PodWalks, Winota Colossification, Yorion Control.

 Update: After the big ball of bans of last February, Modern was left in a state conducive to change. The three major events listed above perfectly encapsulate the different stages experienced by the meta throughout the spring. In the immediate aftermath of the bans, established decks like UrzaTron, Creatures Toolbox (especially in the Heliod/Ballista variant) and Death's Shadow reaffirmed themselves. Then came the first new generation of success stories, with builds like Orzhov Ephemerate attempting new routes. This is a Death & Taxes-reminiscent build focusing on ETB abilities of creatures, and particularly exploiting the sheer efficiency of the namesake spell, which can retrigger one of those effects twice in a row. This way, Skyclave Apparition and Wasteland Stranger provide repeatable removal, Tidehollow Sculler and new Strixhaven entry Elite Spellbinder are in charge of disruption, and good ole Stoneforge Mystic (remember when she was banned?) finds one or more of the finishing Equipment. Naturally, being a heavy creature-centric deck, it runs Aether Vial, and being an ETB-based build, it goes up to 80 cards in order to companion Yorion, Sky Nomad.


 But then we move onto June 18 (or two weeks earlier on Magic Online), when Magic Horizons 2 was released, and that was always bound to shake up the format to a sizeable extent, possibly even more than its predecessor did in 2019.


 Apart for the healthy reprint of the five enemy-colored fetchlands (which had also appeared in Modern Masters 2017, while the allied-colored ones haven't been reprinted at rare since Khans of Tarkir), a number of previously not Modern-legal cards have been inducted into the format via Modern Horizons 2 reprints. Their meta-relevance varies, but among the most useful or intriguing are black mana ramper Cabal Coffers, original recipe Counterspell, popular split card Fire/Ice, combo finisher Goblin Bombardment, old-fashioned artifact hater Gorilla Shaman, combo fetcher Imperial Recruiter, reanimator on a stick Karmic Guide, mana doubler Mirari's Wake, original manland Mishra's Factory, seminal safety valve Nevinyrral's Disk, master untapper Quirion Ranger, fierce hatebear Sanctum Prelate, efficient cascader Shardless Agent, catchall removal Vindicate, Commander favorite Yavimaya Elder, and several cards for the Enchantress archetype including Enchantress's Presence, Sterling Grove, and Solitary Confinement (although, sadly, the Argothian Enchantress herself is still missing from Modern).


 But what did all these injections of potential fresh gas mean for the meta? One month later, the jury's still out, as the dust has not settled yet. What we have right now is a meta that's half new brews and half reworkings of existing decks, especially those that got significant upgrades from Modern Horizons 2. For one, every control deck with access to blue, i.e. almost any control deck that's out there, is now going to run Counterspell over whatever two-mana countermagic they used to run. Amulet Titan decks have started to use Urza's Saga to fetch more copies of their titular artifact, and of course Affinity and Hardened Modular lists similarly enjoy the artifact-oriented saga land, with the former also reinforced by the new card advantage flyer Thought Monitor and the latter adding Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp to their arsenal.


 Very old customers like UrzaTron, which is the most solved deck in the meta and rarely ever impacted by new cards, have been put aside for the time being (they'll be back, people always get back to UrzaTron at some point, it's the true Modern constant). Heliod Company appears to be hurt by the ease with which Urza's Saga decks are able to fetch hate for its combos in game two, like Pithing Needle freezing Walking Ballista.

 Some subsequent evolutions of white-black decks dropped the cuteness of Ephemerate, kept the most efficient creatures, and relocated the strategy in more of an Orzhov Stoneblade direction, incorporating several cards from Modern Horizons 2 like superior spot removal spells Vindicate, and Prismatic Ending (in many regards, an improvement over white staple Path to Exile), new Stoneforge target Kaldra Compleat, and multi-purpose threat Dauthi Voidwalker (it's an unblockable beater plus graveyard hate plus a free spell). Alternatively, they may still be using Ephemerate to target the members of the new powerful Incarnation cycle that are in their color, namely Solitude and Grief (yeah, those sound like fun names).


 The star of the new set, currently exceeding 125 tickets on MTGO, is one-drop chase mythic Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. The sneaky Monkey Pirate has taken residence in all red decks, including Jeskai Stoneblade and especially Izzet Aggro, which has also been strenghtened by the addition of Delver of Secrets variant Dragon's Rage Channeler as well as another excellent uncommon in Expressive Iteration from Strixhaven. Some versions also play the new delve finisher Murktide Regent.


 Most popular new deck, grabbing three placements, including first place, at the Magic Online Champions Showcase of June 26: Crashing Footfalls.


 It's a straightforward midrange/combo deck in Temur colors, aiming to resolve Shardless Agent or on turn three, thus putting ten points worth of power on the battlefield thanks to a cascaded Crashing Footfalls, a card from the original Modern Horizons set that had never been too relevant until now. The assembled one-spell army (a slightly reduced version is achieved via Violent Outburst) is then protected by a variety of counterspell, many of which don't cost any mana. Graced with a very versatile interactive suite including Bonecrusher Giant, Brazen Borrower and the newly Modern-legal Fire//Ice, it makes for a sturdy build that has a particularly favorable matchup against the other highly popular list of the moment, Izzet Aggro, which amounts to a whopping 13% of the meta in the last two months.


 Most explosive new deck, definitely one to keep an eye on in the future, despite still having to prove itself in a major event: Urza's Kitchen.


 Its signature new card is the Unset-looking, except not really, Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (yeah, you bet I copy-pasted that). The cheecky chief is accompanied by her own The Underworld Cookbook, but this deck is far from a meme. First of all, it marks the return of Urza, Lord High Artificer after the disappearance of Whirza lists following the banning of Arcum's Astrolabe last year. Only now he's become kind of a gourmet, because the artifacts he cares about are the Food tokens from the cookery.


 This archetype is very much still a work in progress. Some lists include the Cauldron FamiliarWitch's Oven combo; some dip into red for Ragavan and Lightning Axe, other drop blue for green (in which case they assume the name of Hell's Kitchen) and run Feasting Troll King and Lotleth Troll. We'll see how it'll evolve, but it's definitely a case of "so hot right now". Which is appropriate on many levels.


 Last revised: February 15, 2021 (banned: Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary, Simian Spirit Guide, Tibalt's Trickery, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath)

 Total banned cards: 46

 By Color: 

  • White: 1
  • Blue: 8 (of which 2 Simic)
  • Black: 4 (of which 2 Golgari)
  • Red: 8
  • Green: 11 (of which 2 Golgari, 2 Simic)
  • Colorless: 18 (of which 10 lands)
  • Multicolored: 4 (of which 2 Golgari, 2 Simic)

 By Type: 

  • Creature: 5
  • Land: 10
  • Artifact: 9
  • Enchantment: 2
  • Planeswalker: 1
  • Instant: 9
  • Sorcery: 10

 By Set:

  • Core Sets: 3 (of which 1 from 9th Edition, originally from Visions, 1 from Magic 2011, 1 from Core Set 2020)
  • Modern Horizons: 2
  • Mirrodin block: 12 (of which 9 from Mirrodin, 2 from Darksteel, 1 from Fifth Dawn)
  • Kamigawa block: 4 (of which 2 from Champions of Kamigawa, 2 from Betrayers of Kamigawa)
  • Ravnica block: 1 (from Ravnica)
  • Ice Age block: 2 (both from Coldsnap)
  • Time Spiral block: 4 (of which 2 from Time Spiral, 1 from Planar Chaos, 1 from Future Sight)
  • Lorwyn block: 1 (from Lorwyn)
  • Alara block: 0
  • Zendikar block: 3 (of which 1 from Zendikar, 1 from Worldwake, 1 from Rise of the Eldrazi)
  • Scars of Mirrodin block: 5 (of which 1 from Scars of Mirrodin, 1 from Mirrodin Besieged, 3 from New Phyrexia)
  • Innistrad block: 1 (of which 1 from Dark Ascension)
  • Return to Ravnica block: 1 (from Return to Ravnica)
  • Theros block: 0
  • Khans of Tarkir block: 2 (both from Khans of Tarkir)
  • Battle for Zendikar block: 0
  • Shadows over Innistrad block: 0
  • Kaladesh block: 0
  • Amonkhet block: 0
  • Ixalan block: 0
  • Three-and-One Sets: 5 (of which 3 from Throne of Eldraine, 1 from Theros Beyond Death, 1 from Kaldheim)

 See you in three months, to check if the werewolves of Midnight Hunt will have gotten their claws into the Modern meta!