The Modern Renaissance
by Connor Bryant
This upcoming weekend, Modern players all over will converge on Vancouver and Brisbane to sling some Modern legal cardboard. Between the printing of Aether Revolt and the most recent bannings, a few new decks have popped up in the format. The inclusion of new cards or the removal of a predator has given some old archetypes a new lease on life.
Storm Rages Again
The banning of Rite of Flame, err Seething Song, err Gitaxian Probe was the supposed death of Storm in Modern. But alas, the beast lives.
Storm has been a hallmark of the linear decks in modern since the beginning of the format. The most recent banning in the deck’s history pushes it away from Pyromancer Ascension and towards Gifts Ungiven as its card advantage engine of choice. The new addition of Baral, Chief of Compliance lets the deck play a virtual 7 copies of the effect. This change encourages the deck to play more and more spells and even adding Remand to the deck. The deck is still a turn 4 combo deck and it is more resilient to discard with Gifts Ungiven. The sideboard package is especially interesting. Blood Moon has always been in the deck and can be accelerated to with a ritual effect on turn 2. The Madcap Experiment-Platinum Emperion package is a plan that hasn’t been explored enough since its printing in Kaladesh. It makes a lot of sense in this deck though; the package is at its best in decks that try to turn off a lot of its opponents’ removal. Will people leave in Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push against your Goblin Electromancers and Barals? Sure! But most decks can’t afford to leave in their Path to Exiles, leaving the Platinum Emperion unkillable. If the opponent sees it game 2, board it out! Leave them with those dead removal spells while you storm off. This package puts the opponent in a tough spot and plays dividends in a large tournament when the opponent doesn’t know you have the package. The Storm menace is back.
Black Midrange is Pushed
The printing of Fatal Push has given every black deck a premium 1 mana removal spell. This addition is important for decks that don’t have access to Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile. The deck has been slotted into a bevy of black midrange decks and its presence changes some of the terms of engagement for these decks. Cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Lingering Souls that cannot get Fatal Push-ed get better. I am not usually not a fan of jamming clunky 5 drops into my deck but now I can get behind it. If I were to play a black midrange deck, I’d start with this Abzan list from MOCS champ Butakov.
This deck has been built with the new removal spell in mind. A lot of the creature it plays die to Fatal Push; if they don’t die the opponent is in trouble though. Lingering Souls has always been the pull towards Abzan and it is king in the midrange mirrors. The maindeck planeswalkers and sideboard Gideons are also impervious to Fatal Push and let the deck build advantage while sitting behind Spirit tokens. The 2 Fatal Push-2 Path to Exile split is an odd endorsement for the card as well. Push is so good it makes 5 drop threats tough for this deck to beat, Butakov turned his 4 of Fatal Push into this split to catch the now well-positioned bigger creatures. You know a card is good when it warps what is playable to the point that you cut some copies of it.
The Prey Roams Free
The main reason for growth in the format are not new printings, but the removal of Gitaxian Probe. Probe fueled the creature combo decks, (think Infect, Death Shadow Zoo, UR Kiln Fiend). These decks were notoriously bad matchups for the slower combo decks that went over the top of various midrange like Ad Nauseam, Tron, Primeval Titan Scapeshift Combo and Griselbrand Reanimater. While all of these decks are very different from each other, the combination of a very fast clock and light amounts of disruption was often too much to overcome. The creature combo decks seem to be missing though. They may still be viable but don’t have the consistency or speed they had before. This realignment of power is a big shift in Modern. Whether that means more Slaughter Games, Thoughtseize or whatever your deck of choice has to pack to beat these decks, I recommend bringing it in your sideboard to your next Modern tournament. It is safe to go big again in Modern; don’t get trampled on.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my other writings and my work on The Mindcrank Podcast.
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