Top 8 Decks in Modern – May 2019

Ryan Normandin
May 17, 2019

 Modern is going to be experiencing a lot of changes in the next month. Already, War of the Spark looks to be one of the most impactful sets for Modern in years, and Modern Horizons promises to further shake up the format. In these uncertain times, here are my picks for the eight best-positioned decks in the format.

8. Amulet


Amulet is a super weird deck. Ignoring its actual gameplay, Amulet players have built up a mythos around the deck, its advocates claiming that it’s simply the best deck in the format. Other players, reasonably, try to pick up the deck and play it, only to find that they lose a lot because it’s a lot harder to play than they might think. This seems to have been reflected at the MC, where Amulet posted an abysmal 44.8 percent win rate, the worst of any deck that had five or more players playing it. This is an embarrassing showing for the deck that so many deemed to be “The Truth,” but it’s hard to know how to explain the results. Some players really have won quite consistently with the list; the question now becomes whether those players are just quite good, or the deck really does have a high skill cap that requires large amounts of practice before seeing payoffs? I’m not sure what the answer is, so Amulet gets to hover at the bottom of the list this week.

 7. Hardened Scales


Hardened Scales has flown under the radar recently, but posted an impressive 56 percent win rate at the Mythic Championship (MC), a win rate bested by only Ad Nauseam preying on Tron’s popularity. Hardened Scales’ strong performance at the MC merits a second look, but it seems that with the new toys from War of the Spark, players are continuing to ignore Arcbound Ravager and friends. If you’re looking for a deck that’s still a bit under the radar, is capable of kills out of nowhere, and requires you to do large amounts of math during a match of Magic, then Scales might be the deck for you.

6. Dredge


Dredge posted a solid 53.6 percent win rate at the MC, continuing on its path of just being a super reasonable choice at pretty much any tournament. Despite the splash hate that the deck suffers from the uptick in Surgicals and Rests in Peace targeting Phoenix, it continues to put up results. Dredge is always at its best when people aren’t talking much about it, and this is starting to feel like one of those times. Additionally, with the decline of Phoenix in the metagame, Modern players might decide that they can swap some sideboard graveyard hate for something that’s better against the decks on the rise. No deck in the format takes advantage of unprepared players than Dredge, so it looks to be a strong pick in the coming weeks.

 5. Black-Green (The Rock)


Like last month, Black-Green continues to do what BG does best: be a reasonable, middle-of-the-pack pick for players who want to play fair Magic. With a 52.6 percent win rate at the MC BG lives up to its reputation of being roughly 50 percent across the board. It has game against most other Modern decks, and you’ll get to “play Magic” each round. Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil are fundamentally powerful cards, and the ability to play maindeck graveyard hate in Scavenging Ooze always feels good. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek let you at least have some say in your opponent’s plan.


Interestingly, though a much smaller sample size, Jund actually put up better results at the MC, winning 54.8 percent of its matches, versus BG’s 52.6 percent. While it’s not super significant statistically given the small sample and two percent difference, it does suggest that BG may not be that much better or worse than Jund. If you miss casting Lightning Bolt and Bloodbraid Elf, Jund might be worth taking for a spin again. 

4. Tron


Tron is back on the menu! Despite an underwhelming sub-50 percent win rate at the MC, the printing of Karn, the Great Creator has given renewed hope to enthusiasts of Turn 3 Karns everywhere. If you’re unfamiliar with why Tron would play this card, it involves this card:


The idea is that you put one Mycosynth Lattice in your sideboard, fetch it with Karn, the Great Creator, then cast it. Once it’s on-board, Mycosynth Lattice turns your opponent’s lands into artifacts, and Karn’s Null Rod-esque static ability shuts off all activated abilities of artifacts your opponents control – including their lands. With your opponent most likely unable to cast spells, it should be easy to win the game from there. But Karn has utility even outside of the powerful combo. The ability of Tron to fetch cards like Chalice of the Void, Grafdigger’s Cage, Sorcerous Spyglass, Torpor Orb, Crucible of Worlds, Trinisphere, or even Ensnaring Bridge suddenly gives it even more game against every deck in the format, as its sideboard becomes a toolbox supercharged by Karn and Tronlands. While I was eager to write off Tron after the MC, this new incarnation of the deck has brought it back in a big way.

3. Izzet Phoenix


How the mighty have fallen. From the shouts of those clamoring for the banning of Faithless Looting to a mighty near-20 percent metagame share, people have finally figured out how to beat Phoenix. It put up a respectable 52.7 percent win rate at the MC, but nothing that suggests that its too good. Of course, the format has warped in order to deal with this deck; maindeck Surgical Extraction has become much more common than it used to be, which some would argue is a sign that Modern is unhealthy. Regardless, while Phoenix is still incredibly powerful, it’s no longer the best thing you can be doing in Modern. If you enjoy the playstyle, Phoenix is a completely reasonable pick, and while you’ll do your fair share of winning, you can’t expect to roll over tournaments anymore.

 2. Humans


People say Modern is cyclical, and we’re really starting to see that. The last time Grixis Death’s Shadow was one of the best decks, Humans rose up to put it down, and UW Control rose up to fight Humans. This is where we seem to be right now, with Shadow nowhere to be seen, and Humans taking down tournaments left and right. With a 54.3 percent win rate at the MC, Humans seems eager to remind the format that it is a force to be reckoned with. Applying pressure plus disruption perhaps better than any other deck in the format, Humans is a fundamentally fair, though frustrating, deck to play against. With access to all five colors and one of Magic’s most printed tribes, Humans has the tools to answer any deck. It even picks up great answers like Deputy of Detention, which was a big adaptation at the MC. It just becomes a matter of tuning the list to perfect it against the expected metagame.

 1. UW Control (Azorius Control)


UW Control was the deck that gained the most from War of the Spark. Previously, a problem in the archetype was the lack of good three-drops. Vendilion Clique and Detention Sphere tended to fill those rolls, but the quality of those cards is quite matchup-dependent. WAR gave UW two fantastic three-drops in the form of Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils. Now, UW has something real good to do on Turn 3. Teferi, Time Raveler has already demonstrated its power in Standard, playing a look-alike of the Repulse modes of Cryptic Command in his minus ability for only three mana. Narset is similarly powerful, just shutting off entire decks that want to draw cards. Both walkers will get left at one loyalty frequently, often soaking up more damage than just their low loyalty. These planeswalkers are just beginning to make their mark in all of the formats, and they’re not done yet. They’ve made waves in Legacy and Vintage and Modern UW Control has been crushing online with these new, three-mana walkers, so you should be ready for them.


What are you sleeving up for Modern?



Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.