Top 8 Modern Decks in the Metagame - February 2019
Like a Simic Crab Elf Ooze, Modern is a squishy, mutating format where the top decks are always in flux. Let’s take a look at how the top decks have changed since the last update in November 2018! And even back to July 2018!
Dredge’s popularity ebbs and flows with the prevalence of graveyard hate, and with the KCI menace only recently dispatched, many players have yet to adjust their sideboards accordingly. As such, Dredge has a tiny window right now (probably last weekend, maybe into this one) where it’s well-positioned. However, Dredge is a bit of an anomaly on this list, as I do not believe it to be a great choice in the coming weeks, especially as players stock up on graveyard hate to target decks like UR Phoenix.
Nonetheless, Dredge is doing a fundamentally broken, powerful thing, and it has really good Game 1’s. Choosing a deck this powerful is rarely an awful choice, but once players start adjusting, I’d switch to something else.
7. 4C Whir Prison
The spiritual successor of Lantern Control, 4C Whir Prison is a Lantern-less Lantern deck. With artifacts like Ensnaring Bridge, Chalice of the Void, Witchbane Orb, and Sorcerous Spyglass, the deck can effectively shut down any deck in Modern. It finds the relevant pieces with the namesake Whir of Invention and Ancient “Still Not Banned” Stirrings, then protects them Welding Jar.
Many of the top decks in Modern right now are highly streamlined to execute one gameplan, leaning heavily on either creatures to kill or spells to kill. Because top decks are opting for efficiency and speed rather than threat diversity, prison decks seem well-suited to attack the format, and we’ve seen 4C Prison put up some results recently. This is one to watch, and I could see rising through the ranks for our next update.
6. Humans & Spirits
Modern’s best tribal decks have had an interesting year. Humans was at one point so dominant, that people were calling for bans for the deck. Supreme Phantom’s printing in M19 was just enough to push Spirits into the top seat as “Better Humans,” which caused the Humans deck to largely vanish. But with Humans gone, some of the top decks that emerged to combat Spirits and the rest of the format are pretty bad matchups for Spirits (Grixis Death’s Shadow, Burn). As such, Humans might be primed for a return.
Regardless, Humans and Spirits are both doing powerful things, and the recipe of pressure + disruption that they adhere to is always a recipe for success in Modern. While neither holds the throne today, both are still fine choices for a tournament, though I would give an edge to Humans over Spirits.
5. Eldrazi Stompy/Eldrazi Tron
Eldrazi Stompy looks to use Serum Powder, Simian Spirit Guide, and Eldrazi Temple to maximize its broken starts. One of the broken things it can do is cast Chalice of the Void for X = 1 on the first turn of the game. As such, decks like Eldrazi Stompy and Eldrazi Tron (which also utilizes Chalice) are at their best when Chalice of the Void is a powerful play in Modern. Right now, I believe that to be true. All three of the top decks on this list (read on!) are heavily reliant on one-mana spells, and a Turn 1 Chalice goes a long way toward ensuring an easy victory, at least in Game 1. And Eldrazi Stompy can capitalize on the time bought with Chalice by slamming giant Eldrazi threats and going to town.
It’s no accident that Eldrazi Tron’s previous peak occurred the last time Grixis Death’s Shadow was the format’s top dog. As we circle back toward an emphasis on one-mana spells, the best Chalice of the Void decks (which look to be Eldrazi and 4C Prison) are poised to have some good weekends.
4. Amulet Titan
Amulet Titan is experiencing a resurgence, and is backing up the popularity with results. Amulet is difficult to interact with, resilient to most non-Blood Moon hate cards, and can both kill on early turns and play a grindier game. Amulet experiences a bit of the “KCI effect,” where, while the power of the deck is accepted to be quite high, the skill necessary to succeed with it is also perceived as high. As such, Amulet Titan is probably underrepresented for how good the deck actually is, as KCI was up until its banning.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Amulet Titan should get a ban; it closes games quickly (unlike KCI), doesn’t have any super-weird rules interactions (unlike KCI), and Matt Nass hasn’t Top 8’ed 3 GP’s with it along with playing it to an absurdly high win rate (unlike KCI). Nevertheless, if you have access to the cards, it might be worth practicing and picking it up. Players still aren’t giving this deck the respect it deserves, and that can definitely be capitalized on.
A Modern deck getting a new piece from a Standard expansion is always exciting, but getting two new pieces is rare. Burn is secretly a combo deck that just needs to cast 6-7 spells and, if it does that, wins. Skewer the Critics allows the deck to cut a two-mana spell for a one-mana spell, and Light Up the Stage just adds fuel to the fire. Some burn players have now moved into Black for access to Bump in the Night, putting them up to sixteen copies of Lightning Bolt in their deck, which is incredible.
If you’re playing Modern at all in the coming weeks, you need to have a serious plan for Burn. It’s cheap, as far as Modern decks go, which will only exacerbate its popularity, and it’s a powerful contender in this format.
2. Grixis Death’s Shadow
Gosh Darn Shadow is back! From pros calling for its banning in the summer of 2017 to seeing virtually no play in the summer of 2018, Death’s Shadow is back on top. The most important piece that’s allowed the Shadow deck to return is the absence of Humans in the metagame. If Humans resurges, which seems possible, then the Shadow deck will Go Down Sadly. But for now, Shadow is the best deck at disrupting the opponent and then killing them in a turn or two. It has close matchups against the other top decks and is well-positioned against most of the “Modern nonsense.” If you’ve missed casting one-mana 10/10’s because of that pesky Reflector Mage, now’s your chance to give it a try again.
1. UR Phoenix
Arclight Phoenix has made quite the splash in pretty much every format, and Modern is no different. The ability of the archetype to cantrip through their deck while incidentally bringing back 3/2’s or transforming Things in the Ice makes it a fast, powerful threat. It attacks from multiple angles and can go off as early as Turn 2. This is a deck that should absolutely be on your radar going forward. The existence of UR Phoenix means that players should be emphasizing Fatal Push over Lightning Bolt, stocking up on cards like Surgical Extraction and Rest in Peace, and considering playing powerful Chalice decks like Eldrazi or Prison.
For now, Modern looks to be in a pretty good spot! There are a diversity of archetypes, none of which are oppressively good and most of which have close matchups with the rest of the top decks. What will you be sleeving up in Modern in the coming weeks?
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.
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