Modern is one of the largest formats currently played at Grand Prix and it is certainly a jungle to navigate through. A large card pool ensures a large number of playable decks and to get a grip on all of them is almost impossible. To give you a little help on the way, and maybe a few facts you didn't already know we have composed a summary of some of the key cards, expansions and archetypes in the format.
So, here is the only encyclopedia you will need this weekend. The A to Z of Modern.
A – Affinity, the old school name of the deck built around cheap artifact creatures, boosted by Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, and Steel Overseer. Some people insist on calling it Robots, but regardless of the name it is certainly one of the most powerful decks of the format, sometimes killing as fast as turn two or three.
B – Birthing Pod – The ultimate Johnny card in Modern. It does everything and a little more. Allowing to search for infinite creature combos like Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Viscera Seer, and Murderous Redcap, or Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune. Or it can grind out games with value by sacrificing Kitchen Finks, getting Restoration Angel, gaining life, value, and a big frown on your opponent's face.
C – Cryptic Command – The best countermagic in Modern. Although the format doesn't have a lot of effective counterspells, this one certainly fits the bill. It was also the key card in Shahar Shenhar's Blue/White/Red deck that claimed the World Champion-title in Amsterdam last summer.
D – Deathrite Shaman – Is it a mana creature? Is it an anti-graveyard card? Or is it simply the best one drop ever printed? No matter what, it is a creature that has really made a breakthrough in Modern. Whether in midrange Jund or Junk decks, multi-colored control strategies or in the five-color Zoo deck, this little fellow gets the job done. Whatever it is.
E – Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – What better way to spend 15 mana? Emrakul sees play both in decks built around the Urza lands to accelerate him into play and decks that cheat him into play with Through the Breach or Fist of the Suns. Extra turns and opponents sacrificing permanents. Good fun, and more often than not, Good Game.
F – Fulminator Mage – In a format defined not only by a variety of dual lands, but also man lands ranging from Inkmoth Nexus to Celestial Colonnade, the Fulminator Mage has a lot of job to do. It's also well suited for blowing up Urza lands, and the deck that utilizes the Elemental Shaman the most is probably the deck built around Living End, recurring them along with a bunch of other creatures to destroy even more lands.
G – "Greatness at any cost", the flavour text on the oh so powerful Dark Confidant. Originally designed by Bob Maher as his prize for winning an Invitational, the card was also reprinted last summer and will be out in numbers this weekend in Prague. The question is how many we will see in total? I'd put the under/over line at 1500.
H – Hexproof – The keyword that doesn't only appear on creatures like Geist of Saint Traft, it also spawned it's own archetype. The green white deck is based upon untargetable creatures like Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout and wins by enchanting them with auras like Rancor, Hyena Umbra and ultimately Day Break Coronet. Although somewhat of a fringe deck, pro played Duke Reid found it good enough to pilot in the World Championships last year, taking him all the way to second place.
I – Infect – Another mechanic that for a while had a deck of it's own in Modern. For the moment it seems to have disappeared, but there was a time where one of the most powerful starts in the format included casting a Glistener Elf on turn one and on the second turn casting pump spells enough to grant it 10 power for the win.
J – Jund – Originally one of the five shards of Alara, the deck that was a force to be reckoned with in standard back then is now very much so also in Modern. The Red, Green, Black combination built around mana efficient discard, removal, planeswalkers and the best creatures mana can offer has for a long time been the deck everyone is gunning to beat. Will it remain on top? Or is the letter namesake Junk (Green/Black/White), the new deck to beat? This weekend might decide!
K – Karn Liberated – A big moment in lore history was when Venser used his last mana to give life to Karn, releasing him from Phyrexian tyranny, free to roam as he wanted. Little did he know that he would end up in a deck built around Urza's Powerplant, Urza's Tower and Urza's Mine, making him castable already on turn three. Lore aside, the "Tron deck" is one of the staples in the Modern format, and noone should leave for a tournament without preparing for it. In Prague vendors have already sold out on one of the key cards to defeating it, Sowing Salt, so time will tell if Karn is sent back to his prison, or if his unholy alliance with his creator's lands keep him free to dominate the format.
L – Liliana of the Veil – Without contest the most played planeswalker in Modern. With Jace, the Mind Sculptor still on the ban list the black discard machine will probably remain her throne for quite some time.
M – Modern Masters – Last summers expansion released to give the Modern format a boost. Good old staples were reprinted, and green mythic dragons were upsetting limited players everywhere. If they only had all been Tarmogoyfs.
N – Noble Hierarch – One of Brian Kiblers favorite cards of the format. Utilized in any green deck it both serves as mana acceleration and boosting attackers. The Hierarch pops up both in Birthing Pod based decks and more straight-forward green white creature decks, like Kiblers hate bear deck.
O – Olivia Voldaren – The legendary vampire is one of the more successful attempts at replacing the, now banned, Bloodbraid Elf in the Jund archetype. Featured at least in the sideboard of many of it's reincarnations.
P – Philadelphia, the city where the Modern format had it's debut at a Pro Tour in 2011. Although several sets have been added since then, and a lot of changes have been made to the ban list, some people still have fond memories from Philadelphia. Good times were had with second turn wins either through Storm combo or Inkmoth Nexus and Blazing Shoal.
Q – Qasali Pridemage – So far the only card beginning with the letter Q that sees play in Modern. Although it might be a doubtful accomplishment, the card still makes the list.
R – Return to Ravnica – The last set that had a huge impact on Modern. Not only did it feature a reprint of the Shock dual lands that originally appeared in the Ravnica block. It also added Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay and Sphinx's Revelation which all have seen heavy play.
S – Splinter Twin – An enchantment that is based for another *drumroll* exciting combo deck. Whether enchanting a Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite or a Restoration Angel with it, it allows for an infinite amount of token creatures, a scenario only really losable on Magic Online where you might run out of time clicking through the triggers.
T – Tarmogoyf – whether a meager 2/3, a decent 3/4 or a huge 5/6, the two mana creature from Future Sight is one of the most iconic cards in Modern, and it's reprint in Modern Masters only added to it's popularity. Whether a green mage to start with, or just splashing for it, this Lhurgoyf is one of, if not the best creature in the format.
U – Urza, master artificer, Mishra's brother and one of the first characters in the storyline of Magic. 20 years later, and his Mine, Power Plant and Tower, originally from Antiquities still allows for some unfair turn three plays. Although this time neither Triskelion on Tetravus makes the cut.
V – Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle – The most recent card unbanned in Modern. Originally Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was banned, being considered too powerful in combination with Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift to allow for a one turn combo kill. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was kept on the banned list until the end of 2012. Since then the Scapeshift combo deck has reappeared and claimed a few top 8 performances. Although not quite being over the top insanely unstoppable.
W – Walk the Aeons – A key card in a somewhat obscure combo deck based around card drawers like Howling Mine and Jace Beleren. It goes off by chaining Time Walk effects each turn, drawing an awful amount of cards and finally winning by casting Laboratory Maniac with an empty library.
X – Xpedition Map – Ok, the spelling is a bit liberal, but there really aren't any cards that begin with X that are played in Modern. Xenagos, the Reveler might make it one day, but until then, the Expedition Map will have to represent the letter X.
Y –Yuuya Watanabe – Japanese pro player and multiple Player of the Year winner. He was also one of the sculptors of the Modern Jund deck, that he also won the 2012 Player's Championship with.
Z – Zendikar, the expansion that brought us the fetchlands that provide half of the mana bases in Modern. The demand for these has skyrocketed in the last year and a lot of people are keeping their fingers crossed for a reprint.
Did we miss something obvious? Or did you enjoy reading the article? What cards or phenomenon would you put in an encyclopedia of Modern. Let us know on Twitter with the #GPPrague hashtag!