Modern Cruising

Posted in Perilous Research on October 23, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Khans of Tarkir is making waves across all Constructed formats. Standard has been very exciting, but the true power of cards like Jeskai Ascendancy and Treasure Cruise can only be unlocked in higher-power level formats like Modern and Legacy. Modern seems to be the most shaken up by the new cards. Today, we'll be taking a look at the new face of Modern.

When Jeskai Ascendancy decks first started to make their way into the Modern metagame, many players were terrified at the return of a potential turn-two victory. Now that we've had a few weeks to let the format marinate it's become clear that Treasure Cruise is poised to be one of the most powerful spells in the format, potentially catapulting Delver of Secrets back into the spotlight.

The potential power of Jeskai Ascendancy may scare a lot of players into playing black-green variants like Abzan and Jund. These decks have the necessary disruptive elements to do very well in combo matchups. Black-green strategies generally do very well against everything except red (unless the deck is tuned to beat red) and decks with tremendous topdeck potential like Green Tron variants. The major issue facing the Thoughtseize decks in a post-Khans Modern is Treasure Cruise. A flurry of early discard can easily be undone in the flinch of an eye by a topdecked Ancestral Recall.

Jeskai Ascendancy was feared by the masses when its power was first realized, but the combo strategy has quickly fallen out of favor with the new metagame. The card everyone feared, as it turns out, isn't the boogieman that we initially thought it would be. Instead, we're quickly learning that Treasure Cruise is the realest of deals.

Let's see what's been winning on Magic Online by taking a look at some of the decks that went undefeated in Daily Events this week!

LIEFBREAD's Mono-red

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Aggressive red strategies have been enjoying a lot of success since everyone realized the power of Eidolon of the Great Revel. Now, with Khans of Tarkir in the mix, red decks gain access to Monastery Swiftspear, which is likely the best non-Goblin Guide one-mana play available to a deck like Burn. The deck's goal is obvious, but playing around the opponent's lifegain effects, timing when to advance a boardstate, timing when to go for the dome, or simply waiting for a window to resolve a bigger spell are all big skill-testers. We can expect red strategies to continue their stint at tier 1 until the format aggressively forces them out of the equation. The sideboard cards that seem to have the most clout against the new version of Burn are Kor Firewalker and Dragon's Claw.

ittoku1's Abzan

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Abzan-flavored decks first started showing up again in Modern because of Lingering Souls. In that metagame, Lingering Souls defended against Affinity, Infect, and opposing Liliana of the Veil from Jund and the mirror. Now that Lightning Bolt has become a four-of in well over half of the decks we're playing against and Firespout/Anger of the Gods are seeing more play, it makes sense that we'd see versions shift to cards like Anafenza, the Foremost and Thrun, the Last Troll. This deck wins most of its matches by virtue of playing the format's most powerful spells. Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, and good removal is always a recipe for success.

fengshai's Hate Bears

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Hate Bears has evolved into a very different deck over the last eight months or so. Now, with the addition of Treasure Cruise to the format, there are a lot more decks that have very real problems with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Additionally, being one color lets us reliably cast Kor Firewalker, which is likely the best possible card against the new wave of red decks. The deck's generally aggressive stance makes it reasonable in most matchups. I've found cards like Dark Confidant to be problematic when playing this deck without a very fast draw, but there's a lot going on here. I'd also recommend swapping one copy of Tectonic Edge for Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, which has tremendous synergy with Spirit of the Labyrinth. Speaking of Spirit of the Labyrinth, can we imagine anything more exciting than flashing one in with Æther Vial in response to our opponent's Treasure Cruise?

MTJeffering's Pod

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Birthing Pod is still likely the most powerful card in the Modern format. The deck has a ton of longevity, and the ability to win games from a variety of angles make this one of the most dangerous and consistent strategies in the format. Usually, we're playing games like a midrange deck, but the ability to combo out with Archangel of Thune/Spike Feeder or Melira, Sylvok Outcast/Viscera Seer/persist creature make this deck very dangerous because we need to be using our mana to win the midrange war, especially against Gavony Township; but we need to be playing around the combo at the same time. Generally speaking, the deck has trouble against opponents who can kill every threat they play, especially mana creatures. It will be interesting to see how the Pod decks are able to weather the new Treasure Cruise Delver strategies.

NUMBERTWO's Martyr Proc

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Delver decks and red decks are all the rage of late, and bringing a metagame deck to the table doesn't seem like a bad idea. Martyr of Sands is very big in a game against decks that want to trade cards for points of our life total. There's a lot of grindy card-advantage stuff going on here, too, and the deck can switch gears at the drop of a hat and play a card like Wrath of God seemingly out of nowhere. I don't love the deck's general weakness to true combo strategies, but it seems like it could be a great place to be in the new aggressive world of Modern.

TiuTangClan's Blue-Red Delver

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Here it is! The new top dog in Modern. This deck and variations of it have been dominating Magic Online's Daily Events for the last week or so. Blue-Red Delver decks were already a force to be reckoned with, but the addition of Treasure Cruise catapults the deck into a new sphere of awesome. The deck puts tremendous pressure on the opponent early and uses spells to effectively clear the way for its attackers or go for the dome if the situation calls for it. We can expect to see a lot more Forked Bolts, even out of decks like Jund, if this deck continues being so successful. Treasure Cruise has proven itself to be a very real card in Modern.

Modern will continue to adapt and evolve in the coming months. Aggressive blue-red decks are at the top of the current metagame. And there's truly no way to effectively combat the deck on the draw without massively altering our approach to the metagame. How will Modern evolve in response to the new Blue/Red decks? Stay tuned to Perilous Research in the coming weeks to find out!

Knowledge is power!

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