Marching Through Modern Masters

Posted in Top Decks on May 8, 2015

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Because this week is Modern Masters 2015 week, I'd like to take the time to revisit Modern. There are a ton of exciting cards in this set, and looking at the decks they enable is a good way to see what's going on with Modern while getting a sense of how Modern Masters 2015 Edition is going to make these decks more accessible. Plus, as Modern Masters does make Modern itself more accessible, the cards in it could influence the frequency at which decks show up. Let's get started!

Flights of Faeries

Faeries is a deck that's hovered on the cusp of being high-tier ever since Bitterblossom got unbanned. I know I'd love to see a return of the winged menace to the big stage, and there are some plausible builds of the deck floating (flying?) around.

hitum's Fairies

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I like the inclusion of Tasigur, but other than that, this Faeries deck isn't using a ton of recently-printed cards. The core is the same as it's always been, which is the combination of: Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Mistbind Clique, Cryptic Command, counterspells, hand disruption, and removal. I do like playing zero Scion of Oona, and prefer to play a more control-ish deck like this one—with Vendilion Clique, lots of spells, and Liliana.

Another reason I like Faeries is that it gets to sideboard in Sower of Temptation against midrange creature decks. Sower is one of my favorite cards, and I have even been known to play it in Splinter Twin sideboards. If it survives, it almost always wins you the game, and it dodges removal like Liliana and Abrupt Decay quite well. Faeries uses Sower better than any other deck in the format, just because it's a Faerie, and it works with Spellstutter and Mistbind so well.

Faeries is a bit of a glass cannon, and the decks it's weak against I fear that it's too weak against, as it isn't very resistant to attacks. I'd recommend this deck if you have a specific reason to think that aggressive decks will be underrepresented, as Faeries is truly great against control and combo.

What This Deck is Great Against: Combo decks, midrange decks, control decks

What This Deck is Weak Against: Aggro decks (especially Burn), Affinity

As a bonus list, here's a Mono-Blue Faeries deck played by the aptly named Deathtongue to 3-1 in a Magic Online Daily Event. I have no idea how good this deck is, but it looks very sweet (and potentially fast enough between Vapor Snag, Snapcaster Mage, and Scion of Oona to race aggro decks).

Deathtongue's Mono-Blue Faeries

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Abzan in the Modern Age

It's never wise to rule out Abzan, and I suspect some kind of Abzan deck will be good as long as Modern exists (barring the printing of some truly absurd cards). Abzan just has such a high average card quality, and playing a ton of powerful and efficient cards that have a loose synergy is a decent strategy when the power level is this high. The plan of: Thoughtseize, Inquisition, Liliana, Path to Exile, Tarmogoyf, and Siege Rhino is a good one against a wide range of opponents. And there are very few decks that can legitimately claim to be great against Abzan.

Modern Abzan

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This deck is very similar to the one Eric Froehlich took to the Top 8 in the last Modern Pro Tour. The sideboard is mainly where the decks differ, and that makes sense given how the sideboard is where I'd expect most metagame changes to fall.

There really is no defined plan with this deck besides just one-for-one the opponent and kill them with your better creatures. You prioritize different things based on what you are facing (discard against combo, board presence and removal against aggro, card advantage against midrange/control), and you can usually craft a good game plan due to seeing their hand with cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition.

Abzan is at its best when you aren't completely sure what you will be facing, as it isn't particularly weak to very many high-tier decks. In a wide-open field, playing intrinsically powerful and interactive cards like Thoughtseize, Liliana, and Tarmogoyf is not a bad plan. There are very few decks that don't get disrupted by one-mana cards that strip their hand, and those that ignore those are usually weak to Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze.

Abzan also is in three colors with excellent sideboard options, and therefore rewards you for getting the metagame right (making it a good choice even if you do know what you are facing). Given 3–4 sideboard slots, you can give yourself a great shot in just about any matchup.

What This Deck is Great Against: Splinter Twin, anything it sideboards strongly against

What This Deck is Weak Against: Fringe linear decks it hasn't sideboarded against (Tron, Living End), as well as having few overwhelmingly great matchups

Return of the Eldrazi Tron

The return of the Eldrazi is exciting news indeed, and there even happens to be a Modern deck that plays them (well, two out of three—sorry, Kozilek). Red-Green Tron has been a consistent performer for years now, even if it rarely becomes a huge percentage of the field. It's one of the many linear decks that can easily crush an unprepared tournament, but has trouble beating anyone who really puts their mind to defeating it (though the poor matchup against Splinter Twin is this deck's biggest weakness).

Red-Green Tron is also one of the most single-minded decks in Magic. All it is trying to do is find all three Urza lands (affectionately or not affectionately referred to as "UrzaTron") and cast gigantic things with them. That's a pretty sweet plan, which I have to admit even if I never play this deck and always lose to it.

duparcqG's Red-Green Tron

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There isn't a ton of room for customization here, in the main deck or the sideboard. The deck really needs to play all the Tron lands, the ways to search them out, the giant spells, and has a couple slots for disruption. This list uses Pyroclasm in those slots, but I've seen main deck Nature's Claim, up to four Relic of Progenitus, or even All is Dust. I'd lean toward cheaper cards, as I don't think you want more cards that don't work until you've got seven mana, and Pyroclasm seems like a good choice right now.

The sideboard is mostly slanted toward beating Splinter Twin and Blood Moon, with a couple of cards against control and a couple of general use cards like Wurmcoil, Relic, and Spellskite. Being restricted to colorless cards and cards that cost single red or single green is a big restriction, especially given that many decks will be attacking this deck's mana, making sideboard cards harder to cast to begin with.

What This Deck is Great Against: Abzan, midrange, unprepared control decks

What This Deck is Weak Against: Splinter Twin, fast combo decks, fast aggro decks, prepared opponents

The Good Twin

As sad as it makes me for Limited play that there is no Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite to accompany Kiki-Jiki and Twin (not even a Village Bell-Ringer), the return of these cards makes perfect sense given the current Modern climate. Twin might be the deck that's spent the most time as a tier 1 deck to beat, and has certainly taken more Pro Tour titles than any other Modern deck (though Birthing Pod is the leader in Grand Prix wins).

Splinter Twin combo is great at killing quickly and out of nowhere, while also being capable of playing a very good control game. Players who leave removal up for the combo often lose to a sequence of Vendilion Cliques and Snapcaster Mages, but those that tap out often just lose on the spot. It's frequently a puzzle with no good answer, and that's why Splinter Twin is such a great deck.

BetterCallPaul's Twin Exarch

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This is a perfect example of a controlling Splinter Twin deck. It even plays Keranos, God of Storms, over Kiki-Jiki (though many decks play Kiki as a one- or two-of if they are more combo-focused). This deck has a ton of card draw, good flash creatures, and plenty of ways to win without ever casting the card Splinter Twin. Having the combo in the deck gives this deck an instant win-condition against non-interactive decks and for games when opponents tap out, and that just makes the deck more and more robust against the field.

Twin is a great choice for almost every tournament and, unless you expect a ton of Abzan decks, I'd never say it was a bad idea to play Twin. Even if you don't really know the field, the combination of a fast kill and countermagic makes this deck good against the linear combo decks, and the control elements make it good at punishing slower decks as well. Burn does become an issue the more controlling you make your Twin deck, but it's a very solvable matchup if you fear it.

What This Deck is Great Against: Combo decks, control decks, midrange decks without Abrupt Decay

What This Deck is Weak Against: Abzan decks, Burn decks

Modern Masters 2015 Edition has the cards to build a ton more Modern decks, but these are the first bunch that stood out to me (and includes the two most-played decks right now in Abzan and Twin). I'm really looking forward to playing the set in Limited, and having it getting more people into Modern Constructed, because both those formats are very fun. I'd highly recommend going to one of the Grand Prix during Modern Masters Weekend if you can, as they will be unique events both in terms of the set being played and the spectacle of the entire experience. I'm heading to Grand Prix Las Vegas myself, and am looking forward to it more than any other tournament this year by far!

For more info about the Modern Masters GPs, check out the organizers' sties for Grand Prix Utrecht, Grand Prix Las Vegas, and Grand Prix Chiba.


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