A Meticulous Modern Musing

Posted in Top Decks on November 29, 2012

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 to another edition of Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. We've spent the last few weeks focusing on Standard. This week, I'd like to explore Magic Online's Modern event results. The Modern Pro Tour Qualifier season is just a month away. A lot of you are probably trying to decide what deck you plan on PTQing with and you're not very familiar with the current makeup of the format. I'm going to give you a rundown of Magic Online's current Modern metagame with analysis and expectations on the next evolution of the metagame.

My recent in-depth look at Standard was very well received. A lot of you asked for a Modern version of the same column. Today, we're going to take a look at the most prominent decks in the current Magic Online Modern metagame and talk about their strengths and weaknesses.

Three weekends ago, two identical Spirit Jund decks made it to the finals of Grand Prix Chicago. Jund had, once again, proven itself to be alone in the top tier. The most recent Magic Online results indicate that Jund is still a cut above the rest. The deck has strong disruption like Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, Liliana of the Veil, Deathrite Shaman, and Abrupt Decay. The deck's removal suite is unmatched, with many of the removal spells doubling as disruptive elements. Cards like Tarmogoyf, Bloodbraid Elf, Lingering Souls, and Dark Confidant let you snowball into an aggressive stance seamlessly while your opponent is being buried under your card-advantage avalanche.

Deathrite Shaman
Abrupt Decay

Jund's tier one status offers a unique problem for deck builders to overcome. Jund plays the game from many angles; it's diversity means that there will never be a deck that has a very strong matchup against Jund. Sure, decks like Tron and White Weenie are favored, but Jund has proven that it's capable of beating its worst matchups time and time again. I expect Jund to remain one of the strongest archetypes in the upcoming PTQ season because of its strength and resilience. Tron and White Weenie are currently the best anti-Jund decks. Wurmcoil Engine, Baneslayer Angel (with protection), and Ranger of Eos seem to be the best cards against Jund. Robots and Infect were strong against Jund a few weeks ago, but the recent addition of Lingering Souls to the deck drastically changed those matchups in Jund's favor.

Here's a recent 4–0 Jund list from a daily event:

youhavenogame's Spirit Jund

Download Arena Decklist

Tron is the only deck that's currently outperforming Jund. The most recent iteration of Tron is able to assemble its three-land combo faster than ever thanks to Expedition Map, Sylvan Scrying, and Ancient Stirrings. This level of consistency allows the deck to cast Karn Liberated or Wurmcoil Engine on the third turn in a good portion of its games. As stated above, Wurmcoil Engine is one of the best cards against Jund and the presence of four in most Tron lists is a huge selling point for the archetype. However, Tron decks struggle with combo strategies or tempo/control strategies like Delver of Secrets variants. Those decks don't have a big presence in the current Magic Online metagame, but I wouldn't assume that Tron will be as well-positioned once the PTQ season rolls around. The less combo you expect, the better Tron will be.

Expedition Map
Karn Liberated

Here's a list that recently finished second in a premier event. (Losing to another Tron deck in the finals!)

Mtgmulligan's Red-Green Tron

Download Arena Decklist

Robots was one of the best-performing decks at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica thanks to its strong matchup against Jund and its ability to reliably race most combo decks. Since then, Jund has adopted Lingering Souls as its three-drop of choice and added some number of Ancient Grudge, Rakdos Charm, and/or Shatterstorm to the sideboard. Robots isn't as well-positioned as it was for the Pro Tour, but it's still the most explosive aggro deck in the format and it's definitely capable of catching the format off guard if people stop packing the most effective hate (Ancient Grudge and Shatterstorm).

Ancient Grudge

Here's a list that recently 4–0ed a daily event.

kred321's Robots

Download Arena Decklist

Birthing Pod decks that abuse Melira, Sylvok Outcast's interaction with persist creatures like Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap were a force to be reckoned with in Modern last year. The deck took a hit when Deathrite Shaman was printed, but it seems to be performing well in the most recent Magic Online events. Melira Pod is a combo deck that's capable of winning out of nowhere as early as the third turn, but the deck allows its pilot to play the game like a Rock-control deck with the ability to combo if the opponent is ever caught tapped out. Ranger of Eos and Reveillark are both very strong against Jund, but the deck can often find itself outmatched if Jund has a medium-to-strong draw. All of Jund's cards are live in this matchup and that's not the place you usually want to be. I'd recommend sideboarding two or three copies of Baneslayer Angel. Jund only has a few removal spells that deal with the 5/5 Angel and all its removal will be working double duty as it tries to disassemble your combo and profit via Deathrite Shaman. This deck is similar to Jund in that it has no unwinnable matchups. I'd recommend this deck to anyone comfortable with the strategy from last season.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Kitchen Finks

Here's a list that recently 4–0ed a daily event:

Gainsay's Melira Pod

Download Arena Decklist

The Delver of Secrets deck of choice seems to change every few weeks. This week, Delver of Secrets players seem to have eschewed green in favor of white. White gives the deck access to Steppe Lynx, Lightning Helix, Path to Exile, and Geist of Saint Traft. This deck is extremely focused on tempoing the opponent out of the game. The burn spells are often aimed at the opponent's face to end the game a turn or two earlier than expected. I recommend mulliganing aggressively with this deck to find a one-mana creature in most matchups. You want to be applying the maximum amount of pressure as fast as possible because almost every other deck in the format has a superior endgame. After sideboarding, some lists can bring in Gifts Ungiven; Iona, Shield of Emeria; and Unburial Rites. The pilot can Gifts for Iona and Unburial Rites, forcing the opponent to put both in the pilot's graveyard, and then casts Unburial Rites targeting Iona on the following turn. This significantly improves the deck's long game and helps win the game through all the cheap spot removal your opponent is going to sideboard in.

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Unburial Rites

Here's a recent 4–0 list:

Beria's Raka Delver

Download Arena Decklist

White Weenie may seem like a sword at a gun fight, but the deck is surprisingly well-positioned in the current format. Jund has serious problems with the latest versions of the deck and any other creature deck is practically a bye for the latest version of White Weenie. The deck utilizes Ajani's Pridemate and Serra Ascendant alongside a lot of efficient lifegain. It's very hard to race this strategy as a result, and the long game of Squadron Hawk and Ranger of Eos in conjunction with Honor of the Pure is very nice, especially against Jund. This deck struggles with combo for obvious reasons in Game 1. After sideboarding, cards like Suppression Field, Stony Silence, Rule of Law, and Rest in Peace will create unique problems for combo opponents and should be able to buy you enough time to close the game before you get comboed out. This will be the perfect deck if the format shifts to a place where Jund and aggressive creature decks are dominant.

Ranger of Eos
Honor of the Pure

Here's a 4–0 list:

largebrandon's White Weenie

Download Arena Decklist

White-Blue Angels has been quietly amassing solid finishes both on Magic Online and in paper events. The deck plays similarly to many of the most popular decks in the most recent Standard formats and will probably garnish a large following as a result. The deck plays a tempo game, but the presence of Cryptic Command and Baneslayer Angel establish that the deck isn't afraid to go into the late game. I expect this deck to have access to Glen Elendra Archmage and/or Baneslayer Angel after sideboarding in the coming weeks. This will give the deck an exceptional Jund matchup and may be the next evolution of Modern.

Cryptic Command
Baneslayer Angel

Here's a list that recently Top 8ed a Premier Event:

Chagsal0t's White-Blue Angels

Download Arena Decklist

Modern is an extraordinarily diverse format that handsomely rewards players for innovation. Decks like Pyromancer Ascension and Splinter Twin seem to have fallen out of favor over the past two weeks, but the recent uprising of Red-Green Tron could signal a return of combo in the coming weeks.

Hopefully, this column has given you a deeper understanding of the Modern format. This is a healthy chunk of information that can be used as a gauntlet for any group of players that wants to test Modern for the upcoming PTQ season.

As always, hit the forums or shoot me an email with questions or comments.

Knowledge is power!

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