Modern's New Horizons

Magic: the Gathering

Competitive

Modern's New Horizons

Two months after the release of Modern Horizons II, Modern is a new format, with new decks and new archetypes. In today's article, I present the main decks in the format!

By Romeu, 08/02/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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Modern Horizons II was one of the most successful products for Magic: The Gathering in most of its formats, significantly impacting Modern, Legacy and Pauper. Cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murktide Regent, Dragon's Rage Channeler, Urza's Saga, Prismatic Ending, and Endurance have become major staples for Legacy, defining the current state of the format, creating several discussion threads about the set's impact and what to expect in the future. Modern has been impacted by these same cards, and also by Dauthi Voidwalker, Shardless Agent, Solitude, Subtletly, Grief, The Underworld Cookbook, Counterspell, among several other cards that stood out in this period in the most diverse decks.

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Within two months of the launch of Modern Horizons II, the format changed completely, several new decks established themselves as the new Tiers while established decks gained new elements or even became entirely new versions of themselves. In this article, I intend to present the new Modern Metagame, and what we can expect from it in the future.

Hammer Time

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Hammer Time is the most played deck of the format today, with about 8.5% of the Metagame currently, a deck with a significant number of lists making Top 8 in all the format's events so far. The Hammer-Time is essentially an Aggro-Combo, with an abundance of card advantage effects, that tries to ignore the cost of equipping Colossus Hammer with Sigarda's Aid and Puresteel Paladin and can win the game quickly as soon as in turn 3, or even in turn 2 with a combination of two Colossus Hammer, Sigarda's Aid and Ornithopter or Memnite. In addition to its explosive starts, Hammer Time is extremely consistent as it has a significant number of tutors for Colossus Hammer such as Urza's Saga, Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift, plus an overwhelming number of cards that allow the deck to keep its gas like Puresteel Paladin, Esper Sentinel, and Ingenious Smith. Urza's Saga has multiple deck functions, serving as a land drop, a way to create two bodies on the board that interact very well with the abundance of artifacts the deck runs, in addition to tutoring Colossus Hammer, enable use of Mishra's Bauble in the list and allow a small toolbox of cards like Shadowspear for evasion or Paradise Mantle to add extra mana. Also, another strong point of this deck is the way in which it manages to go through removals and discards with some ease using Esper Sentinel, Giver of Runes and Lurrus of the Dream-Den, while any threat that remains could potentially end the game in one or two turns. Speaking of ending the game quickly, the deck also features a combo-kill between Inkmoth Nexus and Colossus Hammer, where you can turn Inkmoth Nexus into a creature, equip it with Colossus Hammer and, then transform it again, so it has Flying, attacking with an 11/11, and dealing 10 damage with Infect, ending the game. This combo even allows the deck to bypass infinite-life soft-locks such as those from the Heliod Company. The inclusion of Esper Sentinel and Urza's Saga has added massive consistency to the archetype, and along with the fact that the deck is far more affordable than most other decks in the format, it means more players are willing to build it, as the archetype does great results in tournaments, and is definitely the first or one of the first decks you should respect when building your list.

Izzet Tempo

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Tempo Decks tend to be the best deck of the format when they are competitively viable, and some believe that Izzet Tempo is not the most played deck in Modern today because of its price tag, which exceeds 1,000 tix. Izzet Tempo can be seen as a spiritual successor to Grixis Shadow, which dominated the format in 2017 and led the Metagame to transform to deal with the new threat: The deck has a low-cost threat that wins the game on its own in the form of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, a creature in the aggressive slots with Dragon's Rage Channeler, and a high-power threat that you can be cast quickly thanks to numerous cantrip effects in the form of Murktide Regent, which ends the game in two turns and allows the deck to play over the other decks.

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Apart from that, the archetype has a total of 16 to 18 cantrips between Mishra's Bauble, Serum Visions, Thought Scour and Sleight of Hand, and closes its slots with powerful removals like Lightning Bolt and Unholy Heat and ways to protect your threats with Counterspell, plus the inclusion of attrition elements ranging from Dreadhorde Arcanist to Snapcaster Mage. What makes Izzet Tempo such a strong deck in the format today is how well the archetype manages to find its responses and threats and execute its game plan, and that the format today has a significant range of competitive decks that are mostly concerned about execute their game plan than in interacting with the opponent, being exactly the Metagame where Tempo decks manage to stand. Also, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is an absurdly powerful card that can dominate the game in very few turns and takes advantage of opponents who don't interact in the early game, while Murktide Regent is a tough threat to remove by conventional means adopted by the format today, something that may change when players adopt more efficient removals against it, as we're seeing happen with Terminate.

Temur Cascade

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The first new deck to emerge with Modern Horizons II, with a card that many players already knew from the presence of Shardless Agent in Legacy, was the Temur Cascade, or Temur Crashcade, as some players have called it. One of the biggest additions to Modern Horizons II was Shardless Agent, which allowed archetypes that abuse Cascade mechanics, such as Living End, which we'll discuss later, and Temur Cascade, which abuses the mechanics with cards with effects like Crashing Footfalls to create a significant impact on the board. Shardless Agents has some particular perks that catapult Cascade decks: First, the card is a 2/2 creature, which adds more pressure, but beyond that, the card is also a great pitch to play with Force of Negation and the recently released Subtletly and Endurance. The deck counts, for early game interaction, with cards that can pass the cost of Cascade without necessarily losing their effectiveness early in the game, such as cards with Adventures like Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower, and Fire // Ice, also released in Modern Horizons II. With this, the deck can use Shardless Agent and Violent Outburst to pull Crashing Footfalls directly, putting a total of 8 power with Trample for the opponent to deal with, and still obtain several other grind elements with your other creatures and with Jace, The Mind Sculptor and Cryptic Command. Some lists use a slight splash to white for cards like Teferi, Time Raveler to interrupt opponent interactions, plus Ardent Plea as another enabler for the deck's plan and Omnath, Locus of Creation as a late-game bomb.

Living End

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Speaking of Cascade decks, Living End was another archetype that received great additions from the above deck, such as Shardless Agent and Subtletly, but it's also the best deck to use Grief, a card that many players believed that would break the format. The heart of the deck is using Cycling creatures to draw cards, until you find a Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst to cast Living End, which will commonly wipe the opponent's board, while yours will be filled with the creatures you discarded during the first turns, usually winning the game the next turn.

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The great evolution of Living End in recent months is the transition from its base that has been using fewer colors to have a more stable manabase that allows the player to conjure threats if the opponent has ways to prevent their initial game plan with cards like Teferi, Time Raveler or a Chalice of the Void to 0, playing this way as a fair deck until the threats are resolved and allowing the deck to explode even in late-game. Some lists even resort to cards like Brazen Borrower precisely to deal with these situations and have another completely castable and evasive threat that can win the game. Another card the archetype has adopted in its most recent lists is Waker of Waves, a creature that works to dig deeper into the deck with its discard ability, while coming into play can significantly reduce your opponent's clock.

Rakdos Midrange

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Modern is no longer the same, and the fact that Rakdos Midrange, or Rakdos Lurrus, is considered the main Midrange of the format today shows how well the format changed to a Metagame focused on mana efficiency and the individual power of its threats. Where before decks like Jund, Abzan, among other Midranges bet on making a gradual escalation of the mana curve to have more impactful threats, such as an escalation between Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil and Bloodbraid Elf, today the Midrange decks care much more about keeping the curve low to trade favorably with decks like Izzet Tempo and Hammer Time, while manages to play "under" the Big Mana decks like Amulet Titan Rakdos Midrange uses low-cost threats that offer a lot of value throughout the game, such as Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Dauthi Voidwalker and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger along with efficient discards like Thoughtseize and low-cost removals like Terminate and Lightning Bolt, plus additional value elements like Kolaghan's Command, Mishra's Bauble and Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Dauthi Voidwalker is a card that has gained much prominence in the format as a maindeck hate against graveyard decks that is also an evasive threat and that commonly offers a significant amount of value when you cast an opponent's bomb with its ability, as is done with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Currently, the deck has been looking to adapt even more to the current Modern Metagame, opting for splashes for other colors to use efficient cards like Prismatic Ending on white, Wrenn and Six and Tarmogoyf on green and Snapcaster Mage and Drown in the Loch in blue.
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Amulet Titan

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Modern doesn't live only from new decks, and among the old decks of the format, the Amulet Titan is one of the main archetypes that not only managed to stay, but received a mighty addition with Urza's Saga, which allows the tutor deck Amulet of Vigor or Expedition Map, while creating another efficient (but not as effective as other decks) plan to attack. Amulet Titan essentially wants to ramp, and abuse the effect of Amulet of Vigor with Bouncelands, such as Simic Growth Chamber, to untap them and add mana before their ETB trigger resolves, making -a significant ramp for a deck that tries to explode with a combination of Primeval Titan with a significant number of Lands that allow for the most diverse situations in the game, such as attacking for 16 damage using Slayers' Stronghold and Sunhome, Fortess of the Legion. In addition, the deck also has other compelling packs of cards, such as the combination of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to create a combo-kill with your lands, or the toolbox-sideboard of Karn, the Great Creator to respond to the most varied situations.

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Izzet Prowess

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Considered by many to be one of, if not the best deck of the pre-Modern Horizons II format, Izzet Prowess remains a competitor in the format's current Metagame, and was one of those benefiting from the inclusion of Dragon's Rage Channeler. Unlike Izzet Tempo, Izzet Prowess does not have as part of its game plan the inclusion of favorable exchanges or too much interaction in the game, betting solely on the speed with which the deck can win the game using a sequence of spells along with Soul -Scar Mage and/or Monastery Swiftspear. Although there are other versions of the deck, such as Boros with Clever Lumimancer or Mono-Red, I believe that the Izzet version is the one with the best results currently and this is due to the cards that filter the top of the deck and allows it to have better draws such as Stormwing Entity, an evasive threat with Prowess that still allows the deck to fix its top, and Expressive Iteration as a strong card advantage engine at a low cost that matches the aggressive plan while adding extra gas to it. Apart from that, the deck also features a package of free spells between Mishra's Bauble, Manamorphose and Lava Dart's flashback to increase the pressure on the board and on the opponent's life.

Food

There are several variants of decks that use a mixture of Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (hereby called Asmo, for my keyboard's sake) with The Underworld Cookbook and Ovalchase Daredevil, like the Golgari or Sultai versions using the mechanics with the classic Witch's Oven + Cauldron Familiar combo and having as main payoff Feasting Troll-King, known as Foodgaak, and also the recent appearance of the Rakdos version using Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Urza's Saga and the Rakdos Midrange interaction package, but the version that has done better results is the Dimir versions with splash for red or white.
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The deck relies on synergies between Asmo, Street Wraith, The Underworld Cookbook, Ovalchase Daredevil and Urza's Saga, where Asmo, cast after discarding Street Wraith, or Urza's Saga searches for The Underworld Cookbook, which in turn can be used alongside Ovalchase Daredevil to create a Food token that will return Ovalchase Daredevil to your hand, creating a repeatable resource of tokens that can be used for extra life or as removal with Asmo, or to increase the power of tokens produced by Urza's Saga. As this combination involves a significant number of artifacts or artifact production, it is clear that cards that benefit from it, such as Urza, Lord High Artificer and Emry, Lurker in the Loch could take advantage of these interactions to their own game plan, creating a powerful archetype known as Dimir Food, or Urza's Kitchen. Urza, Lord High Artificer adds redundancy to the deck's beatdown plan, creating the same token as Urza's Saga, while transforming your Food tokens into Mox Sapphires and has a relevant mana-sink ability. Emry, Lurker in the Loch allows the deck to gain even more value and recast discarded or destroyed artifacts from its graveyard, such as Thought Monitor, an evasive body that draws two cards for, commonly, two mana or less.

Elementals

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One deck that has grown into the format recently thanks to the additions of Modern Horizons II is Four-Color Elementals, a deck that tries to abuse Evoke's mechanics with Ephemerate, a well-known combination in Pauper.

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For this, the deck uses the elementals Fury, which has the ability to clear the opponent's board with ease, Solitude, which works like a Swords to Plowshares with legs, and Endurance, which is a great hate against Murktide Regent and Living End decks, while blocking most aggressive creatures in the format today. The deck also features Risen Reef to accelerate mana and generate value, Flamekin Harbinger as a tutor, and Omnath, Locus of Creation as a card that pitches to any of the Elementals, while being one of the most powerful creatures released recently. Previously, the archetype had more elementals and sought to resort to cards like Voice of Resurgance and Unsettled Marineer. Today, the deck has brushed aside the idea of โ€‹โ€‹relying solely on Elementals, and adopted cards commonly seen in Goodstuff decks, such as Wrenn and Six, Teferi, Time Raveler, and Utopia Sprawl to fix the mana.

Scapeshift

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As before the arrival of Modern Horizons II, there are still plenty of Four-Color Goodstuff-style decks in the format, and the most successful versions are Bring to Light and Scapeshift. There was a time when the goal of Scapeshift decks was to ramp continuously with Explore, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Khalni Heart Expedition and other cards to make a Primeval] Titan early and search for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to start dealing incremental damage to the opponent or their creatures, or use a full combo-kill with Scapeshift to win the game in a single turn. Today, Scapeshift decks are much more geared towards value games, stacking card advantage with cards like Teferi, Time Raveler, Omnath, Locus of Creation and Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, using Bring to Light as a mix of toolbox and finisher when you have Dryad of the Ilysian Grove to use Scapeshift and make all your lands trigger Valakut's ability.

Mill

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Once a meme deck that never worked and then a Prison deck, Dimir Mill became a contender to consider in the format. The deck has been gaining new elements since Zendikar Rising, where Ruin Crab and Maddening Cacophany, which enabled the deck to make better use of Lurrus of the Dream-Den, gave the archetype enough elements to be a viable option in Modern, making it a point players respect when using cards like Gaea's Blessing or Kozilek, Butcher of Truth in their sideboards. With Modern Horizons II, the deck received Fractured Sanity as a flexible card that between any of its modules (Cycling or cast) works very well for its game plan, but the card that has stood out because of the format's low curve is currently the newly added Tasha's Hideous Laughter, which can remove a significant number of cards from the opponent's deck for three mana.

UWx Control

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The inclusion of Counterspell in the format would obviously leverage the Control decks, and the addition of Prismatic Ending gave the deck a means to respond to the most diverse of opponents' permanents. Although the main versions are Azorius, using both Teferis, Snapcaster Mage, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and the classic Control package we know in the format as Path to Exile, Archmage's Charm and Cryptic Command, Jeskai versions with Lightning Bolt, Esper versions with Kaya's Guile or even Four-Color have appeared occasionally.

Other Decks

It's not just these decks that make up the Modern Metagame today, and several other decks manage to make results in the format's events. Modern has always been an extremely diverse format, and that hasn't changed that much in recent weeks, despite the additions of Modern Horizons II.

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Formerly the best deck of the format, Heliod Company still manages to make good results in this new Metagame and catch inattentive players. With the rise of red decks and black decks in the format recently, it wouldn't surprise me to see the archetype, which uses Auriok Champion in the maindeck, resurface again in the coming weeks.
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Following the trending of Goodstuff decks, we have the Four-Color Turns, a deck that follows a similar proposal as seen in Historic's Jeskai Turns: Use tokens created by Dwarven Mine and Prismari Command to cast Indomitable Creativity and put Velomachus Lorehold into play, and then play several extra turns with Time Warp and Savor the Moment.
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There are many types of Stoneblade decks in Modern these days: Boros with Imperial Recruiter, Orzhov with Dauthi Voidwalker and Grief, Bant with Ice-Fang Coatl, Noble Hierarch and Spell Queller, among other versions, and that means you need to be prepared to face them.
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After being absent from the format since the banning of Mox Opal, the Hardened Scales decks have returned to Modern thanks to Urza's Saga and Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp, which enable the deck to operate incredibly well and have multiple angles of attack between counters that can be transferred between creatures, artifacts that pump Urza's Saga, direct damage with Walking Ballista or an army of tokens with Hangarback Walker. Of course, these aren't the only decks you'll find in the format today, as Modern has perhaps the greatest diversity among current competitive formats and several archetypes are viable within the Metagame. Among those that I haven't mentioned, there are several other viable decks like Golgari Yawgmoth, Death's Shadow, Humans, Ponza, Tron, Enchantress, Death & Taxes, Ad Nauseam, Boros Burn, among countless others that appear occasionally or frequently in Challenges and other competitive tournaments. To get an idea, the ManaTraders tournament with 213 players had the following decks in its Metagame: 33 Hammer Time 16 Izzet Tempo 14 Living End 14 Temur Cascade 11 Grixis Tempo 8 Dimir Mill 7 Rakdos Lurrus 7 Elementals 6 Mardu Lurrus 6 Amulet Titan 6 Eldrazi Tron 4 Boros Burn 4 Jeskai Control 4 Jund 4 Jeskai Breach Station 3 Heliod Company 3 Four-Color Turns 3 Ad Nauseam 3 Cascade Glimpse 2 Grixis Shadow 2 Golgari Infect 2 Orzhov Weenies 2 Izzet Prowess 2 Golgari Yawgmoth 2 Bant Ephemerate 2 Mono Red Prowess 2 Azorius Spirits 2 Five-Color Scapeshift 2 Gruul Ponza 2 Bant Stoneblade 2 Jeskai Kitchen 2 Orzhov Stoneblade 1 Dredge 1 Gruul Titan 1 Four-Color Shadow 1 Four-Color Cascade 1 Izzet Breach Station 1 Grixis Rogues 1 Jeskai Prowess 1 Hardened Scales 1 Amulet Breach 1 Reanimator 1 Dice Tron 1 Elves 1 Jeskai Stoneblade 1 All Spells 1 Jund Lurrus 1 Goblins 1 Mono-Red Obosh 1 Grixis Food 1 Four-Color Creativity 1 Mono-Blue Tron 1 Jund Company 1 Naya Enchantress 1 Sultai Food 1 Jeskai Tempo 1 Humans 1 Izzet Swans 1 Four-Color Ephemerate 1 Izzet Delver So, as you can see, there is still plenty of space for all kinds of deck in Modern today.

What to expect from the future?

Modern is currently in a very diversified state, and this week it was possible to notice, through the numbers presented in the Metagame of several events, which are the main decks of the format, especially at the top of it, where Hammer Time and Izzet Tempo are found, but these decks don't seem to be creating alarming numbers for the format, as Modern Horizons did with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and then Arcum's Astrolabe.

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Cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Urza's Saga are definitely the most powerful cards in the set, with Dragon's Rage Channeler being a likely third-place, but these cards aren't showing such a high dominance to the point of being detrimental to the format, although they clearly changed it significantly. What we'll see in the coming weeks, and what we're already seeing, is that the format is trying to adapt to these best decks with the inclusion of cards like Engineered Explosives and Chalice of the Void, besides decks using removals like Terminate and the return of cards like Kolaghan's Command in the main competitive scenario. An important point, however, is that there are two cards that have become almost ubiquitous Staples among many decks in Modern:
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Commonly used together, Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Mishra's Bauble have been used in the most diverse decks of the format, both as a Card Advantage engine and individually, especially in the case of Mishra's Bauble, used as enabler for Delirium and Revolt, and has a significant range of utilities and interactions with fetchlands, discards, among other cards, in addition to being a free cantrip. Because of that, it wouldn't surprise me if, in case decks that use it become predominant in the format, and given Wizards' history of removing free spells from Modern, Mishra's Bauble ends up banned. Personally, I prefer not to see it, and I don't expect to see bans on Modern anytime soon. The format has just adapted, the new decks are established, and we are seeing other decks taking the next steps to adapt. I wouldn't even be surprised if new decks show up as these decks adapt and change, as we've seen it happen several times.

Conclusion

This was my introduction to Modern's new Metagame, along with a brief look at what I expect for the future of the format in the coming weeks or months. I'll be watching the progress of the decks and the adaptations made to the lists in the coming weeks, always posting my analysis in Metagame, my weekly article about competitive formats and, if something stands out or when more relevant information emerges, preparing exclusive articles for the format! Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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