If you’re like me, you’re bored of the Cat. Lurrus of the Dream-Den, that is. Before the companion nerf, Lurrus was in the running for best Magic card of all time, and it’s still one of the best in Modern. But while Lurrus has been very prevalent in Modern, it isn’t exactly popular. The Cat pushes many strong cards with higher mana costs out of the format, and it’s made decks that benefited from Modern Horizons 2 all the more powerful. While I do think Modern is the most fun it has ever been, I would be lying if I said that seeing Lurrus this much isn’t a little taxing.
So, in the past week, I’ve gone on a mission to find reasonable decks to play that forgo any companion. I believe it’s only a matter of time before Lurrus gets banned, so why not start exploring Lurrus-free decks now? Mind you, all the decks I’ve chosen to feature today are competitive – they’ve all been top finishers in MTGO Challenges, Showcase events, and tabletop events. These decks aren’t different for the sake of being different; they’re all legitimate choices in Modern.
Without further ado, let’s get to the decklists!
When researching for this article, I was shocked to see how underrepresented this deck was in the metagame (you have to go all the way to the second page of Modern decks on MTGGoldfish to find it). Creativity has put up some good results, and it continues to impress me every time I play it. The biggest knock against the deck is that it has a serious Grixis Death’s Shadow problem – which, to be fair, is a hard place to be given that deck’s place in the meta – but the match-up isn’t unwinnable.
Creativity looks to play either a controlling game or a tempo game based on its draw. But regardless, it will always be working toward cheating a large creature into play. The deck has a few options here, so let’s quickly break those down.
First up, we have Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Serra’s Emissary. This package is typically the best way to beat any deck that tries to gain infinite life or assemble a critical mass of cards. Have a tough match-up? Emrakul and protection from some part of the deck will often solve that problem. You’re looking to end the game on the spot and are mostly all-in on resolving a big creature and winning.
The other build, which I’ve chosen to highlight today, has three copies of Archon of Cruelty. This version of the deck is much more capable of playing a value game and winning with planeswalkers. Archon is an incredibly back breaking card against lots of decks and very often wins with its first attack trigger. People often are too quick to compare it to Emrakul‘s attack trigger, but I like to think of Archon as more of a Kroxa/Uro split card. You get all the ETB effects upfront with the added bonus of your opponent sacrificing a creature instead of getting to put one of your lands into play.
In a format as wide as Modern, it’s often much better to overwhelm your opponent than it is to be the one trying to brave the pressure. This deck has enough interaction to stop most decks in the format, then slam the door with the Archons. It’s a very appealing game plan if you’re newer to Modern, or if the metagame doesn’t feel “solved”. It’s fine to be the one answering the questions, but sometimes, it’s good to be able to present some as well, and this deck excels at that.
I’ve been playing a lot of this deck on stream lately, and I truly think it’s one good card (or a Lurrus ban) away from being one of the best decks in the format.
For those unfamiliar, the Yawgmoth deck has a few ways it can win. The first is the easiest: If you have a Yawgmoth, two undying creatures, and a Blood Artist, you can have your opponent lose as much life as you have cards in your deck. You pay one life, sacrifice an undying creature to Yawgmoth, then put the -1/-1 counter on the other undying creature, so you can sacrifice it and it will come back.
The other game plan involves Yawgmoth, Geralf’s Messenger, and another undying creature. This loop works just like the previous one, but instead of draining your opponent with Blood Artist, you’ll each be losing two life each time you execute the loop. As long as you have more life than your opponent, you win! (You can also win if you and your opponent have the same life total, but only if the number is even, due to the life you have to pay to activate Yawgmoth.)
Finally, you can use Hapatra in place of an undying creature in either of the previous two scenarios. Each time you activate Yawgmoth’s ability, Hapatra will create a Snake token, which you can then sacrifice to Yawgmoth to cancel out the +1/+1 counter on an undying creature.
The rest of the Yawgmoth deck is built to support and maximize the game plan. It leans heavily on acceleration to get ahead of the curve, and you have multiple tutors so you can always find the piece you’re missing. The deck doesn’t have a great beatdown plan, but it can play a decent control game with Grist, which has been a huge upgrade for the deck recently. The combination of Grist and Yawgmoth gives the deck a little bit of interaction, and the ability to put -1/-1 counters on opposing creatures and proliferate will have Hammer players quaking in fear.
One last point in Yawgmoth’s favor: if you can’t win the game with two undying creatures and Yawgmoth, you can simply draw as many cards as you can pay life for. If you had to down to no cards in hand to get the combo set up, you’ll have a full grip again before you know it, and it’ll be incredibly challenging for your opponent to win on the following turn.
If you’re looking to pick up a creature combo deck with the potential to soar up the ranks of Modern decks, this is one of the best and most fun options in the format!
The week of Modern Horizons 2’s release, this deck popped up and took the world by storm. While it hasn’t been a top deck in the format in a while, it has had a consistent presence in the metagame, and it raises its head from time to time.
That all being said, outside of decks like Murktide and Amulet, Crashing Footfalls is the best Modern deck without a companion. One reason is it uses the cascade engine in a way that isn’t weak to most of the hate cards in the format. You won’t be folding to Nihil Spellbomb, for example.
Sure, cards that specifically target this deck will still work, but thanks to having a more coherent and “fair” game plan, you can often work through them. Chalice of the Void keeping you down? Work toward Prismari Command or Brazen Borrower to remove it for a single turn. Opponent trying to pressure you? Use your early turns answering their threats while working toward some Rhinos. Are they holding up interaction? Force their hand with cards like Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant, then punish them with Rhinos or ride your adventure creature to victory.
Crashing Footfalls is ultimately a fair deck with unfair elements. It’s not the best midrange deck in the format, but it has much more play than people give it credit for, while still being able to cheese wins.
That’s going to do it for this week’s article. All these decks are solid choices and great pickups, depending on your preferences. What are you grinding with in Modern? Let me know on Twitter at @masoneclark!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.