Companions are making a splash in Modern just as they are everywhere else. “Splash” is probably even an understatement; Lurrus is nothing short of dominant in the format. But the dreamy feline isn’t the only companion making noise. I took a look at the data from MTGO Challenges, Prelims, and Super Qualifiers over the last ten days to find how each companion is performing in Modern.
Let’s start with the most popular companion in Modern. Lurrus of the Dream-Den has already put up a staggering number of finishes compared to the rest of the companions. Our feline friend has appeared in a variety of archetypes: Burn, Jund, Death’s Shadow, Devoted Druid, Infect, Field of the Dead, Boggles, Hardened Scales, and Delver of Secrets. I can’t recall another card that has propelled nine different archetypes to top finishes, especially in such a short period of time!
Lurrus’s success is likely a result of its lax companion requirement: Modern decks already prioritize the most efficiently-costed cards. In a deck like Burn, with a brutally efficient low curve, Lurrus slots in beautifully. Burn used to struggle with flooding and prolonged games; now, with Lurrus and Mishra’s Bauble, that’s less of an issue.
Yorion, Sky Nomad had a lot to prove in Modern. The card had two major knocks against it: a high casting cost and a minimum 80-card deck size requirement. Thankfully for Yorion, Bant Snow Control was already an established deck with plenty of targets for the flying serpent’s ability. The deck has enough redundancy that playing 80 cards doesn’t feel like much of a downside. And a 4/5 flyer that draws a few cards and resets Planeswalkers is nothing to scoff at, especially when it’ll be in all of your opening hands.
Other notable decks playing Yorion include Temur Urzuro and Temur Scapeshift. The common thread between these three decks is Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, who helps offset the hefty price tag on Yorion.
The companions with stricter requirements don’t fit into quite as many archetypes, but that’s not necessarily a knock against them. Obosh, the Preypiercer only allows you to play cards with odd converted mana costs, but its double-damage payoff is powerful enough to earn it a spot in Ponza. This red-green midrange deck mostly played cards with odd mana costs, anyway, so you don’t have to give up much to gain access to our new favorite Hellion. You can still curve Utopia Sprawl or Arbor Elf into Magus of the Moon or Pillage all the same. This version of the deck is particularly interesting, as it cuts some land destruction spells to find room to play Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
I’ll be interested to see if this version of the deck gains more traction, or if a more stock version pops back up. More traditional Ponza decks can punish the growing number of Primeval Titan strategies looking to go over the army of Lurrus decks.
Kaheera, the Orphanguard can be challenging to build around in Modern, but aspiringspike managed to skirt her requirement by not playing creatures at all! That means that Kaheera doesn’t have any creatures to buff, but you still get a 3/2 with vigilance in all your opening hands to help defend your Planeswalkers and pressure your opponents’. Should you need to cast Terminus, you can always use Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Teferi, Time Raveler to pick the cat up so she lives to fight another day.
Zirda, the Dawnwaker has been much more successful outside of Modern, but it’s managed to sneak into a few Heliod Combo decks. It doesn’t do the most for these decks — their activated abilities are cheap enough, as it is — but if you plan on activating abilities, you may as well play it. Saving a few mana here and there on Heliod, Spike Feeder, and Walking Ballista is good enough to justify the slight tweaks you have to make to accommodate Zirda.
Umori, the Collector gives us another take on Gruul Midrange. Choosing Umori instead of Obosh means that you have to make some varied card choices, but it’s a powerful accelerant nonetheless. While creature decks with strict color requirements — such as Humans and Elves — can’t always make use of Umori, it’ll help you ramp into Primeval Titan faster than you think!
Unfortunately, not every companion has made an impact on the Modern metagame just yet. Perhaps their effects aren’t strong enough, or their restrictions are too harsh, or they don’t have the right support. Let’s take a look at some of the companions that need some additional love in Modern.
Keruga, the Macrosage might have a hard time breaking into Modern due to its companion requirement. Taking the first two turns off in Modern, especially when Lurrus is the top dog (err, cat) seems like a death wish. A five mana 5/4 that draws a couple cards simply isn’t worth the sacrifice. Perhaps Modern will shift to a place one day where Keruga can swim freely into that companion slot.
Gyruda, Doom of Depths hasn’t done much of anything in Modern yet, and I’m honestly unsure why. Is it because it was temporarily banned in all formats due to a Magic Online bug, and players simply forgot about it? Is it a less effective six-mana creature than Primeval Titan? Whatever the reason, I expect to see some Gyruda-based combo decks popping up sooner rather than later.
Lutri, the Spellchaser is perhaps my personal favorite companion. I mean, look how cute the little guy is! But playing a singleton deck in a format as unforgiving as Modern is a tough ask, especially when the payoff is relatively minor. I have a feeling it’ll take a lot to get my favorite otter to the top tables.
I was actually kind of surprised when I couldn’t find any results for Jegantha. It isn’t the best companion to have on the battlefield, but it comes with one of the most lax requirements of the ten. Infect could have Jegantha for free, and Humans for very little, yet these decks often go without a companion; perhaps that’ll change someday.
Which of these companions is your favorite? Do you have any cool new brews with any of the underrepresented companions? Be sure to let me know on Twitter at @RappaciousOne!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.