Magic has mostly moved online since early 2020, but Magic players are eagerly awaiting the return of tabletop organized play and some of their favorite formats like Modern. A handful of people, including myself, have distanced themselves from some formats since competitive Magic’s focus shifted to Standard and Historic. Standard and Historic are some of my favorite formats, but this past week, I decided to take a swing at Modern again for the first time in a year. While I’m going to focus on how to get back into Modern in 2021, I hope you can apply the lessons I learned as you enter or re-enter different eternal formats.
There are a couple of ways to get back into a format like Modern, and which strategy you use is entirely up to you and what you are comfortable with or have access to.
Play Your Old Deck/Favorite Deck
If you’ve played Modern before and have access to an old deck you used to play, this might be the best or first option for you to try. If you’ve played decks like Burn, Infect, Dredge, and Mill, consider picking them up again, if you still have the cards in your collection. I’ve personally been a fan of Jund Midrange since I started playing Modern, and it’s proven to have plenty of staying power in the format. Jund has adapted throughout Modern’s history due to bans, unbannings, new cards, and meta shifts, and it seemingly always finds a place in the metagame. I have put hundreds of hours into the deck and I love it, so it seemed like the perfect starting point for me to get back into Modern this past week.
Once I decided to rebuild Jund, the first thing I did was look for potential new additions to the deck. Valki, God of Lies immediately stood out because you can cascade into it with Bloodbraid Elf and choose to put the card into play on its back side: Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor. You’ll also need to take the current metagame into account as you tune your deck. This helps you construct your 75 to be able to tackle any deck you face. For example, Mystic Sanctuary decks and other graveyard decks are popular in Modern, so you might want to consider adding Nihil Spellbombs to your main deck if you’re playing Jund.
You’ll also want to be conscious of the current metagame while constructing your sideboard. What decks do you think you are going to play against? What are your good and bad matchups? How do you want your sideboard to function? If you want to help your bad matchups, then you likely need more extreme hate cards against a specific archetype; if I expect to play against a bunch of blue Cryptic Command decks, I would want to sideboard cards like Choke or Boil. However, because Modern has a large and diverse card pool, I often like to craft my sideboards to help gain an edge in my close matchups. Instead of turning your bad matchups into even matchups, it’s often better to turn your even matchups into favored ones. This can involve sideboarding extra graveyard hate against graveyard based decks, board wipes against creature decks, or extra hand-hate or interaction against combo decks.
Play the Best Deck
This is one of the more straight-forward options: identify which deck has been performing the best over the course of a handful of tournaments and start playing it. I am someone who switches decks frequently and can pick up new decks relatively quickly, so this strategy often works for me. The best way to do that, in my experience, is to keep practicing and talking to others who already play the deck well. You can pick up and learn niche lines and sequencing techniques quickly while you try to jump back into Modern.
This strategy is successful in Modern if you like or are comfortable playing a bunch of different archetypes, or in situations where there is one clear “best deck” in Modern. A couple good examples of this would be when Hogaak, Arclight Phoenix, or Urza/Oko decks were at the top of the meta. However, it is important to remember that the Modern metagame changes a lot, and many of these strategies ended up banned in Modern for being too powerful in the format.
Look at the Metagame
If you have access to a large Magic collection online or in person, it may be best for you to take a look at the Modern metagame and choose a deck that appeals to you. You can either pick the deck that looks the most exciting to you, or you can test out a bunch of decks and see which one you like best. Some players are better with certain archetypes, play styles, and sequencing than others, so finding the right deck for you is important, especially if you plan on playing that deck for several months or years. Therefore, trying out a handful of decks to see what works for you is the best option before deciding which deck you want to register for an upcoming tournament or which deck you would want to purchase in paper.
If you look at the top of the current Modern metagame, you’ll find decks like 4-Color Omnath, Izzet Prowess, Mono-White Hammer, and Rakdos Death’s Shadow. All of these decks are very different and play uniquely; whether you like Aggro, Midrange, Control, or Combo, there’s a deck here you’re sure to like. If you’re still unsure, you could try out each of these decks and see which one feels the best for you.
Here is the Jund list I landed on for my dive back into Modern:
3 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Nurturing Peatland
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wooded Foothills
3 Valki, God of Lies
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Wrenn and Six
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Seasoned Pyromancer
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Fatal Push
While I fully expect some changes to the way cascade interacts with modal double-faced cards, I would continue playing this deck for as long as you can cascade into Tibalt. I streamed two variations of Jund on Twitch last week at twitch.tv/mythic_meebo, ending with two 5-0s in leagues. I think Jund is back on the menu, especially after the announcement this week that Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath will be banned in Modern in the future.
In fact, the impending Uro ban is another perfect reason to get back into Modern. We all love a good format shake-up, and I expect more to come as we start to look forward to paper events in the future.