Michael’s back with another update to the Modern Tier List! With lots of high-level play over the last month, there’s been a lot of movement!
Welcome back to the Modern Tier List for July 2022 on Card Kingdom! This month has featured high level competitive events including a 400+ player MTGO PTQ and SCG Syracuse, and of course we can still look at the weekly MTGO challenges as well. July definitely had more movement between tiers than we’ve seen in recent months. Before we begin, let’s quickly go over what each tier means.
S-Tier: Decks that are above the rest. This is normally the default “best deck in the format” and the deck(s) you should have in mind when building or picking your deck.
A-Tier: Decks that are great. These decks are knocking on the door of S-Tier, but they may have a small weakness that keeps them out of the upper echelon.
B-Tier: Good, solid decks. You wouldn’t be surprised if a B-Tier deck takes down an event, but they have bigger weaknesses or liabilities than the decks in A-Tier.
C-Tier: Decks that are totally fine, but not notable. These decks aren’t exactly tearing up the tournament or ladder scene, but you should expect to face them every now and then.
D-Tier: Decks with strong elements, but that generally aren’t great choices compared to the rest of the format.
As always, S-Tier decks are the best of the best and have separated themselves from the rest of Modern in terms of power and results. I would expect to see these decks at the top tables of any given Modern tournament, and would have a plan for them when selecting and building your deck.
July brings us just two S-tier decks, one old standby, Izzet Murktide, and Hammer, which hasn’t been S-tier in a few months. So far three weeks of tournaments have brought us four MTGO challenges, a MTGO super PTQ, and SCG Syracuse, for a total of six top 8s. Among the 48 decks that made top 8 of these events, Hammer had the most appearances of any deck with eight. With that kind of top 8 success Hammer easily makes it into S-tier in my mind. Izzet Murktide was close on Hammer’s tail with six top 8s of its own, good enough to keep its spot in S-tier for another month.
It has been a bit since we’ve seen Hammer in S-tier. Given the direction that the metagame has been moving away from interactive decks, toward more linear decks, it is no wonder Hammer has been successful. Hammer struggles the most against decks with free or cheap interaction. However, the Murktide matchup is favorable for Hammer because Murktide relies so much on Counterspell and Archmage’s Charm for much of their interaction, and those spells are almost always trading down on mana. In fact, Hammer is one of the few decks that can beat Murktide on an action economy axis.
Hammer also tends to capitalize on moments where Cards like Fury and Engineered Explosives are on the downswing. With fewer Four-Color Blink and Elementals decks, Fury isn’t as popular. Similarly, as people move from Rhinos to Living End, the number of Engineered Explosives tends to drop.
A-tier decks are strong options that can definitely win a tournament on any given week, but are just a step behind the S-tier decks. I would still be happy to register one of these decks for an event, especially if I already have a lot of reps with the deck.
This month’s A-tier is rather large, featuring seven decks! Notably, Four-Color Yorion, despite winning SCG Syracuse, hasn’t put up much else for results with just three total top 8s, which is enough for it to slip out of S tier for the time being. Both Living End and Rhinos are back this month still putting up solid results, with five and three top 8s respectively, both with a win. Burn has shown up to play this month preying on Yorion decks, putting up four top 8s of its own, with a win. Death’s Shadow is back for another month. As Yorion declines and combo increases, Death’s Shadow only gets more solid. Archon Creativity is a new face this month, as it has looked impressive during its short time on the scene. Finally we have Yawgmoth, a familiar A-tier friend, having a solid month for itself, putting up three top 8s.
By now I think most people are familiar with Grixis Death’s Shadow. TinTin-1989 took their Dimir version of Death’s Shadow to the top 8 of a recent MTGO challenge. Dimir Shadow is much closer to the old Gurmag Angler builds than it is to the current Grixis builds, which are much more aggressive. A few weeks ago I wrote about the value of counterspells being at a relative high, which can be found here. This version sports a strong 13 main-deck counters, with four more in the sideboard. This more controlling take on Death’s Shadow gives it more game against decks like Living End, Rhinos, and Glimpse that demand the ability to interact on the stack.
Dimir Shadow is much lighter on threats than its Grixis counterpart sporting just the four Death’s Shadow and four Murktide Regent. This means that this version of Death’s Shadow is likely to employ a defend-the-queen strategy of sticking a single large threat and protecting it with counterspells until it can end the game. Dimir Shadow is definitely happy to see Four-Color Blink on the downturn as Teferi, Time Raveler is an absolute nightmare for Dimir Shadow, and Solitude isn’t fun to see either.
4C Archon Creativity
Indomitable Creativity is a card that has put a couple blips on the Modern radar and has frequently been popular enough for players to know it is around, but it hasn’t done much as far as results are concerned. There have been a couple other iterations of Creativity, one with Serra’s Emissary and some mix of either Archon of Cruelty or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, depending on the time period. The other is a Grixis hybrid Creativity/Persist deck that came around a month or so ago. The current version finding success is a four-color version playing everything but white, and the black is only for casting Archon of Cruelty. This deck took a Temur Creativity shell and added Archon of Cruelty as the payoff instead of Serra’s Emissary or Emrakul, as Archon generally wins resource fights and kills faster than Emissary, while being much more castable than Emissary or Emrakul. Explore is the key innovation in this version of Creativity, giving it just the extra speed boost that it needed in order to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of Modern.
Creativity plays a sort of combo-control game. They have plenty of interaction to survive the early parts of the game, baked in card advantage with Hard Evidence, Fable of the Mirror Breaker, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so Creativity plays the resource/control game well. The real strength of Creativity is that while you’re playing the control game, if your opponent ever taps out, they’re likely to get blown up by a Creativity for an Archon of Cruelty or two, which will end any fair fight in short order.
B-Tier decks definitely still have what it takes to win, but either are missing a little something, have some bad matchups up top, or are just newer to the scene and haven’t had the time to prove themselves yet.
Surprisingly, Elementals fell off quite quickly in the last month, barely putting up any noticeable results with just a single top 8. Elementals saw a noticeable drop in league and prelim performances as well, this is largely because it is built to beat up Four-Color Blink, which also had a bad month due to the rise in combo, and Elementals struggles with those decks even more than Blink does. Tron has shown up again recently in a metagame divided, in its eyes. There were plenty of midrange decks for it to beat up in Elementals and Four-Color Blink, but those are shrinking and combo is rising, which is bad news for Tron who holds a precarious position in B-tier.
Glimpse Combo is a cascade deck that has moved from being an all-in combo deck, winning with Chancellor of the Forge, to a more midrange deck with a much better fair plan. Glimpse is sort of a cross between Rhinos, Living End, and Elementals. Rhinos is a cascade deck that plays a good fair game, making it rely on resolving a Crashing Footfalls less, but it would obviously like it. Living End is the cascade deck that wants to usually push through one Living End in order to generate an insurmountable board state. Elementals plays a remarkable fair game generating tons of value with Omnath, Risen Reef, and friends. Glimpse wants to resolve a Glimpse of Tomorrow, which will convert its miscellaneous clues, plant tokens, etc., into value permanents such as, once again, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Risen Reef, and Wavesifter.
The current iteration of Glimpse Combo, or as I like to call it, Elementals Glimpse, gives up much of its combo potential by removing the Chancellor of the Forge kill, in exchange for a more well-rounded game plan by adding the Elementals core. Elementals Glimpse does still have combo potential, albeit a bit convoluted. With enough Glimpses, and enough Risen Reef triggers, you can string together enough Omnath, Locus of Creation triggers to gain a pile of life, make a bunch of mana, and deal quite a bit of damage to the opponent. Elementals Glimpse is likely the best cascade deck against the tempo decks trying to beat the more combo-oriented cascade decks but isn’t the best option for beating decks like Four-Color Blink, because they’re playing a similar game plan, but Glimpse plays the fair game worse.
Asmo Food decks were immensely popular, and successful shortly after the release of Modern Horizons 2. Those same Food decks quickly fell off after players figured out how to build other decks. Every now and then Food will show up in a variety of forms, recently Esper and Dimir, both combo-centric with Academy Manufactor and Time Sieve. However, this throwback of Golgari Food snagged a top 4 finish at SCG Syracuse. Asmo when combined with The Underworld Cookbook and Ovalchase Daredevil already makes life hard for anyone trying to win via combat. Adding Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven to the mix makes it even more difficult for opponents to connect on the ground. Feasting Troll King is the closer here, being able to dig up a 7/6 by sacrificing some food tokens is going to best more attrition-based matchups.
While Golgari Food is a stone-cold killer against fair creature decks, it doesn’t interact with spells well, and it isn’t the fastest deck around, so it certainly doesn’t want to see a combo deck across the table. That is made further evident by the four Thoughtseize, two Necromentia, and two Damping Sphere in the sideboard. If the meta moves back toward fair creature decks, expect Golgari Food to stick around, but if things trend toward combo, this deck will likely struggle.
That is all I have for this week! Modern sure has begun to churn once again and the decks at the top sort of rotate between S- and A-tier, depending on how matchups line up as things fall into place. The B- and C-tier decks continue to have a good bit of movement as players continue to try to attack Modern from different angles, however Creativity seems to be the only one that is finding anything resembling consistent success. That being said, I’m interested in seeing how things shake out over the next month!
As always you can find me on Twitter at @Rappaciousone for questions, comments, and feedback. I’ll see everyone back here next week!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.