It has been a bit since I’ve updated Card Kingdom’s Modern tier list, and with Star Charlotte Games Con Charlotte coming up this weekend, it seems like a great time to do so.
When Modern is healthy, a cyclical metagame tends to develop. For example, if we start with the efficient end of the spectrum, decks like Murktide, Hammer and Prowess have the leanest gameplans. That lets them get underneath the bigger more powerful decks.
As those efficient decks start to run the format, players naturally look to be a step bigger, trying to outmuscle the most efficient decks without getting run over in the process. That trend continues until you start seeing decks like Creativity, Elementals and Tron show up to provide a sort of ceiling to Modern.
I believe we were recently about as efficient as Modern gets and have begun to rebound back toward the power end of the spectrum, though we have yet to cross that halfway threshold. During this in-between period, choosing a deck for a larger event like SCG Charlotte this weekend can be tricky, so I’m hoping this will shed some light or help you make a decision on what to play.
I’d like to remind everyone of the tier criteria before we jump right into the list. It is as follows:
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 list.
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, though 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.
S tier is a bit murky, as the line between the worst S-tier deck and the best A-tier deck is fairly thin, but I think there is enough delineation to separate things. We have a handful of usual suspects in Hammer, Scam and Murktide alongside some new/returning faces in Creativity and Rhinos.
It is entirely possible Creativity is the best deck in Modern, but I don’t think it is the best by a wide enough margin that you’d be a fool for picking anything else in the S-tier when trying to win the event.
Creativity should be a known quantity to Modern players at this point since its popularity and results have been steadily rising over the last few months. Employing a Combo-Control strategy puts it in one of the most successful macro-archetypes in Modern history, and Creativity isn’t failing that by any means.
Staying alive until turn five or six is the name of the game, which naturally means Creativity is well equipped with defensive options such as Lightning Bolt and Leyline Binding (among others) to handle the creature dense metagame we’re in currently. Once turn five or six rolls around, Creativity shifts gears and tries to go way over the top of its opponent with the likes of Archon of Cruelty and Atraxa, Grand Unifier to effectively end the game on the spot.
This list preys on the slower, Midrange strategies, but struggles with decks that can pressure them while presenting counterspells, like Murktide. Blood Moon is also a concern for Creativity players since it shuts off Dwarven Mine, which is the easiest way to turn on Indomitable Creativity. However, it also makes Veil of Summer and Spell Pierce difficult to cast, putting you in a tough spot when fighting back against counterspells.
Hammer, Scam and Murktide feel pretty solved, and there hasn’t been much innovation in those archetypes lately. That being said, they’re all strong, proactive decks that have a defined plan, and I’d expect to continue seeing those decks at a fairly high rate of play in the near future.
Rhinos feels like it comes and goes as far as metagame presence and success. Yet every time I’ve looked, it is always floating around the top five decks in Modern according to MTGGoldfish.
That being said, I like the sound of Rhinos right now, and I think it has a positive matchup against the rest of the S-tier decks (with the exception of Murktide) and is a powerful, proactive strategy against the rest of the field making it a strong choice.
The ability to main deck Blood Moon, Fury and Force of Negation covers such a huge chunk of the metagame. Having a powerful and focused sideboard consisting of Endurance and Force of Vigor means Rhinos is packing haymakers for nearly every deck in Modern.
Elementals is back after losing Yorion, Sky Nomad. They’re not the dominant force they were before, but still a strong deck, nonetheless.
Elementals has moved away from being a control deck and into a bigger, Midrange shell focused more on cards like Risen Reef. This means that with Solitude, Fury, Teferi and Prismatic Ending, Elementals is very well set up to battle the creature decks. It will just struggle against decks like Burn and Living End.
One of the biggest losses from the Yorion ban was the space to play Abundant Growth and more basic lands, ultimately making the new Elementals decks vulnerable to Blood Moon.
It has been quite some time since we’ve seen Prowess as a major player in the Modern metagame. The latest major innovation since the days before Modern Horizons 2 was the addition of Underworld Breach as both a value card and a finisher. It isn’t uncommon for Prowess to play a Breach before casting a haste threat or two, followed by a couple of Mishra’s Baubles and some Lava Darts to put out a ton of damage from a very low base.
I think we’re going to start seeing a bit of a decline in Prowess, though, because Modern is in a transition period from efficiency to power. Prowess tends to succeed when the format is at one end of the spectrum or the other but struggles in the middle.
Amulet has returned with the addition of The Mycosynth Gardens and is more combo focused than it has been in a number of years. Hands with two copies of Amulet of Vigor were always terrifying, and now if the Amulet deck has the first copy, they go from three copies of the second Amulet to seven.
In recent months, Amulet has had a sort of a soft ceiling for how good or popular it can be, as it is checked by the presence of Murktide, which is a fairly difficult matchup. However, Amulet can certainly blast someone into orbit if they are unprepared or don’t respect the deck.
Yawgmoth and Burn occupy the same space that they have recently, with Burn trending upward and Yawgmoth staying relatively even. Burn always tends to get better as other decks get bigger, because outside locking them out, the best way to beat Burn is to race them (the deck is typically not adept at defending itself). Ergo, the less other decks can quickly pressure Burn, the better the Burn tends to perform.
B-tier has a few new faces as well, including Value Breach, Mono Red Blasts and Mono Red Obosh. Living End and Mill round out the tier.
Value Breach is an evolution of the Grinding Station-Breach combo decks that evolved into a lean Midrange deck using Underworld Breach for card advantage instead of as a combo tool. Adding Breach to low curve fair decks is such an obvious innovation in hindsight, but it did take some time to catch on.
Whether the deck is drawing a few cards using Mishra’s Bauble, looping a removal spell to win the board back or even picking up some threats to put the screws to a more controlling opponent, Breach does it all.
Mono Red Blasts is the name I’m using to describe the Shrapnel Blast plus Galvanic Blast deck that has picked up over the last month or so. It leverages Ragavan and Dragon’s Rage Channeller to provide early damage and then attempts to finish the game with Urza’s Saga plus a flurry of burn spells.
I think Mono Red Blasts runs into a similar problem as Prowess right now, instead of getting better like Burn (which is why I have it in B-tier, for the moment). However, Mono Red Blasts is a good tool for aggressive players to have in their arsenal for when the metagame starts to swing back toward efficiency.
Mono Red Obosh has burst back onto the scene, and I think it is almost entirely due to the strength of Blood Moon and the ability to play four copies in the main deck. Obosh is incredibly powerful once it hits the battlefield, but it takes some work to get there for a mono red deck.
Blood Moon definitely helps by slowing your opponent way down, but Lightning Bolt, Flame Slash and a variety of other defensive tools can certainly drag the game out long enough for Obosh to end the game.
Living End will begin trending upward, as it tends to prey on the slower decks such as Elementals. So the better that deck gets, the better Living End does.
Mill is in a tricky place. The printing of Jace, the Perfected Mind was a shot in the arm for Mill players. However, there are a ton of Eldrazi showing up in sideboards now to shut down Mill. I also expect an uptick in Endurance. And while these factors aren’t a death knell for Mill, it certainly limits how good the deck can be.
UWx Control, Tron, Merfolk, Zoo and Devoted Druid are all familiar players in the Modern metagame, but have been on the decline for some time at this point.
At the least, Tron and UWx control are trending upward given that Modern is slowing down. The decks both thrive in environments where players are playing one spell per turn instead of multiple, cheap cards to overload their interaction.
Merfolk is falling flat given the rise in removal spells and wraths in Modern since it relies on a critical mass to win a lot of its games. Zoo struggles a good bit with Blood Moon, which is more popular now than it has been in some time, but its saving grace is a strong Creativity matchup.
Devoted Druid got noticeably better with the printing of Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, but it didn’t get enough better to make a major impact on the metagame at large. That being said, Devoted Druid went from not really being competitive to being on the list, so there is hope for Devoted Druid pilots in the future.
Examining what you think the expected metagame will be going into Charlotte, or whatever events you may be playing this weekend, can greatly aid your deck choice. Whether you decide to register an S tier deck or a less popular one that you believe targets a potentially overrepresented subsection of the metagame, knowing what to expect is important. For this weekend, I think I’m going to be battling with Rhinos, as I value having positive matchups against Creativity, Hammer and Amulet this weekend — I hope I manage to dodge Murktide!
I’ll be at Charlotte this weekend, so feel free to come up and say hello. I’m always happy to meet Card Kingdom fans! Otherwise you can find me on Twitter @RappaciousOne for questions, comments or feedback. Best of luck this weekend wherever you are playing, and 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.