Modern has started adjusting to Streets of New Capenna, and Michael is here to check in on the format and let us know what decks to watch!
Welcome back for the May update to Card Kingdom’s Modern Tier List! Over the last month there hasn’t been any notable paper Modern tournaments to draw data from, but luckily there have still been plenty of MTGO events to look at. Modern is in a reasonably balanced state with multiple styles of decks making up the high tiers. The S-Tier decks are fairly similar, and are beginning to solidify their position above the rest of the format. A couple Streets of New Capenna cards have shown up this month, but more on that later. Let’s get right into things!
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.
Murktide, Living End, Rhinos, and Four Color Yorion have become repeat sources of success in Modern, and find themselves firmly in S-Tier for the month of May. Tempo, combo, midrange, and control all are represented in the S-Tier, which is historically a sign of a healthy format. There is a rock, paper, scissors dynamic to these four decks, with Murktide being favored against the cascade decks, the cascade decks being favored against Four Color Yorion, and Four Color Yorion being favored against Murktide. This means that all of the S-Tier decks are checked against being able to run away with the format.
Murktide Regent is back holding down its spot in the S-Tier. Boasting powerful and efficient threats, and backing them up with a prolific suite of counterspells, Murktide is going to have a strong game plan against the less powerful or less tuned decks in the metagame. Rhinos and Living End, as good as they are, are great for Murktide. The tempo style of gameplay that Murktide brings to the table is strong against the clunkier cascade decks, that are weak to decks adept to interacting on the stack.
Murktide struggles against Solitude + Teferi, Time Raveler decks. Murktide Regent is the best way for Murktide decks to close out the game once they have an advantage, but Four Color Yorion and Azorius Control both have plenty of ways to answer the big dragon itself. Without Murktide Regent, these control decks have enough time to set up favorable positions against the rest of Murktide’s threats, swinging the matchup in favor of the control decks.
Ledger Shredder didn’t take long to make its presence known in Modern, finding a fast home in Murktide decks. Shredder is cheap, powerful, scales well throughout the game, and provides extra card selection, all of which is exactly what Murktide wants in a creature. The underrated aspect of Ledger Shredder is that it blocks well, which Murktide doesn’t early in the game. Shredder also gives Murktide better chances against opponents with graveyard hate, which often shuts down Murktide Regent.
Living End has been the less popular but more successful of the cascade decks. Preying on the slower midrange decks in Modern, especially ones that don’t interact well on the stack, Living End finds itself in the S-Tier. Four Color Yorion doesn’t have much in meaningful ways to interact with Living End outside of Teferi, Time Raveler. This means Living End is free to set up a large graveyard that Four Color Yorion can’t easily beat once it winds up on the battlefield. Rhinos is also a good matchup for Living End as neither cascade deck can defend itself from the opponent’s cascade particularly well. However, the board state that Living End has after Living End resolves is much better than two 4/4 rhinos.
Living End is going to struggle against Murktide, and cheap pressure backed up by counterspells is a nightmare for Living End. Similarly, Azorius Control is also strong against Living End. While Azorius Control may not have the clock the Murktide does, Teferi, Time Raveler backed up by counterspells is going to be enough to get the job done.
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.
Yawgmoth is Modern’s premier creature combo deck. In fact, it is debatable whether Yawgmoth is an aggro deck or a combo deck first, but it’s strength is that it can do both. Yawgmoth performs well against decks with a lot of non-exiling removal, as Undying is strong in those situations. Yawgmoth itself lines up very well against small creature decks like Hammer Time, because the ability to machine gun down small small creatures with the -1/-1 counter ability is strong.
Against decks with a lot of removal, which can make it difficult to combo, the beat down plan becomes plan A. Then if they ever tap out they’re in danger of Yawgmoth showing up and ending the game on the spot, which puts a lot of pressure on reactive decks. However against faster decks, or decks where combat isn’t a feasible avenue to victory, Yawgmoth is still a reasonably fast and consistent combo deck.
Azorius Control makes an appearance relatively high on the list this month on the back of some strong finishes in recent challenges. I am a bit skeptical of exactly how good Azorius Control actually is, given that Wafo-Tapa is responsible for a bulk of these results; he is likely to succeed with control even when it’s not necessarily the right time. Nevertheless, the results are there, largely in part of having a solid matchup against all of the S-Tier decks. Teferi backed up by counterspells is going to do a number on both Cascade decks, and Murktide. The matchup against Four Color Yorion is definitely the closest of the four, but I think Azorius Control gets the nod because it goes just a little bit bigger than Four Color.
Hammer Time and other Urza’s Saga decks such as Affinity and Jund Saga can give Azorius Control trouble given how much value Saga can create. This version leans heavily on Prismatic Ending, and has no copies of March of Otherworldly Light, which means Dress Down is the best recourse against a large instant speed construct.
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. B-Tier this month is a collection of old favorites, plus a new face in Affinity.
Affinity is the new…old?…deck on the block. This isn’t Affinity in the way you may traditionally think of Affinity with Arcbound Ravagers, Frogmites, and Myr Enforcers. This is Affinity where the payoffs are Thought Monitor and Thoughtcast. This version of Affinity isn’t blisteringly fast like previous versions of the deck, but it has far more staying power than the Affinity of old.
Affinity draws so many cards. Between Esper Sentinel, Ingenious Smith, Thoughtcast, Thought Monitor, and Teferi, Time Raveler, Affinity will never be short on cards. This slower grindy game plan fits Urza, Lord High Artificer and Urza’s Saga quite well, as both of those cards want a slightly longer game, and get much better with a lot of artifacts in play. This version of Affinity is going to win a lot of its games with a couple 9/9 construct tokens after drawing a pile of extra cards.
That is all I have for this week. Overall, Modern is in a reasonably balanced place right now, with a viable choice for just about every style of deck. As always I hope this helps inform your choices on deck selection or construction for this upcoming weekend. I know that I’ll be keeping a close on how everything shakes out in the upcoming weeks. You can find me on Twitter at @RappaciousOne for questions, comments, or feedback. I’ll see everyone back here next week for more Modern content!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.