Hello, and welcome to my first Modern tier list here on Card Kingdom! Modern is a wide and complex format with a lot of movement, which often makes ranking decks tricky. As such, this list is best viewed as a snapshot in time to help influence how you can build and update your deck week-to-week.
Before we dive into the list, here’s a quick refresher on the tier list grading criteria:
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.
Modern has had plenty of S tier decks in the past, but I don’t currently believe that is the case. Modern is fairly open as far as what decks are competitive, and as such, we don’t have anything in the S tier this time. Similarly, I don’t believe that there are any decks currently in the D tier; most Modern decks are cohesive enough that they land in C tier.
These decks are powerful, consistent, and among the best in Modern. I believe that you can play any of these decks and be serious about winning.
Izzet Tempo has been a Modern mainstay for months at this point, so it is no surprise to see it hanging out in A tier. There was a period of time where I believe it was S tier, but Modern was able to adjust. Izzet Tempo fits a powerful formula: Dragon’s Rage Channeler + Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer + Creature that outsizes Unholy Heat = Success. Backing up the powerful creature package is a suite of interaction featuring Lightning Bolt, Unholy Heat, Counterspell and Archmage’s Charm. Early pressure backed up by efficient disruption will often get the job done!
Crashing Footfalls looks unassuming at face value; it isn’t especially lean, and it isn’t doing anything flashy. Don’t let that fool you — Crashing Footfalls can have explosive turns relatively early in the game. Ten power on turn three across three bodies is a pretty strong start, especially when the follow-up is a Brazen Borrower or Bonecrusher Giant coming off an adventure. Fire//Ice is also deceptively good right now: it can take down early Ragavans and DRC’s, or tap down an opposing Island on your opponent’s end step to beat Counterspell. Of the two cascade decks on this list (the other being Living End), Crashing Footfalls is much better at playing through hate, which earns it the spot in A tier.
Ah yes, our old friend Bonk Tribal. Hammer Time is another deck that once resided in S tier, but Modern has been catching up to it. Worry not, Hammer Time is still a powerful option and solidly in the scrum of A-tier decks. Boasting an impressive turn two kill potential, Hammer Time demands respect and forces opponents to play to the board to prevent getting smoked before the game gets off the ground. Lurrus, Esper Sentinel, and Urza’s Saga let Hammer Time grind through any deck that can manage the early onslaught.
Elementals is the best of the bigger midrange decks in Modern right now. Nearly every card in this deck is a value factory, which means that once Elementals gets rolling, it will be nearly impossible to stop it. Fury and Solitude put in a lot of work to defend against early aggression until you can stick an Omnath and start gaining a pile of life. Risen Reef, Omnath, and Ephemerate ensure that you’ll never really run out of gas in longer games. Elementals earns a spot in A tier mostly by preying on the other A-tier decks, but we’ll see if combo decks or Tron become more popular to stop it.
Jund Saga, like Izzet Tempo, chooses to play the Ragavan + Dragon’s Rage Channeler + Unholy Heat game to get out of the gates early. Disruption and pressure go hand in hand, and each is better when the other is present. Tarmogoyf fills a similar role to Murktide Regent, as the cheap creature that can outsize Unholy Heat and end the game quickly. Jund chooses Wrenn and Six, Urza’s Saga, and Lurrus instead of Expressive Iteration to keep the gas flowing through the middle turns of the game. Jund Saga is likely the best Lurrus deck in Modern at the moment, but that could change if cascade decks, Tron, or Azorius Control start to become more popular; blue is sorely missed in those match-ups.
B Tier decks certainly still have merit. Many of them are strong, but some may lack some of the strengths we see among A-tier decks. However, if you’re a master with these decks, you’ll still be able to perform at a competitive level.
Living End lands itself as one of the standout B Tier decks, mostly by being a slightly worse cascade deck than Crashing Footfalls. While Living End is powerful, fast, and consistent, it is much easier to target than Crashing Footfalls. Game one tends to see Living End favored in a lot of match-ups, as main deck graveyard hate isn’t common. Sideboard games are less kind to Living End, as it is vulnerable to graveyard hate, Chalice of the Void, Void Mirror, and Flusterstorm. As long as there are fair decks at the top of the metagame, Living End will be a competitive choice.
Dress Down Shadow
Dress Down Shadow follows the Ragavan + DRC + large cheap creature formula, similar to Izzet Tempo and Jund Saga. Traditionally, when other fair decks are good, Shadow struggles a bit, which is why it currently lands in B tier. Dress Down did a lot to fix the Elementals and Hammer Time match-ups, which was an important gain for Shadow. If combo and/or cascade decks pick up any steam, Dress Down Shadow could certainly find itself a home in A tier. As it stands, it sits just behind Izzet Tempo and Jund Saga for that style.
Indomitable Creativity is the evolution of the Four-Color Turns deck. This isn’t strictly a combo deck, however — it plays more like a control deck with a combo finish.
Indomitable Creativity will either find Velomachus Lorehold or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Velomachus can then try to find a Time Warp to keep getting in more attacks, and thus more looks at additional copies of Time Warp. While Emrakul may not seem like the ideal hit off Indomitable Creativity, very few cards can deal with it on the battlefield (especially in game one), and it will probably kill your opponent the following turn. Nahiri, the Harbinger pairs better with Emrakul, as it tutors it and gives it haste, almost assuring that your opponent can’t do anything about it. Teferi, Time Raveler, Wrenn and Six, Prismatic Ending, and Fire//Ice provide a lot of early defense, to make sure that you have time to get your combo online.
Indomitable Creativity is a solid choice as long as Hammer Time and non-blue midrange decks are popular. Though if Azorius Control and Death’s Shadow become more popular, Indomitable Creativity might find a more long-term home in B tier.
Azorius Control is one of those decks that is always around, and will pop back up when the time is right. Main deck Chalice of the Void is well-positioned in Modern right now, and Azorius Control gets to play it with little cost, since Prismatic Ending is an X spell. This build has a lot of win conditions baked into its lands, with Castle Ardenvale and Hall of Storm Giants. Everything else is dedicated to either drawing cards or staying alive, including Shark Typhoon and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which can also win the game. Azorius Control can beat up on the Lurrus decks pretty easily, and four copies of Teferi, Time Raveler gives you a lot of game against the cascade decks as well.
Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into this week’s Modern metagame. Naturally, as Modern changes, so will this list, so it is best to use this list as a guide, rather than an absolute. As always, you can find me on Twitter at @RappaciousOne for questions or comments.
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.