Modern Recap January 2023

Modern Tournament Recap: Jan 20223

Michael RappModern, Strategy

The weekend of Jan. 13 brought us the most competitive Modern tournaments than we’ve seen in a long time. SCG Con New Jersey had both $20,000 and $5,000 tournaments while the LMS Open Qualifier took place in Trieste and the NRG Champs closed things out. Naturally, each high level Modern tournament offers worthwhile results to parse through. 

Modern is in a fantastic place at the moment with a wide variety of playable decks. As is true with any tournament weekend, there were over and underperformers. But since history remembers the victors, let’s start with the winners.

SCG 5k

Adam Snook took down the Modern 5k at SCG NJ with Rakdos Scam. Given the deck’s strong matchup against both Hammer and Murktide, it was in a good spot right out of the gate. The power of getting two Grief triggers while leaving it on the battlefield is enough to severely hinder less powerful strategies. 

Scam certainly has bad matchups (Living End comes to mind immediately), but those aren’t common, at the moment. Thanks to Blood Moon and either double Grief or double Fury on turn one, Scam can easily steal games in unfavorable matchups. Coming into the weekend, Scam was well positioned and it certainly delivered on that promise.

SCG 20k

Izzet Prowess was flying under the radar coming into the event’s action, but that didn’t stop David Nunez from taking down the SCG 20k. 

Modern, as a whole, has slowed down some from the combo heavy metagame of a couple months ago. Combine that with a drop in Fatal Push and Unholy Heat, plus a rise in the stock of Lightning Bolt, and you find a metagame prime for Izzet Prowess to run people over. 

Meanwhile, Lightning Bolt is easy enough to beat given Prowess just needs to cast any two spells, or a single Mutagenic Growth, to outsize it. Underworld Breach also enables some sick one turn kills involving buying back a Monastery Swiftspear or Sprite Dragon plus a couple of burn spells to steal a win in a long game. 

A deck full of Lava Darts and Lightning Bolts is going to produce a solid Hammer matchup, while Expressive Iteration and Underworld Breach are going to make sure Prowess doesn’t run out of gas in longer games. In retrospect, this performance makes a lot of sense.


Hammer was an established and powerful deck coming into the weekend and Simon Neilsen proved it has still got what it takes to win an event like the LMS Open Qualifier. Neilsen opted to play the green splash for Haywire Mite, a powerful card he could find with Urza’s Saga

Other than that, this build of Hammer is mono-white. Mono-White Hammer is often regarded as the most consistent version of the deck, but it lacks the stack based interaction that Azorius Hammer gets. However, with three copies of Drannith Magistrate, Simon seemed ready for the cascade decks, which tend to be tough matchups. 

All in all, I’m not surprised at all to see Hammer take down an event given its positive Murktide matchup and how high the ceiling on their draws can be.

NRG Champs

Bant control Modern deck list
The deck list for NRG Champs’ winning Modern deck list, by Raja Sulaiman.

The NRG Champs is a bit of a unique event given it is an intentionally small field with a split format tournament. This means that looking at the top eight of this event is a bit misleading, but I did want to credit Raja Sulaiman for winning. 

Sulaiman’s deck of choice was Bant Control, a different take on the normal Azorius Control builds. Sulaiman went into green for Brokers Charm, which is very often either an instant speed draw two or an easy way to destroy an enchantment — which I’m sure was huge in a field full of Urza’s Saga. 

In the sideboard, Sulaiman gained access to Endurance and Veil of Summer, two incredibly potent cards against Izzet Murktide as well as other graveyard strategies, such as Living End. Modern is also susceptible to Chalice of the Void on zero or one right now, and there are wisely two copies in the main deck for Sulaiman, which I’m sure were quite strong over the weekend.


Data from Modern top 8 results during the weekend of Jan. 13
Data compiled from the various events during the weekend of Jan. 13.

In the chart above, we can see Scam was the most represented deck in the top eight of the three events. Given that the next two decks are Mono White Hammer and Izzet Murktide, it makes sense that Rakdos did so well. 

Devoted Druid, Merfolk, Eldrazi Tron and Izzet Prowess are all fairly unpopular decks, and yet all of them exceeded expectations to make the top eight of one of the events. Devoted Druid plays through counterspells surprisingly well given it has access to various tutors, but also Veil of Summer. Postmortem Lunge also plays a large part in beating decks relying mostly on removal spells as their interaction.

Merfolk is another Chalice of the Void deck, but it also gets to play four copies of Subtlety and four copies of Force of Negation, which does a great job of disrupting a large number of decks in the metagame. Not for nothing, having a bunch of lords that also grant Islandwalk means decks like Rhinos and Murktide can’t block in a lot of situations.

Eldrazi Tron is yet another Chalice deck that also has access to Karn, the Great Creator to find an array of sideboard bullets for nearly any matchup. Cavern of Souls is a beating for Murktide, Azorius Control and other counterspell reliant strategies, while the size of Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher makes it hard for red decks to get these threats off the table. 


The biggest underperformer of the weekend was Izzet Murktide. In the LMS event, Murktide actually increased its representation from day one to day two — a rare sign for a deck that was already so popular. Granted, the fact that it only put one copy in the top eight of that tournament after being roughly 20% of the day two meta makes it a flop, in my eyes. This could be related to the Hammer and Scam players performing well over the weekend, though. 

Temur Rhinos seemed to be in a great position, effectively leveraging the power of Blood Moon, Endurance and Force of Vigor. Coming in as the fourth most popular deck on MTGGoldfish, I expected more from the crash than we got this weekend, especially given that Murktide disappointed.

Creativity is the final deck I think underperformed, putting only two copies into three top eights. I’m a bit surprised to see this as Creativity is generally favored against Scam. The Murktide matchup tends to swing based on sideboard construction on both sides, so it is possible they lined up poorly in a few matches. Rhinos, while not finishing well, did seem to be fairly popular in New Jersey, and that is certainly a tough matchup for Creativity.

End Step

With a stacked set of events in the books, I’m sure they will shape the direction of Modern for the next couple months. I’m quite interested in the Temur Breach list Jesse Robkin and Andrew Elenbogen played in the NRG Champs. Wrenn and Six plus Urza’s Saga, Ragavan and Spell Pierce all seem like strong cards for the next few weeks. 

Who knows? Maybe Phyrexia: All Will Be One will shake up the Modern landscape, as well.

As always you can find me on Twitter @Rappaciousone for questions, comments and feedback. I’ll see everyone here next week. Until then, best of luck in your battles!