This Monday, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Mycosynth Lattice, and Mox Opal were banned in Modern. If you’re like me, maybe you danced a little bit in celebration as Modern’s last sacred cow, Mox Opal, finally got the axe. Many players saw the Oko ban coming — especially after he was banned from Standard and Pioneer — but the Mycosynth Lattice ban surprised me. (It makes total sense, and I agree with Wizards the play patterns of Mycosynth Lattice are awful.)
As is natural when a format gets turned upside down, there are winners and losers on the exchange. In order to get a picture of the new metagame, it is important to identify these winners and losers and use those insights to tune our existing decks.
Here are the decks that have the most to gain from the recent bans.
Lava Spike Decks
Burn and Prowess are the two most popular “Lava Spike decks” in Modern right now. While Prowess has gained stock over the last couple weeks, I believe it will come out even further ahead after this ban. Burn is the biggest winner here, as it was pushed almost entirely out of the competitive sphere by Oko, Thief of Crowns.
However, now that Oko is gone and most players expect the Primeval Titan decks to rise to the top, Burn is looking solid in that match-up. Both Burn and Prowess can definitely lock up kills against Titan before they get their feet under them. Infect and Storm have been gaining in popularity as ways to combat Field of the Dead in recent weeks, which is more good news for Lava Spike players.
Creature Combo Decks
Creature combo decks (primarily Infect and Devoted Druid) are the next set of winners. This may seem strange, given that they both played Oko in reasonably large numbers. But with Field of the Dead strategies on the rise, creature decks that can either ignore the red zone or get there quickly go up in value. Devoted Druid can kill through combat damage, but the important part here is that the deck has a combo kill with Walking Ballista. Meanwhile, Infect can win as early as turn two, and Blighted Agent and Inkmoth Nexus can both bypass a pile of zombie tokens.
Bear in mind that, if either of these decks become too popular, a midrange deck may spring up and attempt to keep them in check. However, Field of the Dead can beat decks like Jund without much help. This means Field of the Dead decks will likely suppress other decks that beat Infect and Devoted Druid, giving them more room to roam free.
Death’s Shadow might be one of the only interactive decks that can post a good match-up against the Primeval Titan decks. Stocked with Thoughtseize effects and plenty of countermagic, Shadow can does a good job of keeping Primeval Titan off the table. Field of the Dead can be a concern, but Temur Battle Rage can secure a kill before the zombies show up (or even win through a small number of them).
Death’s Shadow was exactly the kind of deck that Oko beat up on: light on threats, short on answers to a resolved Oko, and vulnerable to elk attacks. Again, despite playing Oko themselves, the Death’s Shadow decks come out way ahead on this exchange because they don’t have to sit across from Oko anymore.
Burn wants combo decks to prey on Titan strategies, and Shadow is the same way. The more decks struggle against Thoughtseize and Stubborn Denial, the better Death’s Shadow is. Much like the creature combo decks, Death’s Shadow also benefits if removal spells are being pushed out of the limelight by Field of the Dead.
Now that we know which strategies stand to gain the most, let’s take a peek at the those less fortunate after Monday’s announcement.
Primeval Titan Decks
Odd, right? Many players believe Amulet and Sultai Titan are the best decks in Modern right now — I even covered Sultai Titan in my last article. While Titan decks are still among the best in the format, they have huge targets on their backs. Last week, they were second to Urza, but had a decent match-up against it; now that Urza has lost Oko and Mox Opal, the Titan decks have gained the ire of Modern.
Also of note: every deck in the Winners section above has an effective way to take down these Titan decks, which is a bit worrying. The Titan decks are powerful enough to win in these less favorable match-ups, but they’ll have an uphill battle in the coming weeks.
For a long time, Azorius Control has struggled to stay relevant in Modern. The format is often too wide and threats are too varied for a purely reactive deck to keep up. Oko, Thief of Crowns solved that problem for a few short weeks, breathing new life into the struggling archetype. A card that could produce threats, answer problematic permanents, and stabilize your life total was exactly what Control needed.
Unfortunately, without their beloved prince, blue-white-based control decks are struggling again. With the rise of the Titan decks, the horizon looks dark for Teferi, Time Raveler and friends.
We finally got our wish, right? The Urza deck is dead?
Well, kind of. The Urza midrange decks are likely toast without Oko and Mox Opal. However, I expect these decks to revert back to using Goblin Engineer or Whir of Invention. The days of getting ground to death by Cryptic Command and Mystic Sanctuary are behind us, but I foresee a lot more Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek in the future. The Whir of Invention build will be a bit clunky without Mox Opal, but we’ll see it if still has legs in the weeks to come.
I hope you’re as excited as I am about our newfound freedom in Modern. Did you agree with my assessments? Maybe you think I missed something? Either way, be sure to let me know on Twitter at @RappaciousOne.
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.