As 2022 comes to a close I wanted to take a look back at the year that was. One of my favorite things to do is find the brightest spots in the year, and for Magic that means going back to my favorite Modern decks from the past year.
Everyone, myself included, likes decks for different reasons. Whether it involved winning, working on a deck a lot or just finding it enjoyable to play.
I started playing Scam toward the beginning of its rise to fame, but put it down soon after. I simply wasn’t doing well enough with the deck and I had other projects I wanted to work on.
But during the last few months, I’ve picked the deck up again. After spending some additional time thinking about it, I realized my approach was wrong.
Scam isn’t Jund despite having a ton of overlap. Jund wins by grinding out small advantages to pull ahead and beat your opponent with card quality. The critical difference with Scam is it relies on doing a powerful thing on turn one to generate a large advantage, then using the Jund-style cards to disrupt the opponent enough to finish the job.
Zoo really scratches an itch for me. I was a Jund guy for a long time until I realized I could be disruptive but also end the game. Cutting back on disruption in favor of more aggression means that your disruption is more valuable because you don’t give the opponent time to rebuild.
I was always of the opinion that the best Jund draws involved turn two Tarmogoyf into turn three Liliana, and Zoo accomplishes a similar goal with better cards. Territorial Kavu is just a better version of Tarmogoyf at this point. Tribal Flames or Leyline Binding can get just about anything out of the way on turn three, too, while leaving you with enough mana to still add to the board.
I love that Zoo has enough interaction to defend itself competently while also being aggressive enough to put the screws to the opponent early on.
When I wasn’t playing Jund in the early days of Modern, I was playing Splinter Twin. I loved having access to a combo that made opponents play scared, but Twin could also easily win a fair game.
Breach is the closest thing I’ve felt to playing Splinter Twin in a long time. If you’re not killing someone with the Underworld Breach and Grinding Station combo, you’re doing it with Ragavan, Ledger Shredder and Urza’s Saga. Both plans are potent and need to be respected, and if your opponent doesn’t respect one enough, they will lose to it.
Breach deck building has demonstrated a lot of unexplored territory as well, which has captured my attention. I worked on Jeskai for a while, then moved to Temur and ultimately came back to Jeskai. All in all, as a fan of the tempo-ish aggro combo style of decks, I feel right at home playing Breach.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Did you really think I wasn’t going to include Grixis Shadow? I mean, I do have a brand to uphold.
I’ve spoken ad nauseam about why I like this deck so much. It is the spiritual successor of Jund but has the tempo gameplay of Splinter Twin — plus a Zoo feel, at times.
Even Grixis Shadow has changed since I first started playing the deck, going from the Gurmag Angler, Street Wraith, Temur Battle Rage builds to these current, lower to the ground, more threat dense ones. However, one thing remains constant: I feel like I am never done learning or improving when I play Grixis Shadow.
Games are won and lost on thin margins. Your card choices matter a lot and change from week to week. I feel rewarded when I win and can often point to reasons why I lose. That’s something I love about Magic — the ability to constantly improve and adapt — and Grixis Shadow is a fantastic deck to learn those skills with.
Working on the post-Modern Horizons 2 builds has been tricky, but that’s something I’ve spent a lot of time on, and I’m happy with where the deck is now. But even still, I see players taking new approaches to the deck, and that is so cool to see.
Rakdos Midrange (Pioneer)
I figured I’d throw in a Pioneer deck to round things out, as I’ve spent a lot of this year playing Rakdos Midrange while learning Pioneer and playing through the first Regional Championship season. I enjoy this kind of smash mouth, hard hitting, grind ’em out playstyle in less powerful formats, which makes Pioneer a perfect home for Rakdos Midrange.
Truthfully, when I start playing a new format, I tend to look for whether this style of deck is good to determine if I’ll enjoy the format. And thankfully, Rakdos has been good (plus it plays Thoughtseize, which is always a bonus).
Bonecrusher Giant, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Bloodtithe Harvester all provide Rakdos with additional decisions beyond the base layer of creatures and removal spells, which I also enjoy. Getting to go back to my black Midrange deck roots is nice, and this deck has offered a refreshing change of pace from Modern, where these strategies often are underpowered.
It is always nice to take a trip down memory lane at the end of the year, think about what worked, what didn’t and what I liked about the decks I’ve enjoyed. And especially for the last piece of the year, I like to keep things light. Maybe this inspires some of you to try out some of my favorite decks.
As always, I’m happy to talk more about any of these decks. You can reach out to me on Twitter @RappaciousOne for questions, comments or feedback. I want to wish everyone a happy holiday, and I’ll see everyone in the new year!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.