The New Modern Metagame

Anthony LowryModern

For those that don’t know who I am, I’m Anthony Lowry, a former grinder on the SCG Tour. I’ve contributed to a lot of different archetypes, such as Jeskai Geist, Burning Reanimator (now R/B Reanimator) Jeskai Auras, and various monsters decks, including Chris VanMeter’s winning list from SCG Syracuse back in 2015.

I don’t exactly consider myself a great deckbuilder, but I’m generally very good at knowing what I want to do and pushing that as far as I can. Whether it’s flashing in Snapcaster Mage on turn two, or playing Sire of Insanity on turn one, I have a plan.

When I saw the results of SCG Dallas and subsequent Modern Leagues, I was amazed at how wide-open the format has become. It’s clear that there are pillars holding Modern together, and as a result, many decks are just variations of the same strategy (which isn’t a bad thing). But this was simply not a thing during the Hogaak era, or even some time before that.

So, what exactly are those pillars, those cards that hold everything in balance? 

Efficient Threats

Stoneforge Mystic, Wrenn and Six, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thought-Knot Seer, Champion of the Parish, Thopter Foundry, Goblin Guide, Bloodbraid Elf

These are the threats that will lay out the groundwork for what your deck is trying to do. A large majority of these threats will either set the tone of the match early on, or put a giant speed bump in the opponent’s way (sometimes both). With these threats being so low to the ground, the format as a whole is pushed down and compressed into the first four turns.

Fast Answers

Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Fatal Push, Dismember, Force of Negation, Abrade, Assassin’s Trophy, Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, Reflector Mage, Kolaghan’s Command, Searing Blaze

With cheap, compressed threats, must come cheap, compressed answers. It’s so important to kill things early and efficiently that the downsides are generally ignored. Path to Exile and Assassin’s Trophy are shining examples of this. You generally cannot afford to have efficient but restrictive answers in such a broad format. The Doom Blades and Cast Downs of the world won’t be enough here. 

Fast Mana

Mox Opal, Tron lands, Gemstone Caverns, Simian Spirit Guide, Eldrazi Temple, Goblin Electromancer, Baral, Chief of Compliance

For the decks that aren’t trying to play by the rules, these cards are essential to pushing the limits of how fast things get online. When you’re trying to go over the top of (or punch right through) a turn three Karn Liberated, a turn four Grapeshot for your life total will definitely do the trick, as will a turn two Thought-Knot Seer, and the like. All very powerful, and made possible by fast mana…

…at least, the ones that survived bannings.

Huge Finishers

Karn, the Great Creator, Karn Liberated, Gurmag Angler, Death’s Shadow, Reality Smasher, Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, Celestial Colonnade, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Primeval Titan

These are the more common ways a typical game of Modern ends. Because the early efficient threats are so impressive, you need to be able to slam the door almost immediately if you decide to go in another direction. Oftentimes, overcosted threats will be accompanied by fast mana, or some sort of direct value on the back end, so don’t be fooled by the high set-up costs of these cards! If an opponent is playing these cards against you, you will very likely lose if you can’t find an answer.

Now, let’s get into what these cards do for the decks that play them:

The Fair Decks


By Cameron Gass (SCG Modern Classic, Dallas, 4th place)

1 Abrupt Decay
2 Assassin’s Trophy
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodbraid Elf
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Fatal Push
1 Forest
2 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Kolaghan’s Command
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Mountain
2 Nurturing Peatland
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plague Engineer
1 Raging Ravine
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Thoughtseize
2 Tireless Tracker
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wooded Foothills
3 Wrenn and Six


2 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Collective Brutality
1 Collector Ouphe
1 Damping Sphere
3 Fulminator Mage
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Nissa, Vital Force
1 Plague Engineer
2 Weather the Storm

Jund is the quintessential attrition-based midrange deck. It features very early removal (Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push), cheap and efficient threats (Tarmogoyf and Wrenn and Six), and tops it all off with Bloodbraid Elf. The thing that sets this deck apart from other midrange decks is that its cards that grow in potency the longer the game goes, increasing the pressure and demand for an answer. If you like to grind and maintain value, this is your deck.

U/W Stoneblade 

By Nikito18 (Modern League, 9/6/2019, 5-0)

3 Ancestral Vision
1 Batterskull
3 Celestial Colonnade
3 Cryptic Command
1 Dismember
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
3 Force of Negation
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Mana Leak
4 Path to Exile
2 Plains
1 Prismatic Vista
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Spell Snare
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Vendilion Clique


2 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Batterskull
2 Celestial Purge
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Disenchant
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Wrath of God

If you prefer a more traditional form of grinding, U/W would be fitting. This deck is looking to fend off the first couple of turns while it sets up big answers like Cryptic Command and Supreme Verdict, while maintaining that momentum with Stoneforge Mystic and Snapcaster Mage. Eventually, the door slams shut with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, equipment, or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.


By martyr1207 (Modern League, 9/6/2019, 5-0)

4 Aether Vial
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Deputy of Detention
3 Horizon Canopy
1 Island
3 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Plains
4 Reflector Mage
1 Silent Clearing
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Unclaimed Territory
2 Unsettled Mariner
1 Waterlogged Grove


2 Auriok Champion
2 Collector Ouphe
2 Dismember
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Hostage Taker
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Militia Bugler
2 Plague Engineer

If you love attacking with really annoying creatures, then Humans will be right up your alley. Humans has a little bit of White Weenie, a little bit of Death and Taxes, and a little bit of value town, all rolled into one giant mess of a masterpiece. Humans wants to disrupt opponents while attacking, making it increasingly more difficult to interact until it’s too late. It’s also generally a hard deck to prepare for, mostly due to the sheer amount of options available to the archetype.

The Unfair Decks


By bazuka (Modern League, 9/6/19, 5-0)

4 Ancient Stirrings
1 Blast Zone
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
2 Dismember
4 Expedition Map
4 Forest
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Karn Liberated
4 Oblivion Stone
1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Sylvan Scrying
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
3 Walking Ballista
1 World Breaker
3 Wurmcoil Engine


1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Nature’s Claim
1 Spatial Contortion
3 Thought-Knot Seer
3 Thragtusk
2 Veil of Summer
1 Warping Wail

The decks that don’t play by the rules are very much trying to end things quickly, with threats that the traditional answers simply cannot deal with. Tron does this with Karn Liberated, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, and Wurmcoil Engine, while also maintaining reach with Walking Ballista.

Eldrazi Tron

By Anthony Lowry

2 All Is Dust
2 Blast Zone
1 Cavern of Souls
4 Chalice of the Void
2 Dismember
4 Eldrazi Temple
1 Endbringer
4 Expedition Map
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Karn, the Great Creator
4 Matter Reshaper
2 Mind Stone
4 Reality Smasher
1 Scavenger Grounds
4 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Ugin, the Ineffable
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
3 Walking Ballista
2 Wastes


1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Mystic Forge
2 Ravenous Trap
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Trinisphere
1 Walking Ballista
2 Warping Wail
1 Witchbane Orb

Eldrazi Tron shares a lot of characteristics of traditional Tron, but its overall goal is drastically different. For starters, the deck gets another boost in fast mana with Eldrazi Temple, enabling good starts when you don’t have Tron lands available. Chalice of the Void adds a solid prison angle that completely bricks entire decks, and Karn, the Great Creator is a massive win condition. Whether you need to lock your opponent out with Mycosynth Lattice or burn them out with Walking Ballista, Karn can grab the silver bullet of your choice from the sideboard.


By Dylan Donegan

2 Arid Mesa
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Boros Charm
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
1 Fiery Islet
4 Goblin Guide
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Monastery Swiftspear
3 Mountain
4 Rift Bolt
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Searing Blaze
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Sunbaked Canyon
2 Wooded Foothills


2 Deflecting Palm
4 Kor Firewalker
3 Path to Exile
3 Skullcrack
3 Smash to Smithereens

If you know Magic, you know Burn. The deck is for those who love playing Blackjack with eight Aces in the deck. Burn attacks on an axis that many decks cannot handle in game one, and its redundancy gives it a consistency that other decks only dream of. You will always get exactly what you sign up for, and sometimes your Goblin Guide will go unchecked and completely destroy people. Play this deck if you expect very little sideboard hate, or if you feel that people are getting a bit too ambitious with their game plans.

Four-Color Whirza

By Harlan Firer (SCG Open Dallas, 1st Place)

4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
1 Breeding Pool
2 Chromatic Star
1 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Galvanic Blast
3 Goblin Engineer
1 Ichor Wellspring
1 Inventors’ Fair
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Mox Opal
1 Mystic Forge
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Pithing Needle
4 Polluted Delta
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Spire of Industry
1 Steam Vents
2 Sword of the Meek
4 Thopter Foundry
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
1 Watery Grave
1 Welding Jar
3 Whir of Invention


3 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Collective Brutality
1 Damping Sphere
2 Fatal Push
2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Thoughtseize

This concoction combines everything that’s busted about artifacts with two absurd enablers: Urza, Lord High Artificer and Goblin Engineer. Together, they create infinite sequences with Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry with very high consistency. Whir of Invention is another great enabler, plus it can provide silver-bullet answers at instant speed for very little cost. Arcum’s Astrolabe provides smooth mana, while the rest of your deck is rounded out with singletons of your choice. Play this deck if you like elaborate sequencing and decision making, with multiple angles of attack.

There are plenty more decks than just these, and the amount of choices you have can be intimidating at first. But as long as you include most of the pillars of building a deck in Modern, you’ll be fine. The format will still develop as time goes on, and it’s worth experimenting and seeing what you wind up liking!