Last week, I covered how each of the companions are succeeding in Modern. But if playing with a companion isn’t something that you’re interested in, I have good news! Ad Nauseam, Eldrazi Tron, and Amulet Titan are all eschewing companions and putting up results regardless. Let’s take a look at what these decks are up to and evaluate why they’ve been so successful.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Ad Nauseam as a real player in Modern. But thanks to a stellar match-up against Prowess — which seems to be gaining more traction by the day — it’s back! Phyrexian Unlife and Angel’s Grace both do an incredible job at stymieing the incredible burst that the Prowess decks can dish out. We’ve seen Phyrexian Unlife in various sideboards before as a hate card against Burn, but it pulls double duty here as a main deck haymaker and combo piece. The job only gets easier after sideboarding: the four copies of Leyline of Sanctity are all-stars against Burn and Thoughtseize decks.
Previously, Ad Nauseam struggled with disruptive beatdown decks, like Humans and Death’s Shadow. Thankfully for Ad Nauseam players, Lurrus has chased all but the most dedicated proponents of those decks away for the time being. Lurrus demands two things of decks: either be able to kill it or ignore it. Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt have become the most popular ways to attack Lurrus, and Thoughtseize is on the decline, as it loses effectiveness when the biggest threat is in the sideboard. These metagame shifts cleared the way for Ad Nauseam, which renders removal spells useless and greatly appreciates the diminished number of Thoughtseizes. Ad Nauseam isn’t going to waste time interacting with the Lurrus decks, as it can largely ignore them and execute its own plan.
Control decks have also been bothersome for Ad Nauseam players; resolving a five-mana spell to win can be quite a task against a blue mage. While game one can be shaky against the Yorion control decks, the sideboard is full of good tools. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is a huge play, especially if you can use some of the fast mana to power it out on turn four. Yorion decks take a while to build a board presence, so they often can’t attack the uncounterable powerhouse until it’s too late. A savvy control player may have Pithing Needle or Sorcerous Spyglass to deal with Chandra, but Sphinx of the Final Word says “no” to that. This 5/5 flyer can probably get the job done by itself, but keeping counterspells away from your instants and sorceries also helps.
No wonder Ryan was able to take down the biggest event of the weekend! For the first time in a long time, Ad Nauseam seems to have real game against the pillars of the format.
Eldrazi Tron — a.k.a. Spaghetti Monsters, a.k.a. the rulers of midrange combat — are back, too. Eldrazi Tron was noticeably absent from Modern for a while, but as is tradition, it came roaring back when small-ball midrange decks started running the format. Lurrus decks are exactly the kind that Eldrazi Tron loves to see: creatures you can easily outsize, a high density of one-mana spells to shut down with Chalice of the Void, and damage-based removal that can’t take down a Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher.
Like Ad Nauseam, Eldrazi Tron is doing a great job of making sure opponents’ cards just don’t matter. While you don’t have many ways to kill Lurrus, you can usually just punch through for damage. Blast Zone is particularly impactful against Lurrus decks, since you’ll likely be using it on one or two mana.
Where Eldrazi Tron struggles is against the Primeval Titan and Uro decks, which prevent you from effectively leveraging your creatures. The Spaghetti Monsters also have few, if any, ways to protect themselves from Scapeshift or Ice-Fang Coatl, so navigating those match-ups can be tricky. Karn, the Great Creator is likely to put in some good work on those spots, as it can find Wurmcoil Engine to power through combat or Sundering Titan to put a damper on three-to-four-color decks.
Yorion is also a tricky beast for Eldrazi Tron, but it depends on the deck. The more controlling Yorion builds may be the easiest of the bunch thanks to a stack of Cavern of Souls. Setting up a Chalice of the Void on one to shut down Path to Exile is also a good way to force them onto the back foot. The Urza variants are similarly manageable: they have Fatal Push instead of Path to Exile, which is a plus, and Scavenger Grounds can keep both Uro and Emry offline. The one constant in Yorion decks is Ice-Fang Coatl, which remains a thorn in the side of Eldrazi Tron’s over-statted monsters.
You could argue that Amulet Titan never really left the Modern metagame, and it’s rare to see it completely sidelined. It’s an explosive combo deck, a powerful ramp deck, and a big midrange deck all in one.
Redundancy, reach, and raw power put Amulet Titan in a position to beat all but the most aggressive Lurrus decks. Once Primeval Titan hits the battlefield, it doesn’t matter how many cards they recur with Lurrus — Valakut and Field of the Dead can easily take over the game. Much like Eldrazi Tron, Amulet Titan can also stick an early Karn, the Great Creator to find a Wurmcoil Engine and slam the door on Prowess and Jund.
Also like Eldrazi Tron, Amulet Titan can put Yorion decks in a bind with large creatures + Cavern of Souls. But this time, Path to Exile isn’t nearly as effective: once Primeval Titan’s enter the battlefield effect trigger, you can find Field of the Dead and Vesuva and start going to work. Yorion may be able to draw a bunch of cards, but out-grinding a relentless stream of 2/2 zombies seems unlikely. If they manage to deal with Field of the Dead somehow, Karn is waiting in the wings to start causing problems.
So, if Amulet Titan can deal with Lurrus decks and Yorion decks, what is its weakness? The answer tends to be combo decks such as Storm, or brutally fast decks like Infect. Scapeshift decks may even be fast enough to give Amulet a run for its money, thanks to Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. But the best deck to topple this Modern giant is likely Devoted Druid Combo, with its combination of closing speed, disruption, and a reasonable back-up plan.
These three decks have a few things in common. They’ve become successful largely in part due to the meta shift that Lurrus of the Dream-Den has caused. But they benefit when other decks, like the Yorion builds, require players to make sacrifices in deck-building to support companions. Meanwhile, these decks get to keep their linear game plans completely intact, and other decks may lack the proper tools to deal with them.
Hopefully this has given hope to players who don’t want to use companions in Modern, and provided a good starting place for any new Modern players. If you have any other companionless Modern decks to share, 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.