30 Card Modern Brew Off Winners

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 30 Card Modern Brew Off! This has been the most successful challenge so far. I received the most interesting and unique designs yet… almost TWO HUNDRED of them!

Due to the vast quantity, I can’t feature all, or even very many, and certainly some diamonds will be left hiding in the rough. If yours falls into that category, I hope you still found this exercise useful and can forgive me for not picking 200 winners. Win or lose, this has been a great challenge.

The 30 Card Challenge

First, a refresher on the challenge:

  • Modern Legal Cards
  • 30 Card Deck
  • Cost Sorted Low to High
  • Deck Description
  • Why is this deck BROKEN?

“While I will be somewhat influenced by presentation, the purpose of this exercise to try to produce the most competitive possible deck. Your job is to come up with that strategy and convince me that yours is the most unbeatable.”

This challenge is all about proving what can go wrong with a 30 card minimum. My stated goal has been to produce the most competitive decks.

The 30 Card Modern Metagame

It has quickly become apparent that even in 30 card Modern there is not an “unbeatable deck.” The “best deck” on the first night was countered by the “best deck” on the second night, which was countered by the “best deck” on the third night.

The metagame can adapt to beat anything. It may become horribly warped, necessitating a ban, but left to its own natural development, it will warp and “hate out” the best deck.

Thus, there was no unbeatable submission, and every deck was weak to other top decks. So my choice of “most competitive deck” is highly contextual on beating the imagined environment.

Level 0: Mill

If everyone is playing 30 cards, Mill is a broken strategy. Glimpse the Unthinkable is like 10 damage for 2 mana.

William Schilling IV

However, the first problem is that not everyone will be playing 30 card decks. I specified that YOU should play 30 card decks, but did not specify on the nature of the opponents.

If Modern were opened up to 30 cards ,would everyone switch to 30 immediately? Maybe—maybe not. I think some players would stick with closer to 60, especially considering resilience against the mill menace.

So here’s a Mill deck that can take on 60 card decks, or 300 card decks. This Mill deck can infinite mill on the 2nd turn.

Benny Opert

The second problem is Eldrazi, as you will see. If Eldrazi are popular, mill becomes unreliable. This is fixable with Surgical Extraction, but it’s still cause for concern.

Level 1: Shelldock Eldrazi

Shelldock Isle + Emrakul quickly rose as the premier combo in the 30 card format. Starting with 23 cards, you only need a Serum Powder, fetchland, or a cycler to Shelldock Isle on the 2nd turn.

There were plenty of submissions that showcased consistent turn-2 Emrakul. To start, this is clearly the “best deck” based on speed, and also is resilient to the Level 0 Mill decks.

Here is the most consistent turn 2 Shelldock deck, which will get there almost every time. However, this version packs no disruption or protection.

David Edward Cordeiro

Amulet of Vigor works well with Shelldock Isle, and I love this super cute Summer Bloom Amulet deck, that is also very consistent for turn 2.

Welkin Uttaro Shelldock Bloom

As we see, Level 1 Shelldock Emrakul becomes clearly the best deck, but can the metagame adapt?

Level 2: Shelldock Eldrazi Hate

If your deck can not stop a turn-2 Emrakul, it’s not going far in this format. This means you must stop Shelldock Emrakul on our very first turn. Turn 2 is not good enough, because if you are on the draw they already got there.

It turns out there are a good number of available hate cards for Shelldock Isle, with the most common being Ghost Quarter and Pithing Needle.

The Level 2 Hate Decks covered a diversity of archetypes:

First we have All-In Red. A turn-1 Blood Moon effect is enough to beat many of the decks.

Ian Williams

How about this UW control list? Gitaxian Probe into Meddling Mage seems great in this Lightning-Bolt-lite format.

Kevin Stechler UW Stax

How about a red/white version with extra land destruction?

Autumn Rose Thiebaut

Artifact hate decks can also shut down Shelldock Isle. Turn-1 Pithing Needle into turn-2 Ensoul Artifact seems great.

Manfredi Federico Pivetta

Tudor Naconecinii

Level 3: Something Different on Turn 2

So we have the Level 0 Mill decks, the Level 1 Shelldock Eldrazi Decks, and the Level 2 Hate Decks. The next step is a deck that is resilient against the hate decks and can still match the Shelldock Isle decks on speed.

Level 3 is anything that can win on turn 2 in a different way.

First up we have Infect. With essentially 8/60 Glistener Elves, this deck is going to win turn 2 A LOT while ignoring Pithing Needle and Ghost Quarter.

Havard Jacob

Closely related to the infect decks are red prowess decks. These decks can win on turn 2 almost as often while dodging the same hate.

David Skelton Prowess Aggro

Also winning on turn 2 are Goryo’s Vengeance decks. This deck can win turn 1, but it can be a bit weak to the mill strategies unless it plays Emrakul itself.

Cullen Rombach 30-Card Goryo’s Vengeance

Finally I have to highlight storm decks that can win on the 2nd turn. Pyromancer Ascension sets up a turn 3, but Empty the Warrens + Goblin Bushwhacker can get it done turn 1 or 2.

Andrew Volz’ Storm

Level 4: Win Turn 1

As you can see, the levels keep progressing. Every “best deck” is certainly beatable, which leaves my decision of choosing the best deck fairly arbitrary. I’ve decided to pick the deck that best fits into Level 4, which is the turn-1 win.

A consistent turn-1 win is enough to beat all the turn 2 decks. Of course, this requires winning the die roll, and the opponent can still interact with Chancellor of the Spires + Surgical Extraction or Disrupting Shoal, but trying to maximize your turn 1 seems like a good strategy.

So I have picked the winner to receive $25 CFB store credit: the deck that was most focused on the turn-1 win. This deck has its weaknesses and inconsistencies, but the fundamental idea of winning on turn 1 is the winning idea. This next deck does the best job of that.

Franklin Dean

“The entire goal of the deck is to turn 1 activate Shelldock Isle into Emrakul or Brilliant Ultimatum (into Emrakul). Are there times when you have to hit Chancellor and get blown out by Path? Yes. Are there also times when you either do nothing or mulligan into oblivion? Also yes. Is the payoff worth it? Probably.”

30 Card Modern Winners

Congrats to Franklin Dean and thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you enjoyed this series, even if your deck wasn’t selected. We are all winners and should feel good. This was a fascinating experiment and I was surprised to see how fast and effectively the metagame developed.

Let me know what you think, and what Brew Off you would like to see next!

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