Keeping Up With Modern

Keeping up with Modern is always a challenge, especially for pros who only play Modern during Grand Prix every two months or so. One of the keys to winning in Modern is to be aware of everything that can happen, and to do your homework before every event. That is obviously true of every format, yet, the task is a lot harder to accomplish here, with a much wider variety of decks and options.

The last time I played Modern was at Grand Prix San Antonio—granted, it was a team event, but Death’s Shadow, Bant Eldrazi, Affinity, and Dredge were still the popular choices. Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo was a new presence as well. Let’s see if things will be different at GP Vegas.

Current Metagame

  • Death’s Shadow: 11%
  • Affinity: 6%
  • Eldrazi Tron: 6%
  • Burn: 6%
  • Storm: 5%
  • Counters Company: 5%
  • Dredge: 4%
  • Bant Eldrazi: 0.01% (Me)

According to various deck list websites (MTGTop8 and MTGGoldfish), this is approximately what the metagame looks like. They use mainly Magic Online, premier events, and SCG events as data.

Death’s Shadow

Jund and Abzan’s old-fashioned styles faded away almost completely, barring some rebel pilots like Reid Duke and Willy Edel. You just don’t see these decks anymore. Death’s Shadow is the black disruption deck in 2017.

One of the major factors that makes Death’s Shadow so popular is the fact that you can play just about any colors with it. I’ve seen Abzan, Jund, Grixis, 4-color and even 5-color do well, which suggests that anyone can adapt it to their taste.

For Vegas, I would expect Grixis to be the most popular based on recent results. Mattia Rizzi won Grand Prix Copenhagen with it, as did Brad Nelson at an SCG event the same weekend—with an almost identical list.

Grixis Shadow

Mattia Rizzi, 1st place at GP Copenhagen

I’m not surprised to see this deck at the top—it has cheap cards, a proactive plan, and access to sideboard cards that can beat any kind of niche strategy, especially with so many cantrips to find them: Burn, Tron, Dredge, Eldrazi, and one that makes me particularly sad: Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo. With Stubborn Denial and Ceremonious Rejection in their 75, I’m probably going to have to lay down my favorite deck, unfortunately.

Are you still not convinced that this Death’s Shadow thing is really good? As I said above, Willy Edel will never let go of his Tarmogoyfs and even he’s got a list for you.

Click to enlarge.

He’s been advocating this Traverse Abzan deck for a while now, so if you’re in the market for more disruption and less self-inflicted pain, try it out!


I believe that a big reason why Affinity still sees so much play is that is remains the pet deck of many pilots. If you look at GP Copenhagen’s Top 36 deck lists, there is literally 0 Affinity, while GP Kobe’s Top 32 has only 2.

My teammate Alex Majlaton, an avid Affinity player, has been saying that the deck just isn’t as good as it used to be for a few months now. Having played it a fair amount as well, I couldn’t agree more. Essentially, the deck hasn’t gotten any new cards in a long time and every other deck has gotten so much better. There used to be a time where you would only lose to hate cards, and that’s just not the case anymore. Cards like Fatal Push, Kolaghan’s Command, and Liliana, the Last Hope are already in many players’ decks without Affinity in mind.

It is also only 6% of the metagame, which speaks a lot to the health of Modern—the second-most played deck has such as low percentage of popularity, which I think is a great thing. It means that the variety of decks that can do well is considerable, and despite being worse than it used to be, Affinity is still a top-tier choice.


Takeshi Kagawa, 6th place at GP Copenhagen

Maybe the future is more Collected Company?

Eldrazi Tron

The rise of Death’s Shadow is what made me shy away from Eldrazi Tron a few months back. That matchup wasn’t great. Your primary removal spell, Dismember, didn’t kill anything and the race was unfavorable.

But if people start leaning toward Grixis Shadow instead of the Traverse the Ulvenwald versions, it usually means that they are relying less on the actual card Death’s Shadow (because they don’t have Traverse to find it and Temur Battle Rage for insta-kills). Instead, they rely on cards like Tasigur and Gurmag Angler, two creatures that Dismember kills.

You still have a rough time beating Ceremonious Rejection out of the sideboard, but maybe that’s manageable with Cavern of Souls.

Eldrazi Tron

Todd Stevens, 5th place at SCG Modern Open

Todd Stevens has played this deck for a while now and I would trust his list. He adopted the Mind Stone technology we had back at GP Vancouver, and even more interestingly, he went back to main-deck Warping Wail.

That sounds like a smart way to deal with a Devoted Druid and counter a Living End or even a Past in Flames!


We have another case of a pet deck here. I’ve never been a big fan of the deck so maybe I’m being biased, but if you look at the Top 8 of the 3 big events this last weekend, there were zero copies of Burn.

I believe the reason for its declining competitiveness is the enemy fast lands. The only decks that don’t play them are colorless decks or Death’s Shadow, which actively want to lose life.

Boros Burn

Wu Kon Fai, 22nd place at Grand Prix Kobe 2017

Wu Kon Fai seems to be a Burn expert. He Top 8’d Grand Prix Guangzhou last year with Burn as well, except he had Wild Nacatl. He has now moved away from them to play a straight Boros list, splashing for just Destructive Revelry in the sideboard.

With the little experience I have with this deck, I would also not recommend playing Wild Nacatl. Your deck is more consistent overall without them.

Stay tuned as next week I will go over Storm, Vizier of Remedies decks, Dredge, and—Bant Eldrazi!


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