Bold claim: Modern is actually the most popular Constructed format in Magic.

The Open in Cincinnati pulled well over 1,000 players, which made it the largest to date. Tremendous attendance for large-scale Modern events has become the rule over the course of the past year. Entry to Grand Prix Pittsburgh hit the cap and completely sold out days before the event! At my local game store in Michigan, twice as many people routinely show up for Tuesday Night Modern as do for Standard FNM.

There are a lot of reasons why Modern has been experiencing such surging popularity of late, but the most compelling is that there is a great diversity of good, playable decks. In a 9-round Day 1 of a large event, it is perfectly possible to play against 9 completely different decks!

Today I am going to talk about a unique flavor of deck that my friend Alex Fay played to a 34th place finish out of 1,022 players in Cincinnati last weekend (11-4 record with no byes).

BW Death and Taxes a.k.a. Hate Bears

First of all, I don’t like that people tend to call this deck “Hate Bears” and not “Death and Taxes” like the Legacy version. Top to bottom, the deck is the same archetype: white, creature-based mana denial that simply replaces the banned cards with similar, Modern-legal ones!

BW Hate Bears

Alex Fay, 34th Place at SCG Cincinnati

At its core the deck is a white resource-denial prison deck based around creatures and lands. The theme is that all of your cards make it difficult or impossible for your opponent to execute their game plan.

There are different versions of the white prison deck (most notably the GW version popularized by Craig Wescoe) but I really like the benefits that the black splash offers. In particular, that it has access to lots of hand disruption, and of course Bob.

I’ve played quite a bit of D&T in Legacy and I typically also prefer to splash black in that format as well. All that considered, it’s unsurprising that I’m drawn to this version of the list in Modern.

The Library Is Closed

People take for granted just how important being able to search one’s library is…

The fetchland cycle composes the very fabric of the format. Searching one’s library is how people get their lands to cast their spells! Searching is also important to how a good portion of the decks in the format actually win the game:

The list goes on and on.

Arbiter is good against a lot of decks all by itself, but the true value of the card hinges on the fact that the deck plays cards that specifically synergize with it.

Both of these cards are insanely powerful but have the drawback that when you use them your opponent gets to search their library for a basic land and put it directly onto the battlefield. Not so much with Leonin Arbiter in play.

Quick note: when playing against Arbiter, you need to pay first before you try to search. A lot of people get confused by the interaction and get it wrong. You have to pay for the Arbiter first and then fetch, or try to search. If you say “fetch?” and your opponent says “okay,” and then you say, “I’ll pay 2 for Arbiter,” you would have technically missed your window to pay unless you had explicitly said you were maintaining priority with the fetch ability on the stack. I saw somebody get burned by this and wasn’t able to search! Moral of the story is to not make that mistake and simply remember to pay first!

Process Synergies

Eldrazi synergies were the talk of the weekend. In particular, the Black Eldrazi deck is a unique and exciting new strategy that largely takes advantage of the Processor mechanic.

Well, even Death and Taxes wants to jump in on some of the finer Eldrazi synergies!

When we are able to consistently process cards, the Strangler becomes a 3-mana Flametongue Kavu! I was really impressed with Strangler in this deck. For starters, we can Path to Exile an opposing creature to process it. The synergies don’t end there.

Processing doesn’t specify how or why the cards are exiled, only that they are in exile. So, it is possible to cast Flickerwisp and then cast or Aether Vial down Strangler to permanently take out whatever the Wisp was temporarily exiling! The same goes for cards that were being exiled by Sculler. Build your own 2-for-1!

Another pretty awesome play that I saw Alex make was to use Strangler to process an opponent’s suspended Rift Bolt to kill an opposing Goblin Guide! So awesome!

Is Hate Bears Really Good?

Yes. In fact, I 100% believe that it is one of the most underplayed decks in the format. It took a while for Death and Taxes to catch on in Legacy outside of being a “cute” deck, but it eventually took its place as one of the top tier archetypes in the format.

I see that being the case with these white decks in Modern as well. Hate Bears are not teddy bears—not cute, and certainly not friendly.

The other element that makes the deck great is that its lands do a ton of work. Aside from land-based combo decks, few decks get more utility than this deck with 7 Wasteland effects and 3 creature lands!

Ghost Quarter is secretly (or not so secretly, depending on how into the format you are) one of the single most important cards in Modern. The fact that this deck gets to maindeck 4 copies is pretty fantastic. With Tron and Bloom gaining popularity over the past few weeks, the deck becomes better positioned with each passing day.