I’ve been so focused on Standard and Arena that I almost forgot Magic had non-rotating formats. Almost…. I’ll be attending a Modern RPTQ this weekend with a group of friends and my focus has shifted back to Modern.

I haven’t played much Modern since Grand Prix Detroit, which feels a little odd since it tends to be the format I typically play the most. I think Standard being great and Arena being accessible are major factors.  “Standard is just so fun that I haven’t had time to play Modern…” That’s a statement I never thought would come out of my mouth!

With that being said, I’ve played a considerable amount of Modern this week and found the format changed in significant ways since we were last acquainted.

So, Dredge is Broken Again?

To Whom it may Concern,

Stop it with the free Dredge Goodies!

Sincerely,

Captain Obvious

The most significant Modern trend at the moment has been the rise of Dredge back to the top tier of the metagame as a result of GRN’s Creeping Chill. Anytime that Dredge gets a powerful new toy it’s bound to ignite a chain reaction within the metagame. As Dredge’s percentage against the field improves because it got better, the relative value of the other options also shifts based on how strong or weak they are against Dredge.

On the way home from #GPMKE, Kyle Boggemes, Andrew Elenbogen, and I all discussed strategy for the Jeskai deck Kyle and I planned to play at the upcoming RPTQ. Within a week, each of us separately came to the same conclusion that the deck had become virtually unplayable as a result of Dredge’s impact on the meta.

Another notable casualty caught in Dredge’s crosshairs:

“Lukewarm burns.”

It’s really hard to race, or burn out, a Dredge opponent who starts the game at 32 life thanks to Creeping Chill. Dredge now has built in insulation for burn and aggro, which dramatically changes the way that I evaluate aggro’s position in the metagame. Would you play a burn deck if I told you that the most popular deck in the format gets to hit you twice with Lyra Dawnbringer for free? Probably not.

Both Humans and U/W Control created a similar impact in Modern over the past year as a result of improving due to powerful new printings. There are two predictable parts to these types of metagame shifts:

  1. The first is players adapting their deck to have a better plan against the “new” best deck.
  2. The second is players understanding how the shifting metagame changes the overall value of their deck in the field.

We are sandwiched between the first and second stage as people are starting to figure out whether or not part one is a viable solution or not. Some problems, like Jeskai or Burn in a Dredge-heavy field, may not be worth the effort as switching to a different deck might yield strictly better potential matchups.

Instead of playing a deck that loses to Dredge, we could play Dredge and be in a stronger position. Dredge is a solid choice, but I do worry that as the RPTQ rolls around the field will become too hostile. I played Dredge at the last RPTQ when Dredge was “broken” and went 4-2. I lost to multiple decks with main-deck Rest in Peace and all of my opponents had between 3-6 dedicated graveyard hate cards.

RPTQs tend to have a very informed crowd and I believe few potential opponents would be foolish enough to come unprepared for such a known commodity. It’s much more likely to run into buzzsaws than catch somebody sleeping. With that being said, my matchups last time were an actual house of horrors and I still went 4-2.

Whatever deck you are playing, or thinking about playing, the most important question to ask as you make tweaks and tune-ups is how can I make my deck better for this Dredge warped metagame?

Izzet Time for Izzet?

While simply taking the best deck into a prepared field is a viable strategy, the other option I’ve been exploring is to play one of the various U/R decks. I’ve been trying out a bunch, and there is a real wealth of resources to build from.

Let’s start with a tried and true winner:

Storm: 3% Of the Winner’s Metagame

DOUBLEB_33, 1st place at MTGO Competitive League

I was talking to Zach Allen at Tuesday Night Modern and he told me that he believes Storm is better positioned than it’s ever been since he started playing the format. A bold claim from a man who enjoys making bold claims, but I believe he’s onto something.

Dredge is a beatdown deck. Its creatures recur and enter the battlefield through the graveyard and have recursion, but they still attack and have Conflagrate and Chill for reach. Combo decks are favored against beatdown since they are faster and beatdown typically doesn’t have much interaction.

Not only is Storm good in the head-to-head against Dredge, it’s also good against the other combo decks like KCI that people are playing to beat Dredge. Again, Storm is fast, focused, and easily beats decks that don’t interact. Storm also has interaction in the form of Remand to provide a turn of protection against other broken decks.

I should also note that Dredge’s Creeping Chills have pushed Burn out of the metagame. Burn has always been Storm’s worst matchup. If we want to continue down the “burnless meta rabbit hole,” Tron is another deck that has traditionally struggled with Burn and has proven to be good.

“Traditional Storm” is only the tip of the Izzetberg when it comes nasty U/R strategies that are well-positioned in the Dredge warped meta.

Thing in the Ice Ascension: Less Than 1% of the Winner’s Metagame

BEICODEGEIA, 5-0 in an MTGO Competitive League

The Thing in the Ice plays a critical role in the U/R deck. It’s a giant threat and a psuedo-sweeper. Trust me—Dredge does not enjoy getting Upheavaled… it’s also a big game against Humans.

Izzet Phoenix: 1% of the Winner’s Metagame

MELON9, 5-0 in an MTGO Competitive League

Thing in the Ice is also finding a savage partner in Arclight Phoenix. I got my first taste of the deck earlier this week and immediately asked to borrow my friend’s deck as a possible RPTQ choice. I would describe the deck as casting a bunch of cantrips and ending up with a bunch of free Delver of Secrets.

It’s an unintuitive U/R deck with graveyard synergies like Phoenix, Ascension, or Past in Flames in a field defined by Dredge. But won’t my opponent Rest in Peace me? Maybe.Thing in the Ice also finds a savage partner in Arclight Phoenix.

The important distinction is that these decks can play through and often ignore a Rest in Peace whereas the card is a hard lock against Dredge. I can Storm off with Remand, I can flip Thing and Ice, or hard cast a Jace, Ral, or Phoenix. The graveyard hate is more of a bump in the road than an impassable roadblock.

Izzet Aggro: 2% of the Winner’s Metagame

CHAI21, 4th place in an MTGO Modern Challenge

U/R Beatdown is yet another option and I love Remand in these tempo decks. I actually just love Remand in general right now and there is a good reason why. As all-in aggro decks like Burn get pushed out of the Dredge warped metagame, cards like Remand tend to improve in value. There’s more combo and more high impact spells, which is where Remand really shines. I actively want to Remand spells like Conflagrate and Ironworks.

Izzet Control: 2% of the Winner’s Metagame

(Includes Blood Moon and no Blood Moon variants).

MILKK, MTGO Competitive League

It’s kind of like “Blue Moon” sans the Moon part. Instead, we’ve got Field of Ruin (which I like a lot with Tron on the rise).

Speaking of Blue Moon, why not?

Blue Moon

CavalloGoloso, 2nd place at MTGO Modern Challenge

These control decks are pretty close in terms of design with the major sticking point being Blood Moon.

I totally get that Blood Moon is a powerful spell and worthy of consideration. It’s always a card that needs to be accounted for no matter which deck you are playing. On the other hand, I played Blood Moon last Tuesday and played all matchups where Blood Moon was basically useless, which is the risk: sometimes it does nothing and sometimes it steals free games.

Anger of the Gods is one of the best positioned cards in Modern right now because it is insane against Dredge but is game breaking against Humans, Elves, Affinity, Scales, Infect, and Spirits. It’s good against many things. I also love the interaction between Thing in the Ice having 4 toughness and Anger dealing 3 damage.

The biggest challenge of Izzet isn’t finding 75 cards worth playing. The challenge is cutting down to just 75 cards! The two key themes I’ve learned about Modern this week are that GRN’s Creeping Chill has taken Dredge to the mountaintop and that various Izzet decks feel poised to succeed in the new metagame (but it is unclear exactly how to best focus Izzet to attack this meta).