Last week I wrote an article called Master Modern where argued that the key to improving at Modern is to pick a deck, stick with it, and learn it inside and out. Adopting that exact strategy has certainly upped my Modern win percentage over the past few months!

There was a lot of conversation after the article that centered along the line of: “How do I know what deck I should pick?” and “What are the best decks?” In fact, I made a comment in the article that there were 25 great decks to choose from and one reader correctly asked: “Well, which ones are they?” A fair question.

So I’ll weigh in on the decks I like in Modern, and why I like them. I also wanted to give players who are looking to buckle down for the long run with a new deck a point of reference with a list.

This week, I’m going to be all-in on Modern. I’ve spent the past few days looking at Modern deck lists and trying to determine which decks I think are the objectively best when piloted at a high level. The four most important characteristics were:

  • Doesn’t lose to itself
  • Free wins
  • Resilient to hate
  • Flexibility

Keep in mind that I didn’t crunch a ton of data to make this list—in fact, it is mostly based on my own experiences playing with and against the decks. There are no decks on this list that I don’t have a large sample of games with, so I feel comfortable expressing my thoughts about them. By all means, I encourage you to argue for and against decks on the list. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be a “Modern Master” with every deck on this list, and so I’d be interested to hear masterful pilots weigh in where I might not have given their deck of choice enough credit!

Most importantly, this article series compiles a bunch of current lists from MTGO, PPTQ, and WMCQ of the best archetypes in the format. So at the very least, you can get an idea of what people are playing!

25. Grishoalbrand: 17/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 2
Free Wins: 10
Resilient to Hate: 2
Flexibility: 3

Any deck that can earn a 10 in a category is going to be a pretty big game. Griselshoal is one of the scariest decks to play against because it can simply kill you out of nowhere way too quickly.

The deck is one of the few options that can execute a turn-2 victory with a relatively high degree of frequency.

Grishoalbrand

Bruno Castro, 5th place at the WMCP Qualifier Lisboa

I also like including Grishoalbrand on the list because it is the kind of deck that appeals to certain types of players. There is something fundamentally awesome about playing a deck that can win on turn 2 out of nowhere. Reanimator decks have also always been a touchstone of Constructed Magic and it is good to see it represented on the list.

It is amazing how one busted reanimator target can single-handedly bring the archetype back, right?

While the upside is high—the downside is stifling. The deck has limited card draw and library manipulation and needs to assemble certain combinations of cards in order to do anything. Hence, it can lose to itself by not drawing the correct cards. The combo nature of the deck also makes it much less flexible than other options. There is no backup aggro plan. If that weren’t enough, the deck can also struggle mightily with a wide range of sideboard hate cards: graveyard hate, hand disruption, and countermagic.

All in all, it is a Rakdos deck!

24. Grixis Delver: 17/40

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 4
Free Wins: 1
Resilient to Hate: 4
Flexibility: 8

Grixis feels a lot like a Jund deck with Snapcaster Mage and countermagic. These are not bad things!

The downside is that Jund’s green cards tend to be quite good. It’s a tradeoff, with the big payoff being countermagic against combo decks.

Grixis Delver

Diogo Mussalem, 1st place at PPTQ Brasilia

I do like that the deck has a good number of quality threats in the form of Delver of Secrets and large delve creatures like Tasigur and Gurmag Angler.

Grixis Delver is a great option for a player who wants to play a removal-heavy midrange deck but isn’t ready to give up on permission! Obviously, these U/R and Grixis Control decks were much more potent when they could pack the Splinter Twin combo, but it says a lot about the robustness of the shell that it can continue to put up results even with a key card having been banned.

23. Scapeshift: 18/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 4
Free Wins: 4
Resilient to Hate: 5
Flexibility: 5

Scapeshift is an all-around good deck. It has a lot of control qualities: removal, counterspells, and it can end the game with one big flashy spell in Scapeshift.

A blue control deck with a combo finish is a pretty appealing choice. The downside is that you need to live long enough to Scapeshift for Valakuts and Mountains, and need to have the Scapeshift at the right time.

Bringshift

Lars Rodrigues de Miranda, 1st place at the Modern Qualifier

The addition of Bring to Light has really improved the deck over the past couple of years.

It is great to have access to more sweeper effects early and more Scapeshifts when the time comes. As far as decks go, I may underestimate Scapeshift a little bit just because it isn’t the kind of deck that hotly appeals to me. With that being said, the deck is a great, slow-burn combo-control deck that can be difficult to defeat!

22. Slivers!: 18/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 6
Free Wins: 5
Resilient to Hate: 4
Flexibility: 3

Slivers! is a deck that never gets its due respect. People think it is a little kid deck but it can really bring the beats with the best of them. There is a guy who plays the deck weekly at my LGS and it is a very difficult deck to defeat.

Galerider Sliver is a heck of a Magic card!

Slivers!

Aaron Uniacke, 1st place in a Modern Weds (55 players)

If you want to know why this deck is secretly great, look no further than:

Any creature-based deck that can fuse these 2 cards together is going to be great.

The downside is that the deck is an all-in creature deck, but with that being said, CoCo and Vial give the deck more play than you would expect.

21. Death and Taxes: 21/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 4
Free Wins: 5
Resilient to Hate: 5
Flexibility: 7

White based “H8 Bears” is a pretty great deck across the board in Eternal formats and it is also excellent in Modern. I’ve played a lot of H8BRZ over the past year, and it is always a deck that I enjoy having in my back pocket.

The deck utilizes a blend of quality threats and mana denial to pressure an opponent’s life total while making their life completely miserable.

Hate Bears

Sangren, 1st place in a Competitive Modern League

Any deck that features Eldrazi Displacer has a place in my heart…

Getting to take advantage of the Eldrazi lands is also a boon. The deck really is a pile of great disruptive cards that can be very hard to play against. It’s probably underrated in the current metagame.

I don’t care what deck you are playing—Leonin Arbiter into Ghost Quarter is terrifying.

20. Blue Moon: 21/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 3
Free Wins: 8
Resilient to Hate: 6
Flexibility: 4

Blue Moon is another great “free wins” deck. Blood Moon is a hell of a card and when you catch people snoozing or in a position where they can’t play around it—the game ends because they can’t cast spells anymore.

With that being said, the deck is also a pretty effective blue-based control deck that just so happens to also have a shut-the-door mana denial element.

Blue Moon

My biggest issue with this deck is that it goes as Blood Moon goes. In matchups where the Moon isn’t great, the deck is going to falter. With that being said, I don’t think it is wrong to build a deck around one of the most powerful and crippling spells in the format.

I also believe that Docent is a big upgrade in this deck. It is the perfect win condition for a reactive U/R control based strategy.

19. Ad Nauseum: 22/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 4
Free Wins: 9
Resilient to Hate: 5
Flexibility: 4

Ad Nauseam won a Grand Prix last year. I played against the guy who won it all and I felt very, very helpless during our match. His draws were not ever particularly great but there wasn’t much I could do from keeping him from drawing his whole deck and killing me.

The deck has multiple combos with its signature spell to simply draw every card in the library and end the game on the spot. Pretty flashy!

Ad Nauseum

ImTHOR, 1st in a Competitive Modern League

I think that most people would give this deck a lower “Doesn’t Lose to Itself” rating than it really deserves. The deck has a lot of library manipulation and a lot of ways to not die. The “not dying” part is important because it will net more draws steps to assemble the win.

Ad Nauseam is frequently on my radar as a potential deck to play at a Modern GP just based on the speed, power level, and consistency.

18. Merfolk: 22/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 6
Free Wins: 7
Resilient to Hate: 6
Flexibility: 3

Merfolk is a good deck. A lot of people don’t want to admit it, but the deck gets wins.

For me, Merfolk is like a slightly more focused Slivers deck (or Slivers is a slightly less focused Merfolk deck). Either way, Aether Vial is a ridiculously powerful Magic card that enables the deck to operate with stunning speed and consistency.

The deck may be a creature deck without Collected Company, but it makes up for it with an embarrassment of riches in the Lords department. It feels like every card they play gives their team +1/+1.

Merfolk

Fedorchenko Artem, 1st place at WMCQ Ukraine

Another angle that I’d like to point out:

Never underestimate the ability to mana-screw an opponent—the fact that it also makes the team evasive is just gravy.

17. Kiki Chord: 24/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 7
Free Wins: 3
Resilient to Hate: 6
Flexibility: 8

Kiki Chord is a good stuff deck. It is filled with efficient and grindy creatures that also assemble to make an infinite combo.

In my experience playing Modern, Chord of Calling is an outstanding Magic card. It gives you instant-speed plays in a deck that primarily composed of creatures and allows you to always have the exact right creature at the right time!

Kiki Chord

Gabriel Cappato, 1st at Open Barra Do Pirai (52 Players)

The deck is overloaded on quality threats and has a nice removal package. I also love the inclusion of Westvale Abbey in here. I may have to try that out!

While I obviously prefer Collected Company in my creature toolbox deck, I cannot deny that Kiki Chord is a great deck with a lot of great upside. I love that these creature decks allow the pilot to really play Magic.

16. Elves!: 25/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 9
Free Wins: 9
Resilient to Hate: 4
Flexibility: 3

Elf-Ball is a great deck. It was great when LSV won PT Berlin and it is great today.

I love that the deck will almost always shoot out the gates with a lightning-fast draw. Most of the cards make mana and draw cards and it is hard to get bad draws when that is the case.

The deck has some issues with removal-heavy decks that pack a lot of sweepers, but generally speaking, you have game even against those types of decks. CoCo is a hell of a card.

Elves!

Taylor Grant, 1st at Epic Loot Autism Benefit (53 Players)

Elves is actually a deck that I’ve been practicing a lot with lately because I think it can be a great deck for me to play in the future. I’m a big fan of CoCo decks and this is one of the best. I love the way the deck is blazing fast and consistent but I’d be hard pressed to replace my Abzan CoCo just because it is so much more narrow. Narrow isn’t always a bad thing, but it suits my playstyle a little bit less.

15. Living End: 25/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 6
Free Wins: 7
Resilient to Hate: 5
Flexibility: 7

I have the utmost respect for Living End. Since the beginning of Modern, it is one of the decks that I have the worst overall win % against. For good reason, the deck is very powerful and difficult to play against.

The deck isn’t a one-trick pony. Many people assume it is, but that isn’t true. The key to the power of Living End is that the deck is secretly the best land destruction deck in the format:

The combo itself is kind of durdle-y, but it isn’t just that they get to wrath your creatures and make some creatures—it is the fact that they knock out your lands and make it impossible to fight back!

Living End

Craig Westfall, 1st place at SCG IQ

I gave the deck high marks for flexibility, which is typically not something I would expect in a combo deck. The fact that the opponent has to respect your plays so much gives you a lot of time to operate your engine.

Another thing I like about the deck is that all of the cycling creatures can simply be cast in the late game when you need threats, which means your combo deck doesn’t have to combo to win.

14. Lantern Control: 26/40 Points

Doesn’t Lose to Itself: 6
Free Wins: 9
Resilient to Hate: 5
Flexibility: 6

The last deck in today’s article is certainly the strangest, Lantern Control!

Lantern is the ultimate “do nothing” deck in the sense that it sits around and systematically takes away all of its opponent’s outs to continue playing Magic.

Most Modern decks win the game by attacking with creatures, which makes Ensnaring Bridge a problematic card. Ensnaring Bridge backed up by multiple Spellskites and the ability to mill away anything that touches the Bridge is a big game.

Lantern Control

Alex Fann, 1st place at a GP Charlotte Trial

I have actually played a fair amount with Lantern Control and it is one of my favorite decks in the format. It is surprisingly good against a wide array of decks. The biggest downside of the deck is that it is quite skill-intensive to play. One small mistake and your soft-lock comes falling down like a house of Magic cards!

But if you are looking to put the reps in and enjoy playing prison-style decks, I recommend giving this deck a try. It is very powerful and very rewarding to pilot because your plays matter a great deal.

Well, that was quite a lot of decks to go through in one article! What do you guys think? Did I nail it or did you see some rankings that you don’t agree with? Be sure to let me know in the comments and tune in later this week when I get to the hard-hitters: the 13 best decks in Modern.

[Editor’s note: This article originally stated that the Lantern Control list came from a 1st place finish at GP Charlotte. It was a 1st place Grand Prix Trial for GP Charlotte.]