Modern: the format that never changes too much but also changes wildly from one week to next.
You could take a six-month hiatus from the format, stop one day to play at the local store, and find basically the same mix of good decks as when you left. There might be one or two new decks but 90% of what is going on would feel familiar and recognizable.
Modern is a well-defined format, which means it changes slowly, but that doesn’t mean it’s stagnant. The small changes are the margins upon which players leverage metagame advantages in a format that is a quagmire of parity.
I’ve got five recent trends you’d be wise to know right now. Read ’em, know ’em, and figure out the next tweaks and fine tunes to your trusty weapon of choice.
5. Humans is No Longer the Most Popular Aggro Deck—Burn Is
Bolt is back? Did Bolt ever really go anywhere? There have been various points where it has been obvious that Bolt is the best card in the format. When Bolt is down, it dips to maybe the third- or fourth-best card at worst.
Bolt has again risen to the tippy top of the format. After almost a year of holding that title, Humans has finally been surpassed. Various U/W and U/W/x decks are the established best decks in the format and that is simply a tall order for Humans to overcome.
Paulinh0, 8th place in an MTGO Challenge
Burn, on the other hand, is good against U/W.
Personally, I’ve adapted to this trend by favoring a Jeskai Control deck with access to Bolt and Lightning Helix, which go a long way against burn and are still great against Humans.
When you are tuning those sideboards, keep in mind that you are more likely to face Burn than Humans. Cards that are effective against both, such as Lightning Helix, are at a premium.
4. Bant Spirits Has Surged in Popularity
Surged to 5%, which may not seem like a surge to normal people, but in terms of Modern metagame percentage, that was a shocking number to me.
5% is more than Hollow One, more than Jund, and just below Affinity.
Let’s be fair—CoCo is loco, and Spirits has risen up as the CoCo deck best suited to slog through round after round of control decks.
In the abstract, the various Devoted Druid combo decks may have been the ideal CoCo builds. But in a metagame that couldn’t possibly be more hostile, Company fans have opted for a fishier Collected Company deck:
Anthony Cuello, PPTQ
Spirits is the classic aggro control model rolled into a tribal shell and topped off with a spicy drizzle of flash sauce. It’s so delicious.
It’s perhaps a deck you’ll want to practice against or even consider piloting yourself if your creature deck has been getting stymied by Jace and Terminus lately.
3. The Rumors of Tron’s Strength May Have Been Overstated…
Seriously, I’m always terrified whenever my opponent plays a turn-1 Tron land. The last nine consecutive games I’ve played against Tron, my opponent has had Tron on 3.
It’s pretty funny when your bad beat story is “my opponent’s deck did what it was designed to do…”
With that being said, Tron’s winner’s metagame percentage has dipped dramatically in the past few weeks from 7% down to only 4%.
Here’s a good Tron list in case you were feeling like setting sail on a leaky ship…
Xu Fei, 1st place at Grand Prix Hong Kong
Modern never changes except when it changes constantly. Also, Tron has dropped off dramatically and won this Grand Prix!
Any major deck has a legitimate chance to do well at any given time in Modern. There are a lot of pieces in play: ahead-of-the-curve plans, getting good matchups, and playing well all come to mind.
With all that being said, Tron is less represented in the winner’s metagame than it was a month ago when I was crunching numbers before Grand Prix Detroit. I think that there are a few pretty straightforward reasons for this trend:
The mono-red renaissance is likely a big factor. Tron may be good at running over midrange decks, but it struggles against linear combo and aggro.
I would have assumed that Tron would crush various U/W decks, but the matchup is actually much, much closer than I would have expected it to be.
The Tron surge may have been based on the assumption that Tron crushes U/W/x because it historically has. But the difference between now and “history” is that past U/W Control decks didn’t have Field of Ruin, Jace, Teferi, and Damping Sphere!
It appears that Tron is poorly positioned. Not that it matters—the deck still terrifies me every time I play against it!
2. Infect is on the Rise!
The minute I start playing Plague Marines in 40K, one of my favorite archetypes begins to creep back into relevance… is it a coincidence or a sign? Seems like a coincidence.
Matt Paluay, 1st place in a PPTQ
Hurray! Another deck that preys on Tron! I feel like I’m laying the Tron hate a little thick today, but turn-3 Tron 9 times in a row!
Infect is also pretty decent against the slower U/W decks that lack a ton of cheap removal and are set up to play a slower game. It’s worth having a plan for because it can be embarrassing to play against it without a good plan. Spoiler alert: They kill you fast.
1. People Still Do Well with Random Nonsense
Also, Mono-Green Charbelcher = Style Points
O.K. the last one is kind of a fun one. At the risk of incurring a comment in the forums that reads, “How did you not know this was a deck? I’ve known about it for six years!” I will put my ignorance of Mono-Green Charbelcher on full display because the deck is really cool and I want to feature it.
Jeremy Skoog, 4th place in a PPTQ (24 Players)
Slight nitpicks. I’d play Attune with Aether to make my opponent play around energy cards. Just kidding.
I’ve never seen or played against this deck in person, but I’ve randomly heard it mentioned once or twice. Truth be told, I thought those people were joking. Alas, they were not.
Obviously, Modern is an established format but there are still outside-the-box fringe decks out there worth learning more about. I’m probably going to throw this together and play it next week, as long as I can cobble the cards together. It looks like a trip.
Modern. What a walking contradiction. It never changes and is always evolving.
Every day. Every event. Every week. Every month. People learn new nuances, make small adjustments, and push the format and the metagame forward. We’ve got another big one looming on the horizon:
It goes without saying that in addition to the current story lines in Modern that Assassin’s Trophy will breathe new life into B/G and B/G/x style decks in the coming months. So while U/W has really been at the center of the Modern narrative since Jace and Teferi arrived on the scene, I’m interested to see how Trophy will fit into the equation. Will it be enough to put the Golgari back on the map?
The next chapter of the book of Golgari is yet to be written, but I’m excited to see how it goes.