I stream a lot of Modern, and the most common question I get is: “What are the best decks in the format?” To some extent, that answer shifts with the metagame, but Modern is old enough that we can observe some constants.
For starters, there’s usually a pretty good Delver deck:
Grixis Delver, by NielsieBoi
Delver is hard to hate out. It might have a few bad matchups, but it’s great against randomness and features a nice nut draw.
The downside is that Delver of Secrets is a high-variance card. This isn’t Legacy where you get Brainstorm and Ponder to help set up your flip, and games are definitely decided by that fact. On top of that, many opponents are downright good at killing Delver.
There are a few decks (like Hexproof or Burn) that are naturally strong against Delver, but most people have a more general plan of killing Delver’s win conditions and watching them flood out.
Recently, Kolaghan’s Command has become fairly stock in the old Electrolyze slot. Some decks will force you to grind, and you need to have a plan for them, which is one reason I love Bitterblossoms in the sideboard.
Twin has evolved with Modern, from transformational sideboard plans to white builds with Wall of Omens to green lists with Tarmogoyf to black splashes for Tasigur and Kolaghan’s Command. In the end, the UR build has the greatest longevity. While a bit weaker to a resolved Tarmogoyf, the UR list has the most consistent components and is better in an open metagame. The slick 2-color mana base allows it to take advantage of Blood Moon out of the board.
UR Twin takes the idea of Magic: the Gathering as a puzzle and runs with it. Sometimes you care about the combo, and sometimes you care about beating down. Sometimes you care about tempo, but often you’re grinding out minute advantages.
The strength of UR Twin is that it rewards you for figuring out what matters in a given situation and punishes the opponent for failing to do the same. Like every good Modern deck, it also features a powerful, proactive nut draw.
The downside to Twin is that it’s a very known entity. Everyone has a plan to beat it, no one’s completely cold to the combo, and most people realize the Twin deck is going to be less focused on the combo and more of a grind post-board.
People constantly question the merits of Peek over Gitaxian Probe. This deck prefers Peek for two reasons, the first one being that we’re trying to operate on the opponent’s turn. When you leave up 3 mana, the opponent isn’t sure if you’re going to Deceiver or simply Snapcast back Peek.
The other reason is that you care about the card your opponent drew for the turn! If you have the combo in hand, you’d much rather Peek after their draw than miss that card with Probe.
Even with Bloodbraid Elf and Deathrite Shaman banned, GBx midrange decks continue to perform. While the particulars might differ from season to season, with Dark Confidant falling out of favor here or Phyrexian Obliterator popping up there, the general shell of discard spells into Tarmogoyf/Liliana stays the same.
Junk, by Monxide
Whenever I’m at a loss for what to play, I play Junk. It doesn’t have many weak matchups, and the bad matchups (like Tron) tend to be overstated. Unless you’re facing a weird hate deck full of Wilt-Leaf Lieges, discard into Liliana is great against anyone, and even if you are facing a weird hate deck you can still win by curving removal into a pile of Siege Rhinos.
One thing I like about Junk is that it isn’t a mentally exacting deck, which is a big plus for a longer event. It has enough decisions to stay interesting and reward good play, but the cards are individually powerful and can carry games by themselves.
Naya Burn, by Right_Seid_MTG
As much as I hate to admit it, Modern Burn is a really good deck. I started playing it after Shahar Shenhar’s finish with a quad-Mutagenic Growth build, and it quickly became my favorite deck for multi-queuing. Despite it being a linear deck with a format full of good hate cards, it continues to perform. It helps that Destructive Revelry and Atarka’s Command/Skullcrack act as excellent, on-plan answers to hosers.
What sets Modern Burn apart from its equivalent in other formats is that the mana bases in Modern use fetchlands and shocks, and it’s a rare opponent that gets to start the game at 20 life. Unlike Legacy, there’s no Counterbalance to lock you out of the game, and you can actually race the combo decks.
Amulet and Tron are both excellent decks, but have an unfortunate weakness to Twin and Blood Moon. For a specific tournament, they might be the best deck in the room, but I think their strength fluctuates more often than the above archetypes.
Affinity sees about the same amount of hate as Burn, but the hate itself is more devastating and Affinity’s answers aren’t exactly on plan. If someone really wants to beat Affinity, they will do so and there’s not much you can do about it—it’s kind of like playing Dredge in that sense.
Elves has had a sudden burst in popularity. Going Collected Company into Ezuri is a messed up thing to do to someone, but the online metagame is already starting to adapt and people are taking Elves into consideration with their sweepers, spot removal, and sideboard options, so it should die down in a bit.
Did I miss anything? What do you think is the best deck in Modern? Let me know in the comments.