Modern PTQ season is upon us, and for the first time in a while, I’ll be playing in a few PTQs. Modern is an interesting format over the course of a long season because it traditionally benefits players with lots of experience playing their deck against the field, rather than those who are able to adopt the newest piece of technology the quickest, week after week. In such a broad format with many powerful answers, a shift in the metagame will often result in the addition of one or two potent sideboard cards, or maybe the inclusion of a silver bullet in your main deck.

I like to think of these interactions as the defining feature of the Modern format—the fundamental tension between powerful linear strategies and niche, disruptive sideboard cards. As a deckbuilder, this presents an interesting guessing game and really rewards knowledge of the format and the ability to predict the metagame on any given weekend. Finding cards that overlap as powerful answers to multiple different strategies allows you to save room in your 75 and gain an edge against a wider variety of archetypes.

I understand the frustration in opening up an otherwise great hand with your Affinity deck only to lose to an early Kataki or Stony Silence—often feeling like no decisions you made would’ve mattered. In my mind, this leaves you with two ways to approach the Modern PTQ season: play a powerful linear deck with the expectation that some weeks you will face rough opposition while others will feel like a knife through a butter, or play a fair, reactive deck with less ability to be hated out, like Jund Midrange or UWx Control. You will have good and bad matchups, but there aren’t as many individual cards that just beat you. I like starting every match knowing that I have a good chance to win, rather than having a bunch of matchups that are 75% and a bunch that are 25%.

I’m pretty excited that in a few weeks I’ll get to go back to my roots and start slinging Snapcaster Mages and Restoration Angels again. Making a Rat at instant speed hasn’t exactly fulfilled my burning desire to play flash creatures. UWR Flash has the qualities I’m looking for in a Modern deck—it’s not easy to hate, and plays the game-ending sideboard cards that will give opponents fits.

Here is the deck I recommend for the Modern PTQ season:

UWR Flash

As usual, I feel pretty strongly about not playing many dedicated win conditions in my maindeck. The combination of Snapcaster, Restoration Angel, Celestial Colonnade, and burn spells is more than enough to get the job done. Sphinx’s Revelation is the closest thing you have to a traditional game-ending win condition, but it gets a pass because it has flash and at least has some use at 5 mana. The sorcery-speed cards like Ajani Vengeant, Geist of Saint Traft, and Gideon Jura that you see in some lists should be avoided, because they rarely do much when you are behind, and don’t synergize well with the flash cards or counterspells. If you pass the turn with access to three blue, one white, and one red mana, then you are representing every spell in the deck except Anger of the Gods and Sphinx’s Revelation. This makes it really hard for your opponent to find an opening to exploit a weakness, but also gives you the ability to put on pressure if they choose to play around an interactive spell because all of your threats have flash.

Now for some of the specific card choices.

Restoration Angel has always seen some amount of play in this archetype but not typically in such large numbers. Restoration Angel is particularly good in Modern because it has 4 toughness and costs four mana, dodging all of the most commonly-played removal spells in Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Abrupt Decay. Path to Exile is still a good card against Angel, but UWR Flash is well set up to take advantage of the extra land, between Celestial Colonnade, Tectonic Edge, Snapcaster Mage and Sphinx’s Revelation. You always have something to do with the extra mana.

Angel also gives the Flash deck an extra route of attack against decks with inevitability. Tron decks are a good example of a matchup where Flash is capable of interacting with the majority of their powerful threats, but has a game-winning plan in Eye of Ugin for Emrakul that we can’t disrupt if they get too many turns to set up. Restoration Angel allows you to close the game out quickly and take advantage of tempo plays to set them off balance. Mana Leak, Tectonic Edge, and Remand are all cards that are played in both the tempo and control versions of UWR, but they are much more potent in a version backed up with a reasonable clock.

When playing with Restoration Angel, keep in mind the ability to blink permanents but don’t be a slave to that effect. Restoration Angel is, at its core, a 3/4 flier, with the occasional upside in particularly grindy matchups or when you happen to curve an early Snapcaster or Clique into Angel. Don’t bend over backwards to get value out of the triggered ability.

Clique was often kept down by Lingering Souls midrange decks. Lingering Souls’ presence is at an all-time low—while decks like Splinter Twin are very popular. Vendilion Clique is exceptional in combo and control matches because it forces the opponent to make plays before they are set up to do so, both because of the disruptive trigger and the pressure it puts on their life total. Clique is particularly good at giving you information to determine how much pressure to put on and how to use your interactive spells most effectively against their hand.

It goes without saying, but Snapcaster Mage is the lynchpin card of the flash deck. It is an extra copy of your best spell in every matchup, while also threatening their life total as a win condition along with burn spells.

Snapcaster is Path to Exile against Splinter Twin, Negate against Scapeshift, and Electrolyze against Affinity. It is Lightning Bolt when they are at 3 life. What more could you ask for?

 

Mana Leak is the perfect example of a card with diminishing returns in long games. First and foremost, that means it is better in the more aggressive, tempo-oriented versions of this deck, but it also has a very awkward tension with Path to Exile. For these reasons, I don’t think it is wise to play four Mana Leaks, so instead I’ve chosen to include a copy of Remand. Remand is also not particularly strong against cheap spells in the late game, but it does the job against Snapcaster Mage, Scapeshift—and at least cycles when you are in a bind. Playing the two-mana counterspells in this deck is a concession to the prevalence of combo as well as cards like Etched Champion which are hard to answer once they are in play.

Cryptic Command is one of this deck’s primary ways to get ahead in the midgame. It is particularly strong in flash because you can use is as a card advantage engine to get a 2-for-1 in a grindy matchup, or to gain initiative by bouncing a permanent in a more tempo-oriented struggle. Despite providing great flexibility, Cryptic is also really inefficient or difficult to cast in some of the faster matchups, so I find myself sideboarding it out relatively often. As a result, I think playing less than four is a smart choice.

 

These cards are the closest thing you have to maindecking sideboard cards. Shadow of Doubt is nice can Stone Rain a fetchland early against any opponent, but for the most part this is a bullet card against Birthing Pod and Scapeshift. Anger of the Gods fills a similar role against Affinity and Pod, but has a surprisingly wide number of applications. It is particularly elegant that Restoration Angel lives through Anger. Having a wrath-proof threat is particularly effective against Pod.

Revelation is a weird card because it changes drastically in value between game one and post-sideboard games in some matchups. Revelation is a way to make up for the fact that you have some dead cards in game one against certain matchups—like Lightning Bolt against control or Remand against an aggro deck. However, in many matchups, Revelation is worse after sideboard because players have more effective threats and better interaction, which sometimes makes the games go more quickly. There are also some matchups, however, against midrange decks which get even grindier after sideboard, because of the huge quantity of removal spells that they play. Revelation is completely insane in these matchups, especially in concert with Snapcaster Mage.

Sideboarding

There are too many matchups in Modern to go over game plans for every deck—but I’ll give an overview of some of the most popular matchups. I don’t usually do sideboard guides, but figured it would be important considering how much I’ve talked about it being a key part of Modern.

vs. Melira Pod

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

You are usually forced to leave some counterspells in to keep them honest, but playing too many can be awkward against Voice of Resurgence. Vendilion Clique lines up awkwardly with both your own Anger of the Gods and opposing Lingering Souls. Lightning Helix is really only good at killing mana guys, and two mana is simply too much for that task.

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

In my experience, an active Birthing Pod is their best way to beat you. The combination of Wraths and Stony Silence should shut down their card advantage engines. I can’t imagine seeing too many Abrupt Decays in sideboard games when you only have Snapcaster Mages as targets.

vs. Splinter Twin

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

You need some burn spells to deal with Pestermite and Snapcaster Mage, but don’t play too many.

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

(Man is this matchup good)

vs. Jund

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

Sphinx’s Revelation is also bad against Liliana, but I would consider keeping it in if you feel the games are going to be particularly grindy. This is really a play-style and list-dependent choice. The two-mana counters are bad because they are easy to play around due to discard spells and bad when the game goes long. They are important in game one to deal with Liliana but we have plenty of answers after sideboard.

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

Wrath of God is your out against Thrun, the Last Troll, and is also reasonably good against Tarmogoyfs. Celestial Purge deals with some of the biggest problem cards, like Liliana and Raging Ravine.

vs. Affinity

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

This is a great matchup, and in my opinion the only ways to lose are to Etched Champion, Inkmoth Nexus, or if your draw is too clunky. For these reasons, I like shaving Cryptic Command, Revelation, and Vendilion Clique.

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

I would actually consider boarding out Anger of the Gods in this matchup as well. It is significantly worse than the other wraths because of Etched Champion and you have a ton of ways to answer their small creatures.

vs. Scapeshift

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

Leave your Paths in to deal with Wurmcoil Engine and Primeval Titan if they have it. Wear // Tear is for Prismatic Omen or Batterskull.

Teferi and Counterflux are basically unbeatable for them, so prioritize resolving Teferi and saving Counterflux for when you really need it.

vs. UWR Control

Maindeck cards that are bad in the matchup:

Sideboard cards that are good in the matchup:

Wear // Tear is obviously bad against our list but great against Batterskull, which many decks play. As with any control mirror this is very list dependent.

One of the key parts of playing UWR Flash is being comfortable with your deck list and game plan in each matchup. If you find yourself struggling in a certain spot, don’t be afraid to add a sideboard card or two. I’ve given examples of what sideboard cards you want, but feel free to change them based on your local PTQ metagame. I would expect to have to beat all of the above decks to win a PTQ, but there are also too many others to count.

Good luck in your Modern PTQs, and don’t hesitate to reach out when it comes to UWR. I really love thinking about and playing this deck.

Thanks for reading,

Matt Costa
@mattccosta