The Deck You Should Play in Modern Now

Branco Neirynck


Modern Horizons

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

Between GP Toronto last month, Magic Fest Bilbao this weekend, Mythic Championship London in one month, the new mulligan rule & Modern Horizons, it’s fair to say that Modern is hot right now!

I love Modern; normally I’d write an article after Magic Fest Bilbao but because flights are crazy expensive I took the decision to stay home. Instead, I’m going to write about my thoughts and knowledge about the format right now! I’ll begin with analyzing the Top 32 decks of GP Toronto. Afterwards I’ll explain which decks I would like to beat this weekend and how I’d tackle this puzzle, including the decklist I would’ve played this weekend.

Analyzing Grand Prix Toronto

GP Toronto was the first big event after 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》 got the ban hammer. The results should be the first indication of how the format plays out now that Modern’s best combo deck is no more.

GP Toronto Top32

Top 32 Decks of GP Toronto

I’m baffled by the result of one banning. This Top 32 is totally different than previous tournaments:

Spell QuellerChampion of the ParishDeath's Shadow

Bant Spirits, Humans and Grixis 《Death's Shadow》 only have 4 copies combined in this Top 32. Those decks have good matchups against combo decks as they disrupt the combo plan and put pressure at the same time.

Time WarpAd Nauseam

Taking Turns having 2 and Ad Nauseam having 3 copies in this 32 is crazy. The reason is most likely because Bant Spirits, Humans and Grixis Death’s Shadow underperformed or were underplayed, so combo decks could thrive.

Faithless LootingArclight PhoenixManamorphose

Izzet Phoenix represents 18,75% of this Top 32, which is a very high amount for Modern. If we would be able to see the decks of the Top 64, we’d see the same share, as a lot of pro players were playing the deck with a decent finish as a result.

Tireless TrackerLiliana of the VeilBloodbraid Elf

There are three midrange decks: 2 BG Rock and one Jund Midrange. I think that these decks with Grixis Death’s Shadow are the new answers to combo decks.

Jace, the Mind SculptorTeferi, Hero of Dominaria

There is only one blue control deck in the Top 32. My guess is that blue mages were afraid that Dredge and Burn would see more play as those decks don’t interact with opponents and are easy to play, which makes them ideal candidates to compete in a post-ban tournament.

Lantern of InsightScapeshiftArcbound Ravager
Collected CompanyTemporal Mastery

Modern is and will always be a format where you can play whatever deck you want, as long as you master your deck you still have a chance at doing good; this explains why decks like Lantern Control, Titanshift, Affinity, Abzan Company and Taking Turns are in this Top 32. That said, these decks aren’t Tier 1 so it’s best not to think too much about them.

Which Decks Do I Want to Beat?

This is the question you should always ask yourself when choosing a deck to play. If I would play Grand Prix this week, I would try to beat these decks:

Izzet Phoenix

Lightning BoltArclight PhoenixThing in the Ice

This is the current top dog of the format. It has been regarded as best deck by many pro players, on Twitter and is putting up the best results of all Modern to prove this. The deck is very strong against creature based decks like Humans and Spirits, because they have cheap interaction in 《Lightning Bolt》, 《Gut Shot》 and 《Lightning Axe》 and a flipped 《Thing in the Ice》 is basically unbeatable. The deck is also strong against midrange and control decks because 《Arclight Phoenix》 is a recursive thread that is very hard to deal with.

I do think that the deck has weaknesses, because it’s playing so many creature interactions being weak to combo decks that are just faster, like Ad Nauseam and Storm. This is the reason Ad Nauseam is putting up some stronger results.

Dredge, Burn & Tron

Creeping ChillSkewer the CriticsUrza's Tower

I put these decks on one list, not because of the type of deck they are, but because of the skill needed to play those decks. When playing a Grand Prix, you don’t want to lose to a worse player, because every loss weighs heavily on your standings. These decks are always popular on GPs because these decks are easy to play, although Dredge for example is not easy to master, so skill difference between you and your opponents matters less.

Finding a deck that beats those is not easy. Most linear combo decks are good against Tron & Dredge, but unfavoured against Burn. Izzet Phoenix is probably the strongest contender to beat these three. Dredge is the most popular of these at the moment and I would never play a deck this weekend that is unfavoured against it.

What Deck Would I Play This Weekend?

Pieces of the Puzzle

Now we need to convert all this information into one deck. I do think that Izzet Phoenix is the strongest deck in the format right now and because of all the hype, players will shy away from playing Humans and Bant Spirits. Dredge will be one of the most popular decks this weekend and BG midrange decks will see a decent amount of play.

Less Bant Spirits and Humans means more worse matchups for Izzet Phoenix, so I wouldn’t play it. Instead I would play a deck that beats Phoenix and Dredge. As a result, I would lean towards playing a combo deck. Because 《Liliana of the Veil》 decks will be popular as well, I’d go for the combo deck that has the “best” matchup against it, and this deck wasn’t in the Top 32: UR Storm.

Gifts UngivenBaral, Chief of ComplianceGrapeshot

This is the list I would play:

Surgical ExtractionNihil Spellbomb

I really think that UR Storm will be the dark horse of this weekend and will have some good results. Decent matchups against most of the popular decks and people will not expect it. The only thing worrying me is the main deck graveyard hate in 《Surgical Extraction》 and 《Nihil Spellbomb》 I’ve been seeing recently. That said, it’s easier to deal with graveyard hate in post-sideboard.


It would be strange writing a Modern article that didn’t include any opinion on the recent ban announcement (nothing changed) from Monday.

Faithless Looting

《Faithless Looting》 is enabling the two most popular decks in the format, but for now, I think it can still be solved. Banning a card after one major tournament would be a mistake. Let’s hope Modern Horizons and the new mulligan rule will shake things up in the future. Also, no banning’s are good because I was in the middle of writing this article when realizing there was a ban announcement and was afraid I had to throw away everything I’ve written at that point 🙂


Izzet Phoenix and Dredge are the best decks of the format right now, but I do believe that the metagame will shift and adapt. I would play a combo deck this weekend, it’s their time to shine.

If you would have any questions regarding this article or Modern in general, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks for reading,

Branco Neirynck @BrancoNeirynck on Twitter

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Branco Neirynck Branco Neirynck is a veteran player from Belgium. He has 3 GP top 8s in 2015 and is a finalist of World Magic Cup 2016. In 2017-2018 season, he continued to collect Pro Points from beginning and finally reached Pro Tour Sunday at the last one. He is the one who became Hareruya Pros from Hareruya Hopes. Read more articles by Branco Neirynck