What’s New in Modern

Goncalo Pinto

Today’s Topics

Modern Horizons brought a lot of new blood to this format, and with so many important tournaments around the corner I thought it would be useful to give you a resume on the new things that have been popping up lately.

In this article I will talk about:

Let’s start with the boogeyman.

The Elephant in the Room, Hogaak Bridgevine

Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisAltar of DementiaCarrion Feeder

This deck was the real deal. The deck somehow existed before Modern Horizons but it got the additions of 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》, 《Altar of Dementia》 and 《Carrion Feeder》 and the power level was pushed so far that action had to be taken and 《Bridge from Below》 took the ban hammer.

Not only the 《Vengevine》s were now joined by an 8/8 trample and some other friends by turn 2 but the combination with 《Altar of Dementia》 allowed the deck to OTK (one turn kill) your opponent as early as turn 2 without the use of almost any resources. You basically need one Hogaak and 1 Altar into play, mill yourself for 8 try to hit a Bridge and another Hogaak or another Bridge so you can mill almost all of your library, to then mill your opponent’s. Jacob Nagro wrote a great piece for Hareruya if you want to learn a bit more on how the deck worked.

I think the banning was necessary, the format was shaping too much around it. People were playing main deck copies of cards like 《Nihil Spellbomb》, 《Rest in Peace》 and 《Leyline of the Void》 in addition to the already somehow popular 《Surgical Extraction》. Even with that, the deck had 3 times more trophies than the second-best performing deck on Magic Online. My problem with the deck was that if you didn’t have the hate cards on your first 2 turns you were most likely dead. That’s just not healthy.

Bridge from Below

《Bridge from Below》 was the card I would have targeted too. Not only it stops the Altar combo, but it also takes some of the raw power out of the deck, such as 《Carrion Feeder》 + 《Gravecrawler》 + Bridge shenanigans that some fair decks could just not beat. In my opinion the fact the 《Bridge from Below》 is barely a Magic card also helped to push through its ban, especially considering that they want Modern to be an appealing format to some Magic newcomers.

Was the ban enough to stop the deck? Not really. We will still have Hogaak around, but certainly in a fairer fashion. Do they need to take further action? Maybe. But now it’s fair to give the format some time to adapt. With the Mythic Championship IV and some many GPs around the corner let the players figure somethings out and let’s talk at the end of the summer.

I wish something had been done to 《Neoform》 too, but let’s hope that the inconsistency of the deck is enough to scare people away from it as I think that the fact that it isn’t a winning deck doesn’t necessarily gives it a freepass to be an option for Modern.

While waiting for the ban announcement I decided to take a break from the Modern testing and play the MOCS Preliminary (Modern Horizons Sealed) last weekend:


Now let’s talk about new decks.

New Decks That Didn’t Take The Hammer

Urza Thopter/Sword

My favorite so far is Urza Thopter/Sword.

Urza, Lord High ArtificerThopter FoundrySword of the Meek

The printing of 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》 made it so that the 《Thopter Foundry》 and 《Sword of the Meek》 combo now can go infinite. Before Modern Horizons was released, you would create a token and gain one life for each mana you had available, by paying 1 to sacrifice the Sword for the Foundry to then use its triggered ability to return it to the battlefield attached to the fresh new 1/1 thopter. With Urza’s mana ability you can tap the Sword to pay the Foundry’s sacrifice cost allowing you to go infinite. With the infinite tokens you can also generate infinite mana to then use Urza’s 《Temporal Aperture》 ability as many times as necessary to do whatever you feel like doing.

Ghirapur AEther GridGrinding StationSpine of Ish SahScrap Trawler

Usually people have one slot dedicated to technically end the game that turn. You can use 《Ghirapur Aether Grid》, 《Grinding Station》, 《Spine of Ish Sah》 (technically you don’t end the game, but you can kill all your opponent’s stuff, which should be good enough to prevent them from winning), or《Scrap Trawler》. 《Scrap Trawler》 makes it that each Sword activation will return you a 《Pyrite Spellbomb》 and each spellbomb returns you a 《Mox Opal》 to pay for the red mana and OTK your opponent with that loop.

Goblin Engineer

This deck is mostly Mono-Blue splashing for 《Goblin Engineer》 and the other part of 《Thopter Foundry》, which makes it either Jeskai or Grixis. Kanister wrote a great article on it, that I totally recommend you to check out.

Esper Spells

Snapcaster MageUnearthJace, Vryn's Prodigy

It’s funny how the printing of a single common made this deck possible. 《Unearth》 allows you to run as low as only 4 actual win conditions because your ability to bring it back over and over again. The combination with 《Snapcaster Mage》 and 《Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy》 allows you go from an empty board to a massive battlefield advantage using only 1 or 2 cards.

Ranger-Captain of EosDeath's Shadow

There is a version of this deck that uses the brand new 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 and 《Death’s Shadow》 as the win conditions, but I’ve been liking the 《Monastery Mentor》 version better.

Old Decks, New Cards

《Wrenn and Six》 on Jund

HexdrinkerSeasoned Pyromancer
Plague EngineerCollector OupheWeather the Storm

Many cards from Modern Horizons took some of the deck slots. From the more relevants 《Hexdrinker》s and 《Seasoned Pyromancer》s to the somehow more replaceable 《Plague Engineer》, 《Collector Ouphe》 or 《Weather the Storm》, but there is a reason why the two mana planeswalker is not called the Wrenn and Tix. It is the real deal.

Wrenn and Six

The [+1] ability provides you non blue card advantage that you can use to feed 《Liliana of the Veil》 and 《Seasoned Pyromancer》 or simply hit your land drops while immediately going to 4 Loyalty. It ultimates to a pretty much unbeatable emblem against any kind of fair deck and the [-1] ability kills so many relevant creatures and planeswalkers in the format, that it isn’t even funny. 《Dark Confidant》, 《Young Pyromancer》, 《Noble Hierarch》, 《Hexdrinker》, 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 after a bounce, 《Glistener Elf》 and 《Blighted Agent》, half of the 5C Humans deck (☹) just to name a few.

《Aria of Flame》 on Izzet Phoenix

Lava DartMagmatic SinkholeAria of Flame

Izzet Phoenix got some extra stuff too in 《Lava Dart》 and 《Magmatic Sinkhole》 but the real winner was 《Aria of Flame》. Aria allows the deck to have a different angle of attack, just like 《Pyromancer Ascension》 did, but with 2 big advantages.

Unlike 《Pyromancer Ascension》, it does not depend on graveyard. Remember when I told you that people were playing all the maindeck hate because of Hogaak? 《Pyromancer Ascension》 was taking splash damage from it, and while I expect people to ease down on it, graveyard hate will certainly still on people’s sideboard and it was already doing some kind of work stopping the 《Arclight Phoenix》es and 《Faithless Looting》s. 《Aria of Flame》 just ignores that, and trust me, despite giving your opponents 10 life when comes into play, it will take that back faster than my father took the PS2 I got for Christmas for having bad grades back when I was in High School.

The other not so obvious advantage that Aria has in comparison to 《Pyromancer Ascension》 is the deckbuilding restrictions. The Ascension made it so you had to have a very clean deck, with as many 4 ofs as you could in order to give it the best chance to become active. With Aria now, you can have as many one ofs as you want, which is one of the strongest benefits of playing a deck with so many cantrips.

《Giver of Runes》 on Druid Combo

Eladamri's CallGiver of Runes

The deck also got the important 《Eladamri’s Call》, but with so many tutors available in Modern it hadn’t such a big impact as 《Giver of Runes》.

A turn 2 《Devoted Druid》 was always scary, but most of the decks were able to deal with it in a usually efficient way. Playing 《Giver of Runes》 on turn 1 now makes it that your opponent has to spend at least the same amount mana as you did to cast your creature and then have another way to deal with the Druid. Think of it as a 《Spellskite》 that you can play on curve.

《Scale Up》 on Infect

Scale Up

This was something that everybody talked when the card was first spoiled and it has been proving its merits. The ability to kill your opponent on turn 2 and 3 increased a lot with 《Scale Up》, as it cuts the pump spells you need to kill your opponent in 1/3 and unlike 《Become Immense》 you can do it as early as turn 2. Not much needs to be said about this one, but I think it will be sticking with the deck now.

《Force of Negation》 on UW Control

Narset, Parter of VeilsTeferi, Time RavelerForce of Negation

The printing of two new very strong 3 mana plasneswalkers capable of providing you card advantage made this card particularly strong in this archetype. With both Teferis and 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 minus abilities to resolve creatures, countering non creature spells is usually the only thing you want to be countering anyway. My friend Ricardo Beja just finished second place at the Red Bull Untapped in Brussels and will be writing a tournament report for Hareruya and I’m pretty sure he will have something nice to say about this card.

(Editor’s Note: this article was written before releasing Beja’s article bellow.)

Let me finish by giving the playtest team props on this card’s design. I was somehow vocal of introducing 《Force of Will》 to Modern, but this card is so much better. The free only on your opponent’s turn made this appealing only to the fair decks, denying the degenerate decks a way to force their spells like Sneak and Show does in Legacy.

Just to finish this section and if you want to see these new decks/new cards in action, our friend Arne Huschenbeth has been taking almost every single deck for a spin on his stream. Make sure you check that out on his channel.

The London Mulligan

Modern Horizons and the Bridge ban weren’t the only big things that happened in Modern. The London Mulligan is now official, and it replaces the Vancouver Mulligan. While I think it is a no brainer for Standard and Limited, I think there are some reasons to be concerned about it in older formats such as Modern. I still like it for Modern, but I like it especially combined with the open decklists.

ThoughtseizeDark ConfidantFatal PushTarmogoyf

See, the problem with the London Mulligan is that in theory it benefits the degendered decks, that care only about their game plan. You can easily keep a 5 card hand that contains your important pieces and put back the redundant stuff. If you are a fair deck like Jund, that had to mulligan twice it’s not fair that you have to decide blind if you want to keep your 《Thoughtseize》/《Dark Confidant》 or your 《Fatal Push》/《Tarmogoyf》 without knowing you are playing against Burn or 《Neoform》. Open decklists gives the more linear decks a fair way to use the London Mulligan for its advantages, just like the more degenerate decks do.

I wish they could implement open decklists in more Modern events, as I can see it giving the unfair decks an extra reason to be played over the rest, in a format where the answers are already a bit behind the treats.


If you have any questions you can use the comment section down below, or you can DM me on Twitter @u_mad_bro_MTGO. If it’s easier for you, I speak English, Portuguese and Spanish (Hola Salseo!) but if you write in Russian or Japanese I will do my best to reply 😊

Until next time!

Gonçalo (Twitter)

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Goncalo Pinto A veteran player from Portugal. He has a good relationship with Hareruya Latin members especially his countryman, Marcio Carvalho. His best finish was alongside with Marcio, both made top 8 at Pro Tour Dominaria and he won the closest match against his closest friend. The result was good enough to become a Gold Level Pro and he joined Hareruya Pros after his highest season. Read more articles by Goncalo Pinto