How Do I Approach Testing Modern?

Immanuel Gerschenson


Hello and welcome back! You might have guessed it already, today’s article will be about Modern – in specific how I approach testing the format. No worries, I will also include a few new deck-lists, after the banning of 《Once Upon a Time》.

Once Upon a Time

To further understand, why my testing process is as it is right now, I should mention that since Modern was announced, I have played plenty. With plenty I mean you could name a deck and I would most likely be able to tell you how much I have played it and my opinion about it.

Eight Steps of My Modern Testing

I am also going to post a short version of my steps at the end of the article, in case you want to use these and have them written down in an “efficient” way.

#1: Check All Current Modern Deck-lists from Magic Online

Thirst for Knowledge

So let’s get started: Whenever I return to Modern, the first thing I do is going through all the Magic Online (MTGO) deck-lists from approximately the last two weeks. This helps me to identify any new decks, if there are any and to see in which direction Modern is going.

Underworld BreachThassa's OracleInverter of Truth

As an example, I will take the 2 weeks from 01/03 until 15/03. There are two new combo decks trying to win with 《Thassa’s Oracle》, namely Jeskai/Grixis 《Underworld Breach》 and some sort of 《Inverter of Truth》 deck. The other thing I looked at is, how does decks in general look like and I noticed, that there is plenty of point removal being played, compared to the number of creatures being played.

#2: Take Notes on How Decks are Structed (Lots of Removal, Lots of All in Combo, Control decks…)

Fatal PushLightning BoltPath to Exile

The information I gained, just from looking through some lists, helps me later on, as it tells me what kind of decks I want to avoid. Plenty of removal tells me that creature based decks, like any 《Collected Company》 deck, 《Death’s Shadow》 variants and such will have a hard time.

#3: Find New Decks and Trying Them Out

So after looking at those lists, the second step I do is trying out the new decks, if I think they are playable with the information I got. Two combo decks winning with 《Thassa’s Oracle》 checks that box for me, so I went online, built these decks and got ready to rumble.

Here are the lists I tried:

Inverter of Truth Combo

Angel's GraceSpoils of the VaultThassa's Oracle

Jeskai Breach

Grinding StationUnderworld BreachThassa's Oracle

As you can see, I did not just take lists and copy pasted them, I also put some thought into those decks before playing. That said, my results were rather disappointing, as I did not manage to go better than 3-2 in a league with any of those decks. I stopped putting any thoughts into these decks, because Modern is a big format and I like to try a variety of decks before putting a lot of time into a few of those decks, but if you want to go a step further, Joseba Garcia, known as Elfkid on MTGO, put some more time into 《Inverter of Truth》 and posted an article about it:

#4: Work on New Decks If You Think They Have Potential

In general I prefer to start playing decks with new cards, so next on my list was this Simic Scapeshift list. As mentioned before, there is a lot of point removal being played currently, so I wanted to avoid decks that have to grind through all of those.

Simic Scapeshift

Dryad of the Ilysian GroveScapeshiftValakut, the Molten PinnaclePrismatic Omen

The idea of this deck, just being a control deck that at some point wins by a two card combo appealed to me, so I had to try it. Sadly, my results once again were not what I was looking for and after two leagues of 3-2 I went back to the drawing board.

#5: Use Notes to Identify Which Kind of Deck You Want to Play

At this point I have played quite a few leagues already, but noticed nothing special. Modern was an actual fun format with lots of different decks being played. Before the banning of 《Once Upon a Time》, where my actual testing started, it was different. I played only against two decks basically: Eldrazi Tron and Amulet Titan, both abusing 《Once Upon a Time》 and being way too consistent.

Urza, Lord High ArtificerThopter FoundrySword of the MeekBlood Moon

I am mentioning this, because during this period I also went back to an old love of mine, 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》 including the 《Thopter Foundry》/《Sword of the Meek》 combo, playing 《Blood Moon》 main-board. After 《Once Upon a Time》 disappeared, the leagues got much friendlier and 《Blood Moon》 lost its appeal.

I played quite a bit with Urza, as I liked my results and after playing 4-5 more leagues I arrived at following list:

Grixis Urza

Thopter FoundryUrza, Lord High ArtificerSword of the Meek

Once again I feel like playing a control deck that suddenly can win out of nowhere and has an answer to almost everything. The 《Ghirapur Aether Grid》 in the main is the biggest out-layer. 《Spine of Ish Sah》, which I used to play approximately 9 months ago, felt too expensive for how the format plays out in my opinion, so I was looking for an alternative, that would let me win through 《Karn, the Great Creator》. The card felt fine, but sadly not good enough for the main-board.

Karn, the Great Creator

At this point I started to play against too many 《Karn, the Great Creator》 for my liking, so I had to come up with a better idea, if I wanted to continue playing with Urza, or to find a new deck. My idea was to cut black and add white, as I still wanted to play the powerful combo of 《Thopter Foundry》 and 《Sword of the Meek》. White gave me the option to play 《Detention Sphere》, which is a clean removal for 《Karn, the Great Creator》 and many other cards. Here is the list that I played to multiple 5-0 and way too many 4-1:

Jeskai Urza

Detention SpherePath to ExileTeferi, Time Raveler

#6: Try These Decks and Work on Them

I have finally arrived at a point, where I like my deck and just try to tune it. In between playing Urza I also tried some sort of 《Death’s Shadow》, but after the league I realized that I went against myself, as I already knew I would face too much removal to grind through. Another deck I tried was some sort of Snow 《Through the Breach》, splashing for 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 to have an alternate win condition.

Snow the Breach

Uro, Titan of Nature's WrathThrough the BreachEmrakul, the Aeons Torn

#7: Format Might Move on, You Should not Miss This and Also Move on


I went 5-0 and 4-1 with this deck and I might consider working a bit more on it as the format moves on, but currently I am still playing the Jeskai Urza deck. Very soon I will have to go further, as people started catching up and I face cards like 《Boil》 and 《Choke》. Especially 《Boil》 feels hard to beat out of Jund.

#8: Repeat 1-7, Might Want to Skip Steps 3-4

Wrap Up

After banning 《Once Upon a Time》 I have easily played over ten leagues and I am certain this number will go up very fast, as Modern is very enjoyable and there are still plenty of decks I have not tried out yet.

Long version in short:

Hope you enjoyed the article and are eager to jump into Modern.

Until next time, take care and please if possible, just stay at home for a few weeks (and enjoy some MTG online on MTG Arena or MTGO).

Immanuel (Twitter)

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Immanuel Gerschenson Immanuel is skillful at Constructed formats and took trophies at GP Madrid 2014 (Modern) and GP Seville 2015 (Standard). He run a spicy Traverse Shadow list with 《Delay》 and went 14th place at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with an impressive 9-1 Constructed record. In addition, he was the runner-up of Austria Nationals 2018 it made him to be a Gold Level Pro. Read more articles by Immanuel Gerschenson