Unraveling the Modern

Dmitriy Butakov


Hello Everyone,

Urza's Saga

Now it’s clear 《Urza’s Saga》 is the chase rare of Modern Horizons 2 and it’s going to see tons of play, but let’s have a look at how other MH2 cards reinvigorated some old archetypes and gave birth to the new ones. Before we begin, this is gonna be an overview of sorts, so I won’t mention 《Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar》 decks, they deserve an article of their own and a brief look just won’t be enough.

1. 《Shardless Agent》 and 《Subtlety》 in 《Crashing Footfalls》 Cascade

Crashing Footfalls

The funny thing is during the MH1 release events I wrote about Jund and said that even if you always cascade into 《Crashing Footfalls》 on turn 4 off the 《Bloodbraid Elf》, the play would still not be powerful enough for Modern format. I still think so, but turn 3 is a different matter.

There are main 2 reasons the deck has risen after MH2:

Shardless Agent

《Shardless Agent》 is the best cascade enabler out there-it’s blue, it’s a permanent and it actually does something apart from cascade. Every instance is not that much, but all of them combined provide a huge boost for the deck.


Since we have an enormous advantage from one card, we can afford ourselves to be generous in resource trading and 《Subtlety》 + 《Force of Negation》 gives the deck a serious tempo spike, a good hit with it is close to a free 《Time Walk》.

If we had no need to evoke it during the first 3 turns and don’t expect some critical ETB Effects like 《Primeval Titan》 or 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, I prefer to play it as soon as possible. The cool thing is it doesn’t counter and you can push through 《Cavern of Souls》.

Card Choices

The deck configuration slightly changes from player to player, but the core is usually the same, I’ll make a brief stop at some card choices:

Cascade Enablers

Playing more than 8 seems overkill, so we’re gonna need 2 sets. 《Shardless Agent》 is obvious, the other one is either 《Ardent Plea》 or 《Violent Outburst》.

Ardent PleaViolent Outburst

I’ve played Living End a lot and have a soft spot for 《Violent Outburst》, but in my opinion, 《Ardent Plea》 is a winner here, it has better mana cost and the same advantages as the 《Shardless Agent》-it can be pitched for 《Subtlety》/《Force of Negation》 if you already have it rolling or it can be recharged by 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 if you need some more Rhinos.

Exalted is slightly better than +1/+0 as well, with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Brazen Borrower》, and 《Fire/Ice》 you can let your rhino survive some attacks it‘d have died otherwise.

Being an instant didn’t seem important for 《Violent Outburst》 on its own, but it allows you to back it up with 《Force of Negation》, worth keeping in mind.

《Teferi, Time Raveler》

Teferi, Time Raveler

If we’re on the 《Ardent Plea》 plan, 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 is a must-have in the list, he is a killer in the mirror, very good against controls and you can always pitch him for 《Subtlety》/《Force of Negation》. And he bounces 《Urza’s Saga》!

“2nd” Drops

Brazen Borrower

《Brazen Borrower》 seems in its place, a pity it only bounces opponents, but it’s good enough nonetheless.

《Fire/Ice》‘s value is its versatility, 《Ice》 can tap land on an opponent’s upkeep(I’ve used it this way 50% of the time) and sometimes it hits really hard, it can also tap 《Urza’s Saga》 before it reaches the second chapter, 《Primeval Titan》 or 《Aether Vial》. 《Fire》 takes care of 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》, 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》, and some other annoying creatures. Neither of the options is extraordinary, but since our hands are tied that’ll have to do.

Bonecrusher Giant

《Bonecrusher Giant》 just doesn’t cut it IMHO. 《Fire/Ice》 does the removal part better and 3 mana 4/3 in a world of 3 mana double 4/4 looks bleak.

Mana Base

Raugrin TriomeGemstone Caverns

The mana base is not complicated, some lists don’t run Triomes at all, but I have no problems with 1 or 2, not like you’re gonna play something on turn 1. 《Gemstone Caverns》 is the second important choice, we expect to be on the draw at least once each match, so I won’t judge someone who will play 3 copies, I’ll stick to 2 so far.

Temur Cascade

There are generally 2 ways to build this deck: The more popular 《Violent Outburst》 build without white and 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 Build with a light red splash.

Here’re the sample lists from Magic Online. I’ve tried to present the stock lists that consist of cards that have already proven themselves and you can always add your personal touch after testing.

Temur Cascade

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4C Cascade

4C Cascade

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About Living End

Living End

At the first glance, it seemed Living End would benefit from 《Shardless Agent》, 《Grief》, and 《Subtlety》 as well, but testing revealed a problem.

The deck’s strategy gets divided, back in the day it was a straight arrow, you’ve just cycled as much as possible and prayed to resolve 《Living End》. I know it’s not that simple, but even though you could’ve orchestrated the clear shot against Contermagic or Graveyard hate, most of the time it was biting the bullet.

The current Living End lists run 《Force of Negation》 and 《Brazen Borrower》, these are great cards, but time is your enemy and you need your graveyard stocked FAST.


There is one card that gives me hope about Living End – 《Grief》. It’s free, it clears the way to resolve 《Living End》 and it makes you shape the course of the game after 《Living End》 resolves. But 《Grief》 needs fuel and in the new builds lack it, you really don’t wanna waste your black Cycle cards to evoke 《Grief》, so Living End becomes the only good pitch.

Maybe it’s worth taking a step back and configure the old Living End builds instead of making completely new ones, I have this as a work in progress, there are more cyclers and no support spells, that should keep 《Grief》 well-fed:

Turbo End

Turbo End

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《Fulminator Mage》 has become a bit obsolete, but they are still a good pitch for 《Grief》 or 《Fury》 and can further disrupt an opponent’s game plan if you had softened it with a discard.

《Deadshot Minotaur》 is the weakest one here and it’s not black, but it’s a 1 mana cycler and can take down an occasional 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》.

《Fury》 is an awesome sideboard card, it takes care of the most problematic creatures(《Thalia, Guardian of Thraben》, 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》, 《Meddling Mage》), sometimes even two at a time.

The mana base is complicated. You want to use every single mana first 2-3 turns, 8 fetches will allow you to configure your first 2 land drops properly, the land priority is turn 1 Red with whatever the second color fits your hand turn 2 Black with the color your first land drop was missing.

Spirebluff CanalOvergrown TombGrove of the BurnwillowsWatery Grave

Should be something like 《Spirebluff Canal》 followed by 《Overgrown Tomb》 or 《Grove of the Burnwillows》 followed by 《Watery Grave》(slightly worse). There are no UG lands because we always need our Green and Blue from different lands.

《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 in Midrange Decks

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

The monkey holds the set’s top price for a reason, its power level is immense, but what decks can exploit it best? As strange as it sounds, aggro strategies like Boros Burn and Izzet Blitz don’t need 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》, it lacks pure damage output.

The more colors-the better, sometimes you can both cast the exiled card and keep the treasure for later.

Strategies with cheap discard and countermagic, if your opponent won’t be able to stop Ragavan snowballing it will be over very soon.


《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》. Cheap and powerful creatures keep coming every set, now with 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》, 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》, and 《Dauthi Voidwalker》, it makes no discomfort to play 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》 as a companion.

Rakdos Midrange

Rakdos Midrange

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There was a time when Lurrus Rakdos was a tier0 deck, but eventually, the metagame was formed against it, now it returns with some new toys.

Ragavan, Nimble PilfererDragon's Rage Channeler

8 new 1st drops allow you to cast 3 first drops by turn 2. 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 or 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》 + Discard + possible removal spell is a hell of a start.

Unholy Heat

《Unholy Heat》 should be read as R “Destroy target Creature or Planeswalker”, little wonder it pushed the 《Fatal Push》. 《Primeval Titan》 and 《Stormwing Entity》 were tough to deal with for Rakdos, not anymore.

Dauthi Voidwalker

《Dauthi Voidwalker》 is discard’s best friend, there is nothing like playing a 《Thoughtseize》 to 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》. Its passive ability itself is capable of shutting down the whole decks like Golgari Sacrifice or some 《Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar》 shenanigans. And all that on an evasive 3/2 body.

Void Mirror

《Void Mirror》 is one more card worth mentioning, Eldrazi Tron is a nemesis of this type of deck. It remains to be seen if 《Void Mirror》 is as useful as it looks, but if it can turn the tables against your probably worst matchup, it deserves a chance.

Tourach, Dread CantorDark Confidant

There are a couple of flexible creature slots, usually, the competition is between 《Tourach, Dread Cantor》 and 《Dark Confidant》, both options worth considering, but I’d play 《Dark Confidant》 in an unknown meta.

If you have a clear plan for the first 2 turns it may be reasonable to keep 《Mishra’s Bauble》 in hand in case you draw a 《Dragon’s Rage Channeler》.

Jeskai Stoneblade

Jeskai Stoneblade

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Ragavan, Nimble PilfererStoneforge Mystic

The second midrange shell for 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 is Azorius 《Stoneforge Mystic》 builds. A 1 mana creature that generates growing advantage and 《Force of Negation》, can you imagine a better pair?

Since 《Stoneforge Mystic》’s unban people tried to build around it, but I can’t remember any big success, the power level of cards grew each year and Mystic pack turned out to be not good enough for Modern anymore, now 《Kaldra Compleat》 gives it a second wind.

Kaldra Compleat

The problem with the Mystic pack was it lacked offense, 《Batterskull》 is a great defensive card, but winning with it takes too long, 《Kaldra Compleat》 has Haste, Indestructible, and Trample, it will probably finish the game in 3-4 swings. Speaking of equipment, I’m not a fan of either of the Swords in this deck. I can imagine a situation where I’d go for it one time out of ten, but 《Kaldra Compleat》 or 《Batterskull》 will be the other 9.

Prismatic Ending

《Prismatic Ending》 is a great removal in a 3 color deck, but most of the time you’ll cast it for 1, there is a slew of 1cc creatures as well as 《Aether Vial》, 《Amulet of Vigor》, and 《The Underworld Cookbook》. It also takes care of 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 or 《Wrenn and Six》. 《Eidolon of the Great Revel》 doesn’t see much play at the moment, but I recently removed it without taking damage using 《Prismatic Ending》 for 4.

The general game plan is simple – both the 《Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer》 and 《Stoneforge Mystic》 need to be dealt with right away, if the opponent lets them survive until your next turn, you can support them with Countermagic and that’s a huge step towards victory.

《Grist, the Hunger Tide》 in Golgari Yawgmoth

Grist, the Hunger Tide

I’ve already made an article about the deck itself some time ago and not much has changed, so I won’t dig into it. 《Grist, the Hunger Tide》 is a very cool addition to the deck to search for it with 《Chord of Calling》 and 《Eldritch Evolution》. 《Ignoble Hierarch》 is a nice upgrade as well.

Golgari Yawgmoth

Golgari Yawgmoth

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That’s all for today, now I’ll go play some Rakdos Lurrus, it’s the closest thing to Jund I’ve played in quite a while.

Thanks for reading and see you online,

Dmitriy Butakov (Twitter)

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Dmitriy Butakov A player from Russia who plays mainly on Magic Online. He was champion of the 2012 Magic Online Championship and in the following year, he top 4s the 2013 Magic Online Championship. In 2018, he becomes champion of the 2017 Magic Online Championship for the second time. Also, with his win at the Magic Online Championship, he achieved his prize to become a Platinum Level Pro. Having these tremendous results, in March 2018, he joins the Hareruya Pros. Read more articles by Dmitriy Butakov

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