A Quick Introduction
Hellooo! Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, elves, vampires, and spirits of all ages, welcome to Wild West: Modern, the theme park for all entertainers of the Modern format. This adventure park was designed to feature all of your favorite archetypes, all in one shiny format. On the south side of the park you will find your lovely control archetypes. To the west we have our oddballs, the combo/unfair decks. The east side, and opposite side, will feature our fair, mid-range-y decks; this place can get a little boring but we try to keep it alive. Last, but most definitely not least is our northern branch, the largest of the park sections, which holds all the aggro decks that currently engross the format.
We will be using each other week to explore different rides inside the theme park. We will be lightly covering the various archetypes, and decks found hiding within. I plan to use this as a way to help newer players discover the different types of decks that can be found in the Wild West that is Modern. I will also be writing in-depth articles that will go into more interaction with specific decks, than this series will.
Grixis: The Main Attraction
This week we’re going to start at the entrance, right here in the southern area. We don’t have the most rides located here, but the rides themselves definitely do not disappoint. They are consistent, and must perform their strategy with the utmost precision. We will be exploring the most dominant color wheel of this area, and both of its versions. As well, we will touch on a couple other styles of the control area of the park.
The south end of the park is our least diverse as far as entertainment goes. It is mainly owned and operated by the lovely colors of Grixis. Grixis holds many of the important pieces to effectively running a control style of game, while also being able to present aggressive starts with tempo-esque play. There are two major archetypes of Grixis, but they both contain a significant amount of the same 75. They both managed to make Top 8 of the most recent, and one of the largest Opens. They are Grixis Delver and Grixis Control.
By Richie Sledz, 4th Place – Star City Games Indianapolis Open 2017
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
And Grixis Delver:
By Fellow Content Producer Garrett Strause, 8th Place – Star City Games Indianapolis Open 2017
Both versions are primarily on the same game plan, which is deploy a threat and then protect it. However, the threats they choose to deploy are very different, as well as the way they approach protecting them. Delver’s name gives away its threat.
This one drop helped blue dominate the standard format it resided in, along with Runechanter’s Pike and Invisible Stalker. (Those were the days…) Now, it keeps the tempo style of gameplay alive and well in Modern. Grixis Delver plays more so like it’s Legacy counterparts in a tempo style of gameplay. Cards like Lightning Bolt and Serum Visions offer really cheap interaction, and card manipulation respectively. However, it still has the ability to run a control style of game play post board, and offer an incredibly strong turn two threat in the form of:
The Delver version is not the only Grixis variant to abuse this powerful creature. The control style does as well. Delve is a mechanic that has proven time, and time again that it is extremely powerful in any format that features fetchlands as its primary mana fixing. Tasigur is not an exception. He presents a sizeable threat, and comes along with a fantastic ability attached. While you’re not always getting the card you like back, his activated ability allows a guaranteed card advantage of some sort.
While these decks share Tasigur as a mutual threat, Grixis Control chooses to pose a different type of turn one threat.
This card’s threat comes from inevitability, rather than the immediate threat that a flipped Delver of Secrets poses. A scarier thing to realize, is that the Grixis player gets to protect a cast Ancestral with open mana, whereas there is a turn where you can deal with Delver while the shields are down. This is often why Grixis Control players choose to run Cryptic Command. The draw power is huge, and anytime I have an Ancestral Visions resolve against me, I feel defeated.
Grixis players typically take liberties with their lists, but most stick to a general plan of Thought Scour, Tasigur, and Kolaghan’s Command to recur a sizeable threat for cheap. As well, Kolaghan’s offers quite a range of different interactions against the format. The ability to destroy an artifact comes in use for mainboard Engineered Explosives that try to threaten your manlands, as well as against the Aether Vial decks. The discard ability hits pretty much anyone, as long as it’s an opportune time, and 2 damage to a creature or player is always a nice option. However, the most important part of the card is the ability to bring back a creature. When you Kolaghan’s to bring back and a Snapcaster Mage to flash back the same Kolaghan’s command, maximum value.
Grixis good matchups are fair decks and slow combo decks. Grixis is excellent at snowballing an advantage, as long as the pilot playing the deck knows what he or she is doing. There are often times where you will play Grixis completely one way, one day, then another the next. It’s all based on timing out the game you’re playing, a trait we’ll see shared with another deck down the line. The difficult matchups tend to be aggressive decks that draw really well, or decks working with hand disruption that dismantle your gameplan. Be careful of Jund Death’s Shadow, Bushwhacker Zoo, and Goblins. Okay, that last one was just to poke fun at Garrett.
Grixis Doesn’t Have the Only Good Rides
As we step farther into the park, we are greeted by a new experience. This ride is is for those who like to dream big, and if casting big things doesn’t feel right to you, then this is not the ride you want to wait in line for. This is GB Tron. It is a marvel to behold. While not necessarily control at its core, it does produce more of a control vibe than other ramp decks in the format, such as Elves, Valakut, and other Tron styles. This list managed to make it to the Top 8 of the most recent Modern Grand Prix.
By Sean Hume, 7th Place – Grand Prix Brisbane 2017
Tron is nothing new to Modern, but G/B is. G/W had been the prominent version, pre-Aether Revolt, but now G/B has quickly become a figurehead to combat its stake as the most potent version. Fatal Push has managed to find itself in nearly every archetype of Modern, and Tron happens to be one of them. Along with Fatal Push, Tron gets access to Collective Brutality. This helps them clear the way to resolve their threats against control decks, and offers early removal for against aggressive decks. Green, of course, brings along Ancient Stirrings. This is a fantastic card for attempting to assemble Tron early, as well as finding threats to deploy late game. It also allows for Sylvan Scrying, which should aptly be named Tron Tutor. Arguably from my point of view, if you’re running Collective Brutality and can use it as a way to enable delirium, Traverse the Ulvenwald could be an excellent addition to the deck as a one or two of, in an attempt to tutor for Tron early, or your big creature threats late game.
Giant threats that are easily cast off Tron most obviously make up the threat package for the deck list. Depending on your local meta, World Breaker also is a great inclusion as extra in the sideboard for the mirror match, as well as many other matchups that rely on enchantments, or artifacts.
Tron’s biggest threats are decks that simply kill them before they are able to assemble Tron. They will typically have worse matchups against decks such as Zoo, Merfolk, and other aggressive decks that are simply killing them too quickly. However, Tron likes to abuse the fair decks of the format, such as traditional Jund, and Grixis variants. I recommend this deck for anyone who enjoys being able to cast giant threats way before they should be able to.
Theme Park Prison
The last control deck that I will be covering today shares a Top 8 spot with our previous Tron player at Grand Prix Brisbane.
By Tetsu Kawaguchi, 6th Place – Grand Prix Brisbane 2017
Nahiri Control is the type of deck that will make you an angry magic player. It’ll get to your core, as you wonder what kind of monster would create such an absolutely obnoxious deck to play against. At the same time, you have to admire it’s beauty and balance. Drawing the wrong string of cards can absolutely destroy the deck from even competing in game one. It takes a very strong player to pilot this deck to a good finish, and I believe that’s why we see fewer results from it. It’s a great deck that can answer the wide range that is Modern, but you absolutely have to make every single play correctly.
This deck is all about locking your opponent out of whatever they’re trying to do. That is an easy task from the sound of it, but often you have to be able to make the correct decision simply based on the land they play on turn one. It takes someone who is very smart about the Modern format, and can predict the tempo of each game before turn 3. You have to be able to utilize your tools to the maximum efficiency to enable your planeswalkers to take over the game.
Each of these tools has a specific task. If you’re familiar with Modern, you’ll know that Blood Moon destroys deck like Valakut and Tron, as well has harming unprepared three-color players in game one. Often, they are smart enough to fetch basics in game two and three. Chalice is great against Infect, Puresteel Paladin, Burn, etc. It is powerful against any deck that plays a lot of threats with the same converted mana cost, which whoops, happens to be almost the entirety of the Modern format. Wrath’s job is of course to prevent certain death from creature strategies. It’s not alone as Anger of the Gods also manages to perform that function, however Anger can’t always kill the things you need dead.
Once you have the board locked down, it’s time to deploy your threats. Planeswalkers are the win condition of this deck.
Gideon offers a quick clock, as each turn he can come across the board for 6 damage. He also can soak up damage for a turn to buy an additional draw step, or he can knock out a tapped creature.
Chandra offers a slower clock, but definitely more card advantage. She also allows you to Flame Slash a creature if you need to. Her ultimate will quickly finish off a game if you’re sitting on extra Chalices’ that you can dump for zero.
If Nahiri is the brains of the whole operation, then Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn is the brawn. Nahiri is your biggest win condition, and typically what you want to protect the most. Your opponents should take enough damage, be it through Chandra or otherwise, to threaten a Nahiri ultimate finishing the game. Emrakul’s annihilator trigger also helps bring a game quickly to your favor. You know, just incase fifteen damage wasn’t enough, or they had a flyer to block. Nahiri also protects herself upon entering, and provides great card advantage while working your way to her ultimate.
All of these cards work in a great synergy. However, it is a complicated synergy, and one that not many can master. Nahiri Control also has a great sideboard package. This contains white staples such as Rest In Peace, Stony Silence, and Blessed Alliance. As well it contains some number of Crumble to Dust to help against Tron, in case they can find a way to dismantle your Blood Moons.
Exiting the Southern Section
We will now be finishing our quick tour of the Southern section of the Theme Park today. We have only touched on a few of the rides here, but do know we will be back in the future to show off new rides that open up, as well as old rides that might get refurbished. Grixis still manages to be the main attraction each year, but G/B Tron is working on its way to becoming a top tier force in the format. Nahiri Control, in the hands of an excellent pilot, can still manage to find itself in the Top 8 of a Grand Prix. Unfortunately, it is a deck that is slowly falling away in popularity.
Please leave comments on how you feel about each deck, as well as any creative feedback to help make my content better in the future. Next week we’ll be going into the eastern section of the park, and explore the midrange fair decks of the format. I’ll be touching on why I feel like they’re falling behind the aggressive decks of the format that reside in the northern section.
As a last little note, I’d like to thank the gentlemen here at MTGDeckTechs for providing me with this opportunity to write for anyone who chooses to read. I hope to use it to explore my ideas on the Modern format and where it stands. I also hope to provide more content than just article writing, but those details haven’t been strung out yet.