Modern Diamonds in the Rough

If we measured formats purely by their deck diversity, then Modern is easily the best competitive format Magic (or any TCG?) has ever had. There are so many different decks doing well in events both large and small week to week that it can often be difficult to keep track of all the sweet combinations of cards we could be playing in this format.

Thankfully people constantly send me piles of sweet deck lists to play on stream. Today I would like to do a quick hits of some iterations I have made on deck lists that are fairly unique, but also felt like they are fairly powerful.


This deck strikes a really sweet balance between having the tools to keep up with the more aggressive decks in the format, like Humans, while also having the staying power in longer games to grind down Jeskai Control. For those who are unfamiliar the core “engine” in this is Norin the Wary paired with any of these cards:

Impact Tremors
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Genesis Chamber
Outpost Siege

Any of these cards paired with the most Wary human in Magic can quickly output a lot of damage or creatures. Outpost Siege is especially flexible in this deck. Not only does its damage mode give you the ability to shoot down opposing creatures, but when we do not have a Norin out, we can simply use the Siege to start drawing additional cards to help us find more threats.

Access to a card like Eidolon of the Great Revel and then Damping Sphere out of the sideboard gives this deck a lot of game against faster spell based combo decks like Storm. The ability to win the game while hiding behind an Ensnaring Bridge gives the deck the ability to road block more aggressive decks in the format like Hollow One and Humans.

If I was looking to tune this deck further, Mogg War Marshal and Squee, the Immortal are probably the most suspect cards in the main deck that I would want to be sure feel optimal. Other possible inclusions for these slots are something like Zurgo Bellstriker, which allow us to be aggressive and can also blink in and out every turn thanks to dash.

Up next we have what is easily the sweetest take on the Hollow One archetype:


Putting a 5/5 into play with your delve fodder is terribly boring and predictable. Putting a 4/4 with Flying, Lifelink, Haste, Deathtouch, Vigilance, Indestructible, Hexproof, Trample, and Double Strike into play is very, very sweet.

At its core, this deck is doing a lot of the busted things the standard Hollow One deck is doing, but it foregoes cards like Bloodghast and Flameblade Adept in order to fit in a Soulflayer package that includes these creatures:

Gifted Aetherborn
Striped Riverwinder
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Gifted Aetherborn, while not having the most impressive stats, has surprisingly relevant keywords for Modern. Lifelink does a long way when playing against decks, like Burn, and Deathtouch creates board states that are difficult for opposing large creatures to attack into. Striped Riverwinder is a card that not only makes our deck smaller by being a cantrip, but also can help enable our Hollow Ones.

Zetalpha is a dead card while it is in our hand, but it is so ludicrously powerful to delve with Soulflayer that it is well worth its inclusion. Thankfully we have many tools like Faithless Looting, Burning Inquiry, and Izzet Charm to get this dinosaur into our graveyard.

If I was looking to tune this deck further I would probably test out additional copies of Izzet Charm. In addition to being removal, it also helps get out tools into the graveyard for enable Soulflayer and Hollow One.

Next we have what is always a fan favorite color combination in an archetype that people love to jam:


If you are a fan of drawing cards, this is certainly the Modern deck for you. The only thing better than getting to activate multiple planeswalkers in the same turn, is casting Time Warp to get to do it again right away.

The core of this deck is {U}{W} planeswalker based control deck, but we splash in some Green for cards like Explore, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Having a small bit of ramp in a control deck like this has felt really good in my experience. These decks struggle with being able to not only hit land drops, but also being able to play out all of their cards before they die. Getting to play our big spells ahead of curve gives us a lot of game that we would not otherwise have in a pure {U}{W} deck.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer has been especially impressive to me in this shell. In the early game she does a Borderland Ranger impression that ensures we are hitting our critical first few lands on time, while in the late game she flips into a card advantage engine. Modal cards like this are exceptionally valuable in a control deck like this that can often suffer from the “wrong half” problem of not finding what it needs at the right time.

This is the deck I have played the most out of all of the decks I’m listing here today and, as a result, it is the deck I am most happy with. I think it is well balanced for a diverse metagame; but, if you expect specific decks to show up to a local event, you can and should tune the suite of interaction this deck is playing to line up well against the decks you expect to play against.

Next we have a deck list that really kind of surprised me with how powerful it felt:


For those who have not seen this archetype before, it revolves around casting its namesake card as quickly as possible:

Enduring Ideal

We use cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Lotus Bloom to accomplish this.

Once we cast our powerful sorcery we quickly assemble a hard lock that also quickly wins the game:

Dovescape
Overwhelming Splendor
Form of the Dragon

Dovescape locks our opponent out of being able to cast relevant spells. Overwhelming Splendor takes away the ability to fly from the doves we are giving our opponent. Then Form of the Dragon locks them out from attacking us while dealing five damage to them every single turn.

In order to survive till we can cast our powerful sorcery, we have cards like Ghostly Prison, Runed Halo, Leyline of Sanctity, and Phyrexian Unlife to help slow down aggressive decks. We can also pair Unlife with Solemnity to lock our opponents out of dealing damage to us all together.

Fast decks that do not care about Leyline of Sanctity felt like the harder matchups when playing this deck. I hope the suite of sweepers I added to the sideboard can help correct this, but the Humans and Hollow One matchups are certainly the ones I would want to work on testing if I was going to work on this deck some more.

Finally we have what felt like the most powerful of the decks I have listed here today:


This deck has the most “busted Modern draw” available to all of the decks I have listed here today. Kiln Fiend, in conjunction with Mutagenic Growth, Manamorphose, cantrips, and Temur Battle Rage, can deal far more than twenty damage as early as the third turn.

What I like most about this deck is that in addition to having some more all in draws with Kiln Fiend, it also has the ability to play slightly longer games where you control the board a bit thanks to Thing in the Ice. Thing not only also us to create huge tempo swings, but it also is an additional threat that beats our opponent to death fairly quickly. Because people often take a good bit of damage from their lands in Modern, a flipped Thing alongside a Temur Battle Rage is often lethal.

This deck can also protect its slightly fragile creatures with a combination of Dive Down and Disrupting Shoal. Shoal is especially obnoxious since it is often unexpected and very difficult to play around for opponents.

I would definitely need some more reps in with this deck before I gave very specific feedback on what I would change. The core itself is very reasonable and most of the games it is playing are just reasonable Magic cards. One change I might make before playing more games is the addition of a 18th land though. 17 feels like it is on the low side even with all the cantrips this list contains.

Wrapping Up

As far as TCG exploration goes, there really is not another format that can hold a candle to what Modern offers. There are always new things to be exploring and lots of sweet combinations to be trying.

What off the radar decks have you been enjoying in Modern lately? Something I listed here or perhaps something else? Let me know in a comment below!

Cheers,
—Jeff Hoogland


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