Threat Evaluation, Part Five: Plains, Go

Hi all,

This article is what would have been the last in the series if not for a few oversights. The point of the series has been to allow Modern players to identify their opponents’ decks based on the early plays they see. The articles have been divided out into basic land types, and they have been published in order of power level. Now that we’re down to the established lists that include Plains and no other basic lands, there are only precious few lists. Still, it is surprising that the historic worst color in Magic (note that [c]Mox Pearl[/c] is the cheapest to purchase) holds more lists than you would first guess.

Soul Sisters

The first and most common mono-white list is Soul Sisters, named after [c]Soul’s Attendant[/c] and [c]Soul Warden[/c]. The list has three lines of offense: the sisters themselves combined with [c]Ajani’s Pridemate[/c], [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] plus [/c]Martyr of Sands[/c], or [c]Honor of the Pure[/c] followed by [c]Spectral Procession[/c]. Unfortunately, some of the cards combine unfortunately into hands that put [c]Ajani’s Pridemate[/c] up with [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] and/or [c]Honor of the Pure[/c] without the other combinations, and things awkward.

Some variants have eliminated the variance (see what I did there?) by dropping the [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] and [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] package entirely. I suspect that the success of these lists is nearly a credit to the strength of white sideboarding cards and the prevalence of Burn, which should be a good matchup.

Tell-tale signs: All of the cards above are giveaways, but also if you see [c]Windbrisk Heights[/c] that is not followed by a source of black or green mana, it’s a good sign you’re up against Soul Sisters.

Death and Taxes

This is more of a Legacy thing, really, but since the cards are newly printed, there are those that play it in Modern. If you take a Green/White Hate-Bears list, remove the green and most of the one and two-casting cost creatures, you’ve got a start. Then you replace them with enter-the-battlefield effects like [c]Blade Splicer[/c], and you’ve got Death and Taxes.

Some players experimented a while with [c]Akroma, Angel of Fury[/c] and [c]Epochrasite[/c] for added blink benefits. Others have held on to the Legacy equipment package of Swords and [c]Mirran Crusader[/c] despite the loss of [c]Stoneforge Mystic[/c]. Essentially the strategy is the same: buy  just enough time for the beats to get there.

Tell-tale signs: Turn one [c]Plains[/c] into [c]Aether Vial[/c] that isn’t followed by a green mana source is a hint. The cards played here and not in hate-bears include [c]Judge’s Familiar[/c], [c]Mirran Crusader[/c], [c]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/c], and [c]Serra Avenger[/c], each with its own occasional omissions.


These lists look vaguely familiar, but the deck stands alone without the pair of [c]Soul Warden[/c] effects from its sister deck. Instead, the player buys enough time with [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], [c]Wrath of God[/c], and [c]Martyr of Sands[/c] to trigger [c]Emeria, The Sky Ruin[/c], search [c]Serra Ascendant[/c] up with [c]Ranger of Eos[/c], and recur all the threats with [c]Proclamation of Rebirth[/c].

Tell-tale signs: This is the only list running [c]Weathered Wayfarer[/c] in Modern right now, and [c]Mistveil Plains[/c] is a solid tell as well. When you see any creature plus [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], then you know.

Mono-White Devotion

Speaking of maindeck [c]Ghostly Prison[/c], why stop there? Let’s throw in all of the powerful white enchantments that belong in sideboards: [c]Nevermore[/c], [c]Runed Halo[/c], [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c], [c]Poryphory Nodes[/c], and even [c]Sphere of Safety[/c]. All of these cripple the opponent until [c]Luminarch Ascension[/c] or [c]Sigil of the Empty Throne[/c] topple over them. Or, with all of those white mana symbols, activate a [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nix[/c] and hardcast [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c], you know, because you can.

A fascinating variant on this is a list that includes [c]Enduring Ideal[/c]. The epic spell puts [c]Form of the Dragon[/c], [c]Dovescape[/c], and [c]Phyrexian Unlife[/c] into the battlefield for a lock.

Tell-tale signs: They’ll let you know, early. If they don’t, you’re winning easily. Nevertheless, a pre-game [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] is a sure bet. [c]Greater Auramancy[/c], [c]Suppression Field[/c], and even [c]Peace of Mind[/c] are likely to hit the table in the early turns, if not the horde of hateful enchantments I listed above.


For whatever reason, Magic went on a long time without this being a tribe. Here in Modern, it isn’t very powerful, but mono-white, Norin-less lists have tried to take full advantage of [c]Champion of the Parish[/c] with mild success in the occasional daily.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Soldier of the Pantheon[/c], [c]Precinct Captain[/c], you know, Standard-legal beaters. To be fair, the lists also includes [c]Student of Warfare[/c] and [c]Ranger of Eos[/c], but so do more-established lists.


These are the winners of the “Coolest Lord Without Making a Successful Deck” award: [c]Knight Exemplar[/c] contains the words “other Knight creatures” and, more importantly, “indestructible.” This is obviously going to be attractive to a number of Modern players coming from more casual environments.

Tell-tale signs: The two-drops say it all: [c]Leonin Skyhunter[/c], [c]Knight of Meadowgrain[/c], and [c]Knight of the White Orchid[/c] have little use in a deck except for the tribe.

Tempered Steel

I’ve mentioned Affinity before because typically its basic land is either [c]Island[/c] or [c]Mountain[/c] for [c]Master of Etherium[/c] and [c]Thoughtcast[/c] or more [c]Galvanic Blast[/c], respectively. It is worth mentioning both that some Affinity players run a full complement of [c]Tempered Steel[/c] and some budget players throw a bunch of [c]Memnite[/c] and [c]Ornithopter[/c] cards together with the enchantment.


What a series this has been for me to write. I’m thankful to Dan and Bava for letting me be a part of this site during this time, and I hope I’ve contributed something for everyone. Again, stay tuned for the things I’ve realized that I’ve missed, and these lists will all be edited into the five main articles for easier reference later. If you have noticed any brews missing, please post them in the comments section.

In the meantime, of course, here is where I left off with a SilverBlack Death and Taxes list. I originally thought it had solved the format, since all I knew to be concerned about was Tron and Red Deck Wins, but as more lists have developed, so has the incorrectness of my assumption. Still, it’s a blast to play. Few things are more satisfying than casting a [c]Fiend Hunter[/c], activating [c]Aether Vial[/c] to play [c]Flickerwisp[/c], exiling another creature, then targeting [c]Fiend Hunter[/c] with [c]Cloudshift[/c], and so on, and so forth. Who says SilverBlack doesn’t have a Wrath effect?

[d title=”Modern SilverBlack Death and Taxes”]


4 Ghost Quarter

16 Plains

3 Tectonic Edge


4 Aven Mindcensor

2 Dryad Militant

4 Epochrasite

4 Fiend Hunter

4 Flickerwisp

2 Judge’s Familiar

4 Kitchen Finks

2 Stonecloaker

Other Spells

4 Aether Vial

3 Cloudshift

4 Path to Exile


2 Burenton Forge-Tender

2 Dryad Militant

1 Eidolon of Rhetoric

2 Kor Firewalker

2 Marrow Shards

2 Oblivion Ring

1 Samurai of the Pale Curtain

1 Sunlance

2 Tempest of Light