Since the banning of Treasure Cruise, everyone has dropped Delver. Unfortunately, no other deck must have been able to grind out the first few turns of the game and replenish its gas in a similar way.
Affinity, Infect, Amulet, Storm, and Burn are tearing up the format.
Affinity has the most consistent turn 4 wins of any aggressive deck out there. Its creatures are difficult to block. Removal spells are often pointless; the 1/1 creature you targeted simply becomes a +1/+1 counter on another creature.
Infect just picked up Become Immense. With Noble Hierarch and Spellskite, the deck can prevent all successful interaction and easily earn a win by turn 3. Any attempts to nickel and dime the Infect player only fuel the immensity that it can become.
Amulet has always been a problem. It seems that online players have known this better than paper players because until Justin Cohen tore through Fate Reforged, not many people were talking about it. On the first turn, Amulet of Vigor can win or set up the turn 2 win. You attempt to board in Primeval Titan hate, and then you become assimilated into the Borg and unwisely cast Summoner’s Pact in spite of not being able to pay for it thanks to Hive Mind.
Similarly, Storm wins on turn 3. You bring in graveyard hate and enchantment hate in game 2 only to lose to a Goblin Electromancer-fueled chain of spells. Do you have 1-for-1 creature removal to handle Electromancer? The storm player will simply play a couple Pyretic Ritual into Empty the Warrens and easily crush you with six 1/1s.
Burn. You may not realize that you’re losing on turn 2 because you have 15 life, and your opponent only has Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel, but when you have to cast two spells to have a chance, and your opponent is holding 9 points of burn in their hand, they know well that they have won. Thanks to Skullcrack, even Kor Firewalker can’t keep a Monastery Swiftspear at bay. He just becomes a “gain 1 life, prevent combat damage from one creature for one turn” spell that costs you a ton of life to cast thanks to fetchlands and shocklands.
Each of these decks succeed in the face of “the turn 4 rule” that has led to the banning of Seething Song, Rite of Flame, Hypergenesis, Dark Depths, Blazing Shoal, Artifact Lands, Glimpse of Nature, and maybe Second Sunrise and Dread Return.
I suspect the last two are arguable.
Still, a good 14 cards on the Modern banned list for this reason, composing almost half the list.
So what do we do in light of this infraction of a fundamental rule of Modern?
Well, on his Twitter, Tom Martell suggests a sweeping ban of the worst offenders: Amulet of Vigor, Manamorphose, Glistener Elf, Griselbrand, and Tarmogoyf. That’s a solid list, although I think Summer Bloom is both more difficult to interact with and more powerful than Amulet of Vigor in the same deck.
On the other hand, players who have long since given up on Modern argue that the fundamental rule is in itself the problem.
Mattias Kres argues that only Sensei’s Divining Top, Mental Misstep, Hypergenesis, and Stoneforge Mystic should be banned, leaving everything off the list. The power-level would be similar to Legacy and the last days of Extended, when Zoo ruled the roost.
That’s right, Zoo, an aggro deck, in a field of insanely fast combos.
I don’t know which of these is the better option. I don’t really look forward to both, and also I don’t really mind Modern at the moment.
All I’m concerned about is how to succeed with the hand we’re dealt.
To do this, we have two options.
Option One: Join ‘Em
Aim to win by turn 3. Here’s my most recent attempt to do so on a regular basis.
Drinkard Infectless Infect (Modern)
4 Arid Mesa
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Goblin Guide
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Steppe Lynx
Other Spells (24)
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Temur Battle Rage
4 Become Immense
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Hooting Mandrills
3 Destructive Revelry
4 Sudden Shock
1 Stony Silence
3 Phyrexian Arena
You have 12 fetches and 8 free cantrips to fill the graveyard and draw more lands and the combo.
The advantages the deck has over Infect include haste creatures and creatures with higher toughness. The benefit of this deck over Super Crazy Zoo is that you can manage your life total more conservatively against Burn.
I have only played in one Daily Event with the deck, and I went 2-2 after losing the die roll and thus two games on turn 3 against Infect. I am interested in developing the deck further, and I am super excited about how effective Delve and Ferocious are in an Eternal format like Modern.
If we don’t want to join the players who are breaking the fundamental turn 4 rule, then we have to beat them. And to beat them, we have to apply the breaks very quickly.
Option Two: Beat ‘Em
I hate these decks.
I would hate myself for entering them into a Daily Event, and my opponents would probably hate Magic after losing to them.
But that’s where we are at.
Humble Red (Modern)
22 Snow-Covered Mountain
2 Scrying Sheets
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Humble Defector
Other Spells (24)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Koth of the Hammer
2 Anger of the Gods
4 Blood Moon
2 Volcanic Fallout
When I saw Humble Defector, I thought that Skred Red would be a natural home for him. He provides draw to a deck that sorely needs it, and his drawback is mitigated thanks to the mass-removal spells. He simply draws two and then goes away with the rest of your opponent’s board.
This deck has an answer to everything, and the decks like Affinity, Infect, and Combo Zoo will certainly fold to the amount of removal, but sometimes the wrong answers come up facing the wrong decks.
Time will tell whether additional draw will help here.
4 Temple Garden
4 Nykthos, Shrine To Nyx
4 Arbor Elf
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Mesa Enchantress
4 Verduran Enchantress
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
Other Spells (24)
4 Ghostly Prison
4 Sphere of Safety
4 Utopia Sprawl
4 Fertile Ground
4 Garruk Wildspeaker
This is another take on a different Enchantress list played by MTGO user Brainless96, and his win condition was Banefire.
I’m happy to lock the opponent out of the game, allow my mana-ramp to assemble the pillow fort, and win with Overrun. Well, sort of happy.
Finally, a brew that wins against Burn and Creature-based aggro decks, but is absolute garbage against everything else.
Mono Black Control (Modern)
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Divinity of Pride
Other Spells (26)
2 Sorin’s Thirst
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Sorin’s Vengeance
4 Geth’s Verdict
3 Devour Flesh
2 Slaughter Pact
3 Phyrexian Arena
2 Go for the Throat
2 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
Like I said, it’s good against Burn and creatures.
It’s a mono-removal deck with a load of 1-for-1s that will get its gas back with Phyrexian Arena. You’re steadily gaining life, playing lands, and killing threats until you’re ready to win. Destroy creatures, lose to Tron and other control decks. Never a close match.
I don’t know if we’re at an optimal Modern right now. Maybe there is enough diversity, and we are.
There are some decks who are trying to win before turn 4 at all costs. Others are trying to stop them at all costs. Some ride through the middle. That sounds healthy to me, but then when I play in Events, it doesn’t feel as good as it did a few months ago.
Hope this gave you some direction.