I dare not get too detailed in my historic exposition here, but I also refuse to go on without explaining that title. Dan, the fan of history himself, could go much more in-depth, I’m sure.
When I read “Spanish Inquisition,” I wonder, what is being asked? Essentially, it seems that Jews, Muslims, and even the free masons were asked, at the threat of torture and execution, “Will you convert to Christianity?”
The Magic: The Gathering parallel for Modern, if I can be so bold, can be drawn with the cards Splinter Twin and Eidolon of the Great Revel. The latter is found in Burn decks which keep the Modern critical turn at four or below. If your deck begins to operate after that then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Some fringe decks, though, operate perfectly fine beginning on turn one, and they can win on turn four. These decks must answer to the Splinter Twinquisition.
Can you survive this line of play?
Turn 1: Lightning Bolt your creature or Spell Snare your spell if on the draw.
Turn 2: Remand or Mana Leak your next spell.
Turn 3: Ignore what you do or tap down your attacker with Deceiver Exarch.
Turn 4: Splinter Twin
If not, then you will be tortured and executed.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
1) Aggro decks cannot curve out.
Gone are the days when a heap of aggressive creatures can be piled into a deck with a curve. If you aim to play a one-drop, then a two-drop, then a three-drop, then a four-drop, here is what will happen. The first will be bolted, the second will be countered, the third will be ignored, and the fourth will be too late. You will lose without having dealt any damage to your opponent, even though you are an aggro deck.
Instead, I believe that aggressive creature strategies need to top their curve out at 2, though I will concede that Geist of Saint Traft is good in a pinch. After playing 1-3 creatures at converted mana cost one or two, you need to have the flexibility of choosing to interact or to apply more pressure.
2) Discard, counters, and hard removal are king.
For a brief period, it seemed that blue was off the map after Treasure Cruise was banned, right before everyone realized that Splinter Twin was amazing. This is when the influx of turn three decks exploded onto the Modern scene, and Modern is lousy now with Amulet Bloom, Infect, Affinity, and Storm. Simple Spell Pierces can solve a number of these problems, but without the Izzet Delver shell to play them, well, no one was. Even though Island is back en vogue, these fast combo decks have found their place in the metagame and still have enough prey to keep winning.
3) Locking the opponent out is not likely.
Permanent-based hate such as Blind Obedience, Torpor Orb, Favor of the Mighty, Suppression Field, and Ghostly Prison all are converted mana cost two or above. Do you see why these would be bad against Twin? Spell Snare on the draw, and Remand and Mana Leak on the play.
The Modern metagame is divided into two camps: decks with linear aggressive strategies that can win on turn four or before, and; decks that can apply the brakes and grind the opponent out.
Keeping these three new rules of Modern in mind, here are two new brews for the current Modern metagame.
Brew #1: GI Joe
One could say I have a soft spot for Become Immense. I brew around it quite a lot. Equally loved in my heart is Temur Battle Rage. If you want to win by turns three and four, these two are reliable ways to do so.
Be warned, this deck has more triggers than even Norin the Wary can shake a stick at.
GI Joe (Modern)
4 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Steam Vents
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Seeker of the Way
4 Monastery Swiftspear
3 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
4 Favored Hoplite
3 Nivmagus Elemental
Other Spells (26)
4 Assault Strobe
3 Temur Battle Rage
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Unstable Mutation
4 Artful Dodge
4 Apostle’s Blessing
3 Titan’s Strength
4 Stubborn Denial
2 Echoing Truth
2 Boros Charm
Here we have an aggressive deck that is not as hurt by Lightning Bolt or Spell Snare into Remand and can win before Splinter Twin hits the table. Against Burn, few things are more satisfying than attacking with a prowessed Seeker of the Way with Unstable Mutation enchanting it. Give it double strike for more fun, gaining 16 or so life in the process.
The sideboard is equipped to apply a little bit of hate to the decks that want to ignore and race you, and a little bit of hate against the decks like Splinter Twin and Scapeshift that would remove your threats and beat you. Stubborn Denial and Boros Charm (which may belong in the main) protect you from mass removal.
Brew #2: Delver Shadow Port from Legacy
I really want to play Stubborn Denial. I like what Patrick Chapin did with Thought Scour and Mishra’s Bauble in his Esper Delve deck at the Pro Tour, even if he went completely defeated. In the face of so many linear strategies, I think a few discard spells combined with counters should leave them looking embarrassed.
I’ve sung Ferocious’s praises before. Although it looked at first like a Limited-only effect, it is relevant even in Modern. While looking through creatures whose stats began with “4/”, I came across Illusory Angel and thought it synergized well with Gitaxian Probe, Mishra’s Bauble, and Stubborn Denial. Here is my first draft.
Drinkard Ferocious Control (Modern)
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
3 Watery Grave
1 Drowned Catacomb
3 Death’s Shadow
4 Gurmag Angler
3 Tasigur, The Golden Fang
2 Illusory Angel
Other Spells (28)
4 Stubborn Denial
2 Spell Pierce
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Thought Scour
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Slaughter Pact
2 Drown in Sorrow
2 Steel Sabotage
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Spell Snare
This deck certainly doesn’t care about getting a particular land tapped down by Deceiver Exarch and Pestermite; your Dismember is not picky. You leverage your life lost and high-volume graveyard into creatures that apply a lot of pressure and turn on your counters. Between the discard and the counters, your life total shouldn’t be a problem before your fatties clean the opponent up.
I like thinking on these two ends of the Modern spectrum, the blazing fast decks (that I tend to enjoy playing) and the creeping grinders. I think that either of these could get your name published by a nice “3-1” in a Modern daily.