mtg icon Magic: The Gathering
mtg icon Magic: The Gathering

Recent Innovations in Top Modern Decks

by Islandsinfront, editing from NathanLipetz

Modern is known for its diversity but also power of top decks. While any of 20-ish decks could win the next tournament, there is always around 5 or so top decks that everyone knows are better than the rest. Despite having continuous success, there are still players who want to further innovate and push decks to be as optimal as possible. This is how new best versions are born, or sometimes just separate branches of decks. It all adds to an already extensive diversity as now instead of having 20 playable decks there are also different variants and sub-archetypes of those decks.

Today, I will delve deeper into some specific examples of situations when something was changed in the top decks!

Izzet Murktide without Dragon's Rage Channeler

Ever since Modern Horizons 2 came out, the core of Izzet Murktide was basically untouched with the creature base consisting of Murktide Regent, Dragon's Rage Channeler and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. It played a very similar style to the Legacy Izzet Delver tempo deck with some post-board games looking more like a Blue Moon control deck.

izzet murktide
buy from TCGplayer $510.49

After a long period of dominance and a few bans later, the deck got a new toy in Ledger Shredder. Shredder allowed the deck to be a bit slower and generate more card selection. And with that, some people decided to go ahead and change the core that was in place for over a year – cut DRC.

izzet murktide
buy from TCGplayer $590.77

creaturesCreatures (11)

sorceriesSorceries (4)

artifactsArtifacts (4)

enchantmentEnchantments (1)

Dress Down
60 cards
15 cards

The idea was that DRC was usually cut post-board against 4c Yorion decks and in the mirror. With the prevalence of those decks, one might as well cut them completely. From that point, the deck started playing out way more like a Blue Moon deck with very little possibility of playing aggressive games.

Interestingly, the trend is slowly reversing! We’re seeing a comeback of DRC now and it is entirely possible that when the dust settles there will be two branches of Murktide; a more aggressive version geared against combo and big mana decks, with the other variant being a more controlling build which is better against creature and interactive decks.

izzet murktide
buy from TCGplayer $564.67

Amulet Titan with Scapeshift and Hydroid Krasis

Amulet has had a million small tweaks here and there which mostly revolve around a few land choices and the ramp spells. The amulet cabal is constantly working on perfecting their list and adding Scapeshift as well as Hydroid Krasis is their latest idea.

Having identified that the Murktide matchup was bad, players have started playing a threat that provides value upon casting it rather than enter-the-battlefield triggers. The difference is huge as it means that the spell does not have to resolve in order to get its worth. That card is Hydroid Krasis. You’re presenting a size-scalable flyer with guaranteed card draw.

A couple of weeks later, another novelty was introduced in Scapeshift! Scapeshift can find multiple copies of Urza’s Sagas and other lands to generate value or preferably just win with Dryad of the Ilysian Grove by tutoring out Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Scapeshift also works extremely well with in play Amulet of Vigor.

Most Amulet lists seem to be averaging between 0 to 2 copies of Scapeshift and 0-1 main-deck Krasis, with the remaining Krasis in the sideboard (0 to 4) as seen below:

4c Yorion decks adding Traverse the Ulvenwald

4-color Omnath decks have been dominating Modern for quite some time now and thanks to the plurality of colors in the deck, you can take the deck in a few directions. The main two have been Blink with Counterspell and Ragavan and Elementals with Risen Reef and Cavern of Souls. Both Blink and Elementals used to feature 3-4 copies of Eladamri's Call as a tutor to specific creatures in situations where they were needed.

Some players dug out an old fan favorite – Traverse the Ulvenwald. They added more card types to the deck like Mishra's Bauble as an artifact and Dress Down as an enchantment to make it easier to achieve delirium for Traverse. In the early game, Traverse ensures land drops and later it provides you a 1-mana tutor.

Traverse has one more upside compared to Call. When you have delirium, it can find any land or creature. In this deck, it means finding Boseiju, Who Endures to loop it with Wrenn and Six or Cavern of Souls in more elemental-focused builds. These Traverse versions have gained so much traction that they are now it’s the most played versions.

buy from TCGplayer $949.43

Final Thoughts

Modern decks are ever-evolving and I foresee even more new ideas in the near-future. If you drop the notion of sacred-cows in decks, you might stumble upon a real novelty that innovates an otherwise established archetype. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions, you can reach me on Twitter.

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