With all the hype from Modern Horizons 2 spoilers, you’re excited to dive into the Modern format for the first time. So where do you begin? Understanding what makes Modern tick as a format, apart from the obvious of what cards are legal, is the best place to start.
Modern has been a hugely popular format since its introduction. The large non-rotating card pool allows a diversity of competitive decks suitable to a variety of play styles, and the format is typically more stable and less prone to shake-ups with the release of each new Standard set. The small card pool and frequent fluctuations of Standard – both through frequent additions and yearly subtractions to the format via set rotation – limit deck choices to only a handful of competitive decks and reduce opportunities for long-term investment in the format.
With upwards of twenty-plus viable competitive decks to choose from, Modern does not suffer from these limits. The format’s metagame diversity, coupled with relative stability means it is possible to invest in a deck that suits my playstyle and have confidence that it will remain viable long-term with only slight changes or adaptations needed as new sets are released or as the metagame shifts. So where does this leave a new player looking to get into Modern?
Know The Decks In The Format
To determine what we want to play, it helps to understand the viable decks in the format. While this will evolve over time, looking at the top decks can point us in the right direction. These are the top ten decks in the format according to MTGGoldfish as of this writing:
Only looking at results over the last week or so since Modern Horizons 2 debuted on Magic: the Gathering Online, we can see the impact the set is having on Modern. Cards like Urza's Saga, Shardless Agent, Counterspell and new tier-one removal spell Prismatic Ending are all making their presence felt.
The biggest takeaway when looking at the top ten decks in the format is that being proactive wins games. While Temur Cascade and Mill both have some reactive elements, Esper Control is the only dedicated control deck cracking the top ten.
Choosing A Proactive Deck
If you’re new to Modern, a proactive deck is a great place to start. It gives you a focused game plan to execute, regardless of what other deck you might be up against. There’s a learning curve to piloting any deck well and learning to pilot a proactive deck not only gives you a leg into the format, but also positions you to see how other decks play against yours, and how they execute their game plans. Of the proactive decks in our top ten, my favorite is Blitz.
Blitz has a proactive game-plan of getting your opponent dead as quickly as possible, often as soon as turn four on the play. It also includes two – four Scalding Tarns, which thanks to the reprint in MH2 are down in price, making release weekend or shortly after release a great time to invest in these, and all the enemy-colored fetch lands. Coupled with the relatively low overall buy-in of Blitz compared to the other top decks in the format, it’s a great first deck to buy into for Modern.
Long-Term Prospects for Blitz
I anticipate Blitz remaining a top contender in the format moving forward. While most of the goodies in Modern Horizons 2 feel tailored to boost existing archetypes and to attempt to add more viable archetypes into the mix, I don’t see anything in the set that renders the deck unviable. While it remains to be seen if cards like Flame Rift, Harmonic Prodigy, or Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer will slot into the deck, they are all cards I’ll have on my radar to pick up cheaply if the list is modified to include them.
Pick A Deck That Suits Your Playstyle
What if aggressive decks like Blitz are not your playstyle? Perhaps you want to play control or combo? I would say do so. Part of the fun of Modern is being able to play the kind of deck you enjoy. As a control player at heart, I’m stoked to be sleeving up a set of Counterspells for use in Modern for the first time, and trying to figure out which art I want to use.
The buy-in for Esper Control, just as one example, is more than double that of Blitz, making price a real consideration for many players. I started with Modern when it first became a constructed format years ago, and the first Modern deck I built was Burn for just that reason. Over time I was able to acquire the pieces I needed for Control through a combination of drafting, buying, and savvy trading. It was a long road to playing my preferred deck type, but it allowed me to have a deck to play in Modern and be competitive while working towards my ideal deck choice. If you are going to buy into a control deck as your way into Modern, be cautioned that the learning curve I described with proactive decks may be harsher, as you will be forced not only to quickly learn the decks in the metagame but also how to react to each of those decks to have hope of victory.
Playing Combo for The Win
There are several combo decks to consider in Modern. Amulet Titan is the one on most people's radar, but the deck I’d personally choose if buying into Modern is either Ad Nauseam or Gifts Storm. Ad Nauseam is comparably priced to Blitz, with its second-most expensive card being Thoughtseize, a format staple which pretty much every deck with black mana will run some number.
Gifts Storm, taking its name from the powerful tutor Gifts Ungiven and the notorious storm mechanic, is one of the cheapest decks in the format in which to invest, with most lists not running a single fetch land unless they have a sideboard strategy involving Blood Moon. Both decks can be difficult for an unprepared opponent to interact with, making them powerful and cost-effective ways to get into Modern.
Exploring the Horizons of Modern
With dozens of decks in the format, and more sure to pop up thanks to Modern Horizons 2, the options presented here are just a small sampling of the possibilities that await you in Modern. For deeper dives into the format, check out the podcast Turn One Thoughtseize. Ahren Gauthier and Ari Lax do a great job analyzing not only the top decks but also plumbing the depths of the format for new ideas and forgotten gems.
What cards from Modern Horizons 2 have you excited to play Modern? What deck did I miss that you think a player getting into the format should invest in? Share your answers in the comments.