Mythic Championship IV at Barcelona is underway, and Modern has shown incredible diversity leading up to the event. Modern Horizons radically changed the format — as we saw with decks like Grixis Urza or Hogaak — yet one menace still looms large over an otherwise tranquil format. If players are to do well this weekend, an awareness of the format is as crucial as ever, as even a single wrong sideboard card can mean the difference between victory and an early day.

While I am not playing at Barcelona, I am trying to defend my title on Sunday as Invitational Champion here at Kingslayer Games, making Modern the most important format for me. MCQs are likewise beginning in just over a week, and a looming Magic Fest Las Vegas makes Modern the priority for most players in the region. If you’ve just come here to read about the relative placement of your favorite deck, don’t worry — we’ll get to my Top 5 decks soon.

In this article, I’ll be discussing where each of my Top 5 picks are at in the format, the problems they need to solve, as well as general strengths and weaknesses. As I’ve written articles on each of these decks, there will be a link to (sometimes older, sometimes current) articles on each archetype. Feel free to lambast me in the comments section, or on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular for my deck choices. And with that, let’s head into my Honorable Mention of the week.

Honorable Mention: Eldrazi Tron. While Eldrazi Tron is a strong player in the current format, I’ve chosen to put it as an honorable mention instead of one of the Top 5 — certainly a strange distinction when looking at the results, yet my rationale is rooted in a personal dislike for polarizing matchups. Eldrazi Tron is no longer one of the few true predators of Hogaak decks, though a strong matchup against Arclight Phoenix still justifies the Eldrazi presence in the metagame. Ultimately, it fails to make my list due to an inability to adapt to unknown factors — Humans is a poor matchup that also gains percentage points against the format if people bring Hogaak, Azorius Control is better than it ever used to be, and even Arclight and Jund can adapt. Ceremonious Rejection and Shenanigans are problems without easy solutions, and even big mana strategies like Titanshift can navigate the matchup with ease. While many players may choose to bring Hogaak and other linear decks instead of these options, the ever present diversity of Modern makes me hesitant to register a deck with little adaptability. Still, the deck is quite powerful and has put up incredible results, so there may be context missing from key matchups.

1.Hogaak

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No stranger to the competitive spotlight, Hogaak has proven itself to be a worthy contender even after the Bridge from Below ban. Utilizing a host of new tools, which you can read about in our Hogaak Update, Hogaak is set to be a prime candidate for Best Deck heading into the Mythic Championship. I won’t go too in depth here as to what or why the deck is so successful, as the Update article goes fairly in depth on that subject. I would confidently say that the new Hogaak lists are my #1 recommendation for the weekend. They’re powerful, linear, resilient, and remind me quite a bit of Hollow One in its prime.

Like it’s Burning Inquiry filled counterpart, Hogaak is both a relatively under the radar deck with play patterns not readily apparent to much of the player base. While time will tell if Hogaak truly contributes to a diverse and healthy format remains to be seen. Even if you aren’t attending any high profile Modern events this weekend, the smashing success of Kanister over the weekend with his Modern Challenge win is encouragement enough to prepare once again for the Arisen Necropolis.

Weaknesses: Graveyard hate, Combo, Thing in the Ice, Path to Exile, Terminus, Bogles. The Hogaak deck has limited interaction, leaving it vulnerable to Combo decks that are faster than it. Additionally, powerful graveyard hate shuts it down, and a timely Path to Exile, Scavenging Ooze, or Thing in the Ice can result in a fairly quick victory. Keep this in mind when either constructing or choosing your deck. Popular sideboard options, from best to worst, Leyline, Rest in Peace, Surgical, Nihil Spellbomb/Tormod’s Crypt, Relic, Ravenous Trap.

 

2. Humans

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As much a mainstay as any other archetype, Humans joins the cast of competitive archetypes to rise to prominence in the last year. With each new set giving the deck an additional cast of options, Humans serves as the primary disruptive aggro deck in the format. While boasting a moderate pre-Bridge ban win percentage against Hogaak, the adaptability of Humans has contributed to a near constant metagame percentage.

What contributes to Humans’ recommendation as one of the decks of the weekend is an overall even matchup against much of the field. Seldom is Humans a poor choice, and with extra disruption from Modern Horizons in the form of Unsettled Mariner, even removal heavy matchups can be mitigated. Collector Ouphe shores up traditionally difficult strategies to overcome, as it is effectively a Stony Silence that is significantly easier to cast. While Humans is vulnerable to board wipes, knowing exactly what to name separates the experienced from the new.

With the soon to be rise of Hogaak, Humans is likely to turn to Anafenza, the Foremost in the sideboard, and Unsettled Mariner instead of some number of Kitesail Freebooter. While certainly an unorthodox choice, this strategy has been employed to some success, with SoCal local Hunter Bolding carrying a list without Freebooter to a semifinals finish in an MCQ. This is quite an accomplishment and showcases just how open to innovation Humans is.

A strong foundation combined with redundant disruption and an aggressive game plan gives Humans the edge it needs in a persistently aggressive metagame. Eldrazi Tron is making a resurgence due to its positive matchup against both Hogaak and Control, and Humans is in a unique position to prey on the colorless Menace. Reflector Mage, Plague Engineer, and Deputy of Detention brickwall much of the creature base in Modern, and serve as flexible answers when combined with Aether Vial.

Weaknesses: Titanshift, Sweepers, Engineered Explosives, Plague Engineer, Lyra, Restoration Angel. Humans is vulnerable to sweepers with different names, and it can also be stonewalled by a timely Restoration Angel or similarly sized flyer. Creatures that impact the board are likewise powerful against Humans, as they provide value even through a Reflector Mage and are not slowed down by Thalia.

3. BTL Shift

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A relative newcomer to the most recent Modern scene, Bring to Light Scapeshift has a history stretching back years, though it is not without its long absence from the limelight. While the current versions are largely the brainchild of Sungjin Ahn, playing Blue Scapeshift builds goes back all the way to the unbanning of Valakut. Still, Battle for Zendikar opened up new possibilities for deckbuilding — a toolbox style tutor that can function as redundant copies of Scapeshift.

Unsurprisingly, the success of BTL Shift is likely due to the preponderance of midrange strategies, as the deck preys on decks like Jund or Arclight. Both of these decks have a reasonable clock, but are often unable to end the game before Scapeshift is cast — an inevitable nature of decks designed to play the board rather than interact. Teferi, Time Raveler shores up a variety of poor matchups, and gives the deck a combo kill through even the most disruptive of starts.

If you enjoy long, drawn out games that end with a spectacular conclusion, feel free to check out our article on Bring to Light Scapeshift published this week. It has all you need to know to start jamming with the archetype, and despite a likely small metagame percentage at the Mythic Championship, I would expect it to do well. There is only one answer the deck has yet to question, and that is “How to beat Hogaak”. Path to Exile helps, as does Rest in Peace, but they are often too slow or not impactful enough, depending on what happens in the first few seasons.

Weaknesses: Fast aggro, Blood Moon, Hogaak, Leyline of Combustion (seriously backbreaking). BTL Shift trades the fast, consistent kills of Titanshift for more proactive control against a variety of opponents. One of the biggest flaws of the archetype is the relative lack of card advantage — here we see the deck utilize a slew of two for ones, as Ice-Fang Coatl and Snapcaster Mage both compensate by stapling incremental value onto planeswalker pressuring machines.

4. Jund

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One of the few pillars of the format on this list, the true inevitable conclusion of Modern is that Jund will always have its day. While on the decline in the last year, Modern Horizons invigorated midrange across all spectrums of Modern, as Hexdrinker, Seasoned Pyromancer, Plague Engineer, and Wrenn and Six all showcase powerful board impact on proactive threats. One of the more difficult places to be in Modern is having a 2/2 with upside, yet Jund manages to leverage resources in a way that makes even a slow clock into something far more substantial.

While the lists have oscillated quite a bit, former archetype icons like Dark Confidant and Terminate have often gone by the wayside. As grindy threats have entered the cardpool, players now have a choice over which options to play — and in a world of Lava Dart and Hogaak, I want a card advantage engine that can snipe opposing one toughness threats, not one that I’m reluctant to trade.

Jund proved itself a real contendor, even in the era of BridgeVine, as main deck Nihil Spellbomb, combined with additional copies in the sideboard (or Leyline of the Void), is enough to completely decimate Hogaak’s game plan. If you’re expecting a ton of Hogaak, as well as a reasonable amount of Azorius Control, I would recommend Jund. While it’s worse than Eldrazi Tron at specifically shutting down the Arisen Necropolis, the smattering of midrange threats is a unique play style in an ever more linear Modern.

If Jund is to succeed this weekend, it is likely off of the back of graveyard hate, but it needs to solve a couple of key matchups. Firstly, Aria of Flame is going to be a problem, but Humans has the highest metagame share heading into deck submission for the Mythic Championship. Shoring up that matchup, as well as fixing Eldrazi Tron, are difficult tasks. You need removal and land disruption to pair with giant Tarmogoyfs, and that can pose a problem when dealing with a variety of threats. If I had to make a call, it would be to trim some of the slower removal spells, as games are going to be fast.

Weaknesses: Big mana decks (Tron, Valakut, Eldrazi), Aria of Flame, Leyline of Sanctity. Decks that go way over the top of Jund, or sideboard cards that give good topdecks, are the best way to fight this strategy. Jund wants to force a low resource game, making raw card advantage into a recipe for success. If you’re trying to beat Jund, consider cards like Seasoned Pyromancer, Ancestral Vision, or Wurmcoil Engine — though even removal spells like Engineered Explosives have a place.

5. Arclight Phoenix

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Seldom does a deck boast a historically high metagame share for a continued period of time while avoiding a ban, yet Arclight has done just that. As one of the players who helped iterate the deck early on in Guilds of Ravnica, I’ve enjoyed watching the archetype come to fruition as players adapt with and against it. While Pyromancer Ascension and Crackling Drake were the go to options prior to Modern Horizons, the printing of Aria of Flame has invalidated this approach. Serving as a graveyard-free win condition, Aria gives the deck a substantial clock in grindier matchups, while pressuring Planeswalkers.

So substantial is the board impact of Aria of Flame, that many lists opt for a full three copies, and it is rarely boarded out. Playing against an aggro deck? Use phoenixes as blockers and win with Aria. Control? Stick an aria and cast some cantrips. Combo? Counter a crucial spell, then Aria them. The play pattern is incredibly homogenized, but this is often a natural byproduct of a list being iterated constantly. Still, some concessions need to be made this weekend, as the Hogaak menace is our #1 pick and on the rise.

While our most current list may be a little light on graveyard hate, Surgical Extraction is as good a choice as ever. Without Bridge from Below, Hogaak is vulnerable to surgical extraction, as they only have two “real” payoffs — Vengevine and Hogaak. Keep this in mind when approaching the matchup, as the primary way to lose is to a Turn 2/3 Hogaak. Anger of the Gods and cheap removal can handle Vengevine, so it is important to kill early creatures to slow down the actual casting of Hogaak. While removing a Satyr Wayfinder or a Stitcher’s Supplier may not feel great, it is the equivalent of removing a Noble Hierarch against them.

Arclight also has another problem it needs to solve this weekend — Eldrazi Tron. While the matchup is much closer than historically, Chalice of the Void and Reality Smasher are difficult to over come, especially with most Arclight lists replacing main deck ways to remove artifacts. Resolving an Aria helps, but is often the only good chance of winning a Game 1. Keep that in mind as you approach sideboard, as it may be time to play additional removal.

Weaknesses: Chalice of the Void, Narset, huge creatures on Turn 2, Tron, Valakut. Arclight is weak to strategies that dodge conventional interaction, like Lightning Bolt. Additionally, prison elements like Rule of Law, Thalia, and Chalice of the Void can restrict spells cast, giving the deck trouble. This is the most effective way to fight every game plan the deck possesses, as graveyard hate is only strong against Arclight Phoenix draws, not Thing in the Ice or Aria of Flame.