[The Colors of Modern] Part 1: Mono Colors

Hello everybody, and welcome back to Strictly Average. I hope you all are enjoying Ravnica Allegiance! In this article I want to get back to Modern, and bring up a subject I have held off from talking about for awhile.

Modern is a great format. Yes. You read that right. Modern is a great format. Unlike Legacy, where the archetypes are entrenched, there is still room to brew in Modern. In fact with this series I will show you, over the course of several weeks, that Modern has a known deck for each possible color combination in Magic. Amazing, isn’t it?

So why am I doing this?


Approaching the end of last year I started to notice a trend that seemed to put the format in a negative light by no one else but us…the community. Many articles I would read would flow like this:

After too many articles, podcasts, and other content like this I decided to be the Dutch boy plugging the negative comments against the rest of the community.

It’s already bad enough that some players view content from some other players, or on certain sites as a means to shape a metagame before a tournament. Now we’re not only seeing words written saying there are only a few decks worth playing, but then want those cards banned? If one pushes people to do certain things, then the number of the thing that is the problem will only naturally increase. Yes there are those who play to win, and there is nothing wrong with that, but then we have this divide of “you should only play what wins” vs “master a deck (or two) and play them well”.

While the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks was the correct choice, leaving everything else on the banned list was also the correct choice. There are enough cards in Modern for everyone; unlike in Legacy, a new set entering Standard has a chance to make an impact on Modern as a whole. Granted there are still problem cards but the more Wizards of the Coast doesn’t test, and the more problem decks bring unwanted attention to themselves, the more there will be those who will speak negatively about the format.

As a matter of fact every time I hear someone say Jund is bad in Modern, it winds up either doing well that following weekend or winning the tournament. The negativity is so bad that when discussing the format with those who only look at top 8 decks presenting them proof that a deck like Jund does win it still doesn’t change their mind.

So instead of getting into an argument with people, because that does no good, I started to look at the format as a whole. One of the biggest hopes I have for any player is that they think for themselves at all times. Not putting your own stamp on something takes out the uniqueness that Magic: the Gathering was meant to bring over 25 years ago.

NOW…with all of that said let’s get to the decks. Today’s article will focus on the single color decks, and these may be the most difficult to build as there are deck building restrictions by staying with one color.

Mono White

Matyr Proc

Creatures (22)
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Serra Ascendant
4 Thraben Inspector
1 Hangarback Walker
1 Walking Ballista

Enchantments (2)
1 Banishing Light
1 Oblivion Ring

Instants (4)
4 Path to Exile

Planeswalkers (5)
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Gideon of the Trials
1 Elspeth Kinght-Errant

Sorceries (3)
2 Wrath of God
1 Proclimation of Rebirth

Lands (24)
8 Plains
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Mistveil Plains

4 Relic of Progenitus
3 Stony Silence
2 Disenchant
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Celestial Purge
1 Rule of Law
1 Worship

Mistakenly titled “Soul Sisters” this deck eschews the duo of Soul Warden, and Soul’s Attendant, in favor of a package that allows the pilot to gain an arbitrarily large amount of life in one turn, and power out powerful creatures in the process. With spot removal, board wipes, and ways to deal with non-creature permanents, this deck caught on in popularity recently in the face of the KCI combo decks to gain more life than they had time to deal with.

Yes the deck is mono-white, but with the amount of life you can gain with this deck, paying the phyrexian mana cost of Surgical Extraction in the sideboard will be a big benefit.

Why should you play the deck?

  • You like playing an aggro deck that leans a little towards midrange with a combo element.
  • White is your favorite color.
  • You want to play something unexpected.
  • You understand that lifegain is important in the fast paced wold of Modern.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • It doesn’t feel like it does enough.
  • It doesn’t quite fit your meta.
  • Tracking the constant gaining of life is cumbersome (and makes the score pad look messy).

Overall this deck is a solid choice for those who may be leaning towards a budget as many of the cards have been reprinted in recent years.

Another deck in this color is one many players in Magic may be familiar with.

Death & Taxes

Creatures (25)
4 Flickerwisp
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Thraben Inspector
3 Restoration Angel
3 Blade Splicer
2 Selfless Spirit
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Artifacts (5)
4 Aether Vial
1 Smuggler’s Copter

Enchantments (2)
2 Oblivion Ring

Instants (5)
4 Path to Exile
1 Cloudshift

Lands (23)
12 Plains
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Horizon Canopy
2 Shefet Dunes
2 Tectonic Edge
1 Eiganjo Castle

2 Rest in Peace
2 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Kor Firewalker
2 Phyrexian Revoker
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Worship
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Leonin Relic Warder
1 Spellskite

Death & Taxes has been a known archetype in Magic for many years. A more aggro-focused deck than the Martyr Proc option above, this deck looks to tax the opponent from either searching their library, playing non-creature spells, or both. Leonin Arbiter turns Ghost Quarter into a Wasteland. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben will keep your opponents removal spells at bay for another turn, while the rest of your creatures will either make more creatures, trigger another comes into play ability, or further protect your team from harm.

Why should you play the deck?

  • You like aggro decks.
  • The tricks you can pull with Aether Vial are appealing.
  • You like the taxing abilities the deck provides.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You simply do not like mono White.
  • The triggers can be too complicated to track.
  • Your friends hate this deck, and you don’t want to make them mad (well tough!).

Overall these two decks are solid options for those who wish to play with just White cards. These decks have the capability of attacking any meta, and pull out some wins. However there are four other colors to go, right? Let’s take a look at Mono Blue.

Mono Blue



Creatures (29)
4 Master of Waves
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Silvergill Adept
3 Harbinger of Tides
3 Merfolk Trickster
3 Mistcaller

Artifacts (4)
4 Aether Vial

Enchantments (4)
4 Spreading Seas

Instants (3)
3 Spell Pierce

Lands (20)
12 Island
4 Mutavault
2 Cavern of Souls
1 Oloro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Tectonic Edge

4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Kopala, Warden of Waves
2 Deprive
2 Echoing Truth
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Tidebender Mage
1 Dismember

From one Aether Vial deck to another the Merfolk deck is perhaps the most popular among the choices available in Modern. Choosing a more disruptive approach by using cards like Spreading Seas to tax your opponent off early color options, and to give your creatures the ability to not be blocked when attacking, this deck can win pretty quickly you stumble against it.

Why should you play the deck?

  • Aggro, aggro aggro. Turning creatures sideways is fun.
  • You enjoy playing cards like Aether Vial to put your creatures in play.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You don’t prefer linear aggro decks.
  • The mono color restriction makes it difficult vs some match ups.

While Merfolk may be the premiere deck in Mono Blue there is another viable option that calls back to the early days of Modern.

Mono Blue Tron

Creatures (9)
2 Walking Ballista
1 Sundering Titan
1 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Treasure Mage
1 Trinket Mage
1 Snapcaster Mage

Artifacts (12)
4 Expedition Map
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Mindslaver
1 Staff of Nin
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Talisman of Dominance
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Engineered Explosives

Instants (13)
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Condescend
3 Remand
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Repeal

Planeswalkers (1)
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Sorceries (1)
1 Mass Manipulation

Lands (24)
5 Island
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
1 Academy Ruins
1 Field of Ruin
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 River of Tears
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Tolaria West

4 Spreading Seas
3 Spatial Contortion
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Surgical Extraction
1 All is Dust
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Dismember
1 Gemstone Mine

Yes that’s right there is another flavor of Tron. The deck initially used to be Azorius colors, but those that did not go to Green cut the White for more Blue cards. This deck tries to power out huge threats until it can use Academy Ruins to cast Mindslaver over and over never allowing your opponent to take another turn.

Why should you play the deck?

  • It’s a version of Tron that has some tempo elements, and is quite different than traditional Tron.
  • You, of course, are a non-aggro Blue mage.
  • Locking your opponent out via Mindslaver is very fun for you.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • It’s Tron.
  • It’s not traditional Tron (I still think it’s cool though).

Blue has a lot of options from Aggro, to Big Mana. For another option take a look at the Mono Blue Devotion deck that was around during the Return to Ravnica to Theros blocks.

Mono Black

8 Rack

Planeswalkers (4)
4 Liliana of the Veil

Artifact (6)
4 The Rack
2 Ensnaring Bridge

Enchantments (5)
4 Shrieking Affliction
1 Bitterblossom

Instants (3)
3 Fatal Push

Sorceries (19)
4 Smallpox
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Raven’s Crime
3 Wrench Mind
2 Collective Brutality
2 Thoughtseize

Lands (23)
11 Swamp
4 Field of Ruin
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Mutavault
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Bojuka Bog

4 Evil Presence
2 Damping Sphere
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Bitterblossom
1 Collective Brutality

From aggro decks, to big mana, to now an interactive deck 8 Rack looks to prevent you from casting any cards, shield itself from attacks, and watch as you take damage by not having any cards in hand. This can be considered a prison deck as it tries to lock you out early, and keep you there. Although there are no creature cards in the deck there are a pair of Blitterblossoms in the 75 to provide some level of offense. Keep in mind you can’t discard the top of their deck though, but with a land destruction sub theme they can’t cast spells if they do not have the proper mana.

Why should you play the deck?

  • You like discard cards, a lot.
  • Liliana of the Veil is the best planeswalker (fact).
  • You enjoy alternate win conditions.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • Your friends will hate you (but don’t let that stop you).

However if they are going to hate you for that they really may not like you after this build.

Mono Black Devotion

Creatures (20)
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Phyrexian Obliterator
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Bloodghast
4 Gifted Aetherborn

Enchantments (1)
1 Phyrexian Arena

Instants (3)
3 Fatal Push

Planeswalkers (5)
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Liliana the Last Hope

Sorceries (7)
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
1 Corrupt

Lands (24)
10 Swamp
4 Polluted Delta
4 Field of Ruin
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Ghost Quarter

4 Leyline of the Void
2 Collective Brutality
2 Go For The Throat
2 Sorcerer’s Spyglass
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 Damnation
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Crucible of Worlds

The deck wants to counter the number of Black mana symbols on the permanents in play. Creatures, Planeswalkers, Enchantments…it can add up quickly. Casting a
Gray Merchant of Asphodel can be game ending if it resolves in a deck like this, but you can also win through attacking with creatures…such as Phyrexian Obliterator. Don’t discount Corrupt. It can even deal with Planeswalkers.

Why should you play the deck?

  • Phyrexian Obliterator is the Modern era Juzam Djinn
  • You still really love the color Black.
  • You used to play this style back during Return to Ravnica to Theros Standard.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You want to add another color.
  • Your friends may hate you (don’t let that stop you).

Keep in mind that this is a good deck to use Leyline of the Void because you start with two devotion to Black.

Mono Red

Mono Red Phoenix

Creatures (16)
4 Bedlam Reveler
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
4 Monastery Switfspear

Instants (18)
4 Fiery Temper
4 Manamorphose
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Deperate Ritual
3 Gut Shot

Sorceries (9)
4 Faithless Looting
3 Tormenting Voice
2 Maximize Velocity

Lands (17)
7 Mountain
4 Arid Mesa
4 Ramunap Ruins
2 Scalding Tarn

4 Scab-Clan Berseker
3 Blood Moon
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Rending Volley
2 Abrade

Go fast, turn ’em sideways. When Runaway Steam-Kin was I knew it would make an impact in the format, but Arclight Phoenix has created a whole archetype around it. The ability to sling spells until you have two (or three) in play can help close out games quickly. 

Why should you play the deck?

  • It’s Burn with a clock.
  • Faithless Looting is a hell of a card.
  • The new cards from Guilds of Ravnica are fun to play with.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You don’t like decks with direct damage spells.
  • There are no ways to deal with Enchantments.

With all of that said about this deck Red decks are not always about burning things down. You can really hurt opponents another way.

Mono Red Prison

Creatures (22)
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Endless One
3 Reality Smasher
2 Eldrazi Obligator
1 Endbringer

Artifacts (7)
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Mind Stone

Instants (5)
4 Abrade
1 Dismember

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Lands (24)
5 Mountain
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Field of Ruin
4 Gemstone Caverns
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Rumunap Ruins
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Scavenger Grounds
1 Wastes

3 Goblin Rabblemaster
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Warping Wail
1 Platinum Angel
1 Dismember
1 Crucible of Worlds

Ok just like Mono Blue Tron above I’m kind of cheating a little bit with a deck focused mostly on a non-color, however the more that new cards enter Modern, and the more that older cards become more accessible via reprints, the more people will try taking archetypes that may be best in other formats (Legacy) and play them in Modern. This is one of those examples.

Normally with a Mono Red Prison deck we would see Blood Moons however this is focusing on casting an early Chalice of the Void with one counter on it to prevent the following cards from being cast:

…and I am sure there are more.

If you look at that list it is pretty much the entire Modern format. Having that prevent those spells can get you very far ahead to cast your Eldrazi spells early, and often. This also gives you time to start picking off their mana with cards like Field of Ruin. You want to be as efficient with your mana as you can every turn, and sometimes a big Endless One will be enough to get you the win. Abrade is in the main deck to fight opposing Ensaring Bridges, and Aether Vials that get in under your Chalice of the Void.

Why should you play the deck?

  • This is a midrange prison deck that does not require fetchlands.
  • Cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher fit your play style.
  • This is different than other decks you play.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • This deck does not appeal to you.
  • You would rather add Blood Moon and Ensaring Bridge to lock your opponent out of the game.

Mono Green

Mono Green Tron

Creatures (9)
3 Wurmcoil Engine
3 Walking Ballista
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 World Breaker

Artifacts (18)
4 Oblivion Stone
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
2 Relic Progenitus

Planeswalkers (6)
4 Karn, Liberated
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Sorceries (8)
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Ancient Stirrings

Lands (19)
4 Forest
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Sanctum of Ugin
1 Urza’s Factory

4 Nature’s Claim
3 Thragtusk
3 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Spatial Contortion
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Emrakul, the Promised End

Of all the decks here in this list this is probably the most known, the most powerful, and the most anti-Vorthos deck of them all. Eldrazi + Ugin + a pacifist in Karn doesn’t seem to mix, however this has been a powerful deck since the release of Battle for Zendikar, and it keeps finding cards from sets to add to the mix as the years progress.

Being able to play, in consecutive turns Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, Urza’s Tower, and then cast Karn, Liberated is still very powerful (especially if you are on the play). The most recent addition to the deck, Walking Ballista, gives you something to do with your mana every turn. Big Mana decks are starting to incorporate this card, and it may start showing up in Prison decks as a way to win via direct damage.

Why should you play the deck?

  • It is possibly one of the most powerful decks in the format, and has survived several banned & restricted announcements while obtaining reprints to make it more accessible.
  • You are angry at your friends, and want them to feel the power of Tron.
  • You don’t like Blue cards so you choose this option of Tron instead of Mono Blue.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • Even with the reprints the deck still clocks in at about $700.
  • You know, and see the hate this deck gets. You don’t want any of that.

While this is the premiere Mono Green deck in Modern there is one other that you may run into at your local FNM.

Mono Green Stompy

Creatures (24)
4 Leatherback Baloth
4 Avatar of the Resolute
4 Strangleroot Geist
4 Experiment One
3 Kalonian Tusker
3 Dryad Militant
2 Kessig Prowler

Enchantments (4)
4 Rancor

Instants (9)
4 Aspect of Hydra
4 Vines of Vastwood
1 Dismember

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Garruk Wildspeaker

Lands (21)
9 Forest
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Windswept Heath
2 Dryad Arbor
2 Treetop Village
1 Verdant Catacombs

4 Feed the Clan
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Natural State
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Fog
1 Dismember

So here we have a stompy deck looking to simply turn creatures sideways into the Red Zone. You want to play a pair of Experiment Ones early, and follow it with an Avatar of the Resolute to buff your whole team. Being able to cast a few buff spells with Garruk Wildspeaker‘s second ability will help make your creatures impossible to block, and Rancor could be what seals the victory. While you can build the deck without fetchlands being able to take the trick from Boggles players (fetch up a Dryad Arbor in response to a Liliana of the Veil‘s 2nd ability being activated) can be key against the fair decks.

Why should you play this deck?

  • It’s an aggro deck with a few spells to either prevent interaction, or get around blockers.
  • Your spells can be easily cast being Mono Green.
  • Go fast. Turn sideways.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You find aggro decks boring (which is a shame).

In conclusion

Are you still here? If so then you are awesome. I apologize for the delay (this was to premiere last week), but as you can see providing ten deck techs is quite the undertaking. When I first started looking into this project I knew the mono-colored decks would have the most representation. As you begin to add colors to a deck the “best of the best” in the colors you are including rise to the top, and while you will still find room to brew the deck with the more optimal choices in each color usually pan out in the end.

With that said I hope you enjoyed this look into what Modern can offer those of us looking to build mono color decks. Next week I’ll share with you the allied color strategies, and they are quite varied.

Are there mono colored decks you feel I missed? Leave a comment below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

Until next time…



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