[The Colors of Modern] Part 3: Enemy Colors

Hello everyone! Welcome back to Strictly Average for another Modern article. We’re half way through this series reviewing the various color combinations in Magic: the Gathering, and highlighting a deck of each combination. Often times when discussing the Modern format it seems there are only a few decks that people talk about. That short list does vary a lot over the years, but there’s more than just the few on people’s tongues. This is the point of this series, and hopefully I will show you some decks that you may not have noticed before.

So what is an Enemy Color pairing? Unlike an Allied Color pairing that follows the perimeter of the color wheel clockwise on the back of a Magic card, the way to find an enemy color is to draw a line (an imaginary one, not with an actual pen or marker for instance) from one position on the card across to another color. You will notice that each color has two enemy colors. While they also have two allied colors it’s these enemy colors that can attack a part of your deck often…unless your deck is designed to take advantage of cards of opposing colors paired up together. Sometimes the enemy colors are just a splash, or the two colors compliment each other to achieve the overall strategy of the deck.

Let’s take a look at what’s available in these colors.


White and Red


Creatures (13)
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
1 Grim Lavamancer

Instants (16)
4 Boros Charm
4 Lightning Helix
4 Searing Blaze
4 Lightning Bolt

Sorceries (12)
4 Rift Bolt
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Lava Spike

Lands (19)
4 Arid Mesa
4 Inspiring Vantage
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Mountain
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Sacred Foundry

3 Rest in Peace
3 Skullcrack
3 Path to Exile
2 Wear // Tear
2 Searing Blood
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Grafdigger’s Cage

The second archetype I ever wrote about here at Strictly Average was this one. A deck that will always be viable no matter what is happening in the format, and could catch people off guard if they are too prepared for other decks. Of all the cards in the deck there is a new addition in Skewer the Critics from Ravnica Allegiance. Playing opposite of Rift Bolt this card comes in handy for the extra points of damage on the back end of your turn. It can also be used when your opponent loses life at anytime during your turn, such as the activation of a fetchland. It’s still a sorcery so don’t get too eager, but this card streamlined the spells in this deck even more than previous offerings it has had, and it’s made Burn a potent force in the metagame.

Why should you play this deck?

  • You’re off to the races from the first play (especially if you go first).
  • Goblin Guide is your favorite card.
  • You want the best aggro deck, and here it is.

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • Having nothing to do for 30 min in between rounds at a big event can cause you to lose focus on playing well.
  • You run into too much lifegain at your local store.
  • You simply need more than aggro in your life.

Don’t get me wrong. The deck is not as simplistic as it appears. You have to maximize the amount of damage you can deal each turn through attacking, and casting spells. Your sideboard cards have to be timed to perfection to continue your assault, and you have to brace yourself for the stumbles of drawing lands in multiple turns. Burn can be a challenging deck even if it’s game plan is hyper linear.

If you like these color combinations but not the game plan, look for prison decks titled “Sun & Moon” as they still use burn spells, but also have a proactive plan to slow your opponent down.

Blue and Green


Creatures (13)
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Spellskite

Artifacts (4)
4 Mishra’s Bauble

Instants (21)
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Vines of Vastwood
3 Become Immense
3 Blossoming Defense
3 Groundswell

Sorceries (3)
3 Distortion Strike

Lands (19)
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Windswept Heath
3 Breeding Pool
2 Forest
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Pendelhaven

3 Nature’s Claim
2 Viridian Corrupter
2 Shapers’ Sanctuary
2 Spell Pierce
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
1 Dispel
1 Twisted Image
1 Grafdigger’s Cage

Infect used to be a dominant force in the format. With Gitaxian Probe (rightfully) being banned from the format, players quit playing the deck. That card allowed players to check their opponent’s hand to see if they could interact during combat, and made games very one sided. They shouldn’t have quit playing the deck. Unlike other aggro decks needing to deal 20 points of damage this one only has to deal 10 Infect to the opponent to win. Just like Dredge this deck is named after the keyword that is the primary focus of the deck…infecting your opponent.

Why should you play the deck?

  • This aggro-tempo deck is right up your alley.
  • It currently is a dark horse in the format.
  • Your local store has a lack of spot removal that you can capitalize on.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck.

  • You still wish Gitaxian Probe was legal to play.
  • You feel your chances of winning with the deck are small.
  • Noble Hierarch is out of your price range.

While there isn’t much else that this color combination has to offer you might be able to find a Merfolk deck splashing green for some of the current Merfolk in Standard.

Black and White

Eldrazi and Taxes

Creatures (27)
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Flickerwisp
4 Leonin Arbiter
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Tidehollow Sculler
3 Wasteland Strangler

Artifacts (4)
4 Aether Vial

Instants (6)
4 Path to Exile
2 Fatal Push

Lands (23)
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Eldrazi Temple
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Shambling Vent
2 Plains
1 Godless Shrine
1 Swamp

3 Rest in Peace
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
2 Stony Silence
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Settle the Wreckage
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Grafdigger’s Cage

Normally I am not a fan of playing Eldrazi creatures in a deck with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (because that’s not how the story was written), but this Death & Taxes variant can pull off some neat tricks. From using Path to Exile on one creature to then blinking your Wasteland Strangler to process the pathed creature and kill another is very fun. Keep in mind that Eldrazi Displacers ability does remove a permanent on your end, triggering Revolt for your Fatal Push.

Why should you play the deck?

  • Aggro decks that disrupt the opponent are quite appealing.
  • You like the Death & Taxes style of decks.
  • A 4/4 in play on turn three (or even two) is the type of power you are looking for.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck.

  • You only like the mono white version of Death & Taxes
  • This deck goes against your inner Vorthos (story matters damnit!).
  • You feel the deck is trying to do multiple things at once.

One of the first decks for this color combination in the format was Tokens. There was even a Modern Event deck made for it that you could buy, then slowly upgrade over time. 8-Rack decks can also splash white for Lingering Souls and key sideboard cards providing another option in these colors.

Red and Blue

Izzet Phoenix

Creatures (12)
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Thing in the Ice
4 Pteramander

Instants (20)
4 Manamorphose
4 Opt
4 Thought Scour
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Gut Shot
2 Lightning Axe

Sorceries (10)
4 Serum Visions
4 Faithless Looting
2 Chart a Course

Lands (18)
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Spirebluff Canal
3 Island
3 Steam Vents
2 Mountain
1 Island
1 Polluted Delta

2 Anger of the Gods
2 Blood Moon
2 Abrade
2 Young Pyromancer
2 Spell Pierce
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Dragon’s Claw
1 Dispel
1 Rending Volley

Quite possibly the best deck in the format (Izzet? Really, Izzet?) this version of The Phoenix deck looks to dump multiple Arclight Phoenixs into play to deal lethal damage in one attack…and it happens. Often. A true Spellslinger deck, this deck uses cantrips and cheap interaction to not only play the namesake cards into the graveyard, but also cast three spells a turn. As a back up plan it can quickly trigger Thing In The Ice to bounce all of your permanents back to your hand, and attack for a lot of damage. To counteract any graveyard hate make sure to bring in the pair of Young Pyromancers to help go wide.

Why should you play the deck?

  • Cycling through your deck is a lot of fun.
  • It’s a new deck for the format, and you want to try it out.
  • You are attacking with creatures instead of relying solely on spells.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck?

  • You want to play another deck for awhile to dodge the hate this deck receives.
  • You would rather play Storm.

Overall the deck is quite powerful, and you can’t go wrong with either this or Storm. For some fun check out Izzet Forgemaster sometime.

Green and Black


Creatures (36)
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Shaman of the Pack
4 Dwynen’s Elite
4 Elvish Clancaller
4 Elves of Deep Shadow
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Heritage Druid
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
2 Scavenging Ooze

Instants (4)
4 Collected Company

Sorceries (2)
2 Lead the Stampede

Lands (18)
5 Forest
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
1 Pendelhaven

4 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Reclamation Sage
2 Dismember
2 Lead the Stampede
2 Damping Sphere
2 Surgical Extraction

Another deck I have talked about before is Elves. A longtime popular tribe, this archetype was made possible in recent years with the additions of Collected Company, Shaman of the Pack, and Blooming Marsh (just to name a few). A true aggro deck, but one with combo elements, this deck has fallen out of favor due to the little interaction it had versus other decks, and how unfocused the sideboard is. Once a standard sideboard is found for the deck I can see this being played more often at tables everywhere.

Why should you play the deck?

  • As one of the longtime tribes of Magic Elf decks usually synergize pretty well.
  • You love aggro decks.
  • Being able to respond to Shaman of the Pack triggers to find more of that card sounds great.

Why you shouldn’t play the card.

  • You don’t like a deck so heavily focused on creatures.
  • You need to figure out a proper sideboard to handle the majority of the meta.

Of all these decks, Elves is perhaps the one with the least representation of the paired color, in this case black. If you want more of a balance between the two check out the Golgari Midrange decks that seem to be taking some of the play percentage from Jund.

In Conclusion

Modern continues to be a vast format full of options to play. While there are decks at the top of the meta in general they do not remain there, and things do fluctuate even when there are no updates to the banned & restricted list. Once you find a deck you like make sure to play it well, but always keep an eye out for another deck you want in your arsenal.

With this look into the enemy pairings do you see a deck you like? Was there one I missed? Make sure to leave a comment below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

Until next week (when I bring to you three color pairings in the Shards)…


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