Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average for my very first ever Q&A!
Recently I asked for questions from you all in a variety of topics related to Magic: the Gathering. I’m going to go through each of those, and do my best to answer them here. After that I will discuss some upcoming articles as we get closer to the release of Guilds of Ravnica.
Josh asks: “What are decks like BW Tokens, Jund, Abzan, Esper Control, or the like missing to be considered competitive in the modern format right now?“
Thanks for the question, Josh. Honestly Jund is already quite competitive in the format as it is. The problem I am seeing currently is if you play at FNM events, and build your sideboard to beat decks you never see, you could wind up with results you may not anticipate. It’s the most fair of the fair decks in my opinion so keep at it. I even discussed Jund in last week’s article.
As far as the other archetypes let’s break those down:
- Abzan: Reid Duke recently had a video posted to YouTube where he plays an Abzan deck. While his deck may be leaning more towards Golgari with a splash of White there are some differences that are note worthy. Having only two Scavenging Ooze seems too few in my opinion. In the creature heavy format that is Modern I would want at minimum three for game one. The life gain, and incidental graveyard hate for the first game could be very dependent on how the match is decided. With that said Lingering Souls is a nice way to attack opposing planeswalkers, and Azorius based control decks with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria are big problems for us. The deck does lose a lot without Lightning Bolt, and Fatal Push has to do a lot of heavy lifting. There is the added benefit of the white sideboard cards such as Stony Silence. One card I would like to see these decks run against the Azoirus (or any Path to Exile) decks is Stillmoon Cavalier. With that said this deck lacks the “cast two cards a turn” that Jund has with Bloodbraid Elf to turn the corner, but it’s definitely worth exploring more. A card like Pernicious Deed would bring the deck a long way especially if it can be brought back from the graveyard, but I don’t see Wizards of the Coast making that Modern legal.
- Esper Control: This deck has some similar problems as Abzan in where you either choose Path to Exile or Fatal Push to do your heavy lifting with spot removal. You also have the issue of trying to fit all of the good cards in those colors into the deck. That’s a pretty daunting task, and requires one to focus on what direction they want to take. If we look at the approach of Reid’s Abzan deck in the link above we could have it be base Dimir while splashing White for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Supreme Verdict. This means we would use Creeping Tar Pit over Celestial Colonade as our creature land of choice, and our removal package would center around Fatal Push, and Murderous Cut. Our sweepers can still be flexible with Consume the Meek, and even Merciless Eviction where you can exile all of a single card type on the board (and then untap two lands with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria). While I would love to see a card like Undermine appear in Modern Counterspells at that cost are already not being played. We may have to build the deck to be proactive with discard spells, removal, and rely on either Countersquall or Negate to keep non-creature permanents off the board.
- Orzhov Tokens: As far as this archetype you mentioned I think it can do well right now. Similar to what I mentioned above with Esper you want to take a proactive approach, however instead of relying on your spells or planeswalkers you have a constant stream of threats. Here is the list I posted in the spotlight on Gideon from a few weeks ago:
Modern Orzhov Tokens
Hopefully that answers your questions Josh. Happy brewing.
Joe asks: “Modern seems overly dominated by very linear aggressive decks. What kind of cards do you think Wizards could print to address this kind of climate?”
Great question Joe, and very timely too based on our match this past FNM. A lot of the decks you mention have only a solid Plan A, and lack a really strong Plan B. For this to change decks will need to have a strong Plan A, a very good Plan B, and a Plan C they can fallback on during the first game. Not too many decks have this. The Krark-Clan Ironworks deck can go with the Scrap Trawler attack as a Plan B, but their Plan C with Sai, Master Thopterist is in their sideboard. Azorius Control has really only one main plan, which is smothering their opponent in card advantage, and using Jace, the Mind Sculptor‘s first ability often times is a Plan B that feels like a Plan A at times. Cards like Damping Sphere have helped in some regard to keep fast linear decks down, but those focus with that card has been mostly on Tron, and Storm strategies. That coupled with Jace, the Mind Sculptor being introduced to the format have given rise to a lot of these linear aggressive strategies. If we had a card like Imposing Sovereign, but was a permanent and not a creature, that might be the leg up slower or fair decks need to reach parity with the aggressive decks. I would only keep the effect to creatures as it would allow the opponent to still play the game with their other permanents not being impacted.
Jon asks: “What is 1 card of each color you would like to be introduced into the modern format and why do you feel it would be a good addition to the format?”
This is an excellent question Jon. When looking back on cards in Magic’s history it may be challenging to find some good ones to answer your question. The rules have changed over time, and some mechanics may even be phased out (Regeneration being replaced by Indestructible for example). However that does not mean we won’t find any. Let’s take a look at each color in turn to see what we can find. I will stick with non-creatures as before Modern creatures were generally seen as poor in design compared to today’s standards.
This color was quite the challenge as most white cards were either over-costed, or targeted only a certain color. There were those that also paired with a color (or two) limiting what decks they could be played in. I nearly settled on Oblation, however instead chose Council’s Judgment. Having this card have two White in the mana cost means it would be difficult to splash, and provide non-creature removal as well. In fact if a card like this would be made for Modern I would make it say non-creature to tone down the power level of the original.
This is what should have been in Amonkhet in my opinion. While Mana Leak is currently available it is a dead card late in the game. Negate is also a bad card vs decks with few non-creature spells. Later in the game you can use these to counter opposing counterspells, but that does not happen often enough. This spell would help control decks by providing an early counterspell as well as a way to draw additional cards later in the game. We received Opt last year, and it’s time for control decks to get another piece.
Honestly Black has a lot of good cards already in Modern, however there is one I can think of that may help. I know you all may think I have lost my mind, but hear me out. A card like Victimize would be a good addition to Modern. The format is lacking a solid reanimation spell. Things are limited to Goryo’s Vengeance, and unless you are running Obzedat, Ghost Council you’re going to lose the creature you reanimated (Editors Note: Vengeance only hitting Legendaries is also a bummer, I want to be able to reanimate other stuff!). Those strategies are all in on getting a large creature in play early, and if it dies they have to find another one to continue their game plan. Several creatures already exist in the format that are played in the early turns to facilitate a graveyard strategy, yet we lack the spells to cheat out a large creature. I would like to see this change.
This might be the craziest pick so far, but honestly there is a reason to have Gamble in Modern, it’s to replace Burning Inquiry. That card is more problematic than Thoughtseize honestly. While Thoughtseize only takes one card, Burning Inquiry takes three. It destroys hands, and prevents the opponent from properly interacting with the ones who cast Inquiry. Replace it with Gamble, and the match is a lot better for both players, and viewers alike.
Green is also a color that seems to have a lot already. I would normally look at cards like Green Sun’s Zenith, or Glimpse of Nature, but those may not be what we need. Green is naturally opposed to Blue and Black, and while Reclaim is already Modern legal this card does it one better. Being able to return ANY card to your hand helps negate the affects of a discard or counterspell allowing you to play the card you need at the right time. This card essentially becomes additional copies of all the cards in your deck, and can help combat the decks Green is supposed to combat.
These cards are not on the Reserved List so they can be reprinted, but will they? Only time will tell. If their current trend holds these won’t see the light of day in Modern, but if they did (or ones similar to them) maybe we can see some more archetypes in Modern and perhaps solidify others.
Thank you to everyone who sent in questions. What are your thoughts on the answer to these questions? What other questions do you have? Please share them below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter. Here’s what I have planned for the next few weeks:
September 17th: I’ll do a spotlight on Sorin.
September 24th: I’ll review Guilds of Ravnica.
So stay tuned for those.
Until next time…
TAP MORE MANA!!!
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.