[The Colors of Modern] Part 4: The Shards

Hi everybody, and welcome back to another Modern article here on Strictly Average MTG. This article series continues to explore the possible combination of decks available in the format by highlighting a known deck in each possible color configuration. So far here is what I have covered:

Today I’m going to go over color combination collectively known as the Shards.

Released in September of 2008 Shards of Alara was initially not well received. It was an adventure through a multicolored world driven heavily by story events that took place in other parts of the Magic: the Gathering multiverse. Alara started out as five separate worlds that were formed after the events of The Sundering, and then eventually brought together through the events in expansions Conflux, and Alara Reborn (which was the first fully multicolored set).


Over time this set has become known for its mechanics such as Cascade, its iconic planeswalkers and spells, and beloved by those who enjoy EDH. The names of each region of Alara have been part of the Magic: the Gathering lexicon since their release, and their names appear on decklists even to this day.

So “what is a Shard?”

As we look at the back of a Magic card the shards are defined by looking at one color, and the two colors on either side of it. The central color is the focus of the shard holding the other two colors (which are enemies to each other) together.

For instance our first shard is Bant, a Green-White-Blue shard; the central color White is flanked by Green on the left and Blue on the right. The flanking colors oppose each other on their own, but combining them with White and gives all three more powerful options together than they have individually.

Let’s dive in.

Green, White, Blue

Bant Spirits

Creatures (30)
4 Spell Queller
4 Supreme Phantom
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Drogskol Captain
3 Selfless Spirit
2 Reflector Mage
2 Phantasmal Image
2 Rattlechains
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Birds of Paradise

Artifacts (3)
3 Aether Vial

Instants (6)
4 Collected Company
2 Path to Exile

Lands (21)
4 Flooded Strand
3 Botanical Sanctum
2 Horizon Canopy
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Windswept Heath
1 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Temple Garden

3 Rest In Peace
2 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Stony Silence
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Path to Exile

There’s no better way to kick off discussions about three color “Shard” decks in Modern than a deck with Noble Hierarch. This archetype, which received some key pieces in the last few years, is quite the potent aggro deck. While it does not play a card like Gaddock Teeg there are enough low casting cost creatures to deploy on your opponent’s end step with Collected Company.

While not every creature in the deck is a Spirit most of them are, or in the case of Phantasmal Image can become one.

Why should you play this deck?

  • It’s an aggro deck in a color scheme that usually does not lean that direction.
  • Putting cards into play at instant speed with Aether Vial, or Collected Company is your play style.
  • You are part of the #SpiritSquad with Kat Light (which is awesome!)

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • You have had poor luck with Aether Vial decks.
  • You don’t like fair decks like this.
  • These colors are just not for you (which is perfectly fine).

I do find it interesting that this deck relies on Rest In Peace as it’s only form of interaction with the graveyard. Personally I would like to add at least a pair of Surgical Extractions into the deck as well while decks like Izzet Phoenix and Dredge remain near the top of the metagame.

If you are interested in these colors check out Bant Turbofog, Bogles, and even older decks like Bant Eldrazi. A new deck revolving around Wilderness Reclamation and Mystical Teachings is also starting to appear in Bant.

White, Blue, Black

Esper Vengeance

Creatures (9)
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Liliana of the Veil

Instants (12)
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
4 Path to Exile
2 Fatal Push
1 Murderous Cut
1 Negate

Sorceries (15)
4 Serum Visions
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Lingering Souls
2 Pieces of the Puzzle
2 Thoughtseize

Lands (22)
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Polluted Delta
3 Marsh Flats
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Hallowed Fountain
2 Swamp
2 Watery Grave
1 Flooded Strand
1 Godless Shrine
1 Plains

4 Leyline of the Void
2 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Negate
2 Collective Brutality
2 Fragmentize
1 Damnation
1 Stony Silence
1 Dispel

Esper has been a favorite color combination of mine for a long time. Normally relegated to a draw-go control build these colors offer a lot between them, and there is still a lot of brewing potential within Esper. Of the decks in this color combination this is the one I have played and know of the most, and while it may seem laser focused on its strategy it is a lot of fun.

Finding ways to discard Obzedat, Ghost Council, and then reanimate it with Goryo’s Vengeance, allows you to keep the former Orzhov guild leader on the board. His ability the exile himself at the end of turn can be stacked with Goryo’s Vengeance allowing the creature to not be present when Vengeance triggers. This also worked with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy allowing you (assuming there are enough cards in the graveyard) to transform it into Jace, Telepath Unbound. With no creature in play (as Jace is now a planeswalker) you lose nothing.

Why should you play this deck?

  • It’s a reanimation deck. Something few and far between in the format.
  • These are your favorite colors, and you don’t want to just play a control deck.
  • Obzedat, Ghost Council is sweet.

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • You seem to draw the wrong half of the deck.
  • The format may be too fast for you to assemble your win condition.
  • You don’t like Esper.

The deck itself does have a lot of interaction, but not a lot of punch to it (other than Obzedat). Drawing the wrong half of the deck can be frustrating to work through, and you need to find ways to prevent your opponent from either having a lot of time to develop theirs, or prevent it.

Other decks to look for in this color combination: Esper Control, Esper Spirits, and Esper Death’s Shadow to name a few.

Speaking of that last deck…

Blue, Black, Red

Grixis Death Shadow

Creatures (15)
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
4 Death’s Shadow
3 Snapcaster Mage

Artifacts (3)
3 Mishra’s Bauble

Instants (15)
4 Thought Scour
3 Stubborn Denial
3 Fatal Push
2 Temur Battle Rage
2 Lightning Bolt
1 Dismember

Sorceries (10)
4 Thoughtseize
3 Serum Visions
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Faithless Looting

Lands (17)
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
2 Blood Crypt
2 Watery Grave
1 Island
1 Steam Vents
1 Swamp

3 Surgical Extraction
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Collective Brutality
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Kolaghan’s Command
1 Abrade
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Stubborn Denial
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Engineered Explosives

This deck has been in and out of the top spot in the Modern metagame for awhile, and with the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks it has returned to be near the top of the best decks in the format. A tempo deck looking to land an early threat in Gurmag Angler followed by a large Death’s Shadow it can close out games quickly while protecting it’s threats.

While red is a light splash in the main deck there are additional key cards in that color from the sideboard as needed. Unlike a deck I’ll talk about soon, Grixis Death’s Shadow prefers more Thoughtseizes than Inquisition of Kozilek as the former helps you lower your life total.

Why should you play this deck?

Why you shouldn’t play this deck.

  • 17 lands feels very light.
  • You want to be more controlling.
  • You have not had luck playing it in the past.

With less lands than a typical Burn deck this deck can wind up drawing only one threat, and losing that could put you way behind. However these colors do offer other options. There is a Grixis deck with Arclight Phoenix currently being played, and if I was making a deck with these colors it would definitely be Grixis Control.

Black, Red, Green


Creatures (13)
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Bloodbraid Elf
3 Dark Confidant
3 Scavenging Ooze

Planeswalkers (4)
4 Liliana of the Veil

Instants (12)
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Fatal Push
1 Terminate

Sorceries (7)
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Thoughtseize
1 Maelstrom Pulse

Lands (24)
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Raging Ravine
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Swamp
1 Blood Crypt
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Stomping Ground
1 Twilight Mire
1 Wooded Foothills

3 Fulminator Mage
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Collective Brutality
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Nihil Spellbomb

Now we get to my favorite three color combination: Jund. THE midrange deck since it’s arrival in Shards of Alara block, this deck looks to accumulate an advantage over time with one-for-one removal until it can play a few spells in a turn to swing the game in their favor. Bloodbraid Elf sets up the game winning advantage play by cascading into another larger threat, or a Liliana of the Veil to have repeatable effects to keep your opponent off balance until you secure the win.

Why should you play this deck?

  • A fair deck with an unfair mechanic in Cascade reminds you of when this was in Standard.
  • Liliana of the Veil is your favorite card.
  • These colors represent some of the best cards in the format.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck.

  • It does not do anything greatly unfair.
  • It’s not your playstyle overall.
  • You think Tarmogoyf is bad currently.

If you are looking for a fair deck that tries to answer multiple strategies in the format then this deck is for you. Other options in these colors include Bridgevine, and a Jund Shamans deck running Collected Company.

Red, Green, White

Naya Zoo

Creatures (26)
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Scavenging Ooze
3 Voice of Resurgence

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Domri Rade

Instants (9)
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Dromoka’s Command

Lands (23)
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Windswept Heath
3 Raging Ravine
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Forest
2 Stomping Ground
1 Arid Mesa
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Plains
1 Sacred Ground
1 Temple Garden

3 Surgical Extraction
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Stony Silence
2 Gaddock Teeg
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Ramunap Excavator
1 Magus of the Moon
1 Celestial Purge
1 Ancient Grudge

While all of the other decks are at least known quantities this is one I had to dig deep for. Where Jund is a three color midrange deck Naya is a three color aggro deck. Applying pressure as early as turn one, this deck can win the game rather quickly if left unchecked. Lowering the curve on this deck also allows you to capitalize on Bloodbraid Elf cascading into another creature or spell which can be what you need to push through for the win.

Why should you play the deck?

  • It’s fast and aggressive nature leads to many quick games.
  • It’s not expected in the metagame currently.
  • You really like Bloodbraid Elf.

Why you shouldn’t play the deck.

  • These colors do not tend to have room for spells that remove problem permanents.
  • Your key spell costs four mana which gives the opponent a lot of time.
  • You feel the early threats may be too small allowing them to be removed easier before you cast your larger spells.

Naya is not well represented in the format leaving the door wide open for some brewing so get to it!

In Conclusion

Wow! What a ride through the Shards. Again this is a point where adding yet another color increases not only the possibilities, but the optimization of what cards to include to make a powerful deck.

Are there decks that I may not have mentioned? Do you have a sweet Naya brew you want to share? Please leave a comment below, and follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

Next week (author’s note: Promise this time it will be next week) I’ll take a look at the Wedge colored decks.

Until then…



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