I spent this past weekend at the SCG Open in Baltimore with some other Spellsnare writers and friends, and while the tournament didn’t go ideally on day one, a 7-2 record in the Modern Classic is certainly something that I can’t complain about. I returned to my trusty Naya Bushwhacker Zoo deck and I was able to best some of the new best decks in Modern. However, rather than discussing the positive aspects of my performance, rather I want to make some larger points about the Modern format.

Modern is a complicated format, with not only a lot of nuance, but also a wide gulf of information. It can seem almost daunting to try and understand what on earth is going on in the monstrosity of a format. For a long time, a couple rules have been thrown around in regards to the Modern format, and I am here to cement those rules. Not only are these rules applicable to Modern as a whole over the last few years, but they are especially true in this current iteration of the format.

Rule#1: Modern remains a turn 4 format.

This has been known for a while and hasn’t changed. Modern being a turn 4 format means that for combo decks, you want to be killing your opponent on turn four on average (sometimes sooner). For aggro decks, this means you should be able to kill your goldfish opponent on turn 4 most of the time. However, aggressive decks often have the ability to interact so this can shift. Midrange decks want to control the board by turn four, while having had picked apart the opponent’s hand.

Control decks want to have stopped the opponent from doing any of the aforementioned things by turn 4. Modern remains the turn 4 format as some insane combos decks such as Storm, Counters Company, and KCI Eggs begin to take over the format again. The big takeaway here is that Modern remains the turn four format that Wizards wants it to be.

Rule#2: Playing a deck you know like the back of your hand.

Something that I have learned, and something that is brought up often in regards to the Modern format is that the field is wide open and such a large amount of decks are viable. You are going to gain a lot more percentage points playing a deck that you understand the operations of very well than playing one of the top most played decks on little to no practice. I learned this the hard way this weekend. I first looked to U/W Control for the Modern Open, which looked like a great choice for the weekend due to its positive Death’s Shadow and Counters Company matchup.

However, I learned this weekend that I was going to play significantly better when I went back to my roots, Naya Bushwhacker (and my results back this up). Furthermore, I also think that tier 2 Modern decks are perfectly playable in every competitive Modern tournament, which is such an important thing to realize. Being able to stick with a deck when it falls slightly out of favor is a sign of a good format. You have to realize, however, that the deck choice which seems to be suboptimal due to the metagame may actually give you your best chance of winning the tournament. Play the deck that you know the best. Modern is wide open, so your best move is to play to your strengths.

Rule#3: Your sideboard is largely dictated.

This is something that is complicated, but extremely important to understand. Your sideboard is really going to consist of about 3-5 slots depending on the deck you play. Because in Modern, even more than in Legacy or Standard, your sideboard has to be dedicated to linear strategies that are bound to show up and demand answers. Graveyard hate and artifact removal are musts. Most decks also simply want additional creature/combo interaction in the board. However, with the resurgence of creature-based combo decks, cards that prevent those activations come at a premium, and Modern sideboards are already trending in that direction.

Sideboards in Modern therefore are where matches can be won and lost as well as where some of the easiest decisions when it comes to deck design can happen. This is one of the main complaints that players have about Modern. Sideboards are significantly more important in Modern than they are in Legacy, and matches and tournaments can be won or lost due to what sideboard cards you include. I’m sure a very dedicated person could make a flowchart of most of the cards you should play in your sideboard in terms of what colors you are playing, but you could suss it out yourself fairly easily.

Thanks for reading,


Looking for some decks that impressed at SCG Baltimore and give us a good indication of where the Modern format is headed? Read this article by Riccardo Monico.

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