Hello everyone! This weekend I competed in Grand Prix New Jersey, and despite starting off 5-1, I ended up losing a bunch of matches to finish 9-6, just out of reach of my first pro point. The Grand Prix was a fun way to say farewell to this Limited format, and I am anxiously awaiting Rivals of Ixalan spoilers. Standard and Limited could both use some help right now, and I’m hoping Rivals can produce the answers we are looking for.

Enough with that, lets talk about a fun format! Modern right now is extremely healthy and diverse, and many people say it is the best the format has ever been. Players who gain most of their percentage points based on metagaming and choosing the best deck, however, are not enjoying the wide-open format nearly as much. I myself fall into this category, and while I do have two decks that I’m having a blast with right now, (Infect and Ad Nauseam) it is very irritating knowing that you could sit down across from someone, and that they are close to 90% favorites to beat you before they even pull out their deckbox. Thankfully, this is a perfect moment to metagame in Modern, and there is a clear path right now.

To begin, it is important to understand that the type of metagaming you can do in Modern is very different from what you can accomplish in Standard. In Modern currently, there is no set best deck, but rather about 5 Tier 1 decks and roughly 2000 other decks you could expect to see at a tournament. What is important in Modern is actually not beating all of the “best decks,” but trying to find a weakness that most decks in Modern share. Currently, this weakness is the graveyard.

With the printing of Fatal Push, Modern got a much needed black removal spell which pushed the answers in the format to the extreme. Curving out is simply not what you should be doing in Modern right now, as the midrange and control decks will easily answer your threats and the combo decks will kill you before you kill them.

Right now, most decks are trying to win as quickly as possible, while keeping the disruption to the bare minimum, in order to kill their opponent just a bit faster than they can. This leads to people cutting their specific hate cards for things that are not so prevalent in the format. For example, there is no dedicated graveyard deck at Tier 1, so people have largely stopped using Rest in Peace. Instead, many are opting for more versatile cards, such as Grafdigger’s Cage and Relic of Progenitus. While these cards are great because they don’t only have use in a single matchup, they also are significantly worse against a deck like Dredge, which is currently primed for a comeback.

This weekend there was a Modern PTQ on Magic Online and as predicted, two Dredge decks made the Top 8. This should come as no surprise. Let’s take a look at the cards that the other 6 decks in the Top 8 had access to that hurt Dredge.

4 Grafdigger’s Cage

6 Nihil Spellbomb

2 Surgical Extraction

Out of these 6 decks, only two played Grafdigger’s Cage, which is the closest thing that resembles a hard answer, and the only deck that had it mainboard was Lantern Control. The Burn player had two in their sideboard, but with the Dredge decks having access to both Abrupt Decay and Ancient Grudge, that card is not very hard to answer. The similarity between the most played card, Nihil Spellbomb, and Surgical Extraction, is extremely important: they both only work once. The Dredge deck has little problem going off twice, as half of the deck enables the plan! This, coupled with the fact that Dredge has a considerable number of chump blockers for large threats and a quick clock, makes both hate cards extremely lacking against our deck.

This tournament emphasizes how you can metagame in this format, and even the second place finish of Lantern Control gives us insight into metagaming. People were running less artifact hate, and got extremely punished by the Lantern deck. Just like people got run over by Tron and Scapeshift two weeks ago when they forgot they needed to beat those decks. That is the key to beating the meta in Modern. Let’s take a look at some decks that do that.

Hollow One by Antillectual on MtGO

Creatures (23)
3 Flamewake Phoenix
4 Flameblade Adept
4 Bloodghast
4 Gurmag Angler
4 Hollow One
4 Street Wraith

Non-Creature Spells (18)
1 Goblin Lore
1 Call to the Netherworld
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Fiery Temper
4 Burning Inquiry
4 Faithless Looting
4 Cathartic Reunion

Lands (19)
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
2 Blood Crypt
3 Arid Mesa
3 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Mountain
4 Bloodstained Mire

Sideboard (15)
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Blood Moon
2 Collective Brutality
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Big Game Hunter
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Shattering Spree
2 Thoughtseize
1 Lightning Axe

This deck has all the tools we need, starting with a fast kill. Getting one or more copies of Hollow One out is possible as early as turn one, and if that doesn’t work, Gurmag Angler can be a great backup plan, while Flameblade Adept can quickly attack for a ton on turn 2 and Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix come back from the graveyard very quickly. Another sweet boon of the deck is Burning Inquiry. This card is a fantastic engine for the deck, and also messes up the opponent’s game plan if they get unlucky! This card can make a fantastic opener into unplayable within a matter of seconds for your opponent, giving you the time you need to deploy and smash them with your fast threats.

Another deck I think is fantastic right now is Goryo’s Vengeance.

Goryo’s Vengeance by WannaBeBeatle on MtGO

Creatures (14)
4 Worldspine Wurm
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Griselbrand
2 Borborygmos Enraged

Non-Creature Spells (27)
4 Through the Breach
4 Nourishing Shoal
1 Manamorphose
1 Lightning Axe
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
2 Desperate Ritual
4 Night’s Whisper
4 Faithless Looting
1 Collective Brutality
2 Cathartic Reunion

Lands (19)
4 Temple of Malice
5 Swamp
3 Mountain
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Blood Crypt
2 Blackcleave Cliffs

Sideboard (15)
2 Shattering Spree
2 Pact of Negation
2 Chalice of the Void
2 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
3 Blood Moon
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Lightning Axe
1 Collective Brutality

This deck has everything we want, a quick kill that relies on the graveyard and an alternate win condition in Through the Breach. The only issue is that the deck sometimes doesn’t win even when it goes off, and that the one-time graveyard answers have the potential to shut it off if it draws the wrong half of its deck.

Overall, I think the best possible place to be in Modern right now is Dredge, and if I had access to the deck, I would start learning it right away and jam it at the next Modern event. Even though Dredge is the best deck right now in my eyes, people could adapt as early as next weekend, in which case Dredge would be a bad choice and maybe something like Infect would become the next best choice. Either way, the lesson here is that the meta is never ready for everything, and its up to you to find the weak point in the armor. You can’t beat everything, but you can certainly give yourself an edge by playing what they aren’t expecting.

I hope everyone enjoyed this article, and Happy Holidays!!!

Riccardo Monico

In Modern, bannings and unbannings are just a part of life. If you’re interested in theorizing what Modern might look like if one or two cards were unbanned, give my article from last week a read.

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